Adnax Publications

César de Saussure - Letters from London (1725-1730)
translated by Paul Scott



LONDON, May 24, 1725.

Journey to England

Journey by water from Yverdon - Lake of Neuchatel - Lake of Bienne - The Aar - The Rhine - Dangerous passages - Bad inns - Basle - Huninguen - Strasbourg - Philipsbourg - Dispute between two ladies - Mannheim - Worms - Mayence - Wines of Baccarach - St Goar - Rat Tower - Coblentz - Episode in a church - Bonn - Cologne - Fight on the boat - Dusseldorf - Wesel - Culembourg - Rotterdam - Delft - The Hague - England - The Thames - Customs.

I AM rejoiced, Sir, that you have given me the opportunity to give you pleasure, and I will set about obeying your orders without delay. This is surely a mark of my sincere affection for you. Do not doubt it, and be assured, my dear Sir, that neither distance nor absence will ever cause my feelings towards you to change.

You made me promise, when I bade you farewell, that I would write often, and relate all the curious and remarkable things I should come across in my travels, and if I fail to do as you so amiably asked of me, I should assuredly be the loser, for I know of no greater pleasure than this intercourse, the pleasure of writing to you and receiving your letters. I therefore seize the first opportunity that presents itself to tell you all about my travels so far.

You know my reasons for wishing to travel, and my joy when my dear mother consented to my present journey to England. Young people like novelty and travel, and I am no exception. I therefore prepared for my departure with great pleasure.

I made my way to Yverdon on the 8th of April of this year, 1725. On the 11th I embarked there on a boat carrying about twenty passengers, amongst whom the principal were Madame de Joffroy, an Irish lady; Mr Morrison, her son from her first marriage, come over to escort his mother on her journey to Ireland; Mademoiselle de Chaire, with whom you are well acquainted; Mademoiselle Blanchon, a pleasant young lady from Vevey, going to join her brother in Amsterdam; Monsieur Silvestre, a spirited and jovial clergyman, who was not to travel further than Holland; Monsieur de Pally, the younger, and your Servant. There were several other passengers who were not part of our party.

By evening, we had only got as far as Neuchatel, having battled all day against a contrary wind, which kept us here for two whole days. We finally departed on the 13th. At midday we left the Lake of Neuchatel, entering the river Thielle, which forms a pretty canal for about a league, which flows into the Lake of Bienne, whose northern shores are raised* and covered with vines. In the centre of this lake are two small islands, said to be charming places, especially the large one, where there are houses, gardens, vergiers* and vines. They belong to the Hospital of the Island of Berne. The Lake of Bienne is about three and a half leagues long and we crossed the whole in very fine weather, arriving at nightfall in Nidau, a small town or large village at the end of the lake, from whence flows the River Thielle. Here we spent an uncomfortable night in a bad inn.

On the 14th, leaving Nidau in the early morning, we sailed for several more hours on the Thielle, and then entered the river Aar, which river is very swift and in many parts even dangerous on account of the hidden rocks and rapid currents. In passing, we saw Buren, but we did not stop.

We landed at Soleure at about midday, and after dinner we went to see the church of the Jesuits. It was the first Roman Catholic building I had ever seen, and I found it admirable. The care and magnificence with which it is decorated surprised me, and though it is a small building, it is remarkably pleasant. The choir is divided from the nave by four or six marble columns; on the altar are placed several massive silver candlesticks, and a large lamp of the same precious metal hangs from the ceiling by silver chains; several good pictures grace the church. We then walked through the town, which is small but pretty and well serviced with roads, and there are many fine houses, that of the French Ambassador having a particularly fine facade. One of the most curious buildings I saw in Soleure was a tower on the ramparts, which, from whatever point of view you looked at it, seemed to lean. We left Soleure at about two o’clock in the afternoon and passed some dangerous spots on the river, the water here being very rapid and turbulent. The ladies on board were much alarmed.

At seven o'clock in the evening we reached Wangen, an ugly village, and were conducted to the inn, where, judging from its outward appearance, we had every expectation of being badly fed and even worse housed, when one of our ladies was invited to stay at the chateau with those of her party. Luckily for us, Madame de Toffen, wife of the Chief Magistrate of this place, happened to be walking in her garden by the river as we disembarked; she recognised Mlle de Chaire, with whom she had some kind of acquaintance. Six of us went. We were well received, and could not have been better provided for. What pleased us the most was that we had good beds, which made up for the bad night we had spent at Nidau.

We left Wangen on the 15th at six the next morning, passed by Arwangen and Olten, then stopped at Aarau and dined on board, our head boatman not permitting us to land. Here a little incident occurred which gave considerable grief to most of our party, but amused some others. Madame de Joffroy, a demanding woman who wanted to be first in everything, and who was frequently in a bad humour, owned a silver goblet in the shape of a gondola. During dinner Mademoiselle Blanchon wanted to drink, and asked Madame de Joffroy to be so kind as to lend her her silver goblet so that she could dip it into the river; but, when she did, the current carried it out of her hand and it was impossible to get it back. On seeing the goblet lost, Madame de Joffroy flew into a terrible rage, causing a very disagreeable scene not just for Mlle Blanchon, but also for most of the rest of us; nor was I exempt from her anger.

