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Memoirs of William Hazlitt
Ch. XI 1825

Chap. I 1778-1811
Ch. II: 1791-95
Ch. III 1795-98
Ch. IV 1798
Ch. V 1798
Ch. VI 1792-1803
Ch. VII 1803-05
Ch. VIII 1803-05
Ch. IX
Ch. X 1807
Ch. XI 1808
Ch. XII 1808
Ch. XII 1812
Ch. XIV 1814-15
Ch. XV 1814-17
Ch. XVI 1818
Ch. XVII 1820
Ch. XX 1821
Ch. I 1821
Ch. II 1821-22
Ch. III 1821-22
Ch. IV 1822
Ch. V 1822
Ch. VI 1822
Ch. VII 1822-23
Ch. VIII 1822
Ch. IX 1823
Ch. X 1824
‣ Ch. XI 1825
Ch. XII 1825
Ch. XIII 1825
Ch. XIV 1825
Ch. XV 1825
Ch. XVI 1825-27
Ch. XVII 1826-28
Ch. XVIII 1829-30
Ch. XX
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The subject pursued—From Paris to Fontainbleau, Montargis, Lyons, &c.—Autobiography continued.

We left Paris in the Diligence, and arrived at Fontainbleau the first night. The accommodations at the inn were indifferent, and not cheap. . . . . We walked forward a mile or two before the coach on the road to Montargis. It presents a long, broad, and stately avenue, without a turning as far as the eye can reach, and is skirted on each side by a wild, woody, rocky scenery The day was dull, but quite mild, though in the middle of January. . . . .

“When the Diligence came up, and we took our seats in the coupé, . . . . we found a French lady occupying the third place in it, whose delight at our entrance was as great as if we had joined her on some desert island, and whose mortification was distressing when she learnt we were not going the whole way with her. She complained of the cold of the night air; but this she seemed to dread less than the want of company. She said she had been deceived, for she had been told
the coach was full, and was in despair that she should not have a soul to speak to all the way to Lyons. We got out, notwithstanding, at the inn at Montargis, where we met with a very tolerable reception, and were waited on at supper by one of those Maritormeses that perfectly astonish an English traveller. Her joy at our arrival was as extreme as if her whole fortune depended on it. She laughed, danced, sang, fairly sprang into the air, bounded into the room, nearly overset the table, hallooed and talked as loud as if she had been alternately ostler and chambermaid. . . . . The mistress of the inn, however, was a little peaking, pining woman, with her face wrapped up in flannel, and not quite so inaccessible to nervous impressions; and when I asked the girl, ‘What made her speak so loud?’ she answered for her, ‘To make people deaf.’ . . . .

“We staid here till one o’clock on Sunday (the 16th) waiting the arrival of the Lyonnais, in which we had taken our places forward, and which I thought would never arrive. . . . . These gentlemen [the proprietors of the coach Lyonnais at Fontainebleau] came to me after I had paid for two places as far as Nevers, to ask me to resign them in favour of two Englishmen, who wished to go the whole way, and to re-engage them for the following evening. I said I could not do that; but as I had a dislike to travelling at night, I would go on to Montargis by some other conveyance, and proceed by the Lyonnais, which would arrive there at eight or nine on Sunday morning, as far as I could that night. I set out on the faith of this understanding.


“I had some difficulty in finding the office sur la place, to which I had been directed, and which was something between a stable, a kitchen, and a cookshop. I was led to it by a shabby double or counterpart of the Lyonnais, which stood before the door, empty, dirty, bare of luggage, waiting the Paris one, which had not yet arrived. It drove into town four hours afterwards, with three foundered hacks, with the conducteur and postillion for its complement of passengers, the last occupying the left-hand corner of the coupe in solitary state. . . . .

“He seized upon me and my trunks as lawful prize: he afterwards insisted on my going forward in the middle of the night to Lyons (contrary to my agreement), and I was obliged to comply, or to sleep upon trusses of straw in a kind of outhouse. We quarrelled incessantly, but I could not help laughing, for he sometimes looked like my old acquaintance Dr. Stoddart, and sometimes like my friend A—— H——, of Edinburgh. . . . .

