A Summer in Western France. By T. Adolphus Trollope, Esq , B.A. Edited by Frances Trollope„ Author of 'S Domestic Manners of the Americans," &c. In two
volumes MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE,
Knight's Store of Knowledge for all Readers. Contents Nos. I and 2. Shakspere and his Writings; Parts I. and II. By Charles Knight. Now 3 and 4. Life of Napoleon Bonaparte ; Sections I. and IL By Andre Vietussen.i. —Knight and Co.
MR. TROLLOPS'S SUMMER IN WESTERN FRANCE.
Tam country through which Mr. TROLLOPS travelled is picturesque or striking in its physical features, curious from the primitive man- ners of its peasantry, and by no means devoid of interest for its historical associations. He also travelled in as favourable a man- ner for examining its peculiarities as any one is likely to adopt in these days of rapid locomotion, when we are beset by temptations to superficial surveys, which our ancestors escaped by bad roads, heavy coaches, or the horse's back. Through an uninteresting dis- trict, or where no place of interest intervened, Mr. TROLLOPS, indeed, availed himself of the diligence or of the steamers which are now plying on many of the small streams of France ; but he stopped at any spot of interest for a day or two, perambulated the town or village as well as its environs, and often travelled on foot from place to place or in such vehicles as accident threw in his way. The book, however, is not equal to the subject and the opportunities of the author, from being over-elaborated, or rather from being made-out. A thin volume would have contained all that is fresh or living in Mr. TROLLOPS'S two thick octavos of some eight or nine hundred pages, the remainder is either deficient front description degenerating into a catalogue of images, or eked out by a practice which would enable a person to make a book by journeying from Hyde Park Corner to Mile-end Gate, and telling long stories from guides or topographers about every house or edi- fice or street or spot which happened to have had any thing par- ticular connected with it from the time of the Druids to the pre- sent day. If Mr. TROLLOPS comes to a cathedral, ten chances to one but he gives the history of the building, or perhaps of half-a- dozen rebuildings, varied by notices of the lives and characters of its bishops ; a battle-field ever gives him occasion to fight the battle over again ; a ruined castle helps to a tale of the middle or as he calls them the " medieval" ages, garnished occasion- ally with a touch of superstition ; and a town gives birth to a précis of its history. Sometimes these introductions are germane, and therefore interesting for themselves, and by the variety they create ; but more frequently their forced and bookmaking character is obvious, and they are not only felt to be tedious, but the reader detects the shopman's story. As Western France is rather a large and loose phrase, it may be necessary to mention that Mr. TROLLOPS'S tour was confined to the districts between the Loire and the Dordogne, and included a thorough investigation of the banks of the Loire and the country adjoining; his examination becoming less careful and complete- as he approached the Gironde. The principal cities be visited were Orleans, Tours, and Nantes, Poitiers, Rochelle, Rochfort, and Bourdeaux, which was his extreme point Southward. The only department whose name would have much interest for English readers is La Vendee; in which of course the supereminent loyalty of the Trollope 'ens would find much to write about, and which is indeed the most interesting part of the work.
Travelling in the way Mr. TROLLOPS did, apparently without knowing a person in the places he passed through, using his inns for little more than meals or sleep, and almost living on the tramp or in the public conveyance, it is not to be supposed that he could gather much floating knowledge of a practical kind, even had the district been able to furnish any, or Mr. TROLLOPE'S been a mind to apprehend it. A visit to a cannon-foundry, and to the arsenal at Rochefort, with some scanty facts picked up by accident here and there about exhaust all his acquisitions in the solid way. The rest Of the book consists of sketches of landscapes or peasants, and a diary of his adventures, with an occasional character or incident of the road ; well enough in their way, but so dreadfully overlaid by extracts from Mr. Taomore's topographical reading, that the actual information gained from the book is by no means propor- tioned to the cost or labour of obtaining it. We must protest against this mode of manufacturing travels, by which a book de- voted to a district only remarkable for local peculiarities, is ex- panded to a bulk that would suffice for a travel through the world.
Perhaps the most useful knowledge is that connected with steamers. The Loire, it appears, may now be traversed by that convenient mode, as high as Nevers' should any one, tired of Paris, like to vary the route to Lyons and Marseilles. At the same time, he must make up his mind to the trouble of getting to Nantes, and to the desagratens which always take place from quitting the direct course. He who would travel cheaply and without exertion, should go by the regular route, and book himself at starting to his journey's end if possible.
STEAM NAVIGATION OF THE LOIRE.
