It is time to say goodbye to James Spittal and his adventures through parts of Europe in 1815! He has given us a fantastic insight into countries, cultures and battle weary landscapes which are impossible to witness in full today some 200 years later.
Here is his last entry in his amazing diary, when he is back in the United Kingdom and looking for one last adventure…
(transcription below images)
Next morning (23) went & viewed Dover Castle & all the fortifications. In the forenoon Bonaparte’s carriage was landed on the shore and the officer who brought it was kind enough show both inside & out to the public – it is the most complete thing of the kind I ever saw, containing every article in the interior for use, so that he could live in it in any country (when travelling) with every convenience. About 3 o’clock we saw also the Archdukes John and Louis of Austria & Switland [Switzerland], they were received by a Royal Salute from the Castle. At 4 o’clock set out for London & arrived at the London Coffeehouse at 8 next morning……..
We hope you have enjoyed this diary series, and come back to the site regularly to see what else is new in the archives!
[Next morning] from thence we passed through Bolougne [Boulogne] about 1 o’clock in the morning – while some of the passengers were regaling themselves with soup Mr G and I went & viewed Bolougne harbour which appears extremely capacious indeed. At 7 we arrived in Calais 20 Oct [this must be a mistake as he arrived on 21st] immediately ordered breakfast & while sitting down to it the alarm was given that the young gentleman who before had refused to come with us had been attempting to throw himself in the harbour – fortunately there was no water but he meant to die in the mud for on being observed by two sailors who jumped in he layed himself down to chock [secure himself] and it was with some difficulty they saved him – he was brought to the Inn. An awful spectacle he was put to bed and a surgeon sent for with whom he was left in charge – his name we found to be Robertson from Woolwich. At ½ past one we sailed from Calais – before embarking we saw Bonaparte’s carriage and 4 horses which carried him to Waterloo and which were taken from him during the engagement, embarking in the King’s packet for England as a present to the Prince of Wales. We arrived at Dover at 9 at night had rather a rough passage the sea running high and the vessel being quite small. I however stood it out till just before leaving the vessel became rather squeamish. We came on shore in a pilot boat & went to the Ship Inn where we slept.
The next place of consequence we came to was Abbeville about 12 o’clock. There is also a great cathedral in this city which we went & visited it is very extensive. There the devotees were at worship and candles burning in all quarters of the church – the images of our saviour and the Virgin Mary were very luminous. Arrived at Montreal [Montreuil] in the evening a place so strongly fortified as to be deemed impregnable. There one of our passengers a young gentleman [who appear to be] an English Officer returning to his relations a little out of his mind went into a public house from which he would not move until drawn out by main force, we got him into his seat & then went on. Arriving at this place we passed the field of Cresy [Crecy] where Edward the black Prince defeated the French and Bohemian troops & it was there the King of Bohemia fell and his helmet was presented to Edward in which there was a plume of 13 white feathers and the motto “Ich Dien” which he as Prince of Wales adapted and is still continued by his successors.
Set out thing morning as ten from Paris – passing through St Denis called for Capt. Thomson but did not find him at home. At the end of the town where the bridge had been blown down to prevent the approach of the allies in 1814 and where a temporary wooden bridge is erected in its stead – a wagon with charcoal passing, one of its wheels sunk into a rut and out of it it could not be removed for a half hour. In the mean time we were waiting and all the carriages, carts, wagons etc for a considerable extent were heaped together at both ends of the bridge. Betwixt Paris and St Denis a great battle was fought last year by the allies previous to their entry to the Capital. In consequence of this were entirely deserted and most of the garden walls were perforated where the Army had shot through, passing from thence the first great town we arrived as was Amiens at five in the morning. This City is famous for the Peace which was there ratified in 1802 – at this place there is an ancient & extensive cathedral – a guide was in attendance on the Coach at that early hour to show it. We walked to it although in the dark and saw it by candlelight.
