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A Little Tour In France by Henry James

Part 4 out of 5

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that it has the shape of a playing-card, and he ex-
presses his admiration for it by the singular wish
that an "exact copy" of it should be erected in Paris.
He even goes so far as to say that in the year 1880
this tribute will have been rendered to its charms;
nothing would be more simple, to his mind, than to
"have" in that city "le Pantheon de Rome, quelques
temples de Grece." Stendhal found it amusing to
write in the character of a _commis-voyageur_, and some-
times it occurs to his reader that he really was one.


On my way from Nimes to Arles, I spent three
hours at Tarascon; chiefly for the love of Alphonse
Daudet, who has written nothing more genial than
"Les Aventures Prodigieuses de Taitarin," and the
story of the "siege" of the bright, dead little town
(a mythic siege by the Prussians) in the "Conies du
Lundi." In the introduction which, for the new
edition of his works, he has lately supplied to "Tar-
tarin," the author of this extravagant but kindly
satire gives some account of the displeasure with
which he has been visited by the ticklish Tarascon-
nais. Daudet relates that in his attempt to shed a
humorous light upon some of the more erratic phases
of the Provencal character, he selected Tarascon at a
venture; not because the temperament of its natives
is more vainglorious than that of their neighbors, or
their rebellion against the "despotism of fact" more
marked, but simply because he had to name a par-
ticular Provencal city. Tartarin is a hunter of lions
and charmer of women, a true "_produit du midi_," as
Daudet says, who has the most fantastic and fabulous
adventures. He is a minimized Don Quixote, with
much less dignity, but with equal good faith; and the
story of his exploits is a little masterpiece of the
light comical. The Tarasconnais, however, declined to
take the joke, and opened the vials of their wrath
upon the mocking child of Nimes, who would have
been better employed, they doubtless thought, in show-
ing up the infirmities of his own family. I am bound
to add that when I passed through Tarascon they did
not appear to be in the least out of humor. Nothing
could have been brighter, softer, more suggestive of
amiable indifference, than the picture it presented to
my mind. It lies quietly beside the Rhone, looking
across at Beaucaire, which seems very distant and in-
dependent, and tacitly consenting to let the castle of
the good King Rene of Anjou, which projects very
boldly into the river, pass for its most interesting feature.
The other features are, primarily, a sort of vivid sleepi-
ness in the aspect of the place, as if the September
noon (it had lingered on into October) lasted longer
there than elsewhere; certain low arcades, which make
the streets look gray and exhibit empty vistas; and a
very curious and beautiful walk beside the Rhone,
denominated the Chaussee, - a long and narrow cause-
way, densely shaded by two rows of magnificent old
trees, planted in its embankment, and rendered doubly
effective, at the moment I passed over it, by a little
train of collegians, who had been taken out for mild
exercise by a pair of young priests. Lastly, one may
say that a striking element of Tarascon, as of any town
that lies on the Rhone, is simply the Rhone itself: the
big brown flood, of uncertain temper, which has never
taken time to forget that it is a child of the mountain
and the glacier, and that such an origin carries with it
great privileges. Later, at Avignon, I observed it in
the exercise of these privileges, chief among which was
that of frightening the good people of the old papal
city half out of their wits.

The chateau of King Rene serves to-day as the
prison of a district, and the traveller who wishes to
look into it must obtain his permission at the _Mairie
of Tarascon_. If he have had a certain experience of
French manners, his application will be accompanied
with the forms of a considerable obsequiosity, and in
this case his request will be granted as civilly as it
has been made. The castle has more of the air of a
severely feudal fortress than I should suppose the
period of its construction (the first half of the fifteenth
century) would have warranted; being tremendously
bare and perpendicular, and constructed for comfort
only in the sense that it was arranged for defence. It
is a square and simple mass, composed of small yellow
stones, and perched on a pedestal of rock which easily
commands the river. The building has the usual cir-
cular towers at the corners, and a heavy cornice at
the top, and immense stretches of sun-scorched wall,
relieved at wide intervals by small windows, heavily
cross-barred. It has, above all, an extreme steepness
of aspect; I cannot express it otherwise. The walls
are as sheer and inhospitable as precipices. The castle
has kept its large moat, which is now a hollow filled
with wild plants. To this tall fortress the good Rene
retired in the middle of the fifteenth century, finding
it apparently the most substantial thing left him in a
dominion which had included Naples and Sicily,
Lorraine and Anjou. He had been a much-tried
monarch and the sport of a various fortune, fighting
half his life for thrones he didn't care for, and exalted
only to be quickly cast down. Provence was the
country of his affection, and the memory of his troubles
did not prevent him from holding a joyous court at
Tarascon and at Aix. He finished the castle at
Tarascon, which had been begun earlier in the century,
- finished it, I suppose, for consistency's sake, in the
manner in which it had originally been designed rather
than in accordance with the artistic tastes that formed
the consolation of his old age. He was a painter, a
writer, a dramatist, a modern dilettante, addicted to
private theatricals. There is something very attractive
in the image that he has imprinted on the page of
history. He was both clever and kind, and many
reverses and much suffering had not imbittered him
nor quenched his faculty of enjoyment. He was fond
of his sweet Provence, and his sweet Provence has
been grateful; it has woven a light tissue of legend
around the memory of the good King Rene.

I strolled over his dusky habitation - it must have
taken all his good-humor to light it up - at the heels
of the custodian, who showed me the usual number of
castle-properties: a deep, well-like court; a collection of
winding staircases and vaulted chambers, the embra-
sures of whose windows and the recesses of whose
doorways reveal a tremendous thickness of wall. These
things constitute the general identity of old castles;
and when one has wandered through a good many,
with due discretion of step and protrusion of head,
one ceases very much to distinguish and remember,
and contents one's self with consigning them to the
honorable limbo of the romantic. I must add that this
reflection did not the least deter me from crossing the
bridge which connects Tarascon with Beaucaire, in
order to examine the old fortress whose ruins adorn
the latter city. It stands on a foundation of rock much
higher than that of Tarascon, and looks over with a
melancholy expression at its better-conditioned brother.
Its position is magnificent, and its outline very gallant.
I was well rewarded for my pilgrimage; for if the castle
of Beaucaire is only a fragment, the whole place, with
its position and its views, is an ineffaceable picture. It
was the stronghold of the Montmorencys, and its last
tenant was that rash Duke Francois, whom Richelieu,
seizing every occasion to trample on a great noble,
caused to be beheaded at Toulouse, where we saw, in
the Capitol, the butcher's knife with which the cardinal
pruned the crown of France of its thorns. The castle,
after the death of this victim, was virtually demolished.
Its site, which Nature to-day has taken again to herself,
has an extraordinary charm. The mass of rock that it
formerly covered rises high above the town, and is as
precipitous as the side of the Rhone. A tall rusty iron
gate admits you from a quiet corner of Beaucaire to a
wild tangled garden, covering the side of the hill, -
for the whole place forms the public promenade of the
townsfolk, - a garden without flowers, with little steep,
rough paths that wind under a plantation of small,
scrubby stone-pines. Above this is the grassy platform
of the castle, enclosed on one side only (toward the
river) by a large fragment of wall and a very massive
dungeon. There are benches placed in the lee of the
wall, and others on the edge of the platform, where
one may enjoy a view, beyond the river, of certain
peeled and scorched undulations. A sweet desolation,
an everlasting peace, seemed to hang in the air. A
very old man (a fragment, like the castle itself) emerged
from some crumbling corner to do me the honors, - a
very gentle, obsequious, tottering, toothless, grateful old
man. He beguiled me into an ascent of the solitary
tower, from which you may look down on the big
sallow river and glance at diminished Tarascon, and
the barefaced, bald-headed hills behind it. It may
appear that I insist too much upon the nudity of the
Provencal horiion, - too much, considering that I have
spoken of the prospect from the heights of Beaucaire as
lovely. But it is an exquisite bareness; it seems to
exist for the purpose of allowing one to follow the de-
licate lines of the hills, and touch with the eyes, as it
were, the smallest inflections of the landscape. It
makes the whole thing seem wonderfully bright and

Beaucaire used to be the scene of a famous fair,
the great fair of the south of France. It has gone the
way of most fairs, even in France, where these delight-
ful exhibitions hold their own much better than might
be supposed. It is still held in the month of July;
but the bourgeoises of Tarascon send to the Magasin
du Louvre for their smart dresses, and the principal
glory of the scene is its long tradition. Even now,
however, it ought to be the prettiest of all fairs, for it
takes place in a charming wood which lies just beneath
the castle, beside the Rhone. The booths, the barracks,
the platforms of the mountebanks, the bright-colored
crowd, diffused through this midsummer shade, and
spotted here and there with the rich Provencal sun-
shine must be of the most pictorial effect. It is highly
probable, too, that it offers a large collection of pretty
faces; for even in the few hours that I spent at
Tarascon I discovered symptoms of the purity of
feature for which the women of the _pays d'Arles_ are
renowned. The Arlesian head-dress, was visible in the
streets; and this delightful coiffure is so associated with
a charming facial oval, a dark mild eye, a straight
Greek nose, and a mouth worthy of all the rest, that
it conveys a presumption of beauty which gives the
wearer time either to escape or to please you. I have
read somewhere, however, that Tarascon is supposed
to produce handsome men, as Arles is known to deal
in handsome women. It may be that I should have
found the Tarasconnais very fine fellows, if I had en-
countered enough specimens to justify an induction.
But there were very few males in the streets, and the
place presented no appearance of activity. Here and
there the black coif of an old woman or of a young
girl was framed by a low doorway; but for the rest, as
I have said, Tarascon was mostly involved in a siesta.
There was not a creature in the little church of Saint
Martha, which I made a point of visiting before I re-
turned to the station, and which, with its fine Romanesque
sideportal and its pointed and crocketed Gothic spire,
is as curious as it need be, in view of its tradition. It
stands in a quiet corner where the grass grows between
the small cobble-stones, and you pass beneath a deep
archway to reach it. The tradition relates that Saint
Martha tamed with her own hands, and attached to
her girdle, a dreadful dragon, who was known as the
Tarasque, and is reported to have given his name to
the city on whose site (amid the rocks which form the
base of the chateau) he had his cavern. The dragon,
perhaps, is the symbol of a ravening paganism, dis-
pelled by the eloquence of a sweet evangelist. The
bones of the interesting saint, at all events, were found,
in the eleventh century, in a cave beneath the spot on
which her altar now stands. I know not what had be-
come of the bones of the dragon.


