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Seeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume VI by Various

Part 3 out of 3

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cognac, Lauener declared that he had never tasted anything like it.
Snow fell thickly at intervals, and the obscurity was very great;
occasionally this would lighten and permit the sun to shed a ghastly
dilute light upon us through the gleaming vapor. I put my boiling-water
apparatus in order, and fixt it in a corner behind a ledge; the shelter
was, however, insufficient, so I placed my hat above the vessel. The
boiling-point was 184.92 deg. Fahr., the ledge on which the instrument
stood being five feet below the highest point of the mountain.

The ascent from the Riffel Hotel occupied us about seven hours, nearly
two of which were spent upon the kaemm and crest. Neither of us felt in
the least degree fatigued; I, indeed, felt so fresh, that had another
Monte Rosa been planted on the first, I should have continued the
climb without hesitation, and with strong hopes of reaching the top.
I experienced no trace of mountain sickness, lassitude, shortness of
breath, heart-beat, or headache; nevertheless the summit of Monte Rosa
is 15,284 feet high, being less than 500 feet lower than Mont Blanc. It
is, I think, perfectly certain, that the rarefaction of the air at this
height is not sufficient of itself to produce the symptoms referred to;
physical exertion must be superadded.



The way for a time was excessively rough,[55] our route being overspread
with the fragments of peaks which had once reared themselves to our
left, but which frost and lightning had shaken to pieces, and poured
in granite avalanches down the mountain. We were sometimes among huge,
angular boulders, and sometimes amid lighter shingle, which gave way at
every step, thus forcing us to shift our footing incessantly. Escaping
from these we crossed the succession of secondary glaciers which lie
at the feet of the Aiguilles, and, having secured firewood, found
ourselves, after some hours of hard work, at the Pierre l'Echelle. Here
we were furnished with leggings of coarse woolen cloth to keep out the
snow; they were tied under the knees and quite tightly again over the
insteps, so that the legs were effectually protected. We had some
refreshment, possest ourselves of the ladder, and entered upon the

The ice was excessively fissured; we crossed crevasses and crept
round slippery ridges, cutting steps in the ice wherever climbing
was necessary. This rendered our progress very slow. Once, with the
intention of lending a helping hand, I stept forward upon a block of
granite which happened to be poised like a rocking stone upon the ice,
tho' I did not know it; it treacherously turned under me; I fell, but my
hands were in instant requisition, and I escaped with a bruise, from
which, however, the blood oozed angrily. We found the ladder necessary
in crossing some of the chasms, the iron spikes at its end being firmly
driven into the ice at one side, while the other end rested on the
opposite side of the fissure. The middle portion of the glacier was
not difficult. Mounds of ice rose beside us right and left, which were
sometimes split into high towers and gaunt-looking pyramids, while the
space between was unbroken.

Twenty minutes' walking brought us again to a fissured portion of the
glacier, and here our porter left the ladder on the ice behind him. For
some time I was not aware of this, but we were soon fronted by a chasm
to pass which we were in consequence compelled to make a long and
dangerous circuit amid crests of crumbling ice. This accomplished, we
hoped that no repetition of the process would occur, but we speedily
came to a second fissure, where it was necessary to step from a
projecting end of ice to a mass of soft snow which overhung the opposite
side. Simond could reach this snow with his long-handled ax; he beat
it down to give it rigidity, but it was exceedingly tender, and as he
worked at it he continued to express his fears that it would not bear
us. I was the lightest of the party, and therefore tested the passage
first; being partially lifted by Simond on the end of his ax, I crossed
the fissure, obtained some anchorage at the other side, and helped the
others over. We afterward ascended until another chasm, deeper and wider
than any we had hitherto encountered, arrested us. We walked alongside
of it in search of a snow-bridge, which we at length found, but the
keystone of the arch had, unfortunately, given way, leaving projecting
eaves of snow at both sides, between which we could look into the gulf,
till the gloom of its deeper portions cut the vision short.

Both sides of the crevasse were sounded, but no sure footing was
obtained; the snow was beaten and carefully trodden down as near to the
edge as possible, but it finally broke away from the foot and fell into
the chasm. One of our porters was short-legged and a bad iceman; the
other was a daring fellow, and he now threw the knapsack from his
shoulders, came to the edge of the crevasse, looked into it, but drew
back again. After a pause he repeated the act, testing the snow with
his feet and staff. I looked at the man as he stood beside the chasm
manifestly undecided as to whether he should take the step upon which
his life would hang, and thought it advisable to put a stop to such
perilous play. I accordingly interposed, the man withdrew from the
crevasse, and he and Simond descended to fetch the ladder.

While they were away Huxley sat down upon the ice, with an expression of
fatigue stamped upon his countenance; the spirit and the muscles were
evidently at war, and the resolute will mixed itself strangely with the
sense of peril and feeling of exhaustion. He had been only two days
with us, and, tho' his strength is great, he had had no opportunity of
hardening himself by previous exercise upon the ice for the task which
he had undertaken. The ladder now arrived, and we crossed the crevasse.
I was intentionally the last of the party, Huxley being immediately in
front of me. The determination of the man disguised his real condition
from everybody but himself, but I saw that the exhausting journey over
the boulders and debris had been too much for his London limbs.

Converting my waterproof haversack into a cushion, I made him sit down
upon it at intervals, and by thus breaking the steep ascent into short
stages we reached the cabin of the Grands Mulets together. Here I spread
a rug on the boards, and, placing my bag for a pillow, he lay down, and
after an hour's profound sleep he rose refreshed and well; but still he
thought it wise not to attempt the ascent farther. Our porters left us;
a baton was stretched across the room over the stove, and our wet socks
and leggings were thrown across it to dry; our boots were placed around
the fire, and we set about preparing our evening meal. A pan was placed
upon the fire, and filled with snow, which in due time melted and
boiled; I ground some chocolate and placed it in the pan, and afterward
ladled the beverage into the vessels we possest, which consisted of two
earthen dishes and the metal cases of our brandy flasks. After supper
Simond went out to inspect the glacier, and was observed by Huxley, as
twilight fell, in a state of deep contemplation beside a crevasse.

Gradually the stars appeared, but as yet no moon. Before lying down we
went out to look at the firmament, and noticed, what I supposed has been
observed to some extent by everybody, that the stars near the horizon
twinkled busily, while those near the zenith shone with a steady light.
One large star, in particular, excited our admiration; it flashed
intensely, and changed color incessantly, sometimes blushing like a
ruby, and again gleaming like an emerald. A determinate color would
sometimes remain constant for a sensible time, but usually the flashes
followed each other in very quick succession.

Three planks were now placed across the room near the stove, and upon
these, with their rugs folded round them, Huxley and Hirst stretched
themselves, while I nestled on the boards at the most distant end of the
room. We rose at eleven o'clock, renewed the fire and warmed ourselves,
after which we lay down again. I, at length, observed a patch of pale
light upon the wooden wall of the cabin, which had entered through a
hole in the end of the edifice, and rising found that it was past one
o'clock. The cloudless moon was shining over the wastes of snow, and the
scene outside was at once wild, grand, and beautiful.

Breakfast was soon prepared, tho' not without difficulty; we had no
candles, they had been forgotten; but I fortunately possest a box of
wax matches, of which Huxley took charge, patiently igniting them in
succession, and thus giving us a tolerably continuous light. We had
some tea, which had been made at the Montanvert,[56] and carried to the
Grands Mulets in a bottle. My memory of that tea is not pleasant; it had
been left a whole night in contact with its leaves, and smacked strongly
of tannin. The snow-water, moreover, with which we diluted it was not
pure, but left a black residuum at the bottom of the dishes in which the
beverage was served. The few provisions deemed necessary being placed in
Simond's knapsack, at twenty minutes past two o'clock we scrambled down
the rocks, leaving Huxley behind us.

The snow was hardened by the night's frost, and we were cheered by the
hope of being able to accomplish the ascent with comparatively little
labor. We were environed by an atmosphere of perfect purity; the larger
stars hung like gems above us, and the moon, about half full, shone with
wondrous radiance in the dark firmament. One star in particular, which
lay eastward from the moon, suddenly made its appearance above one of
the Aiguilles, and burned there with unspeakable splendor. We turned
once toward the Mulets, and saw Huxley's form projected against the sky
as he stood upon a pinnacle of rock; he gave us a last wave of the hand
and descended, while we receded from him into the solitudes.

