Abandoning, for the present, all discussion of the themes of the elder day, I shall occupy myself with matters relating to the living world. The fatigued and hungry traveller, whose flesh is weaker than his spirit, is often too apt to think that his bed and his supper are of more immediate consequence than churches or castles. And to those who are in this predicament, there is a material improvement at Rouen, since I was last here: nothing could be worse than the inns of the year 1815; but four years of peace have effected a wonderful alteration, and nothing can now be better than the Hotel de Normandie, where we have fixed our quarters. Objection may, indeed, be made to its situation, as to that of every other hotel in the city; but this is of little moment in a town, where every house, whatever street or place it may front, opens into a court-yard, so that its views are confined to what passes within its own quadrangle; and, for excellence of accommodations, elegance of furniture, skill in cookery, civility of attendance, nay, even for what is more rare, neatness, our host, M. Trimolet, may challenge competition with almost any establishment in Europe. For the rent of the house, which is one of the most spacious in Rouen, he pays three thousand francs a year; and, as house-rent is one of the main standards of the value of the circulating medium, I will add, that our friend, M. Rondeau, for his, which is not only among the largest but among the most elegant and the best placed for business, pays but five hundred francs more. This, then, may be considered as the maximum at Rouen. Yet Rouen is far from being the place which should be selected by an Englishman, who retires to France for the purpose of economizing: living in general is scarcely one-fourth cheaper than in our own country. At Caen it is considerably more reasonable; on the banks of the Loire the expences of a family do not amount to one-half of the English cost; and still farther south a yet more sensible reduction takes place, the necessaries of life being cheaper by half than they are in Normandy, and house-rent by full four-fifths.
A foreigner can glean but little useful information respecting the actual state of a country through which he journeys with as much rapidity as I have done. And still less is he able to secern the truth from the falsehood, or to weigh the probabilities of conflicting testimony. I therefore originally intended to be silent on this subject. There is a story told, I believe, of Voltaire, at least it may be as well told of Voltaire as of any other wit, that, being once in company with a very talkative empty Frenchman, and a very glum and silent Englishman, he afterwards characterized them by saying, “l’un ne dit que des riens, et l’autre ne dit rien.” Fearing that my political and statistical observations, which in good truth are very slender, might be ranked but too truly in the former category, I had resolved to confine them to my own notebook. Yet we all take so much interest in the destinies of our ancient rival and enemy, (I wish I could add, our modern friend,) that, according to my usual habit, I changed my determination within a minute after I had formed it; for I yielded to the impression, that even my scanty contribution would not be wholly unacceptable to you.