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Chapter 10: the voyage and Arrival.—December, 1837, to January, 1838— age, 26-27.

This memoir, for the period of Sumner's absence from the country, must be confined chiefly to selections from his letters, and a journal which he began on the voyage and continued nearly four months.

The journal begins thus:—

Dec. 25, 1837.—Christmas. It is now seventeen days since I left New York for Havre in the ship Albany, Captain Johnston.1 My passage had been taken, and my bill on the Rothschilds in Paris obtained, on the 7th December. On that day dined with a pleasant party at Mrs. Ledyard's,2— the last dinner of my native land. Left early, called on one or two friends, and spent the residue of the hours before retiring—running far into the watches of the night—in writing letters; saying some parting words to the friends whom I value. And a sad time it was, full of anxious thoughts and doubts, with mingled gleams of glorious anticipations. I thought much of the position which I abandoned for the present; the competent income which I forsook; the favoring tide, whose buoyant waters were bearing me so well, which I refused to take even at its ebb,—these I thought of, and then the advice and warnings of many whose opinions I respect. The dear friends I was to leave behind all came rushing before me, and affection for them was a new element in the cup of my anxieties. But, on the other hand, the dreams of my boyhood came before me: the long-pondered visions, first suggested by my early studies, and receiving new additions with every step of my progress; my desire, which has long been above all other desires, to visit Europe; and my long-cherished anticipations of the most intellectual pleasure and the most permanent profit. Europe and its reverend history, its ancient races, its governments handed down from old time, its sights memorable in story; above all, its present existing institutions, laws, and society, and its men of note and mind, followed in the train,—and the thought of [214] these reassured my spirits. In going abroad at my present age, and situated as I am, I feel that I take a bold, almost a rash, step. One should not easily believe that he can throw off his clients and then whistle them back, ‘as a huntsman does his pack.’ But I go for purposes of education, and to gratify longings which prey upon my mind and time. Certainly, I never could be content to mingle in the business of my profession, with that devotion which is necessary to the highest success, until I had visited Europe. The course which my studies have taken has also made it highly desirable that I should have the advantage derived from a knowledge of the European languages, particularly French and German, and also a moderate acquaintance with the laws and institutions of the Old World, more at least than I can easily gain at home. In my pursuits lately I have felt the want of this knowledge, both of the languages, particularly German, and of the Continental jurisprudence. I believe, then, that, by leaving my profession now, I make a present sacrifice for a future gain; that I shall return with increased abilities for doing good, and acting well my part in life. The temptations of Europe I have been warned against, and am fully aware of. I can only pray that I may be able to pass through them in safety, and add my firmest efforts to guard my footsteps. May I return with an undiminished love for my friends and country, with a heart and mind untainted by the immoralities of the Old World, manners untouched by its affectations, and a willingness to resume my labors with an unabated determination to devote myself faithfully to the duties of an American!

Such were the thoughts which passed through my mind during the last night before sailing, while I was tracing the hasty lines which were to go to some of my friends. The letters were written; and late at night, or rather near morning, I went to bed.

The ‘Albany’ left the wharf about noon, Dec. 8, and, while she was being towed by a steamer down the harbor, Sumner wrote letters to Judge Story, Hillard, and his brother George. A fresh breeze then took the vessel gayly along, and the spires of the city soon faded from view. He remained on deck, enjoying the splendid sight of ‘the ship bending to the wind,’ and keeping his eyes on the receding shore, ‘hill after hill and point after point,’ till all, except the Jersey headlands, ‘that met the most searching gaze was the blue line which marked the meeting of the waters and the land.’ Retiring then to his berth, he ‘thought of friends, and all that he had left behind, with confidence in their continued regard.’ ‘You cannot imagine,’ he wrote to Hillard, ‘the intensity with which my mind, during these moments, reverted to the old scenes and faces with which it was familiar.’