The evening previous our guide had examined the glacier for some
distance, his progress having been arrested by a crevasse. Beside this
we soon halted: it was spanned at one place by a bridge of snow, which
was of too light a structure to permit of Simond's testing it alone;
we therefore paused while our guide uncoiled a rope and tied us all
together. The moment was to me a peculiarly solemn one. Our little party
seemed so lonely and so small amid the silence and the vastness of the
surrounding scene. We were about to try our strength under unknown
conditions, and as the various possibilities of the enterprise crowded
on the imagination, a sense of responsibility for a moment opprest
me. But as I looked aloft and saw the glory of the heavens, my heart
lightened, and I remarked cheerily to Hirst that Nature seemed to smile
upon our work. "Yes," he replied, in a calm and earnest voice, "and, God
willing, we shall accomplish it."

A pale light now overspread the eastern sky, which increased, as we
ascended, to a daffodil tinge; this afterward heightened to orange,
deepening at one extremity into red, and fading at the other into a
pure, ethereal hue to which it would be difficult to assign a special
name. Higher up the sky was violet, and this changed by insensible
degrees into the darkling blue of the zenith, which had to thank the
light of moon and stars alone for its existence. We wound steadily for a
time through valleys of ice, climbed white and slippery slopes, crossed
a number of crevasses, and after some time found ourselves beside a
chasm of great depth and width, which extended right and left as far
as we could see. We turned to the left, and marched along its edge in
search of a "pont"; but matters became gradually worse; other crevasses
joined on to the first one, and the further we proceeded the more riven
and dislocated the ice became.

At length we reached a place where further advance was impossible.
Simond, in his difficulty complained of the want of light, and wished us
to wait for the advancing day; I, on the contrary, thought that we had
light enough and ought to make use of it. Here the thought occurred to
me that Simond, having been only once before to the top of the mountain,
might not be quite clear about the route; the glacier, however, changes
within certain limits from year to year, so that a general knowledge was
all that could be expected, and we trusted to our own muscles to make
good any mistake in the way of guidance.

We now turned and retraced our steps along the edges of chasms where the
ice was disintegrated and insecure, and succeeded at length in finding a
bridge which bore us across the crevasse. This error caused us the loss
of an hour, and after walking for this time we could cast a stone from
the point we had attained to the place whence we had been compelled to

Our way now lay along the face of a steep incline of snow, which was cut
by the fissure we had just passed, in a direction parallel to our route.
On the heights to our right, loose ice-crags seemed to totter, and we
passed two tracks over which the frozen blocks had rushed some short
time previously. We were glad to get out of the range of these terrible
projectiles, and still more so to escape the vicinity of that ugly
crevasse. To be killed in the open air would be a luxury, compared with
having the life squeezed out of one in the horrible gloom of these
chasms. The blush of the coming day became more and more intense; still
the sun himself did not appear, being hidden from us by the peaks of
the Aiguille du Midi, which were drawn clear and sharp against the
brightening sky. Right under this Aiguille were heaps of snow smoothly
rounded and constituting a portion of the sources whence the Glacier du
Geant is fed; these, as the day advanced, bloomed with a rosy light. We
reached the Petit Plateau, which we found covered with the remains of
ice avalanches; above us upon the crest of the mountain rose three
mighty bastions, divided from each other by deep, vertical rents, with
clean smooth walls, across which the lines of annual bedding were drawn
like courses of masonry. From these, which incessantly renew themselves,
and from the loose and broken ice-crags near them, the boulders amid
which we now threaded our way had been discharged. When they fall their
descent must be sublime.

The snow had been gradually getting deeper, and the ascent more
wearisome, but superadded to this at the Petit Plateau was the
uncertainty of the footing between the blocks of ice. In many places
the space was merely covered by a thin crust, which, when trod upon,
instantly yielded and we sank with a shock sometimes to the hips. Our
way next lay up a steep incline to the Grand Plateau, the depth and
tenderness of the snow augmenting as we ascended. We had not yet seen
the sun, but as we attained the brow which forms the entrance to the
Grand Plateau, he hung his disk upon a spike of rock to our left, and,
surrounded by a glory of interference spectra of the most gorgeous
colors, blazed down upon us. On the Grand Plateau we halted and had our
frugal refreshment.

At some distance to our left was the crevasse into which Dr. Hamel's
three guides were precipitated by an avalanche in 1820; they are still
entombed in the ice, and some future explorer may, perhaps, see them
disgorged lower down, fresh and undecayed. They can hardly reach the
surface until they pass the snow-line of the glacier, for above this
line the quantity of snow that annually falls being in excess of the
quantity melted, the tendency would be to make the ice-covering above
them thicker. But it is also possible that the waste of the ice
underneath may have brought the bodies to the bed of the glacier, where
their very bones may have been ground to mud by an agency which the
hardest rocks can not withstand.

As the sun poured his light upon the Plateau the little snow-facets
sparkled brilliantly, sometimes with a pure white light, and at others
with prismatic colors. Contrasted with the white spaces above and
around us were the dark mountains on the opposite side of the valley of
Chamouni, around which fantastic masses of cloud were beginning to build
themselves. Mont Buet, with its cone of snow, looked small, and the
Brevent altogether mean; the limestone bastions of the Fys, however,
still presented a front of gloom and grandeur. We traversed the Grand
Plateau, and at length reached the base of an extremely steep incline
which stretched upward toward the Corridor. Here, as if produced by a
fault, consequent upon the sinking of the ice in front, rose a vertical
precipice, from the coping of which vast stalactites of ice depended.

Previous to reaching this place I had noticed a haggard expression upon
the countenance of our guide, which was now intensified by the prospect
of the ascent before him. Hitherto he had always been in front, which
was certainly the most fatiguing position. I felt that I must now take
the lead, so I spoke cheerily to the man and placed him behind me.
Marking a number of points upon the slope as resting places, I went
swiftly from one to the other. The surface of the snow had been
partially melted by the sun and then refrozen, thus forming a
superficial crust, which bore the weight up to a certain point, and then
suddenly gave way, permitting the leg to sink to above the knee. The
shock consequent on this, and the subsequent effort necessary to
extricate the leg, were extremely fatiguing. My motion was complained of
as too quick, and my tracks as imperfect; I moderated the former, and to
render my footholes broad and sure, I stamped upon the frozen crust,
and twisted my legs in the soft mass underneath,--a terribly exhausting
process. I thus led the way to the base of the Rochers Bouges, up to
which the fault already referred to had prolonged itself as a crevasse,
which was roofed at one place by a most dangerous-looking snow-bridge.

Simond came to the front; I drew his attention to the state of the snow,
and proposed climbing the Rochers Rouges; but, with a promptness unusual
with him, he replied that this was impossible; the bridge was our only
means of passing, and we must try it. We grasped our ropes, and dug our
feet firmly into the snow to check the man's descent if the "pont" gave
way, but to our astonishment it bore him, and bore us safely after
him. The slope which we had now to ascend had the snow swept from its
surface, and was therefore firm ice. It was most dangerously steep, and,
its termination being the fretted coping of the precipice to which I
have referred, if we slid downward we should shoot over this and be
dashed to pieces upon the ice below.[57] Simond, who had come to the
front to cross the crevasse, was now engaged in cutting steps, which he
made deep and large, so that they might serve us on our return. But the
listless strokes of his ax proclaimed his exhaustion; so I took the
implement out of his hands, and changed places with him. Step after step
was hewn, but the top of the Corridor appeared ever to recede from us.

Hirst was behind, unoccupied, and could thus turn his thoughts to the
peril of our position; he "felt" the angle on which we hung, and saw the
edge of the precipice, to which less than a quarter of a minute's slide
would carry us, and for the first time during the journey he grew giddy.
A cigar which he lighted for the purpose tranquilized him.

