IN company with his two children and a friend, Dr. Roget made an extended tour of the Continent in the year 1844. His son, John Lewis Roget, was then sixteen years of age, and this tour was the first time that he had been abroad, and selections from his account are given below. Thus the third generation now becomes the historian, and in his turn records his first impressions of a foreign country. In the interval, the day of the railway had fully dawned,’ and this is the first of our series of journeys in which it was employed ; although, as will be seen, considerable use was made by the party of carriages on the road, especially in Switzerland. As before, we are not giving Mr. Roget’s account in full, but confine the selections to those parts which reflect the travel conditions or are otherwise interesting or amusing. We are now able to illustrate the journeyings to some extent from the traveller’s own drawings, for Mr. J. L. Roget was himself an artist of no mean ability.
In the introductory portion of his account the young writer remarks ” Some travel for excitement, some to say they’ve done so, others to write a book, some in search of knowledge, or health, or plants, or some, like Dr. Syntax, in search of the picturesque. This latter pleasure was our aim in the autumn of the year eighteen hundred and forty-four. My father was the only one of the party who had been on the Continent before, and he had not been in Switzer-land for forty-one years, when he was compelled to leave Geneva to evade being captured by Napoleon. ”
Continuing in Mr. Roget’s words : —
” At length the bustle of preparation began to diminish, and on the morning of the 26th of July, boxes and bags were seen descending the staircase and forming a pile in the entrance-hall. At nine o’clock a hackney coach (one of the last of the race), followed by a cab, drove up to the door. Our luggage was placed in the cab and ourselves in the coach, while I mounted on the box by the side of the coachman, who drove us to the Blackwall Railway Station in Fenchurch Street, and (oh, happy omen !) asked no more than his proper fare. Having travelled by the railway to Black wall, we found ourselves at the waterside three-quarters of an hour before the boat professed to start. . . . The day was bright and sunny but our enjoyment was in a slight degree diminished by the necessity of looking after certain carpet bags and portmanteaus and depositing them on board the Soho, in which we had engaged berths and were to be conveyed to Antwerp. Having performed this duty, and having secured our ` berth-right ‘ by placing our sacs de nuit upon certain shelves with bedclothes upon them in a dark cupboard, we sat down quietly on deck to watch the passengers crowding on board, the idle gazers standing on the pier, and the farewell looks, words and kisses of those who were to be left behind. At length the flow of passengers began to cease and the pile of luggage on the deck to attain its maximum height. A few stragglers came hurrying on board, the gangway was removed, an impatient splashing was heard underneath. The pier, the station, the friends and relations receded from our view, as we glided majestically down the river. The novelty of the trip commenced with me very soon. I had never descended the Thames below Woolwich, but not-withstanding the attractions of Gravesend, Herne ay, Margate, etc., a dinner at two o’clock gave me an opportunity of observing our fellow-travellers, who were with few exceptions English. My attention had been already attracted by two sisters, neither of them remarkably young, who wore most extraordinary and incomprehensible bonnets, flimsy and nightcap like, under one of which appeared a countenance grim and like that of a tigress. The lady to whom this amiable expression belonged was peculiar in another respect, viz. in that of remaining, during the whole day, in the same seat, in the same position, reading the same book, partaking of no visible food, but obstinately retaining her tiger-like expression, her silence and her camp-stool. A pert little man with a kind of brown-holland pinafore and a large telescope formed a contrast to the studious lady. He talked, looked through his telescope, ate, drank, and seemed everywhere at once. There were a few more conspicuous passengers, among whom an aristocratic family who carried their own spoons were prominent.
We passed the Foreland as it was becoming dusk, and I found myself, for the first time in my life, out of sight of land, on a calm sea, glittering in the moonlight. The calmness of the sea and the brightness of the moon produced a visible change in the occupations of the passengers. Ladies who had been keeping themselves quiet belowstairs, and amusing themselves with a few volumes of Blackwood (which formed the largest part of the small library in the saloon), appeared on deck, and laying aside all thoughts of illness, joined the rest in passing to and fro. But there were some upon whom the moon could produce no effect, for a certain young gentleman in a shooting-jacket immediately ordered some fowls and ale, which he was presently seen devouring with great avidity, and the unsentimental little man in a pinafore actually succeeded in forming a rubber at whist. The tigress shut up her book, rose from her seat, and vanished. While, however, we were enjoying ourselves on deck, the moon suddenly disappeared behind a black cloud and was seen no more.