“He said we should reach Lyons the next evening, and we got there twenty-four hours after the time. He told me, for my comfort, the reason of his being so late was that two of his horses had fallen down dead on the road. He had to raise relays of horses all the way, as if we were travelling through a hostile country; quarrelled with all his postilions about an abatement of a few sous; and once our horses were arrested in the middle of the night by a farmer who refused to trust him; and he had to go before the Mayor as soon as day broke. We were quizzed by the post-boys, the innkeepers, the peasants all along the road, as a shabby
concern, and our conducteur bore it all, like another Candide.

“We stopped at all the worst inns in the outskirts of the towns, where nothing was ready; or when it was, was not eatable. The second morning we were to breakfast at Moulins. When we alighted, our guide told us it was eleven: the clock in the kitchen pointed to three. As he laughed in my face, when I complained of his misleading me, I told him that he was ‘un impudent,’ and this epithet sobered him the rest of the way.

“As we left Moulins, the crimson clouds of evening streaked the west, and I had time to think of Sterne’s ‘Maria.’ The people at the inn, I suspect, had never heard of her. There was no trace of romance about the house. Certainly, mine was not a Sentimental Journey. . . . . . Is the story of Maria the worse because I am travelling a dirty road in a rascally Diligence?

“At Palisseau (the road is rich in melodramatic recollections) it became pitch-dark; you could not see your hand; I entreated to have the lamp lighted; our conducteur said it was broken (cassè). With much persuasion, and the ordering a bottle of their best wine, which went round among the people at the inn, we got a lantern with a rushlight in it; but the wind soon blew it out, and we went on our way darkly; the road lay over a high hill, with the loose muddy bottom between two hedges, and as we did not attempt to trot or gallop, we came safe to the level ground on the other side.

“We breakfasted at Rouane, where we were first shown into the kitchen, while they were heating a suffo-
cating stove in a squalid salle-à-manger. There, while I was sitting half dead with cold and fatigue, a boy came and scraped a wooden dresser close at my ear, with a noise to split one’s brain, and with true French nonchalance; and a portly landlady, who had risen just as we had done breakfasting, ushered us to our carriage with the airs and graces of a
Madame Maintenon. . . . .

“In crossing the bridge at Rouane the sun shone brightly on the river and shipping, which had a busy, cheerful aspect; and we began to ascend the Bourbonnois under more flattering auspices. We got out and walked slowly up the winding road. I found that the morning air refreshed and braced my spirits; and that even the continued fatigue of the journey, which I had dreaded as a hazardous experiment, was a kind of seasoning to me. I was less exhausted than the first day. . . . .

“As we loitered up the long winding ascent of the road from Rouane, we occasionally approached the brink of some Alpine declivity, tufted with pine-trees, and noticed the white villas, clustering and scattered. . . . .

“Tarare is a neat little town, famous for the manufacture of serges and calicoes. We had to stop here for three-quarters of an hour, waiting for fresh horses, and as we sat in the coupé in this helpless state, the horses taken out, the sun shining in, and the wind piercing through every cranny of the broken panes and rattling sash-windows, the postilion came up and demanded to know if we were English, as there were two English gentlemen who would be glad to see as. I excused my
self from getting out, but said I should be happy to speak to them. Accordingly, my informant beckoned to a young man in black, who was standing at a little distance in a state of anxious expectation, and coming to the coach-door said he presumed we were from London, and that he had taken the liberty to pay his respects to us. His friend, he said, who was staying with him, was ill in bed, or he would have done himself the same pleasure. He had on a pair of wooden clogs, turned up and pointed at the toes in the manner of the country (which he recommended to me as useful for climbing the hills if ever I should come into those parts), warm worsted mittens, and had a thin, genteel shivering aspect. I expected every moment he would tell me his name or business; but all I learnt was that he and his friend had been here some time, and that they could not get away till spring. . . . .

“Our delay at Tarare had deprived us of nearly an hour of daylight; and, besides, the miserable foundered jades of horses, that we had to get on in this paragon of diligences, were quite unequal to the task of dragging it up and down the hills on the road to Lyons, which was still twenty miles distant. The night was dark, and we had no light. I found it was quite hopeless when we should reach our journey’s end (if we did not break our necks by the way), and that both were matters of very great indifference to Mons. le Conducteur, who was only bent on saving the pockets of Messieurs his employers, and who had no wish, like me, to see the Vatican! . . . .


