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Title: History of a Six Weeks' Tour - Through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland: - With Letters Descriptive of a Sail Round the Lake of Geneva, - and of the Glaciers of Chamouni.
Author: Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Percy Bysshe
Language: English
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                           A SIX WEEKS' TOUR



                              WITH LETTERS

                             DESCRIPTIVE OF



                     PUBLISHED BY T. HOOKHAM, JUN.

                            OLD BOND STREET;

                         AND C. AND J. OLLIER,

                            WELBECK STREET.


 Reynell, Printer, 45, Broad-street,


Nothing can be more unpresuming than this little volume. It contains the
account of some desultory visits by a party of young people to scenes
which are now so familiar to our countrymen, that few facts relating to
them can be expected to have escaped the many more experienced and exact
observers, who have sent their journals to the press. In fact, they have
done little else than arrange the few materials which an imperfect
journal, and two or three letters to their friends in England afforded.
They regret, since their little History is to be offered to the public,
that these materials were not more copious and complete. This is a just
topic of censure to those who are less inclined to be amused than to
condemn. Those whose youth has been past as theirs (with what success it
imports not) in pursuing, like the swallow, the inconstant summer of
delight and beauty which invests this visible world, will perhaps find
some entertainment in following the author, with her husband and sister,
on foot, through part of France and Switzerland, and in sailing with her
down the castled Rhine, through scenes beautiful in themselves, but
which, since she visited them, a great Poet has clothed with the
freshness of a diviner nature. They will be interested to hear of one
who has visited Mellerie, and Clarens, and Chillon, and Vevai—classic
ground, peopled with tender and glorious imaginations of the present and
the past.

They have perhaps never talked with one who has beheld in the enthusiasm
of youth the glaciers, and the lakes, and the forests, and the fountains
of the mighty Alps. Such will perhaps forgive the imperfections of their
narrative for the sympathy which the adventures and feelings which it
recounts, and a curiosity respecting scenes already rendered interesting
and illustrious, may excite.

The Poem, entitled “Mont Blanc,” is written by the author of the two
letters from Chamouni and Vevai. It was composed under the immediate
impression of the deep and powerful feelings excited by the objects
which it attempts to describe; and as an undisciplined overflowing of
the soul, rests its claim to approbation on an attempt to imitate the
untameable wildness and inaccessible solemnity from which those feelings



                           A SIX WEEKS' TOUR.

It is now nearly three years since this Journey took place, and the
journal I then kept was not very copious; but I have so often talked
over the incidents that befell us, and attempted to describe the scenery
through which we passed, that I think few occurrences of any interest
will be omitted.

We left London July 28th, 1814, on a hotter day than has been known in
this climate for many years. I am not a good traveller, and this heat
agreed very ill with me, till, on arriving at Dover, I was refreshed by
a sea-bath. As we very much wished to cross the channel with all
possible speed, we would not wait for the packet of the following day
(it being then about four in the afternoon) but hiring a small boat,
resolved to make the passage the same evening, the seamen promising us a
voyage of two hours.

The evening was most beautiful; there was but little wind, and the sails
flapped in the flagging breeze: the moon rose, and night came on, and
with the night a slow, heavy swell, and a fresh breeze, which soon
produced a sea so violent as to toss the boat very much. I was
dreadfully seasick, and as is usually my custom when thus affected, I
slept during the greater part of the night, awaking only from time to
time to ask where we were, and to receive the dismal answer each
time—“Not quite half way.”

The wind was violent and contrary; if we could not reach Calais, the
sailors proposed making for Boulogne. They promised only two hours' sail
from shore, yet hour after hour passed, and we were still far distant,
when the moon sunk in the red and stormy horizon, and the fast-flashing
lightning became pale in the breaking day.

We were proceeding slowly against the wind, when suddenly a thunder
squall struck the sail, and the waves rushed into the boat: even the
sailors acknowledged that our situation was perilous; but they succeeded
in reefing the sail;—the wind was now changed, and we drove before the
gale directly to Calais. As we entered the harbour I awoke from a
comfortless sleep, and saw the sun rise broad, red, and cloudless over
the pier.


Exhausted with sickness and fatigue, I walked over the sands with my
companions to the hotel. I heard for the first time the confused buzz of
voices speaking a different language from that to which I had been
accustomed; and saw a costume very unlike that worn on the opposite side
of the channel; the women with high caps and short jackets; the men with
earrings; ladies walking about with high bonnets or _coiffures_ lodged
on the top of the head, the hair dragged up underneath, without any
stray curls to decorate the temples or cheeks. There is, however,
something very pleasing in the manners and appearance of the people of
Calais, that prepossesses you in their favour. A national reflection
might occur, that when Edward III. took Calais, he turned out the old
inhabitants, and peopled it almost entirely with our own countrymen; but
unfortunately the manners are not English.

We remained during that day and the greater part of the next at Calais:
we had been obliged to leave our boxes the night before at the English
customhouse, and it was arranged that they should go by the packet of
the following day, which, detained by contrary wind, did not arrive
until night. S*** and I walked among the fortifications on the outside
of the town; they consisted of fields where the hay was making. The
aspect of the country was rural and pleasant.

On the 30th of July, about three in the afternoon, we left Calais, in a
cabriolet drawn by three horses. To persons who had never before seen
any thing but a spruce English chaise and post-boy, there was something
irresistibly ludicrous in our equipage. A cabriolet is shaped somewhat
like a post-chaise, except that it has only two wheels, and consequently
there are no doors at the sides; the front is let down to admit the
passengers. The three horses were placed abreast, the tallest in the
middle, who was rendered more formidable by the addition of an
unintelligible article of harness, resembling a pair of wooden wings
fastened to his shoulders; the harnesses were of rope; and the
postillion, a queer, upright little fellow with a long pigtail,
_craquèed_ his whip, and clattered on, while an old forlorn shepherd
with a cocked hat gazed on us as we passed.

The roads are excellent, but the heat was intense, and I suffered
greatly from it. We slept at Boulogne the first night, where there was
an ugly but remarkably good-tempered femme de chambre. This made us for
the first time remark the difference which exists between this class of
persons in France and in England. In the latter country they are
prudish, and if they become in the least degree familiar they are
impudent. The lower orders in France have the easiness and politeness of
the most well-bred English; they treat you unaffectedly as their equal,
and consequently there is no scope for insolence.

We had ordered horses to be ready during the night, but we were too
fatigued to make use of them. The man insisted on being paid for the
whole post. _Ah! Madame_, said the femme-de-chambre, _pensez-y; c'est
pour de dommager les pauvres chevaux d'avoir perdues leur douce
sommeil_. A joke from an English chamber-maid would have been quite
another thing.

The first appearance that struck our English eyes was the want of
enclosures; but the fields were flourishing with a plentiful harvest. We
observed no vines on this side Paris.

The weather still continued very hot, and travelling produced a very bad
effect upon my health; my companions were induced by this circumstance
to hasten the journey as much as possible; and accordingly we did not
rest the following night, and the next day, about two, arrived in Paris.

In this city there are no hotels where you can reside as long or as
short a time as you please, and we were obliged to engage apartments at
an hotel for a week. They were dear, and not very pleasant. As usual in
France, the principal apartment was a bedchamber; there was another
closet with a bed, and an anti-chamber, which we used as a sitting-room.

The heat of the weather was excessive, so that we were unable to walk
except in the afternoon. On the first evening we walked to the gardens
of the Thuilleries; they are formal, in the French fashion, the trees
cut into shapes, and without grass. I think the Boulevards infinitely
more pleasant. This street nearly surrounds Paris, and is eight miles in
extent; it is very wide, and planted on either side with trees. At one
end is a superb cascade which refreshes the senses by its continual
splashing: near this stands the gate of St. Denis, a beautiful piece of
sculpture. I do not know how it may at present be disfigured by the
Gothic barbarism of the conquerors of France, who were not contented
with retaking the spoils of Napoleon, but with impotent malice,
destroyed the monuments of their own defeat. When I saw this gate, it
was in its splendour, and made you imagine that the days of Roman
greatness were transported to Paris.

After remaining a week in Paris, we received a small remittance that set
us free from a kind of imprisonment there which we found very irksome.
But how should we proceed? After talking over and rejecting many plans,
we fixed on one eccentric enough, but which, from its romance, was very
pleasing to us. In England we could not have put it in execution without
sustaining continual insult and impertinence: the French are far more
tolerant of the vagaries of their neighbours. We resolved to walk
through France; but as I was too weak for any considerable distance, and
my sister could not be supposed to be able to walk as far as S*** each
day, we determined to purchase an ass, to carry our portmanteau and one
of us by turns.

Early, therefore, on Monday, August 8th, S*** and C*** went to the ass
market, and purchased an ass, and the rest of the day, until four in the
afternoon, was spent in preparations for our departure; during which,
Madame L'Hôte paid us a visit, and attempted to dissuade us from our
design. She represented to us that a large army had been recently
disbanded, that the soldiers and officers wandered idle about the
country, and that _les Dames seroient certainement enlevèes_. But we
were proof against her arguments, and packing up a few necessaries,
leaving the rest to go by the diligence, we departed in a fiacre from
the door of the hotel, our little ass following.

We dismissed the coach at the barrier. It was dusk, and the ass seemed
totally unable to bear one of us, appearing to sink under the
portmanteau, although it was small and light. We were, however, merry
enough, and thought the leagues short. We arrived at Charenton about

Charenton is prettily situated in a valley, through which the Seine
flows, winding among banks variegated with trees. On looking at this
scene, C*** exclaimed, “Oh! this is beautiful enough; let us live here.”
This was her exclamation on every new scene, and as each surpassed the
one before, she cried, “I am glad we did not stay at Charenton, but let
us live here.”

Finding our ass useless, we sold it before we proceeded on our journey,
and bought a mule, for ten Napoleons. About nine o'clock we departed. We
were clad in black silk. I rode on the mule, which carried also our
portmanteau; S*** and C*** followed, bringing a small basket of
provisions. At about one we arrived at Gros Bois, where, under the shade
of trees, we ate our bread and fruit, and drank our wine, thinking of
Don Quixote and Sancho.

The country through which we passed was highly cultivated, but
uninteresting; the horizon scarcely ever extended beyond the
circumference of a few fields, bright and waving with the golden
harvest. We met several travellers; but our mode, although novel, did
not appear to excite any curiosity or remark. This night we slept at
Guignes, in the same room and beds in which Napoleon and some of his
Generals had rested during the late war. The little old woman of the
place was highly gratified in having this little story to tell, and
spoke in warm praise of the Empress Josephine and Marie Louise, who had
at different times passed on that road.

As we continued our route, Provins was the first place that struck us
with interest. It was our stage of rest for the night; we approached it
at sunset. After having gained the summit of a hill, the prospect of the
town opened upon us as it lay in the valley below; a rocky hill rose
abruptly on one side, on the top of which stood a ruined citadel with
extensive walls and towers; lower down, but beyond, was the cathedral,
and the whole formed a scene for painting. After having travelled for
two days through a country perfectly without interest, it was a
delicious relief for the eye to dwell again on some irregularities and
beauty of country. Our fare at Provins was coarse, and our beds
uncomfortable, but the remembrance of this prospect made us contented
and happy.

We now approached scenes that reminded us of what we had nearly
forgotten, that France had lately been the country in which great and
extraordinary events had taken place. Nogent, a town we entered about
noon the following day, had been entirely desolated by the Cossacs.
Nothing could be more entire than the ruin which these barbarians had
spread as they advanced; perhaps they remembered Moscow and the
destruction of the Russian villages; but we were now in France, and the
distress of the inhabitants, whose houses had been burned, their cattle
killed, and all their wealth destroyed, has given a sting to my
detestation of war, which none can feel who have not travelled through a
country pillaged and wasted by this plague, which, in his pride, man
inflicts upon his fellow.

