From below, the castle would look crushed by the redundancy of its upper protuberances if it were not for the enormous girth of its round towers, which appear to give it a robust lateral development. These towers, however, fine as they are in their way, struck me as a little stupid; they are the exaggeration of an exaggeration. In a building erected after the days of defence, and proclaiming its peaceful character from its hundred embroideries and cupolas, they seem to indicate a want of invention. I shall risk the ac- cusation of bad taste if I say that, impressive as it is, the Chateau de Chambord seemed to me to have al- together a little of that quality of stupidity. The trouble is that it represents nothing very particular; it has not happened, in spite of sundry vicissitudes, to have a very interesting history. Compared with that of Blois and Amboise, its past is rather vacant; and one feels to a certain extent the contrast between its pompous appearance and its spacious but some- what colorless annals. It had indeed the good for- tune to be erected by Francis I., whose name by itself expresses a good deal of history. Why he should have built a palace in those sandy plains will ever remain an unanswered question, for kings have never been obliged to give reasons. In addition to the fact that the country was rich in game and that Francis was a passionate hunter, it is suggested by M. de la Saussaye, the author of the very complete little history of Chambord which you may buy at the bookseller's at Blois, that he was govemed in his choice of the site by the accident of a charming woman having formerly lived there. The Comtesse de Thoury had a manor in the neighborhood, and the Comtesse de Thoury had been the object of a youthful passion on the part of the most susceptible of princes before his accession to the throne. This great pile was reared, therefore, according to M. de la Saussaye, as a _souvenir de premieres amours!_ It is certainly a very massive memento; and if these tender passages were propor- tionate to the building that commemorates them, they were tender indeed. There has been much discus- sion as to the architect employed by Francis I., and the honor of having designed this splendid residence has been claimed for several of the Italian artists who early in the sixteenth century came to seek patronage in France. It seems well established to-day, however, that Chambord was the work neither of Primaticcio, of Vignola, nor of Il Rosso, all of whom have left some trace of their sojourn in France; but of an obscure yet very complete genius, Pierre Nepveu, known as Pierre Trinqueau, who is designated in the papers which preserve in some degree the history of the origin of the edifice, as the _maistre de l'oeuvre de maconnerie._ Behind this modest title, apparently, we must recognize one of the most original talents of the French Renaissance; and it is a proof of the vigor of the artistic life of that period that, brilliant pro- duction being everywhere abundant, an artist of so high a value should not have been treated by his con- temporaries as a celebrity. We manage things very differently to-day.
The immediate successors of Francis I. continued to visit, Chambord; but it was neglected by Henry IV., and was never afterwards a favorite residence of any French king. Louis XIV. appeared there on several occasions, and the apparition was characteristically brilliant; but Chambord could not long detain a monarch who had gone to the expense of creating a Versailles ten miles from Paris. With Versailles, Fon- tainebleau, Saint-Germain, and Saint-Cloud within easy reach of their capital, the later French sovereigns had little reason to take the air in the dreariest province of their kingdom. Chambord therefore suffered from royal indifference, though in the last century a use was found for its deserted halls. In 1725 it was oc- cupied by the luckless Stanislaus Leszczynski, who spent the greater part of his life in being elected King of Poland and being ousted from his throne, and who, at this time a refugee in France, had found a compensation for some of his misfortunes in marry- ing his daughter to Louis XV. He lived eight years at Chambord, and filled up the moats of the castle. In 1748 it found an illustrious tenant in the person of Maurice de Saxe, the victor of Fontenoy, who, how- ever, two years after he had taken possession of it, terminated a life which would have been longer had he been less determined to make it agreeable. The Revolution, of course, was not kind to Chambord. It despoiled it in so far as possible of every vestige of its royal origin, and swept like a whirlwind through apartments to which upwards of two centuries had contributed a treasure of decoration and furniture. In that wild blast these precious things were destroyed or forever scattered. In 1791 an odd proposal was made to the French Government by a company of English Quakers who had conceived the bold idea of establishing in the palace a manufacture of some peaceful commodity not to-day recorded. Napoleon allotted Chambord, as a "dotation," to one of his marshals, Berthier, for whose benefit it was converted, in Napoleonic fashion, into the so-called principality of Wagram. By the Princess of Wagram, the marshal's widow, it was, after the Restoration, sold to the trustees of a national subscription which had been established for the purpose of presenting it to the in- fant Duke of Bordeaux, then prospective King of France. The presentation was duly made; but the Comte de Chambord, who had changed his title in recognition of the gift, was despoiled of his property