We are nearing the end of James’ travels, but come back tomorrow to see where he visits on his route back towards the Channel…
Having appointed Leut. Alexander Henderson to breakfast with me and spend the day, I accordingly parted with Mr Gilchrist early in the morning – waited at the Hotel all day for Mr H – about 2 o’clock a message came by his servant that he could not come because of a Review which has just then been finished. The servant not wanting any answer but merely mentioned that Mr H would see me tomorrow. I had no alternative I was anxious to see Mr H and being then upon the wide world without an interpreter I resolved at once to hire a carriage which I did and set off immediately to Asniers to Mr H’s lodgings a distance of six miles – to my great mortification he was not at home, a brother officer just arrived who informed me he supposed Mr H had gone to Paris. I thought then of going to St Denis about three miles distant to see Capt. Jas. Thomson Dr Thomsons son but fearing Mr H had rode to Paris for the purpose of calling on me I returned instantly to inquire after him and before leaving his lodgings I left word with his neighbour officer that I was gone to my Hotel and that I would wait for him there till 6 or 7 o’clock at night and that I was to leave town in the morning for London. But Mr H never made his appearance nor no message from him again whatever consequently this day was completely lost which I regretted much as I still had reserved a great many things to see. Went to the theatre Vaudville about 7 but being so disappointed at losing the day I could not enjoy it therefore came home and went to bed.
Breakfasted early and set out to meet Mr & Mrs Paterson by appointment at the Catacombs – we could not however be admitted till near twelve o’clock – meantime returned to the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb which was open to public inspection on this day at 11. When admitted about ten of the pupils were in a small room for the purpose of exhibiting their lessons. They showed several specimens in writing on a large board subjects which occurred to themselves, and also what the master desired them to do. One of them was desired to read what was wrote which he did articulating pretty freely. Returning again to the Catacombs we were admitted in company with about fifteen persons, we had all wax tapers in our hands and descending by 80 steps a small winding stair we at last reached the bottom. These catacombs as they are called resemble exactly coal mines – running in all directions under ground for several miles. It is from thence the stone which built the city of Paris is taken and has been open about 800 years. What renders it at present a place of public notoriety is it being the receptacle of the bones of the dead – about 30 years ago the parliament of Paris resolved that all burials should take place in an enclosure in the fields and the church yards from that time have been done away with in the City. The bones therefore being dug up were sent from all quarters to be deposited in the quarry& being arranged in regular order & separate cells most uniformly & curiously interspersed in divisions it from that period was denominated the Catacombs. One pile contains upwards of two millions of sculls – there are two million four hundred thousand sculls in all besides great quantities sent in lying not yet arranged, and the rest are thigh and arm bones etc. In this very place there is a fountain or well with a gold fish in it and there is also a place like a small chapel with an alter at which devotees must have worshipped in the Early ages. From the catacombs we drove on to the Gobelin Tapestry – this is a Royal Manufacturer of Tapestry of the most superb description where we saw in progress webs of the most elegant and superb designs, every figure and every shade of colour the painter can exhibit on canvass is there produced on cloth to the most delicate tint. This certainly exceeded all the manufactories that ever I witnessed in splendour and magnificence. From thence we went to:
The Garden of Plants
This is also a Royal establishment there we saw plants of every description and beasts of various denominations from the Elephant down to the smaller animals – many fine Lions, Bears, Dromedary Camels etc etc. Returned to my hotel to meet Mr Dutaillie who was to meet me at two clock – being very wet the rain having continued for some time the coaches and cabualets were all engaged so that I had to walk a distance of about 2 miles in the rain without an umbrella and find the road home the best way I could. This day at five o’clock I went to a Restorateurs to dine by myself, the dinner consisted of a very nice beef steak, Potatoes, Salad, Bread, ½ bottle Burgundy, desert of grapes, Glass of Brandy: which cost 2 franks 8 sovs. equal to 2/ ste[rlin’g
Went afterwards to the Opera one of the most elegant theatres in Paris. I went in to the Pit and immediately opposite in the stage box sat Duke Wellington. It was by mere accident I discovered him having conversed with some English officers in a coffeehouse a few days before, they had informed me it was likely I should see him in some of the theatres, but that he was generally in plain cloths. Knowing that and being a little familiar with his countenance from seeing it so often in paintings I immediately recognised him in the midst of a parity. To be certain I put the question to a gentleman who was sitting by me who told me I was quite right. From that moment instead of the Opera my mind was quite engrossed in him. Reflecting on the man who first showed the way to Conquer and to baffle the hopes and expectations of Buonaparte – who had conquered every where he went in Portugal and Spain, who drove the French Armies from thence into the heart of their own territory and who was the means of restoring in 1814 power to bleeding Europe and America, who was Ambassador to the French Court on the recall of the Bourbons, who during the rebellion of the present year was appointed Generalissimo of the Allied troops – who in the field of Waterloo gave a death blow to the hopes and expectations of the Usurper and his adherents, and having been the means of once more placing the Bourbons on the throne of France remains as a triumphiant Victor with the Command of the Allied Armies in the Capital of that Kingdom.