There are two shabby old inns at Arles, which
compete closely for your custom. I mean by this that
if you elect to go to the Hotel du Forum, the Hotel
du Nord, which is placed exactly beside it (at a right
angle) watches your arrival with ill-concealed dis-
approval; and if you take the chances of its neighbor,
the Hotel du Forum seems to glare at you invidiously
from all its windows and doors. I forget which of
these establishments I selected; whichever it was, I
wished very much that, it had been the other. The
two stand together on the Place des Hommes, a little
public square of Arles, which somehow quite misses
its effect. As a city, indeed, Arles quite misses its
effect in every way; and if it is a charming place, as
I think it is, I can hardly tell the reason why. The
straight-nosed Arlesiennes account for it in some degree;
and the remainder may be charged to the ruins of the
arena and the theatre. Beyond this, I remember with
affection the ill-proportioned little Place des Hommes;
not at all monumental, and given over to puddles and
to shabby cafes. I recall with tenderness the tortuous
and featureless streets, which looked like the streets of
a village, and were paved with villanous little sharp
stones, making all exercise penitential. Consecrated
by association is even a tiresome walk that I took the
evening I arrived, with the purpose of obtaining a
view of the Rhone. I had been to Arles before, years
ago, and it seemed to me that I remembered finding
on the banks of the stream some sort of picture. I
think that on the evening of which I speak there was
a watery moon, which it seemed to me would light up
the past as well as the present. But I found no pic-
ture, and I scarcely found the Rhone at all. I lost
my way, and there was not a creature in the streets to
whom I could appeal. Nothing could be more pro-
vincial than the situation of Arles at ten o'clock at
night. At last I arrived at a kind of embankment,
where I could see the great mud-colored stream slip-
ping along in the soundless darkness. It had come
on to rain, I know not what had happened to the
moon, and the whole place was anything but gay. It
was not what I had looked for; what I had looked for
was in the irrecoverable past. I groped my way back
to the inn over the infernal _cailloux_, feeling like a dis-
comfited Dogberry. I remember now that this hotel
was the one (whichever that may be) which has the
fragment of a Gallo-Roman portico inserted into one
of its angles. I had chosen it for the sake of this ex-
ceptional ornament. It was damp and dark, and the
floors felt gritty to the feet; it was an establishment at
which the dreadful _gras-double_ might have appeared
at the table d'hote, as it had done at Narbonne. Never-
theless, I was glad to get back to it; and nevertheless,
too, - and this is the moral of my simple anecdote, -
my pointless little walk (I don't speak of the pave-
ment) suffuses itself, as I look back upon it, with a
romantic tone. And in relation to the inn, I suppose
I had better mention that I am well aware of the in-
consistency of a person who dislikes the modern cara-
vansary, and yet grumbles when he finds a hotel of
the superannuated sort. One ought to choose, it would
seem, and make the best of either alternative. The
two old taverns at Arles are quite unimproved; such
as they must have been in the infancy of the modern
world, when Stendhal passed that way, and the lum-
bering diligence deposited him in the Place des
Hommes, such in every detail they are to-day. _Vieilles
auberges de France_, one ought to enjoy their gritty
floors and greasy window-panes. Let it be put on re-
cord, therefore, that I have been, I won't say less com-
fortable, but at least less happy, at better inns.

To be really historic, I should have mentioned that
before going to look for the Rhone I had spent part
of the evening on the opposite side of the little place,
and that I indulged in this recreation for two definite
reasons. One of these was that I had an opportunity
of conversing at a cafe with an attractive young Eng-
lishman, whom I had met in the afternoon at Tarascon,
and more remotely, in other years, in London; the
other was that there sat enthroned behind the counter
a splendid mature Arlesienne, whom my companion
and I agreed that it was a rare privilege to contem-
plate. There is no rule of good manners or morals
which makes it improper, at a cafe, to fix one's eyes
upon the _dame de comptoir_; the lady is, in the nature
of things, a part of your _consommation_. We were there-
fore feee to admire without restriction the handsomest
person I had ever seen give change for a five-franc
piece. She was a large quiet woman, who would never
see forty again; of an intensely feminine type, yet
wonderfully rich and robust, and full of a certain phy-
sical nobleness. Though she was not really old, she
was antique, and she was very grave, even a little sad.
She had the dignity of a Roman empress, and she
handled coppers as if they had been stamped with
the head of Caesar. I have seen washerwomen in the
Trastevere who were perhaps as handsome as she; but
even the head-dress of the Roman contadina con-
tributes less to the dignity of the person born to wear
it than the sweet and stately Arlesian cap, which sits
at once aloft and on the back of the head; which is
accompanied with a wide black bow covering a con-
siderable part of the crown; and which, finally, accom-
modates itself indescribably well to the manner in
which the tresses of the front are pushed behind the

This admirable dispenser of lumps of sugar has
distracted me a little; for I am still not sufficiently
historical. Before going to the cafe I had dined, and
before dining I had found time to go and look at the
arena. Then it was that I discovered that Arles has
no general physiognomy, and, except the delightful
little church of Saint Trophimus, no architecture, and
that the rugosities of its dirty lanes affect the feet
like knife-blades. It was not then, on the other hand, that
I saw the arena best. The second day of my stay at
Arles I devoted to a pilgrimage to the strange old hill
town of Les Baux, the mediaeval Pompeii, of which I
shall give myself the pleasure of speaking. The even-
ing of that day, however (my friend and I returned in
time for a late dinner), I wandered among the Roman
remains of the place by the light of a magnificent
moon, and gathered an impression which has lost little
of its silvery glow. The moon of the evening before
had been aqueous and erratic; but if on the present
occasion it was guilty of any irregularity, the worst it
did was only to linger beyond its time in the heavens,
in order to let us look at things comfortably. The
effect was admirable; it brought back the impression
of the way, in Rome itself, on evenings like that, the
moonshine rests upon broken shafts and slabs of an-
tique pavement. As we sat in the theatre, looking at
the two lone columns that survive - part of the decora-
tion of the back of the stage - and at the fragments
of ruin around them, we might have been in the
Roman forum. The arena at Arles, with its great
magnitude, is less complete than that of Nimes; it has
suffered even more the assaults of time and of the
children of time, and it has been less repaired. The
seats are almost wholly wanting; but the external walls
minus the topmost tier of arches, are massively, rug-
gedly, complete; and the vaulted corridors seem as
solid as the day they were built. The whole thing is
superbly vast, and as monumental, for place of light
amusement - what is called in America a "variety-
show" - as it entered only into the Roman mind to
make such establishments. The _podium_ is much higher
than at Nimes, and many of the great white slabs that
faced it have been recovered and put into their places.
The proconsular box has been more or less recon-
structed, and the great converging passages of approach
to it are still majestically distinct: so that, as I sat
there in the moon-charmed stillness, leaning my elbows
on the battered parapet of the ring, it was not im-
possible - to listen to the murmurs and shudders, the
thick voice of the circus, that died away fifteen hun-
dred years ago.

The theatre has a voice as well, but it lingers on
the ear of time with a different music. The Roman
theatre at Arles seemed to me one of the most charm-
ing and touching ruins I had ever beheld; I took a
particular fancy to it. It is less than a skeleton, - the
arena may be called a skeleton; for it consists only of
half a dozen bones. The traces of the row of columns
which formed the scene - the permanent back-scene -
remain; two marble pillars - I just mentioned them -
are upright, with a fragment of their entablature. Be
fore them is the vacant space which was filled by the
stage, with the line of the prosoenium distinct, marked
by a deep groove, impressed upon slabs of stone, which
looks as if the bottom of a high screen had been in-
tended to fit into it. The semicircle formed by the
seats - half a cup - rises opposite; some of the rows
are distinctly marked. The floor, from the bottom of
the stage, in the shape of an arc of which the chord
is formed by the line of the orchestra, is covered by
slabs of colored marble - red, yellow, and green -
which, though terribly battered and cracked to-day,
give one an idea of the elegance of the interior. Every-
thing shows that it was on a great scale: the large
sweep of its enclosing walls, the massive corridors that
passed behind the auditorium, and of which we can
still perfectly take the measure. The way in which
every seat commanded the stage is a lesson to the
architects of our epoch, as also the immense size of
the place is a proof of extraordinary power of voice
on the part of the Roman actors. It was after we had
spent half an hour in the moonshine at the arena that
we came on to this more ghostly and more exquisite
ruin. The principal entrance was locked, but we
effected an easy _escalade_, scaled a low parapet, and
descended into the place behind file scenes. It was
as light as day, and the solitude was complete. The
two slim columns, as we sat on the broken benches,
stood there like a pair of silent actors. What I called
touching, just now, was the thought that here the
human voice, the utterance of a great language, had
been supreme. The air was full of intonations and
cadences; not of the echo of smashing blows, of riven
armor, of howling victims and roaring beasts. The
spot is, in short, one of the sweetest legacies of the
ancient world; and there seems no profanation in the
fact that by day it is open to the good people of
Arles, who use it to pass, by no means in great num-
bers, from one part of the town to the other; treading
the old marble floor, and brushing, if need be, the
empty benches. This familiarity does not kill the
place again; it makes it, on the contrary, live a little,
- makes the present and the past touch each other.


The third lion of Arles has nothing to do with the
ancient world, but only with the old one. The church
of Saint Trophimus, whose wonderful Romanesque
porch is the principal ornament of the principal _place_,
- a _place_ otherwise distinguished by the presence of
a slim and tapering obelisk in the middle, as well as
by that of the Hotel de Ville and the museum - the
interesting church of Saint Trophimus swears a little,
as the French say, with the peculiar character of
Arles. It is very remarkable, but I would rather it
were in another place. Arles is delightfully pagan,
and Saint Trophimus, with its apostolic sculptures, is
rather a false note. These sculptures are equally re-
markable for their primitive vigor and for the perfect
preservation in which they have come down to us.
The deep recess of a round-arched porch of the
twelfth century is covered with quaint figures, which
have not lost a nose or a finger. An angular, Byzan-
tine-looking Christ sits in a diamond-shaped frame at
the summit of the arch, surrounded by little angels,
by great apostles, by winged beasts, by a hundred
sacred symbols and grotesque ornaments. It is a
dense embroidery of sculpture, black with time, but as
uninjured as if it had been kept under glass. One
good mark for the French Revolution! Of the in-
terior of the church, which has a nave of the twelfth
century, and a choir three hundred years more recent,
I chiefly remember the odd feature that the Romanesque
aisles are so narrow that you literally - or almost -
squeeze through them. You do so with some eager-
ness, for your natural purpose is to pass out to the
cloister. This cloister, as distinguished and as per-
fect as the porch, has a great deal of charm. Its four
sides, which are not of the same period (the earliest
and best are of the twelfth century), have an elaborate
arcade, supported on delicate pairs of columns, the
capitals of which show an extraordinary variety of
device and ornament. At the corners of the quadrangle
these columns take the form of curious human figures.
The whole thing is a gem of lightness and preserva-
tion, and is often cited for its beauty; but - if it
doesn't sound too profane - I prefer, especially at
Arles, the ruins of the Roman theatre. The antique
element is too precious to be mingled with anything
less rare. This truth was very present to my mind
during a ramble of a couple of hours that I took just
before leaving the place; and the glowing beauty of
the morning gave the last touch of the impression. I
spent half an hour at the Museum; then I took an-
other look at the Roman theatre; after which I walked
a little out of the town to the Aliscamps, the old
Elysian Fields, the meagre remnant of the old pagan
place of sepulture, which was afterwards used by the
Christians, but has been for ages deserted, and now
consists only of a melancholy avenue of cypresses,
lined with a succession of ancient sarcophagi, empty,
mossy, and mutilated. An iron-foundry, or some hor-
rible establishment which is conditioned upon tall
chimneys and a noise of hammering and banging, has
been established near at hand; but the cypresses shut
it out well enough, and this small patch of Elysium is
a very romantic corner.