I hewed sixty steps upon this slope, and each step had cost a minute, by
Hirst's watch. The Mur de la Cote was still before us, and on this the
guide-books informed us two or three hundred steps were sometimes found
necessary. If sixty steps cost an hour, what would be the cost of two
hundred? The question was disheartening in the extreme, for the time at
which we had calculated on reaching the summit was already passed, while
the chief difficulties remained unconquered. Having hewn our way along
the harder ice we reached snow. I again resorted to stamping to secure a
footing, and while thus engaged became, for the first time, aware of the
drain of force to which I was subjecting myself. The thought of being
absolutely exhausted had never occurred to me, and from first to last I
had taken no care to husband my strength. I always calculated that the
"will" would serve me even should the muscles fail, but I now found that
mechanical laws rule man in the long run; that no effort of will, no
power of spirit, can draw beyond a certain limit upon muscular force.
The soul, it is true, can stir the body to action, but its function is
to excite and apply force, and not to create it.

While stamping forward through the frozen crust I was compelled to pause
at short intervals; then would set out again apparently fresh, to
find, however, in a few minutes, that my strength was gone, and that
I required to rest once more. In this way I gained the summit of the
Corridor, when Hirst came to the front, and I felt some relief in
stepping slowly after him, making use of the holes into which his feet
had sunk. He thus led the way to the base of the Mur de la Cote, the
thought of which had so long cast a gloom upon us; here we left our rope
behind us, and while pausing I asked Simond whether he did not feel
a desire to go to the summit. "Surely," was his reply, "but!--" Our
guide's mind was so constituted that the "but" seemed essential to its
peace. I stretched my hands toward him, and said: "Simond, we must do
it." One thing alone I felt could defeat us: the usual time of the
ascent had been more than doubled, the day was already far spent, and if
the ascent would throw our subsequent descent into night it could not be

We now faced the Mur, which was by no means so bad as we had expected.
Driving the iron claws of our boots into the scars made by the ax, and
the spikes of our batons into the slope above our feet, we ascended
steadily until the summit was attained, and the top of the mountain rose
clearly above us. We congratulated ourselves upon this; but Simond,
probably fearing that our joy might become too full, remarked: "But the
summit is still far off!" It was, alas! too true. The snow became soft
again, and our weary limbs sank in it as before. Our guide went on in
front, audibly muttering his doubts as to our ability to reach the top,
and at length he threw himself upon the snow, and exclaimed, "I give

Hirst now undertook the task of rekindling the guide's enthusiasm, after
which Simond rose, exclaiming: "Oh, but this makes my knees ache!" and
went forward. Two rocks break through the snow between the summit of the
Mur and the top of the mountain; the first is called the Petits Mulets,
and the highest the Derniers Rochers. At the former of these we paused
to rest, and finished our scanty store of wine and provisions. We had
not a bit of bread nor a drop of wine left; our brandy flasks were also
nearly exhausted, and thus we had to contemplate the journey to the
summit, and the subsequent descent to the Grands Mulets, with out the
slightest prospect of physical refreshment. The almost total loss of two
nights' sleep, with two days' toil superadded, made me long for a few
minutes' doze, so I stretched myself upon a composite couch of snow and
granite, and immediately fell asleep.

My friend, however, soon aroused me. "You quite frighten me," he said;
"I have listened for some minutes, and have not heard you breathe once."
I had, in reality, been taking deep draughts of the mountain air, but so
silently as not to be heard.

I now filled our empty wine-bottle with snow and placed it in the
sunshine, that we might have a little water on our return. We then
rose; it was half-past two o'clock; we had been upward of twelve hours
climbing, and I calculated that, whether we reached the summit or not,
we could at all events work "toward" it for another hour. To the sense
of fatigue previously experienced, a new phenomenon was now added--the
beating of the heart. We were incessantly pulled up by this, which
sometimes became so intense as to suggest danger. I counted the number
of paces which we were able to accomplish without resting, and found
that at the end of every twenty, sometimes at the end of fifteen, we
were compelled to pause. At each pause my heart throbbed audibly, as I
leaned upon my staff, and the subsidence of this action was always
the signal for further advance. My breathing was quick, but light and

I endeavored to ascertain whether the hip-joint, on account of the
diminished atmospheric pressure, became loosened, so as to throw the
weight of the leg upon the surrounding ligaments, but could not be
certain about it. I also sought a little aid and encouragement from
philosophy, endeavoring to remember what great things had been done by
the accumulation of small quantities, and I urged upon myself that the
present was a case in point, and that the summation of distances twenty
paces each must finally place us at the top. Still the question of time
left the matter long in doubt, and until we had passed the Derniers
Rochers we worked on with the stern indifference of men who were doing
their duty, and did not look to consequences. Here, however, a gleam
of hope began to brighten our souls: the summit became visible nearer,
Simond showed more alacrity; at length success became certain, and at
half-past three P.M. my friend and I clasped hands upon the top.

The summit of the mountain is an elongated ridge, which has been
compared to the back of an ass. It was perfectly manifest that we were
dominant over all other mountains; as far as the eye could range Mont
Blanc had no competitor. The summits which had looked down upon us in
the morning were now far beneath us. The Dome du Goute, which had held
its threatening "seracs" above us so long, was now at our feet. The
Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc du Tacul, and the Monts Maudits, the
Talefre, with its surrounding peaks, the Grand Jorasse, Mont Mallet, and
the Aiguille du Geant, with our own familiar glaciers, were all below
us. And as our eye ranged over the broad shoulders of the mountain, over
ice hills and valleys, plateaux and far-stretching slopes of snow, the
conception of its magnitude grew upon us, and imprest us more and more.

The clouds were very grand--grander, indeed, than anything I had ever
before seen. Some of them seemed to hold thunder in their breasts, they
were so dense and dark; others, with their faces turned sunward, shone
with the dazzling whiteness of the mountain snow; while others again
built themselves into forms resembling gigantic elm trees, loaded with
foliage. Toward the horizon the luxury of color added itself to the
magnificent alternation of light and shade. Clear spaces of amber and
ethereal green embraced the red and purple cumuli, and seemed to form
the cradle in which they swung. Closer at hand squally mists, suddenly
engendered, were driven hither and thither by local winds; while the
clouds at a distance lay "like angels sleeping on the wing," with
scarcely visibly motion. Mingling with the clouds, and sometimes rising
above them, were the highest mountain heads, and as our eyes wandered
from peak to peak, onward to the remote horizon, space itself seemed
more vast from the manner in which the objects which it held were

The day was waning, and, urged by the warnings of our ever-prudent
guide, we at length began the descent. Gravity was in our favor, but
gravity could not entirely spare our wearied limbs, and where we sank
in the snow we found our downward progress very trying. I suffered from
thirst, but after we had divided the liquefied snow at the Petits Mulets
among us we had nothing to drink. I crammed the clean snow into my
mouth, but the process of melting was slow and tantalizing to a parched
throat, while the chill was painful to the teeth.



I was once more standing upon the Wengern Alp, and gazing longingly at
the Jungfrau-Joch. Surely the Wengern Alp must be precisely the loveliest
place in this world. To hurry past it, and listen to the roar of the
avalanches, is a very unsatisfactory mode of enjoyment; it reminds one
too much of letting off crackers in a cathedral. The mountains seem to
be accomplices of the people who charge fifty centimes for an echo. But
it does one's moral nature good to linger there at sunset or in the
early morning, when tourists have ceased from traveling; and the jaded
cockney may enjoy a kind of spiritual bath in the soothing calmness of

We, that is a little party of six Englishmen with six Oberland guides,
who left the inn at 3 A.M. on July 20, 1862, were not, perhaps, in a
specially poetical mood. Yet as the sun rose while we were climbing the
huge buttress of the Moench, the dullest of us--I refer, of course,
to myself--felt something of the spirit of the scenery. The day was
cloudless, and a vast inverted cone of dazzling rays suddenly struck
upward into the sky through the gap between the Moench and the Eiger,
which, as some effect of perspective shifted its apparent position,
looked like a glory streaming from the very summit of the Eiger. It was
a good omen, if not in any more remote sense, yet as promising a fine
day. After a short climb we descended upon the Gugg, glacier, most
lamentably unpoetical of names, and mounted by it to the great plateau
which lies below the cliffs immediately under the col. We reached this
at about seven, and, after a short meal, carefully examined the route
above us. Half way between us and the col lay a small and apparently
level plateau of snow. Once upon it we felt confident that we could get
to the top....

