LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
‣ Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
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Soon after I arrived in France, I was warming myself before a wood fire one cold day travelling to Beauvais, by way of Ecoüis and Estrepagny, when an individual of Ecoüis remarked, that one of his compatriots, and a native of that neighbourhood, had become a great man in England; he well remembered him a poor apprentice boy. He had found out something that gave English ships a great superiority over others, but he did not know exactly what. He said the name of the person to whom he alluded was Brunel. I then recollected that this discovery was the block-machine at Portsmouth.

The apple trees here were full of rich blossom, and they made much good cyder. A little meagre wine was grown a short distance off at the Andelys. Conjecturing that the line of cultivation of the apple, and that of the grape, might be situated between the two places, I enquired particularly about it. They replied, that no wine was made nearer than the Andelys, and that south west from that place to Beauvais, good wine was once made, but that now only a poor wine was produced, even at the latter place. Hence I became more convinced that
an oblique line from between Coblentz and Bonn, prolonged to Beauvais and the Andelys, south-westward, terminating at the mouth of the Vilaine, in the north part of the Bay of Biscay, is the line of demarcation between the apple and grape juice. I imagine, too, that this line is the corresponding boundary southward of the chilling and blighting north east winds of spring, the pests of Picardy, Normandy, and England, and that they have continued rather to increase than diminish in their effects during the last half a century.

I heard of accommodation in a house near Gisors, and going to see it, passed a fine chateau for which General Berthier, Prince of Neufchâtel, had offered 300,000 frs. in the time of Napoleon, and had been refused. When the Bourbons returned, it was sold for 80,000 frs., and it was difficult to find a purchaser even at that reduced price. The place I went to see was rented by an Englishman for eight hundred francs, south of the town of Gisors, in the department of the Eure, or old Isle of France. It was the last place the English held in Normandy. The distance to Paris by Pontoise, was not fifty miles, and I thought, therefore, I should be near enough to the capital for all the purposes necessary to my objects. The estate attached, was about twelve hundred arpents, let out in farms, being the property of minors. There were stabling, outhouses, a large walled garden with iron gates, and a neat chapel with a spire used as a wood house, over the contents of which, a petticoated figure of the Virgin watched in a niche. The dress of the idol had once been spangled, but now wanted sadly the hand of the furbisher. The house was spacious, with hot and cold baths, and
numerous sleeping apartments. Here I remained until the close of the year.

When harvest was over, there was shooting, and before harvest we had quail catching. There was shooting in the forests all the year round. It was easy to get leave to shoot any thing in the forests except the deer. A porte d’armes was required, to hold which an individual must be in possession of twenty acres of land, as owner or tenant, I obtained leave from a kind Juge de chasse, to shoot there.

“All I require is that you do not shoot the fawn or deer. If you should, I must do my duty; I beg to inform you that the fine is two hundred francs.”

One person having the right of shooting, admitted others in exchange for a similar concession, and thus half-a-dozen persons kept to themselves a considerable extent of territory for what they called a battu. I do not mean the abominable German system of battu, in which a number of animals are driven together into an enclosure, standing as densely as cattle in Smithfield, and servants bringing loaded guns continually to their masters, they having a standing place in a commanding spot, from pure love of seeing humanity suffer, massacre the innocent creatures by firing into the midst of them, thus gratifying themselves with butchery. The battu here was different. Boys and men were sent a league or more up a broad valley, whence they formed in a line, and beat up the country. The game naturally ran down the valley to where the sportsmen had taken their station across it two or three hundred yards from each other. When the game ran by them, they turned round and brought it down after it
passed by, lest those who were driving it down should be injured. The sport was exciting, because no one could tell what was to pass, a hare, fox, wolf, or boar. The first time I went out on one of these raids, the Frenchmen had the laugh against me. I levelled at a fine hare coming full tilt towards me. All at once they called to stay my hand, not to fire until it had gone by me to the rear. I missed it in consequence. Though this was to save the battu party from the possibility of mischief, it placed the sportsman in an awkward position, because if he did not fire at the game when in front, he was certain to take aim at it, and in that way follow the object round to the rear, through the line of sportsmen, the muzzle of his gun passing his neighbour on the right or left as he swept round, with his finger on the trigger, rather a ticklish moment for an accident. An old Garde de chasse got much attached to me, and we often went out together. He cautioned me never to cross a particular path, the boundary of land, the owner of which was at war with all his neighbours. The law was always strictly construed. If I crossed the line to pick up my own game, it made no matter. To lose it was better, taking the same advantage. Every man was considered the owner of his land as much as of his house. Exceptions or excuses only produced disputes, and judgment was therefore wisely given on the bare fact.