“We arrived in safety at Lyons at eleven o’clock at night, and were conducted to the Hôtel des Couriers, where we, with some difficulty, procured a lodging and a supper, and were attended by a brown, greasy, dark-haired, good-humoured, awkward gipsy of a wench from the south of France, who seemed just caught; stared and laughed, and forgot every thing she went for; could not help exclaiming every moment—‘Que madame a le peau blanc!’ from the contrast to her own dingy complexion and dirty skin; took a large brass pan of scalding milk, came and sat down by me on a bundle of wood, and drank it; said she had no supper, for her head ached; and declared the English were braves gens, and that the Bourbons were bons enfants; started up to look through the key-hole, and whispered through her broad stray-set teeth, that a fine madam was descending the staircase, who had been to dine with a great gentleman; offered to take away the supper things, left them, and called us the next morning with her head and senses in a state of even greater confusion than they were over-night. . . . .

“Here is the ‘Hôtel de Nôtre-Dame de Piété,’ which is shown to you as the inn where Rousseau stopped on his way to Paris, when he went to overturn the French monarchy by the force of style. I thought of him as we came down the mountain of Tarare, in his gold-laced hat, and with his jet-d’eau playing. . . . . At Lyons I saw this inscription over a door: Ici on trouve le seul et unique depôt de l’encre sans pareil et incorruptible—which appeared to me to contain the whole
secret of French poetry. I went into a shop to buy
M. Martine’s ‘Death of Socrates,’ which I saw in the window, but they would neither let me have that copy, nor get me another. . . . . While I was waiting for an answer, a French servant in livery brought in four volumes of the ‘History of a Foundling,’ an improved translation, in which it was said the morceaux written by M. de la Place were restored. I was pleased to see my old acquaintance Tom Jones, with his French coat on. Leigh Hunt tells me that M. Casimir de la Vigne is a great Bonapartist, and talks of the ‘tombs of the brave.’ He said I might form some idea of M. Martine’s attempts to be great and unfrenchified by the frontispiece to one of his poems, in which a young gentleman in an heroic attitude is pointing to the sea in a storm, with his other hand round a pretty girl’s waist. I told Hunt this poet had lately married a lady of fortune. He said, ‘That’s the girl.’ He also said very well, I thought, that ‘the French seemed born to puzzle the Germans.’ . . . .

“There was a Diligence next day for Turin, over Mont Cenis, which went only twice a week (stopping at night), and I was glad to secure (as I thought) two places in the interior, at seventy francs a seat, for 240 miles. The fare from Paris to Lyons, a distance of 360 miles, was only fifty francs each, which is four times as cheap; but the difference was accounted for to me from there being no other conveyance, which was an arbitrary reason, and from the number and expense of horses necessary to drag a heavy double coach over
mountainous roads. Besides, it was a royal messagerie, and I was given to understand that Messrs. Bonnafoux paid the King of Sardinia a thousand crowns a year for permission to run a Diligence through his territories.

“The knave of a waiter (I found) had cheated me; and that from Chambery there was only one place in the interior, and one in the coupé. . . . . I had no other resource, however, having paid my four pounds in advance, at the overpressing instances of the garçon, but to call him a coquin (which, being a Milanese, was not quite safe), to throw out broad hints (à l’Anglais) of a collusion between him and the office, and to arrange as well as I could with the conducteur, that I and my fellow-traveller should not be separated.

“I would advise all English people travelling abroad to take their own places at coach-offices, and not to trust to waiters, who will make a point of tricking them, both as a principle and pastime; and further to procure letters of recommendation (in case of disagreeable accidents on the road), for it was a knowledge of this kind, namely, that I had a letter of introduction to one of the professors of the College at Lyons, that procured me even the trifling concession above mentioned. . . . .

“Annoyed at the unfair way in which we had been treated, and at the idea of being left to the mercy of the conducteur, we took our seats numerically in the royal Diligence of Italy, at seven in the evening
(January 20 [1825]), and for some time suffered the extreme penalties of a French stage-coach. . . . .

“Not only were the six places in the interior all taken, and all full, but they had suspended a wickerbasket (like a hencoop) from the top of the coach, stuffed with fur-caps, hats, overalls, and different parcels, so as to make it impossible to move one way or other, and to stop every remaining breath of air. . . . .

