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A Residence in France by J. Fenimore Cooper

Part 5 out of 6

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those on which it would most become us to be silent. Others may tell you
differently, especially those who are under the influence of the
"trading humanities," a class that is singularly addicted to
philanthropy or vituperation, as the balance-sheet happens to show
variations of profit and loss.

I told my Swiss that one of the reasons why Europe made so many blunders
in her predictions about America, was owing to the fact that she sought
her information in sources ill qualified, and, perhaps, ill disposed to
impart it. Most of the information of this nature that either entered or
left America, came, like her goods, through two or three great channels,
or sea-ports, and these were thronged with the natives of half the
countries of Europe; commercial adventurers, of whom not one in five
ever got to feel or think like Americans. These men, in some places,
possess even a direct influence over a portion of the press, and by
these means, as well as by their extended correspondence, they
disseminate erroneous notions of the country abroad. The cities
themselves, as a rule, or rather the prominent actors in the towns, do
not represent the tone of the nation, as is proved on nearly every
distinctive political question that arises, by the towns almost
uniformly being found in the minority, simply because they are purely
trading communities, follow the instinct of their varying interests, and
are ready to shout in the rear of any leader who may espouse them. Now
these foreign merchants, as a class, are always found on the side which
is the most estranged from the regular action of the institutions of the
country. In America, intelligence is not confined to the towns; but, as
a rule, there is less of it there than among the rural population. As a
proof of the errors which obtain on the subject of America in Europe, I
instanced the opinion which betrayed itself in England, the nation
which ought to know us best, during the war of 1812. Feeling a
commercial jealousy itself, its government naturally supposed her
enemies were among the merchants, and that her friends were to be found
in the interior. The fact would have exactly reversed this opinion, an
opinion whose existence is betrayed in a hundred ways, and especially in
the publications of the day. It was under this notion that our invaders
made an appeal to the Kentuckians for support! Now, there was not,
probably, a portion of the earth where less sympathy was to be found for
England than in Kentucky, or, in short, along the whole western frontier
of America, where, right or wrong, the people attribute most of their
Indian wars to the instigation of that power. Few foreigners took
sufficient interest in the country to probe such a feeling; and England,
being left to her crude conjectures, and to theories of her own, had
probably been thus led into one of the most absurd of all the blunders
of this nature that she could possibly have committed. I believe that a
large proportion of the erroneous notions which exist in Europe,
concerning American facts, proceed from the prejudices of this class of
the inhabitants.[36]

[Footnote 36: This was the opinion of the writer, while in Europe. Since
his return, he has seen much reason to confirm it. Last year, in a free
conversation with a foreign diplomatic agent on the state of public
feeling in regard to certain political measures, the _diplomate_
affirmed that, according to his experience, the talent, property, and
respectability of the country were all against the government. This is
the worn-out cant of England; and yet, when reform has been brought to
the touchstone, its greatest opponents have been found among the
_parvenus_. On being requested to mention individuals, the diplomatic
man in question named three New York merchants, all of whom are
foreigners by birth, neither of whom can speak good English, neither of
whom could influence a vote--neither of whom had, probably, ever read
the constitution or could understand it if he had read it, and neither
of whom was, in principle, any more than an every-day common-place
reflection of the antiquated notions of the class to which he belonged
in other nations, and in which he had been, educated, and under the
influence of which he had arrived here.]

In order to appreciate the influence of such a class of men, it is
necessary to recollect their numbers, wealth, and union, it has often
been a source of mortification to me to see the columns of the leading
journals of the largest town of the republic, teeming with reports of
the celebrations of English, Irish, German, French, and Scotch
societies; and in which the sentiments promulgated, half of the time,
are foreign rather than American. Charitable associations, _as
charities_, may be well enough, but the institutions of the country, so
generous and liberal in themselves, are outraged by every factitious
attempt to overshadow them by these appeals to the prejudices and
recollections of another state of society. At least, we might be spared
the parade in the journals, and the offensive appearance of monopolizing
the land, which these accounts assume. Intelligent travellers observe
and comment on these things, and one of them quaintly asked me, not long
since, "if really there were no Americans in America?" Can it be matter
of surprise that when the stranger sees these men so prominent in print
and in society, (in many instances quite deservedly), he should mistake
their influence, and attach an importance to their opinions which they
do not deserve? That Europe has been receiving false notions of America
from some source, during the present century, is proved by the results
so completely discrediting her open predictions; and, while I know that
many Americans have innocently aided in the deception, I have little
doubt that the foreign merchants established in the country have been
one of the principal causes of the errors.

It is only necessary to look back within our own time, to note the
progress of opinion, and to appreciate the value of those notions that
some still cherish, as containing all that is sound and true in human
policy. Thirty years ago, the opinion that it was unsafe to teach the
inferior classes to read, "_as it only enabled then to read bad books_,"
was a common and favourite sentiment of the upper classes in England.
To-day, it is a part of the established system of Austria to instruct
her people! I confess that I now feel mortified and grieved when I meet
with an American gentleman who professes anything but liberal opinions,
as respects the rights of his fellow-creatures. Although never
illiberal, I trust, I do not pretend that my own notions have not
undergone changes, since, by being removed from the pressure of the
society in which I was born, my position, perhaps, enables me to look
around, less influenced by personal considerations than is usual; but
one of the strongest feelings created by an absence of so many years
from he me, is the conviction that no American can justly lay claim to
be, what might be and ought to be the most exalted of human beings, the
milder graces of the Christian character excepted, an American
gentleman, without this liberality entering thoroughly into the whole
composition of his mind. By liberal sentiments, however, I do not mean
any of the fraudulent cant that is used, in order to delude the
credulous; but the generous, manly determination to let all enjoy equal
political rights, and to bring those to whom authority is necessarily
confided, as far as practicable, under the control of the community they
serve. Opinions like these have little in common with the miserable
devices of demagogues, who teach the doctrine that the people are
infallible; or that the aggregation of fallible parts, acting, too, with
diminished responsibilities, form an infallible whole; which is a
doctrine almost as absurd as that which teaches us to believe "the
people are their own worst enemies;" a doctrine, which, if true, ought
to induce those who profess it, to forbid any man from managing his own
affairs, but compel him to confide them to the management of others;
since the elementary principle is the same in communities and
individuals, and, as regards interests, neither would go wrong unless
deceived.

I shall not conceal from you the mortification and regret I have felt at
discovering, from this distance, and it is more easily discovered from a
distance than when near by, how far, how very far, the educated classes
of America are, in opinion, (in my poor judgment, at least), behind the
fortunes of the country. Notions are certainly still entertained at
home, among this class, that are frankly abandoned here, by men of any
capacity, let their political sect be what it may; and I have frequently
seen assertions and arguments used, in Congress, that, I think, the
dullest Tory would now hesitate about using in Parliament. I do not say
that certain great prejudices are not yet prevalent in England, that are
exploded with us; but my remark applies to some of the old and cherished
theories of government, which have been kept alive as theories in
England, long after they have ceased to be recognised in practice, and
some of which, indeed, like that of the doctrine of a balance between
different powers in the state, never had any other than a theoretical
existence, at all. The absurd doctrine just mentioned has many devout
believers, at this moment, in America, when a moment's examination must
show its fallacy. The democracy of a country, in the nature of things,
will possess its physical force. Now give to the physical force of a
community an equal political power, and the moment it finds itself
gravely interested in supporting or defeating any measure, it will fall
back on its strength, set the other estates at defiance, and blow your
boasted balance of power to the winds! There never has been an active
democratical feature in the government of England; nor have the commons,
since they have enjoyed anything like independence, been aught but an
auxiliary to the aristocracy, in a modified form. While the king was
strong, the two bodies united to put him down, and, as he got to be
weak, they gradually became identified, to reap the advantages. What is
to come remains to be seen.

LETTER XX.

The Equinox.--Storm on the Lake.--Chase of a little Boat.--Chateau of
Blonay.--Drive to Lausanne.--Mont Benon.--Trip to Geneva in the
Winkelried.--Improvements in Geneva.--Russian Travellers.--M. Pozzo di
Borgo.--Table d'hote.--Extravagant Affirmations of a
Frenchman.--Conversation with a Scotchman.--American Duels.--Visit at a
Swiss Country-house.--English Customs affected in America.--Social
Intercourse in the United States.--Difference between a European and an
American Foot and Hand.--Violent Gale.--Sheltered position of
Vevey.--Promenade.--Picturesque View.--The great
Square.--Invitation.--Mountain Excursion.--An American
Lieutenant.--Anecdote.--Extensive Prospect.--Chateau of Glayrole.

Dear ----,

We have had a touch of the equinox, and the Leman has been in a foam,
but its miniature anger, though terrible enough at times, to those who
are embarked on its waters, can never rise to the dignity of a surf and
a rolling sea. The rain kept me housed, and old John and I seized the
occasion to convert a block of pine into a Leman bark, for P----. The
next day proving fair, our vessel, fitted with two latine sails, and
carrying a weather helm, was committed to the waves, and away she went,
on a wind, toward the opposite shore. P----, of course, was delighted,
and clapped his hands, until, perceiving that it was getting off the
land, he compelled us to enter the boat and give chase. A chase it was,
truly; for the little thing went skipping from wave, to wave, in such a
business-like manner, that I once thought it would go all the way to
Savoy. Luckily a flaw caused it to tack, when it soon became our prize.
We were a long distance off when the boat was overtaken, and I thought
the views behind the town finer, at that position, than when nearer in.
I was particularly struck with the appearance of the little chateau of
Blonay, which is still the residence of a family of the same name, that
has been seated, for more than seven centuries, on the same rocky
terrace. I was delighted to hear that its present owner is a liberal, as
every ancient gentleman should be. Such a man ought to be cautious how
he tarnishes his lineage with unjust or ungenerous sentiments.

The equinoctial blow returned the next day, and the lake became really
fine, in a new point of view; for, aided by the mountains, it succeeded
in getting up a very respectable appearance of fury. The sail-boats
vanished, and even the steamers went through it with a good deal of
struggling and reluctance.

As soon as the weather became better, we went to Lausanne, preferring
the road, with a view to see the country. It is not easy to fancy
anything prettier than this drive, which ran, nearly the whole distance,
along the foot of hills, that would be mountains anywhere else, and
quite near the water. The day was beautiful, and we had the lake, with
its varying scenery and movement, the whole time in sight; while the
road, an excellent solid wheel-track, wound between the walls of
vineyards, and was so narrow as scarcely to admit the passage of two
carriages at a time. At a short distance from Lausanne, we left the
margin of the lake, and ascended to the level of the town, through a
wooded and beautifully ornamented country.

We found our friends established in one of the numberless villas that
dot the broken land around the place, with their windows commanding most
of that glorious view that I have already described to you. Mont Benon,
a beautiful promenade, was close at hand, and, in the near view, the eye
ranged over fields, verdant and smooth lawns, irregular in their
surfaces, and broken by woods and country-houses. A long attenuated
reach of the lake stretched away towards Geneva, while the upper end
terminated in its noble mountains, and the mysterious, glen-like gorge
of Valais. We returned from this excursion in the evening, delighted
with the exterior of Lausanne, and more and more convinced that, all
things considered, the shores of this lake unite greater beauties, with
better advantages as a residence, than any other part of Switzerland.

After remaining at Vevey a day or two longer, I went to Geneva, in the
Winkelried, which had got a new commander; one as unaffected as his
predecessor had been fantastical. Our progress was slow, and, although
we reached the port early enough to prevent being locked out, with the
exception of a passage across Lake George, in which the motion seemed
expressly intended for the lovers of the picturesque, I think this the
most deliberate run, or rather _walk_, I ever made by steam.

I found Geneva much changed, for the better, in the last four years.
Most of the hideous sheds had been pulled down from the fronts of the
houses, and a stone pier is building, that puts the mighty port of New
York, with her commercial _energies_, to shame. In other respects, I saw
no material alterations in the place. The town was crowded, more of the
travellers being French, and fewer English, than common. As for the
Russians, they appear to have vanished from the earth, to my regret; for
in addition to being among the most polished people one meets, (I speak
of those who travel), your Russian uniformly treats the American kindly.
I have met with more personal civilities, conveyed in a delicate manner,
from these people, and especially from the diplomatic agents of Russia,
than from any others in Europe, and, on the whole, I have cause,
personally, to complain of none; or, in other words, I do not think that
personal feeling warps my judgment, in this matter. M. Pozzo di Borgo,
when he gave large entertainments, sent a number of tickets to Mr. Brown
to be distributed among his countrymen, and I have heard this gentleman
say, no other foreign minister paid him this attention. All this may be
the result of policy, but it is something to obtain civil treatment in
this world, on any terms. You must be here, to understand how completely
we are overlooked.