The door of the Museum stands ajar, and a vigilant
custodian, with the usual batch of photographs on
his mind, peeps out at you disapprovingly while you
linger opposite, before the charming portal of Saint
Trophimus, which you may look at for nothing.
When you succumb to the silent influence of his eye,
and go over to visit his collection, you find yourself
in a desecrated church, in which a variety of ancient
objects, disinterred in Arlesian soil, have been ar-
ranged without any pomp. The best of these, I be-
lieve, were found in the ruins of the theatre. Some of
the most curious of them are early Christian sar-
cophagi, exactly on the pagan model, but covered with
rude yet vigorously wrought images of the apostles,
and with illustrations of scriptural history. Beauty
of the highest kind, either of conception or of execu-
tion, is absent from most of the Roman fragments,
which belong to the taste of a late period and a
provincial civilization. But a gulf divides them from
the bristling little imagery of the Christian sarcophagi,
in which, at the same time, one detects a vague
emulation of the rich examples by which their authors
were surrounded. There is a certain element of style
in all the pagan things; there is not a hint of it in
the early Christian relics, among which, according to
M. Joanne, of the Guide, are to be found more fine
sarcophagi than in any collection but that of St. John
Lateran. In two or three of the Roman fragments
there is a noticeable distinction; principally in a
charming bust of a boy, quite perfect, with those
salient eyes that one sees in certain antique busts, and
to which the absence of vision in the marble mask
gives a look, often very touching, as of a baffled effort
to see; also in the head of a woman, found in the
ruins of the theatre, who, alas! has lost her nose, and
whose noble, simple contour, barring this deficiency,
recalls the great manner of the Venus of Milo. There
are various rich architectural fragments which in-
dicate that that edifice was a very splendid affair.
This little Museum at Arles, in short, is the most Ro-
man thing I know of, out of Rome.


I find that I declared one evening, in a little
journal I was keeping at that time, that I was weary
of writing (I was probably very sleepy), but that it
was essential I should make some note of my visit to
Les Baux. I must have gone to sleep as soon as I
had recorded this necessity, for I search my small diary
in vain for any account of that enchanting spot. I
have nothing but my memory to consult, - a memory
which is fairly good in regard to a general impression,
but is terribly infirm in the matter of details and
items. We knew in advance, my companion and I
that Les Baus was a pearl of picturesqueness; for
had we not read as much in the handbook of Murray,
who has the testimony of an English nobleman as to
its attractions? We also knew that it lay some miles
from Aries, on the crest of the Alpilles, the craggy
little mountains which, as I stood on the breezy plat-
form of Beaucaire, formed to my eye a charming, if
somewhat remote, background to Tarascon; this as-
surance having been given us by the landlady of the
inn at Arles, of whom we hired a rather lumbering
conveyance. The weather was not promising, but it
proved a good day for the mediaeval Pompeii; a gray,
melancholy, moist, but rainless, or almost rainless
day, with nothing in the sky to flout, as the poet
says, the dejected and pulverized past. The drive
itself was charming; for there is an inexhaustible
sweetness in the gray-green landscape of Provence.
It is never absolutely flat, and yet is never really
ambitious, and is full both of entertainment and re-
pose. It is in constant undulation, and the bareness
of the soil lends itself easily to outline and profile.
When I say the bareness, I mean the absence of
woods and hedges. It blooms with heath and scented
shrubs and stunted olive; and the white rock shining
through the scattered herbage has a brightness which
answers to the brightness of the sky. Of course it
needs the sunshine, for all southern countries look a
little false under the ground glass of incipient bad
weather. This was the case on the day of my pil-
grimage to Les Baux. Nevertheless, I was as glad
to keep going as I was to arrive; and as I went it
seemed to me that true happiness would consist in
wandering through such a land on foot, on September
afternoons, when one might stretch one's self on the
warm ground in some shady hollow, and listen to the
hum of bees and the whistle of melancholy shepherds;
for in Provence the shepherds whistle to their flocks.
I saw two or three of them, in the course of this drive
to Les Baux, meandering about, looking behind, and
calling upon the sheep in this way to follow, which
the sheep always did, very promptly, with ovine
unanimity. Nothing is more picturesque than to see
a slow shepherd threading his way down one of the
winding paths on a hillside, with his flock close be-
hind him, necessarily expanded, yet keeping just at
his heels, bending and twisting as it goes, and looking
rather like the tail of a dingy comet.

About four miles from Arles, as you drive north-
ward toward the Alpilles, of which Alphonse Daudet
has spoken so often, and, as he might say, so in-
timately, stand on a hill that overlooks the road
the very considerable ruins of the abbey of Mont-
majour, one of the innumerable remnants of a feudal
and ecclesiastical (as well as an architectural) past
that one encounters in the South of France; remnants
which, it must be confessed, tend to introduce a cer-
tain confusion and satiety into the passive mind of
the tourist. Montmajour, however, is very impressive
and interesting; the only trouble with it is that,
unless you have stopped and retumed to Arles, you
see it in memory over the head of Les Baux, which
is a much more absorbing picture. A part of the
mass of buildings (the monastery) dates only from the
last century; and the stiff architecture of that period
does not lend itself very gracefully to desolation: it
looks too much as if it had been burnt down the year
before. The monastery was demolished during the
Revolution, and it injures a little the effect of the
very much more ancient fragments that are connected
with it. The whole place is on a great scale; it was
a rich and splendid abbey. The church, a vast
basilica of the eleventh century, and of the noblest
proportions, is virtually intact; I mean as regards
its essentials, for the details have completely vanished.
The huge solid shell is full of expression; it looks
as if it had been hollowed out by the sincerity of
early faith, and it opens into a cloister as impressive
as itself. Wherever one goes, in France, one meets,
looking backward a little, the spectre of the great
Revolution; and one meets it always in the shape of
the destruction of something beautiful and precious.
To make us forgive it at all, how much it must also
have destroyed that was more hateful than itself!
Beneath the church of Montmajour is a most extra-
ordinary crypt, almost as big as the edifice above
it, and making a complete subterranean temple, sur-
rounded with a circular gallery, or deambulatory,
which expands it intervals into five square chapels.
There are other things, of which I have but a con-
fused memory: a great fortified keep; a queer little
primitive chapel, hollowed out of the rock, beneath
these later structures, and recommended to the
visitor's attention as the confessional of Saint Tro-
phimus, who shares with so many worthies the glory
of being the first apostle of the Gauls. Then there
is a strange, small church, of the dimmest antiquity,
standing at a distance from the other buildings. I
remember that after we had let ourselves down a
good many steepish places to visit crypts and con-
fessionals, we walked across a field to this archaic
cruciform edifice, and went thence to a point further
down the road, where our carriage was awaiting
us. The chapel of the Holy Cross, as it is called,
is classed among the historic monuments of France;
and I read in a queer, rambling, ill-written book
which I picked up at Avignon, and in which the
author, M. Louis de Lainbel, has buried a great deal
of curious information on the subject of Provence,
under a style inspiring little confidence, that the
"delicieuse chapelle de Sainte-Croix" is a "veritable
bijou artistique." He speaks of "a piece of lace in
stone," which runs from one end of the building to
the other, but of which I am obliged to confess that
I have no recollection. I retain, however, a suf-
ficiently clear impression of the little superannuated
temple, with its four apses and its perceptible odor of
antiquity, - the odor of the eleventh century.

The ruins of Les Baux remain quite indistinguish-
able, even when you are directly beneath them, at
the foot of the charming little Alpilles, which mass
themselves with a kind of delicate ruggedness. Rock
and ruin have been so welded together by the con-
fusions of time, that as you approach it from behind
- that is, from the direction of Arles - the place
presents simply a general air of cragginess. Nothing
can be prettier than the crags of Provence; they are
beautifully modelled, as painters say, and they have
a delightful silvery color. The road winds round the
foot of the hills on the top of which Lea Baux is
planted, and passes into another valley, from which
the approach to the town is many degrees less pre-
cipitous, and may be comfortably made in a carriage.
Of course the deeply inquiring traveller will alight as
promptly as possible; for the pleasure of climbing
into this queerest of cities on foot is not the least
part of the entertainment of going there. Then you
appreciate its extraordinary position, its picturesque-
ness, its steepness, its desolation and decay. It
hangs - that is, what remains of it - to the slanting
summit of the mountain. Nothing would be more
natural than for the whole place to roll down into
the valley. A part of it has done so - for it is not
unjust to suppose that in the process of decay the
crumbled particles have sought the lower level;
while the remainder still clings to its magnificent

If I called Les Baux a city, just, above, it was not
that I was stretching a point in favor of the small
spot which to-day contains but a few dozen inhabi-
tants. The history of the plate is as extraordinary
as its situation. It was not only a city, but a state;
not only a state, but an empire; and on the crest of
its little mountain called itself sovereign of a territory,
or at least of scattered towns and counties, with which
its present aspect is grotesquely out of relation. The
lords of Les Baux, in a word, were great feudal pro-
prietors; and there-was a time during which the island
of Sardinia, to say nothing of places nearer home,
such as Arles and Marseilles, paid them homage. The
chronicle of this old Provencal house has been written,
in a style somewhat unctuous and flowery, by M. Jules
Canonge. I purchased the little book - a modest
pamphlet - at the establishment of the good sisters,
just beside the church, in one of the highest parts of
Les Baux. The sisters have a school for the hardy little
Baussenques, whom I heard piping their lessons, while
I waited in the cold _parloir_ for one of the ladies to
come and speak to me. Nothing could have been
more perfect than the manner of this excellent woman
when she arrived; yet her small religious house
seemed a very out-of-the-way corner of the world. It
was spotlessly neat, and the rooms looked as if they
had lately been papered and painted: in this respect,
at the mediaeval Pompeii, they were rather a discord.
They were, at any rate, the newest, freshest thing at
Les Baux. I remember going round to the church,
after I had left the good sisters, and to a little quiet
terrace, which stands in front of it, ornamented with
a few small trees and bordered with a wall, breast-
high, over which you look down steep hillsides, off
into the air and all about the neighbouring country.
I remember saying to myself that this little terrace
was one of those felicitous nooks which the tourist
of taste keeps in his mind as a picture. The church
was small and brown and dark, with a certain rustic
richness. All this, however, is no general description
of Les Baux.

