Travel Letters: Phillips Tours (1874)

DEAR WILLIAM, — Here I have just received your second letter, full of pleasant talk, and telling every kind of interesting thing about Andover, Mary, and all the other people. I was glad to get it. For a week we have wandered on through Brittany, looked at old castles and cathedrals, and talked together about you all, but have heard nothing since last Tuesday evening. Arthur receives no end of newspaper cuttings, telling about the great Chicago fire, but my only home letter is yours, and I am satisfied. I won-der if you have followed us upon the map ? We have rounded the promontory of Finisterre, out on the northern side almost to Brest, as far as St. Pol de Léon and Lesneven ; then down to Quimper, and by Auray and Carnac to Angers, where we spent last Sunday. Today, our trip has been to Poitiers, and here we are tonight at Tours. It has been almost exactly the journey which I laid out at my table in the Kempton, and has proved about the best that could be made. I have been amazed at the richness of the old architecture of the country. In little out of the way villages, reached only by rickety country wagons, we have found glorious and immense churches of the rarest beauty, — churches that took centuries to build, and stand today perfect in their splendor, with wonderful glass in their windows, and columns and capitals that take your breath away for beauty. The people of Brittany are rough enough, and some of the inns at which we spent the night were dirty and forlorn ; but the people were always kind and civil, and did their best to make us comfortable. They show clearly enough that they are of the old Celtic stock, true cousins of the Irishmen we know so well. We had some drives, and we met laborers by the score, who might easily have been turning up the bog in Ireland, or driving a dirt cart among the ruins of Fort Hill. They are a very devout folk, even to superstition, and altogether interesting and filthy.

Now we are out of Brittany, and making our way from town to town along the splendid valley of the Loire. There is a cathedral here in Tours (with twin towers) that staggers you with its splendor, as you come suddenly out of a little dark, crooked street and stand in front of it. Yesterday, Le Mans had another, and today Poitiers was wonderfully rich. All the while your letters come in most welcome, and are better than cathedrals. Now you must be just about going up to Andover and cooling yourself after a hot day. My blessing to you always, and to Mary and the bairns. Do not forget to write.

Yours always,

P.