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- A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 2/42 -


correspondences between his character and that of his native province. Strenuous, laborious, constantly in felicitous in spite of his great successes, he suggests at times a very different set of influences. But he had his jovial, full-feeding side, - the side that comes out in the "Contes Drolatiques," which are the romantic and epicurean chronicle of the old manors and abbeys of this region. And he was, moreover, the product of a soil into which a great deal of history had been trodden. Balzac was genuinely as well as affectedly monarchical, and he was saturated with, a sense of the past. Number 39 Rue Royale - of which the base ment, like all the basements in the Rue Royale, is occupied by a shop - is not shown to the public; and I know not whether tradition designates the chamber in which the author of "Le Lys dans la Vallee" opened his eyes into a world in which he was to see and to imagine such extraordinary things. If this were the case, I would willingly have crossed its threshold; not for the sake of any relic of the great novelist which it may possibly contain, nor even for that of any mystic virtue which may be supposed to reside within its walls, but simply because to look at those four modest walls can hardly fail to give one a strong impression of the force of human endeavour. Balzac, in the maturity of his vision, took in more of human life than any one, since Shakspeare, who has attempted to tell us stories about it; and the very small scene on which his consciousness dawned is one end of the immense scale that he traversed. I confess it shocked me a little to find that he was born in a house "in a row," - a house, moreover, which at the date of his birth must have been only about twenty years old. All that is contradictory. If the tenement selected for this honour could not be ancient and em- browned, it should at least have been detached.

There is a charming description, in his little tale of "La Grenadiere," of the view of the opposite side of the Loire as you have it from the square at the end of the Rue Royale, - a square that has some preten- sions to grandeur, overlooked as it is by the Hotel de Ville and the Musee, a pair of edifices which directly contemplate the river, and ornamented with marble images of Francois Rabelais and Rene Descartes. The former, erected a few years since, is a very honor- able production; the pedastal of the latter could, as a matter of course, only be inscribed with the _Cogito ergo Sum._ The two statues mark the two opposite poles to which the brilliant French mind has travelled; and if there were an effigy of Balzac at Tours, it ought to stand midway between them. Not that he, by any means always struck the happy mean between the sensible and the metaphysical; but one may say of him that half of his genius looks in one direction and half in the other. The side that turns toward Francois Rabelais would be, on the whole, the side that takes the sun. But there is no statue of Balzac at Tours; there is only, in one of the chambers of the melancholy museum, a rather clever, coarse bust. The description in "La Grenadiere," of which I just spoke, is too long to quote; neither have I space for any one of the brilliant attempts at landscape paint- ing which are woven into the shimmering texture of "Le Lys dans la Vallee." The little manor of Cloche- gourde, the residence of Madame de Mortsauf, the heroine of that extraordinary work, was within a moderate walk of Tours, and the picture in the novel is presumably a copy from an original which it would be possible to-day to discover. I did not, however, even make the attempt. There are so many chateaux in Touraine commemorated in history, that it would take one too far to look up those which have been com- memorated in fiction. The most I did was to endeavor to identify the former residence of Mademoiselle Gamard, the sinister old maid of "Le Cure de Tours." This terrible woman occupied a small house in the rear of the cathedral, where I spent a whole morning in wondering rather stupidly which house it could be. To reach the cathedral from the little _place_ where we stopped just now to look across at the Grenadiere, without, it must be confessed, very vividly seeing it, you follow the quay to the right, and pass out of sight of the charming _coteau_ which, from beyond the river, faces the town, - a soft agglomeration of gardens, vine- yards, scattered villas, gables and turrets of slate- roofed chateaux, terraces with gray balustrades, moss- grown walls draped in scarlet Virginia-creeper. You turn into the town again beside a great military barrack which is ornamented with a rugged mediaeval tower, a relic of the ancient fortifications, known to the Tourangeaux of to-day as the Tour de Guise. The young Prince of Joinville, son of that Duke of Guise who was murdered by the order of Henry II. at Blois, was, after the death of his father, confined here for more than two years, but made his escape one summer evening in 1591, under the nose of his keepers, with a gallant audacity which has attached the memory of the exploit to his sullen-looking prison. Tours has a garrison of five regiments, and the little red-legged soldiers light up the town. You see them stroll upon the clean, uncommercial quay, where there are no signs of navigation, not even by oar, no barrels nor bales, no loading nor unloading, no masts against the sky nor booming of steam in the air. The most active business that goes on there is that patient and fruitless angling in, which the French, as the votaries of art for art, excel all other people. The little soldiers, weighed down by the contents of their enormous pockets, pass with respect from one of these masters of the rod to the other,as he sits soaking an indefinite bait in the large, indifferent stream. After you turn your back to the quay you have only to go a little way before you reach the cathedral.

