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no description either of Venice or its territory; the last places which Mr. Gray visited. This defect was occasioned by an unfortunate disagreement between him and Mr. Walpole, arising from the difference of their tempers. The former being, from his earliest years, curious, pensive, and philosophical; the latter gay, lively, and, consequently, inconsiderate : this therefore occasioned their separation at Reggio. Mr. Gray went before him to Venice; and staying there only till he could find means of returning to England, he made the best of his way home, repassing the Alps, and following almost the same route through France by which he had before gone to Italy.—Mason.
I. MR. GRAY TO HIS MOTHER.
Amiens, April 1, N. S. 1739.
As we made but a very short journey to-day, and came to our inn early, I sit down to give you some
* In justice to the memory of so respectable a friend Mr. Walpole enjoins me to charge himself with the chief blame in their quarrel ; confessing that more attention and complaisance, more deference to a warm friendship, superior judgment, and prudence, might have prevented a rupture that gave much uneasiness to them both, and a lasting concern to the survivor; though in the year 1744 a reconciliation was effected between them, by a Lady who wished well to both parties.—Mason.
account of our expedition. On the 29th (according to the style here) we left Dover at twelve at noon, and with a pretty brisk gale, which pleased every body mighty well, except myself, who was extremely sick the whole time; we reached Calais by five: The weather changed, and it began to snow hard the minute we got into the harbour, where we took the boat and soon landed. Calais is an exceeding old, but very pretty town, and we hardly saw any thing there that was not so new and so different from England, that it surprised us agreeably. We went the next morning to the great Church, and were at high Mass (it being Easter Monday). We saw also the Convents of the Capuchins, and the Nuns of St. Dominic; with these last we held much conversation, especially with an English Nun, a Mrs. Davis, of whose work I sent you by the return of the Pacquet, a lettercase to remember her by. In the afternoon we took a post-chaise (it still snowing very hard) for Boulogne, which was only eighteen miles further. This chaise is a strange sort of conveyance, of much greater use than beauty, resembling an ill-shaped chariot, only with the door opening before instead of the side ; three horses draw it, one between the shafts, and the other two on each side, on one of which the postillion rides, and drives too:
* This was before the introduction of post-chaises here, else it would not have appeared a circumstance worthy notice.-Mason,
This vehicle will, upon occasion, go fourscore miles a-day, but Mr. Walpole, being in no hurry, chooses to make easy journies of it, and they are easy ones indeed; for the motion is much like that of a sedan,, we go about six miles an hour, and commonly change horses at the end of it: It is true they are no very graceful steeds, but they go well, and through roads which they say are bad for France, but to me they seem gravel walks and bowlinggreens; in short it would be the finest travelling in the world, were it not for the inns, which are mostly terrible places indeed. But to describe onr progress somewhat more regularly, we came into Boulogne when it was almost dark, and went out pretty early on Tuesday morning ; so that all I can say about it is, that it is a large, old, fortified town, with more English in it than French. On Tuesday we were to go to Abbéville, seventeen leagues, or fifty-one short English miles; but by the way we dined at Montreuil, much to our hearts' content, on stinking mutton cutlets, addled eggs, and ditch water. Madame the hostess made her appearance in long lappets of bone lace and a sack of linseywoolsey. We supped and lodged pretty well at Abbéville, and had time to see a little of it before we came out this morning. There are seventeen convents in it, out of which we saw the chapels of Minims and the Carmelite Nuns. We are now come further thirty miles to Amiens, the chief city of the province of Picardy. We have seen the ca
thedral, which is just what that of Canterbury must have been before the reformation. It is about the same size, a huge Gothic building, beset on the outside with thousands of small statues, and within adorned with beautiful painted windows, and a vast number of chapels dressed out in all their finery of altar-pieces, embroidery, gilding, and marble. Over the high altar are preserved, in a very large wrought shrine of massy gold, the relicks of St. Firmin, their patron saint. We went also to the chapels of the Jesuits and Ursuline Nuns, the latter of which is very richly adorned. To-morrow we shall lie at Clermont, and next day reach Paris. The country we have passed through hitherto has been flat, open, but agreeably diver
* On this passage Mr. Whittington remarks, in his Essay on Gothic Architecture, 4to. p. 156—“It is extraordinary that Gray should have compared this church (Amiens) to Canterbury: no two structures of the same sort were ever more totally and in every respect different.” To the truth of Mr. Whittington's statement I can bear witness: nor can I at all account for the comparison drawn by Gray ; except by supposing that he concluded it to be accurate enough to furnish his Mother with an idea of what he had seen. In his Letter to West, when he mentions the church at Amiens, he does not compare it to Canterbury. And in a Letter to his Mother of a subsequent date, he describes the cathedral at Rheims in almost the same words which he used in his former Letter from Amiens, although they differ materially. He attempted, I should suppose, only to give a very general resemblance of size and splendour. To a person acquainted with the character of architecture, that distinguishes the cathedral of Canterbury, I may be sified with villages, fields well-cultivated, and little rivers. On every hillock is a windmill, a crucifix, or a Virgin Mary dressed in flowers, and a sarcenet robe; one sees not many people or carriages on the road; now and then indeed you meet a strolling friar, a countryman with his great muff, or a woman riding astride on a little ass, with short petticoats, and a great head-dress of blue wool. * *
allowed to mention, that the church at Amiens is remarkable for its very rich, and highly ornamented façade, for its beautiful and lofty nave, its marigold windows, its aisles with side chapels on each side of the choir, the aisles to the transepts, and the circular colonnade at the eastern end. Moreover, like all the ecclesiastical structures which I have seen in the Provinces of Normandy and Picardy, it wants that commanding feature which is the glory of our English churches, the tower at the transept, a beautiful specimen of which exists at Canterbury. The absence of this, together with the enormous height of the nave, (of necessity supported by large buttresses,) renders the external appearance of this cathedral, at a little distance, heavy and unpleasing. Nor indeed is the simplicity of the interior architecture, in my opinion, at all suitable to the gorgeous and splendid accumulation of sculpture, which spreads, like a rich veil of stone-work, over the western front.-Ed.