Late as we were, we were in time for dinner, which I took at a _table
d'hote_ that was well crowded with French. I passed as an Englishman, as
a matter of course, and had reason to be much amused with some of the
conversation. One young Frenchman very coolly affirmed that two members
had lately fought with pistols in the hall of Congress, during the
session, and his intelligence was received with many very proper
exclamations of horror. The young man referred to the rencontre which
took place on the terrace of the Capitol, in which the party assailed
_was_ a member of Congress; but I have no doubt he believed all he said,
for such is the desire to blacken the American name just now, that every
unfavourable incident is seized upon and exaggerated, without shame or
remorse. I had a strong desire to tell this young man that the affair to
which he alluded, did not differ essentially from that of M. Calemard de
Lafayette[37], with the exception that no one was slain at Washington;
but I thought it wiser to preserve my _incognito_.

[Footnote 37: This unfortunate gentleman was no relation of the family
of Lafayette, his proper appellation being that of M. Calemard.
_Fayette_, so far as I can discover, is an old French word, or perhaps a
provincial word, that signifies a sort of _hedge_, and has been
frequently used as a territorial appellation, like _de la Haie_.]

The next day our French party was replaced by another, and the master of
the house promoted me to the upper end of his table, as an old boarder.
Here I found myself, once more, in company with an Englishman, an
Irishman, and a Scotchman. The two former sat opposite to me, and the
last at my side. The civilities of the table passed between us,
especially between the Scotchman and myself, with whom I fell into
discourse. After a little while, my neighbour, a sensible shrewd fellow
enough, by the way of illustrating his opinion, and to get the better of
me, cited some English practice, in connexion with "you in England." I
told him I was no Englishman. "No Englishman! you are not a Scotchman?"
"Certainly not." "Still less an Irishman!" "No." My companion now looked
at me as hard as a well-bred man might, and said earnestly, "Where did
you learn to speak English so well?" "At home, as you did--I am an
American." "Umph!" and a silence of a minute; followed by abruptly
putting the question of--"What is the reason that your duels in America
are so bloody?--I allude particularly to some fought in the
Mediterranean by your naval officers. We get along, with less
vindicative fighting." As this was rather a sharp and sudden shot, I
thought it best to fire back, and I told him, "that as to the
Mediterranean, our officers were of opinion they were ill-treated, till
they began to shoot those who inflicted the injuries; since which time
all had gone on more smoothly. According to their experience, their own
mode of fighting was much the most efficacious, in that instance at
least."

As he bore this good-naturedly, thinking perhaps his abrupt question
merited a saucy answer, we soon became good friends. He made a remark or
two, in better taste than the last, on the facts of America, and I
assured him he was in error, showing him wherein his error lay. He then
asked me why some of our own people did not correct the false
impressions of Europe, on the subject of America, for the European could
only judge by the information laid before him. He then mentioned two or
three American writers, who he thought would do the world a service by
giving it a book or two, on the subject. I told him that if they wrote
honestly and frankly, Europe would not read their books, for prejudice
was not easily overcome, and no favourable account of us would be
acceptable. It would not be enough for us to confess our real faults,
but we should be required to confess the precise faults that, according
to the notions of this quarter of the world, we are morally, logically,
and politically bound to possess. This he would not admit, for what man
is ever willing to confess that his own opinions are prejudiced?

I mention this little incident, because its spirit, in my deliberate
judgment, forms the _rule_, in the case of the feeling of all British
subjects, and I am sorry to say the subjects of most other European
countries; and the mawkish sentiment and honeyed words that sometimes
appear in toasts, tavern dinners, and public speeches, the exception. I
may be wrong, as well as another, but this, I repeat for the twentieth
time, is the result of my own observations; you know under what
opportunities these observations have been made, and how far they are
likely to be influenced by personal considerations.

In the evening I accompanied a gentleman, whose acquaintance I had made
at Rome, to the country-house of a family that I had also had the
pleasure of meeting during their winter's residence in that town. We
passed out by the gate of Savoy, and walked a mile or two, among
country-houses and pleasant alleys of trees, to a dwelling not unlike
one of our own, on the Island of Manhattan, though furnished with more
taste and comfort than it is usual to meet in America. M. and Mad. N----
were engaged to pass the evening at the house of a connexion near by,
and they frankly proposed that we should be of the party. Of course we
assented, leaving them to be the judges of what was proper.

At this second dwelling, a stone's throw from the other, we found a
small party of sensible and well-bred people, who received me as a
stranger, with marked politeness, but with great simplicity. I was
struck with the repast, which was exactly like what a country tea is, or
perhaps I ought to say, used to be, in respectable families, at home,
who have not, or had not, much of the habits of the world. We all sat
round a large table, and, among other good things that were served, was
an excellent fruit tart! I could almost fancy myself in New England,
where I remember a judge of a supreme court once gave me _custards_, at
a similar entertainment. The family we had gone to see, were perhaps a
little too elegant for such a set-out, for I had seen them in Rome with
_mi-lordi_ and _monsignori_, at their six o'clock dinners; but the quiet
good sense with which everybody dropped into their own distinctive
habits at home, caused me to make a comparison between them and
ourselves, much to the disadvantage of the latter. I do not mean that
usages ought not to change, but that usages should be consistent with
themselves, and based on their general fitness and convenience for the
society for which they are intended. This is good sense, which is
commonly not only good-breeding, but high-breeding.

The Genevois are French in their language, in their literature, and
consequently in many of their notions. Still they have independence
enough to have hours, habits, and rules of intercourse that they find
suited to their own particular condition. The fashions of Paris, beyond
the point of reason, would scarcely influence them; and the answer would
probably be, were a discrepancy between the customs pointed out, "that
the usage may suit Paris, but it does not suit Geneva." How is it with,
us? Our women read in novels and magazines, that are usually written by
those who have no access to the society they write about, and which they
oftener caricature than describe, that people of quality in England go
late to parties; and they go late to parties, too, to be like English
people of quality. Let me make a short comparison, by way of
illustration. The English woman of quality, in town, rises at an hour
between nine and twelve. She is dressed by her maid, and if there are
children, they are brought to her by a child's maid: nourishing them
herself is almost out of the question. Her breakfast is eaten between
eleven and one. At three or four she may lunch. At four she drives out;
at half-past seven she dines. At ten she begins to think of the
evening's amusement, and is ready for it, whatever it may be, unless it
should happen to be the opera, or the theatre, (the latter being almost
proscribed as vulgar), when she necessarily forces herself to hours a
little earlier. She returns home, between one and four, is undressed by
her maid, and sleeps until ten or even one, according to circumstances.
These are late hours, certainly, and in some respects unwise; but they
have their peculiar advantages, and, at all events, _they are consistent
with themselves_.

In New York, the house is open for morning visits at twelve, and with a
large straggling town, bad attendance at the door, and a total want of
convenience in public vehicles, unless one travels in a stage-coach,
yclept an omnibus, it is closed at three, for dinner. _Sending_ a card
would be little short of social treason. We are too country-bred for
such an impertinence. After dinner, there is an interval of three hours,
when tea is served, and the mistress of the house is at a loss for
employment until ten, when she goes into the world, in order to visit at
the hour she has heard, or read, that fashion prescribes such visits
ought to be made, in other countries, England in particular. Here she
remains until one or two, returns home, undresses herself, passes a
sleepless morning, perhaps, on account of a cross child, and rises at
seven to make her husband's coffee at eight!

There is no exaggeration in this, for such is the dependence and
imitation of a country that has not sufficient tone to think and act for
itself, in still graver matters, that the case might even be made
stronger, with great truth.--The men are no wiser. When _invited_, they
dine at six; and at home, as a rule, they dine between three and four. A
man who is much in society, dines out at least half his time, and
consequently he is eating one day at four and the next at six, all
winter!

The object of this digression is to tell you that, so far as my
observation goes, we are the only people who do not think and act for
ourselves, in these matters. French millinery may pass current
throughout Christendom, for mere modes of dress are habits scarce worth
resisting; but in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, or wherever we
have resided, I have uniformly found that, in all essentials, the
people have hours and usages of their own, founded on their own
governing peculiarities of condition. In America, there is a constant
struggle between the force of things and imitation, and the former often
proving the strongest, it frequently renders the latter lame, and, of
course, ungraceful. In consequence of this fact, social intercourse with
us is attended with greater personal sacrifices, and returns less
satisfaction, than in most other countries. There are other causes,
beyond a doubt, to assist in producing such a result; more especially in
a town like New York, that doubles its population in less than twenty
years; but the want of independence, and the weakness of not adapting
our usages to our peculiar condition, ought to be ranked among the
first. In some cases, necessity compels us to be Americans, but whenever
there is a tolerable chance, we endeavour to become "second chop
English."

In a fit of gallantry, I entered a jeweller's shop, next day, and bought
a dozen or fifteen rings, with a view to distribute them, on my return,
among my young country women at Vevey, of whom there were now not less
than eight or ten, three families having met at that place. It may serve
to make the ladies of your family smile, when I add, that, though I was
aware of the difference between a European and an American foot and
hand,[38] every one of my rings, but three, had to be cut, in order to
be worn! It will show you how little one part of mankind know the other,
if I add, that I have often met with allusions in this quarter of the
world to the females of America, in which the writers have evidently
supposed them to be coarse and masculine! The country is deemed vulgar,
and by a very obvious association, it has been assumed that the women of
such a country must have the same physical peculiarities as the coarse
and vulgar here. How false this notion is, let the rings of Geneva
testify; for when I presented my offerings, I was almost laughed out of
countenance.

[Footnote 38: The southern parts of Europe form an exception.]

A wind called the _bise_ had been blowing for the last twenty-four
hours, and when we left Vevey the gale was so strong, that the
steam-boat had great difficulty in getting ahead. This is a north wind,
and it forces the water, at times, into the narrow pass at the head of
the lake, in a way to cause a rise of some two or three feet. We had
taken a large empty bark in tow, but by the time we reached Nyon, where
the lake widens suddenly, the boat pitched and struggled so hard, as to
render it advisable to cast off the tow, after which we did much better.
The poor fellow, as he fell off broadside to the sea, which made a fair
breach over him, and set a shred of sail, reminded me of a man who had
been fancying himself in luck, by tugging at the heels of a prosperous
friend, but who is unexpectedly cut adrift, when he is found
troublesome. I did not understand his philosophy, for, instead of
hauling in for the nearest anchorage, he kept away before it, and ran
down for Geneva, as straight as a bee that is humming towards its hive.

The lake gradually grew more tranquil as we proceeded north, and from
Lausanne to Vevey we actually had smooth water. I saw vessels becalmed,
or with baffling winds, under this shore, while the _bise_ was blowing
stiff, a few leagues farther down the lake. When I got home I was
surprised to hear that the family had been boating the previous evening,
and that there had scarcely been any wind during the day. This
difference was owing to the sheltered position of Vevey, of which the
fact may serve to give you a better notion than a more laboured
description.

The following morning was market-day, and I walked upon the promenade
early, to witness the arrival of the boats. There was not a breath of
wind, even to leeward, for the _bise_ had blown itself out of breath.
The bay of Naples, in a calm, scarcely presents a more picturesque view,
than the head of the lake did, on this occasion. I counted more than
fifty boats in sight; all steering towards Vevey, stealing along the
water, some crossing from Savoy, in converging lines, some coming down,
and others up the sheet, from different points on the Swiss side. The
great square was soon crowded, and I walked among the peasants to
observe their costumes and listen to their language. Neither, however,
was remarkable, all speaking French, and, at need, all I believe using a
_patois_, which does not vary essentially from that of Vaud. There was a
good deal of fruit, some of which was pretty good, though it did not
appear in the abundance we had been taught to expect. The grapes were
coming in, and they promised to be fine. Though it is still early for
them, we have them served at breakfast, regularly, for they are said to
be particularly healthful when eaten with the morning dew on them. We
try to believe ourselves the better for a regimen that is too agreeable
to be lightly dropped. Among other things in the market, I observed the
inner husks of Indian corn, that had been dried in a kiln or oven,
rubbed, and which were now offered for sale as the stuffing of beds. It
struck me that this was a great improvement on straw.

