Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

is now used as a hay-store for the adjoining barracks. St. Julien is attached to the hotel of that name, and is used as a receptacle for diligences, and vehicles of all sorts; and a stranger, on entering Tours by one of the public conveyances in which the master of the hotel has an interest, is not a little surprised to find himself landed in the choir of a fine old church, celebrated for the miracles performed within its walls, as well as for having been the scene of occurrences of state and national importance during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. St. Cordelière, too, is now the theatre of the town; while St. Clement, that bijou of the fourteenth century, is in use as the corn market; and as we entered the beautiful portal on the north side of the edifice, we found the neighbouring farmers and grain dealers of Tours busy with their weekly traffic.

Perhaps an institution of more general interest is nowhere to be found than “ La Colonie de Mettray,” about five miles from Tours, for the reclaiming of juvenile offenders against the laws of their country. The hopeless consequences of the intercourse which, more or less, arises in prisons between culprits of an age open to the influence of discipline and moral culture, and those who are old and hardened in crime, has drawn the attention of the philanthropic in different parts of Europe, as well as those on the other side of the Atlantic; and much has been done in regard to classification, where space will allow of it, and by enforcing industrial habits. But it was reserved for M. Le Vicomte Brétagnères de Courteilles, whose fortune is happily more nearly on a level with his benevolence than is at all times the case, to originate the Colonie de Mettray, which promises to confer most important and beneficial consequences on mankind. Impressed with the conviction that the young, under the best system which could be devised, which admitted their intercourse with the older inmates of a common jail, could never be productive of extensive or lasting benefit, and with an acute perception of the bodily as well as mental constitution of man, he perceived the advantage to be derived by the application of such a systein of discipline and instruction to the young alone, as should have for its object the simultaneous cultivation of their physical and mental faculties, with the regeneration of their feelings and affections.

The difficulties attending the successful developement of his scheme would have discouraged a man of less enthusiasm that the Vicomte de Bretagnères; but, fortunately for the cause of humanity, his energy and talents enabled him to make its tendency and probable result known to those who had the power to aid him; and backing his benevolent proposals with most liberal pecuniary sacrifices, he offered to undertake the personal superintendence of the institution. Meitray is under the auspices of the Government, from which it receives a small allowance towards the support of each prisoner; and it receives donations and annual subscriptions from the members of the Royal family, and many of those whose names are most honoured in the country. And although the colony is still looked upon as an establishment of experiment, it has already been productive of results which leave little doubt of its becoming one of very great and permanent importance.

The number of boys, many of them mere children, at Mettray, does not exceed one hundred and fifty; and these have been, for various crimes, sentenced to long imprisonment. In some instances the punishment was to the galleys for life; or to the Colony of Mettray in the first instance, with instructions to its committee of administration to report the result of their treatment. One of these boys, almost a child, had taken the life of his own father ; but then it was made plain to the judge and the jury who tried him, that, devoid of moral as well as mental cultivation from his infancy, conscience had become dead within him, and, instigated by his other parent, he had done a deed-we believe by poisoning--the nature of which he probably neither felt nor understood.

The present object of the originator and the founders of the colony is to apply the principles of its constitution to a limited number of criminals; although Paris, Orleans, and one or two other towns, have each a house set apart in it for the reception of a limited number of offenders belonging to these towns, for which we understood an allowance is made out of their municipal funds.

The dress worn by the prisoners is a coarse blouse, breeches, and gaiters reaching to the knee, with wooden shoes, and a light cap. About twenty sleep in hammocks in the same apartment, in which is also an overseer; and here, too, the same prisoners have their meals the beds having been placed against the walls for the day, and narrow tables are made to fold against the roof-trees, except when in use. At the head of each hammock is a box containing a change of clothes for the boy who occupies it, with a hair-brush made of a species of dried grass, accessible to the poorest in France, and so simple in fabric that they might be, and probably are, made by the boys themselves. The apartments, although kept scrupulously clean by the prisoners, are as plain in every respect as those of a gaolmas is likewise the food. It has been considered advisable to accustom them to such fare as by honest and industrious habits they could easily improve when they are considered in a condition to have their liberty.