After making ourselves sure that she was not about to return, we all retired to sleep ; but that was a luxury denied to us. The draught from the aperture which served as a window, the noise of the engine in the next apartment, and the cramped position which the limited size of the berths prescribed to us [Fig. 8], put sleep out of the question, so we were forced to content ourselves with listening to the splash of the water, the everlasting creaking of the ship and the hoarse voice of the captain giving orders from above. Just as it was becoming light, I began to doze, but when I felt with joy that Morpheus had me-` It’s five o’clock, sir,’ said the steward ; so we all got up, or, as the phrase is, ` turned out’ But lo ! the face of nature was changed ; the clouds which had obscured the moon had never cleared away, and instead of a bright sun shining in the Thames, a mizzling rain descended on the dreary Scheldt. A dapper little Flemish pilot stood at the helm and steered us between the numerous sandbanks. . . . A more flat, uninteresting scene is difficult to imagine. There is nothing to see beyond a few Flemish fishing-boats with painted hulls, sandbanks without end, and two straight banks, on which are seen formal avenues, roofs of villages, many of which are lower than the river, and some church-towers at regular intervals. Soon, however, the tall steeple of Antwerp Cathedral appeared on the horizon, and a little after nine o’clock we arrived at the quay. My father and I remained with our keys to undergo the trial of patience inflicted by the Flemish douane, whose officers are very strict, opening every neatly packed parcel and penetrating to the very bottom of the trunks. . . As for us, we escaped without much trouble, and having engaged a porter to carry our luggage [Fig. 9], we followed him through the picturesque streets of Antwerp to the Hôtel St. Antoine.”
We will pass over the account of the visits to some of the objects of interest at Antwerp, where . Mr. Roget’s artistic interest was much gratified by the masterpieces of Rubens and other artists which abound. ” Antwerp,” he writes, ” is a curious old town, very picturesque, not from its situation, which is as unfavourable for beauty as possible, but for its buildings.” During their peregrinations it came on to rain, and ” a commissionnaire was dispatched for a cab, a convenience of which Antwerp is not devoid, and,” he continues, ” we were driven by a being in a blue blouse and a substantial pair of sabots. . . .” It is amusing to note that at the table d’hôte at their hotel, ” It fell to our lot to sit next to the ` tigress ‘ and the nightcap (which, however, was exchanged for a day-cap), who turned out to be a reasonable being and her sister talkative and agreeable.” During one of their walks they wished to have a glance at a building known as the Citadel, and luckily met with a map of Antwerp in a shop window, which directed us through some dirty, narrow streets to the other end of the town. We therefore quickened our steps, expecting to see some formidable castle or invincible fortress. But all that appeared was a white, square, peaceable looking building, on the top of a green bank. We retraced our steps and . . started in a rickety but capacious omnibus for the railway station, on the road to which we passed some strong fortifications which fully made up for the pacific Citadel. After the luggage had been duly weighed and paid for, which is the great annoyance of the German railways, we entered the train.”
This was a long and tedious day’s journey through uninterrupted rain and ” provokingly English ” scenery ; very pretty, however, between Liège and Vervier, consisting of wooded hills and rivers winding in a picturesque manner. ” Passing Tirlemont, Liège and Vervier, we arrived at the Prussian frontier, where our passports were demanded, with the assurance that we should find them -at Aix-la-Chapelle, at which station we soon arrived. .. . On our arrival we all entered an omnibus, which conveyed us through the dark and dirty streets of Cologne to the Pariser Hof. …”
It is perhaps worth while to give the young man’s first impressions of Cologne Cathedral.
” The cathedral or Dom is an elaborate and magnificent structure, but its unfinished state gives it the appearance of some ruin of ancient splendour, though the interior is more entire, and far surpassed my highest expectations. I cannot, however, admire the taste in pursuance of which the roof is gilded and painted with the brightest frescoes. This style does not suit the purposes of the building, though it seems in accordance with the customs and ceremonies of the Catholics. The cathedral, when we visited it, was filled with people attending Mass, which added much to the general effect…. ”
It was in Cologne that he ” first saw a specimen of German students, who are easily known by their short red beards, outlandish dress, swaggering gait and unstudious appearance [Fig. 10]. The church of St. Peter was the next object to be seen, which contains Rubens’s famous altar-piece of the crucifixion of that saint. A bad copy is exposed to view over the altar, which on paying a small fee to the keeper of the church is exchanged for the original. We now returned to our hotel, which is by no means one of the best and partakes of the odoriferous quality of Cologne in general, where every man has a pipe in his mouth. After dinner we walked across the bridge of boats,’ and, the evening being fine, stayed out . . . until darkness began to close in upon us. Unfortunately we missed our way, which gave us an opportunity of seeing more dirty streets. After wandering about in perplexity for some time, we asked a man with a napkin in his hand in which direction lay our hotel. The man turned out to be the waiter, who said we were close by, which proved to be true. . . .