“At midnight we found we had gone only nine miles in five hours, as we had been climbing a gradual ascent from the time we had set out, which was our first essay in mountain scenery. . . . . The heat became less insupportable as the noise and darkness subsided. . . . .

“At daybreak, the pleasant farms, the thatched cottages, and sloping valleys of Savoy attracted our notice, and I was struck with the resemblance to England (to some parts of Devonshire and Somersetshire in particular), a discovery which I imparted to my fellow-travellers with a more lively enthusiasm than it was received. . . . .

“At Pont Beau-Voisin, the frontier town of the King of Sardinia’s dominions, we stopped to breakfast, and to have our passports and luggage examined at the Barrier and Custom House. I breakfasted with the Spaniard, who invited himself to our tea-party, and complimented madame (in broken English) on the excellence of her performance. We agreed between ourselves that the Spaniards and English were very much superior to the French. I found he had a taste for the fine arts, and I spoke of Murillo and Velasquez
as two excellent Spanish painters. ‘Here was sympathy.’ I also spoke of
Don Quixote. ‘Here was more sympathy.’ What a thing it is to have produced a work that makes friends of all the world that have read it, and that all the world have read! . . . .

“We were summoned from our tea and patriotic effusions to attend the Douane. It was striking to have to pass and repass the piquets of soldiers stationed as a guard on bridges across narrow mountain-streams that a child might leap over. After some slight dalliance with our greatcoat pockets, and significant gestures that we might have things of value about us that we should not, we proceeded to the Custom House. I had two trunks. One contained books. When it was unlocked, it was as if the lid of Pandora’s box flew open. There could not have been a more sudden start or expression of surprise had it been filled with cartridge-paper or gunpowder.

“Books were the corrosive sublimate that eat out despotism and priestcraft . . . . A box full of them was a contempt of the constituted authorities; and the names of mine were taken down with great care and secrecy. Lord Bacon’sAdvancement of LearningMilton’sParadise Lost,’ De Stutt-Tracey’sIdeologie’ (which Bonaparte said ruined his Russian expedition), Mignet’sFrench Revolution’ (which wants a chapter on the English government), ‘Sayings and Doings,’ with pencil notes in the margin, ‘Irving’s Orations,’ the same, an ‘Edinburgh Review,’ some Morning Chronicles, the ‘Literary Examiner,’ a collection of
poetry, a volume bound in crimson velvet [the
Liber Amoris], and the Paris edition of ‘Table-talk’ [Paris, Galignani, 1825, 8vo., a copy bound in vellum].

“Here was some questionable matter enough—but no notice was taken. My box was afterwards corded and leaded with equal gravity and politeness, and it was not till I arrived at Turin that I found it was a prisoner of state, and would be forwarded to me anywhere I chose to mention out of his Sardinian Majesty’s dominions. . . . .

“It was noon as we returned to the inn, and we first caught a full view of the Alps over a plashy meadow, some feathery trees, and the tops of the houses of the village in which we were. It was a magnificent sight, and in truth a new sensation. Their summits were bright with snow and with the mid-day sun; they did not seem to stand upon the earth, but to prop the sky; they were at a considerable distance from us, and yet appeared just over our heads. The surprise seemed to take away our breath, and to lift us from our feet. It was drinking the empyrean.

“As we could not long retain possession of our two places in the interior, I proposed to our guide to exchange them for the cabriolet; and, after some little chaffering and candid representations of the outside passengers of the cold we should have to encounter, we were installed there to our great satisfaction, and the no less contentment of those whom we succeeded.

“Indeed I had no idea that we should be steeped in these icy valleys at three o’clock in the morning, or I
might have hesitated. The view was cheering, the air refreshing, and I thought we should set off each morning about seven or eight. But it is part of the scavoir vivre in France, and one of the methods of adding to the agrémens of travelling, to set out three hours before daybreak in the depth of winter, and stop two hours about noon, in order to arrive early in the evening.

“With all the disadvantages of preposterous hours, and of intense cold, pouring into the cabriolet like water the two first mornings, I cannot say I repented of my bargain. We had come a thousand miles to see the Alps for one thing, and we did see them in perfection, which we could not have done inside. . . . .

“We came to Echelles, where we changed horses with great formality and preparation, as if setting out on some formidable expedition. Six large, strong-boned horses with high haunches (used to ascend and descend mountains) were put to, the rope-tackle was examined and repaired, and our two postilions mounted and remounted more than once before they seemed willing to set off, which they did at last at a hand-gallop, that was continued for some miles. . . . .

