A Journey From Lausanne To London
( Originally Published 1921 )
WE are able to give a much fuller account of Mrs. Catherine Roget's journey back to England than of the travels referred to in the last chapter, as she wrote a diary of the whole journey herself. The account below is but slightly abridged from the original, and much of it, in addition to the contrast between the travelling conditions then prevalent and those of to-day, has a special interest in view of the later history of the countries traversed. Regarding the route adopted, Romilly writes : " For the sake of avoiding any of the places through which my sister passed with her husband when she left the country, and which she thought would be attended with remembrances too painful for her to endure, we made rather a circuitous journey." The travellers passed right through the Franco-German frontier territory into Belgium at a time when, although ominous clouds were gathering, the storm of the French Revolution had not yet burst; Louis XVI was King of France and had yet ten years to live ; Napoleon, a boy of fourteen, was still at the school at Brienne, and the power of Prussia was yet undreamed of.
" Sept. 24, 1783.—Set out from Lausanne the 24 Sept. Mr. B —'s family accompanied us as far as Moudon, where we dined. Moudon is a small town in the canton of Berne, formerly the capital of the Pays de Vaud. At the town house is an antique altar with an inscription not much defaced and a singular cage to confine delinquents, which turns on a pivot. Parted from our good friends, continued our journey to Payerne, where we lay.
Sept. 25.—From Payerne, passed through Avenches. About half a mile before we arrived, at Morat, is an ossuaire (a collection of bones gathered up after the battle between Charles the Bold and the Swiss). It stands on the bank of the lake of Morat. From Payerne to Morat, tobacco is much cultivated ; the increased price of this herb occasioned by the American War induced them to plant it. Morat, where we dined, is a pretty town. The principal street built with arcades in humble imitation of Berne, the prospect very pleasing. They use the same cage to inflict punishment as at Moudon. At Gimenden, two leagues from Morat, is a very singular wooden bridge, tiled over. The road from here lies on a hill which commands a very distant prospect, from whence one discovers the lakes of Neuchâtel and Morat. Indeed, all the way to Berne the road is remarkably pleasant, lying over mountains, and the views exceedingly enriched with villages and country houses. Near Berne, the road is regularly planted with trees.
Sept. 26.-Berne 1 is a very beautiful city, the streets wide, regularly built and with arches, that you may walk all round the town in bad weather without being wet ; under these arches are the shops ; in the middle of the street runs a small stream of water, which with the well-built fountains and the cleanliness of the whole is very agreeable. The streets are kept clean by the criminals, who drag carts through the streets every morning, sweeping up all the rubbish they find and even (with small brooms) dusting all the public gates and iron rails. The one we saw was drawn by women. There are about twenty of these carts in the city. Many of the convicts are likewise employed in other work. They have a house appropriated for them, and also another for those who have committed greater crimes and are not permitted to go out. We went into one of these maisons de travail. According to their crimes, both men and women had both their work and their liberty limited. Everything appeared very clean and the people very cheerful, which shows that their taskmasters were not severe. Their dress is blue ; the men have a particular marked cap with a number, and the women wear an iron collar and a kind of poker which appears to come from their breasts and is joined to their collar. The use of them is not only for a visible mark, but in case of mutiny to hold them by. They mingle among the people and seem not to be treated with contempt, as those for slight offences after a certain hour go home to their families. I saw one after twelve in the morning selling apples in the street. In the ` Platform,' a public walk, are summer-houses, where they have concerts on a summer's evening and where the best company resorts. This place is on an eminence, which makes one giddy to look down. At the bottom runs the River Aar. The view from the terrace is beautiful ; on one side of the wall is an inscription on black marble in German to commemorate a very singular and miraculous event which happened in 1625. A clergyman was riding an unruly horse, who took fright and precipitated itself with the rider to the bottom. The height is not less than two hundred feet and directly perpendicular, but neither the horse nor the gentleman was considerably hurt.' I had hardly the courage to look down again after I had heard the story. Mr. F told us that he once saw a boy between four and five years old trundle his hoop along this wall with amazing swiftness, and what makes the story more frightful is that the wall is not flat, the stone rising in the middle and leaving only four inches flat on each side. Where there is no fear, there is little danger.
