Imágenes de página

“He shewed us,'observes Mr.B., specimens of wool from the Ram. bouillet flock, from the shearing of 1787 to that of 1814. The quality of the original stock was very good, yet there is an evident improve ment from

year to year in the early part of the series ; probably from selection. There appears no great difference in the latter years.

There are many specimens of two, three, and even five years' growth. It is remarkable that the wool of five years' growth, though more than twelve inches long, preserves a fibre of equal fineness throughout : this circumstance confirms M. Tessier's report of the healthy condi. tion of the animal. One specimen of two years' growth is extremely curious. The sheep, with his first year's fleece on his back, was dipped in Indigo dye; his wool received the colour, and, what is most curious, though exposed the whole year, has retained it perfectly: one half of the fibre is a beautiful blue ; and the other, which grew after the immersion, a snowy white. I have heard of clothiers dyeing their wool in the grease. Has that substance a tendency to render the colour permanent ?

• M. Tessier conducted us to his fock at Isy, a league from Paris ; they are Merinos, of good quality both in wool and carcase ; 450 ewes, ewe lambs and rams, which are kept in three parcels. They are housed from 8 in the evening to 7 in the morning ; and from 11 in the forenoon to 4 in the afternoon, in summer.

Their hours of feeding of course are from 7 to 11 in the morning, and from 4 to 8 in the evening. As the cool weather advances, the day-housing is gradually dispensed with. They are in good and healthy condition.

• The practice of sheltering their Aocks at noon, during the summer, is universal. It is very refreshing to the sheep, and affords them protection from the flies. Where buildings are commodiously situated, I would recommend it to the attention of English flockmasters.

• M. Tessier hires the whole of the keep of this flock. He pays 621. 1os. sterling to the farmer for the sheep. pasture of his farm, which consists of the borders, fallows, and stubbles ; stocking at his own discretion. He buys Lucerne hay for four winter months ; perhaps 40 tons on an average of seasons, at about 40s. per ton ; making the expense of keep 1421. 10s. sterling. His shepherd's wages are extravagant according to our notions.

This shepherd, we are told, is a wealthy man; and it is added that the labouring class here is certainly much higher, on the social scale, than with us.'

At fifty miles south of Paris, the tourist employs himself, as in other places, in ascertaining the quality of the soil; and he laments that, though the land is good for turnips, the raising of that vegetable is not included in the course of French crops. Arrived at Moulins, he makes this general remark : From Dieppe to Paris, I think the cultivation equal to ours : from Paris to Moulins, much worse than any part of England I am acquainted with; especially the latter part of the route.'

Mr. B.

[ocr errors][merged small]

- Mr. B. is convinced that the Revolution has operated favourably for the people at large; and, though he discerns much poverty, he finds also that the habits of the people preclude the necessity of much wealth. He was at La Palisse on a fair-day: but, notwithstanding the concourse of people, little money was spent in the town, because the farmers bring their bread with them, and club for a bottle of wine, for which they pay ten sous. This

economy in expenditure could not benefit the public-houses.

From Roanne to St. Symphorien, the country is described as well inhabited and well cultivated ; and the latter place, being in the vicinity of the populous city of Lyons, is studded with houses, the country-seats of rich merchants and manufacturers. A boat conveyed Mr. B. from Lyons to Vienne, in the course of which little excursion he was much delighted with sweet air -- exhilarating mountain-scenery; -- the clear, and rapid, and majestic Rhone: rocks, woods, vineyards ; chateaux on commanding eminences; cottages, embosomed in trees, retiring from the view: the busy traslic of the river, and prosperous villages on its banks.'

