A strong predilection in favour of river scenery induced me, at the commencement of an overland journey to Bombay, through France and Egypt, to take a passage from London in a steamer bound to Havre. Accordingly, on the 1st of September, 1839, accompanied by some friends, one of whom was to perform the whole journey with me, I embarked on board the Phenix, a French vessel, which left the Tower Stairs at about ten o'clock in the morning.
The weather was showery, but occasional gleams of sunshine encouraged us to hope that it might clear up, and permit us to keep the deck during the greater part of the voyage, which we expected to perform in eighteen hours. To the majority of readers, in these days of universal travelling, it will be superfluous to describe a steam-boat; but there may possibly be some quiet people who are still ignorant of the sort of accommodation which it affords, and to whom the description will not be unacceptable.
The Phenix is a fine vessel of its class, five hundred tons burthen, and 160-horse power. It was handsomely fitted up, and the vases of flowers upon the chimney-piece in the principal saloon, and other ornaments scattered about, gave to the whole a gay appearance, as if the party assembled had been wholly bent upon pleasure. The ladies' cabin was divided by a staircase; but there were what, in a sort of mockery, are called "state-cabins" opening into that appropriated to the general use, around which were sofas, and bed-places upon a sort of shelf above, for the accommodation of the gentlemen. This apartment was handsomely carpeted, and otherwise well furnished; the steward and his assistant having the appearance of the better class of waiters belonging to a well-frequented hotel: all the servants were English, and the whole afforded a most delightful contrast to the sort of packets which many of the party on board were quite old enough to remember.
The passengers were numerous, and apparently inclined to make themselves agreeable to each other; one, an American, objected to the sight of a footman, who came upon the quarter-deck for a few minutes, observing that such a thing would not be permitted in his country.
As soon as the vessel got under weigh, preparations were made for breakfast, which was served, a la fourchette, in very excellent style, the cookery being a happy combination of the French and English modes. At the conclusion of the repast, we repaired to the deck, all being anxious to see the British Queen, which was getting her steam up, at Gravesend. We were alongside this superb vessel for a few minutes, putting some persons on board who had come down the river in the Phenix for the purpose of paying it a visit; and taking advantage of a favourable breeze, we hoisted a sail, and went along at a rate which gave us hope of a speedy arrival at Havre.
After passing the Nore, however, our progress was impeded; and at length, when off Margate, we were obliged to lie-to, in order to wait for the turn of the tide: the wind blowing so strongly as to render it questionable whether we could get round the Foreland. The sun was shining on the buildings at Margate, and the bells knolling for evening service; affording a home-scene of comfort and tranquillity which it was agreeable to carry abroad as one of the last reminiscences of England.
In about three hours, we got the steam up again, and saw the British Queen in the distance, still lying to, and apparently, notwithstanding her prodigious power, unable to get down the Channel.
Dinner was served while the Phenix lay off Margate; but it was thinly attended, the motion of the vessel having sent many persons to their cabins, while others were totally deprived of all appetite. An elderly gentleman, who sate upon my left hand, complained exceedingly of his inability to partake of the good things before him; and one or two left the table in despair. Again we sought the deck, and saw the sun sink behind an ominous mass of clouds; the sky, however, cleared, and the stars came out, reviving our spirits with hopes of a fine night. Unfortunately, soon after nine o'clock, a heavy squall obliged us to go below, and one of my female friends and myself took possession of a state cabin, and prepared to seek repose.
It was my first voyage on board a steamer, and though the tremulous motion and the stamping of the engine are anything but agreeable, I prefer it to the violent rolling and pitching of a sailing vessel. We were certainly not nearly so much knocked about; the vases of flowers were taken off the mantel-piece, and placed upon the floor, but beyond this there were no precautions taken to prevent the movables from getting adrift; every thing remained quiet upon the tables, a circumstance which could not have happened in so heavy a sea in any vessel not steadied by the apparatus carried by a steamer.
The Phenix laboured heavily through the water; a torrent of rain soon cleared the deck of all the passengers, and the melancholy voices calling for the steward showed the miserable plight to which the male portion of the party was reduced. Daylight appeared without giving hope of better weather; and it was not until the vessel had reached the pier at Havre, which it did not make until after three o'clock P.M. on Monday, that the passengers were able to re-assemble. Many had not tasted food since their embarkation, and none had been able to take breakfast on the morning of their arrival.
