Paris During The Crimean War, And A Trip To Holland

WE will pause next for a glance at Paris in 1855, when Mr. J. L. Roget made a short trip in France and Holland. He was accompanied on this occasion by his uncle, Mr. Samuel Hobson, whose travels in America as a young man have already been referred to. The crossing was made from Southampton to Havre, and does not call for remark except to note that passports were taken away on landing and had to be called for afterwards at the Hôtel de Ville.

The following may be quoted from the notes on the stay in Paris :

” On the evening of the day on which the news arrived of the capture of the Malakoff, illuminations of public buildings were extemporized. At half-past ten two men proceeded along the railings of the Tuileries Gardens, one with saucers full of grease surrounding a wick and the other with a lighted torch. The grease pots were quickly deposited at equal intervals, and the torch applied to the wicks, and a brilliant illumination was produced in an incredibly short time. Two nights after the principal buildings and the town generally were regularly illuminated—the former chiefly with rows of lamps running along the cornices, the latter with coloured-paper lanterns, but I did not see any devices such as we are accustomed to in London.

The Emperor going to Notre Dame to return thanks for the victory afforded us a good opportunity of seeing some of the principal regiments of the Army. The National Guards, blue with white facings, were drawn up on one side of the Rue de Rivoli, and the Voltigeurs, Sapeurs-pompiers and a line regiment on the other side. The troops accompanying the Emperor consisted of the Guides, Cent Gardes and Cuirassiers. The Rue de Rivoli was hung from one end to the other with flags of France and England, upon which the hot sun shone very brilliantly, but the colours of Turkey seemed almost entirely forgotten.

The line regiments have recently adopted a new mode of packing their greatcoats. Instead of placing them at the top of the knapsack only, as our troops and as the National Guard do, they fasten them round the sides also. The knapsacks are covered with cowhide with the hairs remaining. This morning (17th Sept.) we saw 2,000 of them going off for the Crimea. They seemed active men in fine health. They carried a short Roman sword besides their bayonets.”

Some of the uniforms here mentioned are shown in the scraps from Mr. Roget’s sketchbook reproduced in Fig. 21.

It is not proposed to quote more than a few paragraphs of the notes regarding the amusements in and excursions from Paris. The following is a description of a fête at St. Cloud :

” The park open to the public-a long avenue lined with stalls, for sale of all sorts of ornament, etc., merry-go-rounds, jeux de bague, theatres, etc., tirs aux pistolets in great profusion, cafés, etc.—a Greenwich fair of a higher class and on a much larger scale. Went into a theatre for four sous : ballet-dancers on the outside, like Richardson’s ; within, poses plastiques of sacred subjects—Christ bearing the cross, the crucifixion, the entombment. As this was the last tableau, our Saviour suddenly stood up and made his bow to the company. The performance closed with a dwarf, who informed us of his age, height, etc., and chasséed away in a comic style. The Grands Eaux, which played, are a very poor affair, merely some water pouring down steps, with a few insignificant jets below. There is said to be one high jet, but that did not play.”

The next extract refers to the return journey from a visit to Fontainebleau :

The management of our return was not very efficient. The waiting-rooms were not opened, and all the passengers were crowded together in a passage outside until the time of departure arrived, and then the train was found not to be large enough, and many excursionists were left on the platform. The behaviour of the people was strikingly different from what -would have been the case in England. An English mob would have begun by a great deal of good-humoured noisy chaff, and when tired of that amusement would perhaps have burst open the door. The French, on the contrary, bore the infliction for some time with patience, but at length stamped with their feet and sticks in polka time, and expressed themselves in deep murmurs to one another individually. What would have been the next stage I do not know. Those left on the platform were noisy enough in their reproaches to the officials.”