” July 29th.-At ten in the morning we were on board the steamer bound for Coblentz with the aristocratic family as our fellow-passengers. The moustached member had exchanged his glossy black hat for a white one of German manufacture, a very serviceable article, however, and by no means to be despised. But the rain, which descended as if to assert its right of free passage on board the Rhine steamers, soon drove our hero into the cabin or ` Pavilion,’ for such is the name given to the well-furnished apartment in the stern which is reserved for those English who prefer a high to a low price, and who will on no account travel without a partition between themselves and their inferiors in wealth. . . .
And now commenced our long-expected trip up the Rhine. Now were we to trace the course of that majestic river, flowing beneath a wooded hill or rocky eminence crowned with some mouldering ruin once a stately castle. Now were our dreams of foreign beauties, of graceful vineyards and a fresh, clear atmosphere to be realized ; and we stood upon the damp deck to feast our eyes on Rhenish magnificence. But the idea of being in a foreign land required some imagination on the part of the traveller, for English faces met our eye on every side, and our native language proceeded from the mouths of all. The heavy rain served to render still more dismal the flat and dreary banks of the river. After passing Bonn the scenery improved, and the fine rock of the Drachenfels frowned upon us through the mist. But the ever-falling rain and the prospect of a table d’hôte below drove us, by their combined influence, into the cabin, where, shutting our eyes to the scenery around, we consoled ourselves with weak soup and sour wine, and with listening to an old lady who was expatiating with great vehemence on the beauties of Father Thames, to the disparagement of those of the Rhine. . . . After dinner the scenery gradually improved, but not so the weather, which continued black and threatening until we arrived at Coblentz, when down fell the concluding shower, intercepting our view of the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein. . . . ”
The party slept the night at Coblentz. ” The next day was a complete contrast to that which preceded it, and we had the satisfaction of beholding the scenery in all its beauty, and of expending much of our stock of superlatives on the ruined towers and craggy eminences where they are not disfigured by the formal and unsightly vineyards. The character of the Rhine scenery has, notwithstanding its beauty, a great sameness, and one sketch will suffice for its general appearance. We passed many interesting spots, and at the ` Mouse Tower,’ where Bishop Hato is said to have been devoured by rats, we took leave of the beauties of the Rhine, for here the river widens and the banks become flat and uninteresting.”
The party landed at Bieberich in order to visit Wiesbaden, whither they drove in a clumsy post-chaise.” The gardens at Wiesbaden are described as being ” not unlike our gardens at Chiswick on a fête day.” ” Satisfied with what we had seen,” he continues, ” we ensconced ourselves in a railway carriage, and were soon wafted to Mayence, where, crossing the bridge of boats, we found our steamer with our luggage safe, and taking our sacs de nuit, left the rest of the luggage on board, as we were to continue our journey by the same boat on the morrow. . . We reached Mannheim, after having contended against a smart breeze, in time to start for Heidelberg by the railway. The carriages on this line are remarkably comfortable, being more roomy than usual, and containing a table in the middle.”
It is perhaps worth while to quote part of the notes on Heidelberg.
” The town is situated on a spot where Nature seems to have exerted all her powers to render it cheerful and picturesque. At the foot of a wooded slope lie the irregular but handsome buildings which form this curious and interesting old town. Above them the ruined castle frowns upon the gentle Neckar, which flows smoothly between the old town and the woody hill closing the valley on the opposite side. . . . The University and the farm where the students fight their duels having been pointed out to us, we returned to our hotel. There is one more sight worth mentioning here, namely a church, half of which is appropriated to the Protestant and half to the Catholic service, a remarkable instance of religious, toleration.
Aug. 1.-The railway, which runs parallel to the ` Black Mountains,’ among which Baden-Baden is situated, carried us to Kehl, where our luggage was superficially examined by the French custom-house officers 1 and whence we proceeded by omnibus to Strasbourg, on the opposite shore of the Rhine, and arrived at the Hotel de la Ville de Paris just in time for the five o’clock table d’hôte, which was served up with all the French attention and subservience to the palate. On entering the town of Strasbourg, our passports were demanded before we passed the massive fortifications, which called forth our admiration. After dinner we visited the cathedral, whose spire is the highest in the world, being 400 feet, but as the building is so encircled with houses, it is difficult to believe its real height. . . Our attention was called to the great childish clock, which tells the hours, days, months, etc., by puppets and dancing gimcracks, and seems to be considered as a great wonder. The wonder is, however, how it came to be placed in the cathedral. . . At two o’clock the next day we were in Switzerland, having travelled from London to Basle by steam alone. The Hôtel des Trois Rois, where we were quartered, is a new, clean, comfortable house. .. . Before the front are always a large number of travelling carriages drawn up, and the voituriers to whom they belong are seen lounging about the door, waiting for hire, or gazing listlessly on the three painted Kings who adorn the portico with wooden solemnity.’