We plunged at once into the maze of crevasses, finding our passage much
facilitated by the previous efforts of our guides. We were constantly
walking over ground strewed with crumbling blocks of ice, the recent
fall of which was proved by their sharp white fractures, and with a
thing like an infirm toad stool twenty feet high, towering above our
heads. Once we passed under a natural arch of ice, built in evident
disregard of all principles of architectural stability. Hurrying
judiciously at such critical points, and creeping slowly round those
where the footing was difficult, we manage to thread the labyrinth
safely, whilst Rubi appeared to think it rather pleasant than otherwise
in such places to have his head fixt in a kind of pillory between two
rungs of a ladder, with twelve feet of it sticking out behind and twelve
feet before him.

We reached the gigantic crevasse at 7.35. We passed along it to a point
where its two lips nearly joined, and the side furthest from us was
considerably higher than that upon which we stood. Fixing the foot of
the ladder upon this ledge, we swung the top over, and found that it
rested satisfactorily against the opposite bank. Almer crept up it,
and made the top firmer by driving his ax into the snow underneath the
highest step. The rest of us followed, carefully roped, and with the
caution to rest our knees on the sides of the ladder, as several of the
steps were extremely weak--a remark which was equally applicable to one,
at least, of the sides. We crept up the rickety old machine, however,
looking down between our legs into the blue depths of the crevasse, and
at 8.15 the whole party found itself satisfactorily perched on the edge
of the nearly level snow plateau, looking up at the long slopes of
broken neve that led to the col....

When the man behind was also engaged in hauling himself up by the rope
attached to your waist, when the two portions of the rope formed an
acute angle, when your footing was confined to the insecure grip of one
toe on a slippery bit of ice, and when a great hummock of hard serac was
pressing against the pit of your stomach and reducing you to a
position of neutral equilibrium, the result was a feeling of qualified
acquiescence in Michel or Almer's lively suggestion of "Vorwaerts!

Somehow or other we did ascend. The excitement made the time seem short;
and after what seemed to me to be half an hour, which was in fact nearly
two hours, we had crept, crawled, climbed and wormed our way through
various obstacles, till we found ourselves brought up by a huge
overhanging wall of blue ice. This wall was no doubt the upper side of
a crevasse, the lower part of which had been filled by snow-drift. Its
face was honeycombed by the usual hemispherical chippings, which somehow
always reminds me of the fretted walls of the Alhambra; and it was
actually hollowed out so that its upper edge overhung our heads at a
height of some twenty or thirty feet; the long fringe of icicles which
adorned it had made a slippery pathway of ice at two or three feet
distance from the foot of the wall by the freezing water which dripped
from them; and along this we crept, in hopes that none of the icicles
would come down bodily.

The wall seemed to thin out and become much lower toward our left, and
we moved cautiously toward its lowest point. The edge upon which we
walked was itself very narrow, and ran down at a steep angle to the
top of a lower icefall which repeated the form of the upper. It almost
thinned out at the point where the upper wall was lowest. Upon this
inclined ledge, however, we fixt the foot of our ladder. The difficulty
of doing so conveniently was increased by a transverse crevasse which
here intersected the other system. The foot, however, was fixt and
rendered tolerably safe by driving in firmly several of our alpenstocks
and axes under the lowest step. Almer, then, amidst great excitement,
went forward to mount it. Should we still find an impassable system of
crevasses above us, or were we close to the top? A gentle breeze which
had been playing along the last ledge gave me hope that we were really
not far off. As Almer reached the top about twelve o'clock, a loud
yodel gave notice to all the party that our prospects were good. I soon
followed, and saw, to my great delight, a stretch of smooth, white snow,
without a single crevasse, rising in a gentle curve from our feet to the
top of the col.

The people who had been watching us from the Wengern Alp had been
firing salutes all day, whenever the idea struck them, and whenever we
surmounted a difficulty, such as the first great crevasse. We heard the
faint sound of two or three guns as we reached the final plateau. We
should, properly speaking, have been uproariously triumphant over our
victory. To say the truth, our party of that summer was only too apt to
break out into undignified explosions of animal spirits, bordering at
times upon horseplay....

The top of the Jungfrau-Joch comes rather like a bathos in poetry. It
rises so gently above the steep ice wall, and it is so difficult to
determine the precise culminating point, that our enthusiasm oozed out
gradually instead of producing a sudden explosion; and that instead of
giving three cheers, singing "God Save the Queen," or observing any of
the traditional ceremonial of a simpler generation of travelers, we
calmly walked forward as tho' we had been crossing Westminster Bridge,
and on catching sight of a small patch of rocks near the foot of
the Moench, rushed precipitately down to it and partook of our third
breakfast. Which things, like most others, might easily be made into an

The great dramatic moments of life are very apt to fall singularly flat.
We manage to discount all their interest beforehand; and are amazed to
find that the day to which we have looked forward so long--the day,
it may be, of our marriage, or ordination, or election to be Lord
Mayor--finds us curiously unconscious of any sudden transformation and
as strongly inclined to prosaic eating and drinking as usual. At a later
period we may become conscious of its true significance, and perhaps the
satisfactory conquest of this new pass has given us more pleasure in
later years than it did at the moment.

However that may be, we got under way again after a meal and a chat, our
friends Messrs. George and Moore descending the Aletsch glacier to the
Aeggischhorn, whose summit was already in sight, and deceptively near in
appearance. The remainder of the party soon turned off to the left, and
ascended the snow slopes to the gap between the Moench and Trugberg. As
we passed these huge masses, rising in solitary grandeur from the center
of one of the noblest snowy wastes of the Alps, Morgan reluctantly
confest for the first time that he knew nothing exactly like it in





The Pass of the Great St. Bernard was a well-known one long before the
hospice was built. Before the Christian era, the Romans used it as a
highway across the Alps, constantly improving the road as travel over
it increased. Many lives were lost, however, as no material safeguards
could obviate the danger from the elements, and no one will ever know
the number of souls who met their end in the blinding snows and chilling
blasts of those Alpine heights.

To Bernard de Menthon is due the credit of the mountain hospice. He was
the originator of the idea and the founder of the institution. He has
since been canonized as a saint and he well deserved the honor, if it be
a virtue to sacrifice oneself, as we believe, and to try and save the
lives of one's fellows! It is no easy existence which St. Bernard chose
for himself and followers. The very aspect of the pass is grand but
gloomy. None of the softness of nature is seen. There is no verdure, no
beauty of coloring, nothing but bleak, bare rock, great piles of stones,
and occasional patches of fallen snow. It is thoroughly exposed, the
winds always moaning mournfully around the buildings....

The trip begins at Martigny. First there is a level stretch, then a
long, steady climb, after which begins the real road to the pass. The
views are very lovely, and while quite different in some ways excel
all passes except the famous Simplon. The scenery is very varied,
the mountains are far enough off to give a good perspective, and the
villages are most picturesque. The absence of snow peaks in any great
number will be felt by some, but even a lover of such soon forgets the
lack in the exceeding beauty and loveliness of the valleys.

Toward the top of the pass there is quite a transformation. Both the
road and the scenery change, the first becoming more and more steep
and stony, the latter showing more and more of savage grandeur, as the
green, smiling valleys are no longer seen, but in their place appear
barren and rugged rocks and slopes, with the marks of the ravages
wrought by storm, landslide and avalanche. The wind has fuller play
and seems to moan in a mournful, dirge-like manner, accentuating the
characteristics of bleakness and desolation which obtain at the top of
the pass, all the more noticeable if the traveler arrives at dusk, just
as the sun has disappeared behind the mountains.