And here, for the benefit of future travellers, it may not be amiss to say, that a small medicine-chest, which had been packed in a carpet-bag, was detained at the custom-house; and that the following day we experienced some difficulty in getting it passed, being told that it was contraband; indeed, but for an idea that the whole party were going on to Bombay, and would require the drugs for their own consumption, we should not have succeeded in rescuing it from the hands of the Philistines. The day was too far advanced to admit of our getting the remainder of the baggage examined, a mischance which detained us a day at Havre, the steamer to Rouen starting at four o'clock in the morning.
The weather was too unpropitious to admit of our seeing much of the environs of the town. Like all English travellers, we walked about as much as we could, peeped into the churches, made purchases of things we wanted and things we did not want, and got some of our gold converted into French money. We met and greeted several of our fellow-passengers, for though little conversation, in consequence of the inclemency of the weather, had taken place on board the Phenix, we all seemed to congratulate each other upon our escape from the horrors of the voyage.
The gale increased rather than abated, and we now began to entertain fears of another day's detention at Havre, the steamer from Rouen not having arrived; and though we were very comfortably lodged, and found the town superior to the expectations we had formed of a sea-port of no very great consideration, we had no desire to spend more time in it than we could help.
Havre appears to carry on a considerable commerce with India, several shops being wholly devoted to the sale of the productions of the East, while the number of parrots and monkeys to be seen show that the intercourse must be very extensive. The shops had a very English air about them, and though the houses were taller, and rather more dilapidated in their appearance, than they are usually found at home, they reminded us of familiar scenes. Hamlet was announced for the evening's performance at the theatre, and but for the novelty of dining at a table d'hote, we might have fancied ourselves still in England.
The Hotel de l'Europe is the best in Havre; there are several others very respectable, and more picturesque, from the ancient style of the building: all were full, intercourse with Havre being on the increase. English carriages were arriving every hour; the steamer from Southampton brought an immense number of passengers, and travellers seemed to flock in from every part of the world. We were amused by seeing a well-dressed and well-mannered Russian lady, at the table d'hote, fill her plate half-full of oil, and just dip the salad into it.
It was the first time that one of my friends and myself had ever visited France, and we endeavoured as much as possible to accommodate ourselves to the manners of a strange country. We could not, however, entirely give up our English habits, and ordered tea in the evening in our private apartments: the French are by this time well accustomed to requisitions of this nature, and few places are now unsupplied with a tea-pot.
On Tuesday morning, we were up at four o'clock, in order to embark on board the steamer for Rouen. It rained heavily, and any hopes, the interposition of the high houses gave, that the wind had abated, were destroyed upon turning the first angle, and after a hasty glance at the threatening sky and surging waters, we went below, intending, if possible, to remain there until the weather should clear.
Passengers now came flocking in; many respectable French families, with their children and neatly dressed bonnes, were of the party; but the young folk speedily becoming very sick, we sought the deck, and in spite of the rain, which still continued to fall, established ourselves as well as we were able.
Upon entering the river, the turbulence of the water subsided a little, and a gleam of sunshine, the first that smiled upon us, shewed a chateau and town nestling in the midst of gardens and orchards, and spreading down to the water's edge. The banks on either side were picturesque, presenting the most pleasing pictures of rural enjoyment, and conveying an idea of comfort which we had not previously associated with the smaller classes of country residences in France. The houses were cleanly on the outside, at least, and neither paint nor white-wash was spared in their decoration; the surrounding parterres were gay with flowers, amid which, as with us, dahlias made a very conspicuous appearance. They were not, we thought, quite so large and luxuriant as those which we see in our cottage-gardens at home; and this remark we found afterwards would apply to the more carefully tended plants in the pleasure-grounds of palaces. We are probably more skilful in the adaptation of soil to foreign importations, and therefore succeed in producing a finer flower.
In my baggage I had brought a large basket-full of the roots of our English hearts-ease, as a present to a French gentleman, who had expressed a wish, in the early part of the summer, to take some with him from London, he having been much delighted with the superior beauty of those which he had seen in our English gardens; they were not then in a fit state for transplanting, and having, through the kindness of the secretary of the Royal Botanic Society, been enabled to carry away an extensive and choice collection of roots, I indulge a hope that I may be instrumental in spreading the finest varieties of this pretty flower throughout France.
We lost, of course, many scenes of beauty and interest, in consequence of the inclemency of the weather. Just as we arrived at a most beautiful place, a church of elegant architecture rising in the centre, with gay-looking villas clustered round, the gathering clouds united over our devoted heads, the rain, descending in a cataract, beat down the smoke to the very decks, so that we all looked and felt as if we had been up the chimney, and the whole lovely scene was lost to us in a moment. The rain continued for about an hour after this, and then the sky began to clear.