Basle is truly a smiling, cheerful, clean-looking town. Its picturesque streets and quiet English beauty, its interesting cathedral and swiftly flowing river, render it an attractive halting-place for the traveller in Switzerland. Behind the cathedral is a small terrace which commands the view of the Rhine, on a bend of which the ‘town is situated, and of the picturesque bridge which connects the parts of the town on opposite sides of the river. . We had originally intended proceeding to Geneva by Bienne and Neuchatel, but as there seemed to be a good chance of fine weather, it was determined to strike off from Bienne to Berne and Fribourg, and thence to Vevey and by the lake to Geneva. We therefore engaged one of the voituriers who was loitering about the door, and whom our host recommended as civil and honest, to take us to Vevey in four days. We had reason to be satisfied with our choice, for Samwel Suter (such was his name) turned out to be an active and obliging young fellow and attentive and kind to his horses. His voiture suited us well, and can be opened or closed at pleasure…. He wore a picturesque white pudding-basin hat, a brown jacket, red plush waistcoat and loose trousers.”
It is not necessary to follow the whole journey in detail. The route followed the course of the River Birs, entering the canton of Berne at the village of Lauffen and proceeding amid more and more picturesque scenery through the Val Moutiers (Münster Thal) and on to the village of Pavannes, where the night was spent.
We rose at five and were off at six, in compliance with the earnest request of Samwel, and ascending for a quarter of a mile we passed through the Pierre Pertuis, an arch in the rock that spans the road, bears a defaced Roman inscription and separates the valley of the Birs from that of the Suze. . At Bienne, the horses were watered and then dragged us up, a hill whence there is a fine view of the lake and town of Neuchâtel 1 and the range of the Jura beyond, among which the Chasserai and the Weissenstein are conspicuous.
And now we felt we were really in Switzerland. One by one we perceived the characteristics so often spoken ofthe picturesque wooden cottages with their carved balconies and staircases outside, the peasants with quaint costumes (Fig. 11), the industrious women with their broad-brimmed hats. Everything around reminded us of the country in which we were. But the costumes, though quaint, are not always to be admired, especially, I think, in the canton de Berne, where they seem to be generally adopted. The working dress of the women is usually a dark blue or black, but on Sundays and particular occasions they make use of brighter colours and display a variety of ribbons, necklaces, etc. But the Bernese costume is on the whole rather the reverse of picturesque, and its wearers the reverse of good-looking. The dress, however, is always kept very neat, and the shirt-sleeves which the women wear clean and well starched. . . . At Arberg we made our midday halt. . . . The sun had now driven away nearly all the clouds, excepting those near the horizon, behind which were those wonderful objects we were all straining for a glimpse of, the Bernese Alps. I had been always told that those who see snow mountains for the first time generally mistake them for clouds, and I accordingly expected a white, fleecy appearance on the horizon, and looked eagerly at the distance with that conviction when Samwel turned round and, pointing with his whip, exclaimed ` Voila les glaciers ‘ ; but it was some time before I saw them, not because I thought them clouds, but because I looked too low, for there, high up among the clouds, clear, distinct, with outlines well defined, were the Bernese Alps–not the whole range, such as we saw them since, but parts, detached, struggling to be seen and seeming not to belong to earth, and, by the imperfect manner in which they appeared, yet more wonderful and more difficult to believe in.
After traversing a hill, covered with shady firs, we entered the town of Berne, and alighting for a moment to see the famous bears of Berne, which are kept in a pit at the entrance of the town, at the public expense,’ proceeded to the Hôtel du Faucon.. . .