The Loire is now navigated by steam-boats the whole way from Nevers to St. Nazaire, a distance of about five hundred miles. This navigation is di- vided into three portions ; which are, 1 believe, worked by three different companies.
The first of these plies between Nevers and Orleans, a distance of about a hundred and sixty miles. This is performed in one day for the descent, awl two for the return. The second carries you from Orleans to Nantes, about two hundred and forty miles. This distance is accomplished in two days de- scending, and three in ascending the stream. Finally, the boats of the Boa
Loire descend and return from Paiminnuf twice daily, and prolong their voyage to St. Nazaire, a mere little fishing-town, twice or thrice a week.
This lower part of the river has of course been navigated by steam for a much longer period; and indeed I believe that from Nantes up as far as An- gers, boats have been for some time eitablished. But the navigation of the upper part of the river is difficult, from the great want of water to which the stream is occasionally subject during the dry season. At length, however, chiefly by the persevering energy of-111. Henri Larochejaquelin—a nephew, I believe, of him who has connected the name of Larochejaquelin for ever with associations and recollections of so different a character—this difficulty has been in a great measure overcome, by the adoption of light iron boats, which draw from nine to thirteen inches only of water. They are low-pressure boats, and have assumed the auspicious appellation of Les Inexplosibles."
CORN-DEALERS OF CHARTRES.
There is acorn-market every Saturday at Chartres, the most important in France, with the exception of Paris. It is worth visiting for the sake of see- ing the operations of the women, to whom the entire duty of measuring the corn, delivering it to the buyers, receiving the price, and paying it over to the sellers, is confided. These women are more expressively than elegantly termed " leveuses de culs-depoche "; poche signifying in the dialect of La Beauce the sack in which the grain is brought to market. These women form an organ- ized corporation, which has existed for several centuries. They enjoy a reputation for the strictest integrity ; which is indeed sufficiently attested by the fact that the whole transactions of the market, as above stated, are intrusted to them. Nor are they under any surveillance whatsoever. The buyer and inner alike put implicit confidence in them. The latter, when he has pitched his corn, haves it entirely in their hands, goes about his business or pleasure in the town, and returns in the evening to receive the amount of the sale, without snaking any inquiries or taking any further trouble about it. The amount of confidence placed in the honesty of these women, and the importance of the charge confided to them, may he estimated from the fact that ten thousand quintals of corn is by no means an unusual quantity to change hands in one market-day at Chartres, the whole of which is invariably disposed of for ready money paid on the spot.
FRENCH ESTIMATION OF CATHEDRALS.
To the majority of Frenchmen—excepting always the peasants, who fre- quently have a great feeling of pride and reverence for their metropolitan Church, and take much pleasure in visiting it whenever market-day or any other occasion brings them to the city—the cathedral offers neither pleasure nor profit. As a mere matter of taste, the churches of the middle ages are not objects of admiration to Frenchmen generally. They infinitely prefer the straight lines and plain utility of the modern style of building. Certain au- thors have, in imitation of English romantic writers, sought to excite interest by descriptions of the sombre piles and the associations connected with them; but the national taste is decidedly opposed to them. The use of the term 4. gothique," which in a Frenchman's mouth compendiously expresses all that is ugly, worn-out, disagreeable, barbarous, and inconvenient, is an illustration of the usual feeling for the style so denominated ; and the vast edifices which preserve the most striking specimens of that style are not likely to be objects of his favour or attention.
THE REFUGE OF LA VENDEE.
The most notable asylum of the Vendean women and children, and such of the men as were not absent on expeditions, was a regular sylvan city, which was called Le Refuge. This was situated in the heart of the thick forest of Orfila, which stretches over a considerable space of country, some leagues to the Southward of Clisson. This place of concealment was first resorted to in 1793, and for a long time proved a secure asylum for a very great number of Vendean families, whose villages were destroyed. A great number of huts, con- structed of branches and sods of turf, were arranged in regular streets. A larger shed was erected for a church ; and the prescribed community lived in their sylvan city in peace, waiting for happier and better times. There are old couples still living who were married in this woodland retreat ; for it may be easily imagined that there was no lack of priests at Le Refuge, seeing that the hottest perse- cution was directed against ecclesiastics who refused to submit their consciences to the dictation of an Atheist government. Many Vendeans, too, are still living, who first saw the light under the leafy roofs of the cabins of Le Refuge.
A TRAIT OF LA ROCHEFOCCACLT.