There are sumptuary laws in this city, some of which are remarkable. Coaches are permitted in the city, but the use of them is restrained upon certain occasions ; no member can go to the council in his coach and no person is permitted to use them to go to church. At a little distance from the town is a hospital for horses, sick horses not being permitted to be kept in the town, lest the contagion be spread. At the entrance to the city are kept in a deep paved square place four bears (the arms of the city is a bear). The hospital of this place is elegantly built. In the arsenal are some curious pieces of armour, among them of the conquerors of the Pays de Vaud, and many Other accounts put the date at 1654, and record that the horse was killed.
from Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. In all this canton we were continually followed by beggars, who neither in 'dress nor countenance be-spoke misery. We left Berne at eleven that morning.
The road from hence commands a beautiful prospect of the Swiss glaciers. Dined at Traubroy ; from thence to Soleure, where we only stopped to refresh the horses, but my brother and self took the opportunity of walking, as we did on every occasion, to view the city, which is neither clean nor handsome, the streets narrow. The church is a fine modern building. The churchyard is composed of large square stones all numbered, which take up to bury in. The view from the bridge is delightful. Slept at Vietlisbach.
Sept. 27.-Passed through the valley of Balsthal, which, notwithstanding bad weather, we found very pleasant. The view is diversified by the rocks and pinewood. Passed through Waldenburg, dined at Liesthal. From that place, they were everywhere taking in the vintage, which they press down with their naked feet in large tubs on the roadside, contrary to the way of making wine in the Pays de Vaud. Before one comes to Basle, the road pleasantly winds by the side of the Rhine. Slept at Basle.
Sept. 28.-Basle is a large city, very clean and little inhabited for its size. The houses are some covered with white plaster and painted round the windows and other parts with party-colour, some red and yellow, blue and green, etc. Most of the houses have a looking-glass reflecting what passes in the street. The church is a Gothic building of considerable antiquity,' but all painted over a red colour. It contains the monument of Erasmus. Behind the church is a little wall which commands a beautiful view of the Rhine, of the little city beyond the river and the adjacent country. The ` Dance of Death,' said by Holbein, painted on the wall by the French church, is guarded by a shed and wooden rails painted red, which by no means set it off. Part of the painting is exceedingly damaged by time. We saw a very curious garden here, quite in the Dutch style. The first coup d'ceeil was singular and not unpleasing. Crowded with the greatest variety of flowers intermixed with shells, and the beds variously shaped in all kinds of figures and intermixed with brickdust and yellow earth and gravel, and surrounded with an aviary, also a great quantity of stone images. At the end is a very singular maze formed with vines running up short rails, only to be admired as a puzzle, it having a poor effect. It being Sunday, we did not see the library. The dresses are singular. The councillors all dress in black, with a short cloak and a large ruff. The women wear their hair tight over a small pad and dragged up behind, confined in the middle by a cap the size of a small saucer, not seen in front, sometimes bordered with gold or silver and in general black they all wear black on Sunday. The clocks go an hour faster at Basle, which was near occasioning us many mistakes.' At the inn where we were there was a large paved room looking over the Rhine, with a fountain in the middle ; it was on the second story and commanded an excellent prospect. Left Basle and arrived at Mulhouse at five in the evening.
Mulhouse is said to derive its name from the great number of mills there, but we saw very few. Mulhouse is a small independent republic.
It owes to its alliance to the Helvetic body the peace which it has so long enjoyed. The territory is small, but they carry on large manufactures of woollen cloth and printed linens. The outside of the town house and several other large houses are curiously but gaudily painted over with figures.
Sept. 29.—Dined at Thann, a very small town which has an exceedingly pretty small Gothic church, seemingly very ancient, built of a yellow stone which has a good effect. The road from this place is through a valley. The mountains surrounding it present a variety of views like those in Switzerland. Lay at Lettré, came in late ; the inn comfortable and clean and good beds.