by the Government of Louis Philippe. He appealed for redress to the tribunals of his country; and the consequence of his appeal was an interminable litiga- tion, by which, however, finally, after the lapse of twenty-five years, he was established in his rights. In 1871 he paid his first visit to the domain which had been offered him half a century before, a term of which he had spent forty years in exile. It was from Chambord that he dated his famous letter of the 5th of July of that year, - the letter, directed to his so- called subjects, in which he waves aloft the white flag of the Bourbons. This amazing epistle, which is virtually an invitation to the French people to re- pudiate, as their national ensign, that immortal tricolor, the flag of the Revolution and the Empire, under which they have, won the glory which of all glories has hitherto been dearest to them, and which is as- sociated with the most romantic, the most heroic, the epic, the consolatory, period of their history, - this luckless manifesto, I say, appears to give the measure of the political wisdom of the excellent Henry V. It is the most factitious proposal ever addressed to an eminently ironical nation.
On the whole, Chambord makes a great impression; and the hour I was, there, while the yellow afternoon light slanted upon the September woods, there was a dignity in its desolation. It spoke, with a muffled but audible voice, of the vanished monarchy, which had been so strong, so splendid, but to-day has be- come a sort of fantastic vision, like the cupolas and chimneys that rose before me. I thought, while I lingered there, of all the fine things it takes to make up such a monarchy; and how one of them is a su- perfluity of mouldering, empty, palaces. Chambord is touching, - that is the best word for it; and if the hopes of another restoration are in the follies of the Republic, a little reflection on that eloquence of ruin ought to put the Republic on its guard. A sentimental tourist may venture to remark that in the presence of several chateaux which appeal in this mystical manner to the retrospective imagination, it cannot afford to be foolish. I thought of all this as I drove back to Blois by the way of the Chateau de Cheverny. The road took us out of the park of Chambord, but through a region of flat woodland, where the trees were not mighty, and again into the prosy plain of the Sologne, - a thankless soil, all of it, I believe, but lately much amended by the magic of cheerful French industry and thrift. The light had already begun to fade, and my drive reminded me of a passage in some rural novel of Madame Sand. I passed a couple of timber and plaster churches, which looked very old, black, and crooked, and had lumpish wooden porches and galleries encircling the base. By the time I reached Cheverny, the clear twilight had approached. It was late to ask to be allowed to visit an inhabited house; but it was the hour at which I like best to visit almost anything. My coachman drew up before a gateway, in a high wall, which opened upon a short avenue, along which I took my way on foot; the coachmen in those parts being, for reasons best known to them- selves, mortally averse to driving up to a house. I answered the challenge of a very tidy little portress, who sat, in company with a couple of children, en- joying the evening air in, front of her lodge, and who told me to walk a little further and turn to the right. I obeyed her to the letter, and my turn brought me into sight of a house as charming as an old manor in a fairy tale. I had but a rapid and partial view of Cheverny; but that view was a glimpse of perfection. A light, sweet mansion stood looking over a wide green lawn, over banks of flowers and groups of trees. It had a striking character of elegance, produced partly by a series of Renaissance busts let into circular niches in the facade. The place looked so private, so reserved, that it seemed an act of violence to ring, a stranger and foreigner, at the graceful door. But if I had not rung I should be unable to express - as it is such a pleasure to do - my sense of the exceeding courtesy with which this admirable house is shown. It was near the dinner-hour, - the most sacred hour of the day; but I was freely conducted into the inhabited apartments. They are extremely beautiful. What I chiefly remember is the charming staircase of white embroidered stone, and the great _salle des gardes_ and _chambre a coucher du roi_ on the second floor. Che- verny, built in 1634, is of a much later date than the other royal residences of this part of France; it be- longs to the end of the Renaissance, and has a touch of the rococo. The guard-room is a superb apartment; and as it contains little save its magnificent ceiling and fireplace and certain dim tapestries on its walls, you the more easily take the measure of its noble proportions. The servant opened the shutters of a single window, and the last rays of the twilight slanted into the rich brown gloom. It was in the same pic- turesque fashion that I saw the bedroom (adjoining) of Henry IV., where a legendary-looking bed, draped in folds long unaltered, defined itself in the haunted dusk. Cheverny remains to me a very charming, a partly mysterious vision. I drove back to Blois in the dark, some nine miles, through the forest of Russy, which belongs to the State, and which, though con- sisting apparently of small timber, looked under the stars sufficiently vast and primeval. There was a damp autumnal smell and the occasional sound of a stirring thing; and as I moved through the evening air I thought of Francis I. and Henry IV.
