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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 14
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    I am shocked at finding, just after this noble de-
    claration of principles that in a little note-book which
    at that time I carried about with me, the celebrated
    city of Angers is denominated a "sell." I reproduce
    this vulgar term with the greatest hesitation, and only
    because it brings me more quickly to my point. This
    point is that Angers belongs to the disagreeable class
    of old towns that have been, as the English say, "done
    up." Not the oldness, but the newness, of the place
    is what strikes the sentimental tourist to-day, as he
    wanders with irritation along second-rate boulevards,
    looking vaguely about him for absent gables. "Black
    Angers," in short, is a victim of modern improvements,
    and quite unworthy of its admirable name, - a name
    which, like that of Le Mans, had always had, to my
    eyes, a highly picturesque value. It looks particularly
    well on the Shakspearean page (in "King John"), where
    we imagine it uttered (though such would not have
    been the utterance of the period) with a fine old in-
    sular accent. Angers figures with importance in early
    English history: it was the capital city of the Plantagenet
    race, home of that Geoffrey of Anjou who married, as
    second husband, the Empress Maud, daughter of
    Henry I. and competitor of Stephen, and became father
    of Henry II., first of the Plantagenet kings, born, as we
    have seen, at Le Mans. The facts create a natural
    presumption that Angers will look historic; I turned
    them over in my mind as I travelled in the train from
    Le Mans, through a country that was really pretty, and
    looked more like the usual English than like the usual
    French scenery, with its fields cut up by hedges and
    a considerable rotundity in its trees. On my way
    from the station to the hotel, however, it became plain
    that I should lack a good pretext for passing that night
    at the Cheval Blanc; I foresaw that I should have con-
    tented myself before th e end of the day. I remained
    at the White Horse only long enough to discover that
    it was an exceptionally good provincial inn, one of the
    best that I encountered during six weeks spent in
    these establishments.

    "Stupidly and vulgarly rnodernized," - that is an-
    other phrase from my note-book, and note-books are
    not obliged to be reasonable. "There are some narrow
    and tortuous-streets, with a few curious old houses," - I
    continue to quote; "there is a castle, of which the ex-
    terior is most extraordinary, and there is a cathedral
    of moderate interest. It is fair to say that the
    Chateau d'Angers is by itself worth a pilgrimage; the
    only drawback is that you have seen it in a quarter of
    an hour. You cannot do more than look at it, and
    one good look does your business. It has no beauty,
    no grace, no detail, nothing that charms or detains
    you; it is simply very old and very big, - so big and
    so old that this simple impression is enough, and it
    takes its place in your recollections as a perfect specimen
    of a superannuated stronghold. It stands at one end
    of the town, surrounded by a huge, deep moat, which
    originally contained the waters of the Maine, now
    divided from it by a quay. The water-front of Angers
    is poor, - wanting in color and in movement; and there
    is always an effect of perversity in a town lying near a
    great river and, yet not upon it. The Loire is a few
    miles off; but Angers contents itself with a meagre
    affluent of that stream. The effect was naturally much
    better when the huge, dark mass of the castle, with its
    seventeen prodigious towers, rose out of the protecting
    flood. These towers are of tremendous girth and soli-
    dity; they are encircled with great bands, or hoops, of
    white stone, and are much enlarged at the base.
    Between them hang vast curtains of infinitely old-look-
    ing masonry, apparently a dense conglomeration of
    slate, the material of which the town was originally
    built (thanks to rich quarries in the neighborhood),
    and to which it owed its appellation of the Black.
    There are no windows, no apertures, and to-day no
    battlements nor roofs. These accessories were removed
    by Henry III., so that, in spite of its grimness and
    blackness, the place has not even the interest of look-
    ing like a prison; it being, as I supposed, the essence
    of a prison not to be open to the sky. The only
    features of the enormous structure are the black, sombre
    stretches and protrusions of wall, the effect of which,
    on so large a scale, is strange and striking. Begun by
    Philip Augustus, and terminated by St. Louis, the
    Chateau d'Angers has of course a great deal of history.
    The luckless Fouquet, the extravagant minister of
    finance of Louis XIV., whose fall from the heights of
    grandeur was so sudden and complete, was confined
    here in 1661, just after his arrest, which had taken
    place at Nantes. Here, also, Huguenots and Vendeans
    have suffered effective captivity.

    I walked round the parapet which protects the
    outer edge of the moat (it is all up hill, and the moat
    deepens and deepens), till I came to the entrance
    which faces the town, and which is as bare and
    strong as the rest. The concierge took me into the
    court; but there was nothing to see. The place is
    used as a magazine of ammunition, and the yard con-
    tains a multitude of ugly buildings. The only thing
    to do is to walk round the bastions for the view; but
    at the moment of my visit the weather was thick, and
    the bastions began and ended with themselves. So I
    came out and took another look at the big, black ex-
    terior, buttressed with white-ribbed towers, and per-
    ceived that a desperate sketcher might extract a
    picture from it, especially if he were to bring in, as
    they say, the little black bronze statue of the good
    King Rene (a weak production of David d'Angers),
    which, standing within sight, ornaments the melancholy
    faubourg. He would do much better, however, with
    the very striking old timbered house (I suppose of the
    fifteenth century) which is called the Maison d'Adam,
    and is easily the first specimen at Angers of the
    domestic architecture of the past. This admirable
    house, in the centre of the town, gabled, elaborately
    timbered, and much restored, is a really imposing
    monument. The basement is occupied by a linen-
    draper, who flourishes under the auspicious sign of
    the Mere de Famille; and above his shop the tall
    front rises in five overhanging stories. As the house
    occupies the angle of a little _place_, this front is double,
    and the black beams and wooden supports, displayed
    over a large surface and carved and interlaced, have
    a high picturesqueness. The Maison d'Adam is quite
    in the grand style, and I am sorry to say I failed to
    learn what history attaches to its name. If I spoke just
    above of the cathedral as "moderate," I suppose I
    should beg its pardon; for this serious charge was
    probably prompted by the fact that it consists only of
    a nave, without side aisles. A little reflection now
    convinces me that such a form is a distinction; and,
    indeed, I find it mentioned, rather inconsistently, in
    my note-book, a little further on, as "extremely simple
    and grand." The nave is spoken of in the same
    volume as "big, serious, and Gothic," though the choir
    and transepts are noted as very shallow. But it is not
    denied that the air of the whole thing is original and
    striking; and it would therefore appear, after all, that
    the cathedral of Angers, built during the twelfth and
    thirteenth centuries, is a sufficiently honorable church;
    the more that its high west front, adorned with a very
    primitive Gothic portal, supports two elegant tapering
    spires, between which, unfortunately, an ugly modern
    pavilion has been inserted.

    I remember nothing else at Angers but the curious
    old Cafe Serin, where, after I had had my dinner at
    the inn, I went and waited for the train which, at nine
    o'clock in the evening, was to convey me, in a couple
    of hours, to Nantes, - an establishment remarkable for
    its great size and its air of tarnished splendor, its
    brown gilding and smoky frescos, as also for the fact
    that it was hidden away on the second floor of an un-
    assuming house in an unilluminated street. It hardly
    seemed a place where you would drop in; but when
    once you had found it, it presented itself, with the
    cathedral, the castle, and the Maison d'Adam, as one
    of the historical monuments of Angers.
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