We left Aarau at one o’clock in the afternoon, intending to sleep at Brugg, but, about one league from Biberstein, our boat got wedged between two rocks hidden beneath the water. The ladies were much alarmed, and not unreasonably so, the current being very swift and the water boisterous, bubbling round the two rocks in a frightening manner. We had much difficulty in getting free, and I do not know whether we would have succeeded at all had not a boat come to our aid, luckily for us, to pull us from this dangerous situation. This accident delayed us by two hours, so that we were forced to pass the night at Biberstein, where we were shown to a sort of tavern or, rather, a low eating house, by the riverside. Here we were shown to a large room, in which stood a long table, two long wooden benches and a large stone stove, which was kept extremely hot, though the weather was fine. Some German peasants with great beards were in the room, drinking and smoking. We were given the honour of being seated close to them, and our supper was brought to us in two large wooden basins; it consisted of a bad soup, which we ate with wooden or pewter spoons, some eggs, some cheese, and some very bad wine. When it was time to lie down for the night, the table and benches were removed, straw was laid on the floor, and everybody took their place without ceremony, there being no other room in the house.

Next day, April 16th, we were made to pay a high price for this bad lodging, since it cost each one of us 30 sols, and we left as soon as possible. We stopped at a village half a league from Brugg. Here we took on board four boatmen or, rather, four pilots, to take charge of our boat, so as to avoid the rocks ahead; two of these men rowed in the stern and two in the prow, only two of our boatmen remaining on board, together with myself and another young passenger, for we both wanted to see the Saut de Brugg, a passage dangerous enough to make the other passengers decide to go by foot. We encountered nothing bad until we were within a musket shot of the town, where there was a cataract. Shortly before reaching it, high projecting rocks hem in the water on either side, making it very rapid. I did not think the Saut very high, but immediately beyond it, the current flows very rapidly, zigzagging between the rocks, and herein lies the danger: the four boatmen at the stern and the prow must be very skilfull in avoiding them, for at the least contact with the rocks, the boat would be quickly broken up. Accidents of this nature do sometimes occur, but we got through very happily and without any mishap, unless you consider it a mishap that, because the water bubbles vigorously at the Leap and a good deal splashes into the boat, we got a bit of a sprinkling. We passed under a fine bridge, which is constructed of a single stone arch, and which gives Brugg its name, ‘Brugg’ in German signifying ‘bridge’.

We arrived in Brugg quite early and remained there that day. It is a small but pretty town; the most remarkable thing about the place is that the town hall and most of the houses are painted on the outside with frescoes. There are murals depicting kings or emperors, or generals on foot and on horseback; and again on other houses there are animals, such as lions, tigers, elephants and so on, or sometimes landscapes, the effect of all these houses painted in this way being very pretty.

Brugg is the last town in the Canton of Berne; we left there early in the morning of the 17th, and arrived at midday at Klingnau, where we dined; two hours afterwards we entered the Rhine where it joins the Aar at Waldshut. A little while after that, we reached Laufenburg and we all went ashore, for here there is a cataract where the Rhine falls about 30 or 40 feet from the rocks. The merchandise and baggage were removed and loaded on carts, which were taken by land half a league further on. We took a walk along a handsome Esplanade at the end of the town, just opposite the falls, and from here watched our boat being let down by the help of ropes. About a dozen men were engaged in doing this, and they had much trouble over it to prevent the boat from being smashed to pieces. We were told that when the water is very low, boats have to be transported on great carts to a point below the falls. We ourselves made this trip on foot. The merchandise being loaded once more, we restarted our journey, and arrived at Seckingen, where we were to sleep, quite early. We went to see the great Church which struck us as both clean and well decorated, and saw the organ, the pipes being of an extraordinary size. We were told that they did not dare to use the instrument for fear that it would shake the vault of the church, which is very old. Seckingen itself is a small, dirty town which is rather badly built, but we found reasonable accommodation there nonetheless.

We left on the 18th at 6 o’clock in the morning. After about half a league, before arriving at Rhinfelden, we all went ashore because we were told that there was a very dangerous place to pass. I wanted to have a look, but our ladies opposed this and prevailed upon me to accompany them on foot to Rhinfelden, where we stayed for a few hours. These last four towns, Waldshut, Lauffembourg, Seckingen and Rhinfelden, are forest towns. They belong to the Emperor and form part of Swabia. The last mentioned is both the biggest and the most pleasing, but I saw nothing really remarkable except for a good stone bridge over the Rhine. We left the place straight after having eaten and arrived in good time at Basle, where we stayed for two days.

Basle is the largest as well as one of the finest towns in Switzerland. It is very important in terms of commerce, and almost all its inhabitants are merchants of one sort or another. The river Rhine divides the town into two parts, Basle and Little Basle, which are joined together by a fine wooden bridge. At one of end of this bridge is a tower containing a great clock. Above the gate to this tower, through which you must pass to get onto the bridge, there is a large wooden head representing a bearded old man, who once a minute opens his big mouth and puts his tongue out at Little Basle over the other side of the river. It is a notable fact that the clocks of Basle are one hour in advance of those in other places. I was told that this custom arose on some occasion in the past in order to thwart a conspiracy the inhabitants of Little Basle had formed against the larger town. The Princes of Bade-Dourlac have a very fine Palace there, built in the modern style: we saw some beautiful appartments, rich furnishings and, in the cellars, extraordinarily large barrels.