Sept. 30.—Dined at Remiremont, a pretty large town of Lorraine. The houses in this part of the country are covered with small square pieces of wood instead of tiles, and have no chimneys, the smoke either passing through a door or window. About a mile from here we had a proof of the inconvenience of this kind of thing. A whole hamlet consisting of eleven houses which, though they were built of stone and some of them stood at a distance from the others, were all burnt down from one of them catching fire. Lay at Epinal. Fête there ; soldiers dancing in the public walk, the women dressed in white.
Oct. 1.—Dined at Charmes ; lay at Nancy.
Oct. 2.—Nancy. Went to see the chapel at the Cordeliers, where the Dukes of Lorraine are buried. The building very elegant, enriched with black marble. The form of the chapel is octagon. The tombs, where the House of Lorraine is buried, are placed uniform and exactly the same. The Cordeliers are twenty-six in number. In the middle of a large square is a statue of Louis XV, commemorating the happiness of Lorraine in falling under the dominion of France, and their prosperity since the event. The streets are wide, the houses are elegant and adorned with much gilded ironwork ; a noble gate stands in the middle of the city. Everything reminds you of grandeur, yet being thinly inhabited, the public places do not appear gay. Undresses quite in taste ; the men we saw parading in the morning in nightgowns and the Iadies in slippers, white loose draperies and nightcaps. Dined at Pont-à-Mousson, opposite L'Ecole Militaire Royale at Jouy. Near Metz, we viewed the remains of the Roman aqueduct, which passed over the Moselle. We were on the side where the greatest part is seen, seventeen arches being entire. The highroad passes under one of them. Small houses are built under six of the arches, which seem in great danger of being crushed by the remains of Roman grandeur, if it be true, as they told us, that the stones fall frequently. The stones on the outside of the building are placed with great regularity, but the internal solid parts are thrown in irregularly. The mortar is very hard. Ferried over the Moselle ; the moon was bright ; came in late. Obliged to sleep a mile distant from Metz, the gates being shut.
Oct. 3.-Met a Pilgrim dressed in dark brown with cockleshells upon his hat and cloak, a bag for his provisions, a staff in his hand and a wooden bottle by his side for his drink. Dined at Fontoy, lay at Longwy.
Oct. 4.-Ascending the eminence upon which Longwy stands, we observed a very remarkable fog rising from the valley which entirely eclipsed the lower ground, and this appeared metamorphosed into a lake, the mountains forming the opposite coast and the rising ground as small islands. The rising sun, which decked the whole with the most beautiful shades, soon gathered this thick mist into heavy clouds and discovered to us a number of growing landscapes. Dined at Arlon. From Arlon to Malmaison, where we lay, the road is exceedingly bad and the country barren and dreary. Here and there a few small villages with scarcely a tree to shade them was all that varied the scene for some leagues.
Oct. 5.-Dined at Emptines ; lay at Namur. The garrison consists of only 2,000 men. When the Dutch were in possession of the town, they maintained a garrison of near 10,000 men and never less than 4,000. A troop of players was established in the city and were chiefly supported by the officers of the garrison, but the officers at present are not sufficiently numerous and there is no play.
The tradespeople of the town seem tolerably dis-satisfied with the change, which they pretend has carried away half the trade of the city. The city seems neat ; it is almost entirely built of brick. . . . The most considerable part of the fortifications is now thrown down, and scarcely anything remains but the forts above the city.
Oct. 7.-Lay at - Louvain. The seat of a University.
Oct. 8.-Met a number of students going to the college with their portfolios under their arms. We were told that there were fine pictures in the great church, but could find nobody to open the chapels in it. At the Augustins we were also told that there were some worth seeing, but here again we were unlucky. We rang at the gate ; a monk came out on whose countenance was painted ill-nature and discontent, and either not under-standing French or offended at seeing a lady approach his cell, he appeared not to comprehend our meaning and sternly showed us the door. The town house seems to be a very ancient building.
The quay and the buildings on the side of the canal are very neat and pleasant, the place open and large, and the view terminates by a ruined castle and a church on an eminence.