In this dreary place stands the hospice. The present buildings are not
very old, the hospice only dating from the sixteenth century and the
church from the seventeenth century, while the other structures, which
have been built for the accommodation of strangers are comparatively
new. Twelve monks of the Augustinian Order are regularly in residence
here. They come when about twenty years of age; but so severe is the
climate, so hard the life and so stern the rule that, after a service of
about fifteen years, they generally have to seek a lower altitude, often
ruined in health, with their powers completely sapped by the rigors and
privations which they have endured. Altho the hospice and the adjoining
hostelry for the travelers are cheerless in the extreme, there is always
a warm welcome from the monks. No one, however poor, is refused bed
and board for the night, and there is no "distinction of persons."
The hospitality is extended to all, free of charge, this being the
invariable rule of the institution, but it is expected, and rightly so,
that those who can do so will deposit a liberal offering in the box
provided for the purpose. The small receipts, however, show what a great
abuse there is of this hospitality, for a large number of those who come
in the summer could well afford to give and to give largely.

We hear much of the courage and perseverance of Hannibal and Caesar in
leading their armies over the Alps! We see pictures of Napoleon and his
soldiers as they toiled up the pass, dragging along their frozen guns,
and perhaps falling into a fatal sleep about their dying camp fires at
night! And we rightly admire such bravery, and thrill with admiration at
the tale. Yet those armies which crossed the Alps failed to equal the
heroic self-sacrifice of those soldiers of the cross, the Monks of the
Grand St. Bernard, who remain for years at their post, unknown and
unsung by the wide, wide world, simply to save and shelter the humble
travelers who come to grief in their winter journey across the pass, in
search of work.



Beside this dazzling, magnificent snow, covering the chain of lofty
peaks like an immaculate altar cloth, what a gloomy, dull look there
is in the snow of the plains! One might think it was made of sugar or
confectionery, that it was false like all the rest.

To know what snow really is--to get quit of this feeling of artificial
snow that we have when we see the stunted shrubs in our Parisian gardens
wrapt, as it were, in silk paper like bits of Christmas trees--it must
be seen here in these far-off, high valleys of the Engandine, that lie
for eight months dead under their shroud of snow, and often, even in the
height of summer, have to shiver anew under some wintry flakes.

It is here that snow is truly beautiful! It shines in the sun with a
dazzling whiteness; it sparkles with a thousand fires like diamond dust;
it shows gleams like the plumage of a white dove, and it is as firm
under the foot as a marble pavement. It is so fine-grained, so compact,
that it clings like dust to every crevice and bend, to every projecting
edge and point, and follows every outline of the mountain, the form of
which it leaves as clearly defined as if it were a covering of thin
gauze. It sports in the most charming decorations, carves alabaster
facings and cornices on the cliffs, wreathes them in delicate lace,
covers them with vast canopies of white satin spangled with stars and
fringed with silver.

And yet this dry, hard snow is extremely susceptible to the slightest
shock, and may be set in motion by a very trifling disturbance of the
air. The flight of a bird, the cracking of a whip, the tinkling of
bells, even the conversation of persons going along sometimes suffices
to shake and loosen it from the vertical face of the cliffs to which it
is clinging; and it runs down like grains of sand, growing as it falls,
by drawing down with it other beds of snow. It is like a torrent, a
snowy waterfall, bursting out suddenly from the side of the mountain;
it rushes down with a terrible noise, swollen with the snows that it
carries down in its furious course; it breaks against the rocks, divides
and joins again like an overflowing stream, and with a wild tempest
blast resumes its desolating course, filling the echoes with the
deafening thunder of battle.

You think for a moment that a storm has begun, but looking at the sky
you see it serenely blue, smiling, cloudless. The rush becomes more and
more violent; it comes nearer, the ground trembles, the trees bend and
break with a sharp crack; enormous stones and blocks of ice are carried
away like gravel; and the mighty avalanche, with a crash like a train
running off the rails over a precipice, drops to the foot of the
mountain, destroying, crushing down everything before it, and covering
the ground with a bed of snow from thirty to fifty feet deep.

When a stream of water wears a passage for itself under this compact
mass, it is sometimes hollowed out into an arched way, and the snow
becomes so solid that carriages and horses can go through without
danger, even in the middle of summer. But often the water does not find
a course by which to flow away; and then, when the snow begins to melt,
the water seeps into the fissures, loosens the mass that chokes up the
valley, and carries it down, rending its banks as it goes, carrying away
bridges, mills, and trees, and overthrowing houses. The avalanche has
become an inundation.

The mountaineers make a distinction between summer and winter
avalanches. The former are solid avalanches, formed of old snow that
has almost acquired the consistency of ice. The warm breath of spring
softens it, loosens it from the rocks on which it hangs, and it slides
down into the valleys. These are called "melting avalanches." They
regularly follow certain tracks, and these are embanked, like the course
of a river, with wood or bundles of branches. It is in order to protect
the alpine roads from these avalanches that those long open galleries
have been built on the face of the precipice.

The most dreaded and most terrible avalanches, those of dry, powdery
snow, occur only in winter, when sudden squalls and hurricanes of
snow throw the whole atmosphere into chaos. They come down in sudden
whirlwinds, with the violence of a waterspout, and in a few minutes
whole villages are buried....

Here, in the Grisons, the whole village of Selva was buried under an
avalanche. Nothing remained visible but the top of the church steeple,
looking like a pole planted in the snow. Baron Munchausen might have
tied his horse there without inventing any lie about it. The Val
Verzasca was covered for several months by an avalanche of nearly 1,000
feet in length and 50 in depth. All communication through the valley
was stopt; it was impossible to organize help; and the alarm-bell was
incessantly sounding over the immense white desolation like a knell for
the dead.

In the narrow defile in which we now are, there are many remains of
avalanches that neither the water of the torrent nor the heat of the sun
has had power to melt. The bed of the river is strewn with displaced and
broken rocks, and great stones bound together by the snow as if with
cement; the surges dash against these rocky obstacles, foaming angrily,
with the blind fury of a wild beast. And the moan of the powerless water
flows on into the depth of the valley, and is lost far off in a hollow



Schmidt swept with his cap the snow which covered the stones on which
we were to seat ourselves for breakfast, then unpacked the provisions;
slices of veal and ham, hard-boiled eggs, wine of the Valtelline. His
knapsack, covered with a napkin, served for our table. While we sat, we
devoured the landscape, the twelve glaciers spreading around us their
carpet of swansdown and ermine, sinking into crevasses of a magical
transparency, and raising their blocks, shaped into needles, or into
Gothic steeples with pierced arches. The architecture of the glacier is
marvelous. Its decorations are the decorations of fairyland. Quite near
us marks of animals in the snow attracted our attention. Schmidt said to

"Chamois have been here this morning; the traces are quite fresh. They
must have seen us and made off; the chamois are as distrustful, you see,
as the marmots, and as wary. At this season they keep on the glaciers by
preference. They live on so little! A few herbs, a few mosses, such as
grow on isolated rocks like this. I assure you it is very amusing to see
a herd of twenty or thirty chamois cross at a headlong pace a vast field
of snow, or glacier, where they bound over the crevasses in play.

"One would say they were reindeers in a Lapland scene. It is only at
night that they come down into the valleys. In the moonlight they come
out of the moraines, and go to pasture on the grassy slopes or in the
forest adjoining the glaciers. During the day they go up again into the
snow, for which they have an extraordinary love, and in which they skip
and play, amusing themselves like a band of scholars in play hours.
They tease one another, butt with their horns in fun, run off,
return, pretend new attacks and new flights with charming agility and

"While the young ones give themselves up to their sports, an old female,
posted as sentinel at some yards distance, watches the valley and scents
the air. At the slightest indication of danger, she utters a sharp cry;
the games cease instantly, and the whole anxious troop assembles round
the guardian, then the whole herd sets off at a gallop and disappears in
the twinkling of an eye....

"Hunting on the neves and the glaciers is very dangerous. When the snow
is fresh it is with difficulty one can advance. The hunters use wooden
snowshoes, like those of the Esquimaux.

"One of my comrades, in hunting on the Roseg, disappeared in the bottom
of a crevasse. It was over thirty feet deep. Imagine two perfectly
smooth sides; two walls of crystal. To reascend was impossible. It was
certain death, either from cold or hunger; for it was known that when he
went chamois-hunting he was often absent for several days. He could not
therefore count on help being sent; he must resign himself to death.

