Part 4 out of 4
extent on the approach of an enemy. The market-place is spacious, but
overgrown with weeds. I observed that it still bears the name of the
_Place de la Liberte_, and a street which communicates with it is
designated _Rue de l'Egalite_.
The title of the market-place is more applicable to the present than to
the former state of France; that of the street cannot long exist in any
country, for the maxim tells us, "_that all men are by nature unequal_,"
and the attempt to render them equal has been often compared, in point
of absurdity, to the labours of _Procrustes_. _An equal right to
justice_ is all the _equality_ that can subsist in civilized society,
consistent with the _liberty_, _property_, and _personal security_, of
individuals, which would be perpetually violated by a system, to
preserve which, it would be requisite continually to take from the
acquisitions of the industrious, to give to the idle and the profligate.
It is possible that the experience of the last twenty years may not have
produced as full a conviction as might have been expected on the minds
of the French; but it cannot be supposed to have been altogether
unheeded by them.
I found at Gravelines a diligence, which I think the cheapest land
conveyance I ever met with. It runs from Dunkirk to Calais (about
twenty-five English miles) for three francs. It carries six passengers,
and performs the journey in about five or six hours. It is the _spirit
of opposition_ which has so advantageously for the public reduced the
price, which used to be double, and which will probably, in a little
time, rise one franc more.
The country between Gravelines and Calais is as uninteresting as can be
conceived. The ground is shewn where Edward III. of England had his camp
during the memorable siege of Calais. This town continued to be
possessed by England until the reign of Queen Mary, (being the last
place in France _proper_ which remained of the numerous territories once
possessed by England), and its loss is said to have greatly afflicted
her Majesty. The fortifications of Calais are kept in tolerably good
repair. I found that for three days previous to my arrival no vessel had
been able to sail, owing to the contrary winds and the violent agitation
of the sea. Two vessels had been wrecked by these storms, but nearly all
the crews were saved. In the evening I visited the theatre, and was
sorry to observe, that a sentiment introduced into the performance
expressive of satisfaction at the peace between France and England,
excited much disapprobation from the officers present. The _jealousy
which prevails against the English in France is very striking_, after
the cordiality with which they are received in Germany. It seems to be
the Englishman's _purse alone_ that commands a certain interested
assiduity, which they take care shall be _amply_ remunerated.
The port of Calais presented no appearance of activity, the transports
which filled it on my first arrival having long disappeared. After being
detained one day, I was glad to hear a bustle in the hotel at an early
hour next morning, and perceiving that the wind had become more
favourable for England, I hastened on board the packet, in which my
landlord had engaged me a place; the price I found was now reduced to
half a guinea. I had procured the day before a _sufferance_ for the
embarkation of myself and baggage. Our captain and crew were French, and
the vessel was not in the neatest order.
Two other packets sailed at the same time, but arrived in Dover before
us. All were full of passengers, owing to the weather having been long
unfavourable for sailing. We had on board forty-six passengers, amongst
whom were several _Frenchmen_, who again gave me occasion to remark the
loquacity of their nation; and they only agreed with La Fontaine in the
former part of the line, where he says, "_Il est bon de parler, et
meilleur de se taire_;" _'Tis good to speak, but better to be silent._
Our passage was extremely rough; but after twelve hours sailing, we
entered the port of Dover, and I felt great pleasure in finding myself
again in a country, which had only risen still higher in my estimation,
from the comparison I had been enabled to form between it and the other
countries I had visited.