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Récit par Bayle Saint John de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« We crowded into a cab to the station, and went by rail to Saint Germain. Richmond is beautiful, but is nothing to that place. The terrace, bordered on one side by forests, descends on the other to a sparkling reach of the Seine, overlooks a fertile expanse of country dotted with hamlets and woods, takes in the whole varied outlines of Paris, serrated by steeples and cathedral towers and domes, as well as the vast sweep of hills, where villages and palaces peep at every point between masses of verdure, from Argenteuil all round to Meudon. There is no place which the Parisians admire so much, or with such good reason. On Sunday, especially, train after train flies over the wooded country, up the slope (where atmospheric pressure takes the place of steam), and discharges an almost unceasing torrent of people under the red walls of the palace, where a proscribed Stuart had once leisure to repent the obstinate bigotry that forced him to make way for a Dutch prince adventurer.
The Parisian, however, cares nothing for historical associations. Besides, he has never heard what took place before ‘89 ; and if he had, what matters it to him in what room of what big house a discarded king of times gone by spent [p. 5] some gloomy hours ? Our countrymen are note quite so philosophical ; and I rarely go to Saint Germain without seeing some relative of my friend Cockney, or some solid North Briton, guide-book in hand, prowling about the gateway, and trying to look sentimental. There are still a few people who feel an interest in that gross family, and now and then we hear in society innocent young maidens warbling wretched ditties, that appeal to sentiments which they would be ashamed to understand. Why will mothers allow marriageable daughters to make that abominable « Charlie » the hero of their imaginations ?
« What is that great – ? » [the oath had no meaning in her mouth, and so it is unnecessary to repeat it.] « What is that large Englishman looking up into the air for ? » inquired Fifine.
« An English king has apartments there », observed Rose, to whom Guguste had been trying to impart some historical notions. The young man, being in a bookseller’s office, thought it necessary to exhibit his learning, and tried to correct her chronology ; but was interrupted by Fifine, who cried :
« It is no matter ; I don’t care a rush about him. Here is a dealer in macarons : the gentleman must treat us to some. »
Agricole looked a little annoyed, because he had [p. 6] been just telling me that, instead of educating himself, he had been trying to educate Fifine, and had boasted of his success. He admitted, however, that he could not impart to her any proper ideas of chronology, because she could neither believe in the past nor in the future, and could rarely be brought to refer even to the period of their own childhood, much less to the possibility that a time should come when she should cease to be. I believe that to humble, uneducated people, life is much longer than it is to us, who constantly overhaul the years that have gone by, and classify our doings and express them in general formula, and look a-head and analyse life, and reduce it to four or five great events.
I have forgotten to mention that it was fête-day at Saint Germain – to my horror and dismay, for I had been taken away quite unexpectedly. Early in spring the villages in the neighbourhood of Paris by turns begin to celebrate the festivals of their patron saints. In some out-of-the-way places we may still observe the presence of real hearty simplicity on these occasions. Dancing and donkey-races form the amusements. As a rule, however, the fêtes are only means of attracting people to spend money. They take place on Sundays, when all Parisiens indulge in a holiday. »

Saint John, Bayle

Récit par James Forbes de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« [p. 365] We proceeded from Marli to St. Germains, along the banks of the Seine, winding at the foot of the hills, which we ascended on approaching the town. It is situated on a lofty eminence, and, with its palace, which, when seen at a great distance, presents a grand and striking object ; but, on a nearer view, we found it a desolate and ruined pile. It once contained numerous apartments superbly furnished for the court of a voluptuous monarch, and was assigned by Louis XIV to James the Second when he had abdicated the English crown, and sought an asylum in a foreign country. Here this infatuated prince maintained [p. 366] the shadowy appearance of royalty, and after some fruitless attempts to recover his lost empire, closed his lamentable life.
The palace stands on a noble terrace, and its domain is connected with the extensive forest of St. Germain. The view from hence is the boast of France, and extends over a tract of country far as the eye can reach, finely varied, and watered by tle Seine in its circuitous course to Paris ; which crowns the whole. But I prefer the woody hills and more confined views from
St. Cloud.
At an hotel near the palace we partook of a cold déjeuné ; and then, entering the forest, proceeded near two miles through one of its boldest avenues to a ci-devant convent, now appropriated to a more useful college for the education of youth. Here we alighted about one o'clock, and passed the rest of the day with our interesting party. While dinner was preparing the master attended us through the different parts of the college ; [p. 367] the courts and gardens contribute to the health and exercise of the youth, the cloisters to their winter recreations, and the halls make excellent school-rooms : the cells of the monks are now neatly papered and fitted up for the elder students ; each of whom has a separate dormitory ; the younger sleep in a large airy apartment with one of the masters ; and the whole appears to be under a well regulated arrangement. We found the boys disposed in due order in the principal school, where two of the first class delivered orations in favour of the Abbé Sicard and his benevolent institution. »