I used to shoot round the Castle of Courcelles, still pretty entire, where the English signed the treaty for their evacuation of Normandy. The Castle of Noyers stands on the opposite side of the Epte, which once divided the territories. This place will be found mentioned
Sully’s Memoirs. Two hills opposite each other, where Richard Cœur de Lion, and Philip Augustus encamped, before setting out for the Crusades, still retain the names as well as the two farms to which they belong, of Le Croix Rouge, and Le Croix Blanc.

I rode a Norman chestnut-coloured horse at this place thirty-three years old. It showed no trace of broken knees, and had often gone over thirty miles a day at that age. While thus employed, I witnessed the painful effects of the scarcity of food. Both the harvest and the vintage were bad. It was, also, a year of scarcity in England, though I very rarely saw an English paper, or heard much about it. It is wonderful how soon we resign ourselves to circumstances. The time occupied, society pleasant, and man will find himself every where more of a cosmopolite than he expects. Most newspapers were wholly prohibited; the difference between the communication of intelligence and the customs at that time and at present, can hardly be conceived. I had to send to the apothecary when I wanted a little tea, and a small earthen vessel was my tea-pot. Yet I was only forty miles from Paris, where every thing I wanted could be had. I had to send a messenger to Rouen and desired him to ask Mr. Curzon, if he had any thing new from over the water. His reply constituted nearly all I knew of home for six months, though so near our own shore.

Mrs. Curzon and Caroline are gone to England, at the end of the month I proceed to Paris, and will visit you on my way. Miss C. and myself are living here like hermits, but we are both blessed with excellent health and spirits. In reply to your question, I can only
say that by the last English papers, the Eastern Counties are nearly in a state of insurrection. A large military force is stationed at Ely, and the troops have already fired on the people. If the latter have got leaders of ability, the thing may turn out no joke. The
Regent must change his measures, or old England will become a scene of bloodshed.” I became from this anxious to be where intelligence was accessible, and determined on going to Paris, as soon as my lodging term was concluded.

Now came the dangers of a popular commotion. No one can imagine the distress in France when bread is scarce. In the vine departments, grapes and potage au croute, with a little lard, support the labouring part of the population for three or four months in the year. An officer of gendarmerie whom I knew, named De F——, I often accompanied in his rides to the farmers to order them to send their corn into the market, the government paying the difference of the price. Thus I saw much of the country people. De F—— said the people must, if possible, be kept quiet, and the farmers did not seem to take the communication in ill part. They appeared well-meaning people. De F—— told me they were so, and he believed they were better minded and more honest than any of the other classes. This officer had been a prisoner of war in England for several years. He had been captured by the ‘Petrel’ schooner, one of the officers of which he shot when in the act of boarding. He wore a cross of the Legion of Honour. Attended by one and sometimes two orderlies, he rode daily over the country, to observe and to report proceedings. The farmers made
many complaints of depredations, the authors of which they could not discover. He communicated with the ministers of police and war, but the one knew not the nature of his communications with the other. I remarked that I thought such reports might be a source of mischief under a constitutional government. He replied:

“We are only beginning, besides, we have you and a hundred and fifty thousand foreigners in France. We can have no constitutional liberty with enemies calling themselves allies.”

“But you forsook Napoleon?”

“I support the Bourbons now—they were supported by my family. Bonaparte was a great man, but we had lost him. I was urged to rejoin the Bourbons. I agreed, swore to serve them, and will keep my oath. I will serve them faithfully, as I would my God, for I have seen the one, and never saw the other.”

I had confirmed to me spontaneously by this officer, what I had before heard regarding the farce played off to afford an excuse for the recall of the Bourbons. The allied armies were no sooner in Paris, than it was determined legitimacy should be the rule. George III., and his allies began the war for no other purpose. It was disavowed from necessity at the treaty of Amiens, and resumed on the destruction of the French army after the Russian campaign.

“I got back to France,” said De F——, “in an unexpected manner. I was a prisoner in England, or rather in Scotland, without a chance of getting home until a general peace.”

