"Celui qui cy maintenant dort, Fit plus de pitie que d'envie, Et souffrit mille fois la mort, Avant que de perdre la vie. Passant, ne fais icy de bruit, Et garde bien qu'il ne s'eveille, Car voicy la premiere nuit, Que le Pauvre Scarron sommeille."
There is rather a quiet, satisfactory _place_ in front of the cathedral, with some good "bits" in it; notably a turret at the angle of one of the towers, and a very fine, steep-roofed dwelling, behind low walls, which it overlooks, with a tall iron gate. This house has two or three little pointed towers, a big, black, precipitous roof, and a general air of having had a history. There are houses which are scenes, and there are houses which are only houses. The trouble with the domestic architecture of the United States is that it is not scenic, thank Heaven! and the good fortune of an old structure like the turreted mansion on the hillside of Le Mans is that it is not simply a house. It is a per- son, as it were, as well. It would be well, indeed, if it might have communicated a little of its personality to the front of the cathedral, which has none of its own. Shabby, rusty, unfinished, this front has a romanesque portal, but nothing in the way of a tower. One sees from without, at a glance, the peculiarity of the church, - the disparity between the romanesque nave, which is small and of the twelfth century, and the immense and splendid transepts and choir, of a period a hundred years later. Outside, this end of the church rises far above the nave, which looks merely like a long porch leading to it, with a small and curious romanesque porch in its own south flank. The transepts, shallow but very lofty, display to the spectators in the _place_ the reach of their two clere-story windows, which occupy, above, the whole expanse of the wall. The south transept terminates in a sort of tower, which is the only one of which the cathedral can boast. Within, the effect of the choir is superb; it is a church in it- self, with the nave simply for a point of view. As I stood there, I read in my Murray that it has the stamp of the date of the perfection of pointed Gothic, and I found nothing to object to the remark. It suffers little by confrontation with Bourges, and, taken in itself, seems to me quite as fine. A passage of double aisles surrounds it, with the arches that divide them sup- ported on very thick round columns, not clustered. There are twelve chapels in this passage, and a charm- ing little lady chapel, filled with gorgeous old glass. The sustained height of this almost detached choir is very noble; its lightness and grace, its soaring sym- metry, carry the eye up to places in the air from which it is slow to descend. Like Tours, like Chartres, like Bourges (apparently like all the French cathedrals, and unlike several English ones) Le Mans is rich in splendid glass. The beautiful upper windows of the choir make, far aloft, a sort of gallery of pictures, blooming with vivid color. It is the south transept that contains the formless image - a clumsy stone woman lying on her back - which purports to represent Queen Berengaria aforesaid.
The view of the cathedral from the rear is, as usual, very fine. A small garden behind it masks its base; but you descend the hill to a large _place de foire_, ad- jacent to a fine old pubic promenade which is known as Les Jacobins, a sort of miniature Tuileries, where I strolled for a while in rectangular alleys, destitute of herbage, and received a deeper impression of vanished things. The cathedral, on the pedestal of its hill, looks considerably farther than the fair-ground and the Jacobins, between the rather bare poles of whose straightly planted trees you may admire it at a con- venient distance. I admired it till I thought I should remember it (better than the event has proved), and then I wandered away and looked at another curious old church, Notre-Dame-de-la-Couture. This sacred edifice made a picture for ten minutes, but the picture has faded now. I reconstruct a yellowish-brown facade, and a portal fretted with early sculptures; but the details have gone the way of all incomplete sensations. After you have stood awhile in the choir of the cathedral, there is no sensation at Le Mans that goes very far. For some reason not now to be traced, I had looked for more than this. I think the reason was to some extent simply in the name of the place; for names, on the whole, whether they be good reasons or not, are very active ones. Le Mans, if I am not mistaken, has a sturdy, feudal sound; suggests some- thing dark and square, a vision of old ramparts and gates. Perhaps I had been unduly impressed by the fact, accidentally revealed to me, that Henry II., first of the English Plantagenets, was born there. Of course it is easy to assure one's self in advance, but does it not often happen that one had rather not be assured? There is a pleasure sometimes in running the risk of disappointment. I took mine, such as it was, quietly enough, while I sat before dinner at the door of one of the cafes in the market-place with a _bitter-et-curacao_ (invaluable pretext at such an hour!) to keep me com- pany. I remember that in this situation there came over me an impression which both included and ex- cluded all possible disappointments. The afternoon was warm and still; the air was admirably soft. The good Manceaux, in little groups and pairs, were seated near me; my ear was soothed by the fine shades of French enunciation, by the detached syllables of that perfect tongue. There was nothing in particular in the prospect to charm; it was an average French view. Yet I felt a charm, a kind of sympathy, a sense of the completeness of French life and of the lightness and brightness of the social air, together with a desire to arrive at friendly judgments, to express a positive interest. I know not why this transcendental mood should have descended upon me then and there; but that idle half-hour in front of the cafe, in the mild October afternoon, suffused with human sounds, is perhaps the most definite thing I brought away from Le Mans.