Aug. 4.-There is a certain terrace called the Platform high above the River Aare whence are seen in all their majesty the Oberland Alps.’ .. When clouds hang over the horizon, the view is bounded by a chain of lofty mountains, far different from our native land. But when the clouds ascend, new forms appear, and as the clouds gradually clear away, another chain of mountains towering high above their neighbours becomes visible, grander in form and standing alone in undisputed superiority. . . Berne is a curious, picturesque, interesting, rickety old town, whither an old antiquary might retire from the busy world and end his days in peace ; a town of which a rapid glance makes you fond, and to which a few hours’ acquaintance makes you attached. Berne seems to pride itself upon its arms, which are a little black bear walking uphill and putting out its tongue, for stone bears are to be met with at . nearly every corner and effigies of the same favoured quadruped are painted on many of the walls….”
The description of the famous clock is amusing,
” At twelve o’clock we stationed ourselves before the old clock-tower at the end of the principal street, in order to hear, or rather to see, the clock strike ; and a quaint piece of antiquity it is. A minute before the hour, a puppet dressed as a jester strikes a bell, and immediately a procession of bears marches in great solemnity before the throne of a wooden king with a long beard, who makes known the hour by turning an hour-glass which he holds in one hand and lowering his sceptre with a yawn at each stroke, and the performance ends with the crowing of a painted cock which is perched on the top. This is an amusing absurdity, and much more in character with its situation than the more elaborate and less antiquated puppet-show clock of Strasbourg Cathedral.”
Leaving Berne, our travellers went on to Fribourg, where they duly admired the famous organ in the cathedral, and continued their journey next day, making their noonday halt at Bulle, ” about a mile from the village of Gruyères, so noted for the cheese made in the surrounding valleys.
After the picturesque village of Châtel St. Denis, the road enters the canton de Vaud, and descending gradually, gave us our first glimpse of the lake of Geneva. The blue and placid lake lay at the foot of lofty mountains, yet with graceful outlines and varied tints ; while higher eminences crowned with snow towered above them and an evening mist arising from the water gave a hazy softness to the whole. . . The horses seemed glad to hear Samwel’s crack of the whip, announcing our approach to a resting-place, and making a last effort, they dragged us at a rapid pace to the door of the Trois Couronnes Hotel at Vevey. Just as we were under cover, down fell the predicted rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning. . The storm continued to rage wildly among the mountains, rendering the lake, before so calm and tranquil, troubled, and hurrying about the blue waters in angry waves.
The journey to Geneva was made by steamer on the lake.
” After passing Morges, Rolle and Coppet, Geneva appeared in sight, and increasing slowly as we approached, at length received us o, – its quay, whence we were conducted across a bridge to the Hôtel des Bergues. This gigantic establishment is situated in the most lively part of the town on the northern shore, where the lake pours itself into the River Rhône.”
Geneva has figured in several! of the journeys described in this volume and is indissolubly connected with the Roget family. In view of the events of 1803, it must have been with extra-ordinary interest that the young man beheld the city for the first time. He sums up his first impressions as follows :
” The town of Geneva combines in a remarkable degree beauty of situation with local interest. On the shore of the calm and pure lake, its houses are reflected in the clear blue water and are washed by the waves of the swift Rhône, which rushed through it as though rejoicing in its might. On one side is the mighty range of the Jura, and on the other the lofty heights of Savoy surround their chief, the great monarch of mountains. The town itself, so long distinguished for the list of great men it has produced, still retains its peaceful and industrious appearance. The array of good hotels and clean white houses which surround the quay fills the traveller who arrives by the lake with pleasing anticipations, and, like a ‘ well-worded preface, increases his desire of perusing what is to follow.
There is, however, a curious mixture of good modern buildings with ruinous and irregular houses of an earlier date. Thus the Rhône, after issuing from the lake and making way for the little Ile de Rousseau, meets with an obstruction in its impetuous course, a picturesque pile of irregular buildings, which compels it to divide its fury, and it rushes past in two separate streams, which again unite at the further side of the town and continue their way till joined by the cold and muddy Arve, fresh from its source among the glaciers. These two rivers, one clear and of a deep blue, the other thick and of a muddy white, refuse to mix their waters, and pursue their course for a considerable distance after .their confluence with a distinct boundary line between them, separating the two colours in a very remarkable manner. The situation of the confluence is also very pretty, and forms a pleasant drive from Geneva.
Geneva is surrounded by fortifications which are now used as promenades, and is entered by three gates : the Porte de Rive, on the south ; the Porte neuve, to the west and the Porte Cornavin, to the north. . . The varied pile of buildings of which Geneva is composed is crowned by the Église de St. Pierre, situated on the highest spot in the town. This church or cathedral is very simple in its architecture, but its two square towers have a picturesque appearance among the surrounding houses? The view from a broad avenue called the Treille at the back of the town is very pleasing. Below lie the Botanic Gardens, the scene of many a deed of bloodshed and cruelty in former times, but now a peaceful promenade. Beyond the fortifications a well-cultivated plain stretches away from the black Jura on the right to the precipitous Salève on the left. These rich materials, illuminated by a setting sun, form a charming prospect.