We went to see the Dance of Death, a fresco painted by the famous Holbein on a wall in the cemetery of the French church. Connoisseurs admire this painting for its delicacy and beauty; time has unfortunately harmed it in many places. From there we walked to the Place de Saint Pierre, which is fine, large and embellished with two fountains and many trees. The women of Basle are very good-looking; I thought their dress suited them to perfection. On their heads they wear small three-pointed caps made of velvet or of rich silken stuff; little bodices tighten their waists and give them trim figures; their skirts are short, and they pride themselves that their feet are well shod. I was told that most are by no means inimical to Cupid.

On the 19th we went to see Huninguen, a French fortress a quarter of a league from Basle. The Commander of the place to whom we applied for permission to view the fortifications gave us an officer as a guide. We found it to be well built, all in brick: the bastions and the ramparts provided with fine large trees. We saw the arsenal, which is well stocked with arms and munitions, for a small place. Our officer took us back to the Commandant who provided us with a large meal, and who showed us great courtesies, amongst others that of sending us back to Basle that evening in his carriage.

We did not leave until the 21st April, after dinner. So far we had not much enjoyed our journey by water; it had rained for most of the time. The river Aar, with its swift current and hidden dangerous rocks, had often frightened the ladies of our party. On the Rhine so far we had not been much more fortunate, but happily the remainder of our journey was much pleasanter, the weather became much finer, and our Ladies no longer had cause to fear.

That night we slept at Breisach in Breisgau, a town belonging to the Emperor. We arrived late and left early, and I could not see what manner of place it was.

On the 22nd we arrived at about 8 in the morning at the fort of Kehl, opposite Strasbourg. We were fortunate to find carriages at the fort, in which we made a visit to the town. Although Strasbourg and Kehl are virtually opposite, with nothing but the Rhine between them, it is nonetheless almost a half league between them, because the river here forms several islands, dividing itself into different arms. We crossed on a long wooden bridge which was almost continuous from the fort to the town.

Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace, and one of the largest and finest towns belonging to the King of France. Before its conquest, almost all the inhabitants were Protestant, but at present, their numbers are very small. The Jesuits have a very fine seminary and beautiful Prosesse House. They serve the cathedral, which is magnificent, and has a very curious steeple, which is built in the Gothic style, but is pierced through all over; it is said to be the most beautiful in France. The clock in this church is a masterpiece; it shows the course of the stars, has a perpetual almanack and many other curious things. When the clock is about to strike, a gilt brass cock perched above the clock flaps its wings and crows three times; then a little painted brass figure representing the Virgin opens the door. At midday the Twelve Apostles come out; they pass along a gallery, and when half-way through their journey they stop, and, with a hammer which each holds in his hand, strike upon a bell; they then proceed to the end of the gallery, where the Angel Gabriel opens a another door and closes it behind them. At one o'clock one apostle appears, at two o'clock two apostles, and so on. The maker of this clock also made the one in Lyons, but the one I am speaking of is more beautiful, of a better design and better finished than the other. I am told tht the governors of Strasbourg, jealous of the honour of having such a rare piecehad the maker’s eyes put out in order to prevent him from making a third more beautiful than the first two.

The women of Strasbourg are dressed much like those of Basle, but I thought them even more attractive and better-looking. Though Strasbourg is a very big town, it is nonetheless well fortified in the modern style and there is normally a garrison numbering seven or eight thousand men. We found the Regiment of Villars stationed there, and several of the officers, most notably M Manlich de la Chenalaz, showed us great courtesy, taking us to the theatre and giving us a very nice little supper.

Early in the morning of April 23rd we left Strasbourg, and at about eleven o'clock passed the fortress of St Louis. A sentinel, seeing us pass, called to us several times to stop, but I do not know whether our captain hoped to get by without paying a toll, or whether our sailors could not easily bring the boat to shore because the Rhine is very swift in this stretch; anyhow, the sentinel evidently thought we did not mean to stop, and he ran alongside, taking aim at us with his gun. Whilst he was running he tripped over a stone and fell. Unluckily for him, he happened to be smoking at the time; his pipe, breaking in his mouth, no doubt hurt him, and this accident made him so angry that as soon as he had risen to his feet he fired his gun at us. Happily, the the bullet went whistling a little over our heads. More soldiers appeared, and they seemed inclined to shoot at us too. The ladies in our boat, more dead than alive with fright, above all the fat Mme Joffroy, contributed not a little to the decision of our sailors to land. But as soon as we came ashore, the soldiers seized our captain and put him in prison, though he did not stay there more than an hour, for some of the men on board interceded on his behalf with the Commandant, and the whole thing was settled with a little money. This incident delayed us for more than two hours, and we arrived very late at Seltz, where we were very badly accommodated in all respects, particularly as we had only straw to sleep on.