II.

It is a very beautiful church of the second order of importance, with a charming mouse-colored com- plexion and a pair of fantastic towers. There is a commodious little square in front of it, from which you may look up at its very ornamental face; but for purposes of frank admiration the sides and the rear are perhaps not sufficiently detached. The cathedral of Tours, which is dedicated to Saint Gatianus, took a long time to build. Begun in 1170, it was finished only in the first half of the sixteenth century; but the ages and the weather have interfused so well the tone of the different parts, that it presents, at first at least, no striking incongruities, and looks even exception- ally harmonious and complete. There are many grander cathedrals, but there are probably few more pleasing; and this effect of delicacy and grace is at its best toward the close of a quiet afternoon, when the densely decorated towers, rising above the little Place de l'Archeveche, lift their curious lanterns into the slanting light, and offer a multitudinous perch to troops of circling pigeons. The whole front, at such a time, has an appearance of great richness, although the niches which surround the three high doors (with recesses deep enough for several circles of sculpture) and indent the four great buttresses that ascend beside the huge rose-window, carry no figures beneath their little chiselled canopies. The blast of the great Revo- lution blew down most of the statues in France, and the wind has never set very strongly toward putting them up again. The embossed and crocketed cupolas which crown the towers of Saint Gatien are not very pure in taste; but, like a good many impurities, they have a certain character. The interior has a stately slimness with which no fault is to be found, and which in the choir, rich in early glass and surrounded by a broad passage, becomes very bold and noble. Its principal treasure, perhaps, is the charming little tomb of the two children (who died young) of Charles VIII. and Anne of Brittany, in white marble, embossed with sym- bolic dolphins and exquisite arabesques. The little boy and girl lie side by side on a slab of black marble, and a pair of small kneeling angels, both at their head and at their feet, watch over them. Nothing could be more perfect than this monument, which is the work of Michel Colomb, one of the earlier glories of the French Renaissance; it is really a lesson in good taste. Originally placed in the great abbey-church of Saint Martin, which was for so many ages the holy place of Tours, it happily survived the devastation to which that edifice, already sadly shattered by the wars of religion and successive profanations, finally succumbed in 1797. In 1815 the tomb found an asylum in a quiet corner of the cathedral.

I ought, perhaps, to be ashamed to acknowledge, that I found the profane name of Balzac capable of adding an interest even to this venerable sanctuary. Those who have read the terrible little story of "Le Cure de Tours" will perhaps remember that, as I have already mentioned, the simple and childlike old Abbe Birotteau, victim of the infernal machinations of the Abbe Troubert and Mademoiselle Gamard, had his quarters in the house of that lady (she had a speciality of letting lodgings to priests), which stood on the north side of the cathedral, so close under its walls that the supporting pillar of one of the great flying buttresses was planted in the spinster's garden. If you wander round behind the church, in search of this more than historic habitation, you will have oc- casion to see that the side and rear of Saint Gatien make a delectable and curious figure. A narrow lane passes beside the high wall which conceals from sight the palace of the archbishop, and beneath the flying buttresses, the far-projecting gargoyles, and the fine south porch of the church. It terminates in a little, dead, grass-grown square entitled the Place Gregoire de Tours. All this part of the exterior of the cathe- dral is very brown, ancient, Gothic, grotesque; Balzac calls the whole place "a desert of stone." A battered and gabled wing, or out-house (as it appears to be) of the hidden palace, with a queer old stone pulpit


A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 2/42

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