At St. Urban, the traveller notices the prominent part which women take in the husbandry of France :

In every part of France, women employ themselves in offices which are deemed with us unsuitable to the sex. Here there is no sexual distinction of employment: the women undertake any task they are able to perform, without much notion of fitness or unfitness. This applies to all classes. The lady of one of the principal clothiers at Louviers conducted us over the works ; gave us patterns of the best cloths ; ordered the machinery to be set in motion for our grati. fication, and was evidently in the habit of attending to the whole detail of the business. Just so, near Rouen, the wife of the largest farmer in that quarter conducted me to the barns and stables; shewed me the various implements, and explained their use : took me into the fields, and described the mode of husbandry, which she perfectly understood ; expatiated on the excellence of their fallows; pointed out the best sheep in the flock, and gave me a detail of their management in buying their wether lambs and fattening their wethers. This was on a farm of about 400 acres. In every shop and warehouse you see similar activity in the females. At the royal porcelain manufactory at Sevres, a woman was called to receive payment for the articles we purchased. In the Halle de Bled, at Paris, women in their little counting-houses are performing the office of factors, in the sale of grain and four. In every department they occupy an important station, from one extremity of the country to the other.

• In many cases, where women are employed in the more laborious occupations, the real cause is directly opposite to the apparent. You see them in the south, threshing, with the men, under a burning sun ; - it is a family party threshing out the crop of their own free


hold; a woman is holding plough;—the plough, the horses, the land is her's; or, (as we have it) her husband's ; who is probably sowing the wheat which she is turning in. You are shocked on seeing a fine young woman loading a dung cart; -- it belongs to her father, who is manuring his own field, for their common support. In these instances the toil of the woman denotes wealth rather than want; though the latter is the motive to which a superficial observer would refer it.'

In this part of the country, the farmers never house their crops


but thresh or tread them out in the corners of their fields.

A glance is taken at church-doings' at Avignon, and something is said of the antiquities at Nismes: but Mr. B. is mistaken in supposing that the Maison carrée at the latter place was a pantheon. He is more in his province as an agriculturist; and we need not question the accuracy of his note, dated Montpellier, Aug. 18.:

• From Dieppe to this place we have seen scarcely a working animal whose condition was not excellent. Oxen, horses, and now mules and asses, fat and well looking, but not pampered. This looks like prosperity. And when I add that we have not seen, among the labouring people, one such famished, worn out, wretched object, as may be met with in every parish of England, I had almost said on every farm; this, in a country so populous, so entirely agricultural, denotes real prosperity. Again, from Dieppe to this place, I could not easily point out an acre of waste, a spot of land that is not industriously cultivated, though not always well, according to our notions. France, so peopled, so cultivated; moderately taxed; without paper-money, without tithes, without poor rates, almost without poor; with excellent roads in every direction, and overflowing with corn, wine, and oil, must be, and really is, a rich country. Yet there are few rich individuals.'

The information which Mr. Birkbeck had collected in this part of his tour is thus generalized by the help of a wellinformed French gentleman:

Ist. The labouring class, formerly the poor, are now rich, in consequence of the national domains having been sold in small allotments, at


low rates, and with the indulgence of five years for completing the payment. Thus there are few labourers or domestic servants who are not proprietors of land.

• 2d. By the Revolution, every oppression on agriculture was done away ; tithes, game laws, corvées, &c.

3d. Since that time, much new ground has been brought into cultivation, and none of the old abandoned.

* 4th. The modes of husbandry have improved in many districts, by the introduction of fallow crops and artificial grasses,

« Prairies artificielles.” The general wages of labourers in husbandry zod. per day, which is equal to 35. 4d. with us, as every article of expenditure is somewhat below half the price.'


[ocr errors]

We cannot notice every place which Mr. B. visited in his progress from the south of France to the Pyrenees : but we must not omit the narrative of his visit to the majestic mountain, Canigou, the chief of the eastern range:

• The first day we marched to the Herdsman's Barrack, where we lodged in a sort of Calmuck style ; ten in number, including the herdsman's family, crawling into a circular hut about nine feet in diameter. The bottom was covered with broom for bedding, which apparently was not often changed. This hut is constructed with some ingenuity of blocks of granite : being circular, and contracting gradually from the base to the apex, it stands self supported. The upper part has the interstices stopped to exclude the rain, but the lower is open to every blast. Not an article of furniture except a log of fir, which separates the fire and the entrance hole (for there is no door) from the bed of broom, and a stick here and there between the stones of the wall : on these are suspended among the smoke a leathern bottle, a wallet, a powder horn, or a bag of shot, &c. When driven in by the storm we placed ourselves in close order on the log. Keeping up a blaze with boughs of pine, we smoked our cygars and chatted, and sang a few mountain ditties, till, one by one, as night drew on, we dropped into the couch behind us, leaving the herdsman and the ladies, who kept it up till 11 o'clock. He then suddenly calls out “Dormons, and starting up begins to make room by belabouring with a stick, as if he would have broken their bones, two or three poor sleeping boys, who lay a little athwart, and took more room than their share. After adjusting them, he proceeded to the rest of us, saying, “ Une place pour tous ; une place pour tous ;” and so he placed us side by side, as many as could lie in one direction, and the others across, over and among the legs of the first. The night grew very tempestuous, with thunder and rain : gusts of wind frequently found their way through the door-way, and carried the ashes and the live enibers over us as we lay; but worse than all were the myriads of fleas, which, in spite of our host's attention to the accommodation of his guests, would allow us but little rest.

Unfortunately, the storm continuing, we could not escape from the fifthy hole. However, we rose early, and had a pleasant repast of bread and new milk, before we started for the summit

; and at our return, the women had provided abundance of wild rasp, berries, which relished well with our bread and wine.

« 'I am satisfied that no description can convey to the mind the grandeur, the vastness of a mountain ; especially when seen in the magnificent array of its own clouds, as we saw Canigou. The day was unfavourable for distant prospects, but the majesty of the moun. tain was heightened by the concealment of every other object, except the neighbouring snowy summits. The pic is of difficult ascent ; it is 1440 toises (about gooo English feet) above the Mediterranean. A small iron cross is fixed on the highest point. I expected to have found the summit a naked crag : on the contrary, it is covered with loose fragments, the ruins, as it should seem, of a rock once higher. The high cliffs of Canigou are of that sort of granite called gneiss.


There are many

wild goats among the rocks, and some bears, as we were informed.

The herdsmen had shot three of the former the day we arrived. Wolves are not very rare. In the winter nights they frequently prowl about the streets of Prades. The herdsman has under his care about a hundred head of cattle, cows and oxen; and a large herd of horses ; which do great credit to their pasture. They are collected every night round the hut, and roam at their pleasure over these solitary regions through the day. They are the property of different people in the neighbouring communes, who pay the man for his attendance, and a small acknowledgment for the pasture to government, to whom this mountain belongs. It formerly belonged to a Spanish convent; and, I believe on that account, was not sold with the national domains.'

If the Calmuc style of accommodation, which Mr. B. experienced in this excursion, was not very pleasant, the prospect of this Sovereign of the Mountains,' as Canigou is styled in a Catalonian song, must have remunerated him for all his fatigues and flea-bites.

Returning by Mont Louis, Tarascon, Foix, Montauban, Maurs, and Clermont, to Paris, the traveller saw the capital a second time on Sept. 15. ; but here he informs us that he prefers the country-character of France to that of the city.'

• In the former, the good fruits of the Revolution are visible at every step: previous to that æra, in the country, the most numerous class, the bulk of the population, all but the nobles and the priests, were wretchedly poor, servile and thievish. This class has assumed a new character, improved in proportion to the improvement of its condition. Servility has vanished with their poverty ; their thievishness, an effect of the same cause, has also in great measure disappeared. But there is a selfishness and avarice, too prevalent in the general character of the people; which may be natural to their present state of society, from the virtues of industry and economy in excess. I question if a proportionate amelioration has taken place among the Parisians, a sort of insulated nation, who know very little, and

seem to care as little about the rest of France."

Most persons who have visited France seem to agree as to the justice of the latter remark respecting the character of the Parisians. Some commendation is here bestowed on the magnificence of Bonaparte, and some censure on the littleness of the Bourbons in attempting to disgrace him by pulling down his statues, and endeavouring to obliterate all traces of his power, Without quoting any of these political strictures, however, we shall conclude this article with observing that we have followed Mr. Birkbeck with much satisfaction through the whole of his tour; in the course of which he seems to have exhibited so faithful a picture of all that fell under his view, that the details which he has presented to the public in this Rev. JAN. 1815


« AnteriorContinuar »