We quitted the great route soon after we had left Nogent, to strike
across the country to Troyes. About six in the evening we arrived at St.
Aubin, a lovely village embosomed in trees; but on a nearer view we
found the cottages roofless, the rafters black, and the walls
dilapidated;—a few inhabitants remained. We asked for milk—they had none
to give; all their cows had been taken by the Cossacs. We had still some
leagues to travel that night, but we found that they were not post
leagues, but the measurement of the inhabitants, and nearly double the
distance. The road lay over a desart plain, and as night advanced we
were often in danger of losing the track of wheels, which was our only
guide. Night closed in, and we suddenly lost all trace of the road; but
a few trees, indistinctly seen, seemed to indicate the position of a
village. About ten we arrived at Trois Maisons, where, after a supper on
milk and sour bread, we retired to rest on wretched beds: but sleep is
seldom denied, except to the indolent, and after the day's fatigue,
although my bed was nothing more than a sheet spread upon straw, I slept
soundly until the morning was considerably advanced.

S*** had hurt his ancle so considerably the preceding evening, that he
was obliged, during the whole of the following day's journey, to ride on
our mule. Nothing could be more barren and wretched than the track
through which we now passed; the ground was chalky and uncovered even by
grass, and where there had been any attempts made towards cultivation,
the straggling ears of corn discovered more plainly the barren nature of
the soil. Thousands of insects, which were of the same white colour as
the road, infested our path; the sky was cloudless, and the sun darted
its rays upon us, reflected back by the earth, until I nearly fainted
under the heat. A village appeared at a distance, cheering us with a
prospect of rest. It gave us new strength to proceed; but it was a
wretched place, and afforded us but little relief. It had been once
large and populous, but now the houses were roofless, and the ruins that
lay scattered about, the gardens covered with the white dust of the torn
cottages, the black burnt beams, and squalid looks of the inhabitants,
presented in every direction the melancholy aspect of devastation. One
house, a _cabarêt_, alone remained; we were here offered plenty of milk,
stinking bacon, sour bread, and a few vegetables, which we were to dress
for ourselves.

As we prepared our dinner in a place, so filthy that the sight of it
alone was sufficient to destroy our appetite, the people of the village
collected around us, squalid with dirt, their countenances expressing
every thing that is disgusting and brutal. They seemed indeed entirely
detached from the rest of the world, and ignorant of all that was
passing in it. There is much less communication between the various
towns of France than in England. The use of passports may easily account
for this: these people did not know that Napoleon was deposed, and when
we asked why they did not rebuild their cottages, they replied, that
they were afraid that the Cossacs would destroy them again upon their
return. Echemine (the name of this village) is in every respect the most
disgusting place I ever met with.

Two leagues beyond, on the same road, we came to the village of
Pavillon, so unlike Echemine, that we might have fancied ourselves in
another quarter of the globe; here every thing denoted cleanliness and
hospitality; many of the cottages were destroyed, but the inhabitants
were employed in repairing them. What could occasion so great a

Still our road lay over this track of uncultivated country, and our eyes
were fatigued by observing nothing but a white expanse of ground, where
no bramble or stunted shrub adorned its barrenness. Towards evening we
reached a small plantation of vines, it appeared like one of those
islands of verdure that are met with in the midst of the sands of Lybia,
but the grapes were not yet ripe. S*** was totally incapable of walking,
and C*** and I were very tired before we arrived at Troyes.

We rested here for the night, and devoted the following day to a
consideration of the manner in which we should proceed. S***'s sprain
rendered our pedestrianism impossible. We accordingly sold our mule, and
bought an open _voiture_ that went on four wheels, for five Napoleons,
and hired a man with a mule for eight more, to convey us to Neufchâtel
in six days.

The suburbs of Troyes were destroyed, and the town itself dirty and
uninviting. I remained at the inn writing, while S*** and C*** arranged
this bargain and visited the cathedral of the town; and the next morning
we departed in our _voiture_ for Neufchâtel. A curious instance of
French vanity occurred on leaving this town. Our _voiturier_ pointed to
the plain around, and mentioned, that it had been the scene of a battle
between the Russians and the French. “In which the Russians gained the
victory?”—“Ah no, Madame,” replied the man, “the French are never
beaten.” “But how was it then,” we asked, “that the Russians had entered
Troyes soon after?”—“Oh, after having been defeated, they took a
circuitous route, and thus entered the town.”

Vandeuvres is a pleasant town, at which we rested during the hours of
noon. We walked in the grounds of a nobleman, laid out in the English
taste, and terminated in a pretty wood; it was a scene that reminded us
of our native country. As we left Vandeuvres the aspect of the country
suddenly changed; abrupt hills, covered with vineyards, intermixed with
trees, enclosed a narrow valley, the channel of the Aube. The view was
interspersed by green meadows, groves of poplar and white willow, and
spires of village churches, which the Cossacs had yet spared. Many
villages, ruined by the war, occupied the most romantic spots.

In the evening we arrived at Barsur-Aube, a beautiful town, placed at
the opening of the vale where the hills terminate abruptly. We climbed
the highest of these, but scarce had we reached the top, when a mist
descended upon every thing, and the rain began to fall: we were wet
through before we could reach our inn. It was evening, and the laden
clouds made the darkness almost as deep as that of midnight; but in the
west an unusually brilliant and fiery redness occupied an opening in the
vapours, and added to the interest of our little expedition: the cottage
lights were reflected in the tranquil river, and the dark hills behind,
dimly seen, resembled vast and frowning mountains.

As we quitted Bar-sur-Aube, we at the same time bade a short farewell to
hills. Passing through the towns of Chaumont, Langres (which was
situated on a hill, and surrounded by ancient fortifications),
Champlitte, and Gray, we travelled for nearly three days through plains,
where the country gently undulated, and relieved the eye from a
perpetual flat, without exciting any peculiar interest. Gentle rivers,
their banks ornamented by a few trees, stole through these plains, and a
thousand beautiful summer insects skimmed over the streams. The third
day was a day of rain, and the first that had taken place during our
journey. We were soon wet through, and were glad to stop at a little inn
to dry ourselves. The reception we received here was very
unprepossessing, the people still kept their seats round the fire, and
seemed very unwilling to make way for the dripping guests. In the
afternoon, however, the weather became fine, and at about six in the
evening we entered Besançon.

Hills had appeared in the distance during the whole day, and we had
advanced gradually towards them, but were unprepared for the scene that
broke upon us as we passed the gate of this city. On quitting the walls,
the road wound underneath a high precipice; on the other side the hills
rose more gradually, and the green valley that intervened between them
was watered by a pleasant river; before us arose an amphitheatre of
hills covered with vines, but irregular and rocky. The last gate of the
town was cut through the precipitous rock that arose on one side, and in
that place jutted into the road.

This approach to mountain scenery filled us with delight; it was
otherwise with our _voiturier_: he came from the plains of Troyes, and
these hills so utterly scared him, that he in some degree lost his
reason. After winding through the valley, we began to ascend the
mountains which were its boundary: we left our _voiture_, and walked on,
delighted with every new view that broke upon us.

When we had ascended the hills for about a mile and a half, we found our
_voiturier_ at the door of a wretched inn, having taken the mule from
the _voiture_, and obstinately determined to remain for the night at
this miserable village of Mort. We could only submit, for he was deaf to
all we could urge, and to our remonstrances only replied, _Je ne puis

Our beds were too uncomfortable to allow a thought of sleeping in them:
we could only procure one room, and our hostess gave us to understand
that our _voiturier_ was to occupy the same apartment. It was of little
consequence, as we had previously resolved not to enter the beds. The
evening was fine, and after the rain the air was perfumed by many
delicious scents. We climbed to a rocky seat on the hill that overlooked
the village, where we remained until sunset. The night was passed by the
kitchen fire in a wretched manner, striving to catch a few moments of
sleep, which were denied to us. At three in the morning we pursued our

Our road led to the summit of the hills that environ Besançon. From the
top of one of these we saw the whole expanse of the valley filled with a
white undulating mist, which was pierced like islands by the piny
mountains. The sun had just risen, and a ray of red light lay upon the
waves of this fluctuating vapour. To the west, opposite the sun, it
seemed driven by the light against the rocks in immense masses of
foaming cloud, until it became lost in the distance, mixing its tints
with the fleecy sky.

Our _voiturier_ insisted on remaining two hours at the village of Noè,
although we were unable to procure any dinner, and wished to go on to
the next stage. I have already said, that the hills scared his senses,
and he had become disobliging, sullen, and stupid. While he waited we
walked to the neighbouring wood: it was a fine forest, carpeted
beautifully with moss, and in various places overhung by rocks, in whose
crevices young pines had taken root, and spread their branches for shade
to those below; the noon heat was intense, and we were glad to shelter
ourselves from it in the shady retreats of this lovely forest.

On our return to the village we found, to our extreme surprise, that the
_voiturier_ had departed nearly an hour before, leaving word that he
expected to meet us on the road. S***'s sprain rendered him incapable of
much exertion; but there was no remedy, and we proceeded on foot to
Maison Neuve, an _auberge_, four miles and a half distant.

At Maison Neuve the man had left word that he should proceed to
Pontalier, the frontier town of France, six leagues distant, and that if
we did not arrive that night, he should the next morning leave the
_voiture_ at an inn, and return with the mule to Troyes. We were
astonished at the impudence of this message, but the boy of the inn
comforted us by saying, that by going on a horse by a cross road, where
the _voiture_ could not venture, he could easily overtake and intercept
the _voiturier_, and accordingly we dispatched him, walking slowly
after. We waited at the next inn for dinner, and in about two hours the
boy returned. The man promised to wait for us at an _auberge_ two
leagues further on. S***'s ancle had become very painful, but we could
procure no conveyance, and as the sun was nearly setting, we were
obliged to hasten on. The evening was most beautiful, and the scenery
lovely enough to beguile us of our fatigue: the horned moon hung in the
light of sunset, that threw a glow of unusual depth of redness over the
piny mountains and the dark deep vallies they enclosed; at intervals in
the woods were beautiful lawns interspersed with picturesque clumps of
trees, and dark pines overshadowed our road.

In about two hours we arrived at the promised termination of our
journey, but the _voiturier_ was not there: after the boy had left him,
he again pursued his journey towards Pontalier. We were enabled,
however, to procure here a rude kind of cart, and in this manner arrived
late at Pontalier, where we found our conductor, who blundered out many
falsehoods for excuses; and thus ended the adventures of that day.


On passing the French barrier, a surprising difference may be observed
between the opposite nations that inhabit either side. The Swiss
cottages are much cleaner and neater, and the inhabitants exhibit the
same contrast. The Swiss women wear a great deal of white linen, and
their whole dress is always perfectly clean. This superior cleanliness
is chiefly produced by the difference of religion: travellers in Germany
remark the same contrast between the protestant and catholic towns,
although they be but a few leagues separate.

The scenery of this day's journey was divine, exhibiting piny mountains,
barren rocks, and spots of verdure surpassing imagination. After
descending for nearly a league between lofty rocks, covered with pines,
and interspersed with green glades, where the grass is short, and soft,
and beautifully verdant, we arrived at the village of St. Sulpice.

The mule had latterly become very lame, and the man so disobliging, that
we determined to engage a horse for the remainder of the way. Our
_voiturier_ had anticipated us, without in the least intimating his
intention: he had determined to leave us at this village, and taken
measures to that effect. The man we now engaged was a Swiss, a cottager
of the better class, who was proud of his mountains and his country.
Pointing to the glades that were interspersed among the woods, he
informed us that they were very beautiful, and were excellent pasture;
that the cows thrived there, and consequently produced excellent milk,
from which the best cheese and butter in the world were made.