The wind kept fair and strong, and the voyage, for one made in a sailing vessel and during the winter, was exceptionally rapid and agreeable. [215]


Dec. 25. On the fourth day I was rejoiced to find myself able to read, though lying in my berth. Previously my time had passed without the relief which this at once afforded. Chancellor Kent had been kind enough to advise me to take a stock of pleasant books, and I had provided myself with some on the morning of sailing. I read the fourth and fifth parts of Lockhart's ‘Life of Scott,’ James's novel of ‘Attila,’ Cooper's ‘England,’ and the ‘Life of Burr,’ while stretched in my berth; and never were books a greater luxury: they were friends and companions where I was, in a degree, friendless and companionless.

At the end of the first week I was able, with some ado, to appear at the dinner-table. I know no feeling which, in a small way, is keener than for a man disabled by the weakness rather than the nausea of sea-sickness, with his appetite returning upon him like a Bay of Fundy tide, to lie in his berth and hear the clatter of plates and the merry voices of his fellow-passengers, as they attacked a turkey or a duck, and as another cork briskly left the bottle. Our dinners I found quite pleasant. Our company was small,— Mr. John Munroe, a young merchant going to establish himself in Paris; Mr. Darlington, a midshipman on leave of absence for his health; M. Vasseur, a young Frenchman returning home after upwards of a year's absence; and a young man, a brother of the captain. And though with none of these did I have any particular sympathy,–any thing, indeed, which under other circumstances would have led to more than a passing acquaintance,—yet I found them uniformly pleasant; and our dinners, between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, formed the reunions of the day. Several times after dinner I revived my old and forgotten knowledge, first gained in college and with college abandoned, of whist and chess.3 A walk on the ever-wet deck, a talk with the captain, a hand at cards or at the chess-board, reading, and the study of French have occupied the week which has passed from the time of deserting my berth till now. Our passage has been somewhat rough; but that was expected from the season. We have, however, kept our course constantly, without being obliged to tack once. We are now in the English Channel, passing over the grave of the Spanish Armada. We have left Scilly and Lizard on our left, without however being able to catch a sight of them, and are now midway between the coasts of England and France. My mind has felt a thrill under the associations of these waters; it is my first experience of the rich memories of European history. On my left now are the chalky cliffs of England,—Plymouth, from which the Pilgrim ancestors of New England last started to come to our bleak places; also the Isle of Wight, consecrated by the imprisonment of the royal Charles; and the harbor of Portsmouth, big with the navies of England. On my right is la belle France and the smiling province of Normandy; and the waters which now bear this American ship are the same over which Caesar with his [216] frail boats, and afterwards William of Normandy, passed to the conquest of England. Their waves dash now with the same foamy crests as when these two conquerors timidly entrusted themselves to their bosom. Civilization, in the mean time, with its attendant servants—commerce, printing, and Christianity—has been working changes in the two countries on either side; so that Caesar and William, could they revisit the earth, might not recognize the lands from which they passed, or which they subdued. The sea receives no impress from man. This idea Byron has expanded in some of the most beautiful stanzas he has written in the ‘Childe Harold.’

On Christmas Day, besides writing in his journal, he wrote letters to Hillard and Judge Story. To Hillard he wrote: ‘It is now seventeen days, and I am without news of you and your affairs, and of all our common friends; and I feel sad to think that many more days will elapse before I shall hear from you. When you write, dwell on all particulars; tell me about all my friends, give me every turn of the wheel.’ To Judge Story he wrote: ‘It is now about seven o'clock on the evening of Christmas; allowing about five hours for difference of time between this longitude and Cambridge, it will be about two o'clock with you; and your family, with Mrs. Story in restored health, I trust, are now assembling for the happy meal. I have just left the dinner-table, where I remembered all in a glass of Burgundy.’ In both letters, as in his journal, he dwelt upon the historic scenes which belong to the English Channel. While writing the letter to Judge Story, a French whaleman came in sight, ‘the tricolor flapping in the wind,’ the first sail seen during the voyage,—a refreshing sight, but momentary, as both vessels were speeding in opposite directions. On the evening of the 25th, the captain descried dimly Start Point, in Devonshire; and the next morning Sumner saw Cape Barfleur, about fifteen miles to the right, –his first glimpse of Europe, and ‘the first land he had seen since the afternoon of the eighth, when he went below while the headlands of New Jersey were indistinctly visible on the distant horizon.’

