Account of a Tour in Normandy, Volume 1 eBook

Dawson Turner
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 230 pages of information about Account of a Tour in Normandy, Volume 1.

[116] Histoire de la Haute Normandie, I. p. 94.

[117] Anglo-Norman Antiquities, p. 33. t. 3.

[118] Annals of the Coinage of Britain, I. p. 505-507.



(Rouen, June, 1818.)

The laws of France do not recognize monastic vows; but of late years, the clergy have made attempts to re-establish the communities which once characterized the Catholic church.  To a certain degree they have succeeded:  the spirit of religion is stronger than the law; and the spirit of contradiction, which teaches the subject to do whatever the law forbids, is stronger than either.  Hence, most towns in France contain establishments, which may be considered either as the embers of expiring monachism, or the sparks of its reviving flame.  Rouen has now a convent of Ursulines, who undertake the education of young females.  The house is spacious; and for its neatness, as well as for the appearance of regularity and propriety, cannot be surpassed.  On this account, it is often visited by strangers.  The present lady-abbess, Dame Cousin, would do honor to the most flourishing days of the hierarchy:  when she walks into the chapel, Saint Ethelburgha herself could not have carried the crozier with greater state; and, though she is somewhat short and somewhat thick, her pupils are all wonderfully edified by her dignity.  She has upwards of dozen English heretics under her care; but she will not compromise her conscience by allowing them to attend the Protestant service.  There are also about ninety French scholars, and the inborn antipathy between them and the insulaires, will sometimes evince itself.  Amongst other specimens of girlish spite, the French fair-ones have divided the English damsels into two genera.  Those who look plump and good-humored, they call Mesdemoiselles Rosbifs; whilst such as are thin and graver acquire the appellation of the Mesdemoiselles Goddams, a name by which we have been known in France, at least five centuries ago.—­This story is not trivial, for it bespeaks the national feeling; and, although you may not care much about it, yet I am sure, that five centuries hence, it will be considered as of infinite importance by the antiquaries who are now babes unborn.  The Ursulines and soeurs d’Ernemon, or de la Charite, who nurse the sick, are the only two orders which are now protected by government.  They were even encouraged under the reign of Napoleon, who placed them under the care of his august parent, Madame Mere.—­There are other sisterhoods at Rouen, though in small numbers, and not publickly patronized.

Nuns are thus increasing and multiplying, but monks and friars are looked upon with a more jealous eye; and I have not heard that any such communities have been allowed to re-assemble within the limits of the duchy, once so distinguished for their opulence, and, perhaps, for their piety and learning.

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