Article 9

ART. IX. Travels through the South of France, &c. in the years 1807 and 1808, by a Route never before performed, being along the Banks of the Loire, the Isère and the Savonne, made by permission of the French Government.—By Lieutenant-Colonel Pinckney, of the North American Native Rangers. 4to. London, Purday and Son.

[pp. 181-187] [original article in PDF format]

  1. THE splendid title-page of the volume before us, announces the accomplishment of a journey never before performed, and sanctioned by the French government. We confess that our curiosity was not a little excited by this preamble. We were perhaps staggered at the idea of a journey through the heart of France, which had never been performed; but we conceived from the permission of the French government so unequivocally expressed, that some political reason had possibly existed, which had thrown insurmountable obstacles in the way of every former traveller, but which the ingenuity and address of our author had enabled him to overcome—such were the surmises that we had formed.

  2. Lieutenant-Colonel Pinckney of the North American Native Rangers, having, as he informs us, 'from his earliest life, most anxiously wished to visit France, a country which in arts and science and in eminent men both of former ages and of the present times, stands in the foremost rank of civilized nations;' sailed from Baltimore in April 1807, in a ship bound in the first instance to Liverpool and afterwards to Calais. He commences the history of his Travels by a most violent attack upon the morality of the mercantile part of society. We are at a loss to comprehend the motive of this unnecessary diatribe, unless indeed we may attribute it to the anxiety of a young traveller to begin, and to the irresistible attractions of a yet unstained journal-book.

  3. Having rounded off this commencement to his satisfaction, our author seems to have been rather at a loss how to proceed, when he fortunately finds a subject for several interesting pages in the person of Mr. Eliab Jones, the master of the vessel, in which he sailed. Mr. Jones, it seems, had been a traveller; had

                              Suffered most disastrous chances
    And moving accidents by flood and field.

    With these the Lieutenant-Colonel occupied himself during the remainder of the voyage, but the manuscript, which he compiled, having been by some accident mislaid, the Travels of Mr. Eliab Jones are for ever lost to the public. [181]

  4. We shall not follow our author during his short stay in England, nor in his subsequent passage to Calais. Upon his arrival in the Land of Promise, he immediately (as is usual upon these occasions) doles out a tiresome and common-place disquisition upon national character, drawing a parallel between the French and English by no means favourable to the latter. We are never offended by such attacks from the other side of the Atlantic.

  5. We find nothing deserving of notice during Mr. Pinckney's short stay at Calais. The account of a fête, given in honour of his arrival by the family of Mr. Pertuis, might have amused us more, had not our author been a little too minute in his details. Not satisfied with describing, 'the couple of fowls, rice pudding, and small chine,' he enumerates every article upon the table, not forgetting the under-cloth 'of a fine deep green spotted with the simple flower called the double daisy.'

  6. The day after this entertainment Mr. Pinckney begins seriously to reflect upon the necessity of continuing his journey. After due deliberation he determines to proceed on horseback; and having purchased a Norman horse from his landlord, he leaves Calais with Thomson's Seasons in one pocket, and, we presume, a clean shirt in the other.

  7. From the hour of his bestriding this Norman horse the Lieutenant-Colonel becomes tender and pathetic. The absurd and affected mixture of false philosophy and ridiculous enthusiasm so common in the German writers, is evidently the object of his imitation.—All is romance and affectation. His scenery and his actors are all tricked out in this gaudy colouring, offensive in the writings of a Kotzebue, and disgusting in the lucubrations of his imitator.

  8. His journey to Boulogne, and from thence to Paris, is totally without interest, and destitute of every species of information. One class of readers may perhaps be amused by the agaçeries of the filles de chambre, of whom the Lieutenant-Colonel invariably makes a conquest; but we confess, that we were rather scandalized, than amused by the garrulous vanity of the narrator.

  9. At Paris we expected to hear something of this 'Tour never before performed'; of this 'special permission of the French government.'—But no!—our author seems absolutely to have forgotten the promise of his title-page. After having been presented to Buonaparte, visited the Museum, the Institute, and the Pantheon, Mr. Pinckney leaves Paris for Nantes in company with Mr. Younge and his lady, and her sister Mademoiselle St. Sillery.

  10. From Nantes he proceeds with the same party to Augers, [182] Saumur, Ambroise, Blois, Chambord and Nevers. From thence to Lyons and Avignon, and at the latter place having found letters announcing to him, that his presence was necessary at home, the Lieutenant-Colonel continues his route to Marseilles, where he embarks for America.

