Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XXXI.

ENEVA, OCTOBER 30.—We have now been here

a month, and the weather, a large part of the time, has been wet and disagreeable. Nevertheless, Geneva is an agreeable stopping-place, even in the wet season, to travelers going to or returning from Italy; and there is always a large number of strangers here. There are, we know not how

firstclass hôtels here, and many excellent private boarding houses, all within easy distance of one another; and one never need be at a loss for pleasant company, leaving out the resident population, among whom are many cultivated and refined people. We have in our boarding house Rev. Abel Stevens, author of the “History of Methodism in the United States," and his amiable wife, whom, among others here, we have found exceedingly pleasant company; and in the family of Mr. Consul Upton, near by, we are always made to feel as though at home. Then the Rev. Leonard Woolsey Bacon, pastor of the American church and editor of the Swiss Chronicle here, who with his family, consisting of his wife, eight children, and two interesting lady cousins, resides at Petit Saconnex, gives a reception every Thursday evening from four to ten o'clock, to which all Americans especially are invited. We have spent one evening most agreeably with them. Their residence is in the country, about two miles from our boarding house. Refreshments were set out at six o'clock. After this we had several pieces of music by two of Mr. Bacon's sons and their teacher, on the violin, Mr. Bacon himself, who is an accomplished musician and composer, accompanying them on a violoncello. Following these, Madame, wife of General Fluck, of the Austrian army, also present, performed a number of pieces on the piano in a superior manner. Thus, with music and conversation, these evenings are very enjoyable.

many,

One day we went to Ferney, which is in France, a distance of some five miles from the city, to see Voltaire's chateau. Only two rooms, the parlor and a bed-room, both on the ground floor, are shown to visitors, and these remain just as he left them at his death. His parlor stove is quite a huge affair, and his lounge and most of the other furniture are rather common, but some of his chairs were handsomely embroidered -- the work of his niece, whose portrait on the walls of one of the rooms shows her to have been a beautiful woman. His own portrait and marble bust are also preserved here, as well as the portraits of Frederick the Great and Queen Catherine II. of Russia. There are likewise engraved likenesses of Milton, Racine, Corneille, Newton, the Calas family, Washington, and Franklin. That of Washington is unlike any other we have ever seen, and it is probably the only one of the kind extant. Of the Calas family, the likenesses of the mother, one son, two daughters, and man and maid servant are given. The history of this family is doubtless known to most of our readers. Jean Calas, the head of the family and a Protestant, was cruelly executed in 1762, at Toulouse, on the charge of murdering one of his own sons to prevent his secession from Protestantism; and subsequently, through the efforts of Voltaire and others, a reversal of the judgment of guilty against him was obtained; he and the family were declared innocent, and a pension of thirty thousand francs was granted to the family by

Louis XV. The only remaining descendant of this family now resides in Geneva, and is supported mainly by charity. In Voltaire's bed-room are two other small paintings; one a portrait of his washerwoman, and the other, a handsome face, of his chimney sweep in an Italian hat. The floor of the parlor is of wood, handsomely inlaid. In this room is an urn containing the ashes of Voltaire's heart. The house has beautiful surroundings, and it must have been a very fine one in its day. We walked through the long arbor where he used to go for exercise, and in which, we were told he sometimes did his writing. Near the northern entrance to the chateau is a small building with a clock-tower, and the name of Voltaire appears under the clock - face. This, we understood, was his church, but we think it is not used for religious services now. From this point a magnificent view is obtained of Mont Blanc. In the evening we went to hear a lecture by Monsieur Taine, the celebrated French author, before the College of Geneva. It was upon the life and manners of the French people before their revolution, from the time of Louis XI. to Louis XVII. The public hall was crowded by attentive listeners, among whom we observed Père Hyacinthe. Monsieur Taine is a man, we should judge, about fifty years of age. His height is about five feet, ten inches, frame spare and muscular, and his movement active. He wears his whiskers and beard, which are black, with a slight mixture of gray, cut short.

We have been several times to hear Père Hyacinthe, who conducts his services and preaches in the French language. Although we could not understand him as well as we could wish, we felt

sensibly the influence of his magnetism and eloquence. He is undoubtedly an accomplished elocutionist and orator, and, without being a very large man, his presence is at once commanding and graceful. We sat near his wife and little son Paul, of whom they are said to be very proud, as they have a right to be, for he is a fine-looking boy, and may live to become as eloquent as his namesake. The congregation was comparatively small.

There is a beautiful Greek Church here, richly frescoed in the interior, and the floor is covered by a handsome carpet, on which the people either stand or kneel, there being few or no seats. On a Sunday we were present for a short time near the close of the services, which were peculiar. The music, entirely vocal, was very fine. The Cathedral Church of St. Peter, where we have also attended Protestant services, is by far the more important. This church dates back to the eleventh century, and is fraught with many stirring events in the history of Geneva. Without going further back, when the Roman Catholics held sway here, years before John Calvin made his appearance, Farel and other Protestant reformers had succeeded in abolishing Romanism from the city, and St. Peter's, we believe, has ever since been in the possession of the Protestants. The same pulpit from which Calvin preached still remains in its place. Expelled from France, of which country he was a native, he was passing through Geneva as a fugitive when, being recognized by his Protestant brethren, he was prevailed on to remain, and finally became the dictator of the city. In an old French volume which a friend loaned us to read here, it is stated that when Calvin first came here he was a young man, and that he was

so pale and sickly in appearance many thought he had but a few years at most to live.

In the Rath Museum there is a collection of fine pictures, among them one representing "The Death of Calvin," and another, “Bonnivard in Castle Chillon.” In the Academic Museum are many fine specimens of Zoology and Geology. Immense pieces of white and smoked crystal quartz in their native state excited our wonder and admiration.

One pleasant afternoon we took a walk to the Chateau Diodati, situated about one mile and a half from the city on the southeast side of the lake. In 1816 this Chateau was the residence of Lord Byron, and this is where he wrote some or all of his “Manfred” and portions of “Childe Harold.” It is snuggled in among the trees, with a balcony on the lake side, the room in which he wrote looking out also upon the lake. We saw his bed, table, chairs, and other furniture used by him in this room. There are many charming residences on both sides of the lake, among them the princely chateau of Baron Adolphe Rothschild on the northwest side, in or near Little Saconnex. Just in the suburbs of the city is a large old mansion, now in a dilapidated condition, with a large lawn in front. It was at one period the residence of Voltaire, and for a few days in 1867 the writer and his younger son occupied a chamber in it as boarders—the family with whom they were boarding having removed there. We observed nothing remarkable about it except that the dining-room, very high posted, as were all the other first story rooms, was unusually spacious, and the large panels of its walls were embellished with landscape paintings. Had these paintings the power of speech they could, without doubt, narrate many an interesting

« ÎnapoiContinuați »