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AMERICAN QUARTERLY REVIEW.
ART. I.-France in 1829-30. By LADY MORGAN. Nuthor of
"France in 1816," “ Italy," S.c. c. &c. 2 vols. J. & J. Harper: New-York.
I'r was that solemn hour of the night, when, in the words of the poet, “ creation sleeps;" -a silence as of the dead reigned amid the streets and alleys of the great city of Dublin, interrupted, ever and anon, only by the solitary voice of the watchman, announcing the time, and the prospects of fair or foul weather for the ensuing day. Even the noise of carriages returning from revels and festive scenes of various kinds, was no longer heard
"The diligence of trades and noiseful gain,
All was the night's :" All! save the inhabitants of one mansion, situated in Kildare street, who were still invading nature's rest. Why were they alone up and stirring? Why were they debarred from taking their needful repose, and obliged to employ the time which should have been devoted to it, in active occupation? The reason is easily understood. Early in the morning, the master and mistress were to set off on a trip to Paris, and there was no small quantity of "packing up" yet to be done. Trunks innumerable lay scattered about a romantically furnished bed-chamber; some were partly filled with different articles of female habiliment; others seemed to be appropriated to literary purposes, and books without number, and of all descriptions, were lying around them--here was a pile of novels, amongst which, the titles of “ The Novice of St. Dominick, “Ida of Athens,” “ The Wild Irish Girl,” &c. &c. could be discerned--there was a heap of “Travels, composed of “Italy,” “France in 1816,'
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head is in a twinkling thrust out of the window, and she beholds,-oh horror of horrors—she beholds a mail-coach, built on the regular English plan, cantering into the yard, with all its concomitants completely à l'Anglaise—"horses curvetting, and not a hair turned-a whip that tips the silk' like a feather“ribbons,' not ropes-a coachman, all capes and castor—a guard that cries all right, ?" and who was at that moment puffing most manfully into a “regʻlar mail-coach horn.” This was too much, and her Ladyship would inevitably have been driven distracted, or, at least, have gone into hysterics, had not a most delicious idea interposed its aid, and she exclaimed, “What luck to have written my France, while France was still so French !”—and what luck, say we, to have so commodious a safety-valve as vanity, by means of which to let off the superabundant steam of one's ire !
Now, as to her Ladyship’s having written her “France,” while France was still “ so French,” this we do not deny; but we do deny that her France itself is " so French.” It would be an affair of some considerable difficulty, in our humble opinion, to find any thing French either about it or the “France” we are now reviewing, except their titles, and innumerable scraps of the French language, not unfrequently so expressed and so applied that they would do honour to Mrs. Malaprop herself.
Lady M.'s fondness for generalizing, has led her to relate this apparition of the “ Bang-up” in such a way as would induce any one who did not know better, to suppose that the “Coach” had entirely superseded the “ Diligence” upon the French roads. Truly would such a change be a cause of regret; for the traveller in France would thus be deprived of a fruitful source of amusement. But we have the pleasure of announcing, for the satisfaction of such of our readers as may entertain the design of paying a visit to that country, that the coach which Lady Morgan saw, was the only vehicle of the kind with which her eyes could have been annoyed. We speak understandingly on the subject, as we happened to be in France about the same time as her Ladyship. This coach, which, if we recollect aright, was called the Telegraph, and not the “Bang-up," was a speculation of some Englishman, who ran it for a short time between Boulogne and Calais, but without much success. The old national vehicle had too strong a hold upon the affections of the most national people in the world, to be pushed from the field by any foreign opponent, and the slow, sure, and comfortable Diligence kept on the even tenor of its way, while the dashing, rapid Telegraph arrived prematurely at the end of its journeying.