  11. Such is the whole extent of a journey announced as never before performed, and sanctioned by the French government!—Never have we witnessed so flagrant an imposition upon the public. The permission of the French government amounts to nothing more than a simple non-interruption of his Travels. As well might Colonel Pinckney have announced a walk from St. James's to the Monument by a route never before performed and made by permission of the British government, justifying the first assertion by a slight deviation from the principal streets, and the second by meeting with no opposition to his progress. We are moreover under the necessity of pointing out two direct falsehoods in the title-page. He mentions the Garonne, which, it is evident, he never saw, and extends his tour through the summers of 1807 and 1808, whereas it appears that he remained in France only six weeks of the summer of 1807. It would be charity to suppose that this title-page was written previously to his departure from America, but even such a supposition is far from a justification of the imposition.

  12. Let us return with our author to Paris. His description of a ball given by his friend Mr. Younge we believe to be a very faithful delineation of French manners.

    'The fashionable French dancing is exactly that of our operas, —(we might ask to what opera Mr. Pinckney alludes?) They are all figurantes, and care not what they exhibit so as they exhibit their skill. I could not but figure to myself the confusion of an English girl, were she present at a French assembly.'—Page 95.

    We were a little surprised to read in the same page,

    'The measure was quick, and all the parties seemed animated. I cannot say that I saw any thing indecorous in the embraces of the ladies and their partners, except in the mere act itself.'

    After supper liqueurs, contained in glass figures of cupids, &c. were placed upon the table.

    'These naked cupids, which were perfect in all their parts, were handed from the gentlemen to the ladies, and from the ladies to each other, and as freely examined and criticized as if they had been paintings of birds.—A swan affixed to a Leda was the lucky source of innumerable pleasant questions and answers. Every thing in a word [183] is tolerated, which can in any way be passed into an equivoke.'— Page 97.

  13. Yet what is the conclusion drawn from all this by Mr. Pinckney?—Let us hear his own words. 'So much for a French assembly, which certainly excels an English one in elegance and fancy, as much as it falls short of it in substantial mirth.' We are at a loss to conceive by what standard the Lieutenant-Colonel judges of elegance, but if it be elegant to shew a total disregard of even the common forms of decency, we willingly give up all claims to the title, and shall be content to pass in the estimation of such judges for the most vulgar of mankind.

  14. We have already mentioned the impression made upon the French filles de chambre by our irresistible Lieutenant-Colonel. An attack of a much more serious nature, than those to which we have alluded, appears to have been made upon this all-subduing traveller by Mademoiselle St. Sillery. The rise and progress of this passion are dwelt upon with singular satisfaction—it is worked up into a kind of romance, and forms a very principal part of the remainder of the volume. At Saumur he is first decidedly assured of Mademoiselle's love.

    'Upon my return to the inn I found Mademoiselle at the breakfast table.—She rallied me pleasantly enough, but I thought with an air of pique, upon my morning walk and my fair companion, and Felice happening to enter the room, asked her, how she should like a foreign husband. "Very well, Mademoiselle, after I had taught him to talk in French, and I believe you are of the same opinion."—Mademoiselle with true French dexterity here dropped a cup on the floor and thus saved the necessity of reply, and furnished an excuse for the confusion into which the girl's impertinence had evidently thrown her. Shall I confess, that my vanity was gratified? but I will defy any one to travel through France without becoming something of a coxcomb.'—Page 153.

    It must not be forgotten that he also makes a conquest of the fair Felice, who assists at his toilette, and hides a lock of her hair in his razor-case.

  15. However gratifying it may be to the vanity of Colonel Pinckney, that the secret passion of Mademoiselle de St. Sillery should be made known to the whole world, we cannot think, that such a disclosure will be equally acceptable to the lady herself, or to her brother-in-law Mr. Younge.—The latter was not aware, that the friend, to whom he had shown every attention in his power, was a secret spy upon his actions, and that he and his family were to be exposed to the ridicule of the public in order [184] to satisfy Mr. Pinckney's thirst for literary fame. He was not aware that the world was to be informed that at Ancennis, it being difficult to procure beds, he slept between his wife and his sister; (page 131) nor that at Loriale his wife was extremely mortified by his attentions to the landlady, (page 257.)—We sincerely pity Mr. Younge, and advise him to be very cautious in future in trusting to the deceitful protestations of a sentimental tourist.