I am unable to give any coherent account of the
place, for the simple reason that it is a mere con-
fusion of ruin. It has not been preserved in lava like
Pompeii, and its streets and houses, its ramparts and
castle, have become fragmentary, not through the
sudden destruction, but through the gradual with-
drawal, of a population. It is not an extinguished,
but a deserted city; more deserted far than even
Carcassonne and Aigues-Mortes, where I found so
much entertainment in the grass-grown element. It
is of very small extent, and even in the days of its
greatness, when its lords entitled themselves counts
of Cephalonia and Neophantis, kings of Arles and
Vienne, princes of Achaia, and emperors of Constan-
tinople, - even at this flourishing period, when, as M.
Jules Canonge remarks, "they were able to depress
the balance in which the fate of peoples and kings is
weighed," the plucky little city contained at the most
no more than thirty-six hundred souls. Yet its lords
(who, however, as I have said, were able to present
a long list of subject towns, most of them, though a
few are renowned, unknown to fame) were seneschals
and captains-general of Piedmont and Lombardy,
grand admirals of the kingdom of Naples, and its
ladies were sought in marriage by half the first
princes in Europe. A considerable part of the little
narrative of M. Canonge is taken up with the great
alliances of the House of Baux, whose fortunes, ma-
trimonial and other, he traces from the eleventh cen-
tury down to the sixteenth. The empty shells of a
considerable number of old houses, many of which
must have been superb, the lines of certain steep
little streets, the foundations of a castle, and ever so
many splendid views, are all that remains to-day of
these great titles. To such a list I may add a dozen
very polite and sympathetic people, who emerged from
the interstices of the desultory little town to gaze at
the two foreigners who had driven over from Arles,
and whose horses were being baited at the modest
inn. The resources of this establishment we did not
venture otherwise to test, in spite of the seductive
fact that the sign over the door was in the Provencal
tongue. This little group included the baker, a rather
melancholy young man, in high boots and a cloak,
with whom and his companions we had a good deal
of conversation. The Baussenques of to-day struck
me as a very mild and agreeable race, with a good
deal of the natural amenity which, on occasions like
this one, the traveller, who is, waiting for his horses
to be put in or his dinner to be prepared, observes
in the charming people who lend themselves to con-
versation in the hill-towns of Tuscany. The spot
where our entertainers at Les Baux congregated was
naturally the most inhabited portion of the town; as
I say, there were at least a dozen human figures
within sight. Presently we wandered away from them,
scaled the higher places, seated ourselves among the
ruins of the castle, and looked down from the cliff
overhanging that portion of the road which I have
mentioned as approaching Les Baux from behind. I
was unable to trace the configuration of the castle as
plainly as the writers who have described it in the
guide-books, and I am ashamed to say that I did not
even perceive the three great figures of stone (the
three Marys, as they are called; the two Marys of
Scripture, with Martha), which constitute one of the
curiosities of the place, and of which M. Jules Canonge
speaks with almost hyperbolical admiration. A brisk
shower, lasting some ten minutes, led us to take refuge
in a cavity, of mysterious origin, where the melancholy
baker presently discovered us, having had the _bonne
pensee_ of coming up for us with an umbrella which
certainly belonged, in former ages, to one of the Ste-
phanettes or Berangeres commemorated by M. Canonge.
His oven, I am afraid, was cold so long as our visit
lasted. When the rain was over we wandered down
to the little disencumbered space before the inn,
through a small labyrinth of obliterated things. They
took the form of narrow, precipitous streets, bordered
by empty houses, with gaping windows and absent
doors, through which we had glimpses of sculptured
chimney-pieces and fragments of stately arch and vault.
Some of the houses are still inhabited; but most of
them are open to the air and weather. Some of them
have completely collapsed; others present to the street
a front which enables one to judge of the physiognomy
of Les Baux in the days of its importance. This im-
portance had pretty well passed away in the early part
of the sixteenth century, when the place ceased to be
an independent principality. It became - by bequest
of one of its lords, Bernardin des Baux, a great cap-
tain of his time - part of the appanage of the kings of
France, by whom it was placed under the protection
of Arles, which had formerly occupied with regard to
it a different position. I know not whether the Arle-
sians neglected their trust; but the extinction of the
sturdy little stronghold is too complete not to have
begun long ago. Its memories are buried under its
ponderous stones. As we drove away from it in the
gloaming, my friend and I agreed that the two or three
hours we had spent there were among the happiest
impressions of a pair of tourists very curious in the
picturesque. We almost forgot that we were bound to
regret that the shortened day left us no time to drive
five miles further, above a pass in the little mountains
- it had beckoned to us in the morning, when we
came in sight of it, almost irresistibly - to see the Ro-
man arch and mausoleum of Saint Remy. To compass
this larger excursion (including the visit to Les Baux)
you must start from Arles very early in the morning;
but I can imagine no more delightful day.


I had been twice at Avignon before, and yet I was
not satisfied. I probably am satisfied now; neverthe-
less, I enjoyed my third visit. I shall not soon forget
the first, on which a particular emotion set indelible
stamp. I was travelling northward, in 1870, after four
months spent, for the first time, in Italy. It was the
middle of January, and I had found myself, unexpected-
ly, forced to return to England for the rest of the
winter. It was an insufferable disappointment; I was
wretched and broken-hearted. Italy appeared to me
at that time so much better than anything else in the
world, that to rise from table in the middle of the
feast was a prospect of being hungry for the rest of
my days. I had heard a great deal of praise of the
south of France; but the south of France was a poor
consolation. In this state of mind I arrived at Avignon,
which under a bright, hard winter sun was tingling -
fairly spinning - with the _mistral_. I find in my journal
of the other day a reference to the acuteness of my
reluctance in January, 1870. France, after Italy, ap-
peared, in the language of the latter country, _poco sim-
patica_; and I thought it necessary, for reasons now in-
conceivable, to read the "Figaro," which was filled
with descriptions of the horrible Troppmann, the mur-
derer of the _famille_ Kink. Troppmann, Kink, _le crime
do Pantin_, very names that figured in this episode
seemed to wave me back. Had I abandoned the so-
norous south to associate with vocables so base?

It was very cold, the other day, at Avignon; for
though there was no mistral, it was raining as it rains
in Provence, and the dampness had a terrible chill in
it. As I sat by my fire, late at night - for in genial
Avignon, in October, I had to have a fire - it came
back to me that eleven years before I had at that
same hour sat by a fire in that same room, and, writ-
ing to a friend to whom I was not afraid to appear
extravagant, had made a vow that at some happier
period of the future I would avenge myself on the _ci-
devant_ city of the Popes by taking it in a contrary
sense. I suppose that I redeemed my vow on the oc-
casion of my second visit better than on my third; for
then I was on my way to Italy, and that vengeance, of
course, was complete. The only drawback was that I
was in such a hurry to get to Ventimiglia (where the
Italian custom-house was to be the sign of my triumph),
that I scarcely took time to make it clear to myself at
Avignon that this was better than reading the "Figaro."
I hurried on almost too fast to enjoy the consciousness
of moving southward. On this last occasion I was un-
fortunately destitute of that happy faith. Avignon was
my southernmost limit; after which I was to turn round
and proceed back to England. But in the interval I
had been a great deal in Italy, and that made all the

I had plenty of time to think of this, for the rain
kept me practically housed for the first twenty-four
hours. It had been raining in, these regions for a
month, and people had begun to look askance at the
Rhone, though as yet the volume of the river was not
exorbitant. The only excursion possible, while the
torrent descended, was a kind of horizontal dive, ac-
companied with infinite splashing, to the little _musee_
of the town, which is within a moderate walk of the
hotel. I had a memory of it from my first visit; it
had appeared to me more pictorial than its pictures.
I found that recollection had flattered it a little, and
that it is neither better nor worse than most provincial
museums. It has the usual musty chill in the air, the
usual grass-grown fore-court, in which a few lumpish
Roman fragments are disposed, the usual red tiles on
the floor, and the usual specimens of the more livid
schools on the walls. I rang up the _gardien_, who ar-
rived with a bunch of keys, wiping his mouth; he un-
locked doors for me, opened shutters, and while (to
my distress, as if the things had been worth lingering
over) he shuffled about after me, he announced the
names of the pictures before which I stopped, in a
voice that reverberated through the melancholy halls,
and seemed to make the authorship shameful when it
was obscure, and grotesque when it pretended to be
great. Then there were intervals of silence, while I
stared absent-mindedly, at hap-hazard, at some indis-
tinguishable canvas, and the only sound was the down-
pour of the rain on the skylights. The museum of
Avignon derives a certain dignity from its Roman frag-
ments. The town has no Roman monuments to show;
in this respect, beside its brilliant neighbors, Arles and
Nimes, it is a blank. But a great many small objects
have been found in its soil, - pottery, glass, bronzes,
lamps, vessels and ornaments of gold and silver. The
glass is especially chaming, - small vessels of the most
delicate shape and substance, many of them perfectly
preserved. These diminutive, intimate things bring
one near to the old Roman life; they seem like pearls
strung upon the slender thread that swings across the
gulf of time. A little glass cup that Roman lips have
touched says more to us than the great vessel of an
arena. There are two small silver _casseroles_, with chi-
selled handles, in the museum of Avignon, that struck
me as among the most charming survivals of anti-