I am shocked at finding, just after this noble de- claration of principles that in a little note-book which at that time I carried about with me, the celebrated city of Angers is denominated a "sell." I reproduce this vulgar term with the greatest hesitation, and only because it brings me more quickly to my point. This point is that Angers belongs to the disagreeable class of old towns that have been, as the English say, "done up." Not the oldness, but the newness, of the place is what strikes the sentimental tourist to-day, as he wanders with irritation along second-rate boulevards, looking vaguely about him for absent gables. "Black Angers," in short, is a victim of modern improvements, and quite unworthy of its admirable name, - a name which, like that of Le Mans, had always had, to my eyes, a highly picturesque value. It looks particularly well on the Shakspearean page (in "King John"), where we imagine it uttered (though such would not have been the utterance of the period) with a fine old in- sular accent. Angers figures with importance in early English history: it was the capital city of the Plantagenet race, home of that Geoffrey of Anjou who married, as second husband, the Empress Maud, daughter of Henry I. and competitor of Stephen, and became father of Henry II., first of the Plantagenet kings, born, as we have seen, at Le Mans. The facts create a natural presumption that Angers will look historic; I turned them over in my mind as I travelled in the train from Le Mans, through a country that was really pretty, and looked more like the usual English than like the usual French scenery, with its fields cut up by hedges and a considerable rotundity in its trees. On my way from the station to the hotel, however, it became plain that I should lack a good pretext for passing that night at the Cheval Blanc; I foresaw that I should have con- tented myself before th e end of the day. I remained at the White Horse only long enough to discover that it was an exceptionally good provincial inn, one of the best that I encountered during six weeks spent in these establishments.
"Stupidly and vulgarly rnodernized," - that is an- other phrase from my note-book, and note-books are not obliged to be reasonable. "There are some narrow and tortuous-streets, with a few curious old houses," - I continue to quote; "there is a castle, of which the ex- terior is most extraordinary, and there is a cathedral of moderate interest. It is fair to say that the Chateau d'Angers is by itself worth a pilgrimage; the only drawback is that you have seen it in a quarter of an hour. You cannot do more than look at it, and one good look does your business. It has no beauty, no grace, no detail, nothing that charms or detains you; it is simply very old and very big, - so big and so old that this simple impression is enough, and it takes its place in your recollections as a perfect specimen of a superannuated stronghold. It stands at one end of the town, surrounded by a huge, deep moat, which originally contained the waters of the Maine, now divided from it by a quay. The water-front of Angers is poor, - wanting in color and in movement; and there is always an effect of perversity in a town lying near a great river and, yet not upon it. The Loire is a few miles off; but Angers contents itself with a meagre affluent of that stream. The effect was naturally much better when the huge, dark mass of the castle, with its seventeen prodigious towers, rose out of the protecting flood. These towers are of tremendous girth and soli- dity; they are encircled with great bands, or hoops, of white stone, and are much enlarged at the base. Between them hang vast curtains of infinitely old-look- ing masonry, apparently a dense conglomeration of slate, the material of which the town was originally built (thanks to rich quarries in the neighborhood), and to which it owed its appellation of the Black. There are no windows, no apertures, and to-day no battlements nor roofs. These accessories were removed by Henry III., so that, in spite of its grimness and blackness, the place has not even the interest of look- ing like a prison; it being, as I supposed, the essence of a prison not to be open to the sky. The only features of the enormous structure are the black, sombre stretches and protrusions of wall, the effect of which, on so large a scale, is strange and striking. Begun by Philip Augustus, and terminated by St. Louis, the Chateau d'Angers has of course a great deal of history. The luckless Fouquet, the extravagant minister of finance of Louis XIV., whose fall from the heights of grandeur was so sudden and complete, was confined here in 1661, just after his arrest, which had taken place at Nantes. Here, also, Huguenots and Vendeans have suffered effective captivity.