We reached Rouen at about half-past twelve. The approach is very fine, and the city makes an imposing appearance from the river. We had been recommended to the Hotel d'Angleterre, which is the best, but were so strongly tempted to rush into the hotel immediately opposite, that, trusting to its exterior, we hastened to house ourselves, and found no reason to repent our choice. 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 his windows.
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 with horror.
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 our hotel.
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. A large boat in the centre, in which the baggage is deposited, was speedily filled, carpet bags being piled upon carpet bags, until a goodly pyramid arose, which the rising sun touched with every colour of the prism. The decks of the Dorade
were now crowded with passengers, while two respectable-looking young women, in addition to ourselves, formed the whole of our company.
Our bell now gave out a few faint sounds, as if rather in compliance with the usual forms observed, than from any hope that its warning voice would be heeded; and getting up our steam, we took the lead gallantly, as if determined to leave the heavier boat behind. Presently, however, the Dorade passed us with all her gay company, and speeding swiftly on her way, would have been out of sight in a few minutes, but for the windings of the river, which showed us her smoke like a pennon in the distance. We were now left alone in our glory, and felt assured of what we had more than suspected before, namely, that we had got into the wrong boat. We then, though rather too late, inquired the cause of the extraordinary disproportion of the passengers, and were told that the Etoile was the favourite boat going down the river, while the Dorade had it hollow in going up.
We now began to consider the circumstances of the case, and the chances of our not arriving time enough at the place of debarkation to get on to Paris by the rail-road that night. Agreeing that the detention would not be of the least consequence, that we should enjoy having the whole boat to ourselves, and the slow method of travelling, which would enable us the better to contemplate the beauties of the river, we made up our minds to a day of great enjoyment. The weather was fine, a cool breeze allaying the heat of the sun, which shone upon us occasionally through clouds too high to afford any apprehension of rain.
The boat was very elegantly fitted up below, the ladies' cabin, in particular, being splendidly furnished. Above, the choice of seats proved very acceptable, since, in consequence of a new-fangled apparatus, we had four chimnies, whence sparks escaped in a constant shower, threatening destruction to any garment that might be exposed to them. Seated, therefore, at the prow, beyond the reach of this fiery shower, after partaking of an excellent breakfast, there being a first-rate restaurateur on board, we began to converse with a very intelligent boatman, who amused us with the legends of the river and accounts of the different places which we passed.
At Blossville-Bon-Secours there is an extremely steep hill, with a chapel, dedicated to the Virgin, at the summit; the holy edifice is, upon ordinary occasions, approached by a circuitous winding road, but at Easter and other great festivals, thousands of persons flock from all parts, for the purpose of making a pilgrimage up the steepest portion of the ascent, in order to fulfil vows previously made, and to pay their homage to the holy mother of God. There was a waggery in our friend's eye, as he described the sufferings of the devout upon these occasions, which indicated an opinion that, however meritorious the act, and however efficacious in shortening the path to heaven, he himself entertained no desire to try it. This man had seen something of the world, his maritime occupation having formerly led him to distant places; he had been a sailor all his life, was well acquainted with Marseilles, which he described with great enthusiasm, and gave us to understand that, having had a good offer elsewhere, this would be one of his last voyages in the Etoile, since he worked hard in it, without getting any credit.
At the town of Elboeuf, we picked up another passenger; a country woman, with a basket or two, and a high Normandy cap, had come on board at one of the villages; and with this small reinforcement we proceeded, halting occasionally to mend some damage in the engine, and putting up a sail whenever we could take advantage of the breeze.
Arriving at La Roquelle, our cicerone pointed out to us the ruined walls of what once had been a very splendid chateau; its former owner being an inveterate gamester, having lost large sums of money, at length staked the chateau to an Englishman, who won it. Upon arriving to take possession, he was disappointed to find that he had only gained the chateau, and that the large estate attached to it was not in the bond. Being unable to keep it up without the surrounding property, he determined that no other person should enjoy it, and therefore, greatly to the annoyance of the people in the neighbourhood, he pulled it down. The present proprietor now lives in an adjacent farm-house, and the story, whether true or false, tells greatly to the prejudice of the English, and our friend, in particular, spoke of it as a most barbarous act.
We found the chateaux on the banks of the Seine very numerous; many were of great magnitude, and flanked by magnificent woods, the greater number being clipped into the appearance of walls, and cut out into long avenues and arcades, intersecting each other at right angles, in the very worst taste, according to the English idea of landscape-gardening. There was something, however, extremely grand and imposing in this formal style, and we were at least pleased with the novelty which it afforded.