You may go to Amboise either from Blois or from Tours; it is about half-way between these towns. The great point is to go, especially if you have put it off repeatedly; and to go, if possible, on a day when the great view of the Loire, which you enjoy from the battlements and terraces, presents itself under a friendly sky. Three persons, of whom the author of these lines was one, spent the greater part of a perfect Sunday morning in looking at it. It was astonishing, in the course of the rainiest season in the memory of the oldest Tourangeau, how many perfect days we found to our hand. The town of Amboise lies, like Tours, on the left bank of the river, a little white- faced town, staring across an admirable bridge, and leaning, behind, as it were, against the pedestal of rock on which the dark castle masses itself. The town is so small, the pedestal so big, and the castle so high and striking, that the clustered houses at the base of the rock are like the crumbs that have fallen from a well-laden table. You pass among them, however, to ascend by a circuit to the chateau, which you attack, obliquely, from behind. It is the property of the Comte de Paris, another pretender to the French throne; having come to him remotely, by inheritance, from his ancestor, the Duc de Penthievre, who toward the close of the last century bought it from the crown, which had recovered it after a lapse. Like the castle of Blois it has been injured and defaced by base uses, but, unlike the castle of Blois, it has not been com- pletely restored. "It is very, very dirty, but very curious," - it is in these terms that I heard it described by an English lady, who was generally to be found engaged upon a tattered Tauchnitz in the little _salon de lecture_ of the hotel at Tours. The description is not inaccurate; but it should be said that if part of the dirtiness of Amboise is the result of its having served for years as a barrack and as a prison, part of it comes from the presence of restoring stone-masons, who have woven over a considerable portion of it a mask of scaffolding. There is a good deal of neatness as well, and the restoration of some of the parts seems finished. This process, at Amboise, consists for the most part of simply removing the vulgar excrescences of the last two centuries.