On the 24th, in the early morning, we left this inhospitable place, and arrived at midday at Hagenbach, a big village about a musket shot from the Rhine. Our captain had a few difficulties in paying the toll, which kept us waiting for several hours, so that we arrived late at Philipsbourg, and the gates of the town were already closed. We were forced to put up at a bad inn frequented by soldiers, and could only have one room amongst us all. After a very bad supper, some straw was laid down on the floor, and we had to sleep on it as best we could. A gentleman of the party, seeing that one of the ladies was cold, went across the room to her with the intention of offering her his cloak. Our stout Irish lady, perceiving that a man had come over to the ladies' side of the room, took offence (a thing that happened often enough) and began making such a commotion that she wakened everybody. She had the candle relit and ordered the gallant knight to go back to his end of the room. The funny part of this episode was that the lady who had felt cold was so offended with the disturbance made by Madame de Joffroy, and so annoyed by the precautions she had taken, that she gave her some sharp words. Our Duenna, who lacked nothing in terms of a sharp tongue, countered with a barrage of offensive things in her half French, half Irish brogue. The gallant wanted to join in, but he was quickly put in his place. All this produced a scene which was comic enough, and which lasted for about an hour, but gradually calm returned and everybody went to sleep.

We left Philipsbourg early on the morning of April 25th. Around 8 or 9 o’clock, we passed Spire, but only stopped to pay customs duties, and reached Mannheim towards midday. This town struck us as charming. It is situated on a beautiful plain at the confluence of the Rhine and the Neckar. The roads are wide and very straight. The houses, which are new and built with cut stone, all have virtually the same facade. There are two fine squares, one is particularly fine with many beautiful trees. One of the greatest ornaments of this town is a large and magnificent palace, which has been built on the banks of the Rhine. It is tiled with ardoises, as are most of the houses of the town. Manheim is the usual residence of the Elector Palatine, and was built in 1688, shortly after the destruction of Heidelberg by the French. We very much wanted to spend the day here, so as to attend the theatre in the evening, where we should have seen the Elector and all his court, but our captain would not consent, and making leave at four o’clock. Immediately after leaving Mannheim we saw some water-mills set on flat, wooden boats anchored in the river.

At eight o'clock we arrived at Worms. The gates being closed, we could not enter. Besides, the town is about a quarter of a league from the Rhine, so we had to put up at two little inns by the riverside. A wedding feast was taking place in one of these inns. We were made welcome, and danced almost all night, being encouraged by some good music and the presence of several pretty girls.

Next day, April 26th, we were made to pay heavily for the pleasures we had enjoyed. We only stopped for a half hour at Oppenheim to pay the customs duties, which meant that we arrived at Mayence at 5 o’clock in the evening. The town seemed to us fairly big and pretty enough. It is well fortified in the modern style, but the fortifications are not well maintained. We visited the Elector's gardens which are outside the town on the banks of the Rhine; they are fine and very big, and have many fountains and statues, groves and other ornaments. Above the big terrace is a fine large pavilion which is flanked by two smaller ones, in which there are fine frescoes, and a great deal of gilding and sculpture; and we did not leave the town without trying the famous Mayence hams, of which we put in a stock. We found them to be delicious.

On the 27th we embarked late in the day and landed at Bacharach around 5 o’clock, where our charming captain, who stopped to pay some tolls, allowed us time to taste the wines, said to be the best on the Rhine. We found these wines, both the red and the white, so good that we laid in a small store of them. Bacharach itself was once a considerable size, but today it is just a bad village in which many of the buildings are hovels. We arrived around 7 o’clock at Caub which is also a small town or large village, where we spent the night. Near this place there is an island or rather a rock on the Rhine, on which a chateau was built some time ago, which, before the invention of gunpowder, was a fortress, since it is very big, very high and its walls are very thick.

On the 28th, in the early morning, we left Bacharach, and stopped at about 8 o’clock at St Goar, an ugly, dirty little garrison town. On coming to the gates of the town we were much surprised to see that some of our fellow-travellers who had preceded us had been stopped by the soldiers; but our surprise was still greater when we saw that one of our friends wore a silver yoke around his neck. After a few ceremonies the soldiers told him that the customs of the place forbade anyone who was not a Christian from being permitted to enter the town, and for fear that a heathen, Jew, or Mahometan, might slip by, a baptism was carried out and the yoke was placed on all those who had not been to the town before. He was asked with what he wished to be baptised. He answered honestly that he was not aware that baptism could be performed with anything but water, and that therefore, if he was to be re-baptised, it must be with water. No sooner had he uttered the word than he received a whole bucketful on his head, thrown down from a window just above him. He was then released, ashamed and wet through. After that the soldiers took another of our fellow-travellers, who did not wish to be re-baptised with water, but rather with wine. He was immediately given a great pewter vessel, containing several bottles of wine, and made to gulp down a large amount of it. He was then made to pay not only for what he had drunk, but for the whole contents of the vessel, after which they took off the yoke. As for myself and my friends, we were allowed to avoid the christening ceremony by paying liberally for christening the soldiers' thirsty throats. These men form the gate guard; and we were taken by them to a tavern, where we had to drink with the sergeant. He offered to write our names in a large folio volume, which all strangers of distinction who have not been to St Goar previously, sign. He showed us the signatures and seals of Prince Eugene, of the Duke of Marlborough, Marshal Villars, and several other princes and great lords.