On account of unfavorable winds encountered in the Channel, the ‘Albany’ did not come to anchor at the Havre docks till early on the morning of the 28th,—less than twenty days from the time of sailing.


Dec. 26, 1837. At half-past 2 o'clock this afternoon a pilot from Havre came aboard. We were still off Cape Barfleur, and, as he informed me, [217] fifty-four miles from Havre. I inquired after news, and particularly from England; to which his reply was, tout est tranquille,—his idea of news seeming to resolve itself into the question of peace or war.

Dec. 27. Still in Havre Roads, and anchored within three miles of the city. Adverse winds have disappointed our expectations, and doomed us to a longer imprisonment. The city may be dimly descried beneath a heavy mist; but every thing is so indistinct that I cannot form any definite idea of its size or general appearance. To-night I sleep on the waters of France.

He wrote to his sister Mary, the 27th, giving an account of the voyage, and expressing a brother's interest in her studies:—

Before leaving New York I intended to write you, and say a few words on your studies and education in other respects, which I felt assured you would not be unwilling to receive from an elder brother. But the multitude of letters which I felt called upon to write, and which kept me engaged into the watches of the morning, saved you from the homily. You will not forget what I have told you, either with regard to study, or, what is more important than study, health. I need not here particularize what I have said. Try to understand every thing as you proceed; and cultivate a love for every thing that is true, good, and pure. I need not exhort you to set a price upon every moment of time; your own convictions, I have no doubt, have taught you that minutes are like gold filings, too valuable to be slighted,— for a heap of these will make an ingot. Give my love to mother, and all the family. Tell George to write me a brisk, news-full letter.

Your affectionate brother,


Dec. 28, 1837. At length in Havre, with antiquity staring at me from every side. At four o'clock this morning weighed anchor, and drifted with the tide and a gentle wind to the docks; a noble work, contrived for the reception of vessels, and bearing the inscription of An IX. Bonaparte 1er Consul,—the labor of this great man meeting me on the very threshold of France. Dismissed from the custom house we went to the Hotel de New York, where a smiling French woman received us, and we were shown each of us to a chamber. The house was small and narrow, and the stairs composed of tiles; but the chamber into which I was conducted harmonized with my anticipations of a French apartment. The room was of moderate size, with a floor of hexagon tiles partially covered with a neat rug-like carpet; with a bed plump and neat as imagination could picture, with a crimson coverlet and curtains; with curtains to the window of linen with a border of red, and with two engravings in the room of some of the glorious scenes of the French Republic. The whole was un-American. I should have known that I was in a foreign place, even if the reality of a sea-voyage had not given me the completest assurance of it. My apartment taken, for which I am to pay three francs per day, I at once escaped to view the city. And here I felt a [218] gush of interest at every step. Nothing was like what I had been accustomed to. Every thing was old; and yet to me every thing was new. Every building which I passed seemed to have its history. Old Time himself seemed to look down from its roof. And yet there was little in the way of architecture; the single element of interest was antiquity combined with novelty. I saw but one street with a sidewalk. All others slanted from the side to the centre, ad mediam filam vio;, where there was the gutter; and all were slippery with mud and moisture, and uncomfortable to the feet from the large stones with which they were paved. Scrub horses with heavy and inconvenient harness; men and women with huge wooden shoes which clattered over the stones; women in caps and without bonnets; market women on donkeys and horses, with panniers containing their provisions on either side,—these constantly met my eye. I felt as I looked about me that I was in a country where custom and prescription were regarded; where changes, and of course improvements, were slow to be introduced, from the impression that what was established was for the best. In the United States the extreme opposite of this character prevails. Nothing is beyond the reach of change and experiment. There is none of the prestige of age about any thing, and we are ready at any moment to lay our hands on any custom or mode of business and modify it; and, though we may sometimes suffer by this proclivity, yet it is the means of keeping us constantly on the qui vive for improvements. The common people in Havre now clatter over the ground in the same shoes which their great-grandfathers wore, and harness their horses in the same clumsy style. It appears that women do more out-door work than with us. The market seemed full of them, and we met them in every street carrying articles of different kinds. In my walk I wandered into the cathedral at the hour in which they were celebrating Mass, and there found many market women, as they appeared to be, who had slipped in with their baskets on their arms, and for a few moments counted their beads, and, bending to the ground in the attitude of devotion, looked absorbed in prayer. There is something tangible and palpable in the Catholic faith which the common mind readily takes hold of, as a handle. I have never seen people in the United States of this grade, except at a Methodist meeting, so absorbed in devotion. Ascending the hill at Havre, which I did in company with Mr. Emerson,4 I had a beautiful prospect over the city beneath, and passed in view of many of the country houses of gentlemen belonging to the city. I could distinctly observe the wall and moat which surrounded the city; though the city has now actually outgrown the military strait-jacket by which it was invested. Some of the best portions are without the walls.