"One thing, however, astonished him; it was to find so little water in
the bottom of the crevasse. Could there be then an opening at the bottom
of the funnel into which he had fallen? He stooped, examined this grave
in which he had been buried alive, discovered that the heat of the sun
had caused the base of the glacier to melt. A canal drainage had been
formed. Laying himself flat, he slid into this dark passage, and after
a thousand efforts he arrived at the end of the glacier in the moraine,
safe and sound."

We had finished breakfast. We wanted something warm, a little coffee.
Schmidt set up our spirit-lamp behind two great stones that protected it
from the wind. And while we waited for the water to boil, he related to
us the story of Colani, the legendary hunter of the upper Engandine.

"Colani, in forty years, killed two thousand seven hundred chamois. This
strange man had carved out for himself a little kingdom in the mountain.
He claimed to reign there alone, to be absolute master. When a stranger
penetrated into his residence, within the domain of 'his reserved
hunting-ground,' as he called the regions of the Bernina, he treated him
as a poacher, and chased him with a gun....

"Colani was feared and dreaded as a diabolical and supernatural
being; and indeed he took no pains to undeceive the public, for the
superstitious terrors inspired by his person served to keep away all the
chamois-hunters from his chamois, which he cared for and managed as a
great lord cares for the deer in his forests. Round the little house
which he had built for himself on the Col de Bernina, and where he
passed the summer and autumn, two hundred chamois, almost tame, might be
seen wandering about and browsing. Every year he killed about fifty old



It has been remarked as curious that the Age of Revolution at Geneva
was also the Golden Age--if not of Genevan literature, which has never
really had any Golden Age, at least of Genevan science, which was of
world-wide renown.

The period is one in which notable names meet us at every turn. There
were exiled Genevans, like de Lolme, holding their own in foreign
political and intellectual circles; there were emigrant Genevan pastors
holding aloft the lamps of culture and piety in many cities of England,
France, Russia, Germany, and Denmark; there were Genevans, like Francois
Lefort, holding the highest offices in the service of foreign rulers;
and there were numbers of Genevans at Geneva of whom the cultivated
grand tourist wrote in the tone of a disciple writing of his master. One
can not glance at the history of the period without lighting upon names
of note in almost all departments of endeavor. The period is that of
de Saussure, Bourrit, the de Lucs, the two Hubers, great authorities
respectively on bees and birds; Le Sage, who was one of Gibbon's rivals
for the heart of Mademoiselle Suzanne Curchod; Senebier, the librarian
who wrote the first literary history of Geneva; St. Ours and Arlaud,
the painters; Charles Bonnet, the entomologist; Berenger and Picot,
the historians; Tronchin, the physician; Trembley and Jallabert, the
mathematicians; Dentan, minister and Alpine explorer; Pictet, the editor
of the "Bibliotheque Universelle," still the leading Swiss literary
review; and Odier, who taught Geneva the virtue of vaccination.

It is obviously impossible to dwell at length upon the careers of all
these eminent men. As well might one attempt, in a survey on the same
scale of English literature, to discuss in detail the careers of all the
celebrities of the age of Anne. One can do little more than remark that
the list is marvelously strong for a town of some 30,000 inhabitants,
and that many of the names included in it are not only eminent, but
interesting. Jean Andre de Luc, for example, has a double claim upon our
attention as the inventor of the hygrometer and as the pioneer of the
snow-peaks. He climbed the Buet as early as 1770, and wrote an account
of his adventures on its summit and its slopes which has the true charm
of Arcadian simplicity. He came to England, was appointed reader to
Queen Charlotte, and lived in the enjoyment of that office, and in the
gratifying knowledge that Her Majesty kept his presentation hygrometer
in her private apartments, to the venerable age of ninety.

Bourrit is another interesting character--being, in fact, the spiritual
ancestor of the modern Alpine Clubman. By profession he was Precentor
of the Cathedral; but his heart was in the mountains. In the summer he
climbed them, and in the winter he wrote books about them. One of
his books was translated into English; and the list of subscribers,
published with the translation, shows that the public which Bourrit
addrest included Edmund Burke, Sir Joseph Banks, Bartolozzi, Fanny
Burney, Angelica Kauffman, David Garrick, Sir Joshua Reynolds, George
Augustus Selwyn, Jonas Hanway and Dr. Johnson. His writings earned him
the honorable title of Historian (or Historiographer) of the Alps. Men
of science wrote him letters; princes engaged upon the grand tour called
to see him; princesses sent him presents as tokens of their admiration
and regard for the man who had taught them how the contemplation of
mountain scenery might exalt the sentiments of the human mind.

Tronchin, too, is interesting; he was the first physician who recognized
the therapeutic use of fresh air and exercise, hygienic boots, and
open windows. So is Charle Bonnet, who was not afraid to stand up
for orthodoxy against Voltaire; so is Mallet, who traveled as far as
Lapland; and so is that man of whom his contemporaries always spoke,
with the reverence of hero-worshipers, as "the illustrious de

The name of which the Genevans are proudest is probably that of
Rousseau, who has sometimes been spoken of as "the austere citizen of
Geneva." But "austere" is a strange epithet to apply to the philosopher
who endowed the Foundling Hospital with five illegitimate children; and
Geneva can not claim a great share in a citizen who ran away from the
town of his boyhood to avoid being thrashed for stealing apples. It
was, indeed, at Geneva that Jean Jacques received from his aunt the
disciplinary chastisement of which he gives such an exciting account in
his "Confessions"; and he once returned to the city and received the
Holy Communion there in later life. But that is all. Jean Jacques was
not educated at Geneva, but in Savoy--at Annecy, at Turin, and at
Chambery; his books were not printed at Geneva, tho' one of them was
publicly burned there, but in Paris and Amsterdam; it is not to Genevan
but to French literature that he belongs.

We must visit Voltaire at Ferney, and Madame de Stael at Coppet. Let the
patriarch come first. Voltaire was sixty years of age when he settled
on the shores of the lake, where he was to remain for another
four-and-twenty years; and he did not go there for his pleasure. He
would have preferred to live in Paris, but was afraid of being locked
up in the Bastille. As the great majority of the men of letters of
the reign of Louis XV. were, at one time or another, locked up in the
Bastille, his fears were probably well founded.

Moreover, notes of warning had reached his ears. "I dare not ask you to
dine," a relative said to him, "because you are in bad odor at Court."
So he betook himself to Geneva, as so many Frenchmen, illustrious
and otherwise, had done before, and acquired various properties--at
Prangins, at Lausanne, at Saint-Jean (near Geneva), at Ferney, at
Tournay, and elsewhere.

He was welcomed cordially. Dr. Tronchin, the eminent physician,
cooperated in the legal fictions necessary to enable him to become a
landowner in the republic. Cramer, the publisher, made a proposal for
the issue of a complete and authorized edition of his works. All the
best people called. "It is very pleasant," he was able to write, "to
live in a country where rulers borrow your carriage to come to dinner
with you."

Voltaire corresponded regularly with at least four reigning sovereigns,
to say nothing of men of letters, Cardinals, and Marshals of France;
and he kept open house for travelers of mark from every country in the
world. Those of the travelers who wrote books never failed to devote a
chapter to an account of a visit to Ferney; and from the mass of such
descriptions we may select for quotation that written, in the stately
style of the period, by Dr. John Moore, author of "Zeluco," then making
the grand tour as tutor to the Duke of Hamilton.

"The most piercing eyes I ever beheld," the doctor writes, "are those of
Voltaire, now in his eightieth year. His whole countenance is expressive
of genius, observation, and extreme sensibility. In the morning he has a
look of anxiety and discontent; but this gradually wears off, and after
dinner he seems cheerful; yet an air of irony never entirely forsakes
his face, but may always be observed lurking in his features whether he
frowns or smiles. Composition is his principal amusement. No author who
writes for daily bread, no young poet ardent for distinction, is more
assiduous with his pen, or more anxious for fresh fame, than the wealthy
and applauded Seigneur of Ferney. He lives in a very hospitable manner,
and takes care always to have a good cook. He generally has two or three
visitors from Paris, who stay with him a month or six weeks at a time.
When they go, their places are soon supplied, so that there is a
constant rotation of society at Ferney. These, with Voltaire's own
family and his visitors from Geneva, compose a company of twelve or
fourteen people, who dine daily at his table, whether he appears or not.
All who bring recommendations from his friends may depend upon being
received, if he be not really indisposed. He often presents himself to
the strangers who assemble every afternoon in his ante-chamber, altho
they bring no particular recommendation."