I had received a visit the day before from a principal inhabitant of
Vevey, with an invitation to breakfast, at his country-house, on the
heights. This gratuitous civility was not to be declined, though it was
our desire to be quiet, as we considered the residence at Vevey, a sort
of _villagiatura_, after Paris. Accordingly, I got into a _char_, and
climbed the mountain for a mile and a half, through beautiful pastures
and orchards, by narrow winding lanes, that, towards the end, got to be
of a very primitive character. Without this little excursion, I should
have formed no just idea of the variety in the environs of the place,
and should have lost a good deal of their beauty. I have told you that
this acclivity rises behind the town, for a distance exceeding a mile,
but I am now persuaded it would have been nearer the truth had I said a
league. The majesty of Swiss nature constantly deceives the eye, and it
requires great care and much experience to prevent falling into these
mistakes. The house I sought, stood on a little natural terrace, a speck
on the broad breast of the mountain, or what would be called a mountain,
were it not for the granite piles in its neighbourhood, and was
beautifully surrounded by woods, pastures, and orchards. We were above
the vine.

A small party, chiefly females, of good manners and great good sense,
were assembled, and our entertainment was very much what it ought to be,
simple, good, and without fuss. After I had been formally presented to
the rest of the company, a young man approached, and was introduced as a
countryman. It was a lieutenant of the navy, who had found his way up
from the Mediterranean squadron to this spot. It is so unusual to meet
Americans under such circumstances, that his presence was an agreeable
surprise. Our people abound in the taverns and public conveyances, but
it is quite rare that they are met in European society at all.

One of the guests to-day recounted an anecdote of Cambacere's, which was
in keeping with a good banquet. He and the _arch-chancelier_ were
returning from a breakfast in the country, together, when he made a
remark on the unusual silence of his companion. The answer was, "_Je
digere_."

We walked through the grounds, which were prettily disposed, and had
several good look-outs. From one of the latter we got a commanding view
of all the adjacent district. This acclivity is neither a _cote_, as the
French call them, nor a hill-side, nor yet a mountain, but a region. Its
breadth is sufficiently great to contain hamlets, as you already know,
and, seen from this point, the town of Vevey came into the view, as a
mere particle. The head of the lake lay deep in the distance, and it was
only when the eye rose to the pinnacles of rock, hoary with glaciers
above, that one could at all conceive he was not already perched on a
magnificent Alp. The different guests pointed out their several
residences, which were visible at the distance of miles, perhaps, all
seated on the same verdant acclivity.

I descended on foot, the road being too precipitous in places to render
even a _char_ pleasant. On rejoining the domestic circle, we took boat
and pulled towards the little chateau-looking dwelling, on a narrow
verdant peninsula, which, as you may remember, had first caught my eye
on approaching Vevey, as the very spot that a hunter of the picturesque
would like for a temporary residence. The distance was about a mile,
and, the condition of the house excepted, a nearer view confirmed all
our first impressions. It had been a small chateau, and was called
Glayrole. It stands near the hamlet of St. Saphorin, which, both
Francois and Jean maintain, produces the best wines of Vaud, and, though
now reduced to the condition of a dilapidated farm-house, has still some
remains of its ancient state. There is a ceiling, in the Ritter Saal,
that can almost vie with that of the castle of Habsburg, though it is
less smoked. The road, more resembling the wheel-track of a lawn than a
highway, runs quite near the house on one side, while the blue and
limpid lake washes the foot of the little promontory.

LETTER XXI.

Embark in the Winkelried.--Discussion with an Englishman.--The
Valais.--Free Trade.--The Drance.--Terrible
Inundation.--Liddes.--Mountain Scenery.--A Mountain
Basin.--Dead-houses.--Melancholy Spectacle.--Approach of
Night.--Desolate Region.--Convent of the Great St. Bernard.--Our
Reception there.--Unhealthiness of the Situation.--The
Superior.--Conversation during Supper.--Coal-mine on the
Mountain.--Night in the Convent.

Dear ----,

After spending a few more days in the same delightful and listless
enjoyments, my friend C---- came over from Lausanne, and we embarked in
the Winkelried, on the afternoon of the 25th September, as she hove-to
off our mole, on her way up the lake. We anchored off Villeneuve in less
than an hour, there being neither port, nor wharf, nor mole at that
place. In a few minutes we were in a three-horse conveyance, called a
diligence, and were trotting across the broad meadows of the Rhone
towards Bex, where we found one of our American families, the T----s, on
their way to Italy.

C---- and myself ate some excellent quails for supper in the public
room. An Englishman was taking the same repast, at another table, near
us, and he inquired for news, wishing particularly to know the state of
things about Antwerp. This led to a little conversation, when I observed
that, had the interests of France been consulted at the revolution of
1830, Belgium would have been received into the kingdom. Our Englishman
grunted at this, and asked me what Europe would have said to it. My
answer was, that when both parties were agreed, I did not see what
Europe had to do with the matter; and that, at all events, the right
Europe could have to interfere was founded in might; and such was the
state of south-western Germany, Italy, Savoy, Spain, and even England,
that I was of opinion Europe would have been glad enough to take things
quietly. At all events, a war would only have made the matter worse for
the allied monarchs. The other stared at me in amazement, muttered an
audible dissent, and, I make no doubt, set me down as a most disloyal
subject; for, while extending her empire, and spreading her commercial
system, (her Free Trade _a l'Anglaise!_) over every nook and corner of
the earth where she can get footing, nothing sounds more treasonable to
the ears of a loyal Englishman than to give the French possession of
Antwerp, or the Russians possession of Constantinople. So inveterate
become his national feelings on such subjects, that I am persuaded a
portion of his antipathy to the Americans arises from a disgust at
hearing notions that have been, as it were, bred in and in, through his
own moral system, contemned in a language that he deems his own peculiar
property. Men, in such circumstances, are rarely very philosophical or
very just.

We were off in a _char_ with the dawn. Of course you will understand
that we entered the Valais by its famous bridge, and passed St. Maurice,
and the water-fall _a la Teniers_; for you have already travelled along
this road with me. I saw no reason to change my opinion of the Valais,
which looked as chill and repulsive now as it did in 1828, though we
were so early on the road as to escape the horrible sight of the basking
_cretins_, most of whom were still housed. Nor can I tell you how far
these people have been elevated in the scale of men by an increasing
desire for riches.

At Martigny we breakfasted, while the innkeeper sent for a guide. The
canton has put these men under a rigid police, the prices being
regulated by law, and the certificate of the traveller becoming
important to them. This your advocate of the absurdity called Free Trade
will look upon as tyranny, it being more for the interest of human
intercourse than the traveller who arrives in a strange country should
be cheated by a hackney-coachman, or the driver of a cart, or stand
higgling an hour in the streets, than to violate an abstraction that can
do no one any good! If travelling will not take the minor points of free
tradeism out of a man, I hold him to be incorrigible. But such is
humanity! There cannot be even a general truth, that our infirmities do
not lead us to push it into falsehood, in particular practice. Men are
no more fitted to live under a system that should carry out the extreme
doctrines of this theory, than they are fitted to live without law; and
the legislator who should attempt the thing in practice, would soon find
himself in the condition of Don Quixote, after he had liberated the
galley-slaves from their fetters:--in other words, he would be cheated
the first moment circumstances compelled him to make a hard bargain with
a stranger. Were the canton of Valais to say, you _shall_ be a guide,
and such _shall_ be your pay, the imputation of tyranny might lie; by
saying, you _may_ be a guide, and such _must_ be your pay, it merely
legislates for an interest that calls for particular protection in a
particular way, to prevent abuses.

Our guide appeared with two mules harnessed to a _char a banc_, and we
proceeded. The fragment of a village which the traveller passes for
Martigny, on his way to Italy, is not the true hamlet of that name, but
a small collection of houses that has sprung up since the construction
of the Simplon road. The real place is a mile distant, and of a much
more rural and Swiss character. Driving through this hamlet, we took our
way along the winding bank of a torrent called the Drance, the
direction, at first, being south. The road was not bad, but the valley
had dwindled to a gorge, and, though broken and wild, was not
sufficiently so to be grand. After travelling a few miles, we reached a
point where our own route diverged from the course of the Drance, which
came in from the east, while we journeyed south. This Drance is the
stream that produced the terrible inundation a few years since. The
calamity was produced by an accumulation of ice higher in the gorges,
which formed a temporary lake. The canton made noble efforts to avert
the evil, and men were employed as miners, to cut a passage for the
water, through the ice, but their labour proved useless, although they
had made a channel, and the danger was greatly lessened. Before half the
water had escaped, however, the ice gave way, and let the remainder of
the lake down in a flood. The descent was terrific, sweeping before it
every thing that came in its way, and although so distant, and there was
so much space, the village of Martigny was deluged, and several of its
people lost their lives. The water rose to the height of several feet on
the plain of the great valley, before it could disgorge itself into the
Rhone.

The ascents now became more severe, though we occasionally made as sharp
descents. The road lay through a broken valley, the mountains retiring
from each other a little, and the wheel-track was very much like those
we saw in our own hilly country, some thirty years since, though less
obstructed by mud. At one o'clock we reached Liddes, a crowded, rude,
and dirty hamlet, where we made a frugal repast. Here we were compelled
to quit the _char_, and to saddle the mules. The guide also engaged
another man to accompany us with a horse, that carried provender for
himself, and for the two animals we had brought with us. We then
mounted, and proceeded.

On quitting Liddes, the road, or rather path, for it had dwindled to
that, led through a valley that had some low meadows; after which the
ascents became more decided, though the course had always been upward.
The vegetation gradually grew less and less, the tree diminishing to the
bush, and finally disappearing altogether, while the grasses became
coarse and wiry, or were entirely superseded by moss. We went through a
hamlet or two, composed of stones stained apparently with iron ore, and,
as the huts were covered with the same material, instead of lending the
landscape a more humanized air, they rather added to its appearance of
sterile dreariness. There were a few tolerably good bits of savage
mountain scenes, especially in a wooded glen or two by the wayside; but,
on the whole, I thought this the least striking of the Swiss mountains I
had ascended.

We entered a sort of mountain basin, that was bounded on one side by the
glacier of Mont Velan; that which so beautifully bounds the view up the
Valais, as seen from Vevey. I was disappointed in finding an object
which, in the distance, was so white and shining, much disfigured and
tarnished by fragments of broken rock. Still the summit shone, in cold
and spotless lustre. There was herbage for a few goats here, and some
one had commenced the walls of a rude building that was intended for an
inn. No one was at work near it, a hut of stone, for the shelter of the
goatherds, being all that looked like a finished human habitation.

Winding our way across and out of this valley, we came to a turn in the
rocks, and beheld two more stone cabins, low and covered, so as to
resemble what in America are called root-houses. They stood a little
from the path, on the naked rock. Crossing to them, we dismounted and
looked into the first. It was empty, had a little straw, and was
intended for a refuge, in the event of storms. Thrusting my head into
the other, after the eye had got a little accustomed to the light, I saw
a grinning corpse seated against the remotest side. The body looked like
a mummy, but the clothes were still on it, and various shreds of
garments lay about the place. The remains of other bodies, that had
gradually shrunk into shapeless masses, were also dimly visible. Human
bones, too, were scattered around. It is scarcely necessary to add that
this was one of the dead-houses, or places in which the bodies of those
who perish on the mountain are deposited, to waste away, or to be
claimed, as others may or may not feel an interest in their remains.
Interment could only be effected by penetrating the rock, for there was
no longer any soil, and such is the purity of the atmosphere that
putrescence never occurs.