I did wrong just above, to speak of my attack on
this establishment as the only recreation I took that
first wet day; for I remember a terribly moist visit to
the former palace of the Popes, which could have
taken place only in the same tempestuous hours. It is
true that I scarcely know why I should have gone out
to see the Papal palace in the rain, for I had been
over it twice before, and even then had not found the
interest of the place so complete as it ought to be; the
fact, nevertheless, remains that this last occasion is
much associated with an umbrella, which was not
superfluous even in some of the chambers and cor-
ridors of the gigantic pile. It had already seemed to
me the dreariest of all historical buildings, and my
final visit confirmed the impression. The place is as
intricate as it is vast, and as desolate as it is dirty.
The imagination has, for some reason or other, to
make more than the effort usual in such cases to re-
store and repeople it. The fact, indeed, is simply that
the palace has been so incalculably abused and altered.
The alterations have been so numerous that, though I
have duly conned the enumerations, supplied in guide-
books, of the principal perversions, I do not pretend
to carry any of them in my head. The huge bare
mass, without ornament, without grace, despoiled of its
battlements and defaced with sordid modern windows,
covering the Rocher des Doms, and looking down over
the Rhone and the broken bridge of Saint-Benazet
(which stops in such a sketchable manner in mid-
stream), and across at the lonely tower of Philippe le
Bel and the ruined wall of Villeneuve, makes at a dis-
tance, in spite of its poverty, a great figure, the effect
of which is carried out by the tower of the church be-
side it (crowned though the latter be, in a top-heavy
fashion, with an immense modern image of the Virgin)
and by the thick, dark foliage of the garden laid out
on a still higher portion of the eminence. This garden
recalls, faintly and a trifle perversely, the grounds of
the Pincian at Rome. I know not whether it is the
shadow of the Papal name, present in both places,
combined with a vague analogy between the churches,
- which, approached in each case by a flight of steps,
seemed to defend the precinct, - but each time I have
seen the Promenade des Doms it has carried my
thoughts to the wider and loftier terrace from which
you look away at the Tiber and Saint Peter's.

As you stand before the Papal palace, and espe-
cially as you enter it, you are struck with its being a
very dull monument. History enough was enacted
here: the great schism lasted from 1305 to 1370, dur-
ing which seven Popes, all Frenchmen, carried on the
court of Avignon on principles that have not com-
mended themselves to the esteem of posterity. But
history has been whitewashed away, and the scandals
of that period have mingled with the dust of dilapi-
dations and repairs. The building has for many years
been occupied as a barrack for regiments of the line,
and the main characteristics of a barrack - an extreme
nudity and a very queer smell - prevail throughout its
endless compartments. Nothing could have been more
cruelly dismal than the appearance it presented at the
time of this third visit of mine. A regiment, changing
quarters, had departed the day before, and another
was expected to arrive (from Algeria) on the morrow.
The place had been left in the befouled and belittered
condition which marks the passage of the military after
they have broken carnp, and it would offer but a me-
lancholy welcome to the regiment that was about to
take possession. Enormous windows had been left
carelessly open all over the building, and the rain and
wind were beating into empty rooms and passages;
making draughts which purified, perhaps, but which
scarcely cheered. For an arrival, it was horrible. A
handful of soldiers had remained behind. In one of
the big vaulted rooms several of them were lying on
their wretched beds, in the dim light, in the cold, in
the damp, with the bleak, bare walls before them, and
their overcoats, spread over them, pulled up to their
noses. I pitied them immensely, though they may
have felt less wretched than they looked. I thought
not of the old profligacies and crimes, not of the
funnel-shaped torture-chamber (which, after exciting
the shudder of generations, has been ascertained now,
I believe, to have been a mediaeval bakehouse), not of
the tower of the _glaciere_ and the horrors perpetrated
here in the Revolution, but of the military burden of
young France. One wonders how young France en-
dures it, and one is forced to believe that the French
conscript has, in addition to his notorious good-humor,
greater toughness than is commonly supposed by those
who consider only the more relaxing influences of
French civilization. I hope he finds occasional com-
pensation for such moments as I saw those damp
young peasants passing on the mattresses of their
hideous barrack, without anything around to remind
them that they were in the most civilized of countries.
The only traces of former splendor now visible in
the Papal pile are the walls and vaults of two small
chapels, painted in fresco, so battered and effaced as
to be scarcely distinguishable, by Simone Memmi. It
offers, of course, a peculiarly good field for restoration,
and I believe the government intend to take it in
hand. I mention this fact without a sigh; for they
cannot well make it less interesting than it is at


Fortunately, it did not rain every day (though I
believe it was raining everywhere else in the depart-
ment); otherwise I should not have been able to go
to Villeneuve and to Vaucluse. The afternoon, indeed,
was lovely when I walked over the interminable bridge
that spans the two arms of the Rhone, divided here
by a considerable island, and directed my course, like
a solitary horseman - on foot, to the lonely tower
which forms one of the outworks of Villeneuve-les-
Avignon. The picturesque, half-deserted little town
lies a couple of miles further up the river. The im-
mense round towers of its old citadel and the long
stretches of ruined wall covering the slope on which
it lies, are the most striking features of the nearer
view, as you look from Avignon across the Rhone. I
spent a couple of hours in visiting these objects, and
there was a kind of pictorial sweetness in the episode;
but I have not many details to relate. The isolated
tower I just mentioned has much in common with the
detached donjon of Montmajour, which I had looked
at in going to Les Baux, and to which I paid my
respects in speaking of that excursion. Also the work
of Philippe le Bel (built in 1307), it is amazingly big
and stubborn, and formed the opposite limit of the
broken bridge, whose first arches (on the side of
Avignon) alone remain to give a measure of the oc-
casional volume of the Rhone. Half an hour's walk
brought me to Villeneuve, which lies away from the
river, looking like a big village, half depopulated, and
occupied for the most part by dogs and cats, old
women and small children; these last, in general, re-
markably pretty, in the manner of the children of
Provence. You pass through the place, which seems
in a singular degree vague and unconscious, and come
to the rounded hill on which the ruined abbey lifts
its yellow walls, - the Benedictine abbey of Saint-
Andre, at once a church, a monastery, and a fortress.
A large part of the crumbling enceinte disposes itself
over the hill; but for the rest, all that has preserved
any traceable cohesion is a considerable portion, of
the citadel. The defence of the place appears to have
been intrusted largely to the huge round towers that
flank the old gate; one of which, the more complete,
the ancient warden (having first inducted me into his
own dusky little apartment, and presented me with
a great bunch of lavender) enabled me to examine in
detail. I would almost have dispensed with the privi-
lege, for I think I have already mentioned that an ac-
quaintance with many feudal interiors has wrought a
sad confusion in my mind. The image of the outside
always remains distinct; I keep it apart from other
images of the same sort; it makes a picture sufficiently
ineffaceable. But the guard-rooms, winding staircases,
loop-holes, prisons, repeat themselves and intermingle;
they have a wearisome family likeness. There are
always black passages and corners, and walls twenty
feet thick; and there is always some high place to
climb up to for the sake of a "magnificent" view.
The views, too, are apt to get muddled. These dense
gate-towers of Philippe le Bel struck me, however, as
peculiarly wicked and grim. Their capacity is of the
largest, and they contain over so many devilish little
dungeons, lighted by the narrowest slit in the pro-
digious wall, where it comes over one with a good
deal of vividness and still more horror that wretched
human beings ever lay there rotting in the dark. The
dungeons of Villeneuve made a particular impression
on me, - greater than any, except those of Loches,
which must surely be the most grewsome in Europe.
I hasten to add that every dark hole at Villeneuve is
called a dungeon; and I believe it is well established
that in this manner, in almost all old castles and
towers, the sensibilities of the modern tourist are un-
scrupulously played upon. There were plenty of black
holes in the Middle Ages that were not dungeons, but
household receptacles of various kinds; and many a
tear dropped in pity for the groaning captive has really
been addressed to the spirits of the larder and the
faggot-nook. For all this, there are some very bad
corners in the towers of Villeneuve, so that I was not
wide of the mark when I began to think again, as I
had often thought before, of the stoutness of the human
composition in the Middle Ages, and the tranquillity
of nerve of people to whom the groaning captive and
the blackness of a "living tomb" were familiar ideas,
which did not at all interfere with their happiness or
their sanity. Our modern nerves, our irritable sym-
pathies, our easy discomforts and fears, make one think
(in some relations) less respectfully of human nature.
Unless, indeed, it be true, as I have heard it main-
tained, that in the Middle Ages every one did go mad,
- every one _was_ mad. The theory that this was a
period of general insanity is not altogether indefensible.

Within the old walls of its immense abbey the
town of Villeneuve has built itself a rough faubourg;
the fragments with which the soil was covered having
been, I suppose, a quarry of material. There are no
streets; the small, shabby houses, almost hovels, straggle
at random over the uneven ground. The only im-
portant feature is a convent of cloistered nuns, who
have a large garden (always within the walls) behind
their house, and whose doleful establishment you look
down into, or down at simply, from the battlements of
the citadel. One or two of the nuns were passing in
and out of the house; they wore gray robes, with a
bright red cape. I thought their situation most pro-
vincial. I came away, and wandered a little over the
base of the hill, outside the walls. Small white stones
cropped through the grass, over which low olive-trees
were scattered. The afternoon had a yellow bright-
ness. I sat down under one of the little trees, on the
grass, - the delicate gray branches were not much
above my head, - and rested, and looked at Avignon
across the Rhone. It was very soft, very still and
pleasant, though I am not sure it was all I once should
have expected of that combination of elements: an old
city wall for a background, a canopy of olives, and,
for a couch, the soil of Provence.

When I came back to Avignon the twilight was
already thick; but I walked up to the Rocher des
Doms. Here I again had the benefit of that amiable
moon which had already lighted up for me so many
romantic scenes. She was full, and she rose over the
Rhone, and made it look in the distance like a silver
serpent. I remember saying to myself at this mo-
ment, that it would be a beautiful evening to walk
round the walls of Avignon, - the remarkable walls,
which challenge comparison with those of Carcassonne
and Aigues-Mortes, and which it was my duty, as an
observer of the picturesque, to examine with some at-
tention. Presenting themselves to that silver sheen,
they could not fail to be impressive. So, at least, I
said to myself; but, unfortunately, I did not believe
what I said. It is a melancholy fact that the walls of
Avignon had never impressed me at all, and I had
never taken the trouble to make the circuit. They
are continuous and complete, but for some mysterious
reason they fail of their effect. This is partly because
they are very low, in some places almost absurdly so;
being buried in new accumulations of soil, and by
the filling in of the moat up to their middle. Then
they have been too well tended; they not only look at
present very new, but look as if they had never been
old. The fact that their extent is very much greater
makes them more of a curiosity than those of Carcas-
sonne; but this is exactly, as the same time, what is
fatal to their pictorial unity. With their thirty-seven
towers and seven gates they lose themselves too much
to make a picture that will compare with the ad-
mirable little vignette of Carcassonne. I may mention,
now that I am speaking of the general mass of Avignon,
that nothing is more curious than the way in which,
viewed from a distance, it is all reduced to nought by
the vast bulk of the palace of the Popes. From across
the Rhone, or from the train, as you leave the place,
this great gray block is all Avignon; it seems to occupy
the whole city, extensive, with its shrunken population,
as the city is.