Every boy in the establishment has his choice of a trade, after he has been made to understand a little of each; and every exertion is made, by the tradesmen employed to instruct, to stimulate them to take an interest in their work, by noticing every step of improvement, and every instance of ingenuity or voluntary application. Their moral culture proceeds upon the same principle-by the approbation of what is good in their conduct—by creating in their minds a feeling of shame for having done wrong, and of gratification when their doings meet the approbation of those set over them. And simultaneously with this they are receiving instructions in reading, writing, and arithmetic. When sickness comes, they are visited by a surgeon attached to the colony, and the Sisters of Charity are ever at hand as tender purses, while the priests appointed to superintend their religious instruction are zealous in the discharge of their duties.

There is at present a neat little chapel, but a large and very pretty one is now in the course of building. The prison for the confinement of delinquents is so connected with it, that by opening the outer door of the cells, those within them may hear the service in the church, through the bars which confine them. But so severe a punishment as confinement is rarely necessary. By habits of regularity—their health

attended to-constant occupation at the trade they prefer— varied by labour in the adjoining fields, or in the large garden provided for their cultivation—their minds already perhaps under the influence of moral understanding and the truths of religion-they feel themselves in so changed and hopeful a state of existence, that, strict as the discipline and hard as the labour may be, they shrink from such offence as would force them to exchange it for that imprisonment which is now felt by them to be a disgrace as well a misery. Experience has already shown that the system pursued alters the nature, and wishes, and feelings of the young culprits in a manner which meets even the expectations of M. Brétagnères himself.

The colony is placed in a healthful situation, and every thing about it is kept in perfect order by the boys themselves, some of whom, masons and carpenters, were busy with an additional building on the occasion of our visit. Those who have a taste for it, bave instructions in music; while gymnastic exercises are regularly performed, as conducive to the bodily health of the culprits, which is thoroughly attended to. And thus, notwithstanding the severity of the discipline, the colony of Mettray wears no aspect of gloom.

M. le Compte de Bretagnères possesses a charming residence on his adjoining property, part of which be granted for the use of the colony; but we regretted to learn that his health had not been good lately. With M. Dumetz, his colleague, however, the chief administration of affairs is in able hands. Altogether we left Mettray highly gratified by having witnessed the illustration of so admirable a system of correctional discipline to those who without it were utterly lost; and we sincerely hope that the guardians of the social interests of this country will at all events watch attentively the future results of an institution, all-important from its object, which it has already given proofs to France of its power to attain.

Plessis-le-Tours, situated about a mile and a half from the town, is of historical interest from having been the residence of Louis the Eleventh, that strange compound of wit and wisdom with almost every quality that is base. He who by his policy advanced the interests of France, and secured success to her arms—and who, while omitting not the strictest observances of the Church of Rome, and endowing it with riches, did nevertheless at the same time cover himself with life charms in the constant fear of death, and created the Virgin Mary a Peeress of his kingdom, and a Colonel of the Guards! Plessisle-Tours was the scene of many of the atrocities of this ill-famed monarch, and Sir Walter Scott, by his Romance of Quentin Durward, has enhanced its local interest to the English who visit Tours.

There is now little of peculiarity in the appearance of the chateau, to prevent its being passed by unnoticed. Indeed, after inspection, all that appears as evidence of its being in part the remains of the old Castle, is a tower with its staircase ; and there are one or two apartments which may be, and probably are, to a certain extent, a part of the original building. That portion of the tower, in which at a later period the Dauphin, afterwards Charles the Eighth, is said to have been confined by his father, is evidently of recent construction; and the only reasonable conclusion that can be come to regarding it, is that it

may possibly occupy the precise site of the chamber for which it is shown. The only part of the castle remaining in good preservation, is the cell in which the Cardinal Balue was imprisoned, but there is a garden between it and the other portions of the structure, and the iron cage under the stair having been removed, the place is stripped of half its terrors. Here and there are observable pieces of what must have been its walls; but, except these, and what else we have referred to, there is nothing now remaining of the ancient fortress of Plessis-le-Tours.