I walked round the parapet which protects the outer edge of the moat (it is all up hill, and the moat deepens and deepens), till I came to the entrance which faces the town, and which is as bare and strong as the rest. The concierge took me into the court; but there was nothing to see. The place is used as a magazine of ammunition, and the yard con- tains a multitude of ugly buildings. The only thing to do is to walk round the bastions for the view; but at the moment of my visit the weather was thick, and the bastions began and ended with themselves. So I came out and took another look at the big, black ex- terior, buttressed with white-ribbed towers, and per- ceived that a desperate sketcher might extract a picture from it, especially if he were to bring in, as they say, the little black bronze statue of the good King Rene (a weak production of David d'Angers), which, standing within sight, ornaments the melancholy faubourg. He would do much better, however, with the very striking old timbered house (I suppose of the fifteenth century) which is called the Maison d'Adam, and is easily the first specimen at Angers of the domestic architecture of the past. This admirable house, in the centre of the town, gabled, elaborately timbered, and much restored, is a really imposing monument. The basement is occupied by a linen- draper, who flourishes under the auspicious sign of the Mere de Famille; and above his shop the tall front rises in five overhanging stories. As the house occupies the angle of a little _place_, this front is double, and the black beams and wooden supports, displayed over a large surface and carved and interlaced, have a high picturesqueness. The Maison d'Adam is quite in the grand style, and I am sorry to say I failed to learn what history attaches to its name. If I spoke just above of the cathedral as "moderate," I suppose I should beg its pardon; for this serious charge was probably prompted by the fact that it consists only of a nave, without side aisles. A little reflection now convinces me that such a form is a distinction; and, indeed, I find it mentioned, rather inconsistently, in my note-book, a little further on, as "extremely simple and grand." The nave is spoken of in the same volume as "big, serious, and Gothic," though the choir and transepts are noted as very shallow. But it is not denied that the air of the whole thing is original and striking; and it would therefore appear, after all, that the cathedral of Angers, built during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, is a sufficiently honorable church; the more that its high west front, adorned with a very primitive Gothic portal, supports two elegant tapering spires, between which, unfortunately, an ugly modern pavilion has been inserted.
I remember nothing else at Angers but the curious old Cafe Serin, where, after I had had my dinner at the inn, I went and waited for the train which, at nine o'clock in the evening, was to convey me, in a couple of hours, to Nantes, - an establishment remarkable for its great size and its air of tarnished splendor, its brown gilding and smoky frescos, as also for the fact that it was hidden away on the second floor of an un- assuming house in an unilluminated street. It hardly seemed a place where you would drop in; but when once you had found it, it presented itself, with the cathedral, the castle, and the Maison d'Adam, as one of the historical monuments of Angers.
If I spent two nights at Nantes, it was for reasons of convenience rather than of sentiment; though, in- deed, I spent them in a big circular room which had a stately, lofty, last-century look, - a look that con- soled me a little for the whole place being dirty. The high, old-fashioned, inn (it had a huge, windy _porte- cochere_, and you climbed a vast black stone staircase to get to your room) looked out on a dull square, sur- rounded with other tall houses, and occupied on one side by the theatre, a pompous building, decorated with columns and statues of the muses. Nantes be- longs to the class of towns which are always spoken of as "fine," and its position near the mouth of the Loire gives it, I believe, much commercial movement. It is a spacious, rather regular city, looking, in the parts that I traversed, neither very fresh nor very venerable. It derives its principal character from the handsome quays on the Loire, which are overhung with tall eighteenth-century houses (very numerous, too, in the other streets), - houses, with big _entresols_ marked by arched windows, classic pediments, balcony- rails of fine old iron-work. These features exist in still better form at Bordeaux; but, putting Bordeaux aside, Nantes is quite architectural. The view up and down the quays has the cool, neutral tone of color that one finds so often in French water-side places, - the bright grayness which is the tone of French land- scape art. The whole city has rather a grand, or at least an eminently well-established air. During a day passed in it of course I had time to go to the Musee; the more so that I have a weakness for provincial museums, - a sentiment that depends but little on the quality of the collection. The pictures may be bad, but the place is often curious; and, indeed, from bad pictures, in certain moods of the mind, there is a degree of entertainment to be derived. If they are tolerably old they are often touching; but they must have a relative antiquity, for I confess I can do no- thing with works of art of which the badness is of receat origin. The cool, still, empty chambers in which indifferent collections are apt to be preserved, the red brick tiles, the diffused light, the musty odor, the mementos around you of dead fashions, the snuffy custodian in a black skull cap, who pulls aside a faded curtain to show you the lustreless gem of the museum, - these things have a mild historical quality, and the sallow canvases after all illustrate something. Many of those in the museum of Nantes illustrate the taste of a successful warrior; having been bequeathed to the city by Napoleon's marshal, Clarke (created Duc de Feltre). In addition to these there is the usual number of specimens of the contemporary French school, culled from the annual Salons and presented to the museum by the State. Wherever the traveller goes, in France, he is reminded of this very honorable practice, - the purchase by the Government of a cer- tain number of "pictures of the year," which are pre- sently distributed in the provinces. Governments suc- ceed each other and bid for success by different devices; but the "patronage of art" is a plank, as we should say here, in every platform. The works of art are often ill-selected, - there is an official taste which you immediately recognize, - but the custom is essen- tially liberal, and a government which should neglect it would be felt to be painfully common. The only thing in this particular Musee that I remember is a fine portrait of a woman, by Ingres, - very flat and Chinese, but with an interest of line and a great deal of style.