It was the morning after this, I think (a certain
Saturday), that when I came out of the Hotel de
l'Europe, which lies in a shallow concavity just within
the city gate that opens on the Rhone, - came out to
look at the sky from the little _place_ before the inn,
and see how the weather promised for the obligatory
excursion to Vaucluse, - I found the whole town in a
terrible taking. I say the whole town advisedly; for
every inhabitant appeared to have taken up a position
on the bank of the river, or on the uppermost parts
of the promenade of the Doms, where a view of its
course was to be obtained. It had risen surprisingly
in the night, and the good people of Avignon had
reason to know what a rise of the Rhone might signify.
The town, in its lower portions, is quite at the mercy
of the swollen waters; and it was mentioned to me
that in 1856 the Hotel de l'Europe, in its convenient
hollow, was flooded up to within a few feet of the
ceiling of the dining-room, where the long board which
had served for so many a table d'hote floated dis-
reputably, with its legs in the air. On the present
occasion the mountains of the Ardeche, where it had
been raining for a month, had sent down torrents
which, all that fine Friday night, by the light of the
innocent-looking moon, poured themselves into the
Rhone and its tributary, the Durance. The river was
enormous, and continued to rise; and the sight was
beautiful and horrible. The water in many places
was already at the base of the city walls; the quay,
with its parapet just emerging, being already covered.
The country, seen from the Plateau des Doms, re-
sembled a vast lake, with protrusions of trees, houses,
bridges, gates. The people looked at it in silence, as
I had seen people before - on the occasion of a rise
of the Arno, at Pisa - appear to consider the prospects
of an inundation. "Il monte; il monte toujours," -
there was not much said but that. It was a general
holiday, and there was an air of wishing to profit, for
sociability's sake, by any interruption of the common-
place (the popular mind likes "a change," and the
element of change mitigates the sense of disaster); but
the affair was not otherwise a holiday. Suspense and
anxiety were in the air, and it never is pleasant to be
reminded of the helplessness of man. In the presence
of a loosened river, with its ravaging, unconquerable
volume, this impression is as strong as possible; and
as I looked at the deluge which threatened to make
an island of the Papal palace, I perceived that the
scourge of water is greater than the scourge of fire.
A blaze may be quenched, but where could the flame
be kindled that would arrest the quadrupled Rhone?
For the population of Avignon a good deal was at
stake, and I am almost ashamed to confess that in the
midst of the public alarm I considered the situation
from the point of view of the little projects of a senti-
mental tourist. Would the prospective inundation inter-
fere with my visit to Vaucluse, or make it imprudent
to linger twenty-four hours longer at Avignon? I must
add that the tourist was not perhaps, after all, so
sentimental. I have spoken of the pilgrimage to the
shrine of Petrarch as obligatory, and that was, in fact,
the light in which it presented itself to me; all the
more that I had been twice at Avignon without under-
taking it. This why I was vexed at the Rhone - if
vexed I was - for representing as impracticable an ex-
cursion which I cared nothing about. How little I
cared was manifest from my inaction on former oc-
casions. I had a prejudice against Vancluse, against
Petrarch, even against the incomparable Laura. I was
sure that the place was cockneyfied and threadbare,
and I had never been able to take an interest in the
poet and the lady. I was sure that I had known many
women as charming and as handsome as she, about
whom much less noise had been made; and I was
convinced that her singer was factitious and literary,
and that there are half a dozen stanzas in Wordsworth
that speak more to the soul than the whole collection
of his _fioriture_. This was the crude state of mind in
which I determined to go, at any risk, to Vaucluse.
Now that I think it over, I seem to remember that I
had hoped, after all, that the submersion of the roads
would forbid it. Since morning the clouds had gathered
again, and by noon they were so heavy that there was
every prospect of a torrent. It appeared absurd to
choose such a time as this to visit a fountain - a
fountain which, would be indistinguishable in the
general cataract. Nevertheless I took a vow that if
at noon the rain should not have begun to descend
upon Avignon I would repair to the head-spring of the
Sorgues. When the critical moment arrived, the clouds
were hanging over Avignon like distended water-bags,
which only needed a prick to empty themselves. The
prick was not given, however; all nature was too much
occupied in following the aberration of the Rhone to
think of playing tricks elsewhere. Accordingly, I started
for the station in a spirit which, for a tourist who
sometimes had prided himself on his unfailing supply
of sentiment, was shockingly perfunctory.

"For tasks in hours of insight willed
May be in hours of gloom fulfilled."

I remembered these lines of Matthew Arnold (written,
apparently, in an hour of gloom), and carried out the
idea, as I went, by hoping that with the return of in-
sight I should be glad to have seen Vaucluse. Light
has descended upon me since then, and I declare that
the excursion is in every way to be recommended.
The place makes a great impression, quite apart from
Petrarch and Laura.

There was no rain; there was only, all the after-
noon, a mild, moist wind, and a sky magnificently
black, which made a _repoussoir_ for the paler cliffs of
the fountain. The road, by train, crosses a flat, ex-
pressionless country, toward the range of arid hills
which lie to the east of Avignon, and which spring
(says Murray) from the mass of the Mont-Ventoux. At
Isle-sur-Sorgues, at the end of about an hour, the fore-
ground becomes much more animated and the distance
much more (or perhaps I should say much less) actual.
I descended from the train, and ascended to the top
of an omnibus which was to convey me into the re-
cesses of the hills. It had not been among my pre-
visions that I should be indebted to a vehicle of that
kind for an opportunity to commune with the spirit of
Petrarch; and I had to borrow what consolation I
could from the fact that at least I had the omnibus to
myself. I was the only passenger; every one else was
at Avignon, watching the Rhone. I lost no time in
perceiving that I could not have come to Vaucluse at
a better moment. The Sorgues was almost as full as
the Rhone, and of a color much more romantic. Rush-
ing along its narrowed channel under an avenue of
fine _platanes_ (it is confined between solid little embank-
ments of stone), with the good-wives of the village, on
the brink, washing their linen in its contemptuous
flood, it gave promise of high entertainment further on.

The drive to Vaucluse is of about three quarters of
an hour; and though the river, as I say, was promis-
ing, the big pale hills, as the road winds into them,
did not look as if their slopes of stone and shrub were
a nestling-place for superior scenery. It is a part of
the merit of Vaucluse, indeed, that it is as much as
possible a surprise. The place has a right to its name,
for the valley appears impenetrable until you get fairly
into it. One perverse twist follows another, until the
omnibus suddenly deposits you in front of the "cabinet"
of Petrarch. After that you have only to walk along
the left bank of the river. The cabinet of Petrarch is
to-day a hideous little _cafe_, bedizened, like a sign-
board, with extracts from the ingenious "Rime." The
poet and his lady are, of course, the stock in trade of
the little village, which has had for several generations
the privilege of attracting young couples engaged in
their wedding-tour, and other votaries of the tender
passion. The place has long been familiar, on festal
Sundays, to the swains of Avignon and their attendant
nymphs. The little fish of the Sorgues are much
esteemed, and, eaten on the spot, they constitute, for
the children of the once Papal city, the classic sub-
urban dinner. Vaucluse has been turned to account,
however, not only by sentiment, but by industry; the
banks of the stream being disfigured by a pair of
hideous mills for the manufacture of paper and of
wool. In an enterprising and economical age the
water-power of the Sorgues was too obvious a motive;
and I must say that, as the torrent rushed past them,
the wheels of the dirty little factories appeared to turn
merrily enough. The footpath on the left bank, of
which I just spoke, carries one, fortunately, quite out
of sight of them, and out of sound as well, inasmuch
as on the day of my visit the stream itself, which was
in tremendous force, tended more and more, as one
approached the fountain, to fill the valley with its own
echoes. Its color was magnificent, and the whole
spectacle more like a corner of Switzerland than a
nook in Provence. The protrusions of the mountain
shut it in, and you penetrate to the bottom of the re-
cess which they form. The Sorgues rushes and rushes;
it is almost like Niagara after the jump of the cataract.
There are dreadful little booths beside the path, for
the sale of photographs and _immortelles_, - I don't know
what one is to do with the immortelles, - where you
are offered a brush dipped in tar to write your name
withal on the rocks. Thousands of vulgar persons, of
both sexes, and exclusively, it appeared, of the French
nationality, had availed themselves of this implement;
for every square inch of accessible stone was scored
over with some human appellation. It is not only we
in America, therefore, who besmirch our scenery; the
practice exists, in a more organized form (like every-
thing else in France), in the country of good taste.
You leave the little booths and stalls behind; but the
bescribbled crag, bristling with human vanity, keeps
you company even when you stand face to face with
the fountain. This happens when you find yourself
at the foot of the enormous straight cliff out of which
the river gushes. It rears itself to an extraordinary
height, - a huge forehead of bare stone, - looking as
if it were the half of a tremendous mound, split open
by volcanic action. The little valley, seeing it there,
at a bend, stops suddenly, and receives in its arms
the magical spring. I call it magical on account of
the mysterious manner in which it comes into the
world, with the huge shoulder of the mountain rising
over it, as if to protect the secret. From under the
mountain it silently rises, without visible movement,
filling a small natural basin with the stillest blue
water. The contrast between the stillness of this basin
and the agitation of the water directly after it has
overflowed, constitutes half the charm of Vaucluse.
The violence of the stream when once it has been set
loose on the rocks is as fascinating and indescribable
as that of other cataracts; and the rocks in the bed of
the Sorgues have been arranged by a master-hand.
The setting of the phenomenon struck me as so simple
and so fine - the vast sad cliff, covered with the after-
noon light, still and solid forever, while the liquid ele-
ment rages and roars at its base - that I had no diffi-
culty in understanding the celebrity of Vaucluse. I
understood it, but I will not say that I understood
Petrarch. He must have been very self-supporting, and
Madonna Laura must indeed have been much to him.