“Night was falling as we entered the superb tunnel cut through the mountain at La Grotte (a work attributed to Victor Emanuel, with the same truth that Falstaff took to himself the merit of the death of Hotspur), and its iron floor rang, the whips cracked, and the roof echoed to the clear voice of our intrepid postilion as we dashed through it. . . . . We had nearly reached the end of our day’s journey when we dismissed
our two fore-horses and their rider, to whom I presented a trifling douceur ‘for the sake of his good voice and cheerful countenance.’ . . . .

“We arrived at Chambery in the dusk of the evening; and there is surely a charm in the name, and in that of the Charmettes near it. . . . . We alighted at the inn fatigued enough, and were delighted on being shown to a room to find the floor of wood, and English teacups and saucers. We were in Savoy.

“We set out early next morning, and it was the most trying part of our whole journey. The wind cut like a scythe through the valleys, and a cold, icy feeling struck from the sides of the snowy precipices that surrounded us; so that we seemed enclosed in a huge well of mountains. We got to St. Jean de Maurienne to breakfast about noon, where the only point agreed upon appeared to be to have nothing ready to receive us. . . . .

“We arrived at St. Michelle at nightfall (after passing through beds of ice and the infernal regions of cold), where we met with a truly hospitable reception, with wood floors in the English fashion, and where they told us the King of England had stopped. This made no sort of difference to me.

“We breakfasted the next day (being Sunday) at Lans-le-Bourg. . . . . We were now at the foot of Mont Cenis, and after breakfast we set off on foot before the Diligence, which was to follow us in half-an-hour. We passed a melancholy-looking inn at the end of the town, professing to be kept by an Englishman, but there ap-
peared to be nobody about the place. . . . . We found two of our fellow-travellers following our example, and they soon after overtook us. They were both French.

“We noticed some of the features of the scenery, and a lofty hill opposite to us being scooped out into a bed of snow, with two ridges or promontories (something like an arm-chair) on each side, ‘Voilá!’ said the younger and more volatile of our companions, ‘c’est un trône, et la nuage est la gloire!’—a white cloud indeed encircled its misty top. I complimented him on the happiness of his allusion, and said that Madame was pleased with the exactness of the resemblance. . . . .

“All the way as we ascended there were red posts placed at the edge of the road, ten or twelve feet in height, to point out the direction of the road in case of a heavy fall of snow, and with notches cut to show the depth of the drifts. There were also scattered stone hovels, erected as stations for the gens-d’armes, who were sometimes left here for several days together after a severe snow-storm, without being approached by a single human being.

“One of these stood near the top of the mountain, and as we were tired of the walk (which had occupied two hours) and of the uniformity of the view, we agreed to wait here for the Diligence to overtake us.

“We were cordially welcomed in by a young peasant (a soldier’s wife), with a complexion as fresh as the winds, and an expression as pure as the mountain snows. The floor of this rude tenement consisted of the solid rock; and a three-legged table stood on it, on which
were placed three earthen bowls filled with sparkling wine, heated on a stove, with sugar. . . . . I shall not soon forget the rich ruby colour of the wine, as the sun shone upon it through a low glazed window that looked out on the boundless wastes around, nor its grateful spicy smell, as we sat round it. . . . .

“The coach shortly after overtook us. We descended a long and steep declivity with the highest point of Mont Cenis on our left, and a lake to the right, like a landing-place for geese. . . . . The snow on this side of the mountain was nearly gone. I supposed myself for some time nearly on level ground till we came in view of several black chasms or steep ravines in the side of the mountain facing us. . . . . Long after we continued to descend, and came at length to a small village at the bottom of a sweeping line of road, where the houses seemed like dove-cotes with the mountains’ back reared like a wall behind them, and which I thought the termination of our journey. But here the wonder and the greatness began. . . . . It was not till we entered Susa, with its fine old drawbridge and castellated walls, that we found ourselves on terra firma, or breathed common air again. At the inn at Susa we first perceived the difference of Italian manners; and the next day [we] arrived at Turin, after passing over thirty miles of the straightest, flattest, and dullest road in the world.

“Here we stopped two days to recruit our strength and look about us.”