The mountains after St. Sulpice became loftier and more beautiful. We
passed through a narrow valley between two ranges of mountains, clothed
with forests, at the bottom of which flowed a river, from whose narrow
bed on either side the boundaries of the vale arose precipitously. The
road lay about half way up the mountain, which formed one of the sides,
and we saw the overhanging rocks above us and below, enormous pines, and
the river, not to be perceived but from its reflection of the light of
heaven, far beneath. The mountains of this beautiful ravine are so
little asunder, that in time of war with France an iron chain is thrown
across it. Two leagues from Neufchâtel we saw the Alps: range after
range of black mountains are seen extending one before the other, and
far behind all, towering above every feature of the scene, the snowy
Alps. They were an hundred miles distant, but reach so high in the
heavens, that they look like those accumulated clouds of dazzling white
that arrange themselves on the horizon during summer. Their immensity
staggers the imagination, and so far surpasses all conception, that it
requires an effort of the understanding to believe that they indeed form
a part of the earth.

From this point we descended to Neufchâtel, which is situated in a
narrow plain, between the mountains and its immense lake, and presents
no additional aspect of peculiar interest.

We remained the following day at this town, occupied in a consideration
of the step it would now be advisable for us to take. The money we had
brought with us from Paris was nearly exhausted, but we obtained about
£38. in silver upon discount from one of the bankers of the city, and
with this we resolved to journey towards the lake of Uri, and seek in
that romantic and interesting country some cottage where we might dwell
in peace and solitude. Such were our dreams, which we should probably
have realized, had it not been for the deficiency of that indispensable
article money, which obliged us to return to England.

A Swiss, whom S*** met at the post-office, kindly interested himself in
our affairs, and assisted us to hire a _voiture_ to convey us to
Lucerne, the principal town of the lake of that name, which is connected
with the lake of Uri. The journey to this place occupied rather more
than two days. The country was flat and dull, and, excepting that we now
and then caught a glimpse of the divine Alps, there was nothing in it to
interest us. Lucerne promised better things, and as soon as we arrived
(August 23d) we hired a boat, with which we proposed to coast the lake
until we should meet with some suitable habitation, or perhaps, even
going to Altorf, cross Mont St. Gothard, and seek in the warm climate of
the country to the south of the Alps an air more salubrious, and a
temperature better fitted for the precarious state of S***'s health,
than the bleak region to the north. The lake of Lucerne is encompassed
on all sides by high mountains that rise abruptly from the
water;—sometimes their bare fronts descend perpendicularly and cast a
black shade upon the waves;—sometimes they are covered with thick wood,
whose dark foliage is interspersed by the brown bare crags on which the
trees have taken root. In every part where a glade shews itself in the
forest it appears cultivated, and cottages peep from among the woods.
The most luxuriant islands, rocky and covered with moss, and bending
trees, are sprinkled over the lake. Most of these are decorated by the
figure of a saint in wretched waxwork.

The direction of this lake extends at first from east to west, then
turning a right angle, it lies from north to south; this latter part is
distinguished in name from the other, and is called the lake of Uri. The
former part is also nearly divided midway, where the jutting land almost
meets, and its craggy sides cast a deep shadow on the little strait
through which you pass. The summits of several of the mountains that
enclose the lake to the south are covered by eternal glaciers; of one of
these, opposite Brunen, they tell the story of a priest and his
mistress, who, flying from persecution, inhabited a cottage at the foot
of the snows. One winter night an avalanche overwhelmed them, but their
plaintive voices are still heard in stormy nights, calling for succour
from the peasants.

Brunen is situated on the northern side of the angle which the lake
makes, forming the extremity of the lake of Lucerne. Here we rested for
the night, and dismissed our boatmen. Nothing could be more magnificent
than the view from this spot. The high mountains encompassed us,
darkening the waters; at a distance on the shores of Uri we could
perceive the chapel of Tell, and this was the village where he matured
the conspiracy which was to overthrow the tyrant of his country; and
indeed this lovely lake, these sublime mountains, and wild forests,
seemed a fit cradle for a mind aspiring to high adventure and heroic
deeds. Yet we saw no glimpse of his spirit in his present countrymen.
The Swiss appeared to us then, and experience has confirmed our opinion,
a people slow of comprehension and of action; but habit has made them
unfit for slavery, and they would, I have little doubt, make a brave
defence against any invader of their freedom.

Such were our reflections, and we remained until late in the evening on
the shores of the lake conversing, enjoying the rising breeze, and
contemplating with feelings of exquisite delight the divine objects that
surrounded us.

The following day was spent in a consideration of our circumstances, and
in contemplation of the scene around us. A furious _vent d'Italie_
(south wind) tore up the lake, making immense waves, and carrying the
water in a whirlwind high in the air, when it fell like heavy rain into
the lake. The waves broke with a tremendous noise on the rocky shores.
This conflict continued during the whole day, but it became calmer
towards the evening. S*** and I walked on the banks, and sitting on a
rude pier, S*** read aloud the account of the Siege of Jerusalem from

In the mean time we endeavoured to find an habitation, but could only
procure two unfurnished rooms in an ugly big house, called the Chateau.
These we hired at a guinea a month, had beds moved into them, and the
next day took possession. But it was a wretched place, with no comfort
or convenience. It was with difficulty that we could get any food
prepared: as it was cold and rainy, we ordered a fire—they lighted an
immense stove which occupied a corner of the room; it was long before it
heated, and when hot, the warmth was so unwholesome, that we were
obliged to throw open our windows to prevent a kind of suffocation;
added to this, there was but one person in Brunen who could speak
French, a barbarous kind of German being the language of this part of
Switzerland. It was with difficulty, therefore, that we could get our
most ordinary wants supplied.

These immediate inconveniences led us to a more serious consideration of
our situation. The £28. which we possessed, was all the money that we
could count upon with any certainty, until the following December.
S***'s presence in London was absolutely necessary for the procuring any
further supply. What were we to do? we should soon be reduced to
absolute want. Thus, after balancing the various topics that offered
themselves for discussion, we resolved to return to England.

Having formed this resolution, we had not a moment for delay: our little
store was sensibly decreasing, and £28. could hardly appear sufficient
for so long a journey. It had cost us sixty to cross France from Paris
to Neufchâtel; but we now resolved on a more economical mode of
travelling. Water conveyances are always the cheapest, and fortunately
we were so situated, that by taking advantage of the rivers of the Reuss
and Rhine, we could reach England without travelling a league on land.
This was our plan; we should travel eight hundred miles, and was this
possible for so small a sum? but there was no other alternative, and
indeed S*** only knew how very little we had to depend upon.

We departed the next morning for the town of Lucerne. It rained
violently during the first part of our voyage, but towards its
conclusion the sky became clear, and the sunbeams dried and cheered us.
We saw again, and for the last time, the rocky shores of this beautiful
lake, its verdant isles, and snow-capt mountains.

We landed at Lucerne, and remained in that town the following night, and
the next morning (August 28th) departed in the _diligence par-eau_ for
Loffenburgh, a town on the Rhine, where the falls of that river
prevented the same vessel from proceeding any further. Our companions in
this voyage were of the meanest class, smoked prodigiously, and were
exceedingly disgusting. After having landed for refreshment in the
middle of the day, we found, on our return to the boat, that our former
seats were occupied; we took others, when the original possessors
angrily, and almost with violence, insisted upon our leaving them. Their
brutal rudeness to us, who did not understand their language, provoked
S*** to knock one of the foremost down: he did not return the blow, but
continued his vociferations until the boatmen interfered, and provided
us with other seats.

The Reuss is exceedingly rapid, and we descended several falls, one of
more than eight feet. There is something very delicious in the
sensation, when at one moment you are at the top of a fall of water, and
before the second has expired you are at the bottom, still rushing on
with the impulse which the descent has given. The waters of the Rhone
are blue, those of the Reuss are of a deep green. I should think that
there must be something in the beds of these rivers, and that the
accidents of the banks and sky cannot alone cause this difference.

Sleeping at Dettingen, we arrived the next morning at Loffenburgh, where
we engaged a small canoe to convey us to Mumph. I give these boats this
Indian appellation, as they were of the rudest construction—long,
narrow, and flat-bottomed: they consisted merely of straight pieces of
deal board, unpainted, and nailed together with so little care, that the
water constantly poured in at the crevices, and the boat perpetually
required emptying. The river was rapid, and sped swiftly, breaking as it
passed on innumerable rocks just covered by the water: it was a sight of
some dread to see our frail boat winding among the eddies of the rocks,
which it was death to touch, and when the slightest inclination on one
side would instantly have overset it.

We could not procure a boat at Mumph, and we thought ourselves lucky in
meeting with a return _cabriolet_ to Rheinfelden; but our good fortune
was of short duration: about a league from Mumph the _cabriolet_ broke
down, and we were obliged to proceed on foot. Fortunately we were
overtaken by some Swiss soldiers, who were discharged and returning
home, who carried our box for us as far as Rheinfelden, when we were
directed to proceed a league farther to a village, where boats were
commonly hired. Here, although not without some difficulty, we procured
a boat for Basle, and proceeded down a swift river, while evening came
on, and the air was bleak and comfortless. Our voyage was, however,
short, and we arrived at the place of our destination by six in the


Before we slept, S*** had made a bargain for a boat to carry us to
Mayence, and the next morning, bidding adieu to Switzerland, we embarked
in a boat laden with merchandize, but where we had no fellow-passengers
to disturb our tranquillity by their vulgarity and rudeness. The wind
was violently against us, but the stream, aided by a slight exertion
from the rowers, carried us on; the sun shone pleasantly, S*** read
aloud to us Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters from Norway, and we passed our
time delightfully.

The evening was such as to find few parallels in beauty; as it
approached, the banks which had hitherto been flat and uninteresting,
became exceedingly beautiful. Suddenly the river grew narrow, and the
boat dashed with inconceivable rapidity round the base of a rocky hill
covered with pines; a ruined tower, with its desolated windows, stood on
the summit of another hill that jutted into the river; beyond, the
sunset was illuminating the distant mountains and clouds, casting the
reflection of its rich and purple hues on the agitated river. The
brilliance and contrasts of the colours on the circling whirlpools of
the stream, was an appearance entirely new and most beautiful; the
shades grew darker as the sun descended below the horizon, and after we
had landed, as we walked to our inn round a beautiful bay, the full moon
arose with divine splendour, casting its silver light on the
before-purpled waves.

The following morning we pursued our journey in a slight canoe, in which
every motion was accompanied with danger; but the stream had lost much
of its rapidity, and was no longer impeded by rocks, the banks were low,
and covered with willows. We passed Strasburgh, and the next morning it
was proposed to us that we should proceed in the _diligence par-eau_, as
the navigation would become dangerous for our small boat.

There were only four passengers besides ourselves, three of these were
students of the Strasburgh university: Schwitz, a rather handsome, good
tempered young man; Hoff, a kind of shapeless animal, with a heavy,
ugly, German face; and Schneider, who was nearly an ideot, and on whom
his companions were always playing a thousand tricks: the remaining
passengers were a woman, and an infant.

The country was uninteresting, but we enjoyed fine weather, and slept in
the boat in the open air without any inconvenience. We saw on the shores
few objects that called forth our attention, if I except the town of
Manheim, which was strikingly neat and clean. It was situated at about a
mile from the river, and the road to it was planted on each side with
beautiful acacias. The last part of this voyage was performed close
under land, as the wind was so violently against us, that even with all
the force of a rapid current in our favour, we were hardly permitted to
proceed. We were told (and not without reason) that we ought to
congratulate ourselves on having exchanged our canoe for this boat, as
the river was now of considerable width, and tossed by the wind into
large waves. The same morning a boat, containing fifteen persons, in
attempting to cross the water, had upset in the middle of the river, and
every one in it perished. We saw the boat turned over, floating down the
stream. This was a melancholy sight, yet ludicrously commented on by the
_batalier_; almost the whole stock of whose French consisted in the word
_seulement_. When we asked him what had happened, he answered, laying
particular emphasis on this favourite dissyllable, _C'est seulement un
bateau, qui etoit seulement renversèe, et tous les peuples sont
seulement noyès._

Mayence is one of the best fortified towns in Germany. The river, which
is broad and rapid, guards it to the east, and the hills for three
leagues around exhibit signs of fortifications. The town itself is old,
the streets narrow, and the houses high: the cathedral and towers of the
town still bear marks of the bombardment which took place in the
revolutionary war.