It might have been added that when an interesting stranger who carried
no introduction was passing through the town, Voltaire sometimes sent
for him; but this experiment was not always a success, and failed most
ludicrously in the case of Claude Gay, the Philadelphian Quaker, author
of some theological works now forgotten, but then of note. The meeting
was only arranged with difficulty on the philosopher's undertaking to
put a bridle on his tongue, and say nothing flippant about holy things.
He tried to keep his promise, but the temptation was too strong for him.
After a while he entangled his guest in a controversy concerning the
proceedings of the patriarchs and the evidences of Christianity, and
lost his temper on finding that his sarcasms failed to make their usual
impression. The member of the Society of Friends, however, was not
disconcerted. He rose from his place at the dinner-table, and replied:
"Friend Voltaire! perhaps thou mayst come to understand these matters
rightly; in the meantime, finding I can do thee no good, I leave thee,
and so fare thee well."

And so saying, he walked out and walked back to Geneva, while Voltaire
retired in dudgeon to his room, and the company sat expecting something
terrible to happen.

A word, in conclusion, about Coppet!

Necker[63] bought the property from his old banking partner, Thelusson,
for 500,000 livres in French money, and retired to live there when the
French Revolution drove him out of politics. His daughter, Madame de
Stael, inherited it from him, and made it famous.

Not that she loved Switzerland; it would be more true to say that she
detested Switzerland. Swiss scenery meant nothing to her. When she was
taken for an excursion to the glaciers, she asked what the crime was
that she had to expiate by such a punishment; and she could look out on
the blue waters of Lake Leman, and sigh for "the gutter of the Rue du
Bac." Even to this day, the Swiss have hardly forgiven her for that, or
for speaking of the Canton of Vaud as the country in which she had been
"so intensely bored for such a number of years."

What she wanted was to live in Paris, to be a leader--or, rather, to be
"the" leader--of Parisian society, to sit in a salon, the admired of
all admirers, and to pull the wires of politics to the advantage of
her friends. For a while she succeeded in doing this. It was she who
persuaded Barras to give Talleyrand his political start in life. But
whereas Barras was willing to act on her advice, Napoleon was by no
means equally amenable to her influence. Almost from the first he
regarded her as a mischief-maker; and when a spy brought him an
intercepted letter in which Madame de Stael exprest her hope that none
of the old aristocracy of France would condescend to accept appointments
in the household of "the bourgeois of Corsica," he became her personal
enemy, and, refusing her permission to live either in the capital or
near it, practically compelled her to take refuge in her country seat.
Her pleasance in that way became her gilded cage.

Perhaps she was not quite so unhappy there as she sometimes represented.
If she could not go to Paris, many distinguished and brilliant Parisians
came to Coppet, and met there many brilliant and distinguished Germans,
Genevans, Italians, and Danes. The Parisian salon, reconstituted,
flourished on Swiss soil. There visited there, at one time or another,
Madame Recamier and Madame Kruedner; Benjamin Constant, who was so
long Madame de Stael's lover; Bonstetten, the Voltairean philosopher;
Frederika Brun, the Danish artist; Sismondi, the historian; Werner, the
German poet; Karl Ritter, the German geographer; Baron de Voght; Monti,
the Italian poet: Madame Vigee Le Brun; Cuvier; and Oelenschlaeger. From
almost every one of them we have some pen-and-ink sketch of the life
there. This, for instance, is the scene as it appeared to Madame Le
Brun, who came to paint the hostess's portrait:

"I paint her in antique costume. She is not beautiful, but the animation
of her visage takes the place of beauty. To aid the expression I wished
to give her, I entreated her to recite tragic verses while I painted.
She declaimed passages from Corneille and Racine. I find many persons
established at Coppet: the beautiful Madame Recamier, the Comte de
Sabran, a young English woman, Benjamin Constant, etc. Its society is
continually renewed. They come to visit the illustrious exile who is
pursued by the rancor of the Emperor. Her two sons are now with her,
under the instruction of the German scholar Schlegel; her daughter is
very beautiful, and has a passionate love of study; she leaves her
company free all the morning, but they unite in the evening. It is only
after dinner that they can converse with her. She then walks in her
salon, holding in her hand a little green branch; and her words have an
ardor quite peculiar to her; it is impossible to interrupt her. At these
times she produces on one the effect of an improvisation."

And here is a still more graphic description, taken from a letter
written to Madame Recamier by Baron de Voght:

"It is to you that I owe my most amiable reception at Coppet. It is no
doubt to the favorable expectations aroused by your friendship that I
owe my intimate acquaintance with this remarkable woman. I might have
met her without your assistance--some casual acquaintance would no doubt
have introduced me--but I should never have penetrated to the intimacy
of this sublime and beautiful soul, and should never have known how much
better she is than her reputation. She is an angel sent from heaven to
reveal the divine goodness upon earth. To make her irresistible, a pure
ray of celestial light embellishes her spirit and makes her amiable from
every point of view.

"At once profound and light, whether she is discovering a mysterious
secret of the soul or grasping the lightest shadow of a sentiment,
her genius shines without dazzling, and when the orb of light has
disappeared, it leaves a pleasant twilight to follow it.... No doubt
a few faults, a few weaknesses, occasionally veil this celestial
apparition; even the initiated must sometimes be troubled by these
eclipses, which the Genevan astronomers in vain endeavor to predict.

"My travels so far have been limited to journeys to Lausanne and
Coppet, where I often stay three or four days. The life there suits me
perfectly; the company is even more to my taste. I like Constant's
wit, Schlegel's learning, Sabran's amiability, Sismondi's talent and
character, the simple truthful disposition and just intellectual
perceptions of Auguste,[64] the wit and sweetness of Albertine[65]--I
was forgetting Bonstetten, an excellent fellow, full of knowledge of
all sorts, ready in wit, adaptable in character--in every way inspiring
one's respect and confidence.

"Your sublime friend looks and gives life to everything. She imparts
intelligence to those around her. In every corner of the house some
one is engaged in composing a great work.... Corinne is writing her
delightful letters about Germany, which will, no doubt, prove to be the
best thing she has ever done.

"The 'Shunamitish Widow,' an Oriental melodrama which she has just
finished, will be played in October; it is charming. Coppet will be
flooded with tears. Constant and Auguste are both composing tragedies;
Sabran is writing a comic opera, and Sismondi a history; Schlegel is
translating something; Bonstetten is busy with philosophy, and I am busy
with my letter to Juliette."

Then, a month later:

"Since my last letter, Madame de Stael has read us several chapters of
her work. Everywhere it bears the marks of her talent. I wish I could
persuade her to cut out everything in it connected with politics, and
all the metaphors which interfere with its clarity, simplicity, and
accuracy. What she needs to demonstrate is not her republicanism, but
her wisdom. Mlle. Jenner played in one of Werner's tragedies which was
given, last Friday, before an audience of twenty. She, Werner, and
Schlegel played perfectly....

"The arrival in Switzerland of M. Cuvier has been a happy distraction
for Madame de Stael; they spent two days together at Geneva, and
were well pleased with each other. On her return to Coppet she found
Middleton there, and in receiving his confidences forgot her troubles.
Yesterday she resumed her work.

"The poet whose mystical and somber genius has caused us such profound
emotions starts, in a few days' time, for Italy.

"I accompanied Corinne to Massot's. To alleviate the tedium of the
sitting, a Mlle. Romilly played pleasantly on the harp, and the studio
was a veritable temple of the Muses....

"Bonstetten gave us two readings of a Memoir on the Northern Alps. It
began very well, but afterward it bored us. Madame de Stael resumed her
reading, and there was no longer any question of being bored. It is
marvelous how much she must have read and thought over to be able to
find the opportunity of saying so many good things. One may differ from
her, but one can not help delighting in her talent....