At Andelys, perched upon a conical hill, are the picturesque remains of the chateau Gaillard, which was built by Richard Coeur de Lion, and must formerly have been of very great extent, its walls reaching down to the river's brink. We were told that the chateau furnished stabling for a thousand horses, and that there was a subterranean passage which led to the great Andelys. This passage is now undergoing a partial clearing, for the purpose of increasing the interest of the place, by exhibiting it to strangers who may visit the neighbourhood. Our informant proceeded to say, that during several years, an old witch inhabited the ruins, who was at once the oracle and the terror of the neighbourhood.
The sketch-books of the party were here placed in requisition, and though the celerity with which a steamer strides through the water is not very favourable to the artist, a better idea of the scene was given than that which we found in the Guide Book. The banks of the Seine present a succession of pictures, all well worthy of the pencil, and those who are fond of the picturesque, and who have time at their disposal, will find the voyage up the river replete with the most interesting materials.
The first sight of the vineyards, which began to spread themselves up the steep sides of the hills, delighted us all; and our prospects now began to be diversified with rock, which in a thousand fantastic forms showed itself along the heights. The country seemed thickly spread with villages, many at the edge of the water, others receding into winding valleys, and all boasting some peculiar beauty. Whether upon a nearer approach they would have been equally pleasing, it is not possible to say; but, from our position, we saw nothing to offend the eye, either in the cottages or the people; some of the very humblest of the dwellings boasted their little gardens, now gay with sun-flowers and dahlias, while the better sort, with their bright panes of glass, and clean muslin window-curtains, looked as if they would afford very desirable homes.
A present of a bottle of wine made our boatmen very happy. They produced one of those huge masses of bread, which seems the principal food of the lower classes, and sate down to their meal with great content. Our dinner, which we had ordered rather early, was delayed by the arrival of the boat at Vernon, where we were obliged, according to the French phrase, to "mount the bridge." It was built, agreeably to the old mode of construction, with a mill in the centre, and the difficulty, and even danger, of getting through the arch, could not be called inconsiderable. Letting off the steam, we were hauled up by persons stationed for the purpose; and just as we got through, passed the steamers going down to Rouen, the partners of the vessels which went up in the morning; both were full, our star being the only unlucky one. However, what might have been a hardship to many others was none to us, it being scarcely possible to imagine any thing more delightful than a voyage which, though comparatively slow, was the reverse of tedious, and in which we could discourse unrestrainedly, and occupy any part of the vessel most agreeable to ourselves. We picked up a very respectable man and his daughter, an interesting little girl, who spoke English very tolerably, and seemed delighted to meet with English ladies; and also an exquisite, dressed in the first style of the Parisian mode, but of him we saw little, he being wholly occupied with himself.
The steam-company are entering into an arrangement at Vernon for the construction of a lock similar to one already formed at Pont-de-l'Arche, which we had passed through in the morning, and which will obviate the inconvenience and difficulty of the present mode of navigating the river.
The next place of interest to which we came was Rosny, a village famous in the pages of history as the residence of the great and good, the friend and minister of Henry IV., the virtuous Sully. Our boatmen, who were not great antiquaries, said nothing about the early occupants of the chateau, exerting all their eloquence in praise of a later resident--the Duchesse de Berri. This lady rendered herself extremely popular in the vicinity, living in a style of princely splendour, and devoting her time to acts of munificence. Every year she portioned off a bride, giving a dowry to some respectable young lady of the neighbourhood, while to the poor she was a liberal and untiring benefactress. The boatmen blessed her as they passed, for to all she sent wine, and upon fete-days gave banquets to the rural population, to whom her remembrance will be ever dear. Our informants pointed out a small chapel, which they described as being very beautiful, which she had built as a depository for her husband's heart; this precious relic she carried away with her when she left Rosny, which she quitted with the regrets of every human being in the neighbourhood.
The chateau has been purchased by an English banker, but is now uninhabited: there was a report of its being about to be pulled down. It is a large, heavy building, not distinguished by any architectural beauty, yet having an imposing air, from its extent and solidity. It is surrounded by fine woods and pleasure-grounds, laid out in the formal style, which is still the characteristic of French landscape-gardening. Nothing can be more beautiful than the surrounding scenery, the winding river with its vineyards hanging in terraces from the opposite heights, the village reposing beneath sun-lit hills, while corn-fields, pasture-land, and cattle grazing, convey the most pleasing ideas of the comfort of those who dwell upon this luxuriant soil.