After a considerable walk took breakfast, say at twelve o'clock,—a late one, even for France; and it was a delicious meal, with light wine and coffee clear as amber. After walking round the city, I dined with Mr. Emerson at his house, whose acquaintance I have made through the introduction of my friend Cleveland. Our hour was between six and seven o'clock; stayed till [219] ten o'clock, and then walked home over the dirty and slippery streets. The chimes of midnight have this moment sounded from some ancient steeple; and I expect a pleasant sleep in my neat bed, after the confined quarters to which I have been doomed for so many nights.

The chief features which I am able to recognize as distinguishing Havre from an American city are (1), antiquity; (2), dress of women with caps and without bonnets in the street; (3), labor of women; (4), presence of the military and police, a soldier or policeman presenting himself at every tarn; (5), narrowness and dirt of the streets; (6), houses of stone, and narrow and chimney-like. Of course, these are merely the features which have met the eye during the observation of a few hours.

Dec. 29, 1837. New scenes have been rising upon me with each moment; I find myself now with midnight at hand, and new objects were breaking upon me until I closed the door of my chamber. I can hardly believe in my personal identity. Such is the intensity of my present experience, that all I have undergone to reach here seems obliterated.

I enjoyed my first sleep ashore last night, in sheets of linen and on a pillow of down, as much as my excited imagination would allow, and early in the morning I prepared for Rouen; breakfasted at nine o'clock, at the hotel where I was stopping, on a mutton chop, light wine, and coffee. Wine in France appears to be a drink as common at breakfast as coffee; and, from the experience of two days, I should not feel disinclined to adopt the usage. I repaired to the place of starting for Rouen, and found the diligence on the point of leaving. My place, however, had been secured on the day before, when I had paid five francs as earnest-money, or a sort of pledge, which I was to forfeit if I did not present myself at the proper time. As soon as I arrived I was addressed in the rapid French style, ‘Montez! montez!’ and the diligence immediately started. I had taken the place on the top. My seat was protected by a heavy and cumbersome covering, like that of a chaise, and my first desire was to have that thrown back; but my French vocabulary would not enable me to express my wish, so that I was obliged to resort to the universal language of gesture and pantomime. My desire being understood, I was informed in French that the top should be turned back when we stopped to change horses. And it was done.5 . . . I was alone on top and tried to enter into conversation with le conducteur. He took me for an Englishman, and sought to flatter me by pointing to the Seine, and calling it the Thames. When I undeceived him, he said, pointing to the snakelike stream, that it was the Mississippi of France. All the while he and the postilion were whipping their scraggy horses with constant lashes. It was an amusing sight to see the empressement with which they applied the lash, taking hold of the whip-handle with both hands and using it for several minutes together. There were sometimes five and sometimes six horses to the diligence,—all of them short and thick, with rough, uncombed [220] manes, and tails tied up; a practice which seems to be universal here with regard to horses. Their tails are not docked, but suffered to grow to their natural length, and then tied up to about the same shortness with the docked tail. On our way to Rouen, which was fifty-four miles, we changed horses as many as a dozen times. I succeeded on the way so well with my little French as to extract considerable information from le conducteur, and also to add to my facility in the use of the language. Now, indeed, I feel the situation of a foreigner, who cannot speak the language of the country where he is. He is cut off from society and from a great source of knowledge, and his thoughts are all imprisoned within himself. In the few hours during which I have been in France, my mind has been chafing in the chains by which it is now confined. I feel sensibly the advantages which I lose from not being able to speak the language, and I feel mortified at being restrained to the uttering of a few sentences, and that in such a stammering uncouth way, that the very postilion stares at me. However, I shall not be deterred. My rule is to practise upon everybody; to take every opportunity to speak the language, even if it be but a word; for every time of trial gives me assurance, and also adds to my stock of words or phrases. Accordingly I did not hesitate all the way from Havre to Rouen to interrogate le conducteur to the full extent of my knowledge; and he was pleased to endure me with great grace.