Forbes, James

Récit par Francis Hall de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« [p. 211] St. Germain, a tall brick castle, surrounded by a fosse, has a venerable though gloomy aspect : the apartments are small, and for the most part unfurnished, exhibiting only the remnants of magnificence ; but it is not without a feeling of interest we pass through the chambers in which the exiled James spent the last years of his life : the silence and nakedness, both of the castle and town, are in unison with ideas of faded grandeur ; like the character of the fallen monarch, they look monastic, dark and unfortunate. A large town, half inhabited, seldom fails to give birth to melancholy : decay is in all circumstances abhorrent to our feelings, but especially the decay of human society. The principal Restaurateur still exhibits the sign of "The Prince of Wales" ; and feeble as is this record of royalty, it would be difficult to find in any other corner of the world so considerable a mark of respect to the exiled Stuarts. The superb terrace, which bounds the park towards the valley of the Seine, is justly admired [p. 212] for its extent of 7200 fett, and pleasing prospect over Paris and St. Denis. The park contains 8500 acres, and is still stocked with game, for the recreation of the royal family. »

Hall, Francis

Récit par Denis-Joseph-Claude Le Fèvre de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« [p. 37] Marly a subi le sort de Sceaux. La révolution a passé par là. Je n'aime pas à rencontrer les pas de cette mégère. J'en détourne les yeux, et je me dépêche d'arriver à Saint-Germain. Nous montons en humble fiacre cette belle voie terrassée qui fut faite pour des carosses à huit chevaux. Nous descendons à l'auberge de la veuve Fortin.
Nos chevaux essoufflés demandent l'écurie,
Et nous le déjeuner, On le sert, nous mangeons.
Il faut voir mes enfans dont la dent expédie
La côtelette mal rôtie,
Pain, cerises, biscuits, brioche, macarons !
Tandis que ces petits gloutons
Font à table ainsi leur partie,
[p. 38] Dans la chambre voisine une lubrique orgie
Nous régale de ses chansons.
C'étaient des acteurs, des actrices
Des boulevards, venus à Saint-Germain,
Qui s'ébattaient, chez la veuve Fortin,
Comme derrière les coulisses.
Quoique mes enfans ne fussent pas d'âge à deviner ces mystères, nous nous sommes empressés de nous éloigner de la scène où ils se passaient, en prenant le chemin du château.
Ce château, bâti en pierres et en briques, est d'une architecture féodale qui lui donne l'air d'une forteresse. Louis XIV, ami de la magnificence, devait s'y déplaire. On dit aussi que l'importunité de voir le lieu de sa sépulture, du séjour de sa grandeur, l'en dégoûta. Si cela est vrai, nous devons à une faiblesse la création de Versailles. C'est un grand effet de plus né d'une petite cause.
La terrasse, ouvrage de Le Nôtre, est magique. Armide n'eût pu en créer une plus belle pour intéresser la vue de Renaud. L’œil règne de là sur un empire qu'il semble avoir conquis, comme César, en se présentant. Si l’œil parlait, il pourrait dire aussi : veni, vidi, vici ; toute sa conquête se montre à lui comme dans une parade, la Seine, une infinité de villages, les hauteurs de Montmorency, ses vallées, les coteaux de Marly, des prairies, des bois, des champs cultivés, et mille maisons de plaisance qui s'élèvent du sein des hameaux, comme des aigrettes d'officiers au milieu d'un groupe de soldats.
[p. 39] Je prenais ma part de royauté, en dominant sur ce vaste espace, quand je fus accosté par un personnage que l'habitude de voir ce spectacle rendait moins attentif que moi. […]
[p. 44] J’avais entendu vanter la forêt de Saint-Germain, elle a surpassé l'idée que je m'en étais faite. Heureux qui, libre de soucis et d'affaires, peut y promener ses rêveries et son indépendance ! que ces allées sont vastes et belles ! que ces pelouses sont douces! Que ces pavillons de verdure sont richement étoffés! Si le labyrinthe de Crète eût ressemblé à cette forêt, Dédale eût aimé sa prison, et Thésée y serait resté avec Ariane.
Cette superbe population d'arbres, plus tranquille que celle des cités, a inspiré à Desmahis une jolie invocation au silence. Le silence l'a exaucé. Il habite sous ces grands et petits dômes de feuillage, et ne permet qu'aux oiseaux de l'interrompre.
