We Were Shown Into Very Handsome
Apartments, And Found The Staircases, Lobbies, And Ante-Chambers As
Clean As We Could Desire.
A change of attire and breakfast enabled us
to sally forth to see as much of the town and its neighbourhood as our
time would admit.
The modern portion of Rouen is extremely handsome; the quay being
lined with a series of lofty stone mansions, built in the style which
is now beginning to be adopted in London. The public buildings are
particularly fine, and there are two splendid bridges, one of stone,
and one upon the suspension principle. Very extensive improvements are
going on, and it seems as if, in the course of a very few years,
the worst portions of the town will be replaced by new and elegant
erections. Meantime, imagination can scarcely afford more than a faint
idea of the horrors of the narrow, dirty streets, flanked on either
side by lofty squalid houses, in the very last stage of dilapidation.
The cathedral stands in a small square, or market-place, where the
houses, though somewhat better than their neighbours in the lanes,
have a very miserable appearance; they make a striking picture, but
the reality sadly detracts from the pleasure which the eye would
otherwise take in surveying the fine old church, with which, through
the medium of engravings, it has been long familiar. Many workmen are
at present employed in repairing the damage which time has inflicted
upon this ancient edifice.
The interior, though striking from its vastness, is at first rather
disappointing, its splendid windows of stained glass being the most
prominent of its ornaments. In pacing the long aisles, and pausing
before the small chapels, the scene grows upon the mind, and the
monuments, though comparatively few, are very interesting. An effigy
of Richard Coeur de Lion, lately discovered while looking for the
fiery monarch's heart, which was buried in Rouen, is shown as one of
the chief curiosities of the place.
The porter of the cathedral inhabited an extremely small dwelling,
built up against the wall, and surrounded by high, dark buildings; but
we were pleased to see that he had cheered this dismal place of abode
by a gay parterre, several rich-looking flowers occupying pots beneath
Our next pilgrimage was to the statue of Joan of Arc, which we
approached through narrow streets, so dirty from the late heavy rains,
as to be scarcely passable. We had, as we might have expected, little
to reward us, except the associations connected with the Maid of
Orleans, and her cruel persecutors. The spot had been to me, from my
earliest years, one which I had felt a wish to visit, my researches,
while writing the Memoirs of the Rival Houses of York and Lancaster,
materially increasing the interest which an earlier perusal of the
history of England and France had created, concerning scenes trodden
by the brave, the great, and the good. However mistaken might have
been their notions, however impolitic their actions, we cannot
contemplate the characters of the Paladins, who have made Rouen
famous, without feelings of respect. The murder of Joan of Arc formed
the sole blot on the escutcheon of John Duke of Bedford, and the
faults and vices of his companions in arms were the offspring of the
times in which they lived.
We were surprised by the excellence of the shops, even in the most
dilapidated parts of the city of Rouen, the windows in every direction
exhibiting a gay assemblage of goods of all descriptions, while the
confectioners were little, if at all, inferior to those of Paris.
One small square in particular, in which a market was held, was very
striking, from the contrast between the valuable products sold, and
the houses which contained them. Seven or eight stories in height,
weather-stained, and dilapidated, the lower floors exhibited handsome
porcelain and other costly articles, which gave an impression of
wealth in the owners, that astonished those amongst our party who were
strangers to the country. Our hearts absolutely sunk within us as
we thought of the wretchedness of the interiors, the misery of being
obliged to inhabit any one of the numerous suites of apartments rising
tier above tier, and from which it would be absolutely impossible to
banish vermin of every description.
The French appear certainly to be beginning to study home comforts,
all the modern houses being built upon very commodious plans; still
the middling classes, in the towns at least, are miserably lodged,
in comparison with the same grades in England, families of apparently
great respectability inhabiting places so desolate as to strike one
After picking our way through the least objectionable of the streets
in the heart of the city, we were glad to escape into the open air,
and solace ourselves with the views presented on the neighbouring
heights. Nothing can be finer than the landscapes round Rouen; every
necessary of life appears to be cheap and plentiful, and persons
desirous of a quiet and economical residence abroad might spend their
time very happily in the outskirts of this picturesque city.
We found the guests at the table-d'hote chiefly English, travellers
like ourselves, and some of our party recognised London acquaintance
among those who, upon hearing our intention to proceed the following
day up the Seine to Paris, recommended the boat by which they had
arrived - the Etoile.
Again we were summoned at four o'clock in the morning, and wended our
way, along the banks of the river, to the starting-place, which was
just beyond the second bridge. The one large boat, which conveyed
passengers from Havre, was here exchanged for two smaller, better
suited to the state of the river. We were taught to expect rather a
large party, as we had understood that forty persons were going from
The bell of the Dorade, the opposition vessel, was sounding its
tocsin to summon passengers on board, while ours was altogether mute.
Presently, through the grey mist of the morning, we observed parties
flocking down to the place of embarkation, who, somewhat to our
surprise, all entered the other vessel.
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