The road from Havre to Rouen (the upper one) which I travelled was mostly through a level champaign country. It was very smooth, and made easy going for the horses compared with our roads; though the lowness of the wheels of the diligence, and its general cumbersomeness, went far to counterbalance the facilities of the road. Within a few miles from Havre we passed through Harfleur, the same, I suppose, which Harry V. of England besieged. It is a small but very ancient place, with streets so narrow that it seemed as if I could span them, and surrounded by a decayed wall and moat. It was the last part of the month of December, and yet the plough and harrow were seen constantly in the fields, and sheep grazing, with a shepherd and dog in attendance. How the romance of poetry and bucolics was dashed by the appearance of these men! Their flocks did not appear to consist of more than forty or fifty sheep; and they were rude-looking men, who lounged about with a cane instead of a shepherd's crook. Their vocation arises from the absence of fences to separate different parcels of land. Here and there you may see a thin ridge or mound of earth, or a hedge, in the neighborhood of a house, and surrounding some choice field; but nearly all the lands are without any kind of fence. This gives the country a very open appearance to one accustomed to the stone walls and rail fences of New England. By the wayside I constantly saw cottages and barns covered with thatch, which was generally overgrown with moss. The thatch appears to be straw matted on the roof quite thickly. In observation of the country, and in reflection upon what I saw, the time passed away until, after descending a long and steep hill, we entered Rouen,—time-honored Rouen. If Havre appeared ancient, what shall I say of Rouen? I seemed among catacombs. Nothing [221] but the living countenances and the merchandise at the windows appeared fresh.6

Next took lodgings at the Hotel de Normandie, and dined; and then, having fixed some landmarks in my eye, walked by the lights of the shop windows through the principal streets of the city; passed by two theatres, and about eight o'clock visited one of them. My knowledge of French did not serve me so that I was able to take much interest in the play; and though every thing that I saw both on and off the stage had an interest for me, yet it was all blurred by my ignorance of the language. The audience appeared very respectable. The accommodations were different, as well as more various, than those in our theatres. Sentinels were on guard before the doors of both the theatres. During the play, I left the house and again wandered round the city before commencing this record of the day. I must not forget to mention that, while we were at dinner, a beautiful girl entered the room (there were about eighteen or twenty at table), and, having first touched her guitar, sang to its accompaniment several pretty French songs, and then handed her little tin box to each person at the table. She stood behind me, and first presented her box to me. I dropped into it a few sons, and regarded the whole scene as thoroughly and beautifully characteristic of France. She was listened to with pleasure and respect.