"And now here we are at Geneva, trying to reproduce Coppet at the Hotel
des Balances. I am delightfully situated with a wide view over the
Valley of Savoy, between the Alps and the Jura.

"Yesterday evening the illusion of Coppet was complete. I had been with
Madame de Stael to call on Madame Rilliet, who is so charming at her own
fireside. On my return I played chess with Sismondi. Madame de Stael,
Mlle. Randall, and Mlle. Jenner sat on the sofa chatting with Bonstetten
and young Barante. We were as we had always been--as we were in the days
that I shall never cease regretting."

Other descriptions exist in great abundance, but these suffice to
serve our purpose. They show us the Coppet salon as it was pleasant,
brilliant, unconventional; something like Holland House, but more
Bohemian; something like Harley Street, but more select; something like
Gad's Hill--which it resembled in the fact that the members of the
house-parties were expected to spend their mornings at their desks--but
on a higher social plane; a center at once of high thinking and
frivolous behavior; of hard work and desperate love-making, which
sometimes paved the way to trouble.


[Footnote 1: From "Hungary." Published by the Macmillan Co.]

[Footnote 2: From "Hungary." Published by the Macmillan Co.]

[Footnote 3: From "Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of
Venice." Published by the Macmillan Co.]

[Footnote 4: The modern Marseilles.]

[Footnote 5: An ancient Italian town on the Adriatic, founded by
Syracusans about 300 B.C. and still an important seaport.]

[Footnote 6: The city in Provence where have survived a beautiful Roman
arch and a stupendous Roman theater in which classical plays are still
given each year by actors from the Theatre Francais.]

[Footnote 7: Diocletian.]

[Footnote 8: A reference to the exquisite Maison Carree of Nimes.]

[Footnote 9: That is, of Venice.]

[Footnote 10: The famous general of the Emperor Justinian, reputed to
have become blind and been neglected in his old age.]

[Footnote 11: From "Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of
Venice." Published by the Macmillan Co.]

[Footnote 12: From "Through Savage Europe." Published by J.B. Lippincott

[Footnote 13: From "Sketches from the Subject and Neighbour Lands of
Venice." Published by the Macmillan Co.]

[Footnote 14: That is, lands where the Greek Church prevails.]

[Footnote 15: John Mason Neale, author of "An Introduction to the
History of the Holy Eastern Church."]

[Footnote 16: Montenegro.]

[Footnote 17: From "A Girl in the Karpathians." After publishing this
book. Miss Dowie became the wife of Henry Norman, the author and

[Footnote 18: One of Poland's greatest poets.]

[Footnote 19: From "Views Afoot." Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons.]

[Footnote 20: The population now (1914) is 24,000.]

[Footnote 21: From "Six Months in Italy." Published by Houghton, Mifflin

[Footnote 22: From "A Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque
Tour," published in 1821.]

[Footnote 23: From "Letters of a Traveller." The Tyrol and the Dolomites
being mainly Austrian territory, are here included under "Other Austrian
Scenes." Resorts in the Swiss Alps, including Chamouni (which, however,
is in France), will be found further on in this volume.]

[Footnote 24: An Italian poet (1749-1838), who, banished from Venice,
settled in New York and became Professor of Italian at Columbia

[Footnote 25: From "Adventures in the Alps." Published by George W.
Jacobs & Co.]

[Footnote 26: In the village of Cadore--hence the name, Titian da

[Footnote 27: From "Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys: A
Midsummer Ramble in the Dolomites." Published by E.P. Dutton & Co.]

[Footnote 28: Reaumur.--Author's note.]

[Footnote 29: From "My Alpine Jubilee." Published In 1908.]

[Footnote 30: From "Adventures in the Alps." Published by George W.
Jacobs Company, Philadelphia.]

[Footnote 31: Since the above was written, the railway has been extended
up the Jungfrau itself.]

[Footnote 32: From "Teutonic Switzerland." By special arrangement with,
and by permission of, the publishers, L.C. Page & Co. Copyright, 1894.]

[Footnote 33: From "Unknown Switzerland." Published by James Pott & Co.]

[Footnote 34: From "Teutonic Switzerland." By special arrangement with,
and by permission of, the publishers, L.C. Page & Co. Copyright, 1894.]

[Footnote 35: The population in 1902 had risen to 152,000.]

[Footnote 36: From "Teutonic Switzerland." By special arrangement with,
and by permission of, the publishers, L.C. Page & Co. Copyright, 1894.]

[Footnote 37: From "The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley." Politically,
Chamouni is in France, but the aim here has been to bring into one
volume all the more popular Alpine resorts. Articles on the Tyrol and
the Dolomites will also be found in this volume--under "Other Austrian

[Footnote 38: From "Adventures in the Alps." Published by George W.
Jacobs & Co.]

[Footnote 39: For Mr. Whymper's own account of this famous ascent, see
page 127 of this volume.]

[Footnote 40: From "Unknown Switzerland." Published by James Pott & Co.]

[Footnote 41: From "Geneva."]

[Footnote 42: From "Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands."]

[Footnote 43: Mrs. Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had been published about
a year when this remark was made to her.]

[Footnote 44: From "Adventures in the Alps." Published by George W.
Jacobs & Co.]

[Footnote 45: From "Unknown Switzerland." Published by James Pott & Co.]

[Footnote 46: From "Scrambles Amongst the Alps." Mr. Whymper's later
achievements in the Alps are now integral parts of the written history
of notable mountain climbing feats the world over.]

[Footnote 47: From "Scrambles Amongst the Alps." Mr. Whymper's ascent
of the Matterhorn was made in 1865. It was the first ascent ever made so
far as known. Whymper died at Chamouni in 1911.]

[Footnote 48: From "Scrambles Amongst the Alps." The loss of Douglas and
three other men, as here described, occurred during the descent of
the Matterhorn following the ascent described by Mr. Whymper in the
preceding article.]

[Footnote 49: That is, down in the village of Zermatt. Seiler was a
well-known innkeeper of that time. Other Seilers still keep inns at

[Footnote 50: The body of Douglas has never been recovered. It is
believed to lie buried deep in some crevasse in one of the great
glaciers that emerge from the base of the Matterhorn.]

[Footnote 51: From "The Glaciers of the Alps." Prof. Tyndall made this
ascent in 1858. Monte Rosa stands quite near the Matterhorn. Each is
reached from Zermatt by the Gorner-Grat.]

[Footnote 52: Another name for the Matterhorn.]

[Footnote 53: My staff was always the handle of an ax an inch or two
longer than an ordinary walking-stick.--Author's note.]

[Footnote 54: From "The Glaciers of the Alps."]

[Footnote 55: That is, after having ascended the mountain to a point
some distance beyond the Mer de Glace, to which the party had ascended
from Chamouni, Huxley and Tyndall were both engaged in a study of the
causes of the movement of glaciers, but Tyndall gave it most attention.
One of Tyndall's feats in the Alps was to make the first recorded ascent
of the Weisshorn. It is said that "traces of his influence remain in
Switzerland to this day."]

[Footnote 56: A hotel overlooking the Mer de Glace and a headquarters
for mountaineers now as then.]

[Footnote 57: Those acquainted with the mountain will at once recognize
the grave error here committed. In fact, on starting from the Grands
Mulets we had crossed the glacier too far, and throughout were much too
close to the Dome du Goute.--Author's note.]

[Footnote 58: From "The Playground of Europe." Published by Longmans,
Green & Co.]

[Footnote 59: From "Adventures in the Alps." Published by the George W.
Jacob Co.]

[Footnote 60: From "Unknown Switzerland." Published by James Pott & Co.]

[Footnote 61: From "Unknown Switzerland." Published by James Pott & Co.]

[Footnote 62: From "Geneva."]

[Footnote 63: The French financier and minister of Louis XVI., father of
Madame de Stael.]

[Footnote 64: Madame de Stael's son, who afterward edited the works of
Madame de Stael and Madame Necker.--Author's note.]

[Footnote 65: Madame de Stael's daughter, afterward Duchesse de

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