We were much disappointed by the church of Gisors; in the illustration of the details of which, Millin is very diffuse. The building is of considerable magnitude; its proportions are not unpleasing, and it contains much elaborate sculpture; but the labor has been ill bestowed, having been lavished without any attention to consistency. It is throughout a jumble of Roman and Gothic, except that the exterior of the north transept is wholly Gothic. Some of the little figures which decorate it are very gracefully carved, especially in the drapery. A pillar in the south aisle, entwined by spiral fillets, is of great singularity and beauty. The dolphin is introduced in each pannel, and the heraldic form of this fish harmonizes with the gentle curve of the field upon which it is sculptured. A crown of fleurs-de-lys surrounds the columns at mid-height. These symbols, as I believe I observed on a former occasion, are often employed as ornaments by the French architects. The church, which is dedicated to the twin saints, St. Gervais and St. Protais, is the work of different aeras, but principally of the latter half of the sixteenth century, a time when, as a Frenchman told me, “l’on commenca a batir dans le beau style Romain.”—The man who made the observation was of the lower order of society, one of the swinish multitude, who, in England, never dream about styles in architecture. I mention the circumstance, for the sake of pointing out the difference that exists in these matters between the two countries.
Here, every man, gentle or simple, educated or uneducated, thinks himself qualified and bound to deliver his opinion on objects connected with the fine arts; and though such opinions are of necessity commonly crude, and sometimes absurd, they, on the other hand, frequently display a degree of feeling, and occasionally of knowledge, that surprises you. It may be true indeed, as Dr. Johnson said, with some illiberality, of our brethren across the Tweed, that though “every man may have a mouthful, no one has a belly full;” but it still marks a degree of national refinement, that any attention whatever is bestowed upon such subjects. This smattering of knowledge, accompanied with the constant readiness to communicate it, is also agreeable to a stranger. Except in a few instances at Rouen, I never failed to find civility and attention among the French. To the ladies of our nation they are uniformly polite though occasionally their compliments may appear of somewhat a questionable complexion; as it happened to a female friend of mine to be told, while drawing the church of St, Ouen, “qu’elle avait de l’esprit comme quatre diables.”
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[Footnote 19: Histoire de la Haute Normandie, I, p. 18.]
[Footnote 20: Duchesne, Scriptores Normanni, p. 1046.]
[Footnote 21: Duchesne, Scriptores Normanni, p. 1129.]