Most of our friends in Geneva were at their campagnes (or country residences) on the banks of the lake, so we had several opportunities of visiting the environs of Geneva. . . There is much good society in Geneva in the winter, when the inhabitants have returned to their town houses, and some gaiety, though, by one of the old laws, dancing is forbidden after twelve o’clock. The, dinners afford a great variety of dishes and an endless number of different kinds of wine. The gentlemen do not remain at table after the ladies have retired, but give them their arms into the drawing-room. Dinner parties are as early as three or four o’clock, whence another meal is introduced called a gouté, which consists of tea, coffee, and rich cakes and pastry. These sometimes form rather a sickening combination. We were invited one morning to a breakfast with our cousin, M. Roget, at his campagne near Coligny.’ The proceedings commenced with soup and fish, meat, etc., wine and fruitindeed, a complete dinner. After all this, coffee, tea, toast, honey, etc., enough to last for a week. After breakfast, a pleasant row on the lake occupied the rest of the morning.”
We will not dwell further on the occupations of the party during their ten days’ stay in Geneva. They finally left on August 19th at four in the morning by carriage en route for Chamonix.
The road for some distance we had before traversed in our ascent of the Salève, but continuing to the left, we entered the Sardinian territory.) At the frontier, our bags were opened, and the officer appeared particularly interested in the perusal of my diary, which he no doubt thought was some heretical tract or other. After this ceremony, and a short delay for the examination of passports, we continued our route through scenery of a most varied character, until the village of Cluse appeared at the entrance of a narrow gorge. Cluse, according to Murray, was inhabited by a numerous and industrious set of men, and was famed for its manufacture of watches. But now the face of all things was changed : nearly the whole town had been destroyed by a fire, and nothing was seen but whole streets of blackened walls and remnants of once happy homes while here and there a houseless female wandered through the deserted streets or a group of ragged children sat among the ruins in helpless idleness. The carriage rattled quickly past the crumbling inn, where once it had been welcomed, past the heaps of rubbish and neglected gardens, till a turn in the road hid us from the melancholy sight, and attracted our attention to the firm rocks of nature, which stand unaltered, age after age, while generations pass away and human habitations crumble into dust. . . . We soon found ourselves at St. Martin, where we dismissed our carriage, as the road becomes too rough and narrow for any conveyance but a char-à-banc. . . . We continued our journey in two of these. The char-à-banc is a kind of one-sided boat on wheels, and carries two, or in an emergency three persons. It is unprovided with springs, and is consequently a very rough conveyance. Two horses being attached to each, we rattled away over a stony road surrounded by stunted trees and fragments of rock till we arrived at the foot of a steep ascent, where-upon I jumped out and commenced walking.
On our arrival at Chamonix, we found that Mr. P. had succeeded in obtaining beds for us at the Hôtel du Nord, a building which is used to receive the overplus of travellers from the Hôtel de l’Union. The influx of travellers was so great that all the hotels were soon completely filled, and many were obliged to put up with makeshift accommodation, such as whole families sleeping in one room, straw supplying the place of beds, and eight persons were reported to have slept upon a billiard table.”
Guides were duly engaged for the mountain excursions in the neighbourhood, and one of them turned out to be a relative of the great Balmat, who had accompanied Dr. Roget forty-one years before, and the other a son of Couttez, who had been one of De Saussure’s guides. It is unnecessary to detail these excursions over mountain regions now well known to many, and the party did not attempt any very serious climbing. It is perhaps worth while to give Mr. Roget’s first impressions of the Mer de Glace. Describing the view from the little inn of the Montanvert, he writes ;
” We were still in the region of vegetation ; a few withered pines struggle for existence among the chilling blasts of the icy ,atmosphere. But the withered pines serve but as a foreground, for not a tree is to be found on the bare rocks which form the leading features of the view. Nothing is to be seen but rugged outlines and craggy precipices, short aiguilles and field of snow ; a vast valley winding between, and paved with blocks of ice as though a wide river had been agitated into mighty waves and suddenly frozen. This is the Mer de Glace. Wonderful indeed must these scenes have appeared to those who first beheld them, and no wonder that these mountains were so long shunned and dreaded as the montaignes maudites. When we had gazed long at the dreary scene we resumed our alpenstocks and began to descend a steep path which brought us to a level with the glacier. The ladies being provided each with the sure arm of a guide and the gentlemen trusting to their alpenstocks, we set foot upon the ice, and I found it much easier to walk upon than I had imagined, for the surface, though uneven, has a roughness which often prevents the foot from slipping. The ice is of the purest white, but the deep fissures or crevasses are of a beautiful blue colour. . . .”
