The Alvan Stewart Papers

May 16 - June 10, 1831

Across the Atlantic,
New York to Liverpool

June 11 - June 18, 1831

Landing in Liverpool;
Travel to London

June 19 - June 26, 1831


June 27 - June 30, 1831

From London to Paris

July 1 - July 8, 1831


July 9 - July 14, 1831


July 15 - July 21, 1831

From Paris to Havre

July 22 - September 1, 1831

Return across the Atlantic,
Havre to New York

From London to Paris, June 27 - June 30, 1831

June 27th 1831. I have agreed to take Joseph A. Collett, as a servant and interpreter from here to France and so on home - bearing his expenses.

I paid the Vice-consul for Genl. Dix L3.16.3 sterling of postage for him, at the General's request. I visited the French consul's office and paid half a sovereign for Joseph's passport. - I then visited Guild Hall where they were taking votes for Sheriffs, whenever one side or the other got a vote his friends raised a great shout. Pitt the elder, Lord Nelson and a Lord Mayor appear to great advantage cut in marble, and two brazen giants covered with armor in each corner I then went two or three miles and visited the British Artists or gallery of paintings, and some sculpture and engravings, using of 900 specimens appear in three rooms. - They are truly the pride of art. I then went to Covent Garden Theater, and saw Romeo and Juliet performed it was grand and sublime beyond what I supposed could be done. - Covent Garden has an immense pit and two tiers of boxes and their galleries. - I found two gentlemen from South America, who were very kind. I am down sick this morning with one of the worst colds I ever had in my life. - My bones ache so very bad.

June 28th 1831. Dover heights. This morning I felt unwell, but having paid my bill, with Joseph, my domestic servant and interpreter, I took the London coach 1/2 after 9 A.M. for Dover. - We turned our back upon London, the metropolis of Christendom, to see it no more forever, duly impressed with its greatness; it is the focal point of the British Empire, and the eye of the world. - We passed some hundred coaches from the Post office, which is one of the finest public buildings in England, through Cheapside, down Grace Church Street to Old London Bridge, which has borne the stream of moving mortals, beasts and carriages upon its back for 500 years, and is about to have its 15 or 18 arches torn down and give way to the New London Bridge, a few feet higher up the stream with only five splendid arches. - It is a proud monument of architecture as I ever saw.

Having crossed the bridge we were in the county of Lurrey, in the borough of Southwark, which appears like part of London divided by the Thames with 200,000 inhabitants. We passed Grey's Hospital, and St. Thomas Hospital, and Bedlam three celebrated places for the healing of human infirmities. - We passed St. Savior's Church, as London has a St. Sepulchic Church, appropriate names. - The relics of Roman Catholic folly. - Within three or four miles of Southwark we came to Greenwich Hospital, the retirement of seamen wounded and maimed in the King's service, as also Woolwich, the retirement of decayed soldiers, two splendid villages with barracks like palaces for these defenders of their country. - We then passed over Blackheath, the scene of so many robberies, then shooter's Hill distinguished for the same reason. - Both places are now covered, at intervals, with gentlemen's seats. Near Blackheath was pointed out the seat of Queen Caroline wife of George the 4th whose residence her husband caused to be utterly demolished on her death, lest it should become a fashionable pilgrimage after her death by the friends who loved her while living. - I saw the residence of the Princess of Gloucester near the Heath. Dover is 72 miles from London, and 69 miles I travelled in Kent County all day to Dover, where Gavelkind Tenure prevailed and where the Kentish men declare, when Britain was conquered their county alone stood out. It is a garden the whole way with a substratum of chalk. - Nothing can appear more beautiful than to see the road cut through white chalk hills till you end the days journey with Shakespeare told white perpendicular cliffs at Dover 532 feet high frowning upon the murmuring sea.