We do not deem ourselves competent to decide upon so momentous a subject as the respective merits of the English and
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Lady Morgan's France in 1829-30. March, French stages, to give them our technical appellation ; but it may be remarked as perhaps somewhat singular, that with regard to comfort-a matter respecting which the French are as noted for their general heedlessness as the English are for their almost uniform concern—the Diligence can lay claim to unquestionable superiority over the coach. On the other hand, the coach is constructed in such a way as to possess far greater facilities for rapidity of locomotion,-a quality which it might be supposed the quick vivacious temperament of the French would especially prize in their conveyances. As to appearance also, the English vehicle is certainly a good deal better off than the French. Nothing, indeed, that a stranger may have heard or read about the latter, can prepare him for it sufficiently, to prevent him on first beholding it from giving way to something more than a smile. It is not, however, so much the mere machine itself that operates upon his risible faculties, as the whole equipage, or atalage,--the scare-crow horses, that seem to have been once the property of the keeper of some museum by whom their bones have been linked together and covered with skin as well as they might be, without inserting something between as a substitute for flesh; the non-descript gear by which these living anatomies are kept together and attached to the vehicle, composed of rope, leather, iron, steel, brass, and every thing else that could by any possibility be used for the purpose; the queer-looking postillion, with his long cue, huge boots, and pipe, all combine with the grotesque appearance of the Diligence itself, to form an ensemble irresistibly ludicrous.
What a difference, too, there is in the facility with which they get “under weigh.”. One crack of the coachman's whip, causes his fine animals to give "a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull together," and away you whirl in an instant. But the traveller in France does not find starting so easy a matter. He gets into the Diligence; every thing seems ready. The passengers are all in their places, and have saluted each other with true French politeness, except some gruff John Bull sitting in a corner seat and eyeing his associates with mingled scorn and distrust the five or six apologies for horses are standing in an attitude of the greatest patience, waiting for the signal to make an attempt at putting one foot before the other the conducteur, a person who has the supreme direction of the motomonta
expressions of no very gentle nature—“what the devil's the matter now," growls a more than bass voice out of one window
“qu'est ce que c'est, conducteur,” simultaneously demand a treble and a tenor from another window-"rien, Madame,” the answer is always addressed to the lady, “rien du tout,” he replies whilst endeavouring to repair some part of the “rigging” that could not stand the efforts of the poor beasts to move from their position. At length, however, you get fairly under weigh, with about a four knot breeze, and continue to make some progress for an hour or two amidst a noise caused by the rumbling of the vehicle, the creaking, jingling, rattling, and clanking, of the atalage, the unceasing crack of the whip, and the chattering of your companions, to which the sounds at Babel were music. The movement then becomes adagio, and soon afterwards the conducteur's voice is heard, begging the passengers in all parts of the vehicle to descend. Wondering what is the matter, you get out with the rest, and find the cause of this commotion to be a grande Montagne-anglicè, a little hill-in mounting which, the tender care that is taken of the animals upon the road, however much the state of their flesh shows it is diminished in the stable, renders it indispensable that they should be relieved of every possible weight. To this inconvenience you are subjected on approaching almost every little elevation, the like of which in England or the United States, would not cause the slightest diminution of speed. But it must be confessed, that occasionally, a hill is to be passed of a magnitude which the steeds could never surmount without diminishing their load, and then the notice that is said to have been affixed to one of the Diligences, may very well be appended to all. “MM. les voyageurs, sont priés, quand ils descendent, de ne pas aller plus vite que la voiture:" passengers are requested, when they descend, not to go faster than the vehicle. A most necessary request! La Fontaine, when he wrote the fable in which he gives an account of a vehicle ascending a steep eminence, and the exertions of a fly to assist the horses, must have just returned from some excursion in a Diligence, during which he was witness to the creeping, toiling, panting of the animals pulling it up a hill. Pauvres diables! as the women are constantly exclaiming, a fly might really lend them some aid in their efforts. About every eight miles, fresh horses are in readiness, but the change is rarely for the better,-for the worse it cannot be.
It is only on the road that the postillions drive slowly ; when they enter a town it is a sort of signal for them to dash on at a furious rate, notwithstanding the danger of going rapidly through streets which are little better than alleys, and in which there are no side-pavements to mark the limits for pedestrians. We never before experienced such philanthropic alarm for the