About a league below St Goar we saw the large fortress of Hesse-Rheinfels, which is built on a high, craggy escarpment, at the foot of which flows the Rhine. The fortress seemed to us very impressive and very fine despite the fact that it was in the antique style. We had the previous day begun passing through a part of the river hemmed in by a chain of hills on either side, some of which were cultivated and covered with vines. But from St Goar to Coblentz, these hills become steep rocks, on which there were many towers and ruined castles, which create an extraordinary impression and which we called ‘frightful beauties’ because the rocks and numerous ancient fortresses do not fail to produce a fine enough view after a fashion. We fired a great number of shots from guns and rifles between these rocks, which produced an echo from one side to the other, making a rumble like thunder which lasted a great while.

At about 2 or 3 o'clock we passed the Rat-Tower. The river here flows quickly and foams, and is rather dangerous on account of hidden rocks. The tower is built on an island in the middle of the Rhine, and I will relate its history to you, in case you do not know it. A certain Bishop of Treves, being one day surrounded by a troop of poor people clamouring for alms, had them all shut up in a barn, to which he set fire. This monster, on hearing the cries which the sufferings of these unfortunate wretches evoked, turned to those who were close to him and said slyly, "Listen to these rats, how they squeal." But before long he was punished for his barbarous cruelty, for an infinitely numerous army of rats came to harrass and persecute him day and night. To escape from them he ordered a high tower to be built in the middle of the river, and went to live in it, deluding himself that his enemies would not be able to follow him there: but he was mistaken: the next day, or perhaps even the same day, a large army of rats swam across the river, seized his new fortress and put him to death. Mind, I do not vouch for the authenticity of this story, but tell it to you as it was told to me.

We landed in good time at Coblentz, which is a beautiful, large town situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle. The town belongs to the Elector of Treves: the streets are large and wide, and there are several fine houses. Hermanstein, which is also called Ehrenbreitstein, opposite Coblentz on the other side of the Rhine, is a naturally well fortified place which also has good modern fortifications. It is built on the top of a steep rock which is only accessible from one side. There is a fine chateau or rather palace where the Elector is often in residence. We saw at Coblentz the finest ferry-bridge we had yet seen on the Rhine, and possibly the finest in Germany as a whole. It is more like a boat than a bridge, large and rectangular, rather longer than it is wide, and fairly tall; the bridge or the deck of this sort of vessel is the same level as the sides; and around it, in order to prevent accidents, is a wooden balustrade painted and gilt. This ferry-boat can hold two coaches drawn by six horses at one and the same time. At each corner there is a cabin which is kept very clean where passengers can travel under cover when it rains; the whole structure is decorated with sculptures and painting of a rough sort. This bridge, or boat, is secured by a long cable, held above the water by about twenty little boats placed at intervals. As soon as it enters the current of the water, it is taken without any other assistance to the opposite shore. It costs very little to cross the Rhine in this manner.

At Coblentz we nearly met with an very unfortunate fate. In every town where we stopped up till now our custom had been to visit the Catholic churches, especially when we were in a large town. Here also we decided we would go and see a church near to our inn, which appeared to be very pretty. At the hour of vespers we went into this church, and shortly after our arrival two Capuchin monks came in. Mademoiselle Blanchon, who apparently had never seen priests like them before, was so struck by their appearance that she gave an exclamation of surprise which several people noticed. The monks made several genuflexions and said several short prayers before the altar, then disappeared into the vestry, from which they emerged very soon, dressed very differently. They were now wearing silken stoles and other sacerdotal garments, and their heads were covered with muslin handkerchiefs, and this, together with their long beards, made the most amusing figure imaginable. Our young friend could not help letting out what was almost a burst of laughter on seeing them: and at the same time she said to me something so amusing about the little masquerade which was being played out before us that I also could not help laughing. Several people noticed this. They immediately took us for strangers and heretics, who were mocking their ceremonies. Little by little, a murmur arose in the church and a group of old ladies, among others, began complaining bitterly in their language, but about what, we did not know, for none of us understood German. But as soon as we understood that they meant us harm, we left. More than twenty children and old ladies followed us, hurling their insults and even throwing stones at us. Luckily, we were not far from our inn, and we went quickly inside, closing the doors. If we had had several streets to go through, giving the people time to come together, I don’t think they would have treated us very politely. There is nothing worse in a large town than an excited crowd. The only amusing thing about this business was that during the time we were kept inside, two of our party who had been walking in the town, knowing nothing of the disturbance we had caused, arrived at the inn wanting to go inside. They were surprised enough to find it ringed by a mob, but they were even more surprised when they were seized and taken before a magistrate. On being told why they had been arrested, they protested that they had not been in the church at all. At this, they were returned to the inn, but exhorted not to show themselves in the town again, and, above all, told not to return to the church, as the people were excited against us. The same advice was sent to the rest of us, and we were severely reprimanded for the scandal we had caused. We kept ourselves shut in until the next day, the 29th April, when we left early in the morning.