We will not follow in detail the journey by train from Paris to Amiens and on into Belgium, stopping once more at Antwerp. The continuation of the tour was as follows :

” 26th Sept.—Antwerp to Rotterdam by steamer, as more agreeable than railway. Set off at 10.30 a.m., arrived 11.10 p.m. A very long pas-sage, occasioned by long delay while aground near Bergen-op-Zoom, and subsequent opposition of tide. Besides captain and steward, there was a person apparently leading an easy life, whose whole duty appeared to be to take the money. Luggage examined (not severely) by a fat customs official who boarded us at the frontier (Fig. 22). The Dutch sailors and others do their work more quietly than the English. There is not the bawling and noise we are accustomed to in our seaports.”

A considerable portion of the journal from which we are quoting is devoted to notes on the museums and picture galleries, especially at The Hague, which was the next place visited, and where Mr. Roget’s artistic nature revelled in the collections. Referring to an excursion to Scheveningen, which is described as ” a clean fishing-village ” (Fig. 23), Mr. Roget writes : ” The Dutch fishing-boats go from here over to the Scotch coasts for herrings, of which there are none on the coast of Holland,” and he adds a note : ” This does not seem to have been always the case. See Ben Jonson’s Volpone, where Sir Politic Would-be devises a scheme for supplying Venice with Rotterdam herrings.”

The following extract refers to Haarlem :

” On one side of the town is a very beautiful wood, laid out with amazing skill and taste. It is more varied than the Bosch at The Hague, and contains fine timber. Hither all the gentry of Haarlem repair in the afternoon to listen to a military band. . . . The ladies and gentle-men who were grouped about the tables had a very prosperous appearance. All the Dutch ladies I have seen are dressed in excellent taste, quiet and unassuming, but studiously neat and the colours in good harmony. The men, however, on this occasion seemed partial to white waist-coats and black trousers. Around the enclosure were a great many neat and clean and smiling nursery-maids with spherical children.

We saw several cases of pincushion tops, both pink and white, at the sides of doors, announcing births (see W. Erie’s Pipe of Dutch Kanaster). These are presented by the husband. They are not to be bought, but are worked by the sisters, etc. The custom seems to be peculiar to Haarlem. At Amsterdam the husband presents a pincushion with pins marking the names of the mother and the child. Each place has some different custom. In some a long piece of black cloth announces a death.”

From Amsterdam several excursions were made, and the following picturesque impression gives a good idea of the Holland of those days :

” Starting at seven, we crossed the steam ferry (a broad stage) to the entrance of the great North Holland ship canal, along which a treikshuit (larger than usual, with a platform and seats on the top) carried us a short distance to a village, where we hired an open carriage with two good horses (apparently rare in Holland), harnessed with rope and guided by rope reins, which took us along dykes and by windmills, charming little farms and cottages, each on a little green square island, to Purmerend. Very many of the farmhouses have large pyramidal high tiled roofs. These contain the hay, which must form a very warm covering in winter. Some have haystacks out-side with round tops, the straw thatch being held on by bricks suspended all round.

At Purmerend the market was being held, and presented the most extraordinary scene imaginable. The costumes of North Holland were seen in perfection. Very fine and pretty women, with beautiful clear complexions and blue eyes (Fig. 24). The caps and quaint silver head-dresses conceal the whole of their hair, but they wear an ugly bunch of black curls on each temple. Little girls wear the same dress as middle-aged and old women. The carts are painted and carved in all manner of quaint ways. Those with the horn in front by which the driver steers with his foot have generally a little waving border carved along the top of each side, frequently terminating in a wide snake’s head. But the carving on the backboard is the most elaborate—scrollwork and flowers, little cupids, trees and pictures, bright coloured, with frequently a copy of verses and the name of the owner. Some of the dates were as old as 1831 or 1832, but the carts looked quite fresh and bright. One of these inscriptions is given below : —

Treedt op en onbevreest, En blij van geest, Op dezen wagen, De voerman zal, En God ! vooral, Wel zorge dragen. (1840)

(Translation.) Jump up, ne’er fear ; Be of good cheer; Upon this cart pray go ; The driver he shall, And God ! above all, Take very good care of you.

