« [p. 57] We next arrived at a bridge which is peculiarly interesting from the situation in which it is placed. To the right appears an extensive succession of forest-scenery, diversified with chateaus, all built of stone, which, at a distance, assume the appearance of rocks, while the Seine beautifully meanders through an adjacent valley. To the left appears an expanded plain, with the river, which continually catches the eye, reflecting the beams of an unclouded sun, whilst a great number of towns, some of them of considerable magnitude, appear in front. The most prominent feature, however, is the forest of St. Germain, famous for the amusements of the chase which it afforded the kings of France, while that country could boast of kings. This celebrated forest is cut into rides, or green allées, three miles in length. The ground is too flat to give an air of grandeur to the scenery; but, speaking as a sportsman, that circumstance contributes to its real excellence, as the flatter the [p. 58] country the better for the chase. The First Consul has lately taken this forest under his special protection, and, as the game, which was almost extirpated during the revolution, is now replenishing, it will probably soon resume its ancient celebrity.
We arrived at St. Germain about five o’clock, and found the town, which is four leagues from Paris, superior to any we had hitherto seen in France, being entirely built of white stone. We dined at a beautiful inn called the Grand Cerf, and were glad to retire early to rest. This place is particularly worthy the notice of strangers, as having been the birth-place of Louis XIV and the residence of James II after his abdication of the throne of England.
The morning proving fine, we took an early breakfast, that we might have leisure to visit those places worthy of inspection. The palace is a grand pile of building, but, being converted into barracks, it is now considerably out of repair, although there are still many vestiges of its pristine magnificence. Most of the windows are broken, and the words Liberty and Equality are written every where on the walls, on those very walls which once formed the habitation of despotic power. How the Goddess of Liberty likes her present residence in France, I have not leisure to examine. England, you know, she has long made the place of her favourite sejour, but if our Gallic neighbours have not decoyed her away, they have, at least, set up her representative.
I must not omit mentioning the terrace, which commands a most sublime prospect; nor could I avoid recalling to my recollection the late unfortunate inhabitants of the sumptuous palace. The contemplation was unpleasant, and my spirits became still more depressed by a short conversation which took place between myself and our grey-headed conductor. He gave us to understand, that the remembrance of their decapitated master still reigned in the hearts of the inhabitants. He also [p. 59] complained much of the existing government, in consequence of which (though naturally averse to argue any point with persons of his description) I requested to know his reasons for thinking as he did? He replied, that bread was so dear. “But, my worthy citizen”, said I, “can the First Consul command the seasons?” “Monsieur”, said the old man, while the tears trickled down his cheeks, “Vous avez raison, je vois que j’ai eu tort”. I gave him a trifling present, and we parted, probably never to meet again.
I must observe, that the chief consul has hunted four or five times at St. Germain. But, as the stags are yet very scarce, he comes privately, and amuses himself, attended only by four of five general officers. He always rides very hard, and is particularly fond of horses. »