The interior is virtually a blank, the old apart- ments having been chopped up into small modern rooms; it will have to be completely reconstructed. A worthy woman, with a military profile and that sharp, positive manner which the goodwives who show you through the chateaux of Touraine are rather apt to have, and in whose high respectability, to say nothing of the frill of her cap and the cut of her thick brown dress, my companions and I thought we discovered the particular note, or _nuance_, of Orleanism, - a com- petent, appreciative, peremptory person, I say, - at- tended us through the particularly delightful hour we spent upon the ramparts of Amboise. Denuded and disfeatured within, and bristling without with brick- layers' ladders, the place was yet extraordinarily im- pressive and interesting. I should confess that we spent a great deal of time in looking at the view. Sweet was the view, and magnificent; we preferred it so much to certain portions of the interior, and to oc- casional effusions of historical information, that the old lady with the prove sometimes lost patience with us. We laid ourselves open to the charge of pre- ferring it even to the little chapel of Saint Hubert, which stands on the edge of the great terrace, and has, over the portal, a wonderful sculpture of the mi- raculous hunt of that holy man. In the way of plastic art this elaborate scene is the gem of Amboise. It seemed to us that we had never been in a place where there are so many points of vantage to look down from. In the matter of position Amboise is certainly supreme among the old houses of the Loire; and I say this with a due recollection of the claims of Chau- mont and of Loches, - which latter, by the way (ex- cuse the afterthought), is not on the Loire. The plat- forms, the bastions, the terraces, the high-perched windows and balconies, the hanging gardens and dizzy crenellations, of this complicated structure, keep you in perpetual intercourse with an immense horizon. The great feature of the-place is the obligatory round tower which occupies the northern end of it, and which has now been, completely restored. It is of astounding size, a fortress in itself, and contains, instead of a staircase, a wonderful inclined plane, so wide and gradual that a coach and four may be driven to the top. This colossal cylinder has to-day no visible use; but it corresponds, happily enough, with the great circle of the prospect. The gardens of Am- boise, perched in the air, covering the irregular rem- nants of the platform on which the castle stands, and making up in picturesqueness what they lack in ex- tent, constitute of come but a scanty domain. But bathed, as we found them, in the autumn sunshine, and doubly private from their aerial site, they offered irresistible opportunities for a stroll, interrupted, as one leaned against their low parapets, by long, con- templative pauses. I remember, in particular, a certain terrace, planted with clipped limes, upon which we looked down from the summit of the big tower. It seemed from that point to be absolutely necessary to one's happiness to go down and spend the rest of the morning there; it was an ideal place to walk to and fro and talk. Our venerable conductress, to whom our relation had gradually become more filial, per- mitted us to gratify this innocent wish, - to the extent, that is, of taking a turn or two under the mossy _tilleuls._ At the end of this terrace is the low door, in a wall, against the top of which, in 1498, Charles VIII., ac- cording to an accepted tradition, knocked his head to such good purpose that he died. It was within the walls of Amboise that his widow, Anne of Brittany, already in mourning for three children, two of whom we have seen commemorated in sepulchral marble at Tours, spent the first violence of that grief which was presently dispelled by a union with her husband's cousin and successor, Louis XII. Amboise was a fre- quent resort of the French Court during the sixteenth century; it was here that the young Mary Stuart spent sundry hours of her first marriage. The wars of re- ligion have left here the ineffaceable stain which they left wherever they passed. An imaginative visitor at Amboise to-day may fancy that the traces of blood are mixed with the red rust on the crossed iron bars of the grim-looking balcony, to which the heads of the Huguenots executed on the discovery of the con- spiracy of La Renaudie are rumored to have been suspended. There was room on the stout balustrade - an admirable piece of work - for a ghastly array. The same rumor represents Catherine de' Medici and the young queen as watching from this balcony the _noyades_ of the captured Huguenots in the Loire. The facts of history are bad enough; the fictions are, if possible, worse; but there is little doubt that the future Queen of Scots learnt the first lessons of life at a horrible school. If in subsequent years she was a prodigy of innocence and virtue, it was not the fault of her whilom ??? mother-in-law, of her uncles of the house of Guise, or of the examples presented to her either at the windows of the castle of Amboise or in its more pri- vate recesses.