I asked the guide if he knew anything of the man, whose body still
retained some of the semblance of humanity. He told me he remembered him
well, having been at the convent in his company. It was a poor mason,
who had crossed the _col_, from Piemont, in quest of work; failing of
which, he had left Liddes, near nightfall, in order to enjoy the
unremitting hospitality of the monks on his return, about a fortnight
later. His body was found on the bare rock, quite near the refuge, on
the following day. The poor fellow had probably perished in the dark,
within a few yards of shelter, without knowing it. Hunger and cold,
aided, perhaps, by that refuge of the miserable, brandy, had destroyed
him. He had been dead now two years, and yet his remains preserved a
hideous resemblance to the living man.

Turning away from this melancholy spectacle, I looked about me with
renewed interest. The sun had set, and evening was casting its shadows
over the valley below, which might still be seen through the gorges of
our path. The air above, and the brown peaks that rose around us like
gloomy giants, were still visible in a mellow saddened light, and I
thought I had never witnessed a more poetical, or a more vivid picture
of the approach of night. Following the direction of the upward path, a
track that was visible only by the broken fragments of rock, and which
now ascended suddenly, an opening was seen between two dark granite
piles, through which the sky beyond still shone, lustrous and pearly.
This opening appeared to be but a span. It was the _col_, or the summit
of the path, and gazing at it, in that pure atmosphere, I supposed it
might be half a mile beyond and above us. The guide shook his head at
this conjecture, and told me it was still a weary league!

At this intelligence we hurried to bestride our mules, which by this
time were fagged, and as melancholy as the mountains. When we left the
refuge there were no traces of the sun on any of the peaks or glaciers.
A more sombre ascent cannot be imagined. Vegetation had absolutely
disappeared, and in its place lay scattered the fragments of the
ferruginous looking rocks. The hue of every object was gloomy as
desolation could make it, and the increasing obscurity served to deepen
the intense interest we felt. Although constantly and industriously
ascending towards the light, it receded faster than we could climb.
After half an hour of toil, it finally deserted us to the night. At this
moment the guide pointed to a mass that I had thought a fragment of the
living rock, and said it was the roof a building. It still appeared so
near, that I fancied we had arrived; but minute after minute went by,
and this too was gradually swallowed up in the gloom. At the end of
another quarter of an hour, we came to a place where the path, always
steep since quitting the refuge, actually began to ascend by a flight of
broad steps formed in the living rock, like that already mentioned on
the Righi, though less precipitous. My weary mule seemed at times, to be
tottering beneath my weight, or hanging in suspense, undecided, whether
or not to yield to the downward pressure. It was quite dark, and I
thought it best to trust to his instinct and his recollections. This
unpleasant struggle between animal force and the attraction of
gravitation, in which the part I played was merely to contribute to the
latter, lasted nearly a quarter of an hour longer, when the mules
appeared to be suddenly relieved. They moved more briskly for a minute,
and then stopped before a pile of rock, that a second look in the dark
enabled us to see was made of stone, thrown into the form of a large
rude edifice. This was the celebrated convent of the Great St. Bernard!

I bethought me of the Romans, of the marauders of the middle ages, of
the charity of a thousand years, and of Napoleon, as throwing a leg over
the crupper, my foot first touched the rock. Our approach had been
heard, for noises ascend far through such a medium, and we were met at
the door by a monk in a black gown, a queer Asiatic-looking cap, and a
movement that was as laical as that of a _garcon de cafe_. He hastily
enquired if there were any ladies, and I thought he appeared
disappointed when we told him no. He showed us very civilly, however,
into a room, that was warmed by a stove, and which already contained two
travellers, who had the air of decent tradesmen who were crossing the
mountain on business. A table was set for supper, and a lamp or two
threw a dim light around.

The little community soon assembled, the prior excepted, and the supper
was served. I had brought a letter for the _clavier_, a sort of caterer,
who is accustomed to wander through the vallies in quest of
contributions; and this appeared to be a good time for presenting it, as
our reception had an awkward coldness that was unpleasant. The letter
was read, but it made no apparent difference in the warmth of our
treatment then or afterwards. I presume the writer had unwittingly
thrown the chill, which the American name almost invariably carries with
it, over our reception.

By this time seven of the Augustines were in the room; four of whom were
canons, and three novices. The entire community is composed of about
thirty, who are professed, with a suitable number who are in their
noviciate; but only eight in all are habitually kept on the mountain,
the rest residing in a convent in the _bourg_, as the real village of
Martigny is called. It is said that the keen air of the _col_ affects
the lungs after a time, and that few can resist its influence for a long
continued period. You will remember that this building is the most
elevated permanent abode in Europe, if not in the Old World, standing at
a height of about 8,000 English feet above the sea.

As soon as the supper was served, the superior or prior entered. He had
a better air than most of his brethren, and was distinguished by a gold
chain and cross. The others saluted him by removing their caps; and
proceeding to the head of the table, he immediately commenced the usual
offices in Latin, the responses being audibly made by the monks and
novices. We were then invited to take our places at table, the seats of
honour being civilly left for the strangers. The meal was frugal,
without tea or coffee, and the wine none of the best. But one ought to
be too grateful for getting anything in such a place, to be too
fastidious.

During supper there was a free general conversation, and we were asked
for news, the movements in La Vendee being evidently a subject of great
interest with them. Our French fellow-traveller on the lake of Brientz
had been warm in his eulogiums on this community, and, coupling his
conversation with the present question, the suspicion that they were
connected by a tie of common feeling flashed upon me. A few remarks soon
confirmed this conjecture, and I found, as indeed was natural for men in
their situation, that these religious republicans[39] took a strong
interest in the success of the Carlists. Men may call themselves what
they will, live where they may, and assume what disguises artifice or
necessity may impose, political instincts, like love, or any other
strong passion, are sure to betray themselves to an experienced
observer. How many of our own republicans, of the purest water, have I
seen sighing for ribands and stars--ay, and men too who appear before
the nation as devoted to the institutions and the rights of the mass.
The Romish church is certain to be found in secret on the side of
despotic power, let its pretensions to liberty be what it may, its own
form of government possessing sympathies with that of political power
too strong to be effectually concealed. I will not take on myself to say
that the circumstance of our being Americans caused the fraternity to
manifest for us less warmth than common, but I will say that our Carlist
of the lake of Brientz eloquently described the warm welcome and earnest
hospitality of _les bons peres_, as he called them, in a way that was
entirely inapplicable to their manner towards us. In short, the only way
we could excite any warmth in them, was by blowing the anthracite coal,
of which we had heard they had discovered a mine on the mountain. This
was a subject of great interest, for you should know that, water
excepted, every necessary of life is to be transported, for leagues to
this place, up the path we came, on the backs of mules; and that about
8,000 persons cross the mountain annually; all, or nearly all, of whom
lodge, of necessity, at the convent. The elevation renders fires
constantly necessary for comfort, to say nothing of cooking; and a mine
of gold could scarcely be as valuable to such a community, as one of
coal. Luckily, C----, like a true Pennsylvanian, knew something about
anthracite, and by making a few suggestions, and promising further
intelligence, he finally succeeded in throwing one or two of the
community into a blaze.

[Footnote 39: Your common-place logicians argue from these sentiments
that distinctions are natural, and ought to be maintained. These
philosophers forget that human laws are intended to restrain the natural
propensities, and that this argument would be just as applicable to the
right of a strong man to knock down a weak one, and to take the bread
from his mouth, as it is to the institution of exclusive political
privileges.]

A little before nine, we were shown into a plain but comfortable room,
with two beds loaded with blankets, and were left to our slumbers.
Before we fell asleep, C---- and myself agreed, that, taking the convent
altogether, it was a _rum_ place, and that it required more imagination
than either of us possessed, to throw about it the poetry of monastic
seclusion, and the beautiful and simple hospitality of the patriarchs.

LETTER XXII.

Sublime Desolation.--A Morning Walk.--The Col.--A Lake.--Site of a Roman
Temple.--Enter Italy.--Dreary Monotony.--Return to the
Convent--Tasteless Character of the Building.--Its Origin and
Purposes.--The Dead-house.--Dogs of St. Bernard.--The Chapel.--Desaix
interred here.--Fare of St. Bernard, and Deportment of the Monks.--Leave
the Convent.--Our Guide's Notion of the Americans.--Passage of Napoleon
across the Great St. Bernard.--Similar Passages in former
times.--Transport of Artillery up the Precipices.--Napoleon's perilous
Accident.--Return to Vevey.

Dear ----,

The next morning we arose betimes, and on thrusting my head out of a
window, I thought, by the keen air, that we had been suddenly
transferred to Siberia. There is no month without frost at this great
elevation, and as we had now reached the 27th September, the season was
essentially beginning to change. Hurrying our clothes on, and our beards
off, we went into the air to look about us.

Monks, convent, and historical recollections were, at first, all
forgotten, at the sight of the sublime desolation that reigned around.
The _col_ is a narrow ravine, between lofty peaks, which happens to
extend entirely across this point of the Upper Alps, thus forming a
passage several thousand feet lower than would otherwise be obtained.
The convent stands within a few yards of the northern verge of the
precipice, and precisely at the spot where the lowest cavity is formed,
the rocks beginning to rise, in its front and in its rear, at very short
distances from the buildings. A little south of it, the mountains recede
sufficiently to admit the bed of a small, dark, wintry-looking sheet of
water, which is oval in form, and may cover fifty or sixty acres. This
lake nearly fills the whole of the level part of the _col_, being
bounded north by the site of the convent, east by the mountain, west by
the path, for which there is barely room between the water and the
rising rocks, and south by the same path, which is sheltered on its
other side by a sort of low wall of fragments, piled some twenty or
thirty feet high. Beyond these fragments, or isolated rocks, was
evidently a valley of large dimensions.

We walked in the direction of this valley, descending gradually from the
door of the convent, some thirty feet to the level of the lake. This we
skirted by the regular path, rock smoothed by the hoof of horse and foot
of man, until we came near the last curve of the oval formation. Here
was the site of a temple erected by the Romans in honour of Jupiter of
the Snows, this passage of the Alps having been frequented from the most
remote antiquity. We looked at the spot with blind reverence, for the
remains might pass for these of a salad-bed of the monks, of which there
was one enshrined among the rocks hard by, and which was about as large,
and, I fancy, about as productive, as those that are sometimes seen on
the quarter-galleries of ships. At this point we entered Italy!

Passing from the frontier, we still followed the margin of the lake,
until we reached a spot where its waters trickled, by a low passage,
southward. The path took the same direction, pierced the barrier of low
rocks, and came out on the verge of the southern declivity, which was
still more precipitous than that on the other side. For a short distance
the path ran _en corniche_ along the margin of the descent, until it
reached the remotest point of what might be called the _col_, whose
southern edge is irregular, and then it plunged, by the most practicable
descent which could be found, towards its Italian destination. When at
this precise point our distance from the convent may have been half a
mile, which, of course, is the breadth of the _col_. We could see more
than half a league down the brown gulf below, but no sign of vegetation
was visible. Above, around, beneath, wherever the eye rested--the void
of the heavens, the distant peaks of snow, the lake, the convent and its
accessories excepted--was dark, frowning rock, of the colour of iron
rust. As all the buildings, even to the roofs, were composed of this
material, they produced little to relieve the dreary monotony.

The view from the _col_ is in admirable keeping with its desolation. One
is cut off completely from the lower world, and, beyond its own
immediate scene, nothing is visible but the impending arch of heaven,
and heaving mountain tops. The water did little to change this character
of general and savage desolation, for it has the chill and wintry air of
all the little mountain reservoirs that are so common in the Alps. If
anything, it rather added to the intensity of the feeling to which the
other parts of the scenery gave rise.

Returning from our walk, the convent and its long existence, the nature
of the institution, its present situation, and all that poetical feeling
could do for both, were permitted to resume their influence; but, alas!
the monks were common-place, their movements and utterance wanted the
calm dignity of age and chastened habits, the building had too much of
the machinery, smell, and smoke of the kitchen; and, altogether, we
thought that the celebrated convent of St. Bernard was more picturesque
on paper than in fact. Even the buildings were utterly tasteless,
resembling a _barnish_-looking manufactory, and would be quite
abominable, but for the delightfully dreary appearance of their
material.

It is a misfortune that vice so often has the best of it in outward
appearance. Although a little disposed to question the particular
instance of taste, in substance, I am of the opinion of that religionist
who was for setting his hymns to popular airs, in order "that the devil
might not monopolize all the good music," and, under this impression, I
think it a thousand pities that a little better keeping between
appearances and substance did not exist on the Great St. Bernard.