But the imagination goes to work, and we soon raise to the mind's eye the principal gateway with its towers, and the inner court, and the chapel, and the moated walls of defence, as these are said to have existed 400 years ago.* And if the antiquarian enthusiast should find himself stumbling amidst the vine bushes in its vicinity, he may possibly be reminded of the pit-falls and instruments of death which were then concealed in these fields, and which rendered it necessary for the king himself to suggest to Quentin Durward the propriety of confining his steps to the narrow path which led from the chapel through the grounds on their way to the proffered breakfast at the Fleur de Lis!

Sir Walter Scott has, however, taken a full romancer's license in his beautiful and graphic description of the locality. The Cher is a pretty river enough, even at Plessis-le-Tours; but the surrounding country, though extremely productive, is flat, and nature having done nothing for the site to render it suitable for the castle, all that art did in the feudal times of Louis must have been nothing more than requisite to make it a place of sufficient strength and security.

The Féte de Dieu afforded us an opportunity of witnessing the procession of the Host through the principal streets of the town. These exhibitions are much less frequent now in France than formerly, and since the last revolution they have been altogether prohibited in the capital. We took our place in the Rue Royale and at the end of the Rue Colbert, in which position the eye embraced a considerable portion of the procession in the latter street, through which it extended towards St. Gatien for about a quarter of a mile. First came officers of the cathedral in uniform, then the little girls and young women who were members of the congregation, dressed in white muslin, with scarfs of the same material, worn so as gracefully to shade their faces. Several banners were carried by women in this part of the procession. “Sisters of Charity," too, there were in plenty; while the chanting, conducted by the professional singers attached to the church, fell pleasingly on the ear, and was occasionally varied by the excellent performance of the band of the 8th Hussars, who, for their souls' sake, had evidently practised the music with care. Then came banners with churchmen, and boys rearing for the church, with a posse of men belonging to the cathedral, who sang with good effect, the tone of the tenor and bass voices being of extraordinary depth. The accompaniment consisted of instruments somewhat resembling the trombone, or rather, we should say, these instruments took a part in the music chanted. The officiating churchmen of the day followed in their robes of gold, with hands folded; and after more music and more banners, the Vicar-General, who discharged the duties

• Louis XI., par Le Chre. Louyrette et le compte de Croy, &c.

of the vacant office of Archbishop, approached under a gaudy canopy with sturdy officials on either side, and preceded by a band of young men bearing censers, who ever and anon, on a signal received, threw these incense-vessels into the air—the flower-boys at the same time strewing the way with roses and other flowers. The lower parts of the houses through which the procession passed were hung with tapestry, the greater portion of which boasted more of an antiquity than beauty, Those who were not possessed of such decorations contented themselves with their ordinary carpets, and in some places we observed white sheets decorated with Aowers. There were military there to keep off the crowd; and as the Host passed, down went all the women and many of the men on their knees, while mothers hurrying past the guard laid their infants on the ground, that by the Host within the canopy passing over them, they might thereby receive restoration from sickness, or some other benefit, perchance they thought not what! Women came out of the houses as the procession passed, and strewed the ground with flowers; and the day being propitious, the windows and balconies as well as the streets were crowded with well-dressed people, and the whole performance may be said to have gone off with éclat. When the procession returned to the cathedral, the service was performed, which we had two years previously witnessed with greater pomp and far finer musical aid, in the church of St. Roche at Paris.

(To be continued.)

THE LOVER'S TITLE.
A Lover's woe thou ne'er canst feel,
A Lover's bliss thou canst not share,
Unless thou'st been condemned to bear
Those ills the lips can scarce reveal.
Say-art thou well content to grieve
Whole years for her who thinks not of thee,
Nor casts one kindly look upon thee,
Thy soul from sorrow to retrieve?
Say—canst thou sit beneath her eye,
See charms which e'en would shed a glow
On gathered heights of Alpine snow,
Speak not—but feel content to die?
Yet do all this-it does not prove
Thy title in the Court of Love.
Around, around her yielding waist
Another's arm must yet be placed,
Her eyes upon his eyes must turn,
Her lips upon his kisses burn;
And so her happiness it be,
Thou must not think of jealousy.
Then dying utter no complaint,
Thy blood and spirits waxing faint,
To let the vulgar bosom know
The cause that laid thee early low.
Lover, do this then wilt thou prove
Thy title in the Court of Love.

« AnteriorContinua »