The party left Chamonix on August 23rd for Martigny via the Tête Noire, most of the party on mule-back, but it is recorded in Mr. Roget’s diary that he ” rode a mule for five minutes, but did not like it.”
On the following day :
“The project was to go to the Grand St. Bernard, sleep at the hospice, and return the next morning. The landlord promised us, fine weather, so we . . . started in a char-el-bane drawn by two mules, who were to serve as beasts of draught the first part of the journey and then, when the path is no longer practicable for chars, to carry our ladies on their backs. . . . At Liddes, a small village high in the mountains, we alighted for refreshment. Here the road becomes impracticable even for chars-à-bancs, and the mules which had been drawing us were accordingly fitted with side-saddles. Just, however, as we entered the house, down fell a most unsatisfactory quantity of rain, and we began to feel that were we on an unsheltered pass just at that time we should not be as well off as we at present were. However, we did not let any anticipations of the future prevent us from enjoying the comforts of the present, but did ample justice to some homely fare which our landlady, an ancient dame with about as much ribbon on her head as would have trimmed half a dozen ordinary caps, set before us and dignified with the name of déjeuner â la fourchette.
At another table were seated two young French-men who . had just arrived from the hospice. They gave a most chilling description of their walk, and described the delights of wading through snow and of raindrops freezing upon their dress. The hospice being completely enveloped in a cloud, they were totally ignorant of its form, situation and general appearance. They ended by advising us most strongly not to proceed. We were, however, extremely loath to give up an expedition on which we had counted for so long a time, and we determined to wait and see whether the weather was resolved to spite us but nothing was to be seen but rain, rain, rain. . . .”
In the end the party deemed it advisable neither to proceed nor to return, and slept the night where they were, returning to Martigny the next morning, ” though the accommodation was none of the best, and the ladies were loud in their invectives against the minute disturbers of their rest.”
From Martigny our travellers proceeded along the straight road up the Rhône Valley.
” Our first stage was at Riddes, where we pro-cured another voiture and proceeded on our way towards Sion. As the evening was to bring us to the Baths of Loesche, preparatory to crossing the Gemmi into the Oberland, we had not much time to see the places through which we passed. I much regretted not seeing more of Sion, as I think it the most picturesque town I have ever seen. Two broken rocks rise precipitately from the plain. Round these the town is built, and upon them towers are constructed which add to the natural beauty of the bare rock. . .. Our next stage was at Sierre, where we rested while mules were prepared to take us up to the baths. .
We were at length told that the mules were ready, of which we had ordered four, to carry the two ladies, my father and the luggage. Two of the animals, however, turned out to be ponies, and the remaining two possessed much more of the donkey’s than of the horse’s nature. That which carried the luggage immediately evinced a desire not to move; then the luggage evinced a desire to move by itself and to slide gradually off. Then the chief guide began to talk a mixture of French, German and I don’t know what, and all the rest to talk a mixture of totally unknown ingredients. However, we did start somehow or other, in a manner which was, I suppose, satisfactory to the guides, for they manifested their satisfaction by calling out to one another at the top of their voices, sometimes uttering articulate sounds and sometimes making unearthly yells. The road . . . soon ascends, leaving the village of Loesche, or Leuk, on the right, and continues to wind up the mountain until high above the valley. A sharp turn brought us to the brink of a lofty precipice, down which we descended by a narrow winding path, with nothing but a crazy wooden railing between us and the gulf below. The path again ascends a hill covered with pine-trees, and then wanders on over rugged ground, now and then affording a glimpse of a mountain village on the opposite side of the ravine, looking more like a swarm of bees than a collection of houses. . . We went journeying on in this manner until darkness began to close in around us. But as the shades of evening began to heighten the romantic beauty of the objects around us, the scenery became more and more grand. Before us rose a dark and frowning precipice, which seemed to increase on our approach and to expand on either side until we were almost encircled by the rocky barrier ; and then at length the lights which indicated the situation of the baths welcomed us to their savage home.”
Here, unfortunately, the full account breaks off, but from a diary in a briefer form we are able to trace the general course of the remainder of the tour.