The convent is said to have been established by a certain Bernard de
Menthon, an Augustine of Aoste, in 962, who was afterwards canonized for
his holiness. In that remote age the institution must have been
eminently useful, for posting and Macadamized roads across the Alps were
not thought of. It even does much good now, as nine-tenths who stop here
are peasants that pay nothing for their entertainment. At particular
seasons, and on certain occasions, they cross in great numbers, my guide
assuring me he had slept at the convent when there were eight hundred
guests; a story, by the way, that one of the monks confirmed. Some fair
or festival, however, led to this extraordinary migration. Formerly the
convent was rich, and able to bear the charges of entertaining so many
guests; but since the Revolution it has lost most of its property, and
has but a small fixed income. It is authorized, however, to make
periodical _quetes_ in the surrounding country, and obtains a good deal
in that way. All who can pay, moreover, leave behind them donations of
greater or less amount, and by that means the charity is still
maintained.

As many perish annually on the mountain, and none are interred, another
dead-house stands quite near the convent for the reception of the
bodies. It is open to the air, and contained forty or fifty corpses in
every stage of decay apart from putrescency, and was a most revolting
spectacle. When the flesh disappears entirely, the bones are cast into a
small enclosure near by, in which skulls, thigh-bones, and ribs were
lying in a sort of waltz-like confusion.

Soon after our return from the walk into Italy, a novice opened a little
door in the outer wall of the convent, and the famous dogs of St.
Bernard rushed forth like so many rampant tigers, and most famous
fellows they certainly were. Their play was like that of elephants, and
one of them rushing past me, so near as to brush my clothes, gave me to
understand that a blow from him might be serious. There were five of
them in all, long-legged, powerful mastiffs, with short hair, long
bushy tails, and of a yellowish hue. I have seen very similar animals
in America. They are trained to keep the paths, can carry cordials and
nourishment around their necks, and frequently find bodies in the snow
by the scent. But their instinct and services have been greatly
exaggerated, the latter principally consisting in showing the traveller
the way, by following the paths themselves. Were one belated in winter
on this pass, I can readily conceive that a dog of this force that knew
him, and was attached to him, would be invaluable. Some pretend that the
ancient stock is lost, and that their successors show the want of blood
of all usurpers.

We were now shown into a room where there was a small collection of
minerals, and of Roman remains found about the ruins of the temple. At
seven we received a cup of coffee and some bread and butter, after which
the prior entered, and invited us to look at the chapel, which is of
moderate dimensions, and of plain ornaments. There is a box attached to
a column, with _tronc pour les pauvres_, and as all the poor in this
mountain are those who enjoy the hospitality of the convent, the hint
was understood. We dropped a few francs into the hole, while the prior
was looking earnestly the other way, and it then struck us we were at
liberty to depart. The body of Desaix lies in this chapel, and there is
a small tablet in it, erected to his memory.

It would be churlish and unreasonable to complain of the fare, in a spot
where food is to be had with so much difficulty; and, on that head, I
shall merely say, in order that you may understand the fact, that we
found the table of St. Bernard very indifferent. As to the deportment of
the monks, certainly, so far as we were concerned, it had none of that
warmth and hospitality that travellers have celebrated; but, on the
contrary, it struck us both as cold and constrained, strongly reminding
me, in particular, of the frigidity of the ordinary American manner.[40]
This might be discipline; it might be the consequence of habitual and
incessant demands on their attentions and services; it might be
accidental; or it might be prejudice against the country from which we
came, that was all the stronger for the present excited state of Europe.

[Footnote 40: The peculiar coldness of our manners, which are too apt to
pass suddenly from the repulsive to the familiar, has often been
commented on, but can only be appreciated by those who have been
accustomed to a different. Two or three days after the return of the
writer from his journey in Europe (which had lasted nearly eight years),
a public dinner was given, in New York, to a distinguished naval
officer, and he was invited to attend it, _as a guest_. Here he met a
crowd, one half of whom he knew personally. Without a single exception,
those of his acquaintances who did speak to him (two-thirds did not),
addressed him as if they had seen him the week before, and so cold and
constrained did every man's manner seem, that he had great difficulty in
persuading himself there was not something wrong. He could not believe,
however, that he was especially invited to be neglected, and he tried to
revive his old impressions; but the chill was so thorough, that he found
it impossible to sit out the dinner.]

Our mules were ready, and we left the _col_ immediately after breakfast.
A ridge in the rock, just before the convent, is the dividing line for
the flow of the waters. Here a little snow still lay; and there were
patches of snow, also, on the northern face of the declivity, the
remains of the past winter.

We chose to walk the first league, which brought us to the refuge. The
previous day, the guide had given us a great deal of gossip; and, among
other things, be mentioned having been up to the convent lately, with a
family of Americans, whom he described as a people of peculiar
appearance, and _peculiar odour_. By questioning him a little, we
discovered that he had been up with a party of coloured people from St.
Domingo. His head was a perfect Babel as it respected America, which was
not a hemisphere, but one country, one government, and one people. To
this we were accustomed, however; and, finding that we passed for
English, we trotted the honest fellow a good deal on the subject of his
nasal sufferings from travelling in such company. On the descent we knew
that we should encounter the party left at Bex, and our companion was
properly prepared for the interview. Soon after quitting the refuge, the
meeting took place, to the astonishment of the guide, who gravely
affirmed, after we had parted, that there must be two sorts of
Americans, as these we had just left did not at all resemble those he
had conducted to the convent. May this little incident prove an entering
wedge to some new ideas in the Valais, on the subject of the "twelve
millions!"

The population of this canton, more particularly the women, were much
more good-looking on the mountain than in the valley. We saw no
_cretins_ after leaving Martigny; and soft lineaments, and clear
complexions, were quite common in the other sex.

You will probably wish to know something of the celebrated passage of
Napoleon, and of its difficulties. As far as the ascent was concerned,
the latter has been greatly exaggerated. Armies have frequently passed
the Great St. Bernard. Aulus Coecinna led his barbarians across in 69;
the Lombards crossed in 547; several armies in the time of Charlemagne,
or about the year 1000; and in the wars of Charles le Temeraire, as well
as at other periods, armies made use of this pass. Near the year 900, a
strong body of Turkish corsairs crossed from Italy, and seized the pass
of St. Maurice. Thus history is full of events to suggest the idea of
crossing.

Nor is this all. From the time the French entered Switzerland in 1796,
troops occupied, manoeuvred, and even _fought_ on this mountain. The
Austrians having succeeded in turning the summit, contended an entire
day with their enemies, who remained masters of the field, or rather
rock. Ebel estimates the number of the hostile troops who were on this
pass, between the years 1798 and 1801, 150,000, including the army of
Napoleon, which was 30,000 strong.

These facts of themselves, and I presume they cannot be contested, give
a totally different colouring, from that which is commonly entertained,
to the conception of the enterprise of the First Consul, so far as the
difficulties of the ascent were concerned. If the little community can
transport stores for 8,000 souls to the convent, there could be no great
difficulty in one, who had all France at his disposal, in throwing an
army across the pass. When we quitted Martigny, I began to study the
difficulties of the route, and though the road as far as Liddes has
probably been improved a little within thirty years, taking its worst
parts, I have often travelled, in my boyhood, during the early
settlement of our country, in a heavy, high, old-fashioned coach over
roads that were quite as bad, and, in some places, over roads that were
actually more dangerous, than any part of this, _as far as Liddes_. Even
a good deal of the road after quitting Liddes is not worse than that we
formerly travelled, but wheels are nearly useless for the last league or
two. As we rode along this path, C---- asked me in what manner I would
transport artillery up such an ascent. Without the least reflection I
answered, by making sledges of the larches, which is an expedient that I
think would suggest instantly itself to nineteen men in twenty. I have
since understood from the Duc de ----, who was an aide of Napoleon, on
the occasion of the passage, that it was precisely the expedient
adopted. Several thousand Swiss peasants were employed in drawing the
logs, thus loaded, up the precipices. I do not think it absolutely
impracticable to take up guns limbered, but the other plan would be much
the easiest, as well as the safest. In short, I make no doubt, so far as
mere toil and physical difficulties are concerned, that a hundred
marches have been made through the swamps and forests of America, in
every one of which, mile for mile, greater natural obstacles have been
overcome than those on this celebrated passage. The French, it will be
remembered, were unresisted, and had possession of the _col_, a garrison
having occupied the convent for more than a year.

The great merit of the First Consul was in the surprise, the military
manner in which the march was effected, and the brilliant success of his
subsequent movements. Had he been defeated, I fancy few would have
thought so much of the simple passage of the mountain, unless to
reproach him for placing the rocks between himself and a retreat. As he
_was not_ defeated, the _audace_ of the experiment, a great military
quality sometimes, enters, also, quite properly into the estimate of his
glory.

The guide pointed to a place where, according to his account of the
matter, the horse of the First Consul stumbled and pitched him over a
precipice, the attendants catching him by his great-coat, assisted by a
few bushes. This may be true, for the man affirmed he had heard it from
the guide who was near Napoleon at the time, and a mis-step of a horse
might very well produce such a fall. The precipice was both steep and
high, and had the First Consul gone down it, it is not probable he would
ever have gone up the St. Bernard.

At Liddes we re-entered the _char_ and trotted down to Martigny in good
time. Here we got another conveyance, and pushed down the valley,
through St. Maurice, across the bridge, and out of the gate of the
canton, again, reaching Bex a little after dark.

The next morning we were off early for Villeneuve, in order to reach the
boat. This was handsomely effected, and heaving-to abreast of Vevey, we
succeeded in eating our breakfast at "Mon Repos."

LETTER XXIII.

Democracy in America and in Switzerland.--European
Prejudices.--Influence of Property.--Nationality of the Swiss.--Want of
Local Attachments in Americans.--Swiss Republicanism.--Political Crusade
against America.--Affinities between America and Russia.--Feeling of the
European Powers towards Switzerland.

Dear ----,

It is a besetting error with those who write of America, whether as
travellers, political economists, or commentators on the moral features
of ordinary society, to refer nearly all that is peculiar in the country
to the nature of its institutions. It is scarcely exaggerated to say
that even its physical phenomena are ascribed to its democracy.
Reflecting on this subject, I have been struck by the fact that no such
flights of the imagination are ever indulged in by those who speak of
Switzerland. That which is termed the rudeness of liberty and equality,
with us, becomes softened down here into the frankness of mountaineers,
or the sturdy independence of republicans; what is vulgarity on the
other side of the Atlantic, is unsophistication on this, and truculence
in the States dwindles to be earnest remonstrances in the cantons!

There undeniably exist marked points of difference between the Swiss and
the Americans. The dominion of a really popular sway is admitted nowhere
here, except in a few unimportant mountain cantons, that are but little
known, and which, if known, would not exercise a very serious influence
on any but their own immediate inhabitants. With us, the case is
different. New York and Pennsylvania and Ohio, for instance, with a
united population of near five millions of souls, are as pure
democracies as can exist under a representative form of government, and
their trade, productions, and example so far connect them with the rest
of Christendom, as to render them objects of deep interest to all who
look beyond the present moment, in studying the history of man.

We have States, however, in which the franchise does not materially
differ from those of many of the cantons, and yet we do not find that
strangers make any material exceptions even in _their_ favour. Few think
of viewing the States in which there are property qualifications, in a
light different from those just named; nor is a disturbance in Virginia
deemed to be less the consequence of democratic effervescence, than it
is in Pennsylvania.

There must be reasons for all this. I make no doubt they are to be found
in the greater weight of the example of a large and growing community,
of active commercial and political habits, than in one like this, which
is satisfied with simply maintaining a quiet and secure existence; in
our total rejection of the usual aristocratical distinctions which still
exist, more or less, all over Switzerland; in the jealousy of commercial
and maritime power, and in the recollections which are inseparable from
the fact that the parties once stood to each other, in the relation of
principals and dependants. This latter feeling, an unavoidable
consequence of metropolitan sway, is more general than you may imagine,
for, as nearly all Europe once had colonies, the feelings of superiority
they uniformly excite, have as naturally led to jealousy of the rising
importance of our hemisphere. You may smile at the suggestion, but I do
not remember a single European in whom, under proper opportunities, I
have not been able to trace some lingering feeling of the old notion of
the moral and physical superiority of the man of Europe over the man of
America. I do not say that all I have met have betrayed this prejudice,
for in not one case in ten have I had the means to probe them; but such,
I think, has uniformly been the case, though in very different degrees,
whenever the opportunity has existed.

