[Illustration: Head-Dress of Females, at Caen]
The grand cours at Caen is almost as fine a promenade as that at Rouen. On Sunday evening it was completely crowded. The scene was full of life and gaiety, and very varied. All the females of the lower rank, and many of the higher orders, were dressed in the costume of the country, which commonly consists of a scarlet gown and deep-blue apron, or vice versa. Their hair, which is usually powdered, is combed entirely back from every part of their faces, and tucked up behind. The snow-white cap which covers it is beautifully plaited, and has longer lappets than in the Pays de Caux. Mr. Cotman sketched the coiffure of the chamber-maid, at the Hotel d’Espagne, in grand costume, and I send his drawing to you.—The men dress like the English; but do not therefore fancy that you or I should have any chance of being mistaken for natives, even if we did not betray ourselves by our accent. Here, as every where else, our countrymen are infallibly known: their careless slouching gait is sure to mark them; and the police keep a watchful eye upon them. Caen is at present frequented by the English: those indeed, who, like the Virgilian steeds, “stare loco nesciunt,” seldom shew themselves in Lower Normandy; but above thirty British families have taken up their residence in this town: they have been induced to do so principally by the cheapness of living, and by the advantages held out for the education of their children. A friend of mine, who is of the number of temporary inhabitants, occupies the best house in the place, formerly the residence of the Duc d’Aumale; and for this, with the garden, and offices, and furniture of all kinds, except linen and plate, he pays only nine pounds a month. For a still larger house in the country, including an orchard and garden, containing three acres, well stocked with fruit-trees, he is asked sixty pounds from this time to Christmas. But, cheap as this appears, the expence of living at Coutances, or at Bayeux, or Valognes, is very much less.
Were I obliged to seek myself a residence beyond the limits of our own country, I never saw a place which I should prefer to Caen. I should not be tempted to look much farther before I said,
“Sis meae sedes utinam senectae:”—
The historical recollections that are called forth at almost every turn, would probably have some influence in determining my choice; the noble specimens of ancient architecture which happily remain, unscathed by wars and Calvinists and revolutions, might possibly have more; but the literary resources which the town affords, the pleasant society with which it abounds, and, above all, the amiable character of its inhabitants, would be my great attraction.—At present, indeed, we have not been here sufficiently long to say much upon the subject of society from our own experience; but the testimony we receive from all quarters is uniform in this point, and the civilities already shewn us, are of a nature to cause the most agreeable prepossessions. It is not our intention to be hurried at Caen; and I shall therefore reserve to my future letters any remarks upon its history and its antiquities. To a traveller who is desirous of information, the town is calculated to furnish abundant materials.