It was difficult to believe in these dark deeds, how- ever, as we looked through the golden morning at the placidity of the far-shining Loire. The ultimate con- sequence of this spectacle was a desire to follow the river as far as the castle of Chaumont. It is true that the cruelties practised of old at Amboise might have seemed less phantasmal to persons destined to suffer from a modern form of inhumanity. The mis- tress of the little inn at the base of the castle-rock - it stands very pleasantly beside the river, and we had breakfasted there - declared to us that the Chateau de Chaumont, which is often during the autumn closed to visitors, was at that particular moment standing so wide open to receive us that it was our duty to hire one of her carriages and drive thither with speed. This assurance was so satisfactory that we presently found ourselves seated in this wily woman's most com- modious vehicle, and rolling, neither too fast nor too slow, along the margin of the Loire. The drive of about an hour, beneath constant clumps of chestnuts, was charming enough to have been taken for itself; and indeed, when we reached Chaumont, we saw that our reward was to be simply the usual reward of virtue, - the consciousness of having attempted the right. The Chateau de Chaumont was inexorably closed; so we learned from a talkative lodge-keeper, who gave what grace she could to her refusal. This good woman's dilemma was almost touching; she wished to reconcile two impossibles. The castle was not to be visited, for the family of its master was staying there; and yet she was loath to turn away a party of which she was good enough to say that it had a _grand genre;_ for, as she also remarked, she had her living to earn. She tried to arrange a compromise, one of the elements of which was that we should descend from our carriage and trudge up a hill which would bring us to a designated point, where, over the paling of the garden, we might obtain an oblique and surreptitious view of a small portion of the castle walls. This suggestion led us to inquire (of each other) to what degree of baseness it is allowed to an enlightened lover of the picturesque to resort, in order to catch a glimpse of a feudal chateau. One of our trio decided, characteristically, against any form of derogation; so she sat in the carriage and sketched some object that was public property, while her two companions, who were not so proud, trudged up a muddy ascent which formed a kind of back-stairs. It is perhaps no more than they deserved that they were disappointed. Chau- mont is feudal, if you please; but the modern spirit is in possession. It forms a vast clean-scraped mass, with big round towers, ungarnished with a leaf of ivy or a patch of moss, surrounded by gardens of moderate extent (save where the muddy lane of which I speak passes near it), and looking rather like an enormously magnified villa. The great merit of Chaumont is its position, which almost exactly resembles that of Am- boise; it sweeps the river up and down, and seems to look over half the province. This, however, was better appreciated as, after coming down the hill and re- entering the carriage, we drove across the long sus- pension-bridge which crosses the Loire just beyond the village, and over which we made our way to the small station of Onzain, at the farther end, to take the train back to Tours. Look back from the middle of this bridge; the whole picture composes, as the painters say. The towers, the pinnacles, the fair front of the chateau, perched above its fringe of garden and the rusty roofs of the village, and facing the afternoon sky, which is reflected also in the great stream that sweeps below, - all this makes a contribution to your happiest memories of Touraine.
We never went to Chinon; it was a fatality. We planned it a dozen times; but the weather interfered, or the trains didn't suit, or one of the party was fatigued with the adventures of'the day before. This excursion was so much postponed that it was finally postponed to everything. Besides, we had to go to Chenonceaux, to Azay-le-Rideau, to Langeais, to Loches. So I have not the memory of Chinon; I have only the regret. But regret, as well as memory, has its visions; especially when, like memory, it is assisted by photo- graphs. The castle of Chinon in this form appears to me as an enormous ruin, a mediaeval fortress, of the extent almost of a city. It covers a hill above the Vienne, and after being impregnable in its time is in- destructible to-day. (I risk this phrase in the face of the prosaic truth. Chinon, in the days when it was a prize, more than once suflered capture, and at present it is crumbling inch by inch. It is apparent, however, I believe, that these inches encroach little upon acres of masonry.) It was in the castle that Jeanne Darc ????? had her first interview with Charles VII., and it is in the town that Francois Rabelais is supposed to have been born. To the castle, moreover, the lover of the picturesque is earnestly recommended to direct his steps. But one cannot do everything, and I would rather have missed Chinon than Chenonceaux. For- tunate exceedingly were the few hours that we passed at this exquisite residence.
"In 1747," says Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his "Confessions," "we went to spend the autumn in Tou- raine, at the Chateau, of Chenonceaux, a royal resi- dence upon the Cher, built by Henry II. for Diana of Poitiers, whose initials are still to be seen there, and now in possession of M. Dupin, the farmer-general. We amused ourselves greatly in this fine spot; the liv- ing was of the best, and I became as fat as a monk. We made a great deal of music, and acted comedies."