Though the mountain, or the purely rural population, here, possess more
independence and frankness of manner than those who inhabit the towns
and advanced valleys, neither has them in so great a degree, as to leave
plausible grounds for believing that the institutions are very
essentially connected with the traits. Institutions may _depress men
below_ what may be termed the natural level of feeling in this respect,
as in the case of slavery; but, in a civilized society, where property
has its influence, I much question if any political regulations can
raise them above it. After allowing for the independence of manner and
feeling that are coincident to easy circumstances, and which is the
result of obvious causes, I know no part of America in which this is not
also the fact. The employed is, and will be everywhere, to a certain
point, dependent on his employer, and the relations between the two
cannot fail to bring forth a degree of authority and submission, that
will vary according to the character of individuals and the
circumstances of the moment.

I infer from this that the general aspects of society, after men cease
to be serfs and slaves, can never be expected to vary essentially from
each other, merely on account of the political institutions, except,
perhaps, as those institutions themselves may happen to affect their
temporal condition. In other words, I believe that we are to look more
to property and to the absence or presence of facilities of living, for
effects of this nature, than to the breadth or narrowness of
constituencies.

The Swiss, as is natural from their greater antiquity, richer
recollections, and perhaps from their geographical position, are more
national than the Americans. With us, national pride and national
character exist chiefly in the classes that lie between the yeomen and
the very bottom of the social scale; whereas, here, I think the higher
one ascends, the stronger the feeling becomes. The Swiss moreover is
pressed upon by his wants, and is often obliged to tear himself from his
native soil, in order to find the means of subsistence; and yet very few
of them absolutely expatriate themselves.

The emigrants that are called Swiss in America, either come from
Germany, or are French Germans, from Alsace and Lorrain. I have never
met with a migration of a body of true Swiss, though some few cases
probably have existed. It would be curious to inquire how far the noble
nature of the country has an influence in producing their strong
national attachments. The Neapolitans love their climate, and would
rather be Lazzaroni beneath their sun, than gentlemen in Holland, or
England. This is simple enough, as it depends on physical indulgence.
The charm that binds the Swiss to his native mountains, must be of a
higher character, and is moral in its essence.

The American character suffers from the converse of the very feeling
which has an effect so beneficial on that of the Swiss. The migratory
habits of the country prevent the formation of the intensity of
interest, to which the long residence of a family in a particular spot
gives birth, and which comes, at last, to love a tree, or a hill, or a
rock, because they are the same tree, and hill, and rock, that have been
loved by our fathers before us. These are attachments that depend on
sentiment rather than on interest, and which are as much purer and
holier, as virtuous sentiment is purer and holier than worldly
interestedness. In this moral feature, therefore, we are inferior to all
old nations, and to the Swiss in particular, I think, as their local
attachments are both quickened and heightened by the exciting and grand
objects that surround them. The Italians have the same local affections,
in a still stronger degree; for with a nature equally, or even more
winning, they have still prouder and more-remote recollections.

I do not believe the Swiss, at heart, are a bit more attached to their
institutions than we are ourselves; for, while I complain of the _tone_
of so many of our people, I consider it, after all, as the tone of
people who, the means of comparison having been denied them, neither
know that which they denounce, nor that which they extol. Apart from the
weakness of wishing for personal distinctions, however, I never met with
a Swiss gentleman, who appeared to undervalue his institutions. They
frequently, perhaps generally, lament the want of greater power in the
confederation; but, as between a monarchy and a republic, so far as my
observation goes, they are uniformly Swiss. I do not believe there is
such a thing, in all the cantons, as a man, for instance, who pines for
the Prussian despotism! They will take service under kings, be their
soldiers, body-guards--real Dugald Dalgettys--but when the question
comes to Switzerland, one and all appear to think that the descendants
of the companions of Winkelried and Stauffer must be republicans. Now,
all this may be because there are few in the condition of gentlemen, in
the democratic cantons, and the gentlemen of the other parts of the
confederation prefer that things should be as they are (or rather, so
lately were, for the recent changes have hardly had time to make an
impression), to putting a prince in the place of the aristocrats. Self
is so prominent in everything of this nature, that I feel no great faith
in the generosity of men. Still I do believe that time and history, and
national pride, and Swiss _morgue_, have brought about a state of
feeling that would indispose them to bow down to a Swiss sovereign.

A policy is observed by the other states of Europe towards this
confederation, very different from that which is, or perhaps it would be
better to say, has been observed toward us. As respects ourselves, I
have already observed it was my opinion, there would have been a
political crusade got up against us, had not the recent changes taken
place in Europe, and had the secret efforts to divide the Union failed.
Their chief dependence, certainly, is on our national dissensions; but
as this would probably fail them, I think we should have seen some
pretence for an invasion. The motive would be the strong necessity which
existed for destroying the example of a republic, or rather of a
democracy, that was getting to be too powerful. Strange as you may think
it, I believe our chief protection in such a struggle would have been
Russia.

We hear and read a great deal about the "Russian bear," but it will be
our own fault if this bear does us any harm. Let the Edinburgh Review,
the advocate of mystified liberalism, prattle as much as it choose, on
this topic, it becomes us to look at the subject like Americans. There
are more practical and available affinities between America and Russia,
at this very moment, than there is between America and any other nation
in Europe. They have high common political objects to obtain, and Russia
has so little to apprehend from the example of America, that no jealousy
of the latter need interrupt their harmony. You see the counterpart of
this in the present condition of France and Russia. So far as their
general policy is concerned, they need not conflict, but rather ought to
unite, and yet the mutual jealousy on the subject of the institutions
keeps them alienated, and almost enemies. Napoleon, it is true, said
that these two nations, sooner or later, must fight for the possession
of the east, but it was the ambition of the man, rather than the
interests of his country, that dictated the sentiment. The France of
Napoleon, and the France of Louis-Philippe, are two very different
things.

Now, as I have told you, Switzerland is regarded by the powers who would
crush America, with other eyes. I do not believe that a congress of
Europe would convert this republic into a monarchy, if it could,
to-morrow. Nothing essential would be gained by such a measure, while a
great deal might be hazarded. A king must have family alliances, and
these alliances would impair the neutrality it is so desirable to
maintain. The cantons are equally good, as outworks, for France,
Austria, Bavaria, Wurtemburg, Lombardy, Sardinia, and the Tyrol. All
cannot have them, and all are satisfied to keep them as a defence
against their neighbours. No one hears, in the war of opinion, that is
going on here, the example of the Swiss quoted on the side of liberty!
For this purpose, they appear to be as totally out of view, as if they
had no existence.

LETTER XXIV.

The Swiss Mountain Passes.--Excursion in the neighbourhood of
Vevey.--Castle of Blonay.--View from the Terrace.--Memory and
Hope.--Great Antiquity of Blonay.--The Knight's Hall.--Prospect from the
Balcony.--Departure from Blonay.--A Modern Chateau.--Travelling on
Horseback.--News from America.--Dissolution of the Union predicted.--The
Prussian Polity.--Despotism in Prussia.

Dear ----,

You may have gathered from my last letters that I do not rank the path
of the Great St. Bernard among the finest of the Swiss mountain passes.
You will remember, however, that we saw but little of the Italian side,
where the noblest features and grandest scenes on these roads are
usually found. The Simplon would not be so very extraordinary, were it
confined to its Swiss horrors and Swiss magnificence, though, by the
little I have seen of them, I suspect that both the St. Gothard and the
Splugen do a little better on their northern faces. The pass by Nice is
peculiar, being less wild and rocky than any other, while it possesses
beauties entirely its own (and extraordinary beauties they are), in the
constant presence of the Mediterranean, with its vast blue expanse,
dotted with sails of every kind that the imagination can invent. It has
always appeared to me that poets have been the riggers of that sea.

C---- and myself were too _mountaineerish_ after this exploit to remain
contented in a valley, however lovely it might be, and the next day we
sallied forth on foot, to explore the hill-side behind Vevey. The road
led at first through narrow lanes, lined by vineyards; but emerging from
these, we soon came out into a new world, and one that I can compare to
no other I have ever met with. I should never tire of expatiating on the
beauties of this district, which really appear to be created expressly
to render the foreground of one of the sublimest pictures on earth
worthy of the rest of the piece.

It was always mountain, but a mountain so gradual of ascent, so vast,
and yet so much like a broad reach of variegated low land, in its
ornaments, cultivation, houses, villages, copses, meadows, and vines,
that it seemed to be a huge plain canted into a particular inclination,
in order to give the spectator a better opportunity to examine it in
detail, and at his leisure, as one would hold a picture to the proper
light. Some of the ascents, nevertheless, were sufficiently sharp, and
more than once we were glad enough to stop to cool ourselves, and to
take breath. At length, after crossing some lovely meadows, by the
margin of beautiful woods, we came out at the spot which was the goal we
had aimed at from the commencement of the excursion. This was the castle
of Blonay, of whose picturesque site and pleasant appearance I have
already spoken in my letters, as a venerable hold that stands about a
league from the town, on one of the most striking positions of the
mountain.

The family of Blonay has been in possession of this place for seven
hundred years. One branch of it is in Sardinia; but I suppose its head
is the occupant of the house, or castle. As the building was historical,
and the De Blonays of unquestionable standing, I was curious to examine
the edifice, since it might give me some further insight into the
condition of the old Swiss nobility. Accordingly we applied for
admission, and obtained it without difficulty.

The Swiss castles, with few exceptions, are built on the breasts, or
spurs, of mountains. The immediate foundation is usually a rock, and the
sites were generally selected on account of the difficulties of the
approach. This latter peculiarity, however, does not apply so rigidly to
Blonay as to most of the other holds of the country, for the rock which
forms its base serves for little else than a solid foundation. I presume
one of the requisites of such a site was the difficulty or
impossibility of undermining the walls, a mode of attack that existed
long before gunpowder was known.

The buildings of Blonay are neither extensive nor very elaborate. We
entered by a modest gateway in a retired corner, and found ourselves at
once in a long, narrow, irregular court. On the left was a _corps de
batiment_, that contained most of the sleeping apartments, and a few of
the others, with the offices; in front was a still older wing, in which
was the knight's hall, and one or two other considerable rooms; and on
the right was the keep, an old solid tower, that was originally the
nucleus and parent of all the others, as well as a wing that is now
degraded to the duties of a storehouse. These buildings form the circuit
of the court, and complete the edifice; for the side next the mountain,
or that by which we entered, had little besides the ends of the two
lateral buildings and the gate. The latter was merely a sort of
chivalrous back-door, for there was another between the old tower and
the building of the knight's hall, of more pretension, and which was
much larger. The great gate opens on a small elevated terrace, that is
beautifully shaded by fine trees, and which commands a view, second, I
feel persuaded, to but few on earth. I do not know that it is so
perfectly exquisite as that we got from the house of Cardinal Rufo, at
Naples, and yet it has many admirable features that were totally wanting
to the Neapolitan villa. I esteem these two views as much the best that
it has ever been my good fortune to gaze at from any dwelling, though
the beauties of both are, as a matter of course, more or less shared by
all the houses in their respective neighbourhoods. The great
carriage-road, as great carriage-roads go on such a mountain-side, comes
up to this gate, though it is possible to enter also by the other.

Blonay, originally, must have been a hold of no great importance, as
neither the magnitude, strength, nor position of the older parts, is
sufficient to render the place one to be seriously assailed or
obstinately defended. Without knowing the fact, I infer that its
present interest arises from its great antiquity, coupled with the
circumstance of its having been possessed by the same family for so long
a period. Admitting a new owner for each five-and-twenty years, the
present must be somewhere about the twenty-fifth De Blonay who has lived
on this spot!