The ancient château escaped almost unharmed at the Revolution ; and an old man of the place, with whom I talked of the castle and its former lords, told me, in answer to my inquiries how so lordly and aristocratic an old resi- dence chanced to fare so much better than the generality of its fellows, that it was because the then Duke was a very popular man with the people ; " Qui toujours se plaisait a dire au pcuple qu'il keit fort juste que toutes lea grandes terres seraient confisqueee, et tons lea châteaux abimes excepte le gen, vons entendez."
FRENCH NOTIONS OF EMANCIPATION.
My companion in the cabriolet of the diligence was a young wine-merchant of Bourdeaux, who was going to look after the affairs of his house at their en- trep8t at Bercy, the suburb on the Seine, outside the barrier of Paris, at which all the wine from the South destined for the consumption of the capital arrives. Most of the wine-merchants of Bourdeaux have a depot there, so as to avoid paying the octroi-duty before the wine is wanted for consumption.
I found him an intelligent and pleasant coach companion enough, and had a good deal of conversation with him. Though he expressed himself with per- fect civility, he did not attempt to conceal his great dislike of England, and entered at great length into all her misdeeds and crimes against France. One of the worst of these was her emancipation of her West Indian slaves. Was it not quite clear that her only object in so doing was to ruin the colonial trade of France by setting the example before her Negroes, and compelling them eventually to do the same? But if such ruin to West Indian trade must follow from the measure, did not England injure herself by it to a much greater extent than France was or could be damaged Oh! that was all very specious and plausible; but it was easy to see what England's policy was. She was willing to sacrifice her West Indian colonies, which were to her a bagatelle, comparatively speaking, for the sake of a much greater object, which was to push and foster the trade of her East Indian em- pire, and force France to become a customer in that market, by destroying her West Indian colonies.
Not far to the South-east of Fontenay, among the marshes and dikes about the mouth of the &ere Niortaise, and on the neighbouring coast, may still be found a few remaining specimens of a race of people now nearly extinct, which have engaged a good deal of the attention of the Poitevin antiquaries and his- torians. They are termed Colliberts, and have, under that appellation, been a distinct people from a period beyond the earliest records of history. Through- out the feudal period, they were never serfs or vassals; and though the feudal maxim, "Nulle terre sans seigneur," could hardly be said to be -broken through an their case, inasmuch as they lived almost entirely in their boats, yet, miser- able as their existence seems to have been, they never appear to have been in- clined to change it for the less free comforts of their neighbours on the land. The most generally-received and best-founded opinion respecting these singular people, is that they are the remains of the indigenous tribe of Agesinates Cam - bolectri, who were chased by the Romans into the solitudes and marshy shal- lows which abound in this part of the coast ; and who, not being worth the trouble of pursuing into their watery fastnee.ses, either then by the Roman conquerors or at a subsequent period by the feodal lords of the domains on the neighbouring coast, have ever since continued free, according to the significa- tion of their name; Colliberts being derived from " col," neck or head, and
They have always lived by themselves, never intermarrying or mixing in any other way with the surrounding population. They support themselves by fishing, and most of their families live entirely in their boats. Some few have constructed huts on the sand. • • • It is not surprising that a race so characterized, and existing under such cir- cumstances, should be hastening towards extinction. It is in accordance with a law that all experience seems to prove universal in such cases, that it should be so. There are many other instances of the descendants of a distinct race having preserved their distinctive peculiarities in the midst of hnother people, both races being nearly equal in point of civilization ; but I know no other case of a tribe remaining almost in a savage state in the immediate vicinity of civilization for so long a period as that during which the Colliberts of Poiton have existed.
The cause of this singularity is probably to be found in the fact that these unfortunate outcasts possessed nothing whatsoever to excite the cupidity of their more civilized and more powerful neighbours. But the natural tendency of every population to increase is not in their case sufficiently strong to struggle against the numerous checks incidental to their habits and miserable mode of life. And in a few years the Colliberts will, in all probability, have disappeared from the face of the earth, without their extinction having been accelerated by any acts of the neighbouring population.