The next places we came to was Deptford where the shipping lies a few miles below London on the Kent side. - Then the large village of Dartford. Then we crossed Gad's Hill where John Falstaff killed his 12 men in Buckram; there is a sign there to this day commemorating the event, by a picture of Sir John on the tavern - keeper's sign. We next came to the ancient city of Rochester, with its castle, and three adjoining villages as large as cities, Stroud, Brumpton and Chatham. - Then came to Sillingbourne, a large town near Graves end, and Shurness, having every few minutes extended views of the Thames for fifty or sixty miles below London, near to Margate, with vessels sailing in every direction on a river not more than on half or three fourths of a mile in width, through a country, which looks like a terrestrial Paradise. Till at length we beheld the towering spires of the Canterbury Cathedral, in which Thomas A. Becket that proud dignitary of the Church was slain by four knights at the instance of Henry the second, for which Henry afterwards did penance by walking to Canterbury barefoot, and wore a hair shirt and was shipped by the monks before the Pope was reconciled. They show the very stone Becket fell on when he was stabbed at the altar. Becket's bones were canonized and from his supposed sanctity, he was placed in the calendar of saints, and for ages his shrine at Canterbury Cathedral was the resort of pious pilgrims from all parts of the Kingdom.

As you enter the City of Canterbury you go under an ancient, arched gateway between two towers, which are now used as prisms. I paid a half crown at a tavern here for a lame apology for a dinner. We then drove sixteen miles to the strangest and by nature the grandest place I have seen in England, the abrupt, castellated, fortified, sea-viewing, white-chalk cliffs of ancient Dover. Here I stop tonight sick and tired. After arriving at my tavern at Dover which is fronting the coasts of France and the sea, the French coast, and Bonaparte's Tower can be seen in clear weather from this house. - But the white cliffs of Dover struck me with so much force, that although it was 8 P.M. I was determined to view them, the Landlord gave us his spy glass and Joseph and I went away together, and walked under the highest part of this culminating barrier of old ocean. We went on the top in part as well as below the great Shakespeare cliff, where he has laid on the heath near this cliff, one of the horrifying scenes of King Lear. - The scene is sublime and is worthy of Shakespeare's immortal description, for he has given a reputation equal to immortality to every name and place he has seen fit to mention - though Dover did not need its rocks to be smote by the wand of Shakespeare, to make the traveller bend his course to view them, yet I can assure you that it will be a great question with the traveller, which most to admire this wonder of nature, or the wonder of genius, by which those mighty rocks are attired in the rich robes of Shakespeare's descriptions.

Lines of Lear

"Come on sir, here's the place; stand still - how fearful,
"And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low!
"The crows and coughs, that wing the midway air,
"Show scarce as gross as beetles: half way down,
"Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
"Me thinks he seems no bigger than his head;
"The fishermen that walk upon the beach,
"Appear like mice; and you tall anchoring back,
"Diminished to her cock, her cock, a buoy,
"Almost too small for sight, the murmuring surge,
"That on the unnumbered idle pebbles chafes,
"Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more;
"Lest my brain burn, and the deficient sight
"Topple down headlong."

June 29th 1831. We went to visit the castle and fortresses of Dover, which are superior to any in England and when manned required 35,000 men. - The castle stands on a bluff of 35 acres, 470 feet above the sea. - There is a well here 372 feet deep for the supply of the garrison, the works are amazingly grand, two ancient towers are yet standing nodding to their fall, built in the reign of Claudius Cesar, the year our Savior was born, by the old Romans. - It is an alternate layer of brick, lime, mortar and stone. - There is an ancient church the first built by the Saxons after the introduction of Christianity into England.

Then comes the Keep of the Castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1070, which appears like a huge modern affair. - A part of the towers show the bow and arrow and javelin days. - This castle has a parapet one hundred feet high, then comes the curtain to the parapet, then the hornwork, and lastly the glacies. there is also scarf and counterscarf, and fosse or ditch. - Here is Queen Ann's pocket piece made of brass; with many elegant devices on it mounted on a carriage, which was given by the Hollanders in the reign of Queen Elizabeth to that Queen in 1574, and is pointing from Dover to Calais with the vain boast of,

"Wash me out and keep me clean
"And I'll carry a ball to Calais green."