The aridity of the hills that shut in the valley is
complete, and the whole impression is best conveyed
by that very expressive French epithet _morne_. There
are the very fragmentary ruins of a castle (of one of
the bishops of Cavaillon) on a high spur of the moun-
tain, above the river; and there is another remnant of
a feudal habitation on one of the more accessible
ledges. Having half an hour to spare before my
omnibus was to leave (I must beg the reader's pardon
for this atrociously false note; call the vehicle a _dili-
gence_, and for some undiscoverable reason the offence
is minimized), I clambered up to this latter spot, and
sat among the rocks in the company of a few stunted
olives. The Sorgues, beneath me, reaching the plain,
flung itself crookedly across the meadows, like an un-
rolled blue ribbon. I tried to think of the _amant de
Laure_, for literature's sake; but I had no great success,
and the most I could, do was to say to myself that I
must try again. Several months have elapsed since
then, and I am ashamed to confess that the trial has
not yet come off. The only very definite conviction I
arrived at was that Vaucluse is indeed cockneyfied,
but that I should have been a fool, all the same, not
to come.


I mounted into my diligence at the door of the
Hotel de Petrarque et de Laure, and we made our
way back to Isle-sur-Sorgues in the fading light. This
village, where at six o'clock every one appeared to
have gone to bed, was fairly darkened by its high,
dense plane-trees, under which the rushing river, on
a level with its parapets, looked unnaturally, almost
wickedly blue. It was a glimpse which has left a
picture in my mind: the little closed houses, the place
empty and soundless in the autumn dusk but for the
noise of waters, and in the middle, amid the blackness
of the shade, the gleam of the swift, strange tide. At
the station every one was talking of the inundation
being in many places an accomplished fact, and, in
particular, of the condition of the Durance at some
point that I have forgotten. At Avignon, an hour
later, I found the water in some of the streets. The
sky cleared in the evening, the moon lighted up the
submerged suburbs, and the population again collected
in the high places to enjoy the spectacle. It exhibited
a certain sameness, however, and by nine o'clock there
was considerable animation in the Place Crillon, where
there is nothing to be seen but the front of the theatre
and of several cafes - in addition, indeed, to a statue
of this celebrated brave, whose valor redeemed some
of the numerous military disasters of the reign of
Louis XV. The next morning the lower quarters of
the town were in a pitiful state; the situation seemed
to me odious. To express my disapproval of it, I lost
no time in taking the train for Orange, which, with its
other attractions, had the merit of not being seated on
the Rhone. It was my destiny to move northward;
but even if I had been at liberty to follow a less un-
natural course I should not then have undertaken it,
inasmuch, as the railway between Avignon and Mar-
seilles was credibly reported to be (in places) under
water. This was the case with almost everything but
the line itself, on the way to Orange. The day proved
splendid, and its brilliancy only lighted up the desola-
tion. Farmhouses and cottages were up to their middle
in the yellow liquidity; haystacks looked like dull little
islands; windows and doors gaped open, without faces;
and interruption and flight were represented in the
scene. It was brought home to me that the _popula-
tions rurales_ have many different ways of suffering,
and my heart glowed with a grateful sense of cockney-
ism. It was under the influence of this emotion that
I alighted at Orange, to visit a collection of eminently
civil monuments.

The collection consists of but two objects, but these
objects are so fine that I will let the word pass. One
of them is a triumphal arch, supposedly of the period
of Marcus Aurelius; the other is a fragment, magnifi-
cent in its ruin, of a Roman theatre. But for these
fine Roman remains and for its name, Orange is a
perfectly featureless little town; without the Rhone -
which, as I have mentioned, is several miles distant -
to help it to a physiognomy. It seems one of the
oddest things that this obscure French borough -
obscure, I mean, in our modern era, for the Gallo-
Roman Arausio must have been, judging it by its
arches and theatre, a place of some importance -
should have given its name to the heirs apparent of
the throne of Holland,and been borne by a king of
England who had sovereign rights over it. During
the Middle Ages it formed part of an independent
principality; but in 1531 it fell, by the marriage of
one of its princesses, who had inherited it, into the
family of Nassau. I read in my indispensable Mur-
ray that it was made over to France by the treaty of
Utrecht. The arch of triumph, which stands a little
way out of the town, is rather a pretty than an im-
posing vestige of the Romans. If it had greater purity
of style, one might say of it that it belonged to the
same family of monuments as the Maison Carree at
Nimes. It has three passages, - the middle much
higher than the others, - and a very elevated attic.
The vaults of the passages are richly sculptured, and
the whole monument is covered with friezes and
military trophies. This sculpture is rather mixed;
much of it is broken and defaced, and the rest seemed
to me ugly, though its workmanship is praised. The
arch is at once well preserved and much injured. Its
general mass is there, and as Roman monuments go
it is remarkably perfect; but it has suffered, in patches,
from the extremity of restoration. It is not, on the
whole, of absorbing interest. It has a charm, never-
theless, which comes partly from its soft, bright yellow
color, partly from a certain elegance of shape, of ex-
pression; and on that well-washed Sunday morning,
with its brilliant tone, surrounded by its circle of thin
poplars, with the green country lying beyond it and a
low blue horizon showing through its empty portals,
it made, very sufficiently, a picture that hangs itself
to one of the lateral hooks of the memory. I can
take down the modest composition, and place it before
me as I write. I see the shallow, shining puddles in
the hard, fair French road; the pale blue sky, diluted
by days of rain; the disgarnished autumnal fields; the
mild sparkle of the low horizon; the solitary figure in
sabots, with a bundle under its arm, advancing along
the _chaussee_; and in the middle I see the little ochre-
colored monument, which, in spite of its antiquity,
looks bright and gay, as everything must look in
France of a fresh Sunday morning.

It is true that this was not exactly the appearance
of the Roman theatre, which lies on the other side of
the town; a fact that did not prevent me from making
my way to it in less than five minutes, through a suc-
cession of little streets concerning which I have no
observations to record. None of the Roman remains
in the south of France are more impressive than this
stupendous fragment. An enormous mound rises above
the place, which was formerly occupied - I quote from
Murray - first by a citadel of the Romans, then by a
castle of the princes of Nassau, razed by Louis XIV.
Facing this hill a mighty wall erects itself, thirty-six
metres high, and composed of massive blocks of dark
brown stone, simply laid one on the other; the whole
naked, rugged surface of which suggests a natural cliff
(say of the Vaucluse order) rather than an effort of
human, or even of Roman labor. It is the biggest
thing at Orange, - it is bigger than all Orange put to-
gether, - and its permanent massiveness makes light
of the shrunken city. The face it presents to the town
- the top of it garnished with two rows of brackets,
perforated with holes to receive the staves of the _vela-
rium_ - bears the traces of more than one tier of orna-
mental arches; though how these flat arches were
applied, or incrusted, upon the wall, I do not profess
to explain. You pass through a diminutive postern -
which seems in proportion about as high as the en-
trance of a rabbit-hutch - into the lodge of the custo-
dian, who introduces you to the interior of the theatre.
Here the mass of the hill affronts you, which the in-
genious Romans treated simply as the material of their
auditorium. They inserted their stone seats, in a
semicircle, in the slope of the lull, and planted their
colossal wall opposite to it. This wall, from the inside,
is, if possible, even more imposing. It formed the
back of the stage, the permanent scene, and its
enormous face was coated with marble. It contains
three doors, the middle one being the highest, and
having above it, far aloft, a deep niche, apparently
intended for an imperial statue. A few of the benches
remain on the hillside which, however, is mainly a
confusion of fragments. There is part of a corridor
built into the hill, high up, and on the crest are the
remnants of the demolished castle. The whole place
is a kind of wilderness of ruin; there are scarcely any
details; the great feature is the overtopping wall. This
wall being the back of the scene, the space left be-
tween it and the chord of the semicircle (of the audi-
torium) which formed the proscenium is rather less
than one would have supposed. In other words, the
stage was very shallow, and appears to have been ar-
ranged for a number of performers standing in a line,
like a company of soldiers. There stands the silent
skeleton, however, as impressive by what it leaves you
to guess and wonder about as by what it tells you.
It has not the sweetness, the softness of melancholy,
of the theatre at Arles; but it is more extraordinary,
and one can imagine only tremendous tragedies being
enacted there, -

"Presenting Thebes' or Pelops' line."

At either end of the stage, coming forward, is an
immense wing, - immense in height, I mean, as it
reaches to the top of the scenic wall; the other dimen-
sions are not remarkable. The division to the right,
as you face the stage, is pointed out as the green-
room; its portentous attitude and the open arches at
the top give it the air of a well. The compartment
on the left is exactly similar, save that it opens into
the traces of other chambers, said to be those of a
hippodrome adjacent to the theatre. Various fragments
are visible which refer themselves plausibly to such an
establishment; the greater axis of the hippodrome would
appear to have been on a line with the triumphal
arch. This is all I saw, and all there was to see, of
Orange, which had a very rustic, bucolic aspect, and
where I was not even called upon to demand break-
fast at the hotel. The entrance of this resort might
have been that of a stable of the Roman days.