Of the morale of "la jeune France" Mr. TROLLOPE gives a deplorable account ; not in one sin, but in al]. As might be ex- pected from him, he traces it all to the French Revolution : but the Revolution was only the climax of many causes, that had been operating through a series of ages. From the time when RICHELIEU completed the destruction of the power of the nobility which Louis the Eleventh commenced, or even earlier, the public annals of France have been a scene of corruption, cruelty, and blood ; and their courtly history a narrative of abject servility and revolting profligacy. Compare the civil wars of France with those of Eng- land ; put even the religious persecutions in the two countries together ; and above all, consider not so much the respective im- moralities of the two Courts (though Versailles would far outshine St. James's) as the different judgments passed on them by public opinion. The truth is, that had not society been very corrupt, the atrocities of the Revolution could not have been perpetrated; probably the Revolution itself would not have taken place. How- ever, this is a digression from Mr. TROLLOPE'S estimate of the
MATERIAL ADVANCEMENT AND MORAL DEGRADATION OF THE FRENCH.
France is unquestionably advancing rapidly in physical and material civiliza- tion. It is impossible to travel through the country with an observant eye without being convinced of the fact. Her new roads in her more backward and hitherto neglected provinces, and improved roads throughout the king- dom—her greatly-increased means of communication by the almost daily esta- blishment of new competitors in the carrying business on the public roads, and the formation of new companies for the navigation by steam of rivers hitherto profitless to commerce—the almost daily commencement or comple- tion of quays, bridges, and other public works in almost every part of the country—the cultivation of much hitherto unenclosed ground in many pro- vinces, and the general establishment throughout the country of agricultural and industrial societies—are all manifest and easily-recognized proofs of the progress France is making in the various branches of material civilization.
The evidences of a nation's advancement or retrogression in moral and in- tellectual civilization do not lie quite so much on the surface of things, and are not by their nature so manifest to observation. But an observant traveller will not pass through the kingdom without finding many a straw which will serve to indicate which way the wind is blowing in these respects also. And I saw, both in Paris and in the provinces, enough to convince me that the country is making as decide8 a progress towards moral barbarism as it is to- wards physical civilization. The history of the world has amply proved that progress in the one of these directions is not incompatible with as rapid an ad-
vance in the other. • • The most malignant symptom of this moral disease which is destroying the
nation, is the universal want of faith—not religious disease, only, but of faith in any thing—in virtue, honesty, and morality—in the reality of any thing not cognizable by the material senses—in the government, in their superiors, in their neighbours, and in themselves. Every thing but the material interests of bodily comfort and wellbeing is spoken of in the same cold, sneering tone of sceptical ridicule; and the existence of any good but that of sensual enjoyment is deemed at best doubtful, and therefore unworthy of pursuit. It requires but small penetration to perceive that such a temper of mind must lead to a degree of selfishness and individualism, which, as soon as ever it becomes sufficiently universal, must sever the bond which binds individuals into bodies politic, and dissolve society into its original elements. Among a variety of small traits and indications of national feeling, which, as I said just now, serve as straws to show which way the wind blows, many, though producing an impression at the moment of their occurrence which is not afterwards effaced, are themselves of a nature to slip from the memory. One unmistakeable index, however, to the moral sentiments of a people, may be found in their newspapers and popular literature; and throughout the whole of my tour through the provinces, I took considerable pains to ascertain what newspapers and books were the most read. The cafes and reading-rooms afforded me the means of judging of the first, and the contents of the circu- lating libraries, and the information of the keepers of them, supplied a tolerably sure criterion of the latter.
The Charivari is, comparatively speaking, an expensive paper, and would not therefore be found in the smaller and poorer cafes. But in those of more pretension it was invariably taken; and was, as far as very constant, and, I may say, very extensive observation could enable me to judge, more eagerly asked for and more constantly in hand than any other publication. The nature of this print is unfortunately too well known to make it necessary for me to cha- racterize it with much particularity. It is written certainly not without much talent ; but its staple contents are blasphemy, obscenity, and unceasing at- tacks on every species of existing institution, whether Whig, Tory, or Radical. The Church, the State, the Law, the Tribunals, the Judges, the Peers, the Deputies, the Ministers, be they Whom they may, are all in turn assailed with its clever though somewhat monotonous ridicule. It is difficult to conceive the idea of a publication of a nature to be more eitensively and deeply pernicious than the aarivari.
If from the cafes we turn to the circulating libraries, their contents, of a ,nature equally pernicious and little leas ephemeral, amply confirm the condo- 'ions we shall have been inclined to draw from the favourite sheets of the public press. The innumerable volumes of Frederic Soulie, Paul de Kock, Eugene Sue, and Balsac, and a few others of similar character, constitute nearly their entire stock. And the mass of corrupt and corrupting ideas which address themselves to the passions, the imagination, and occasionally to the reasoning faculty, throughout a series of works not one of which any English father of a family would dream of suffering to enter his house, forms the daily and nightly reading of the young of both sexes.