From Purmerend the carriage took us by Monnikendam, a pattern of cleanliness, to Broek. Both these places strike a stranger by reason of the absence of people in the streets, giving a strange deserted appearance. At Broek we saw a dairy farm. The cows were not housed at this time of the year, but their stalls were filled with quaint crockery and rude pictures. The living-rooms of the house contained a large collection of such ornaments and some very handsome high walnut cabinets, beautifully polished. These appear to be not uncommon. A little boy was playing about in his stockings, the sabots being left outside the door, as usual. In the dairy was a curious churn, worked by a dog running in the interior of a cylinder.

On our way back we saw the interior of a draining mill. The machinery is as simple as possible, the water being pumped by an Archimedean screw and prevented from returning by a wooden door. The miller and his family live in a neat little room adjoining the screw.”

Amongst other places visited was Alkmaar. It is perhaps of interest to give the following description of the cheese market there (Fig. 25) :

” The cheese market (said to be the largest in Europe), held on Friday mornings, is a very pretty and curious sight. Many of the cheeses arrive the evening before and are stacked in the open market-place in rows of rectangles of two layers, the lower ones being separated from the pavement by a cloth and the whole covered by a beautiful, clean white sheet, and a piece of sail-cloth or tarpaulin above it; which is tied down with wisps of straw. On Friday morning about nine o’clock the stacking may be observed to be proceeding with alacrity, and arrivals of funny painted carts, full of broad-breeched farmers and pretty smiling women with their gold headpieces, take place. The canal, which bounds the front of the market-place, is crowded with barges, and groups of solid Dutchmen, each with his pipe (a short one with painted German bowl generally), assemble and chat together with their hands in their pockets. Soon, the owners of the cheeses begin to roll back the coverings of the stacks and display long lines of beautiful clean lemon-coloured globes like shad-docks, eyeing them with a critical expression of countenance. The business then commences, and purchasers, with notebooks and pencils, may be seen feeling the cheeses and making inquiries concerning them. These persons may easily be distinguished, if only by their dress being in no way peculiar. They generally wear an English-looking cap or round hat and ordinary morning coats, which would pass well in London. When a bar-gain is concluded, the same is signified by vendor and purchaser clapping their hands together (some-times more than once in succession), and the effect of these clappings of hands when the business is brisk is very curious. Soon after ten, vast numbers of porters (some fine tall men), all dressed in large white trousers and shoes, short sleeves and straw hats of various colours, begin their work, trotting backwards and forwards with wooden litters, upon which the cheeses are all carried to the market-house to be weighed in large pairs of scales, and then to the quays by the side of the barges for exportation. They are sometimes rolled one by one after examination into these barges by wooden pipes, or rather troughs, but sometimes they are thrown in from hand to hand. In unloading and loading these carts and litters, these games of catch have a very pretty effect, two cheeses being generally thrown.

The market-house (dated 1582), a very picturesque building with a tall Dutch spire and brick sides, picked out with white stone, was originally a church. The costume of the farmers at the market was chiefly a short jacket with two buttons behind. Trousers either of dark cloth or black velveteen. Boots or shoes sometimes buckled, or sabots. Dark waistcoats, buttoned high. A cap of brown, long-napped plush or velveteen, with a peak, on their heads and a woollen shawl round their necks.

Our hotel at Alkmaar was rather a curious place. Large rooms with great beams in the ceilings. The salon had an inner room, where we dined, with beds in cupboards and handsome walnut cabinets like those we saw at Broek. One piece of furniture, which had the appearance of a chest of drawers, opened into the kitchen and vomited up our dinners.

Between Haarlem and Rotterdam we took the third class. Our carriage was filled with noisy sailors, chiefly Dutch. One of them chaffed an English lad, saying ` English run away at Sebastopol.’

The remainder of the tour does not call for remark.