The city of Mantes now appeared in the distance, and as we approached it, our guides pointed out, on the opposite heights of Gassicourt, a hermitage and Calvary, which had formerly proved a great source of profit. An ascetic, of great pretensions to sanctity, took up his abode many years ago in this retreat, carrying on a thriving trade, every boat that passed contributing twopence, for which consideration the hermit rung a bell, to announce their arrival at the bridge of Mantes, giving notice to the town, in order to facilitate the transfer of baggage or passengers. This tax or tribute the hermit was not himself at the trouble of collecting, it being scrupulously despatched to him by the donors, who would have deemed it sinful to deprive the holy man of what they considered his just due.
The sort of piety, which once supported so great a multitude of religious mendicants, is greatly on the decline in France. A few crosses on the bridges and heights, and the dresses of the priesthood whom we encountered in the streets, were the only exterior signs of Roman Catholicism which we had yet seen. Our boatmen spoke with great respect of the Sisters of Charity, pointing out a convent which they inhabited, and told us that during illness they had themselves been greatly indebted to the care and attention of these benevolent women.
It was now growing dark, and we very narrowly escaped a serious accident in passing the bridge of Meulan, the boat coming into contact with one of the piers; fortunately, the danger was espied in time. There was now not the slightest chance of reaching Paris before the following morning; but we regretted nothing except the want of light, the gathering clouds rendering it impossible to see any thing of the scenery, which, we were told, increased in beauty at every mile. We consoled ourselves, however, with tea and whist in the cabin; in fact, we played with great perseverance throughout the whole of our journey, the spirits of the party never flagging for a single instant.
We found a good hotel at the landing-place, at which we arrived at a very late hour, and starting the next morning by the early train to Paris, passed by the rail-road through an extremely interesting country, leaving St. Germain-en-Laye behind, and tracking the windings of the Seine, now too shallow to admit of the navigation of boats of any burthen.
The construction of this rail-road was attended with considerable difficulty and great expense, on account of its being impeded by the works at Marli, for the supply of water to Versailles. The building of the bridges over the Seine, which it crosses three times, was also very costly. The carriages of the first class are very inferior to those of the same description upon the rail-roads in England, but they are sufficiently comfortable for so short a distance. We were set down at the barrier of Clichi, an inconvenient distance from the best part of Paris. Here we had to undergo a second inspection of our baggage, and I became somewhat alarmed for the fate of my medicine-chest. We had taken nothing else with as that could be seizable, and this was speedily perceived by the officials, who merely went through the form of an examination.
The divisions in one of my portmanteaus had excited some suspicion at Havre, one of the men fancying that he had made a grand discovery, when he pronounced it to have a false bottom. We explained the method of opening it to his satisfaction, and afterwards, in overhauling my bonnet-box, he expressed great regret at the derangement of the millinery, which certainly sustained some damage from his rough handling. Altogether, we had not to complain of any want of civility on the part of the custom-house officers; but travellers who take the overland route to India, through France, will do well to despatch all their heavy baggage by sea, nothing being more inconvenient than a multitude of boxes. I had reduced all my packages to four, namely, two portmanteaus, a bonnet-box, and a leather bag, which latter contained the medicine-chest, a kettle and lamp, lucifer-matches, &c; my bonnet-box was divided into two compartments, one of which contained my writing-case and a looking-glass; for as I merely intended to travel through a portion of our British possessions in India, and to return after the October monsoon of 1840, I wished to carry every thing absolutely necessary for my comfort about with we.
Another annoyance sustained by persons who take the route through France is, the trouble respecting their passports, which must be ready at all times when called upon for examination, and may be the cause of detention, if the proper forms are not scrupulously gone through. We were not certain whether it would be necessary to present ourselves in person at the Bureau des Passeports, Quai des Orfevres, in Paris, after having sent them to the British embassy; but we thought it better to avoid all danger of delay, and therefore drove to a quarter interesting on account of its being a place of some importance as the original portion of Paris, and situated on the island. In this neighbourhood there are also the famous Hotel Dieu and Notre Dame, to both of which places we paid a visit, looking en passant at the Morgue. The gentleman who accompanied us entered a building, with whose melancholy celebrity all are acquainted; but though it did not at that precise moment contain a corpse, the report did not induce us to follow his example: a circumstance which we afterwards regretted. It may be necessary to say, that at other places we sent our passports to the Hotel de Ville; but at Paris there is a different arrangement.
Although the journey up the Seine from Havre proved very delightful to me, I do not recommend it to others, especially those to whom time is of importance. There is always danger of detention, and the length of the sea-voyage, especially from London, may be productive of serious inconvenience. For seeing the country, it is certainly preferable to the diligence, and my experience will teach those who come after me to inquire into the character of the steam-boat before they enter it.