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CHAP. VI.] IN FRANCE. -69
the bleffings conferred upon the French, by their late political philosophy. . -. ' .
From this place I proceeded to the ci-devant convent of the Jesuits, built by one of the munisicent dukes de Bourbon. It is a magnisicent oblong stone building. In the centre of the court was • a tree of liberty, which, like almost all the other trees, dedicated to that goddess, which I saw, looked blighted, and sickly. I mention it as a fact, without alluding to any political sentiment whatever. It is a remark in frequent use in France, that the caps of liberty are without heads, and the trees ofliberty without root. The poplar has been selected from all the other trees of the forest, for this distinguished honor, from a whimsical synonymy of its name with that of the people. In French, the poplar is called peuplier and the word peuple signisies people. This sine building is now converted into an university of learning, and the sine arts. "From the the number of the students, I mould suppose the fashionable fervor of study had not as yet reached Rouen.
The professor of philosophy, with great politeness sent a young man to show me the museum of pictures, for which purpose the church of the Jesuits, is at present used. There are several paintings in it, the only sine one, was a dying Jesus by Vandyke, which was exquisite. Upon my expreffing my admiration, a young student near me said ** aui moasieur c'est tres jolie." This misapplied remark, front. an easy and natural combination of found, could not fail os seeming a little singular as applied to such a subject, but every thing that pleases in France is tree jolie. From this painting, I was, by importunity, led to view the other parts of the collection, which were composed of large pictures, by French masters ; and so natural is local prejudice, every where, that I was almost held down, before the works of the best artijls' of Rouen, upon which, as I am at liberty here, I shall beg,to make no comment.
In the students' room, below, were some paintings curious, and valuable only, from their great antiquity, and a few good copies by the pupils. A picture was pointed out to me as a very sine thing, the subject was a fatlittle cherub,with a full flowing wig, siddling to St. Francis, who from his gloomy appearance seemed not to possess half the musical genius of a dancing bear.
Upon my return through the market place, I beheld the miserable wretch, at whose trial I was present in the morning, led out to execution. He was seated upon the bottom of a cart, stripped above to his shirt, which was folded back, his arms were pinioned close behind, and his hair was closely cropped, to prevent the stroke of the fatal knife from being impeded. A priest was seated in a chair beside him. As the object of my eicursion was to contemplate the manners ot the people, I summoned resolution to view this. CHAP.VI.3 IN FRANCE. 71
gloomy and painful spectacla, which seemed to excite but little sensation in the market place, where fe petty traffic and concerns proceed with their accustomed activity, and the women at their stalls, which extended to the foot of the scaffold, appeared to be impressed only with the solicitude of selling their vegetables to the highest bidder. A small body of the riational guards, and a few boys and idlers surround- J ed the fatal spot. The guillotine, painted red, was placed upon a scaffold, of about sive feet high. As soon as the criminal ascends the upper step whish led to it he mounted, by the direction of the executioner, a little board, like a shutter, raised upright to receive him, to which he was strapped, turned down flat, and run into a small ring of iron half opened and made to admit the neck» the top part of which was then closed upon it, a black leather curtain was placed before the head, from which a valve depended, which communicated to a tub, placed under the scaffold to receive the blood, the executioner then touch-' ed a long thin iron rod, connected with the top of the instruments, and in a moment the axe descended, which was in the form of a square, cut diagonally, heavily charged with lead. The executioner and his 4 affistants placed the body in a shell, half silled with saw dust, which was almost completely stained ovqr with the brown blood of former executions; they then picked up the head, from a bag into'which ithadfallen, within the curtain, and having placed it in ^he
same gloomy depository, lowered the whole down to the sextons, who covering it with a pall bore it off to the place of burial.
The velocity of thi9 mode of execution can alone recommend it. The. pangs of death are passed al* most in the fame moment, which presents to the terrisied eye of the sufferer the frightful apparatus of his disgraceful dissolution. It is- a dreary; subject to discuss; but surely it is a matter of deep regret, that in England, criminals doomed to die, from the uncertain and lingering nature of their annihilation, are seen writhing in the convulsions of death during a period dreadful to think of. It is said, that at the late memorable execution of an African governor for murder, the miserable delinquent was beheld for fifteen mhiutei* struggling with the torments of his untimely fate ! The guillotine is far preferable to the savage mode, formerly used in France, of breaking the criminal on the wheel, and leaving him afterwards to perilh in the most poignant agonies,
Asl have alluded to the fate of governor. W— 1 will conclude this chapter by relating ad anecdote of the terror and infatuation of guilt, displayed in the ^conduct of this wretched man, in the presence of a friend of mine, from whom I received it;—A few years before he suffered, fatigued with life, and pursued by poverty, arid the frightful remembrance of his offences, then almost forgotten by the worldi he left the south <tf France for Calais, with an intention cf Chap. VI.] ut France." . Vi
pasting over to England, to offer himself up to its laws, not without the cherished hope that a lapse of twenty years had swept away all evidence os his guilt.
At the time of hisarrival at this port town, the hotel in which. Madame H . was waiting for a packet to Dover was very crowded—the landlord requested of her, that she would be pleased to permit two gentlemen, who were going to England, to take some refreshment in her room; these persons proved to be the unfortunate Brooks, a king's messenger, charged with important dispatches to his court, and governor W—. The latter was dressed like a decayed gentleman, and bore about him all the indications of his extreme condition. They had not been seated at the table long, before the latter informed the former, with evident marks of perturbation, that his name rwas W—, that having been charged in England with ossencesj which, if true, subjected him to heavy punishment, he was anxious to place himself at the disposal os itslaws, and requestSd of him, as lie was an English messenger, that he would consider him as his prisoner, and take charge os him.
The messenger, who was much surprised by the application told him, that he would not upon such a representation take him into custody, unless he had an order from the duke of Portland's office to that effect, and that in order to obtain it, it would be propG