A common housemaid showed us through the building, but, unfortunately,
to her it was a house whose interest depended altogether on the number
of floors there were to be scrubbed, and windows to be cleaned. This
labour-saving sentiment destroys a great deal of excellent poetry and
wholesome feeling, reducing all that is venerable and romantic to the
level of soap and house-cloths. I dare say one could find many more
comfortable residences than this, within a league of Vevey; perhaps "Mon
Repos" has the advantage of it, in this respect: but there must be a
constant, quiet, and enduring satisfaction, with one whose mind is
properly trained, in reflecting that he is moving, daily and hourly,
through halls that have been trodden by his fathers for near a thousand
years! Hope is a livelier, and, on the whole, a more useful, because a
more stimulating, feeling, than that connected with memory; but there is
a solemn and pleasing interest clinging about the latter, that no
buoyancy of the first can ever equal. Europe is fertile of
recollections; America is pregnant with hope. I have tried hard, aided
by the love which is quickened by distance, as well as by the
observations that are naturally the offspring of comparison, to draw
such pictures of the latter for the future, as may supplant the pictures
of the past that so constantly rise before the mind in this quarter of
the world; but, though reasonably ingenious in castle-building, I have
never been able to make it out. I believe laziness lies at the bottom of
the difficulty. In our moments of enjoyment we prefer being led, to
racking the brain for invention. The past is a fact; while, at the best,
the future is only conjecture. In this case the positive prevails over
the assumed, and the imagination finds both and easier duty, and all it
wants, in throwing around the stores of memory, the tints and
embellishments that are wanting to complete the charm. I know little of
the history of Blonay, beyond the fact of its great antiquity, nor is it
a chateau of remarkable interest as a specimen of the architecture and
usages of its time; and yet, I never visited a modern palace, with half
the intense pleasure with which I went through this modest abode. Fancy
had a text, in a few unquestionable facts, and it preached copiously on
their authority. At Caserta, or St. Cloud, we admire the staircases,
friezes, salons, and marbles, but I never could do anything with your
kings, who are so much mixed up with history, as to leave little to the
fancy; while here, one might imagine not only time, but all the various
domestic and retired usages that time brings forth.

The Ritter Saal, or Knight's Hall, of Blonay has positive interest
enough to excite the dullest mind. Neither the room nor its ornaments
are very peculiar of themselves, the former being square, simple, and a
good deal modernized, while the latter was such as properly belonged to
a country gentleman of limited means. But the situation and view form
its great features; for all that has just been said of the terrace, can
be better said of this room. Owing to the formation of the mountain, the
windows are very high above the ground, and at one of them is a balcony,
which, I am inclined to think, is positively without a competitor in
this beautiful world of ours. Cardinal Rufo has certainly no such
balcony. It is _le balcon des balcons_.

I should despair of giving you a just idea of the mingled magnificence
and softness of the scene that lies stretched before and beneath the
balcony of Blonay. You know the elements of the view already,--for they
are the same mysterious glen, or valley, the same blue lake, the same
_cotes_, the same solemn and frowning rocks, the same groupings of
towers, churches, hamlets, and castles, of which I have had such
frequent occasion to speak in these letters. But the position of Blonay
has about it that peculiar nicety, which raises every pleasure to
perfection. It is neither too high, nor too low; too retired, nor too
much advanced; too distant, nor too near. I know nothing of M. de Blonay
beyond the favourable opinion of the observant Jean, the boatman, but he
must be made of flint, if he can daily, hourly, gaze at the works of the
Deity as they are seen from this window, without their producing a
sensible and lasting effect on the character of his mind. I can imagine
a man so far _blase_, as to pass through the crowd of mites, who are his
fellows, without receiving or imparting much; but I cannot conceive of a
heart, whose owner can be the constant observer of such a scene, without
bending in reverence to the hand that made it. It would be just as
rational to suppose one might have the Communion of St. Jerome hanging
in his drawing-room, without ever thinking of Domenichino, as to believe
one can be the constant witness of these natural glories without
thinking of God.

I could have liked, above all things, to have been in this balcony
during one of the fine sunsets of this season of the year. I think the
creeping of the shadows up the acclivities, the growing darkness below,
and the lingering light above, with the exquisite arabesques of the
rocks of Savoy, must render the scene even more perfect than we found
it.

Blonay is surrounded by meadows of velvet, the verdure reaching its very
walls, and the rocks that occasionally do thrust their heads above the
grass, aid in relieving rather than in lessening their softness. There
are just enough of them to make a foreground that is not unworthy of the
rocky belt which encircles most of the picture, and to give a general
idea of the grand geological formation of the whole region.

We left Blonay with regret, and not without lingering some time on its
terrace, a spot in which retirement is better blended with a bird's eye
view of men and their haunts, than any other I know. One is neither in
nor out of this world at such a spot; near enough to enjoy its
beauties, and yet so remote as to escape its blemishes. In quilting the
castle, we met a young female of simple lady-like carriage and attire,
whom I saluted as the Lady of Blonay, and glad enough we were to learn
from an old dependant, whom we afterwards fell in with, that the
conjecture was true. One bows with reverence to the possessor of such an
abode.

From Blonay we crossed the meadows and orchards, until we hit a road
that led us towards the broad terrace that lies more immediately behind
Vevey. We passed several hamlets, which lie on narrow stripes of land
more level than common, a sort of _shelves_ on the broad breast of the
mountain, and which were rural and pretty. At length we came to the
object of our search, a tolerably spacious modern house, that is called
a _chateau_, and whose roofs and chimneys had often attracted our eyes
from the lake. The place was French in exterior, though the grounds were
more like those of Germany than those of France. The terrace is
irregular but broad, and walks wind prettily among woods and copses.
Altogether, the place is quite modern and much more extensive than is
usual in Switzerland. We did not presume to enter the house, but,
avoiding a party that belonged to the place, we inclined to the left,
and descended, through the vines, to the town.

The true mode to move about this region is on horseback. The female in
particular, who has a good seat, possesses a great advantage over most
of her sex, if she will only improve it; and all things considered, I
believe a family could travel through the cantons in no other manner so
pleasantly; always providing that the women can ride. By riding,
however, I do not mean sticking on a horse, by dint of rein and
clinging, but a seat in which the fair one feels secure and entirely at
her ease. Otherwise she may prove to be the _gazee_ instead of the
gazer.

On my return home, I went to a reading-room that I have frequented
during our residence here, where I found a good deal of feeling excited
by the news from America. The Swiss, I have told you, with very few
exceptions, wish us well, but I take it nothing would give greater
satisfaction to a large majority of the upper classes in most of the
other countries of Europe, than to hear that the American republic was
broken up: if buttons and broadcloths could be sent after us, it is not
too much to add, or sent to the nether world. This feeling does not
proceed so much from inherent dislike to us, as to our institutions. As
a people, I rather think we are regarded with great indifference by the
mass; but they who so strongly detest our institutions and deprecate our
example, cannot prevent a little personal hatred from mingling with
their political antipathies. Unlike the woman who was for beginning her
love "with a little aversion," they begin with a little philanthropy,
and end with a strong dislike for all that comes from the land they
hate. I have known this feeling carried so far as to refuse credit even
to the productions of the earth! I saw strong evidences of this truth,
among several of the temporary _habitues_ of the reading-room in
question, most of whom were French. A speedy dissolution of the American
Union was proclaimed in all the journals, on account of some fresh
intelligence from the other side of the Atlantic; and I dare say that,
at this moment, nine-tenths of the Europeans, who think at all on the
subject, firmly and honestly believe that our institutions are not worth
two years' purchase. This opinion is very natural, because falsehood is
so artfully blended with truth, in what is published, that it requires a
more intimate knowledge of the country to separate them, than a stranger
can possess. I spent an hour to-day in a fruitless attempt to
demonstrate to a very sensible Frenchman that nothing serious was to be
apprehended from the present dispute, but all my logic was thrown away,
and nothing but time will convince him of that which he is so strongly
predisposed not to believe. They rarely send proper diplomatic men
among us, in the first place; for a novel situation like that in America
requires a fertile and congenial mind,--and then your diplomatist is
usually so much disposed to tell every one that which he wishes to hear!
We mislead, too, ourselves, by the exaggerations of the opposition. Your
partizan writes himself into a fever, and talks like any other man whose
pulse is unnatural. This fact ought to be a matter of no surprise, since
it is one of the commonest foibles of man to dislike most the evils that
press on him most; although an escape from them to any other might even
entail destruction. It is the old story of King Log and King Stork. As
democracy is in the ascendant, they revile democracy, while we all feel
persuaded we should be destroyed, or muzzled, under any other form of
government. A few toad-eaters and court butterflies excepted, I do not
believe there is a man in all America who could dwell five years in any
country in Europe, without being made sensible of the vast superiority
of his own free institutions over those of every other Christian nation.

I have been amused of late, by tracing, in the publications at home, a
great and growing admiration for the Prussian polity! There is something
so absurd in an American's extolling such a system, that it is scarcely
possible to say where human vagaries are to end. The Prussian government
is a _despotism_; a mode of ruling that one would think the world
understood pretty well by this time. It is true that the government is
mildly administered, and hence all the mystifying that we hear and read
about it. Prussia is a kingdom compounded of heterogenous parts; the
north is Protestant, the south Catholic; the nation has been overrun in
our own times, and the empire dismembered. Ruled by a king of an amiable
and paternal disposition, and one who has been chastened by severe
misfortunes, circumstances have conspired to render his sway mild and
useful. No one disputes, that the government which is controlled by a
single will, when that will is pure, intelligent, and just, is the best
possible. It is the government of the universe, which is perfect
harmony. But men with pure intentions, and intelligent and just minds,
are rare, and more rare among rulers, perhaps, than any other class of
men. Even Frederic II, though intelligent enough, was a tyrant. He led
his subjects to slaughter for his own aggrandizement. His father,
Frederic William, used to compel tall men to marry tall women. The time
for the latter description of tyranny may be past, but oppression has
many outlets, and the next king may discover some of them. In such a
case his subjects would probably take refuge in a revolution and a
constitution, demanding guarantees against this admirable system, and
blow the new model-government to the winds!

Many of our people are like children who, having bawled till they get a
toy, begin to cry to have it taken away from them. Fortunately the heart
and strength of the nation, its rural population, is sound and
practical, else we might prove ourselves to be insane as well as
ridiculous.

LETTER XXV.

Controversy respecting America.--Conduct of American
Diplomatists.--_Attaches_ to American Legations.--Unworthy State of
Public Opinion in America.

Dear ----,

The recent arrivals from America have brought a document that has filled
me with surprise and chagrin. You may remember what I have already
written you on the subject of a controversy at Paris, concerning the
cost of government, and the manner in which the agents of the United
States, past and present, wrongfully or not, were made to figure in the
affair. There is a species of instinct in matters of this sort, which
soon enables a man of common sagacity, who enjoys the means of
observation, to detect the secret bias of those with whom he is brought
in contact. Now, I shall say, without reserve, that so far as I had any
connexion with that controversy, or had the ability to detect the
feelings and wishes of others, the agents of the American government
were just the last persons in France to whom I would have applied for
aid or information. The minister himself stood quoted by the Prime
Minister of France in the tribune, as having assured him (M. Perier)
that we were the wrong of the disputed question, and that the writers of
the French government had truth on their side. This allegation remains
before the world uncontradicted to the present hour. It was made six
months since, leaving ample time for a knowledge of the circumstance to
reach America, but no instructions have been sent to Mr. Rives to clear
the matter up; or, if sent, they have not been obeyed. With these
unquestionable facts before my eyes, you will figure to yourself my
astonishment at finding in the papers, a circular addressed by the
Department of State to the different governors of the Union, formally
soliciting official reports that may enable us to prove to the world,
that the position taken by our opponents is not true! This course is
unusual, and, as the Federal government has no control over, or
connexion with, the expenditures of the States, it may even be said to
be extra-constitutional. It is formally requesting that which the
Secretary of State had no official right to request. There was no harm
in the proceeding, but it would be undignified, puerile, and unusual,
for so grave a functionary to take it, without a commensurate object.
Lest this construction should be put on his course, the Secretary has
had the precaution to explain his own motives. He tells the different
governors, in substance, _that the extravagant pretension is set up flat
freedom is more costly than despotism, and that what he requests may be
done, will be done in the defence of liberal institutions_. Here then
we have the construction that has been put on this controversy by our
own government, _at home_, through one of its highest and ablest agents.
Still the course of its agents _abroad_ remains unchanged! _Here_ the
American functionaries are understood to maintain opinions, which a
distinguished functionary _at home_ has openly declared to be injurious
to free institutions.

