The appearance of bustle and activity is a striking, at the same time that it is a most pleasing, character, of every great and commercial sea-port, in every part of the world: it is especially so in a climate which is milder than our own, and where not only the loading and unloading of the ships, with the consequent transport of merchandize, is continually taking place before the spectator; but the sides of the shops are commonly set open, sail-makers are pursuing their business in rows in the streets, and almost every handicraft and occupation is carried on in the open air. An acute traveller might also conjecture that the mildness of the atmosphere is comfortable and congenial to the parrots, perroquets, and monkeys, which are brought over as pets and companions by the sailors. Great numbers of these exotic birds and brutes are to be seen at the windows, and they almost give to the town of Havre the appearance of a tropical settlement.
The quays are strongly edged and faced with granite: the streets, of which there are forty, are all built in straight lines, and chiefly at right angles with each other. In them are several fountains, round which picturesque groups of women are continually collected, employed with Homeric industry in the task of washing linen. The churches are ugly, their style is a miserable caricature of Roman architecture, the interiors are incumbered by dirty and dark chapels, filled up with wood carvings. The principal church has figures of saints, of wretched execution, but of the size of life, ranged round the interior. The harbor is calculated to contain three hundred vessels. The houses are oddly constructed: they are very narrow, and very lofty, being commonly seven stories high, and they are mostly fronted with stripes of tiled slate, and intermediate ones of mortar, so fantastically disposed, that two are rarely seen alike.
Notwithstanding what is alledged by the author of the Memoires sur Havre, in his endeavors to give consequence to his native place, by maintaining its antiquity, it appears certain that no mention is made of the town previously to the fifteenth century. Even so late as 1509, its scite was occupied by a few hovels, clustered round a thatched chapel, under the protection of Notre Dame de Grace, from whom the place derived the name of Havre de Grace. Francis Ist, who was the real founder of Havre, was desirous of changing this name to Francoisville or Franciscopole. But the will of a sovereign, as Goube very justly observes, most commonly dies with him: in our days, the National Convention, aided by the full force of popular enthusiasm, has equally failed in a similar attempt. The jacobins tried in vain to banish the recollections of good St. Denis, by unchristening his vill under the appellation of Franciade. Disobedience to the edict, exposed, indeed, the contravener to the chance of experiencing the martyrdom of the bishop; yet the mandate still produced no effect. Nor was Napoleon more successful; and history affords abundant proof, that it is more easy to build a city, or even to conquer a kingdom, than to alter an established name.