With four mules and three guides, one of whom was a woman who acted as interpreter, the party set out across the Gemmi. Unfortunately, the female guide was struck by a piece of falling rock and injured. She was left in charge of two priests who happened to be on the road. Staying at Kandersteg, they proceeded to Interlaken, Grindlewald, Meiringen and Lucerne, and over the St. Gothard via Faido to Mogadino (at the head of Lake Maggiore). A few extracts from the diary relating to the journey from Mogadino to Sesto Calende (at the south end of the lake) and on to Milan may be given. They do not show very favourable first impressions of Italy.
” 12th August.Poured with rain the whole day. Started by steamer at seven. I stood on deck with mackintosh and umbrella all the time, but saw very little. Borromean Islands, ugly, built-up things. Colossal statue close to a house near Arona. I don’t like it. Arrived at Sesto at about half-past twelve. Captain told us that all the luggage would go to the custom house, so we landed in a boat, and giving our passports, ate some dinner, having previously taken places in the velocifer for Milan. After dinner we went to the custom house to open our bags, but found the steamboat had taken them off to Mogadino. .Obliged to sleep at the dirty inn to wait for our luggage. Took a little walk in the dirty town, tea in the dirty salle, and bed in our dirty bedrooms.”
The next morning the luggage turned up, and the journey was continued by the diligence to Milan.
” Dull, tedious road ; diligence very slow, but quick on entering villages. Post-boys got off to gather nuts. Arrived at Milan at about nine. They took our passports. Got man to take our luggage to inn. Went to six hotels and all full but last, where we obtained beds. My father and I sleeping in the salle-â-manger. Beds cost 25 francs for the night. The Italians are all cheats !
It is recorded that the next morning they found quarters at another hotel for 12 francs each. Dr. Roget met a number of friends in Milan who were attending a scientific meeting then being held. It is not necessary to dwell upon the sightseeing and entertainments enjoyed in Milan, but the following note on a dance is amusing :
” Magnificent rooms, gardens illuminated. About 1,500 people. We had to pay for the ices. Grand Duchess and five Princes came. Dancing commenced ; two good military bands, one in garden, one in ballroom. No one was allowed to waltz at the same time as the Princes, who are great sticks and reminded one of the puppets. The dances were the Waltzer, danced even faster than. in England, and the Contradanza Francese, which is nothing but a quadrille interspersed with bows. They walk the quadrilles. The gentlemen wear white and even coloured trousers white neck-cloths rather in the minority.”
The party left Milan on August 20th. Travelling once more by railway (they had not been on a railway since arriving at Basle) to Monza, they took the diligence to Como and steamboat to Cadenabbia, and here it is satisfactory to find that, notwithstanding his first bad impression of the Italian lakes, the diarist is emphatic in his praise of the scenery. The return through Switzerland, which need not be described in detail, was made via Chiavenna (taking steamer as far as Colico), the Splugen, Ragatz (where they visited the hot springs of Pfeffers), and Zurich. Thence the diligence took them to Schaffhausen, where a halt was made to see the falls of the Rhine. A voiturier was engaged to take them on via Waldshut to Basle. As showing the speed of railway travel in those days, it is interesting to note that the travellers left Basle by train at 11 a.m. and arrived at Strasbourg at five, ” just in time for the table d’hôte.” The railway journey was continued next day from Kehl, which was reached by omnibus, and where the customs- were passed on entering Germany. The diary again remarks ” Beautiful carriages, very wide and deep, with a table.” Proceeding by this comfortable train to Mannheim, the party went on by boat down the Rhine to Cologne, whence they started in a train a quarter of a mile long, very slow,” for Brussels. After a day, in Brussels, they proceeded by train to Ostend, seeing a little of Bruges by the way. The voyage from Ostend to Dover is described as follows :
” Started at half-past eight in the mail steamer. Boat very small and sailed slowly. Came to rough water immediately. . . Ladies very sick. . . Passage nine and a half hours. Arrived at Dover at six. Left luggage on board and went to Ship Hotel. Discovered that the Boulogne boat had arrived just before us, so could not get our luggage from custom house for two hours. Gave our keys to Mr. Birmingham, the commissionnaire, who got us our luggage, and I believe saved us some expense in duties.”
The journey to London next day (September 7th) was made by train, and the diary remarks : ” Extraordinary railwaylong tunnels.” The route seems to have been Folkestone, Tonbridge, Reigate and Croydon to London Bridge. In this connection it is interesting to note that the South-Eastern Railway was opened on February 6th of that very year (1844), and was then the only line from Dover to London, as the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, with which it is now amalgamated, was not opened till 1860. The final entry in the diary is : ” Hackney-coach home.”