We took our place in the _diligence par-eau_ for Cologne, and the next
morning (September 4th) departed. This conveyance appeared much more
like a mercantile English affair than any we had before seen; it was
shaped like a steam-boat, with a cabin and a high deck. Most of our
companions chose to remain in the cabin; this was fortunate for us,
since nothing could be more horribly disgusting than the lower order of
smoking, drinking Germans who travelled with us; they swaggered and
talked, and what was hideous to English eyes, kissed one another: there
were, however, two or three merchants of a better class, who appeared
well-informed and polite.

The part of the Rhine down which we now glided, is that so beautifully
described by Lord Byron in his third canto of _Childe Harold_. We read
these verses with delight, as they conjured before us these lovely
scenes with the truth and vividness of painting, and with the exquisite
addition of glowing language and a warm imagination. We were carried
down by a dangerously rapid current, and saw on either side of us hills
covered with vines and trees, craggy cliffs crowned by desolate towers,
and wooded islands, where picturesque ruins peeped from behind the
foliage, and cast the shadows of their forms on the troubled waters,
which distorted without deforming them. We heard the songs of the
vintagers, and if surrounded by disgusting Germans, the sight was not so
replete with enjoyment as I now fancy it to have been; yet memory,
taking all the dark shades from the picture, presents this part of the
Rhine to my remembrance as the loveliest paradise on earth.

We had sufficient leisure for the enjoyment of these scenes, for the
boatmen, neither rowing nor steering, suffered us to be carried down by
the stream, and the boat turned round and round as it descended.

While I speak with disgust of the Germans who travelled with us, I
should in justice to these borderers record, that at one of the inns
here we saw the only pretty woman we met with in the course of our
travels. She is what I should conceive to be a truly German beauty; grey
eyes, slightly tinged with brown, and expressive of uncommon sweetness
and frankness. She had lately recovered from a fever, and this added to
the interest of her countenance, by adorning it with an appearance of
extreme delicacy.

On the following day we left the hills of the Rhine, and found that, for
the remainder of our journey, we should move sluggishly through the
flats of Holland: the river also winds extremely, so that, after
calculating our resources, we resolved to finish our journey in a land
diligence. Our water conveyance remained that night at Bonn, and that we
might lose no time, we proceeded post the same night to Cologne, where
we arrived late; for the rate of travelling in Germany seldom exceeds a
mile and a half an hour.

Cologne appeared an immense town, as we drove through street after
street to arrive at our inn. Before we slept, we secured places in the
diligence, which was to depart next morning for Clêves.

Nothing in the world can be more wretched than travelling in this German
diligence: the coach is clumsy and comfortless, and we proceeded so
slowly, stopping so often, that it appeared as if we should never arrive
at our journey's end. We were allowed two hours for dinner, and two more
were wasted in the evening while the coach was being changed. We were
then requested, as the diligence had a greater demand for places than it
could supply, to proceed in a _cabriolet_ which was provided for us. We
readily consented, as we hoped to travel faster than in the heavy
diligence; but this was not permitted, and we jogged on all night behind
this cumbrous machine. In the morning when we stopped, and for a moment
indulged a hope that we had arrived at Clêves, which was at the distance
of five leagues from our last night's stage; but we had only advanced
three leagues in seven or eight hours, and had yet eight miles to
perform. However, we first rested about three hours at this stage, where
we could not obtain breakfast or any convenience, and at about eight
o'clock we again departed, and with slow, although far from easy
travelling, faint with hunger and fatigue, we arrived by noon at Clêves.


Tired by the slow pace of the diligence, we resolved to post the
remainder of the way. We had now, however, left Germany, and travelled
at about the same rate as an English post-chaise. The country was
entirely flat, and the roads so sandy, that the horses proceeded with
difficulty. The only ornaments of this country are the turf
fortifications that surround the towns. At Nimeguen we passed the flying
bridge, mentioned in the letters of Lady Mary Montague. We had intended
to travel all night, but at Triel, where we arrived at about ten
o'clock, we were assured that no post-boy was to be found who would
proceed at so late an hour, on account of the robbers who infested the
roads. This was an obvious imposition; but as we could procure neither
horses nor driver, we were obliged to sleep here.

During the whole of the following day the road lay between canals, which
intersect this country in every direction. The roads were excellent, but
the Dutch have contrived as many inconveniences as possible. In our
journey of the day before, we had passed by a windmill, which was so
situated with regard to the road, that it was only by keeping close to
the opposite side, and passing quickly, that we could avoid the sweep of
its sails.

The roads between the canals were only wide enough to admit of one
carriage, so that when we encountered another we were obliged sometimes
to back for half a mile, until we should come to one of the drawbridges
which led to the fields, on which one of the _cabriolets_ was rolled,
while the other passed. But they have another practice, which is still
more annoying: the flax when cut is put to soak under the mud of the
canals, and then placed to dry against the trees which are planted on
either side of the road; the stench that it exhales, when the beams of
the sun draw out the moisture, is scarcely endurable. We saw many
enormous frogs and toads in the canals; and the only sight which
refreshed the eye by its beauty was the delicious verdure of the fields,
where the grass was as rich and green as that of England, an appearance
not common on the continent.

Rotterdam is remarkably clean: the Dutch even wash the outside brickwork
of their houses. We remained here one day, and met with a man in a very
unfortunate condition: he had been born in Holland, and had spent so
much of his life between England, France, and Germany, that he had
acquired a slight knowledge of the language of each country, and spoke
all very imperfectly. He said that he understood English best, but he
was nearly unable to express himself in that.

On the evening of the 8th of August we sailed from Rotterdam, but
contrary winds obliged us to remain nearly two days at Marsluys, a town
about two leagues from Rotterdam. Here our last guinea was expended, and
we reflected with wonder that we had travelled eight hundred miles for
less than thirty pounds, passing through lovely scenes, and enjoying the
beauteous Rhine, and all the brilliant shews of earth and sky, perhaps
more, travelling as we did, in an open boat, than if we had been shut up
in a carriage, and passed on the road under the hills.

The captain of our vessel was an Englishman, and had been a king's
pilot. The bar of the Rhine a little below Marsluys is so dangerous,
that without a very favourable breeze none of the Dutch vessels dare
attempt its passage; but although the wind was a very few points in our
favour, our captain resolved to sail, and although half repentant before
he had accomplished his undertaking, he was glad and proud when,
triumphing over the timorous Dutchmen, the bar was crossed, and the
vessel safe in the open sea. It was in truth an enterprise of some
peril; a heavy gale had prevailed during the night, and although it had
abated since the morning, the breakers at the bar were still exceedingly
high. Through some delay, which had arisen from the ship having got
a-ground in the harbour, we arrived half an hour after the appointed
time. The breakers were tremendous, and we were informed that there was
the space of only two feet between the bottom of the vessel and the
sands. The waves, which broke against the sides of the ship with a
terrible shock, were quite perpendicular, and even sometimes overhanging
in the abrupt smoothness of their sides. Shoals of enormous porpoises
were sporting with the utmost composure amidst the troubled waters.

We safely past this danger, and after a navigation unexpectedly short,
arrived at Gravesend on the morning of the 13th of September, the third
day after our departure from Marsluys.






                   _In the Summer of the Year 1816_.

                               LETTER I.

                                              Hôtel de Secheron, Geneva,
                                                    May 17, 1816.

We arrived at Paris on the 8th of this month, and were detained two days
for the purpose of obtaining the various signatures necessary to our
passports, the French government having become much more circumspect
since the escape of Lavalette. We had no letters of introduction, or any
friend in that city, and were therefore confined to our hotel, where we
were obliged to hire apartments for the week, although when we first
arrived we expected to be detained one night only; for in Paris there
are no houses where you can be accommodated with apartments by the day.

The manners of the French are interesting, although less attractive, at
least to Englishmen, than before the last invasion of the Allies: the
discontent and sullenness of their minds perpetually betrays itself. Nor
is it wonderful that they should regard the subjects of a government
which fills their country with hostile garrisons, and sustains a
detested dynasty on the throne, with an acrimony and indignation of
which that government alone is the proper object. This feeling is
honourable to the French, and encouraging to all those of every nation
in Europe who have a fellow feeling with the oppressed, and who cherish
an unconquerable hope that the cause of liberty must at length prevail.

Our route after Paris, as far as Troyes, lay through the same
uninteresting tract of country which we had traversed on foot nearly two
years before, but on quitting Troyes we left the road leading to
Neufchâtel, to follow that which was to conduct us to Geneva. We entered
Dijon on the third evening after our departure from Paris, and passing
through Dôle, arrived at Poligny. This town is built at the foot of
Jura, which rises abruptly from a plain of vast extent. The rocks of the
mountain overhang the houses. Some difficulty in procuring horses
detained us here until the evening closed in, when we proceeded, by the
light of a stormy moon, to Champagnolles, a little village situated in
the depth of the mountains. The road was serpentine and exceedingly
steep, and was overhung on one side by half distinguished precipices,
whilst the other was a gulph, filled by the darkness of the driving
clouds. The dashing of the invisible mountain streams announced to us
that we had quitted the plains of France, as we slowly ascended, amidst
a violent storm of wind and rain, to Champagnolles, where we arrived at
twelve o'clock, the fourth night after our departure from Paris.

The next morning we proceeded, still ascending among the ravines and
vallies of the mountain. The scenery perpetually grows more wonderful
and sublime: pine forests of impenetrable thickness, and untrodden, nay,
inaccessible expanse spread on every side. Sometimes the dark woods
descending, follow the route into the vallies, the distorted trees
struggling with knotted roots between the most barren clefts; sometimes
the road winds high into the regions of frost, and then the forests
become scattered, and the branches of the trees are loaded with snow,
and half of the enormous pines themselves buried in the wavy drifts. The
spring, as the inhabitants informed us, was unusually late, and indeed
the cold was excessive; as we ascended the mountains, the same clouds
which rained on us in the vallies poured forth large flakes of snow
thick and fast. The sun occasionally shone through these showers, and
illuminated the magnificent ravines of the mountains, whose gigantic
pines were some laden with snow, some wreathed round by the lines of
scattered and lingering vapour; others darting their dark spires into
the sunny sky, brilliantly clear and azure.

As the evening advanced, and we ascended higher, the snow, which we had
beheld whitening the overhanging rocks, now encroached upon our road,
and it snowed fast as we entered the village of Les Rousses, where we
were threatened by the apparent necessity of passing the night in a bad
inn and dirty beds. For from that place there are two roads to Geneva;
one by Nion, in the Swiss territory, where the mountain route is
shorter, and comparatively easy at that time of the year, when the road
is for several leagues covered with snow of an enormous depth; the other
road lay through Gex, and was too circuitous and dangerous to be
attempted at so late an hour in the day. Our passport, however, was for
Gex, and we were told that we could not change its destination; but all
these police laws, so severe in themselves, are to be softened by
bribery, and this difficulty was at length overcome. We hired four
horses, and ten men to support the carriage, and departed from Les
Rousses at six in the evening, when the sun had already far descended,
and the snow pelting against the windows of our carriage, assisted the
coming darkness to deprive us of the view of the lake of Geneva and the
far distant Alps.