I think he told me he was related to the Count de Chabrol, I am not sure of the name. Talleyrand knew
him. Being a prisoner under
Napoleon’s flag, he was the less likely to be suspected. He was requested to come to London, his parole being removed. ‘Wellington was in the south of France, the allies marching in the north upon Paris—Napoleon must succumb. Would he, for a good reward, take letters from London to Paris, as a prisoner just escaped. He asked a little time to consider, and consented.’ One letter was for Talleyrand, another for General Leclerc. I forget who the third was for. He concealed the letters in his hat lining, and reached Paris successfully—who would suspect an escaped prisoner decorated with the Legion of Honour! Talleyrand desired him to remain quiet, and when he had anything to say, he would send for him. He remained so long unasked for, that he began to feel uneasy. The allies entered Paris, and Alexander of Russia fixed his head-quarters at the Elysée. De F—— was now sent for, and told, if he wished to be useful, the time was come. He was directed to the garden of the Tuileries. A person came up to him there, and handed him a quantity of silver, which he was desired to fling among the people, when he saw a group, and told more money would be forthcoming.

“But the police?”

“Don’t be afraid of the police, that is all right. Begin your own way. You will be instructed as to future action.”

He felt that his instructions were from authority of some kind. He spoke to one or two shabby people in the gardens, and told them he would lead them to something for their good if they would follow him, they consented, others joined out of mere curiosity. He led
them to the quay outside the gardens, now and then flinging a five franc piece among them. He had soon two or threescore persons collected about him. No police interfered. The sentries stood quiet at their posts. He got a fresh supply of money, and a hint to cry “Vivent les Bourbons!” “Vive
Louis XVIII.” He hesitated, but presently, on the opposite side of the Seine, he saw a crowd, and heard the cry of “Long live Louis XVIII!” “To the Emperor Alexander!” “To the Elysée Bourbon!” He now scented the game playing, distributed his money freely, and shouted “To the Elysée Bourbon!” He was soon at the head of some hundreds of rabble, and pushed on to the Elysée. There they found a crowd shouting for Alexander.

The papers the next day declared the cry of Paris was in favour of the Bourbons, and that Alexander had decided in their behalf. They should obtain the legitimate ruler of the allied sovereigns, Louis le Desire. Such is the true history of that event, and part of the agency under which it was effected. De F—— admitted the fact of the betrayal of Napoleon, by too many in whom he had trusted.

“But all is fair in love and war, you know. I got my present appointment soon afterwards, and have held it ever since. I made up my mind in England to join the side of my relations. I remained here unnoticed when Napoleon returned from Elba. I served him faithfully till I came out of prison. Had I gone over when he came first from Elba, what chance should I have had. Besides, my post was too humble for him to trouble his head about me.”

In 1823, when Baron Fain published his work, “The
MS. of 1814,” I was forcibly struck with this conversation, which at once occurred to me, though it happened seven years before. I think it was in 1813, that the intrigue began by the correspondence with De F——, carried out in 1814. What a paltry mode of action for great sovereigns!—what a farce! Verily, kings merited to be at a discount.

I used often to ride to the Andelys, where I found this kind-hearted, good-tempered, gay Frenchman, a capital marksman, and diligent official. Through him I saw much of the country people. Their love of their children delighted me. The mayor of the commune, a farmer of superior mind, told me he never repented of but one thing regarding his children, the suffering one of his sons to go to the Isle of France. He then saw the sea for the only time in his life. He bitterly regretted it, for he could hardly bear the separation. One son had a cotton factory near him, another was a farmer, his daughter lived with him.

“And the conscription—that is worse than the sea?”

“Yes, but that is a law of force.”

Near me, lived Barbe Marbois, one of the suspected, deported to Cayenne, and now a member of the government. His wife, attacked with insanity, was in a Maison de Santé at the Andelys. He went annually to spend an entire day alone with her. He was a pleasant, gentlemanly man, with a mind well stored with information.

There was a family, called Passy, that lived near me, the head was a colonel in the army. He had a fine library. With the Juge de Chasse, whom I have mentioned, and this gentleman, I proceeded to the house of a M. Leduc, to shoot and dine. We were to breakfast by
candle-light at seven. Punctual to appointment just after dawn, I was shown into a large up-stair room, handsomely furnished, in the centre of which the breakfast things were placed for half-a-dozen persons. My companion had lingered below.

