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A Little Tour In France - Chapter 40 Post by :DaveH77 Category :Nonfictions Author :Henry James Date :May 2012 Read :1335

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A Little Tour In France - Chapter 40


It was very well that my little tour was to terminate at Dijon; for I found, rather to my chagrin, that there was not a great deal, from the pictorial point of view, to be done with Dijon. It was no great matter, for I held my proposition to have been by this time abundantly demonstrated, - the proposition with which I started: that if Paris is France, France is by no means Paris. If Dijon was a good deal of a disappointment, I felt, therefore, that I could afford it. It was time for me to reflect, also, that for my disappointments, as a general thing, I had only myself to thank. They had too often been the consequence of arbitrary preconceptions, produced by influences of which I had lost the trace. At any rate, I will say plumply that the ancient capital of Burgundy is wanting in character; it is not up to the mark. It is old and narrow and crooked, and it has been left pretty well to itself: but it is not high and overhanging; it is not, to the eye, what the Burgundian capital should be. It has some tortuous vistas, some mossy roofs, some bulging fronts, some gray-faced hotels, which look as if in former centuries - in the last, for instance, during the time of that delightful President de Brosses, whose Letters from Italy throw an interesting side-light on Dijon - they had witnessed a considerable amount of good living. But there is nothing else. I speak as a man who for some reason which he doesn't remember now, did not pay a visit to the celebrated Puits de Moise, an ancient cistern, embellished with a sculptured figure of the Hebrew lawgiver.

The ancient palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, long since converted into an hotel de ville, presents to a wide, clean court, paved with washed-looking stones, and to a small semicircular _place_, opposite, which looks as if it had tried to be symmetrical and had failed, a facade and two wings, characterized by the stiffness, but not by the grand air, of the early part of the eighteenth century. It contains, however, a large and rich museum, - a museum really worthy of a capital. The gem of this exhibition is the great banqueting-hall of the old palace, one of the few features of the place that has not been essentially altered. Of great height, roofed with the old beams and cornices, it contains, filling one end, a colossal Gothic chimney-piece, with a fireplace large enough to roast, not an ox, but a herd of oxen. In the middle of this striking hall, the walls of which. are covered with objects more or less precious, have been placed the tombs of Philippele-Hardi and Jean-sans-Peur. These monuments, very splendid in their general effect, have a limited interest. The limitation comes from the fact that we see them to-day in a transplanted and mutilated condition. Placed originally in a church which has disappeared from the face of the earth, demolished and dispersed at the Revolution, they have been reconstructed and restored out of fragments recovered and pieced together. The piecing his been beautifully done; it is covered with gilt and with brilliant paint; the whole result is most artistic. But the spell of the old mortuary figures is broken, and it will never work again. Meanwhile the monuments are immensely decorative.

I think the thing that pleased me best at Dijon was the little old Parc, a charming public garden, about a mile from the town, to which I walked by a long, straight autumnal avenue. It is a _jardin francais of the last century, - a dear old place, with little blue-green perspectives and alleys and _rondpoints_, in which everything balances. I went there late in the afternoon, without meeting a creature, though I had hoped I should meet the President de Brosses. At the end of it was a little river that looked like a canal, and on the further bank was an old-fashioned villa, close to the water, with a little French garden of its own. On the hither side was a bench, on which I seated myself, lingering a good while; for this was just the sort of place I like. It was the furthermost point of my little tour. I thought that over, as I sat there, on the eve of taking the express to Paris; and as the light faded in the Parc the vision of some of the things I had seen became more distinct.

Henry James's Book: Little Tour In France

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