We arrived at about 5 o’clock at Bonn, which is a pleasant town, even though it is not big and we saw several beautiful houses. Bonn is the Elector of Cologne’s ordinary residence, and here he has a palace, which is very fine, even though it is not quite finished. We went to see it, but were not permitted to enter the appartments. We did see the stables, however, in which there were many fine horses, including a carriage team of 6 piebald horses, with black patches on a beautiful white ground, the black patches all of equal size, as big as a half ecu, with a white mane and white tail. These horses made a fine impression. At around 7 o’clock, we were walking in the square in front of the big church, when the Archbishop or Elector went by, returning from the hunt. He was in a very clean open carriage pulled by 4 white horses. He was not wearing his religious clothes, but just a green outfit trimmed with gold Spanish point, with a hat trimmed the same. Several lords and gentlemen followed him on horseback.

Next day, the last day of April, we left Bonn and arrived at 11 o’clock at Cologne, a very large town, which reputedly contains as many churches and chapels as there are days in the year. We visited the cathedral, which is considered the finest in Germany. The streets of this town are wide and straight, and we saw several pleasant squares. Cologne has a very singular privilege; the sovereign cannot reside or even sleep in this town for a night without a permit from the chief magistrate.

We left Cologne at about three o'clock in the afternoon; and despite all we could do or say, our captain refused to wait for Mr Morrison, Mme de Joffroy’s son, who was still walking in the town with a fellow-traveller. After we had journeyed for about an hour, we saw a small boat coming after us, in which sat our two gentlemen. Mister Morrison was furious that we had left without him. As soon as he was anywhere near us, he began to threaten our captain with his stick, and he did not stop at that, for as soon as he put a foot in the boat, he fell upon the man, striking him several times. The captain was not in a mood to take this kindly, and took Mister Morrison by the throat, knocked him down with a blow and punched him several more times for good measure. Madame de Joffroy, who was seated at the other end of the boat, trembled to see her beloved son so badly treated, and despite her great weight and corpulence, flew to the field of battle. With surprising agility she launched herself over several people and over bales of merchandise, and with heroic courage began pommelling her son’s adversary, who in his turn showered blows with interest added on poor Mr Morrison, who was still trapped underneath him. This battle was being fought on one side of the boat, and this made it tip very much to that side, a fact which sent fear through everybody, except for the combatants themselves, who were unaware of the danger. Our Ladies screamed, and tried to change places, which made the boat keel over even more, and it now really did nearly capsize. In a word, there was now on the whole boat complete chaos and a terrible racket, which did not stop, despite everything we could do to calm their fury, until our brave champions were tired of giving and receiving blows.

We arrived fairly late at a bad village called Wistorp, where we were badly entertained. Our Ladies had beds: but we had to sleep on straw. We left on the 1st May early in the morning to arrive early at Dusseldorf, capital of the Duchy of Berguen which is a tolerably fine town. The streets are wide and straight, but dirty and full of mud. The Elector Palatine, who is sovereign of the Duchy, has a palace here, which we went to see. The most curious thing was a fairly large closet in which the mirrors on the ceiling, on the walls and against the doors were so well joined that they appeared to be made of just one piece. But what is most interesting is that the mirrors are cut in facets, so that you see yourself reflected more than 20,000 times. This infinite number of self portraits strikes you very forcibly and has a power of fascination.

On the 2nd of May we left Dusseldorf and arrived between 5 and 6 in the evening at Wesel, where we saw nothing very remarkable, except a fine large square and some soldiers belonging to the King of Prussia, who are in garrison, and who struck us by their height and their martial bearing.

On the 3rd we left Wesel early in the morning, and on this day we saw, in passing, Rees and Emmeric, but we did not stop. They belong to the King of Prussia, the same as Wesel. Around 7 in the evening, we arrived at Arnheim, which was the first town in Holland on our route. This is a charmingly clean place, a fact which struck us all the more, since most of the German towns we had stopped in were dirty and very muddy. Most of the houses in Arnheim are made of bricks, in fact this is true of most of the houses in Holland. We slept in a very good, clean inn on a fine large square, where there is a large church with a good peal of bells, which played several different tunes.

On the 4th we left Arnheim and saw in passing Rhenen and Wyck, but did not stop. At this last village we entered into the River Leck, one of the branches of the Rhine. This small river passes through Utrecht, Woerden and Leyde and then loses itself in the canals and sands.

Fairly late on the 4th we reached Culembourg. The gates of the town were already closed, and we were forced to sleep in a bad inn on the river; we partook of a meagre supper, and were extremely badly lodged. Nevertheless, next morning we were presented with an exorbitant bill, amounting to forty-five sols a head. We protested strongly about the jewish practices of our host. He answered coldly that if we were not contented with his bill, that he would make us out another. We were easily pacified by this, imagining that he was going to take something off, but we were most surprised when he brought a second bill on which there were several items which were not on the first, such as ‘so much for the wood for the kitchen, for the candles’ and amongst others ‘so much for having spat in my rooms and made them dirty’. This last item filled us with wrath and indignation against this Jew, but we were obliged to pay for all, for fear that he should make out another bill heavier than the second, the first being now no longer an option. This was nevertheless a lesson to us, and also to all who travel in Holland, not to take anything in certain inns without first having agreed the price.