The servant opened the door, and closed it. I thought myself alone, when soft female accents requested I would be seated. I now saw in a recess, with looped hangings, a lady in bed, a lace cap on her head, and a species of négligée dress over her neck and arms. She conversed upon several subjects, for I at once took a chair and placed it near her. Presently the whole party came into the room, we then breakfasted, and sallied forth into a neighbouring forest, returning with some birds and hares, but except one wild boar, at which Colonel Passy fired, he alone having a ball in one of his barrels, we saw nothing worth notice. The boar knocked down a stout boy who was beating the bushes, running against him in making away from his lair. We returned to a remarkably pleasant dinner-party. The breakfast and lady, made me think of what I had read of the fashions in the time of Queen Anne and George I. Several years after, on the trial of Queen Caroline, I thought of this incident in the endeavour to enhance, through his own profound ignorance of foreign manners, the alleged offences of the Queen, by Lord Giffard. More and more, I observed the necessity of the intercourse of people of different countries with each other before the merit or demerit of their manners can be judged of fairly.

The distance to Paris being only a day’s ride on horseback, I set out with a friend to visit Count Dillon,
a relative of his, who was going ambassador from France to Prussia. We reached Pontoise to dinner, after which we had still left a ride of twenty miles. I had a Waterloo horse, the flank of which had been grazed by a musket ball, after it had passed through the rider’s leg. We sat down to excellent Pontoise veal, cooked in the very mode veal should be cooked. Pontoise veal, is the boast of the French gastronomist. Good burgundy followed—capital St. George’s—such is the caprice of English fashion neglected for Bordeaux. We talked, sipped, and talked again. The minutes too fleetly passed, and we took no note of time. The country so recently covered with hostile armies was hardly safe late at night. Yet the reflection did not damp our joyousness. In the far distance we saw the sunset glitter like a star on the gilt dome of the Invalids as we jogged forwards. Darker and darker grew the atmosphere, and heavy clouds arose. It became black as Erebus. We were obliged to dismount and lead our horses, for we could with difficulty distinguish the black tops of the trees from the lowering heaven. We were glad to enter St. Denis at ten o’clock with the comfort to be told, we had done well to escape being robbed, perhaps murdered. When we reached the Count’s mansion, we found he had left Paris for Berlin two days before. We had to hunt out an hotel, and discovered a mediocre one in the Rue Bouloy near the Palais Royal.

We found out through the police the address of a Londoner, a West End man, whose vice of play was well known, otherwise he was an unexceptionable personage. He was living at the Hotel de l’Europe. Not
knowing the address of any other good English Christian we went to the hotel, and found him not up. We left word we should return and breakfast. In the room we saw a square built man dressed in a green coat, sullen of expression, of pallid complexion, and a low compressed brow indicating great firmness of purpose. He had dark hair and eyes, and seemed to have been waiting, but on seeing us come in, he rose up and went away, without the smallest recognition on either side. At breakfast we asked who he was, and were told he was a Lincolnshire gentleman, named
Thistlewood, a man of property, reduced. He was in an awkward predicament.

“One of your play acquaintance,” I remarked.

“You are nearly right—not much of an acquaintance, I met him in the Palais Royal. He called yesterday to endeavour to obtain my influence to prevail on a man to renew a bill for him. I won’t interfere—it is a bad case.”

“What is it?”

“There is a well known character here called Astly, a bootmaker, who was accused at home of treasonable correspondence in the time of the Irish rebellion, and fearing he might be imprisoned as people continually were, and not brought to trial at all, under the Habeas Suspension Act, he went to Hamburg and so to Paris. Being a diligent clever workman, he got into business for himself, and is worth twenty-thousand pounds. He has befriended many of his countrymen. For this Thistlewood he discounted a bill for £200. The bill could not be taken up, and Thistlewood told him so, upon which he gave him the money, and bade him go
and save his credit, for bills can’t be dishonoured here as in England without great injury to character. He took the £200, and in place of taking up the bills, went to the tables and lost every penny. I can’t interfere in the matter.”

Some years afterwards this same man, utterly ruined, led the assassination conspiracy in Cato Street, and died by the hands of the executioner. His countenance bespoke indomitable determination. I cannot forget it. He had been subjected to a long imprisonment by Lord Sidmouth, I forget on what account. His unscrupulous character, when driven to extremity, no doubt made him capable of the most revolting crimes.

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