  16. It is in vain to search the volume before us for any information upon the various interesting questions which might have occurred to a more intelligent traveller. Our author is at best but a superficial observer; and his conclusions are frequently so unlike what his premises seem to warrant, that we are alternately startled and amazed by the obliquity of his logic. He affirms that religion is reviving in France; and the first proof which he gives us of it, is a puppet-show, in which the present pope is brought on the stage, and exposed to the hootings of the populace. He discovers, at his landing, that the French are beyond all doubt the civilest and best natured creatures on the surface of the earth,' (p.11) and immediately proceeds to describe a squabble in which 'a thousand ragged figures more resembling scare-crows than human beings, tore his baggage from the hands of each other, and were only prevented from stealing the whole of it, by a severe beating on the spot.' p.12. A philosopher, said Panglos, (spitting out his last tooth with his expiring breath,) should never change his opinion. The Colonel is of this great man's school; for, after crossing a part of La Vendée, visiting Nantes, Lyons, Avignon, &c. he recurs to his first statement, and declares, with a proper reference to the brutality of the English, that 'one quality, in short, pervades all the actions, all the words, all the thoughts of a Frenchman, i.e. A GENERAL BENEVOLENCE, an anxious kindness, which is daily making sacrifices to oblige, and even assist others.' p. 153.

  17. The conscription, about which we felt some curiosity, is incidentally mentioned (p. 55) as a mere matter of amusement; and we are assured, on the faith of Mr. Pinckney's fellow travellers, 'that people of fortune think it an honour to serve as privates among the conscripts.' p. 249. The simplicity with which the Colonel records these, and similar experiments on the extent of his credulity, is not the least amusing part of his travels.

  18. A considerable part of the volume is taken up with an endless description of picturesque cottages and their romantic inhabitants.—Such details, when given in moderation, are not unpleasing, but they become disgusting when distributed with too [185] lavish a hand. Mr. Pinckney's manner of describing the general appearance of a country is sometimes truly curious.

    'How pleasant, said Mademoiselle to me, would be a walk by sunset under those hedge-rows. I agreed in the observation, and repeat it as conveying an idea of the character of the scenery.'— Page 191.

    We confess ourselves dull enough to be unable to form a very accurate idea from this description. A walk under a hedge gives us no very clear conception of the scenery around it.—We have heard that love is blind; he seems here to have been prodigiously clear-sighted.

  19. Nor is his mode of becoming acquainted with the inhabitants of a country, much less singular. 'The main purpose of my journey (he says) being rather to see the manners of the people than the brick and mortar of the towns, I formed a resolution to seek the necessary refreshment as seldom as possible at inns, and as often as possible in the houses of the better kind of peasantry,' p. 37. In consequence of this laudable determination, he turns out of the high-road, and enters a cottage, pleasantly situated in the midst of a garden. It was fortunately inhabited by 'small farmers,' the very description of people with whose modes of life Mr. Pinckney was, as he tells us, so anxious to become familiar. We should injure the Colonel if we attempted to describe the adroitness with which he availed himself of this circumstance, in any words but his own.

    'Some grass was cut for my horse, and the coffee which I produced from my pocket was speedily set before me with cakes, &c. Throwing the windows up, so as to enjoy the freshness of the garden; sitting upon one chair and resting a leg upon the other; alternately pouring out my coffee, and reading a pocket edition of Thomson's Seasons, I enjoyed one of those moments which give a seat to life! I felt happy, and in peace and in love with all around me!'—Page 38.

  20. The historical remarks contained in this work, particularly the account of the Castle of Blois, are copied almost verbatim from De la Force's Nouveau Voyage de la France. We were at first surprised that Colonel Pinckney never mentioned an author, to whom he is so much indebted; we recollected, however, that such an acknowledgment would have interfered with his claim to originality, and that the words 'never before performed,' must, in this case, inevitably have been erased from his title-page.

  21. Now we are on the subject, we may add, that when the author relies on his own observations, he is commonly wrong: thus, he tells us (p. 62) that 'the cathedral of Amiens was built [186] by the English in the reign of Henry VI.' It was built by the French two hundred years before that prince was born.—But what can be reasonably expected from the information of a man who, after travelling for several days along the banks of the Loire, does not know whether he is ascending or descending it?

  22. We have, perhaps, occupied more space than can strictly be justified in the review of so uninteresting a work. We were, however, unwilling that such a publication should go forth with any opening for the Lieutenant-Colonel to advance a boast of the approbation of British critics. The facility with which he has arrogated to his travels the sanction of the French government, made us suspect, that our silence might be construed into approbation, and our lenity into applause.