The prospect around, however, was sufficiently sublime to command our
attention—never was scene more awfully desolate. The trees in these
regions are incredibly large, and stand in scattered clumps over the
white wilderness; the vast expanse of snow was chequered only by these
gigantic pines, and the poles that marked our road: no river or
rock-encircled lawn relieved the eye, by adding the picturesque to the
sublime. The natural silence of that uninhabited desert contrasted
strangely with the voices of the men who conducted us, who, with
animated tones and gestures, called to one another in a _patois_
composed of French and Italian, creating disturbance, where but for
them, there was none.

To what a different scene are we now arrived! To the warm sunshine and
to the humming of sun-loving insects. From the windows of our hotel we
see the lovely lake, blue as the heavens which it reflects, and
sparkling with golden beams. The opposite shore is sloping, and covered
with vines, which however do not so early in the season add to the
beauty of the prospect. Gentlemens' seats are scattered over these
banks, behind which rise the various ridges of black mountains, and
towering far above, in the midst of its snowy Alps, the majestic Mont
Blanc, highest and queen of all. Such is the view reflected by the lake;
it is a bright summer scene without any of that sacred solitude and deep
seclusion that delighted us at Lucerne.

We have not yet found out any very agreeable walks, but you know our
attachment to water excursions. We have hired a boat, and every evening
at about six o'clock we sail on the lake, which is delightful, whether
we glide over a glassy surface or are speeded along by a strong wind.
The waves of this lake never afflict me with that sickness that deprives
me of all enjoyment in a sea voyage; on the contrary, the tossing of our
boat raises my spirits and inspires me with unusual hilarity. Twilight
here is of short duration, but we at present enjoy the benefit of an
increasing moon, and seldom return until ten o'clock, when, as we
approach the shore, we are saluted by the delightful scent of flowers
and new mown grass, and the chirp of the grasshoppers, and the song of
the evening birds.

We do not enter into society here, yet our time passes swiftly and
delightfully. We read Latin and Italian during the heats of noon, and
when the sun declines we walk in the garden of the hotel, looking at the
rabbits, relieving fallen cockchafers, and watching the motions of a
myriad of lizards, who inhabit a southern wall of the garden. You know
that we have just escaped from the gloom of winter and of London; and
coming to this delightful spot during this divine weather, I feel as
happy as a new-fledged bird, and hardly care what twig I fly to, so that
I may try my new-found wings. A more experienced bird may be more
difficult in its choice of a bower; but in my present temper of mind,
the budding flowers, the fresh grass of spring, and the happy creatures
about me that live and enjoy these pleasures, are quite enough to afford
me exquisite delight, even though clouds should shut out Mont Blanc from
my sight. Adieu!


                               LETTER II.


                                         Campagne C******, near Coligny,
                                                             1st June.

You will perceive from my date that we have changed our residence since
my last letter. We now inhabit a little cottage on the opposite shore of
the lake, and have exchanged the view of Mont Blanc and her snowy
_aiguilles_ for the dark frowning Jura, behind whose range we every
evening see the sun sink, and darkness approaches our valley from behind
the Alps, which are then tinged by that glowing rose-like hue which is
observed in England to attend on the clouds of an autumnal sky when
day-light is almost gone. The lake is at our feet, and a little harbour
contains our boat, in which we still enjoy our evening excursions on the
water. Unfortunately we do not now enjoy those brilliant skies that
hailed us on our first arrival to this country. An almost perpetual rain
confines us principally to the house; but when the sun bursts forth it
is with a splendour and heat unknown in England. The thunder storms that
visit us are grander and more terrific than I have ever seen before. We
watch them as they approach from the opposite side of the lake,
observing the lightning play among the clouds in various parts of the
heavens, and dart in jagged figures upon the piny heights of Jura, dark
with the shadow of the overhanging cloud, while perhaps the sun is
shining cheerily upon us. One night we _enjoyed_ a finer storm than I
had ever before beheld. The lake was lit up—the pines on Jura made
visible, and all the scene illuminated for an instant, when a pitchy
blackness succeeded, and the thunder came in frightful bursts over our
heads amid the darkness.

But while I still dwell on the country around Geneva, you will expect me
to say something of the town itself: there is nothing, however, in it
that can repay you for the trouble of walking over its rough stones. The
houses are high, the streets narrow, many of them on the ascent, and no
public building of any beauty to attract your eye, or any architecture
to gratify your taste. The town is surrounded by a wall, the three gates
of which are shut exactly at ten o'clock, when no bribery (as in France)
can open them. To the south of the town is the promenade of the
Genevese, a grassy plain planted with a few trees, and called
Plainpalais. Here a small obelisk is erected to the glory of Rousseau,
and here (such is the mutability of human life) the magistrates, the
successors of those who exiled him from his native country, were shot by
the populace during that revolution, which his writings mainly
contributed to mature, and which, notwithstanding the temporary
bloodshed and injustice with which it was polluted, has produced
enduring benefits to mankind, which all the chicanery of statesmen, nor
even the great conspiracy of kings, can entirely render vain. From
respect to the memory of their predecessors, none of the present
magistrates ever walk in Plainpalais. Another Sunday recreation for the
citizens is an excursion to the top of Mont Salève. This hill is within
a league of the town, and rises perpendicularly from the cultivated
plain. It is ascended on the other side, and I should judge from its
situation that your toil is rewarded by a delightful view of the course
of the Rhone and Arve, and of the shores of the lake. We have not yet
visited it.

There is more equality of classes here than in England. This occasions a
greater freedom and refinement of manners among the lower orders than we
meet with in our own country. I fancy the haughty English ladies are
greatly disgusted with this consequence of republican institutions, for
the Genevese servants complain very much of their _scolding_, an
exercise of the tongue, I believe, perfectly unknown here. The peasants
of Switzerland may not however emulate the vivacity and grace of the
French. They are more cleanly, but they are slow and inapt. I know a
girl of twenty, who although she had lived all her life among vineyards,
could not inform me during what month the vintage took place, and I
discovered she was utterly ignorant of the order in which the months
succeed to one another. She would not have been surprised if I had
talked of the burning sun and delicious fruits of December, or of the
frosts of July. Yet she is by no means deficient in understanding.

The Genevese are also much inclined to puritanism. It is true that from
habit they dance on a Sunday, but as soon as the French government was
abolished in the town, the magistrates ordered the theatre to be closed,
and measures were taken to pull down the building.

We have latterly enjoyed fine weather, and nothing is more pleasant than
to listen to the evening song of the vine-dressers. They are all women,
and most of them have harmonious although masculine voices. The theme of
their ballads consists of shepherds, love, flocks, and the sons of kings
who fall in love with beautiful shepherdesses. Their tunes are
monotonous, but it is sweet to hear them in the stillness of evening,
while we are enjoying the sight of the setting sun, either from the hill
behind our house or from the lake.

Such are our pleasures here, which would be greatly increased if the
season had been more favourable, for they chiefly consist in such
enjoyments as sunshine and gentle breezes bestow. We have not yet made
any excursion in the environs of the town, but we have planned several,
when you shall again hear of us; and we will endeavour, by the magic of
words, to transport the ethereal part of you to the neighbourhood of the
Alps, and mountain streams, and forests, which, while they clothe the
former, darken the latter with their vast shadows. Adieu!


                              LETTER III.

                             To T. P. ESQ.


                                       Montalegre, near Coligni, Geneva,
                                                         July 12th.

It is nearly a fortnight since I have returned from Vevai. This journey
has been on every account delightful, but most especially, because then
I first knew the divine beauty of Rousseau's imagination, as it exhibits
itself in Julie. It is inconceivable what an enchantment the scene
itself lends to those delineations, from which its own most touching
charm arises. But I will give you an abstract of our voyage, which
lasted eight days, and if you have a map of Switzerland, you can follow

We left Montalegre at half past two on the 23d of June. The lake was
calm, and after three hours of rowing we arrived at Hermance, a
beautiful little village, containing a ruined tower, built, the
villagers say, by Julius Cæsar. There were three other towers similar to
it, which the Genevese destroyed for their own fortifications in 1560.
We got into the tower by a kind of window. The walls are immensely
solid, and the stone of which it is built so hard, that it yet retained
the mark of chisels. The boatmen said, that this tower was once three
times higher than it is now. There are two staircases in the thickness
of the walls, one of which is entirely demolished, and the other half
ruined, and only accessible by a ladder. The town itself, now an
inconsiderable village inhabited by a few fishermen, was built by a
Queen of Burgundy, and reduced to its present state by the inhabitants
of Berne, who burnt and ravaged every thing they could find.

Leaving Hermance, we arrived at sunset at the village of Nerni. After
looking at our lodgings, which were gloomy and dirty, we walked out by
the side of the lake. It was beautiful to see the vast expanse of these
purple and misty waters broken by the craggy islets near to its slant
and “beached margin.” There were many fish sporting in the lake, and
multitudes were collected close to the rocks to catch the flies which
inhabited them.

On returning to the village, we sat on a wall beside the lake, looking
at some children who were playing at a game like ninepins. The children
here appeared in an extraordinary way deformed and diseased. Most of
them were crooked, and with enlarged throats; but one little boy had
such exquisite grace in his mien and motions, as I never before saw
equalled in a child. His countenance was beautiful for the expression
with which it overflowed. There was a mixture of pride and gentleness in
his eyes and lips, the indications of sensibility, which his education
will probably pervert to misery or seduce to crime; but there was more
of gentleness than of pride, and it seemed that the pride was tamed from
its original wildness by the habitual exercise of milder feelings. My
companion gave him a piece of money, which he took without speaking,
with a sweet smile of easy thankfulness, and then with an unembarrassed
air turned to his play. All this might scarcely be; but the imagination
surely could not forbear to breathe into the most inanimate forms some
likeness of its own visions, on such a serene and glowing evening, in
this remote and romantic village, beside the calm lake that bore us

On returning to our inn, we found that the servant had arranged our
rooms, and deprived them of the greater portion of their former
disconsolate appearance. They reminded my companion of Greece: it was
five years, he said, since he had slept in such beds. The influence of
the recollections excited by this circumstance on our conversation
gradually faded, and I retired to rest with no unpleasant sensations,
thinking of our journey tomorrow, and of the pleasure of recounting the
little adventures of it when we return.

The next morning we passed Yvoire, a scattered village with an ancient
castle, whose houses are interspersed with trees, and which stands at a
little distance from Nerni, on the promontory which bounds a deep bay,
some miles in extent. So soon as we arrived at this promontory, the lake
began to assume an aspect of wilder magnificence. The mountains of
Savoy, whose summits were bright with snow, descended in broken slopes
to the lake: on high, the rocks were dark with pine forests, which
become deeper and more immense, until the ice and snow mingle with the
points of naked rock that pierce the blue air; but below, groves of
walnut, chesnut, and oak, with openings of lawny fields, attested the
milder climate.

As soon as we had passed the opposite promontory, we saw the river
Drance, which descends from between a chasm in the mountains, and makes
a plain near the lake, intersected by its divided streams. Thousands of
_besolets_, beautiful water-birds, like sea-gulls, but smaller, with
purple on their backs, take their station on the shallows, where its
waters mingle with the lake. As we approached Evian, the mountains
descended more precipitously to the lake, and masses of intermingled
wood and rock overhung its shining spire.