Having obtained our passports from the Minister of Police, went and took our places in the coach for London for this Thursday morning following. Afterwards proceeded to the warehouses of some wholesale dealers in Laces and Cambries but did not purchase. Went also in search of handsome musical watches of which I purchased one for 25 Louis D’ors. Visited the national Institute celebrated for models of Architecture, Sculpture and painting, saw a great many models of Antient, Grecian and Roman Temples etc. In the evening made some small purchases and went to my hotel.
Tomorrow proves to be a very eventful day for James so make sure you come back to read all about it…
Went after breakfast to the palace of the Thuilleries, met no less than 9 persons we know most of them from Edinburgh- having procured orders we were admitted to the chapel at 12 o’clock, we stopt during mass and had an opportunity of seeing The King of France, Monsieur, Duke D’Angoleum & Duchess and Duke De Berry. Went afterwards to the Hall of Marshalls where Bonaparte had exhibited on the walls fine paintings of all his most esteemed Marshalls in their uniforms. There we saw Monsieur and all the Nobility and gentry pass from the Audience Chambers. The populace cheered the Royal family whenever they made their appearance. Leaving the palace went directly to the Place Vendome an elegant square in the centre of which stands a pillar near 250 feet high – having procured a Lanthorn [lantern] we went with a great number of people to the top – the interior of this immense pile is hollow and has a small winding stair in the centre, the number of steps 170, the exterior is all brass from the base upwards, the whole being cast out of the guns taken by Bonaparte representing all his great victories. A statue of himself was placed on the top but last year was taken down. We next went to the Place Royal saw a beautiful fountain discharging water there – then to the spot whereon the Bastile stood and where a large fountain is erecting, on the top of which an Elephant in Bronze is to be erected – the length of the elephant to be 45 feet, height including tower on his back 54 feet, breadth 30 feet. From thence proceeded and viewed the exterior of the Conergeree [Conciergerie Prison] where Marshall Hay is confined and La Force Prisons where Madam Lamball[e] was killed, and the spot whereon stood the prison of the Temple wherein Louis 16th was confined and which is now a market place. Went afterwards to see the Bull baiting menagerie where various animals were turned out to be torn by dogs, first a wolf, two pigs, Bear, an ass and a Bull. Walked all over the Boulevards and saw thousands of the people men, women & children of all descriptions enjoying themselves in Coffeehouses where feasting, Dancing, piping, drinking, acting of plays, Biliard, shows, and every thing that can be suggested to amuse & atract the populace were to be seen. In short Paris on Sunday both in the city round all the suburbs is exactly like a fair, only a few of the most respectable shops are shut and every thing to amuse is brought forward to view.
Went at 7 o’clock A.M. to breakfast with Lieut. Alexander Henderson who is stationed at Asniers with the 5th Division of the British Army – travelling towards this place I passed many thousands of the British and Brunswick troops who are there encamped. It is an interesting scene to observe the Allied Army in such a place, the fields were like towns, and markets were held there for all sorts of vivers. Returning to town we went to the office of Police to obtain our passports – having finished in that office we next had to proceed to Lord Stuart the British Ambassadors office – whose secretary countersigned them. We were next desired to go to the office of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs. This secretary was out of the way, we therefore left them to be returned to us next morning. This precaution was taken at this time in order to prevent delay when we intended to leave Paris, as it sometimes happens that people are detained two or three days on this very account.
That being so far settled we went immediately to the House of Representatives it was sitting but no strangers being admitted this day we left it with a view to return again. We next went to the Luxembourg where the Peers assemble. No person is admitted (i.e. strangers) when the house is sitting, but being up we were permitted to view the whole apartments which are certainly most superb.
The Gallery of Paintings is a grand spectacle indeed, containing many specimens of the most celebrated artist Reubens [Rubens].
From thence we went and viewed some musical watches, boxes and seals all of the most curious nature. After dinner went to the Theatre called Fede a most elegant house but not so much so as the two first houses in London.
Tomorrow James experiences the Elephant of the Bastille…
Set out in company with Mr Paterson and his party, breakfasted at St Claud, afterwards visited the palace. After that went and viewed the Royal Porcelain Manufacturer at St Sever – a most beautiful sight, proceeded on to Versailles where we went through the palace and gardens – but a more enchanting sight I never beheld = the interior of the palace is so exquisite and the gardens and fountains delightful in the extreme. Afterwards went to the palace of Malmaison the private residence of Bonaparte and his Empress Josephine and in which she died. In this palace there are many paintings & works of sculpture all of modern date. Our journey was 30 miles this day.
Come back tomorrow to find out about James’ visit to the Luxembourg Palace…