At 10 o'clock next morning, May 5th, we landed at Schoonhoven, a pretty, clean little town. As we were tired of travelling by boat, 6 or 7 of us decided to hire a coach to take us to Rotterdam. This coach was composed of a great carriage at the rear, where 6 people could comfortably ride, and in front there was the body of an open chaise joined to the carriage, where 2 people could sit. This heavy contraption had no suspension, but simply rested on an undercarriage, which made a terrible racket. Even though we only had 4 horses, we went very fast, for the roads in Holland are very smooth and probably the best in the world. On our route, which was only about four leagues, we had the pleasure of seeing several pretty villages and many fine country houses with beautiful gardens. I do not think there is a country in the world with more windmills than Holland, for everywhere we looked we saw so many that we could not count them. Some serve to grind the grain, others to cut wood, others for making paper and others for fulling.

We arrived at Rotterdam on the 5th, at about 7 o’clock in the evening, having been travelling for 24 days since setting out from Yverdon, and we were very tired of our mode of travel. This journey would however have been pleasant if we had travelled as a group of friends in our own boat and if we had been able to know beforehand and select the places at which we stayed.

Rotterdam is, after Amsterdam, the most important town in Holland, as much for size as for commerce. Its port is always full of ships. There are several wide and deep canals in the town into which boats can enter with the aid of the tide to discharge their merchandise in front of the shops. These canals are bordered by great trees, and this produces an extraordinary effect. Seen from afar, Rotterdam is a peculiar mixture of spires, great trees and the masts of ships. The market place surprised me by its size, its beauty and, in particular, by the quantity and diversity of fish for sale, which struck me the more forcibly as I had never seen such creatures before. The statue of Erasmus, who was born here, is on the bridge over the Meuse; it is made out of bronze and shows him holding a book in his hand. It is considered a masterpiece. A Bourse is being built here, which will be very fine and very large, a Bourse being a great building in which traders meet to discuss their business. I think you have already heard talk of the cleanliness of the Dutch; I will therefore only tell you that I think they push it to excess. Every morning the streets are washed, particularly where there is a canal, and in the houses the utensils and furniture are kept, I will not merely say clean, but shining.

We stopped three days in Rotterdam, and seeing that the ship in which we were to sail for England could not leave for several days owing to contrary winds, I with a fellow-traveller decided on visiting the Hague. Just about a pistol shot outside Rotterdam is a canal, on which a boat goes to Delft every hour, whether there are passengers or no. This boat is drawn by a trotting horse; it is very comfortable, having a large, clean cabin, upholstered benches, and a table. If you prefer it, by paying extra you can have a small cabin to yourself. All through Holland you can travel in this way at a trifling cost and very fast. We therefore travelled in one of these boats, and had the pleasure of seeing one or two very pretty villages and several handsome country houses.

We only stopped an hour at Delft. It is not a big town, but it is nonetheless clean and pleasant, and there are some handsome buildings. It is in this town that the arsenal for the province of Holland is located. It is housed in a spacious building, encircled by a canal formed out of the rivulet called the Delft, from which the town takes its name. We went to see the tomb of a Prince of Orange in one of the churches, which seemed to us very magnificent, with its statues of bronze and marble, its columns and other ornaments of jasper, porphyry, and alabaster.

From Delft to the Hague there is another canal, like the one on which we came from Rotterdam, only finer, for its banks are of cut stone, and on each side fine avenues of trees are planted. There is a boat from Delft to the Hague every half hour, and we got on board one of them. The nearer we got to the Hague the more we admired the country houses, which were perfeclty clean and in perfect good taste, even though mostly built in brick. We reached the Hague at 6 o'clock, after an enchanted journey.

We spent the whole of May 10th seeing the Hague, which is certainly the most beautiful village or small town in the world. Almost all the Dutch nobility have a residence here; as do the foreign Ambassadors and Ministers, for the Dutch States-General have their assembly here. The streets are wide, long, and straight; and there are mansions and superb houses. At the end of several streets there are fine squares embellished with great trees planted in a line, which make delightful promenades. The palace, though built in an antique style, is magnificent, and was formerly the residence of the Princes of Orange when they were Stadtholders. At present the Provicial Court of Holland and the Assembly of the States General meet there. Close to this palace is a fine, large ornamental fish-pond around which trees have been planted to form beautiful avenues. After dinner, we walked in the park, where there are charming avenues of trees, a fine place for playing Pell-Mell, and a thick wood. In the middle of this park is a palace and a very beautiful garden which belongs to the Prince of Orange. We had a great desire to see the interior, but we knew nobody to get us in there. We should have liked to stay longer at the Hague, the better to see more of its attractions, but we were afraid that the ship on which we were to sail to England, and on which we had already had our luggage loaded, would leave without us. We therefore returned to Rotterdam the next day.