Dec. 30 (Saturday). A day at Rouen, the ancient capital of Normandy; and my eyes and mind have been constantly on the stretch with interest and observation. Shortly after breakfast, in company with a fellow-traveller, I took a commissionnaire, or guide, to conduct me to the interesting objects in the place. He spoke English, and, as a resident of the town, had a superficial acquaintance with it; and therefore was in a degree useful, though afterwards I learned from examining the guide-book (which I should have read at first) that many of his stories were vulgar errors. We first visited the cathedral, where we spent about three hours: as many weeks devoted to it would leave its immense fund of interest for the intelligent traveller unexhausted. The cathedral7 is the great lion of the north of France, and is said to be the finest specimen of Gothic architecture on the Continent. Certainly it is immensely vast and elaborate, transcending all that my imagination had pictured as the result of this architecture, The minuteness of the workmanship testifies that it was done by those who commanded hands for labor with a facility not unlike that which summoned the thousands of laborers who raised the pyramids of Egypt. I can hardly imagine such a work at the present day. No building, unless it be Westminster Abbey, abounds more in historical associations. Enlarged, if not built, by the ancient dukes [222] of Normandy anterior to the conquest of England, it is the chosen place where the bones of many of them repose. Here are the remains of Rollo, the first duke of Normandy and the ancestor of the Conqueror, and over them a monumental effigy; of William of the Long Sword, his son; of Henry, the father of Coeur de Lion; and here the Lion-heart itself was deposited. At a later day, the remains of the Duke of Bedford—the English regent of France, discomfited by the Maid of Orleans—were deposited here; and an inscription behind the great altar marks the spot. Different parts, in the neighborhood of altars, are occupied by inscriptions and engraved effigies of bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and other eminent men, whose standing or character gave them admission after death to this company. Over all was the vast Gothic roof, stretching on with its ancient and numerous arches in imposing perspective; and the light which was shed upon this scene came through richly painted windows, where were martyrdoms and sufferings and triumphs, such as the history of Christianity records. And here was I, an American,—whose very hemisphere had been discovered long since the foundation of this church, whose country had been settled, in comparison with this foundation, but yesterday,—introduced to these remains of past centuries, treading over the dust of archbishops and cardinals, and standing before the monuments of kings and the founder of a dynasty, the greatest and best established of modern Europe. Now, indeed, may I believe in antiquity and in the acts which are recorded. Often, in fancy, have I doubted if such men as history mentions ever lived and did what we are told they did: if William of Normandy actually conquered England; and, indeed, if such a place as England existed for him to conquer. But this fancy, this Pyrrhonism of the imagination, is now exploded. These monuments and their inscriptions, with the traces of centuries upon them, in this holy place, bear testimony to what I have read.

In this immense building there are no pews, but simply a few chairs placed in the middle of the church. Every thing is stone; the floor, the pillars, and walls are all of stone. I ascended the highest tower, by a winding staircase which communicated apparently with a great number of other staircases, all of stone, running in every direction about the tower. Indeed, every step that I took showed the extent of the building. From the tower I saw the palace of the archbishop, and his gardens beneath; besides looking down completely upon the whole city and the adjoining country, with the Seine curling through the beautiful meadows, green at this very close of the month of December.

Next passed to a building scarcely less interesting or ancient, laEglise de St. Ouen. Beautiful rose-painted windows, tombs, and a splendid Gothic coup d'oeil arrested the attention. From this we passed to the adjoining building, the Hotel de Ville, or city hall. Here was the museum, a gallery of paintings and statues: we hardly paused long enough fully to study a single picture, much less several hundred; and yet I cannot but record the admiration, blind and untutored, which was excited by this first view of the arts in Europe. In the collection, a painting was pointed out as that of [223] Raphael: it was a picture of the Mother of the Saviour, with the infant in her arms; it did not, however, particularly arrest my attention. From the gallery we passed to the library, consisting principally of the books which formerly belonged to the church and monastery of St. Ouen. One of the books was a show-piece, very curious, being a splendid folio of vellum, splendidly illuminated and printed with the pen by one of the monks of St. Ouen, and which cost him the labor of thirty years. It was a collection, I think, of the music used in the monastery,—a monument of the time and labor employed for a trivial purpose. Thirty years of time spent in the manual operation of making a single copy of an unimportant work!

