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Panners of the French.
About thirty years ago a volume appeared from the pen of a traveller in France, which set "all the world” in England upon going to that country, and living on the charming “ banks of the Loire ;" a river not so well known then, as it has lately been, for an ugly trick it has of overflowing its banks, and frightening its Paradisaical inhabitants out of their wits. We allude to the travels of Lieutenant-Colonel Pinckney, an officer in the American service, who made the greater part of his tour in company with another American gentleman and two French ladies, one of whom was his friend's wife. This circumstance will account for the different modes in which he speaks of himself in the following extracts, one of them implying that he was alone Our extracts are what the reviewers would call“ favorable specimens;" that is, of French character ; and we make them advisedly such, for neighborly purposes. Englislımen like to see favorable specimens of their own travellers in the accounts given of them by Frenchmen; and we therefore do as we would be done by. Both Englishmen and Frenchmen have faults to mend and customs to get rid of; and they cannot do better than by regarding with kindness what is best on both sides.
THE main purpose of my journey (says the gallant Colo1
nel) being rather to see the manners of the people, than the brick and mortar of the towns, I had formed a resolution to seek the necessary refreshment as seldom as possible at
inns, and as often as possible in the houses of the humbler farmers, and the better kind of peasantry. About fifteen miles from Calais my horse and myself were looking out for something of this kind, and one shortly appeared about three hundred yards on the left side of the road. It was a cottage in the midst of a garden, and the whole surrounded by a hedge, which looked delightfully green and refreshing. The garden was all in flower and bloom. The walls of the cottage were robed in the same livery of nature.
I had seen such cottages in Kent and Devonshire, but in no other part of the world. The inhabitants were simple people, small farmers, having about ten or fifteen acres of land. Some grass was immediately cut for my horse, and the coffee which I produced from my pocket was speedily set before me, with cakes, wine, some meat, and cheese—the French peasantry having no idea of what we call tea. Throwing the windows up, so as to enjoy the scenery and freshness of the garden ; sitting upon one chair, and resting a leg upon the other; alternately pouring out my coffee, and reading a pocket edition of Thomson's Seasons, I enjoyed one of those moments which gave a zest to life; I felt happy, and in peace and in love with all around me.
Proceeding upon my journey, two miles on the Calais side of Boulogne I fell in with an overturned chaise, which the postilion was trying to raise. The vehicle was a chaise de poste, the ordinary travelling carriage of the country, and a thing in a civilized country wretched beyond conception. It was drawn by three horses, one in the shafts, and one on each side. The postillion had ridden on the one on the driving side; he was a little punch fellow, and in a pair of boots like fire buckets. The travellers consisted of an old French lady and gentleman; madame in a high crimped cap, and stiff long whalebone stays. Monsieur informed me very
courteously of the cause of the accident, whilst madame alternately cartsied to me, and menaced and scolded the postilion.
A single cart, and a wagon, were all the vehicles that I saw between Boulogne and Abbeville. In England, in the same space,
I should have seen a dozen or score. Not being pressed for time, the beauty of a scene at some little distance from the road-side tempted me to enter into a bye-lane, and take a nearer view of it. A village church, embosomed in a chestnut-wood, just rose above the trees on the top of a hill; the setting sun was on its casements, and the foliage of the wood was burnished by the golden reflection. The distant hum of the village green was just audible; but not so the French horn, which echoed in full melody through the groves. Having rode about half a mile through a narrow sequestered lane, which strongly reminded me of the half-green and half-trodden bye-roads in Warwickshire, I came to the bottom of the hill, on the brow and summit of which the village and church were situated. I now saw whence the sound of the horn proceeded. On the left of the road was an ancient chateau, situated in a park or very extensive meadow, and ornamented as well by some venerable trees, as by a circular fence of flowering shrubs, guarded on the outside by a paling on a raised mound. The park or meadow having been newly mown, had an air at once ornamented and natural. A party of ladies were collected under a patch of trees situated in the middle of the lawn. I stopped at the gate to look at them, thinking myself unperceived ; but in the same moment the gate was opened to me by a gentleman and two ladies, who were walking the round. An explanation was now necessary, and was accordingly given. The gentleman informed me, upon his part, that the chateau belonged to Mons. St. Quentin, a member of the French senate,
and a judge of the district; that he had a party of friends with him upon the occasion of his lady's birthday, that they were about to begin dancing, and that Mons. St. Quentin would highly congratulate himself on my accidental arrival. One of the ladies, having previously apologized and left us, had seemingly explained to Mons. St. Quentin the main circumstance belonging to me; for he now appeared, and repeated the invitation in his own person. The ladies added their kind importunities. I dismounted, gave my horse to a servant in waiting, and joined this happy and elegant partyfor such it really was.
I had now, for the first time, an opportunity of forming an opinion of French beauty, the assemblage of ladies being very numerous, and all of them most elegantly dressed. Travelling, and the imitative arts, have given a most surprising uniformity to all the fashions of dress and ornament; and whatever may be said to the contrary, there is a very slight difference between the scenes of a French and English polite assembly. If anything, however, be distinguishable, it is more in degree than in substance. The French fashions, as I saw them here, differed in no other point from what I had seen in London, but in degree. The ladies were certainly more exposed about the necks, and their hair was dressed with more fancy; but the form was in almost everything the
The most elegant novelty was a hat, which doubled up like a fan, so that the ladies carried it in their hands. There were more colored than white muslins; a variety which had a very pretty effect ainongst the trees and flowers. The same observation applies to the gentlemen. Their dresses were made as in England; but the pattern of the cloth, or some appendage to it, was different. One gentleman habited in a grass-colored silk coat, had very much the appearance of Beau Mordecai in the farce : the ladies. how
ever, seemed to admire him; and in some conversation with him I found him, in spite of his coat, a very well-informed
There were likewise three or four fancy dresses ; a Dian, a wood-nymph, and a sweet girl playing upon a flute, habited according to a picture of Calypso by David. On the whole, there was certainly more fancy, more taste, and more elegance, than in an English party of the same description; though there was not so many handsome women as would have been the proportion of such an assembly in England.
From La Fleche to Angers, and thence to Ancennis, the country is a complete garden. The hills were covered with vines; every wood had its chateau, and every village its church. The peasantry were clean and happy, the children cheerful and healthful looking, and the greater part of the younger women spirited and handsome. There was a great plenty of fruit; and as we passed through the villages, it was invariably brought to us, and almost as invariably any pecuniary return refused with a retreating curtsey. One sweet girl, a young peasant, with eyes and complexion which would be esteemed handsome even in Philadelphia, having made Mr. Young and myself an offering of this kind, replied very prettily to our offer of money, that the women of La Fleche never sold either grapes or water; as much as to say that the one was as plentiful as the other.
Some of these young girls were dressed not only neatly but tastily. Straw hats are the manufacture of the province; few of them, therefore, but bad a straw bonnet, and few of these bonnets were without ribbons or flowers.
We remained at Oudon till near sunset, when we resumed our road to Ancennis, where we intended to sleep. As this was only a distance of seven miles, we took it very
lei. surely, sometimes riding and sometimes walking. The evening was as beautiful as is usual in the southern parts of