On May 12th we embarked on an English sloop, a two-masted vessel. The wind being unfavourable, we had to sail round the island of Voorn and pass Helvoet-Sluys, where we anchored on the 13th. Our captain went on shore for provisions. I accompanied him, and whilst he was busy I visited the town, which is pretty though small. The port is only a small one, where only small ships can enter, and it is dry when the tide goes out. When our captain had completed his purchases, we returned to the ship, weighed anchor, and sailed. The wind was hardly any use to us; only the tide by retreating enabled us to advance. About a league from land, we saw a dog in the water, battling against death. The captain took pity, and ordered some of his men to rescue him with a lifeboat. He turned out to be a very nice white barbet, and our captain was delighted to acquire him.

On the 14th the wind turned quite against us, blowing from the north-west and obliging us to tack about all day; during the very dark night a large fishing smack, all sails set, ran into the side of our boat, her sailors evidently being asleep, and put the whole crew in a panic, but no harm was done other than to cause us anxiety.

On the 15th around midday a nice breeze got up from the south, which sent us forward more than 10 leagues in 6 hours, but towards evening the north wind got up and sent us backwards rather than forwards.

On the 16th, the weather and wind became so favourable that by evening we sighted the coasts of England, but in the night a violent north-west wind got up and threw us back towards Holland. This wind continued to blow all the next day, the 17th May. The waves were very high and we suffered terribly from the sea, especially those of us who were not old hands and were therefore totally unaccustomed to this mode of dancing. I paid my apprentice dues, for I was very ill on that day and could eat nothing. In the evening the wind veered to the east, and we profited by this during the night, for the next morning, the 18th, we once more saw the coasts of England; but unfortunately this favourable wind did not last long, for it shifted to north again and obliged us to tack about the whole day. At last, being no longer able to stand the action of the sea, which was still very high, nor the wind, which had greatly increased, we cast anchor more than 4 leagues from land. When the tide went out, the captain saw, to his great anxiety, that we had anchored between 4 sandbanks, and it was apparent that if our cables were to break, nothing would be able to save us. We saw within a cannon shot of us the masts of a ship which had perished a few weeks previously. The wind, instead of diminishing, grew stronger still, which obliged us to drop all our anchors. We suffered a great deal for the whole night. As soon as high tide came, we weighed anchor and made our way from this dangerous place.

On the 19th, in the morning, the wind abated. Around midday it turned to the east, and sent us up into the mouth of the Thames, where we arrived at about 8 o’clock in the evening, and here we dropped anchor to wait for the high tide. We set sail again at midnight, and on the morning of the 20th of May we found ourselves close to Gravesend.

As soon as our ship was sighted, 5 or 6 Customs officers came on board our ship and began to search in every nook and corner of the vessel for contraband merchandise; when they were tired of searching, they left, taking with them the many of bottles of wine and brandy the captain had given them. Hardly had they left when another lot arrived, who did exactly the same thing; and after them, others came. I think in all from the mouth of the river to London itself, 5 or 6 groups of these unwelcome visitors came on board, and our captain gave them all presents, so that they would not do too much damage to his vessel in carrying out their searches, because they have the right to pull down partitions and panelling to make sure that nothing is concealed, and when a captain is not generous to them, they sometimes do considerable damage to his vessel. They are so disagreeable and so punctilious that it is very difficult to conceal anything from them, no matter how well it might be hidden, and when some of them decided to lift the stone of the ship’s oven, they found 5 or 6 pounds of tea that our cook had hidden there, which they took from him.

There is nothing more beautiful than the banks of the Thames. On each side there is delightful countryside and several very pretty towns and villages of which the principal are Sheerness, Gravesend, Greenwich, where there is a magnificent hospital for sailors who can no longer give service, and Deptford, which is a naval dockyard.

In the evening of May 20th we found ourselves about a league from London, and as on account of the ebbing tide our ship could not reach London that night, we hired some small boats to convey us on shore.

As we were leaving the ship, two officers of the Customs belonging to the party who had first visited our ship, and who had stayed with us, announced their intention of searching our persons, to make sure that we had no contraband concealed about us. They searched us in a fairly superficial manner, judging that we were strangers and that we had never been to England before. They searched Mme Joffroy and her son, who spoke English together, much more thoroughly. But they became worse still when they came to search a French captain, a refugee in the service of the King of England, who spoke perfect English, as did his mother and his two sisters, all of whom had sailed with us. The customs men, having noticed that the officer had something bulky in his trousers, boldly stuck in their hands and pulled out a packet of Flanders lace. They then had the effrontery to put their hands up the skirts of his mother and two sisters, and not without success, for they pulled out more packets of lace.

We arrived happily at the Tower of London between 7 and 8 o'clock. My journey from Lausanne had lasted one month and fourteen days. I have scarcely been out as yet, since as my first desire has been to tell you my news, and to give you an account of my travels, most of my time has been taken up with writing this long epistle. I hope that you will not find it tedious, and that you will receive it as a proof of my great attachment to you, and of the sincere friendship with which I am and will be all my life,


Your very humble and very obedient servant,

César de Saussure.


index César de Saussure