Dined at Malines. The road from Louvain to Malines is so direct a line that on quitting Louvain on a clear day one may see the tower of the church at Malines at the end of the road, though it is four leagues distant. The great church at Malines is a fine Gothic building, but without any steeple and seemingly unfinished. In one of the chapels is an altarpiece by Rubens. . . Lay at Antwerp.
Oct. 9. The great church of Notre Dame' an admirable Gothic building the steeple of one of the towers only is finished. It is exceedingly high (460 feet), and the small houses which are built against it add to its apparent height, but they have an ugly appearance. In the church is one of the finest pictures by Rubens.... Antwerp is large, but thinly inhabited. The streets are wide and the buildings. elegant, but badly lighted ; only a few lamps at the crucifixes. Left this town at twelve o'clock, slept at a very indifferent inn, where we could scarce get anything to eat ; the room exceedingly cold ; the whole very uncomfortable.
Oct. 10.-The road about two leagues from Antwerp to about half a league from Breda exceedingly bad, deep sands and lying across heaths. Dined at Breda, a pretty Dutch town well fortified. (Peter will remember the Dutch cleanliness.) The Governor's castle, a building of red brick ornamented with stone figures. Embarked at three o'clock upon a vessel.
Oct. 11.-Having passed our night tant mal que bien in our cabin, with only one bed for all, we were much rejoiced to see Rotterdam. We arrived there at eleven in the morning. The city is very beautiful ; fine canals running through the streets, filled with a variety of pretty sailing boats, added to rows of large trees, which give an agreeable shade to the houses, with the remarkable cleanliness of the whole, make the scene both entertaining and extraordinary, particularly when compared to the dirt in general of a large town. But here is not like Antwerp ; the place is populous, and the noise of the heavy coaches which rattle over the stones soon made me wish to quit the place, which we did the next day at six in the morning in one of those unpleasing vehicles. . . .
Oct. 12.-Dined on bread and cheese at a small village where they did not understand a word we said. Ferried over three times before our arrival there. The coachman stopped to drink tea, it being a favourite liquor with the common people in Holland, as porter is in England. Arrived at Helvoet at half-past three. Saluted by cross matron by ` You may stay here a week the packet-boat sailed yesterday.' This bad news put us all out of spirits. . . Helvoet is a small neat town consisting of sailors' families, the place well fortified. The guards would not permit our walking near the fortifications. The country near is very flat, and is strewn everywhere with shells.
Oct. 15: After three days' rest, the packet-boat arrived. We set sail at three o'clock. Our captain very civil, his boat very large, making on occasion twenty-one beds. Some part of the company agreeable and the others not disagreeable. . . . We were fifty-three hours on board, having a calm the first night which sickened all the passengers. Arrived Harwich at six o'clock, where we joined part of the company with Captain Horne and enjoyed a comfortable English supper.
Oct. 18.-Left Harwich ; the road delightfully pleasant. Admired Colchester and Chelmsford, as well as many pretty smaller towns. Arrived at London at six o'clock."
Mrs. Roget's journey thus occupied twenty-four days. It is now possible to travel from Lausanne to London in considerably under twenty-four hours.
Another example of the considerable delays that were liable to be experienced in those days, in the crossing of the Channel, is presented by Romilly's return journey from a visit to Paris in 1788. Quoting from the Memoirs ;
" I was obliged to be back early in October, to attend the Coventry and Warwick Quarter Sessions ; . . . we reluctantly therefore set out on our return, and yet I was near missing the object of it ; for though we had allowed ourselves full time to perform our journey, when we arrived at Boulogne we found the wind adverse and blowing so strongly that it was impossible to sail for England, either from that port or from Calais ; and after staying at Boulogne nearly a week, we were still there on Saturday at one o'clock in the day, when it was requisite that I should be in Court, at Coventry, by ten o'clock on the morning of the following Monday. This, however, by great good fortune, I was able to accomplish. We had a passage of only three hours ; we proceeded the same night to Canterbury, and arrived in London early enough on the next evening to obtain a place in a mail-coach, which conveyed me by nine o'clock the following morning to Coventry."