I have been trying to remember whether I fasted
all the way to Macon, which I reached at an advanced
hour of the evening, and think I must have done so
except for the purchase of a box of nougat at Monte-
limart (the place is famous for the manufacture of
this confection, which, at the station, is hawked at the
windows of the train) and for a bouillon, very much
later, at Lyons. The journey beside the Rhone -
past Valence, past Tournon, past Vienne - would
have been charming, on that luminous Sunday, but
for two disagreeable accidents. The express from
Marseilles, which I took at Orange, was full to over-
flowing; and the only refuge I could find was an
inside angle in a carriage laden with Germans, who
had command of the windows, which they occupied
as strongly as they have been known to occupy other
strategical positions. I scarcely know, however, why
I linger on this particular discomfort, for it was but
a single item in a considerable list of grievances, -
grievances dispersed through six weeks of constant
railway travel in France. I have not touched upon
them at an earlier stage of this chronicle, but my re-
serve is not owing to any sweetness of association.
This form of locomotion, in the country of the ameni-
ties, is attended with a dozen discomforts; almost all
the conditions of the business are detestable. They
force the sentimental tourist again and again to ask
himself whether, in consideration of such mortal an-
noyances, the game is worth the candle. Fortunately,
a railway journey is a good deal like a sea voyage;
its miseries fade from the mind as soon as you arrive.
That is why I completed, to my great satisfaction,
my little tour in France. Let this small effusion of
ill-nature be my first and last tribute to the whole
despotic _gare_: the deadly _salle d'attente_, the insuffer-
able delays over one's luggage, the porterless platform,
the overcrowded and illiberal train. How many a
time did I permit myself the secret reflection that it
is in perfidious Albion that they order this matter
best! How many a time did the eager British mer-
cenary, clad in velveteen and clinging to the door of
the carriage as it glides into the station, revisit my
invidious dreams! The paternal porter and the re-
sponsive hansom are among the best gifts of the Eng-
lish genius to the world. I hasten to add, faithful
to my habit (so insufferable to some of my friends) of
ever and again readjusting the balance after I have
given it an honest tip, that the bouillon at Lyons,
which I spoke of above, was, though by no means an
ideal bouillon, much better than any I could have
obtained at an English railway station. After I had
imbibed it, I sat in the train (which waited a long
time at Lyons) and, by the light of one of the big
lamps on the platform, read all sorts of disagreeable
things in certain radical newspapers which I had
bought at the book-stall. I gathered from these sheets
that Lyons was in extreme commotion. The Rhone
and the Saone, which form a girdle for the splendid
town, were almost in the streets, as I could easily be-
lieve from what I had seen of the country after leav-
ing Orange. The Rhone, all the way to Lyons, had
been in all sorts of places where it had no business
to be, and matters were naturally not improved by
its confluence with the charming and copious stream
which, at Macon, is said once to have given such a
happy opportunity to the egotism of the capital. A
visitor from Paris (the anecdote is very old), being
asked on the quay of that city whether he didn't ad-
mire the Saone, replied good-naturedly that it was
very pretty, but that in Paris they spelled it with
the _ei_. This moment of general alarm at Lyons had
been chosen by certain ingenious persons (I credit
them, perhaps, with too sure a prevision of the rise
of the rivers) for practising further upon the appre-
hensions of the public. A bombshell filled with
dynamite had been thrown into a cafe, and various
votaries of the comparatively innocuous _petit verre_
had been wounded (I am not sure whether any one
had been killed) by the irruption. Of course there had
been arrests and incarcerations, and the "Intransi-
geant" and the "Rappel" were filled with the echoes
of the explosion. The tone of these organs is rarely
edifying, and it had never been less so than on this
occasion. I wondered, as I looked through them,
whether I was losing all my radicalism; and then I
wondered whether, after all, I had any to lose. Even
in so long await as that tiresome delay at Lyons I
failed to settle the question, any more than I made
up my mind as to the probable future of the militant
democracy, or the ultimate form of a civilization which
should have blown up everything else. A few days
later, the waters went down it Lyons; but the de-
mocracy has not gone down.

I remember vividly the remainder of that evening
which I spent at Macon, - remember it with a chatter-
ing of the teeth. I know not what had got into the
place; the temperature, for the last day of October,
was eccentric and incredible. These epithets may
also be applied to the hotel itself, - an extraordinary
structure, all facade, which exposes an uncovered rear
to the gaze of nature. There is a demonstrative,
voluble landlady, who is of course part of the facade;
but everything behind her is a trap for the winds,
with chambers, corridors, staircases, all exhibited to
the sky, as if the outer wall of the house had been
lifted off. It would have been delightful for Florida,
but it didn't do for Burgundy, even on the eve of
November 1st, so that I suffered absurdly from the
rigor of a season that had not yet begun. There was
something in the air; I felt it the next day, even on
the sunny quay of the Saone, where in spite of a fine
southerly exposure I extracted little warmth from the
reflection that Alphonse de Lamartine had often trod-
den the flags. Macon struck me, somehow, as suffer-
ing from a chronic numbness, and there was nothing
exceptionally cheerful in the remarkable extension of
the river. It was no longer a river, - it had become
a lake; and from my window, in the painted face of
the inn, I saw that the opposite bank had been moved
back, as it were, indefinitely. Unfortunately, the various
objects with which it was furnished had not been
moved as well, the consequence of which was an
extraordinary confusion in the relations of thing.
There were always poplars to be seen, but the poplar
had become an aquatic plant. Such phenomena,
however, at Macon attract but little attention, as the
Saone, at certain seasons of the year, is nothing if not
expansive. The people are as used to it as they ap-
peared to be to the bronze statue of Lamartine, which
is the principal monument of the _place_, and which, re-
presenting the poet in a frogged overcoat and top-
boots, improvising in a high wind, struck me as even
less casual in its attitude than monumental sculpture
usually succeeds in being. It is true that in its pre-
sent position I thought better of this work of art, which
is from the hand of M. Falquiere, than when I had
seen it through the factitious medium of the Salon of
1876. I walked up the hill where the older part of
Macon lies, in search of the natal house of the _amant
d'Elvire_, the Petrarch whose Vaucluse was the bosom
of the public. The Guide-Joanne quotes from "Les
Confidences" a description of the birthplace of the
poet, whose treatment of the locality is indeed poetical.
It tallies strangely little with the reality, either as re-
gards position or other features; and it may be said
to be, not an aid, but a direct obstacle, to a discovery
of the house. A very humble edifice, in a small back
street, is designated by a municipal tablet, set into its
face, as the scene of Lamartine's advent into the world.
He himself speaks of a vast and lofty structure, at the
angle of a _place_, adorned with iron clamps, with a
_porte haute et large_ and many other peculiarities. The
house with the tablet has two meagre stories above
the basement, and (at present, at least) an air of ex-
treme shabbiness; the _place_, moreover, never can have
been vast. Lamartine was accused of writing history
incorrectly, and apparently he started wrong at first:
it had never become clear to him where he was born.
Or is the tablet wrong? If the house is small, the
tablet is very big.


The foregoing reflections occur, in a cruder form,
as it were, in my note-book, where I find this remark
appended to them: "Don't take leave of Lamartine on
that contemptuous note; it will be easy to think of
something more sympathetic!" Those friends of mine,
mentioned a little while since, who accuse me of always
tipping back the balance, could not desire a paragraph
more characteristic; but I wish to give no further evi-
dence of such infirmities, and will therefore hurry away
from the subject, - hurry away in the train which, very
early on a crisp, bright morning, conveyed. me, by way
of an excursion, to the ancient city of Bourg-en-Bresse.
Shining in early light, the Saone was spread, like a
smooth, white tablecloth, over a considerable part of
the flat country that I traversed. There is no provision
made in this image for the long, transparent screens
of thin-twigged trees which rose at intervals out of
the watery plain; but as, under the circumstances,
there seemed to be no provision for them in fact, I
will let my metaphor go for what it is worth. My
journey was (as I remember it) of about an hour and
a half; but I passed no object of interest, as the phrase
is, whatever. The phrase hardly applies even to Bourg
itself, which is simply a town _quelconque_, as M. Zola
would say. Small, peaceful, rustic, it stands in the
midst of the great dairy-feeding plains of Bresse, of
which fat county, sometime property of the house of
Savoy, it was the modest capital. The blue masses
of the Jura give it a creditable horizon, but the only
nearer feature it can point to is its famous sepulchral
church. This edifice lies at a fortunate distance from
the town, which, though inoffensive, is of too common
a stamp to consort with such a treasure. All I ever
knew of the church of Brou I had gathered, years
ago, from Matthew Arnold's beautiful poem, which
bears its name. I remember thinking, in those years,
that it was impossible verses could be more touching
than these; and as I stood before the object of my
pilgrimage, in the gay French light (though the place
was so dull), I recalled the spot where I had first read
them, and where I read them again and yet again,
wondering whether it would ever be my fortune to
visit the church of Brou. The spot in question was
an armchair in a window which looked out on some
cows in a field; and whenever I glanced at the cows
it came over me - I scarcely know why - that I should
probably never behold the structure reared by the
Duchess Margaret. Some of our visions never come
to pass; but we must be just, - others do. "So sleep,
forever sleep, O princely pair!" I remembered that
line of Matthew Arnold's, and the stanza about the
Duchess Margaret coming to watch the builders on
her palfry white. Then there came to me something
in regard to the moon shining on winter nights through
the cold clere-story. The tone of the place at that
hour was not at all lunar; it was cold and bright, but
with the chill of an autumn morning; yet this, even
with the fact of the unexpected remoteness of the
church from the Jura added to it, did not prevent me
from feeling that I looked at a monument in the pro-
duction of which - or at least in the effect of which
on the tourist mind of to-day - Matthew Arnold had
been much concerned. By a pardonable license he
has placed it a few miles nearer to the forests of the
Jura than it stands at present. It is very true that,
though the mountains in the sixteenth century can
hardly have been in a different position, the plain
which separates the church from them may have been
bedecked with woods. The visitor to-day cannot help
wondering why the beautiful building, with its splendid
works of art, is dropped down in that particular spot,
which looks so accidental and arbitrary. But there
are reasons for most things, and there were reasons
why the church of Brou should be at Brou, which is
a vague little suburb of a vague little town.

The responsibility rests, at any rate, upon the
Duchess Margaret, - Margaret of Austria, daughter of
the Emperor Maximilian and his wife Mary of Bur-
gundy, daughter of Charles the Bold. This lady has
a high name in history, having been regent of the
Netherlands in behalf of her nephew, the Emperor
Charles V., of whose early education she had had the
care. She married in 1501 Philibert the Handsome,
Duke of Savoy, to whom the province of Bresse be-
longed, and who died two years later. She had been
betrothed, is a child, to Charles VIII. of France, and
was kept for some time at the French court, - that of
her prospective father-in-law, Louis XI.; but she was
eventually repudiated, in order that her _fiance_ might
marry Anne of Brittany, - an alliance so magnificently
political that we almost condone the offence to a
sensitive princess. Margaret did not want for hus-
bands, however, inasmuch as before her marriage to
Philibert she had been united to John of Castile, son
of Ferdinand V., King of Aragon, - an episode ter-
minated, by the death of the Spanish prince, within a
year. She was twenty-two years regent of the Nether-
lands, and died at fifty-one, in 1530. She might have
been, had she chosen, the wife, of Henry VII. of Eng-
land. She was one of the signers of the League of
Cambray, against the Venetian republic, and was a
most politic, accomplished, and judicious princess.
She undertook to build the church of Brou as a mau-
soleum, for her second husband and herself, in fulfil-
ment of a vow made by Margaret of Bourbon, mother
of Philibert, who died before she could redeem her
pledge, and who bequeathed the duty to her son. He
died shortly afterwards, and his widow assumed the
pious task. According to Murray, she intrusted the
erection of the church to "Maistre Loys von Berghem,"
and the sculpture to "Maistre Conrad." The author
of a superstitious but carefully prepared little Notice,
which I bought at Bourg, calls the architect and
sculptor (at once) Jehan de Paris, author (sic) of the
tomb of Francis II. of Brittany, to which we gave some

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