We arrived at this town about seven o'clock, after a day which involved
more rapid changes of atmosphere than I ever recollect to have observed
before. The morning was cold and wet; then an easterly wind, and the
clouds hard and high; then thunder showers, and wind shifting to every
quarter; then a warm blast from the south, and summer clouds hanging
over the peaks, with bright blue sky between. About half an hour after
we had arrived at Evian, a few flashes of lightning came from a dark
cloud, directly over head, and continued after the cloud had dispersed.
“Diespiter, per pura tonantes egit equos:” a phenomenon which certainly
had no influence on me, corresponding with that which it produced on

The appearance of the inhabitants of Evian is more wretched, diseased
and poor, than I ever recollect to have seen. The contrast indeed
between the subjects of the King of Sardinia and the citizens of the
independent republics of Switzerland, affords a powerful illustration of
the blighting mischiefs of despotism, within the space of a few miles.
They have mineral waters here, _eaux savonneuses_, they call them. In
the evening we had some difficulty about our passports, but so soon as
the syndic heard my companion's rank and name, he apologized for the
circumstance. The inn was good. During our voyage, on the distant height
of a hill, covered with pine-forests, we saw a ruined castle, which
reminded me of those on the Rhine.

We left Evian on the following morning, with a wind of such violence as
to permit but one sail to be carried. The waves also were exceedingly
high, and our boat so heavily laden, that there appeared to be some
danger. We arrived however safe at Mellerie, after passing with great
speed mighty forests which overhung the lake, and lawns of exquisite
verdure, and mountains with bare and icy points, which rose immediately
from the summit of the rocks, whose bases were echoing to the waves.

We here heard that the Empress Maria Louisa had slept at Mellerie,
before the present inn was built, and when the accommodations were those
of the most wretched village, in remembrance of St. Preux. How beautiful
it is to find that the common sentiments of human nature can attach
themselves to those who are the most removed from its duties and its
enjoyments, when Genius pleads for their admission at the gate of Power.
To own them was becoming in the Empress, and confirms the affectionate
praise contained in the regret of a great and enlightened nation. A
Bourbon dared not even to have remembered Rousseau. She owed this power
to that democracy which her husband's dynasty outraged, and of which it
was however in some sort the representative among the nations of the
earth. This little incident shews at once how unfit and how impossible
it is for the ancient system of opinions, or for any power built upon a
conspiracy to revive them, permanently to subsist among mankind. We
dined there, and had some honey, the best I have ever tasted, the very
essence of the mountain flowers, and as fragrant. Probably the village
derives its name from this production. Mellerie is the well known scene
of St. Preux's visionary exile; but Mellerie is indeed inchanted ground,
were Rousseau no magician. Groves of pine, chesnut, and walnut
overshadow it; magnificent and unbounded forests to which England
affords no parallel. In the midst of these woods are dells of lawny
expanse, inconceivably verdant, adorned with a thousand of the rarest
flowers and odorous with thyme.

The lake appeared somewhat calmer as we left Mellerie, sailing close to
the banks, whose magnificence augmented with the turn of every
promontory. But we congratulated ourselves too soon: the wind gradually
increased in violence, until it blew tremendously; and as it came from
the remotest extremity of the lake, produced waves of a frightful
height, and covered the whole surface with a chaos of foam. One of our
boatmen, who was a dreadfully stupid fellow, persisted in holding the
sail at a time when the boat was on the point of being driven under
water by the hurricane. On discovering his error, he let it entirely go,
and the boat for a moment refused to obey the helm; in addition, the
rudder was so broken as to render the management of it very difficult;
one wave fell in, and then another. My companion, an excellent swimmer,
took off his coat, I did the same, and we sat with our arms crossed,
every instant expecting to be swamped. The sail was however again held,
the boat obeyed the helm, and still in imminent peril from the immensity
of the waves, we arrived in a few minutes at a sheltered port, in the
village of St. Gingoux.

I felt in this near prospect of death a mixture of sensations, among
which terror entered, though but subordinately. My feelings would have
been less painful had I been alone; but I know that my companion would
have attempted to save me, and I was overcome with humiliation, when I
thought that his life might have been risked to preserve mine. When we
arrived at St. Gingoux, the inhabitants, who stood on the shore,
unaccustomed to see a vessel as frail as ours, and fearing to venture at
all on such a sea, exchanged looks of wonder and congratulation with our
boatmen, who, as well as ourselves, were well pleased to set foot on

St. Gingoux is even more beautiful than Mellerie; the mountains are
higher, and their loftiest points of elevation descend more abruptly to
the lake. On high, the aerial summits still cherish great depths of snow
in their ravines, and in the paths of their unseen torrents. One of the
highest of these is called Roche de St. Julien, beneath whose pinnacles
the forests become deeper and more extensive; the chesnut gives a
peculiarity to the scene, which is most beautiful, and will make a
picture in my memory, distinct from all other mountain scenes which I
have ever before visited.

As we arrived here early, we took a _voiture_ to visit the mouth of the
Rhone. We went between the mountains and the lake, under groves of
mighty chesnut trees, beside perpetual streams, which are nourished by
the snows above, and form stalactites on the rocks, over which they
fall. We saw an immense chesnut tree, which had been overthrown by the
hurricane of the morning. The place where the Rhone joins the lake was
marked by a line of tremendous breakers; the river is as rapid as when
it leaves the lake, but is muddy and dark. We went about a league
farther on the road to La Valais, and stopped at a castle called La Tour
de Bouverie, which seems to be the frontier of Switzerland and Savoy, as
we were asked for our passports, on the supposition of our proceeding to

On one side of the road was the immense Roche de St. Julien, which
overhung it; through the gateway of the castle we saw the snowy
mountains of La Valais, clothed in clouds, and on the other side was the
willowy plain of the Rhone, in a character of striking contrast with the
rest of the scene, bounded by the dark mountains that overhang Clarens,
Vevai, and the lake that rolls between. In the midst of the plain rises
a little isolated hill, on which the white spire of a church peeps from
among the tufted chesnut woods. We returned to St. Gingoux before
sunset, and I passed the evening in reading Julie.

As my companion rises late, I had time before breakfast, on the ensuing
morning, to hunt the waterfalls of the river that fall into the lake at
St. Gingoux. The stream is indeed, from the declivity over which it
falls, only a succession of waterfalls, which roar over the rocks with a
perpetual sound, and suspend their unceasing spray on the leaves and
flowers that overhang and adorn its savage banks. The path that
conducted along this river sometimes avoided the precipices of its
shores, by leading through meadows; sometimes threaded the base of the
perpendicular and caverned rocks. I gathered in these meadows a nosegay
of such flowers as I never saw in England, and which I thought more
beautiful for that rarity.

On my return, after breakfast, we sailed for Clarens, determining first
to see the three mouths of the Rhone, and then the castle of Chillon;
the day was fine, and the water calm. We passed from the blue waters of
the lake over the stream of the Rhone, which is rapid even at a great
distance from its confluence with the lake; the turbid waters mixed with
those of the lake, but mixed with them unwillingly. (_See Nouvelle
Heloise, Lettre 17, Part 4._) I read Julie all day; an overflowing, as
it now seems, surrounded by the scenes which it has so wonderfully
peopled, of sublimest genius, and more than human sensibility. Mellerie,
the Castle of Chillon, Clarens, the mountains of La Valais and Savoy,
present themselves to the imagination as monuments of things that were
once familiar, and of beings that were once dear to it. They were
created indeed by one mind, but a mind so powerfully bright as to cast a
shade of falsehood on the records that are called reality.

We passed on to the Castle of Chillon, and visited its dungeons and
towers. These prisons are excavated below the lake; the principal
dungeon is supported by seven columns, whose branching capitals support
the roof. Close to the very walls, the lake is 800 feet deep; iron rings
are fastened to these columns, and on them were engraven a multitude of
names, partly those of visitors, and partly doubtless of the prisoners,
of whom now no memory remains, and who thus beguiled a solitude which
they have long ceased to feel. One date was as ancient as 1670. At the
commencement of the Reformation, and indeed long after that period, this
dungeon was the receptacle of those who shook, or who denied the system
of idolatry, from the effects of which mankind is even now slowly

Close to this long and lofty dungeon was a narrow cell, and beyond it
one larger and far more lofty and dark, supported upon two unornamented
arches. Across one of these arches was a beam, now black and rotten, on
which prisoners were hung in secret. I never saw a monument more
terrible of that cold and inhuman tyranny, which it has been the delight
of man to exercise over man. It was indeed one of those many tremendous
fulfilments which render the “pernicies humani generis” of the great
Tacitus, so solemn and irrefragable a prophecy. The gendarme, who
conducted us over this castle, told us that there was an opening to the
lake, by means of a secret spring, connected with which the whole
dungeon might be filled with water before the prisoners could possibly

We proceeded with a contrary wind to Clarens, against a heavy swell. I
never felt more strongly than on landing at Clarens, that the spirit of
old times had deserted its once cherished habitation. A thousand times,
thought I, have Julia and St. Preux walked on this terraced road,
looking towards these mountains which I now behold; nay, treading on the
ground where I now tread. From the window of our lodging our landlady
pointed out “le bosquet de Julie.” At least the inhabitants of this
village are impressed with an idea, that the persons of that romance had
actual existence. In the evening we walked thither. It is indeed Julia's
wood. The hay was making under the trees; the trees themselves were
aged, but vigorous, and interspersed with younger ones, which are
destined to be their successors, and in future years, when we are dead,
to afford a shade to future worshippers of nature, who love the memory
of that tenderness and peace of which this was the imaginary abode. We
walked forward among the vineyards, whose narrow terraces overlook this
affecting scene. Why did the cold maxims of the world compel me at this
moment to repress the tears of melancholy transport which it would have
been so sweet to indulge, immeasurably, even until the darkness of night
had swallowed up the objects which excited them?

I forgot to remark, what indeed my companion remarked to me, that our
danger from the storm took place precisely in the spot where Julie and
her lover were nearly overset, and where St. Preux was tempted to plunge
with her into the lake.

On the following day we went to see the castle of Clarens, a square
strong house, with very few windows, surrounded by a double terrace that
overlooks the valley, or rather the plain of Clarens. The road which
conducted to it wound up the steep ascent through woods of walnut and
chesnut. We gathered roses on the terrace, in the feeling that they
might be the posterity of some planted by Julia's hand. We sent their
dead and withered leaves to the absent.

We went again to “the bosquet de Julie,” and found that the precise spot
was now utterly obliterated, and a heap of stones marked the place where
the little chapel had once stood. Whilst we were execrating the author
of this brutal folly, our guide informed us that the land belonged to
the convent of St. Bernard, and that this outrage had been committed by
their orders. I knew before, that if avarice could harden the hearts of
men, a system of prescriptive religion has an influence far more
inimical to natural sensibility. I know that an isolated man is
sometimes restrained by shame from outraging the venerable feelings
arising out of the memory of genius, which once made nature even
lovelier than itself; but associated man holds it as the very sacrament
of his union to forswear all delicacy, all benevolence, all remorse, all
that is true, or tender, or sublime.

We sailed from Clarens to Vevai. Vevai is a town more beautiful in its
simplicity than any I have ever seen. Its market-place, a spacious
square interspersed with trees, looks directly upon the mountains of
Savoy and La Valais, the lake, and the valley of the Rhone. It was at
Vevai that Rousseau conceived the design of Julie.

From Vevai we came to Ouchy, a village near Lausanne. The coasts of the
Pays de Vaud, though full of villages and vineyards, present an aspect
of tranquillity and peculiar beauty which well compensates for the
solitude which I am accustomed to admire. The hills are very high and
rocky, crowned and interspersed with woods. Water-falls echo from the
cliffs, and shine afar. In one place we saw the traces of two rocks of
immense size, which had fallen from the mountain behind. One of these
lodged in a room where a young woman was sleeping, without injuring her.
The vineyards were utterly destroyed in its path, and the earth torn up.

The rain detained us two days at Ouchy. We however visited Lausanne, and
saw Gibbon's house. We were shewn the decayed summer-house where he
finished his History, and the old acacias on the terrace, from which he
saw Mont Blanc, after having written the last sentence. There is
something grand and even touching in the regret which he expresses at
the completion of his task. It was conceived amid the ruins of the
Capitol. The sudden departure of his cherished and accustomed toil must
have left him, like the death of a dear friend, sad and solitary.