The Palais de Justice was a very interesting building,—ancient and finished with the elaborateness which seems to have been lavished upon public buildings in earlier times. One of the rooms was covered with a ceiling of oak, which had become black as ebony from age, and was studded with golden knobs. Several courts were in session; but my guide could not explain to me about them, and my knowledge of French was so imperfect that I could with difficulty ascertain even the general nature of the discussion which was proceeding. The judges appeared to be numerous; in one court, which seemed the highest,—perhaps La Cour Royale,—there were as many as half a dozen, all having a peculiar costume, consisting of a cap, bands round the neck, and gown. The lawyers wore gowns and caps, and the dresses appeared to be different in the different courts. In Paris I hope to make these matters more of a study; but at this time my means of getting correct information were so small, and my time so limited, that I passed to other objects, which possessed an interest into which I could more readily enter. Particularly among these was the market-place in which the Maid of Orleans was burnt;8 and a building which the Duke of Bedford was said to have occupied, and which had a beautiful relievo on its wall of the meeting of Francis and Henry at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Bridges, market-places, &c., we visited; also we passed in a narrow street the house in which Pierre Corneille was born, on which was printed in large characters, La Maison du Grand Corneille. It was a tall and well-looking house, the lower part of which, I think, was occupied by a brazier. A beautiful bronze statue of Corneille has been quite recently erected by subscription on one of the bridges. My guide spoke of him as one of the greatest men of France: the same in France, he said, as that great man that lived in England. Shakspeare, I said. ‘Yes,’ said he; ‘he died not many years ago’!

At dinner to-day we had the music of the harp instead of the guitar, and an attendant appeal to charity.

It seems that I could spend months in Rouen and still find interest. If I had time and fortune I should like, while here, to read the various histories of this wonderful cathedral, and master the romantic history of Normandy. From Normandy sprang the long line of kings that has governed England; and here are the tombs of the founders of this dynasty. Two of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture that exist in Europe are here to be seen, [224] also. However, to-morrow night is the last on which the ‘hells’ of Paris are to be open, they being abolished after that time by law; and I wish, if possible, to see them, besides being in Paris on New Year's Day. To-morrow, therefore, I shall start for Paris.

Dec. 31, 1837. At a quarter before seven o'clock I found myself in the coupe;, with a fellow-passenger from America, and a French lady. The apartment was small, being just large enough for three persons to sit snugly. The gray light of morning was beginning to prevail, and as we passed under the towers of the cathedral, it seemed to invest them with an additional air of antiquity. It was not the moonlight, which struck through the numerous trellises and interstices, but the dim light of morning, which brought them out by a sort of relief against the sky. We went at a rapid rate, the horses galloping much of the way, and the diligence having a motion which I must confess to be, independent of the smoothness of the roads, remarkably easy, and very much like that of our rail-cars. This easiness is caused chiefly, I think, by the lowness of the springs. On the way I taxed all my French to enter into conversation with the French lady; it was commenced by my inquiring if she would have the windows open or shut. On our making known that we were Americans, she inquired about our voyage, about the commerce and manufactures of the country, and listened with the politest attention to all that we said, and appeared to understand it. We talked of the cathedral at Rouen; and I told her that our forests were our cathedrals. Our fair companion was not yet beyond the age of considerable personal attractions. She was our cicerone on the route, giving us the names of the towns through which we passed, and pointing out some of the principal chateaux. It was Sunday; and yet, as we drove through the different towns, we could observe none of the signs which mark this day in New England. Here ‘Sunday shines no Sabbath day;’ all things proceed as on week days. The roads were thronged with market women, with their heavy burdens; the markets, through which we passed, were full of them. The shops were all open; the windows full of various articles,—the baker rolling his bread; the carpenter at his plane; the smith at his forge; the farrier shoeing his horse. Upwards of forty miles from Paris we saw one mark of an approach to a great city: we there commenced with a paved road, over which we rattled for the remainder of the way; entering Paris between seven and eight o'clock in the evening by the Barriere du Roule.9 And here I became absorbed with wonder at the throbbings of this mighty heart of France. We drove through long streets with great rapidity, through which innumerable other vehicles were driving with the same rapidity, building after building bursting upon us, and long lines of splendid shops, until at last we were landed at the bureau of all the Messageries Royales of France,—the focus of all the diligences from every quarter, situated in the Rue des Victoires. Here our baggage was inspected by an officer of the police. We gave our trunks to porters, who, by means of a sort of rack, took them, large and [225] heavy as they were, on their backs to the Hotel Montmorency, Boulevard Montmartre No. 12.