En parcourant la forêt dans tous les sens, je n'ai pu passer devant le Val, château du prince de
Beauveau, sans rendre un petit hommage tacite à un hôte aimable que ce château recevait souvent.
Au plaisir, au bon ton fidèle,
C'est dans sa prose et ses couplets
Le plus léger, le plus piquant modèle
[p. 45] Des grâces de l'esprit français.
Voltaire aimait sa muse familière,
Comme un phosphore, un feu follet,
Qui toujours surprend, toujours plait
Par les jets vifs de sa lumière.
Qui ne sait ces vers délicats
Façonnés dans un style honnête
Sur un objet qui ne l’est pas.
Et dont il fit conquête sur conquête ?
Vous rappeler ici ces diamans de vers
Si finement taillés, c'est vous nommer Boufflers.
La promenade donne de l'appétit. Le dîner nous rappelle à l'auberge. Nous repassons devant le château, que je regarde encore. Je serais resté plus long-temps à considérer ce vieux monument, bâti par Louis IV et rajeuni par Henri IV et Louis XIV, si ma compagnie n'eût pas été plus pressée de se mettre à table que de rester en contemplation devant des pierres. Le dernier roi qu'elles ont logé est celui que son gendre avait supplanté à Londres.
Du néant des grandeurs témoignage éclatant,
Ce fut là que Stuart, déchu du diadème,
Sans pompe, sans armée, et réduit à lui-même,
Ne pouvant vivre en roi, vécut en pénitent.
Une grande infortune attendrit toujours l'âme.
Qui sait s'y résigner doit être exempt de blâme.
Cependant, malgré moi, je reste confondu,
Qu’un prince qui porta le sceptre d'Angleterre,
Lorsque ce sceptre fut perdu,
Ait cru le remplacer en prenant un rosaire.
[p. 46] Ce prince passait pour brave, autant qu'il avait été voluptueux dans la cour de délices de son frère Charles II. Mais il y a de ces adversités qui écrasent tous les ressorts ; et quand, tombé de la sphère des grandeurs factices, la foi vous montre une religion qui vous tend une main pour vous relever, et vous fait voir de l'autre, comme refuge certain, une sphère bien plus éblouissante que celle que vous avez quittée ; quand elle vous promet, en échange de la dignité périssable de roi de la terre, la qualité éternelle de citoyen de la république céleste , il n'est pas extraordinaire que, pénétré de la vérité de cette promesse, on se livre à l'abnégation dont Jacques Stuart a donné l'exemple.
Vous aimez, mon ami, que l'on passe du sérieux à l'enjouement. Je quitte donc le château de Saint-Germain pour l'auberge, et le ton de la complainte pour celui de convive. »

Le Fèvre, Denis-Joseph-Claude

Commentaires par un Anglais sur le château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« [p. 113] The castle of St. Germain en Laye is curious in the eye of an Englishman, because it was the residence of James the Seconde, and his Court, after his abdication. The situation is very fine, and puts you in mind of Windsor ; the Mall and the Bowling-green, which you find here, were both, I imagine, designed to amuse the last unhappy royal visitor ; the great terrace is considerably more than a mile long, and about eighty of ninety feet wide : you have a distant view of Paris on the side of the river from the castle which the King gave to the Comte d’Artois, who had sold it.
[p. 114] Is it a pleasant excursion to this place by the post ; you must set out early in the morning, and return late, to have the whole day at your disposabl, which is not too much for the object in view. As the Thuilleries are at this moment shut ut, even to the passage of the Deputiers, when you return to town, the coolest place to drive to in an evening, is the Palais Roial, where you are sure to find a seat. »

Récit par John Gustavus Lemaistre de son passage à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« In returning to Paris, we took the road of St. Germain. The old castle still remains ; but its outward appearance was so gloomy, that we felt no inclination to visit the interiour. If the french monarch intended to pay a compliment to the pretender, in giving him a palace as nearly as possible resembling St. Jame’s, his choice was admirable. The view from the terrace is pretty, but by no means either as extensive, nor as rich, as I expected from its celebrity. »

Lemaistre, John Gustavus