A RURAL EXCURSION IN FRANCE.
Versailles, let September 1852. The weather has been so fine during the last fortnight, that to pass one's day out of doors, like "the natives," has become well nigh a habit with strangers. By way of turning one of these beautiful days to ac- count, we set out yesterday on a little excursion; of which I proceed to give you a brief sketch. Quitting Versailles by the Porte de Satory, you ascend a hill, from which the traveller obtains a noble prospect over the town and sur- rounding country. - The railroad to Chartres passes under this road; on the top of the hill stretches a wide and extensive tract of level ground, called the Plaine de Satory, well known to fame, and which certainly offers unusual advantages as a field for military displays. The road leads from this height down a pretty dell into La Miniere, a narrow gorge richly wooded, forming the limit of the old Pare de Versailles of Louis Quatorze's creation. We next traversed the dull but productive Plaine de Sada, reaching about four miles to the South-west; the whole surface being under the careful culture of large occupiers, and evidently of a fer- tile quality. Fruit-trees, in abundant bearing, border the road the whole way, and in some measure compensate the eye for the absence of hedges. When we had passed over this region, we found ourselves on the verge of a small but richly-wooded valley, divided by a streamlet and green meadows, with a few farm-buildings, old garden-walls, and a large round structure, denoting a " colombier," on its Northern slope. Amore charming site could not have been chosen for the retreat of those who once illus- trated this obscure spot. We left the carriage, and, walking a short dis- tance, entered, not without pilgrim emotions, within the precincts of Port Royal des Champs ! The destroying spirit of Revolution has done its work most effectually, by removing all traces of the once important Abbaye, as well as those of the abodes of the "solitaires," who sought the society of the "sisters," and the means of mutual instruction, in these calm pleasing solitudes. Nothing remains but masses of loose masonry, and here and there a sort of crypt, with the garden-walls, of great thickness, buttressed by projecting spurs, out of which grow huge trunks of ivy, doubtless coeval with the period of Port Royal's prosperity. The colombier probably also dates from the same. The names of Arnauld, Pascal, Nicole, and, in its way, that of the Duchesse de Longueville, who filled so distinguished a place in her coun- try's domestic history, rise to the memory as one wanders over the ground so often trodden by these contemplative recluses. No one who has learnt to value the efforts made by conscientious thinkers to advance the dignity of the human intellect can visit this hallowed spot without reverence. The poor nuns, too, suffered their share of persecution for the sake of their mental independence, and must be numbered with the noble women who have deserved the crown of martyrdom in behalf of something more precious than a visionary belief. Reluctantly bending our steps outwards, we now once more rolled plea- santly along a macadamized road of the finest sort, through more corn country, and more beladen apple-trees, for about three-quarters of an hour ; at the end of which a remarkably fine prospect opened out before us. From the summit of a high plateau we commanded a view of the whole magnificent valley of Dampierre, one of the most beautiful in France, of considerable extent, and presenting what in this country has become a somewhat rare feature in its landscapes—I allude to the richly- timbered park and princely seat of a real "grand seigneur," The high ground on the farther side of this valley is entirely clothed with fine timber-trees, for *long distance ; whilst the other slopes offer also a goodly spectacle of mixed forest scenery, with broken heath-cover- ed banks. The eye rests delighted on such a landscape, the like of which in England it would be difficult to quote, unless perhaps it were some such spot as Helmsley Dale, (Lord Feversham's noble demesne in York- shire,) or Knowle Park and its neighbourhood, in Kent The timber of the park at Dampierre, however, is of a still nobler growth ; the climate favouring the formation of forests in France in a way to excite the envy of English visitors. Ash-trees, with a clean run of bole seventy feet in length and two or more in diameter—chesnut, oak, and abele of imposing size, with vigorous large foliage and undying crowns—here furnish out a sylvan picture of surpassing interest to the admirer of the vegetable kingdom. Winding down by a skilfully-made road, we gained the lower ground, watered by the little river Yvette, and entirely devoted to pasture, the herbage of which was obviously rich and nutritive. The village of Dampierre, seated on a rise a little above the bed of the stream, intersects as it were the grounds of the Château de Dampierre before the gates of which we soon drew up, and were not a little astonished to be- hold a mansion of imposing size, surrounded by gardens and dressed grounds, and exhibiting every mark of the most refined recherché taste and expensive keeping-up. The house was partially destroyed during the Revolution, as were most of the residences of the noblesse ; but the pro- prietor of this, the Due de Chevreuse, not having emigrated, his estates were restored to him in 1815, and his son, who now bears the title of Due de Luynes, (they alternate these titles, it seems,) caused the building to be completely repaired, so that no signs of damage are discernible. The house is of the latter period of Louis Quatorze, and was constructed after the designs of Mansard. It stands in water, on three sides, and is seated in the lowest part of the basin of the valley—looking up wide alleys cut in the park, and surrounded by trim gardens, decked with numerous orange-trees and other choice plants, ranged in thin boxes along the borders. Green grass plats are carefully cherished here, being almost the only place in which I have found them: water, always at hand, enables the gardener to counteract the effects of the sun, everywhere else fatal to green-sward. South of the château, and amid wavy woods, is a lake several acres in extent, with sailing and row boats moored on its sur- face. The water is not stagnant, being constantly fed by the stream run- ning through this valley ; and as we walked about the gardens we saw the water discharging itself by a gentle cascade' which I presume never ceases, since it is fully supplied at this driest of all seasons.
The interior of the château offers little to describe. We saw the state apartments alone, including the chapel ; for, as is usual in all ancient noble establishments, the Due de Luynes keeps his family-priest, and has mass said daily. There are few pictures of mark, and none of any pre- tension to merit as works of art, in the rooms we passed through ; though I am inclined to believe there are pictures in the Duke's possession worth looking at, as he is reputed to be not only fond of the arts but given to encourage artists. The only object of interest in the way of modern art was a statue of Penelope fallen asleep over her spindle; very creditably executed, by a French sculptor. In a kind of crypt, enclosed within iron- bound doors, we were shown a silver statue of Louis the Thirteenth, in light armour, ha and feather ; life size, taken at the age of fifteen or six- teen perhaps. This work, which is cleverly designed, was intended as a mark of grateful homage on the part of a Duo de Luynes towards the founder of his fortunes ; the first Due de Lnynes having risen to greatness from the condition of a poor Italian gentleman named Alberti, through the favour of that monarch. He married into the Mont- bazon family, refusing an alliance with the niece of the King, Mademoi- selle de Vendome; and his family may be considered as ranking among the most honourable of the nation. The present head of the family has the reputation of possessing all those qualities which grace high birth and station. Aiming at no great political importance he employs his ample
tu forne in cultivating the arts, (he has the finest private collection of medals perhaps in the kingdom,) in promoting philanthropic undertakings, and in rendering useful services to those who need his generous assist- ance; a high-bred personal bearing conferring the last charm upon a cha- racter otherwise entitled to respect and love,—in short, a French Elles- mere.
I have no more room, so will close my sheet. Accept this sketch for