It may be, _it must be_, that the state of things here is unknown at
Washington. Of this fact I have no means of judging positively; but when
I reflect on the character and intelligence of the cabinet, I can arrive
at no other inference. It has long been known to me that there exists,
not only at Washington, but all through the republic, great errors on
the subject of our foreign relations; on the influence and estimation of
the country abroad; and on what we are to expect from others, no less
than what they expect from us. But these are subjects which, in general,
give me little concern, while this matter of the finance controversy has
become one of strong personal interest.

The situation of the private individual, who, in a foreign nation,
stands, or is supposed to stand, contradicted in his facts, by the
authorized agents of their common country, is anything but pleasant. It
is doubly so in Europe, where men fancy those in high trusts are better
authority, than those who are not. It is true that this supposition
under institutions like ours, is absurd; but it is not an easy thing to
change the settled convictions of an entire people. In point of truth,
other things being equal, the American citizen who has been passing his
time in foreign countries, employed in diplomacy, would know much less
of the points mooted in his discussion, than the private citizen who had
been living at home, in the discharge of his ordinary duties; but this
is a fact not easily impressed on those who are accustomed to see not
only the power, but all the machinery of government in the hands of a
regular corps of _employes_. The name of Mr. Harris was introduced into
the discussion, as one thus employed and trusted by our government. It
is true he was falsely presented, for the diplomatic functions of this
gentleman were purely accidental, and of very short continuance; but
there would have been a littleness in conducting an argument that was so
strong in its facts, by stooping to set this matter right, and it was
suffered to go uncontradicted by me. He therefore possessed the
advantage, the whole time, of appearing as one who enjoyed the
confidence of his own government. We had this difficulty to overcome, as
well as that of disproving his arguments, if, indeed, the latter could
be deemed a difficulty at all.[41]

[Footnote 41: The American government, soon after the date of this
letter, appointed Mr. Harris to be _charge d'affaires_ at Paris.]

The private individual, like myself, who finds himself in collision with
the agents of two governments, powerful as those of France and America,
is pretty sure to get the worst of it. It is quite probable that such
has been my fortune in this affair (I believe it to be so in public
opinion, both in France and at home), but there is one power of which no
political combination can deprive an honest man, short of muzzling
him:--that of telling the truth. Of this power I have now availed
myself, and the time will come when they who have taken any note of the
matter may see reason to change their minds. Louis-Philippe sits on a
throne, and wields a fearful force; but, thanks to him of Harlem (or of
Cologne, I care not which), it is still within my reach to promulgate
the facts. His reign will, at least, cease with his life, while that of
truth will endure as long as means can be found to disseminate it. It is
probable the purposes of the French ministers are answered, and that
they care little now about the controversed points at all; but _their_
indifference to facts can have no influence with _me_.

Before dismissing this subject entirely, I will add another word on that
of the tone of some of our agents abroad. It is not necessary for me to
say, for the tenth time, that it is often what it ought not to be; the
fact has been openly asserted in the European journals, and there can,
therefore, be no mistake as to the manner in which their conduct and
opinions are viewed by others. Certainly every American has a right to
his opinions, and, unless under very peculiar circumstances, a right to
express them; but, as I have already said to you in these letters, one
who holds a diplomatic appointment is under these peculiar
circumstances. We are strangely, not to say disgracefully, situated,
truly, if an American _diplomate_ is to express his private opinions
abroad on political matters only when they happen to be adverse to the
system and action of his own government! I would promptly join in
condemning the American agent who should volunteer to unite against, or
freely to give his opinions, even in society, against the political
system of the country to which he is accredited. Discretion and delicacy
both tell him to use a proper reserve on a point that is of so much
importance to others, while it is no affair of his, and by meddling with
which he may possibly derange high interests that are entrusted to his
especial keeping and care. All this is very apparent, and quite beyond
discussion. Still circumstances may arise, provocations may be given,
which will amply justify such a man in presenting the most unqualified
statements in favour of the principles he is supposed to represent. Like
every other accountable being, when called to speak at all, he is bound
to speak the truth. But, admitting in the fullest extent the obligations
and duties of the diplomatic man towards the country to which he is
sent, is there nothing due to that from which he comes? Is he to be
justified in discrediting the principles, denying the facts, or
mystifying the results of his own system, in order to ingratiate himself
with those with whom he treats? Are rights thus to be purchased by
concessions so unworthy and base? I will not believe that we have yet
reached the degraded state that renders a policy so questionable, or a
course so mean, at all necessary. It really appears to me, that the
conduct of an American minister on all these points ought to be governed
by a very simple rule. He should in effect tell the other party,
"Gentlemen, I wish to maintain a rigid neutrality, as is due to you; but
I trust you will manifest towards me the same respect and delicacy, if
not on my own account, at least on account of the country I represent.
If you drag me into the affair in any way, I give you notice that you
may expect great frankness on my part, and nothing but the truth." Such
a man would not only get a _treaty_ of indemnity, but he would be very
apt to get the _money_ into the bargain.

The practice of naming _attaches_ to our legations leads to great abuses
of this nature. In the first place the Constitution is violated; for,
without a law of Congress to that effect (and I believe none exists),
not even the President has a right to name one, without the approval of
the Senate. In no case can a minister appoint one legally, for the
Constitution gives him under no circumstances any such authority; and
our system does not admit of the constructive authority that is used
under other governments, unless it can be directly referred to an
expressly delegated power. Now the power of appointment to office is
expressly delegated; but it is to another, or rather to another through
Congress, should Congress choose to interfere. This difficulty is got
over by saying an _attache_ is not an officer. If not an officer of the
government, he is nothing. He is, at all events, deemed to be an officer
of the government in foreign countries, and enjoys immunities as such.
Besides, it is a dangerous precedent to name to any situation under a
pretence like this, as the practice may become gradually enlarged. But I
care nothing as to the legality of the common appointments of this
nature, the question being as to the _tone_ of the nominees. You may be
assured that I shall send you no idle gossip; but there is more
importance connected with these things than you may be disposed at first
to imagine. Here, these young men are believed to represent the state of
feeling at home, and are listened to with more respect than they would
be as simple travellers. It would be far better not to appoint them at
all; but, if this is an indulgence that it would be ungracious to
withhold, they should at least be made to enter into engagements not _to
deride the institutions they are thought to represent_; for, to say
nothing of principle, such a course can only re-act, by discrediting the
national character.

In writing you these opinions, I wish not to do injustice to my own
sagacity. I have not the smallest expectation, were they laid to-morrow
before that portion of the American public which comprises the reading
classes, that either these facts or these sentiments would produce the
least effect on the indomitable selfishness, in which nine men in ten,
or even a much larger proportion, are intrenched. I am fully aware that
so much has the little national pride and national character created by
the war of 1812 degenerated, that more of this class will forgive the
treason to the institutions, on account of their hatred of the rights of
the mass, than will feel that the republic is degraded by the course and
practices of which I complain. I know no country that has retrograded in
opinion so much as our own, within the last five years. It appears to me
to go back, as others advance. Let me not, therefore, be understood as
expecting any _immediate_ results, were it in my power to bring these
matters promptly and prominently before the nation. I fully know I
should not be heard, were the attempt made; for nothing is more dull
than the ear of him who believes himself already in possession of all
the knowledge and virtue of his age, and peculiarly entitled, in right
of his possessions, to the exclusive control of human affairs. The most
that I should expect from them, were all the facts published to-morrow,
would be the secret assent of the wise and good, the expressed censure
of the vapid and ignorant (a pretty numerous clan, by the way), the
surprise of the mercenary and the demagogue, and the secret satisfaction
of the few who will come after me, and who may feel an interest in my
conduct or my name. I have openly predicted bad consequences, in a
political light, from the compliance of our agents here, and we shall
yet see how far this prediction may prove true.[42]

[Footnote 42: Has it not? Have we not been treated by France, in the
affair of the treaty, in a manner she would not have treated any
second-rate power of Europe.]

LETTER XXVI.

Approach of Winter.--The _Livret_.--Regulations respecting
Servants.--Servants in America.--Governments of the different Cantons of
Switzerland.--Engagement of Mercenaries.--Population of
Switzerland.--Physical Peculiarities of the Swiss.--Women of
Switzerland.--Mrs. Trollope and the American Ladies.--Affected manner of
Speaking in American Women.--Patois in America.--Peculiar manner of
Speaking at Vevey.--Swiss Cupidity.

Dear ----,

The season is giving warning for all intruders to begin to think of
quitting the cantons. We have not been driven to fires, as in 1828, for
Vevey is not Berne; but the evenings are beginning to be cool, and a
dash of rain, with a foaming lake, are taken to be symptoms, here, as
strong as a frost would be there. Speaking of Berne, a little occurrence
has just recalled the Burgerschaft, which, shorn of its glory as it is,
had some most praiseworthy regulations. During our residence near that
place, I hired a Bernois, as a footman, discharging the man, as a matter
of course, on our departure for Italy. Yesterday I got a doleful letter
from this poor fellow, informing me, among a series of other calamities,
that he had had the misfortune to lose his _livret_, and begging I would
send him such testimonials of character, as it might suit my sense of
justice to bestow. It will be necessary to explain a little, in order
that you may know what this _livret_ is.

The commune, or district, issues to the domestics, a small certified
blank book (_livret_), in which all the evidences of character are to be
entered. The guides have the same, and in many instances, I believe,
they are rendered necessary by law. The free-trade system, I very well
know, would play the deuce with these regulations; but capital
regulations they are, and I make no doubt, that the established fidelity
of the Swiss, as domestics, is in some measure owing to this excellent
arrangement. If men and women were born servants, it might a little
infringe on their natural rights, to be sure; but as even a von Erlach
or a de Bonestetten would have to respect the regulation, were they to
don a livery, I see no harm in a _livret_. Now, by means of this little
book, every moment of a domestic's time might be accounted for, he being
obliged to explain what he was about in the interregnums. All this, to
be sure, might be done by detached certificates, but neither so neatly
nor so accurately; for a man would pretend a need, that he had lost a
single certificate, oftener than he would pretend that he had lost those
he really had, or in other words, his book. Besides, the commune gives
some relief, I believe, when such a calamity can be proved, as proved it
probably might be. In addition, the authorities will not issue a
_livret_ to any but those who are believed to be trust-worthy. Of course
I sent the man a character, so far as I was concerned, for he had
conducted himself perfectly well during the short time he was in my
service.

A regulation like this could not exist in a very large town, without a
good deal of trouble, certainly; and yet what is there of more moment to
the comfort of a population, than severe police regulations on the
subject of servants? America is almost--perhaps the only civilized
country in which the free-trade system is fully carried out in this
particular, and carried out it is with a vengeance. We have the
let-alone policy, _in puris naturalibus_, and everything is truly let
alone, but the property of the master. I do not wish, however, to
ascribe effects to wrong causes. The dislike to being a servant in
America, has arisen from the prejudice created by our having slaves. The
negroes being of a degraded caste, by insensible means their idea is
associated with service; and the whites shrink from the condition. This
fact is sufficiently proved by the circumstance that he who will
respectfully and honestly do your bidding in the field--be a
farm-servant, in fact--will not be your domestic servant. There is no
particular dislike in our people to obey, and to be respectful and
attentive to their duties, as journeymen, farm-labourers, day-labourers,
seamen, soldiers, or anything else, domestic servants excepted, which is
just the duties they have been accustomed to see discharged by blacks
and slaves. This prejudice is fast weakening, whites taking service more
readily than formerly, and it is found that, with proper training, they
make capital domestics, and are very faithful. In time the prejudice
will disappear, and men will come to see it is more creditable to be
trusted about the person and house, than to be turned into the fields.

It is just as difficult to give a minute account of the governments of
the different cantons of Switzerland, as it is to give an account of the
different state governments of America. Each differs, in some respect,
from all the others; and there are so many of them in both cases, as to
make it a subject proper only for regular treatises. I shall therefore
confine the remarks I have to make on this subject to a few general

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