My companion gathered some acacia leaves to preserve in remembrance of
him. I refrained from doing so, fearing to outrage the greater and more
sacred name of Rousseau; the contemplation of whose imperishable
creations had left no vacancy in my heart for mortal things. Gibbon had
a cold and unimpassioned spirit. I never felt more inclination to rail
at the prejudices which cling to such a thing, than now that Julie and
Clarens, Lausanne and the Roman Empire, compelled me to a contrast
between Rousseau and Gibbon.

When we returned, in the only interval of sunshine during the day, I
walked on the pier which the lake was lashing with its waves. A rainbow
spanned the lake, or rather rested one extremity of its arch upon the
water, and the other at the foot of the mountains of Savoy. Some white
houses, I know not if they were those of Mellerie, shone through the
yellow fire.

On Saturday the 30th of June we quitted Ouchy, and after two days of
pleasant sailing arrived on Sunday evening at Montalegre.


                               LETTER IV.

                             To T. P. ESQ.


                                             Hôtel de Londres, Chamouni,
                                                     July 22d, 1816.

Whilst you, my friend, are engaged in securing a home for us, we are
wandering in search of recollections to embellish it. I do not err in
conceiving that you are interested in details of all that is majestic or
beautiful in nature; but how shall I describe to you the scenes by which
I am now surrounded? To exhaust the epithets which express the
astonishment and the admiration—the very excess of satisfied
astonishment, where expectation scarcely acknowledged any boundary, is
this, to impress upon your mind the images which fill mine now even till
it overflow? I too have read the raptures of travellers; I will be
warned by their example; I will simply detail to you all that I can
relate, or all that, if related, would enable you to conceive of what we
have done or seen since the morning of the 20th, when we left Geneva.

We commenced our intended journey to Chamouni at half-past eight in the
morning. We passed through the champain country, which extends from Mont
Salève to the base of the higher Alps. The country is sufficiently
fertile, covered with corn fields and orchards, and intersected by
sudden acclivities with flat summits. The day was cloudless and
excessively hot, the Alps were perpetually in sight, and as we advanced,
the mountains, which form their outskirts, closed in around us. We
passed a bridge over a stream, which discharges itself into the Arve.
The Arve itself, much swollen by the rains, flows constantly to the
right of the road.

As we approached Bonneville through an avenue composed of a beautiful
species of drooping poplar, we observed that the corn fields on each
side were covered with inundation. Bonneville is a neat little town,
with no conspicuous peculiarity, except the white towers of the prison,
an extensive building overlooking the town. At Bonneville the Alps
commence, one of which, clothed by forests, rises almost immediately
from the opposite bank of the Arve.

From Bonneville to Cluses the road conducts through a spacious and
fertile plain, surrounded on all sides by mountains, covered like those
of Mellerie with forests of intermingled pine and chesnut. At Cluses the
road turns suddenly to the right, following the Arve along the chasm,
which it seems to have hollowed for itself among the perpendicular
mountains. The scene assumes here a more savage and colossal character;
the valley becomes narrow, affording no more space than is sufficient
for the river and the road. The pines descend to the banks, imitating
with their irregular spires, the pyramidal crags which lift themselves
far above the regions of forest into the deep azure of the sky, and
among the white dazzling clouds. The scene, at the distance of half a
mile from Cluses, differs from that of Matlock in little else than in
the immensity of its proportions, and in its untameable, inaccessible
solitude, inhabited only by the goats which we saw browsing on the

Near Maglans, within a league of each other, we saw two waterfalls. They
were no more than mountain rivulets, but the height from which they
fell, at least of _twelve_ hundred feet, made them assume a character
inconsistent with the smallness of their stream. The first fell from the
overhanging brow of a black precipice on an enormous rock, precisely
resembling some colossal Egyptian statue of a female deity. It struck
the head of the visionary image, and gracefully dividing there, fell
from it in folds of foam more like to cloud than water, imitating a veil
of the most exquisite woof. It then united, concealing the lower part of
the statue, and hiding itself in a winding of its channel, burst into a
deeper fall, and crossed our route in its path towards the Arve.

The other waterfall was more continuous and larger. The violence with
which it fell made it look more like some shape which an exhalation had
assumed, than like water, for it streamed beyond the mountain, which
appeared dark behind it, as it might have appeared behind an evanescent

The character of the scenery continued the same until we arrived at St.
Martin (called in the maps Sallanches) the mountains perpetually
becoming more elevated, exhibiting at every turn of the road more craggy
summits, loftier and wider extent of forests, darker and more deep

The following morning we proceeded from St. Martin on mules to Chamouni,
accompanied by two guides. We proceeded, as we had done the preceding
day, along the valley of the Arve, a valley surrounded on all sides by
immense mountains, whose rugged precipices are intermixed on high with
dazzling snow. Their bases were still covered with the eternal forests,
which perpetually grew darker and more profound as we approached the
inner regions of the mountains.

On arriving at a small village, at the distance of a league from St.
Martin, we dismounted from our mules, and were conducted by our guides
to view a cascade. We beheld an immense body of water fall two hundred
and fifty feet, dashing from rock to rock, and casting a spray which
formed a mist around it, in the midst of which hung a multitude of
sunbows, which faded or became unspeakably vivid, as the inconstant sun
shone through the clouds. When we approached near to it, the rain of the
spray reached us, and our clothes were wetted by the quick-falling but
minute particles of water. The cataract fell from above into a deep
craggy chasm at our feet, where, changing its character to that of a
mountain stream, it pursued its course towards the Arve, roaring over
the rocks that impeded its progress.

As we proceeded, our route still lay through the valley, or rather, as
it had now become, the vast ravine, which is at once the couch and the
creation of the terrible Arve. We ascended, winding between mountains
whose immensity staggers the imagination. We crossed the path of a
torrent, which three days since had descended from the thawing snow, and
torn the road away.

We dined at Servoz, a little village, where there are lead and copper
mines, and where we saw a cabinet of natural curiosities, like those of
Keswick and Bethgelert. We saw in this cabinet some chamois' horns, and
the horns of an exceedingly rare animal called the bouquetin, which
inhabits the desarts of snow to the south of Mont Blanc: it is an animal
of the stag kind; its horns weigh at least twenty-seven English pounds.
It is inconceivable how so small an animal could support so inordinate a
weight. The horns are of a very peculiar conformation, being broad,
massy, and pointed at the ends, and surrounded with a number of rings,
which are supposed to afford an indication of its age: there were
seventeen rings on the largest of these horns.

From Servoz three leagues remain to Chamouni.—Mont Blanc was before
us—the Alps, with their innumerable glaciers on high all around, closing
in the complicated windings of the single vale—forests inexpressibly
beautiful, but majestic in their beauty—intermingled beech and pine, and
oak, overshadowed our road, or receded, whilst lawns of such verdure as
I have never seen before occupied these openings, and gradually became
darker in their recesses. Mont Blanc was before us, but it was covered
with cloud; its base, furrowed with dreadful gaps, was seen above.
Pinnacles of snow intolerably bright, part of the chain connected with
Mont Blanc, shone through the clouds at intervals on high. I never
knew—I never imagined what mountains were before. The immensity of these
aerial summits excited, when they suddenly burst upon the sight, a
sentiment of extatic wonder, not unallied to madness. And remember this
was all one scene, it all pressed home to our regard and our
imagination. Though it embraced a vast extent of space, the snowy
pyramids which shot into the bright blue sky seemed to overhang our
path; the ravine, clothed with gigantic pines, and black with its depth
below, so deep that the very roaring of the untameable Arve, which
rolled through it, could not be heard above—all was as much our own, as
if we had been the creators of such impressions in the minds of others
as now occupied our own. Nature was the poet, whose harmony held our
spirits more breathless than that of the divinest.

As we entered the valley of Chamouni (which in fact may be considered as
a continuation of those which we have followed from Bonneville and
Cluses) clouds hung upon the mountains at the distance perhaps of 6000
feet from the earth, but so as effectually to conceal not only Mont
Blanc, but the other _aiguilles_, as they call them here, attached and
subordinate to it. We were travelling along the valley, when suddenly we
heard a sound as of the burst of smothered thunder rolling above; yet
there was something earthly in the sound, that told us it could not be
thunder. Our guide hastily pointed out to us a part of the mountain
opposite, from whence the sound came. It was an avalanche. We saw the
smoke of its path among the rocks, and continued to hear at intervals
the bursting of its fall. It fell on the bed of a torrent, which it
displaced, and presently we saw its tawny-coloured waters also spread
themselves over the ravine, which was their couch.

We did not, as we intended, visit the _Glacier de Boisson_ to-day,
although it descends within a few minutes' walk of the road, wishing to
survey it at least when unfatigued. We saw this glacier which comes
close to the fertile plain, as we passed, its surface was broken into a
thousand unaccountable figures: conical and pyramidical
crystallizations, more than fifty feet in height, rise from its surface,
and precipices of ice, of dazzling splendour, overhang the woods and
meadows of the vale. This glacier winds upwards from the valley, until
it joins the masses of frost from which it was produced above, winding
through its own ravine like a bright belt flung over the black region of
pines. There is more in all these scenes than mere magnitude of
proportion: there is a majesty of outline; there is an awful grace in
the very colours which invest these wonderful shapes—a charm which is
peculiar to them, quite distinct even from the reality of their
unutterable greatness.

                                                                July 24.

Yesterday morning we went to the source of the Arveiron. It is about a
league from this village; the river rolls forth impetuously from an arch
of ice, and spreads itself in many streams over a vast space of the
valley, ravaged and laid bare by its inundations. The glacier by which
its waters are nourished, overhangs this cavern and the plain, and the
forests of pine which surround it, with terrible precipices of solid
ice. On the other side rises the immense glacier of Montanvert, fifty
miles in extent, occupying a chasm among mountains of inconceivable
height, and of forms so pointed and abrupt, that they seem to pierce the
sky. From this glacier we saw as we sat on a rock, close to one of the
streams of the Arveiron, masses of ice detach themselves from on high,
and rush with a loud dull noise into the vale. The violence of their
fall turned them into powder, which flowed over the rocks in imitation
of waterfalls, whose ravines they usurped and filled.

In the evening I went with Ducrée, my guide, the only tolerable person I
have seen in this country, to visit the glacier of Boisson. This
glacier, like that of Montanvert, comes close to the vale, overhanging
the green meadows and the dark woods with the dazzling whiteness of its
precipices and pinnacles, which are like spires of radiant crystal,
covered with a net-work of frosted silver. These glaciers flow
perpetually into the valley, ravaging in their slow but irresistible
progress the pastures and the forests which surround them, performing a
work of desolation in ages, which a river of lava might accomplish in an
hour, but far more irretrievably; for where the ice has once descended,
the hardiest plant refuses to grow; if even, as in some extraordinary
instances, it should recede after its progress has once commenced. The
glaciers perpetually move onward, at the rate of a foot each day, with a
motion that commences at the spot where, on the boundaries of perpetual
congelation, they are produced by the freezing of the waters which arise
from the partial melting of the eternal snows. They drag with them from
the regions whence they derive their origin, all the ruins of the
mountain, enormous rocks, and immense accumulations of sand and stones.
These are driven onwards by the irresistible stream of solid ice; and
when they arrive at a declivity of the mountain, sufficiently rapid,
roll down, scattering ruin. I saw one of these rocks which had descended
in the spring, (winter here is the season of silence and safety) which
measured forty feet in every direction.