The Romans or Saxons had perforations under these great hills for miles about the castle. It is truly an astonishing piece of antiquity.

I came to mine excellent hostess the keeper of Dover castle Hotel and paid her nine shillings sterling, the most reasonable bill I have had for such good accomodations and bid her and England a long farewell finding many things to admire, some to despise, and other to hate. - I went on board his Majesty's steamer, and paid half a guinea for myself, and one fourth for Joseph, and in three hours we passed the 24 miles of water, while the chalky cliffs of Dover receeded from the view, the chalky hills of France burst upon my view. - I felt almost as much sickness in this chub of a steamboat tumbling on the old swells as I did in crossing the Atlantic. On arriving at the harbor of Calais your baggage and passports are taken from you and thirty or forty of the most villainous, imprudent and vile villains in the work snatch you, and pull you to go this and that Hotel, and to furnish you with the Diligences for Paris. - It exceeds all belief - I was recommended to a dirty gambling house the "A Pomme d'or," or golden Apple, I looked in and departed to Rignols the best French house in Calais. - I went and left, found my passport at the Town hall, and took a provisional one to Paris, while my original is forwarded by Government to Paris and paid two francs, and had Joseph as my domestic inserted in my provisional one. - I then sat down to what is called a "Table D'hote" with four English gentlemen just returning from Rome, our first cover was soup compounded of every herb, then two kinds of fish and head, thin beef steak, then fowls, then a breadmeat pie, then a gooseberry pie, then Cherries, strawberries and grapes, figs and light kind of cake I know not what, making in the whole a pretty fair dinner. - Each tavern keeper has a licensed commissioner, in his house who goes with you for your trunks, and passports. I am still tormented about conflicting rights to carry me to Paris. - I will now walk out and examine the curiosities of this ancient town so renowned in antiquity for the battles for it between the English an French Kings. While we were eating dinner a French girl and two men played on an instrument of music and sung for us for which, we paid them at the end, an English penny each of us. Another woman carried a box around for us into which we threw what we pleased, for the voice and guitar, so ended the first dinner in France - I have not yet paid for it.

I visited the great and splendid church built by Edward 3rd for his English subjects. It is a grand church amazing large, and is full of the noble works of painters and sculptors. - The passion of the Savior is represented three or four times, and all the saints in the calendar have a niche - Our Savior's Mother is very conspicuous.

The old English Town-hall is still standing. But the two great walls which surround Calais, thirty or forty feet high, ten or twelve feet thick, and the tremendous mounds, would make one believe that giants, and many of them had been employed by the French for ages before that great King Edward the 3rd took it with an army of 60,000 men, and then only after two or three years siege and by starvation - Read some of the most interesting pages of English History as well as French, as connected with this event. - The sea retires every tide 1 1/2 miles at Calais and leaves the shores naked. - I walked around the parapet of the wall this evening, such as I am with the influenza, and I hope it is no more, but if I was at home I should be in my bed. - I have never found so hard work in my life as climbing, walking, gazing, and Lion-seeing is from day to day. It wears one where it is immoderately followed beyond all conception to one who has not tried. Everything begins to look different on crossing the channel. The people, their clothing, houses, furniture, but above all their stagecoaches, or diligences are no more like an English or American than a Jewsharp is like a salt cellar. - But I have neither leisure or inclination to descend into the particulars of variance. It would take volumes. The Cholera Morbus is all the talk in England; the King has issued a proclamation on the subject, and Parliament in the Commons or Lords, had it up every day last week in one shape or other to get information on the subject, and when I arrived in France, it was the first topic at our "table d'hote."

Europe seems destined to be visited by this awful scourge of Almighty God. I have made up my mind to visit France and return home, God permitting, and not for mere curiosity subject myself to be visited by this awful calamity. How much danger I am incurring I know not but have not heard of any cases in France, but it was said to be in London, when I left, the custom house officers last week burnt two ship loads of wool from the Baltic, which had been imported, without quarantine, and fined a Captain L500, for landing his passengers from same quarter without quarantine. It is said to have commenced in Hamburgh at a dreadful rate.