Dinner despatched, I went about ten o'clock to Frascati's,—the great ‘hell’ of Paris. By law all public gaming-houses are forbidden after the first of January, which commences this midnight. Passing through an outside court, and then a short entry, we entered an antechamber, where there were a large number of servants in livery who received our hats and outside garments, no one being allowed to enter the gambling salons with either. The hats already hanging up and in the custody of the servants seemed innumerable, and yet the servants had no numbers or marks by which to indicate to whom each hat belonged; trusting entirely to recollecting the countenance. The door of the salon was then opened; and the first table of gamblers was before us,—men young, middle-aged, and old; with the bloom of youth yet mantling on the face, and with the wrinkles and gray hairs of age. This table was a roulette, I believe. It was about the size of a common billiard table, and it was completely surrounded by a double and triple row of persons; the first row sitting, and the others standing. Among those sitting were two or three women of advanced age; and moving about the room were several younger, undoubtedly Cyprians, possessing considerable personal attractions. Passing into the next salon through an open door, we found a larger table, with players more intent and more numerous, where the game turned upon cards. The silver and gold spread on the table was to a vast amount; and I saw one man, with a lip that quivered and a hand that trembled, stake his double handful of gold on a single throw,—amounting to many hundred dollars. Little wooden rakes or hoes were used to draw the money in. The third salon had a table where the chance turned upon dice. It was a scene which I am glad to have witnessed. The excitements of gambling have been said to be strong; and I can understand how persons have been drawn by its fascinations within its terrible maelstrom. They try once for experiment, and are seduced by a momentary success, or excited by a loss, and observing others, perhaps, winning large sums, they are finally absorbed in the whirling vortex. Several of the friends that I went with ventured several francs, and alternately lost and won. I am free to confess that I felt the temptation, but I restrained my hand. To-night being the last night, the rooms were very full, the gamblers wishing to have their last game. We left sometime before midnight, thinking that there might be some disturbance at that time, when the transforming wand of the law would exercise its power. I however walked the boulevards, which were splendidly illuminated by the shop windows till long after midnight, as well as thronged by people; and at twelve o'clock I stood before Frascati's. The people were retiring front within, and as the women came out they were subjected to the sneers and jeers of a considerable crowd who had collected in the street about the gateway. A few of the police were present, who at once interfered to prevent the uproar; and in a few minutes three horsemen rode into the crowd, and speedily dispersed them. Such was the last night of Frascati, and my first night in Paris.

1 Described in a letter of Sumner to Judge Story, Dec. 25, as ‘a man of science and veracity.’

2 Mrs. Susan Ledyard, 53 Crosby Street; a friend of Judge Story, and the daughter of Brockholst Livingston, a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1806-23. She died March 7, 1864; surviving her husband, Benjamin Ledyard, more than half a century.

3 A letter to Hillard of Dec. 25 thus refers to these games: ‘Both of which acquired in college, I have found little time or inclination to pursue since; but, indeed, have put them away, with many other childish things of college life.’

4 Ralph Emerson, an American merchant, then resident in Havre, now living in San Francisco.

5 The diligence is described at length, and particularly as ‘very much in the shape of a Boston Booby-hut on runners in the winter.’

6 To Judge Story he wrote, Jan. 6, 1838: ‘The whole country was full of novelty. During the day I was kept at the highest pitch of excitement, and when, at dusk, we entered the ancient city of Rouen, it seemed as if all the dreams of my boyhood were to be realized.’ And again of his visit to the cathedral at Rouen: ‘Need I tell you that my whole frame thrilled with every step and every glance of my eye. I was fully recompensed for the expense of my journey and the imprisonment of a sea voyage. Such floods of feeling and reflection as were started in my mind made me forget all that had passed.’

7 Sumner visited Rouen and its cathedral some years afterwards, March 21 and 22, 1857.

8 Place de la Pucelle.

9 Situated at the intersection of the Rue du Faubourg Sainte Honore and the Avenue de Wagram.

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