The verge of a glacier, like that of Boisson, presents the most vivid
image of desolation that it is possible to conceive. No one dares to
approach it; for the enormous pinnacles of ice which perpetually fall,
are perpetually reproduced. The pines of the forest, which bound it at
one extremity, are overthrown and shattered to a wide extent at its
base. There is something inexpressibly dreadful in the aspect of the few
branchless trunks, which, nearest to the ice rifts, still stand in the
uprooted soil. The meadows perish, overwhelmed with sand and stones.
Within this last year, these glaciers have advanced three hundred feet
into the valley. Saussure, the naturalist, says, that they have their
periods of increase and decay: the people of the country hold an opinion
entirely different; but as I judge, more probable. It is agreed by all,
that the snow on the summit of Mont Blanc and the neighbouring mountains
perpetually augments, and that ice, in the form of glaciers, subsists
without melting in the valley of Chamouni during its transient and
variable summer. If the snow which produces this glacier must augment,
and the heat of the valley is no obstacle to the perpetual existence of
such masses of ice as have already descended into it, the consequence is
obvious; the glaciers must augment and will subsist, at least until they
have overflowed this vale.

I will not pursue Buffon's sublime but gloomy theory—that this globe
which we inhabit will at some future period be changed into a mass of
frost by the encroachments of the polar ice, and of that produced on the
most elevated points of the earth. Do you, who assert the supremacy of
Ahriman, imagine him throned among these desolating snows, among these
palaces of death and frost, so sculptured in this their terrible
magnificence by the adamantine hand of necessity, and that he casts
around him, as the first essays of his final usurpation, avalanches,
torrents, rocks, and thunders, and above all these deadly glaciers, at
once the proof and symbols of his reign;—add to this, the degradation of
the human species—who in these regions are half deformed or idiotic, and
most of whom are deprived of any thing that can excite interest or
admiration. This is a part of the subject more mournful and less
sublime; but such as neither the poet nor the philosopher should disdain
to regard.

This morning we departed, on the promise of a fine day, to visit the
glacier of Montanvert. In that part where it fills a slanting valley, it
is called the Sea of Ice. This valley is 950 toises, or 7600 feet above
the level of the sea. We had not proceeded far before the rain began to
fall, but we persisted until we had accomplished more than half of our
journey, when we returned, wet through.

                                                    Chamouni, July 25th.

We have returned from visiting the glacier of Montanvert, or as it is
called, the Sea of Ice, a scene in truth of dizzying wonder. The path
that winds to it along the side of a mountain, now clothed with pines,
now intersected with snowy hollows, is wide and steep. The cabin of
Montanvert is three leagues from Chamouni, half of which distance is
performed on mules, not so sure footed, but that on the first day the
one which I rode fell in what the guides call a _mauvais pas_, so that I
narrowly escaped being precipitated down the mountain. We passed over a
hollow covered with snow, down which vast stones are accustomed to roll.
One had fallen the preceding day, a little time after we had returned:
our guides desired us to pass quickly, for it is said that sometimes the
least sound will accelerate their descent. We arrived at Montanvert,
however, safe.

On all sides precipitous mountains, the abodes of unrelenting frost,
surround this vale: their sides are banked up with ice and snow, broken,
heaped high, and exhibiting terrific chasms. The summits are sharp and
naked pinnacles, whose overhanging steepness will not even permit snow
to rest upon them. Lines of dazzling ice occupy here and there their
perpendicular rifts, and shine through the driving vapours with
inexpressible brilliance: they pierce the clouds like things not
belonging to this earth. The vale itself is filled with a mass of
undulating ice, and has an ascent sufficiently gradual even to the
remotest abysses of these horrible desarts. It is only half a league
(about two miles) in breadth, and seems much less. It exhibits an
appearance as if frost had suddenly bound up the waves and whirlpools of
a mighty torrent. We walked some distance upon its surface. The waves
are elevated about 12 or 15 feet from the surface of the mass, which is
intersected by long gaps of unfathomable depth, the ice of whose sides
is more beautifully azure than the sky. In these regions every thing
changes, and is in motion. This vast mass of ice has one general
progress, which ceases neither day nor night; it breaks and bursts for
ever: some undulations sink while others rise; it is never the same. The
echo of rocks, or of the ice and snow which fall from their overhanging
precipices, or roll from their aerial summits, scarcely ceases for one
moment. One would think that Mont Blanc, like the god of the Stoics, was
a vast animal, and that the frozen blood for ever circulated through his
stony veins.

We dined (M***, C***, and I) on the grass, in the open air, surrounded
by this scene. The air is piercing and clear. We returned down the
mountain, sometimes encompassed by the driving vapours, sometimes
cheered by the sunbeams, and arrived at our inn by seven o'clock.

                                                  Montalegre, July 28th.

The next morning we returned through the rain to St. Martin. The scenery
had lost something of its immensity, thick clouds hanging over the
highest mountains; but visitings of sunset intervened between the
showers, and the blue sky shone between the accumulated clouds of snowy
whiteness which brought them; the dazzling mountains sometimes glittered
through a chasm of the clouds above our heads, and all the charm of its
grandeur remained. We repassed _Pont Pellisier_, a wooden bridge over
the Arve, and the ravine of the Arve. We repassed the pine forests which
overhang the defile, the chateau of St. Michel, a haunted ruin, built on
the edge of a precipice, and shadowed over by the eternal forest. We
repassed the vale of Servoz, a vale more beautiful, because more
luxuriant, than that of Chamouni. Mont Blanc forms one of the sides of
this vale also, and the other is inclosed by an irregular amphitheatre
of enormous mountains, one of which is in ruins, and fell fifty years
ago into the higher part of the valley: the smoke of its fall was seen
in Piedmont, and people went from Turin to investigate whether a volcano
had not burst forth among the Alps. It continued falling many days,
spreading, with the shock and thunder of its ruin, consternation into
the neighbouring vales. In the evening we arrived at St. Martin. The
next day we wound through the valley, which I have described before, and
arrived in the evening at our home.

We have bought some specimens of minerals and plants, and two or three
crystal seals, at Mont Blanc, to preserve the remembrance of having
approached it. There is a cabinet of _Histoire Naturelle_ at Chamouni,
just as at Keswick, Matlock, and Clifton; the proprietor of which is the
very vilest specimen of that vile species of quack that, together with
the whole army of aubergistes and guides, and indeed the entire mass of
the population, subsist on the weakness and credulity of travellers as
leaches subsist on the sick. The most interesting of my purchases is a
large collection of all the seeds of rare alpine plants, with their
names written upon the outside of the papers that contain them. These I
mean to colonize in my garden in England, and to permit you to make what
choice you please from them. They are companions which the Celandine—the
classic Celandine, need not despise; they are as wild and more daring
than he, and will tell him tales of things even as touching and sublime
as the gaze of a vernal poet.

Did I tell you that there are troops of wolves among these mountains? In
the winter they descend into the vallies, which the snow occupies six
months of the year, and devour every thing that they can find out of
doors. A wolf is more powerful than the fiercest and strongest dog.
There are no bears in these regions. We heard, when we were at Lucerne,
that they were occasionally found in the forests which surround that
lake. Adieu.



                    WRITTEN IN THE VALE OF CHAMOUNI.

                              MONT BLANC.



      The everlasting universe of things
      Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
      Now dark—now glittering—now reflecting gloom—
      Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
      The source of human thought its tribute brings
      Of waters,—with a sound but half its own,
      Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
      In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
      Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
      Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
      Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.


      Thus thou, Ravine of Arve—dark, deep Ravine—
      Thou many-coloured, many-voiced vale,
      Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail
      Fast cloud shadows and sunbeams: awful scene,
      Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down
      From the ice gulphs that gird his secret throne,
      Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame
      Of lightning thro' the tempest;—thou dost lie,
      Thy giant brood of pines around thee clinging,
      Children of elder time, in whose devotion
      The chainless winds still come and ever came
      To drink their odours, and their mighty swinging
      To hear—an old and solemn harmony;
      Thine earthly rainbows stretched across the sweep
      Of the ethereal waterfall, whose veil
      Robes some unsculptured image; the strange sleep
      Which when the voices of the desart fail
      Wraps all in its own deep eternity;—
      Thy caverns echoing to the Arve's commotion,
      A loud, lone sound no other sound can tame;
      Thou art pervaded with that ceaseless motion,
      Thou art the path of that unresting sound—
      Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee
      I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
      To muse on my own separate phantasy,
      My own, my human mind, which passively
      Now renders and receives fast influencings,
      Holding an unremitting interchange
      With the clear universe of things around;
      One legion of wild thoughts, whose wandering wings
      Now float above thy darkness, and now rest
      Where that or thou art no unbidden guest,
      In the still cave of the witch Poesy,
      Seeking among the shadows that pass by
      Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee,
      Some phantom, some faint image; till the breast
      From which they fled recalls them, thou art there!


      Some say that gleams of a remoter world
      Visit the soul in sleep,—that death is slumber,
      And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
      Of those who wake and live.—I look on high;
      Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled
      The veil of life and death? or do I lie
      In dream, and does the mightier world of sleep
      Spread far around and inaccessibly
      Its circles? For the very spirit fails,
      Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep
      That vanishes among the viewless gales!
      Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
      Mont Blanc appears,—still, snowy, and serene—
      Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
      Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
      Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
      Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
      And wind among the accumulated steeps;
      A desart peopled by the storms alone,
      Save when the eagle brings some hunter's bone,
      And the wolf tracts her there—how hideously
      Its shapes are heaped around! rude, bare, and high,
      Ghastly, and scarred, and riven.—Is this the scene
      Where the old Earthquake-dæmon taught her young
      Ruin? Were these their toys? or did a sea
      Of fire, envelope once this silent snow?
      None can reply—all seems eternal now.
      The wilderness has a mysterious tongue
      Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
      So solemn, so serene, that man may be
      But for such faith with nature reconciled;
      Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
      Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood
      By all, but which the wise, and great, and good
      Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.


      The fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams,
      Ocean, and all the living things that dwell
      Within the dædal earth; lightning, and rain,
      Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane,
      The torpor of the year when feeble dreams
      Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless sleep
      Holds every future leaf and flower;—the bound
      With which from that detested trance they leap;
      The works and ways of man, their death and birth,
      And that of him and all that his may be;
      All things that move and breathe with toil and sound
      Are born and die; revolve, subside and swell.
      Power dwells apart in its tranquillity
      Remote, serene, and inaccessible:
      And _this_, the naked countenance of earth,
      On which I gaze, even these primæval mountains
      Teach the adverting mind. The glaciers creep
      Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountains,
      Slow rolling on; there, many a precipice,
      Frost and the Sun in scorn of mortal power
      Have piled: dome, pyramid, and pinnacle,
      A city of death, distinct with many a tower
      And wall impregnable of beaming ice.
      Yet not a city, but a flood of ruin
      Is there, that from the boundaries of the sky
      Rolls its perpetual stream; vast pines are strewing
      Its destined path, or in the mangled soil
      Branchless and shattered stand; the rocks, drawn down
      From yon remotest waste, have overthrown
      The limits of the dead and living world,
      Never to be reclaimed. The dwelling-place
      Of insects, beasts, and birds, becomes its spoil;
      Their food and their retreat for ever gone,
      So much of life and joy is lost. The race
      Of man, flies far in dread; his work and dwelling
      Vanish, like smoke before the tempest's stream,
      And their place is not known. Below, vast caves
      Shine in the rushing torrent's restless gleam,
      Which from those secret chasms in tumult welling
      Meet in the vale, and one majestic River,
      The breath and blood of distant lands, for ever
      Rolls its loud waters to the ocean waves.
      Breathes its swift vapours to the circling air.


      Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:—the power is there,
      The still and solemn power of many sights,
      And many sounds, and much of life and death.
      In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
      In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
      Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there,
      Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
      Or the star-beams dart through them:—Winds contend
      Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
      Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
      The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
      Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
      Over the snow. The secret strength of things
      Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
      Of heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
      And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
      If to the human mind's imaginings
      Silence and solitude were vacancy?

          June 23, 1816.

 Reynell, Printer, 45, Broad-street,

                          TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

 1. Silently corrected simple spelling, grammar, and typographical
 2. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 3. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

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