June 30th. I paid for porterage for provisional pass, dinner, breakfast, commissioner's fees and two beds, twenty francs; and feeling very sick paid 48 1/2 francs for myself and 38 1/2 francs for Joseph to Paris. The French diligence appears to be some contrivance of the dark ages, and has nothing to do with modern improvements; it is twice as heavy as a New York coach and has four distance apartments at four different rates. The coupee 53 francs three persons; the interieur containing six persons, 48 1/2; the rondeau carrying six; 43; up stairs four 38 1/2. It is drawn by eight French stallions, four abreast, and the postillion riding one horse and driving the others at about six miles an hour. It is 186 miles from Calais to Paris. At 9 A.M. I found myself agreeably situated, as sick as I was, with a gentleman who had travelled Europe over and over, and understood all the modern languages, on his way to Paris from London by the name of Robinson.

We went 24 miles to Boulougne. The first thing which strikes one in France with very rare exceptions. There is not a sign of a fine ditch or hedge or visible division of between fields; fields of wheat, oats, barley, beans, peas, Luzern vetches, all stand in common. Cattle and sheep while feeding have watchmen. The next thing which struck me was to see the poor women sunburnt at work on the farms, same as men. The next thing every few roads the diligence is surrounded by beggars in the most plaintive tones from old men and women and little children, begging you for the love of God to pity them the most miserable of beings, which I often did. France to her shame destroyed her monasteries, without supplying their place with any poor laws. The French people often I see, gave themselves, and consider the misery genuine. The next thing which struck me the whole way except in the great towns, was, the barns and houses seemed to be mud walls, while washed, growing out of the ground and thatched with straw. Every thing looked like the dark ages unvisited by any modern improvement.

The soil is a reddish or a chocolate loam generally from Calais to Paris, resting sometimes on clay, sometimes on chalk, but the northern section mostly on the latter. The driver of the diligence is buried almost in his boots. The harness of the horses is strange, they draw with ropes. France is a fine country for timber, it grows thrifty, and to double the height I saw it in England. Beech and Elm, and Lombardy poplar are very common. Limetrees here as well as in England are not seen. The crops are very good, especially wheat, but this is the best season for grain of all kinds which has been known in England or on the Continent for years. At the end of 24 miles we reach Boulougne, where Bonaparte encamped his army, when he intended to invade England, and built that noble monument near 200 feet high. The town is very strongly surrounded on some sides by lofty walls, ditches and other laborious military works. Many English have rented houses in this neighborhood, France being so much cheaper than England for the maintenance of a family.

It is on the whole a fine town. In the moment we stopped at Boulougne, Col. Jennings formerly of the British Army got into the Interieur, and went up to Paris with us and made an instructive and agreeable companion. At 6 P.M. we arrived at the town of Montvieue, a strongly fortified place on a hill, and had a French dinner for 3 1/2 francs, boiled duck, goose, turkey, beef, bread, wine, cherries, strawberries, and coffee and raisins. - At 11 P.M. we reached Abbe Ville, another fortified city celebrated for Blond Lace. Had coffee, bread and butter unsalted. I had to salt my butter as I went along. On leaving this place the postillion run the tongue of the diligence against the town wall, and broke it, and delayed us in the night an hour or two. - There was a Frenchman on board who is not worth probably over 100 francs a year, who paid his passage for himself and a lump of a bull-dog to come from Calais to Paris with this dog to fight dogs on a bet. He went up last fall, was unfortunate his dog having been killed in an instant. He thinks of going to England, and getting two or three bull dogs if this one gets whipped - such strange mortals are some of the French!! Between Montrieul and Abbeville, to the left of us, was pointed out the great battle field of Cressy, in which 30,000 Englishmen whipped 200,000 French. Between Abbeville and Paris are the scenes of many of Cesar's battles during the twelve years he spent in conquering the nations of France.