« FöregåendeFortsätt »
distribution is exactly set forth in designs which my friend M. Henri Grenier has admirably drawn. But it is impossible by pen or pencil to describe a certain mysterious atmosphere pervading the place, whose charm all feel but none can define. It can only be said that upon entering within these walls, still haunted by the great spirits who once frequented or inhabited them, the stranger is overcome by a subtle influence, not the less potent because indefinable.
I remember perfectly my first pilgrimage to Lausanne. I had been attracted to Ouchy, on the Lake of Geneva, by its souvenirs of Byron, who there composed the ‘Prisoner of Chillon.' With his ' Life’ in my hand, I finally ascended to the City of Saints. The poet, however, could only tell me of his visit to Gibbon's habitation in 1816. He could report nothing of its present condition, nor even afford a clue to its situation. In fact, the slender hints of the guide-books, and a letter of Byron to John Murray, were my only counsellors. The latter, written from Ouchy, near Lausanne, June 7, 1816, says:
'I am thus far (kept by stress of weather) on my way back to Diodati (near Geneva) from a voyage in my boat round the lake ; and I enclose you a sprig of Gibbon's acacia, and some rose-leaves from his garden, which, with part of his house, I have just seen. You will find honourable mention, in his Life, made of this “ acacia,” when he walked out on the night of concluding his history. The garden and summer-house where he composed are neglected, and the last utterly decayed; but they still show it as his “ cabinet," and seem perfectly aware of his memory.
It appears that at the end of the wars of Napoleon, when the Continent was again thrown open to the English, countless pilgrims from the British Isles, among whom Byron was foremost, hastened to Lausanne to do homage to the memory of the great writer whose genius had grasped the innumerable social and governmental details of the gigantic Roman Empire from its inception to its fall.
For nearly a generation the pilgrimage of visitors to this historic shrine was continuous. A member of the family who inhabited La Grotte from 1802 to 1831–Madame d'Apples de Molin, now  in her eightieth year-described for me this interminable procession with the delicate fancy and humour usually belonging to youth.
At the beginning of this period Gibbon's pavilion was still intact. But, as every English visitor cut away a portion, the historian's sanctum gradually disappeared from Lausanne, and was distributed in fragments throughout Great Britain. The family De Molin de Montagny, owners of the property, strove to moderate this archæological enthusiasm, and save the remains. Bit by bit they renewed the structure, fighting against unrelenting attacks; but eventually, like the knife of Janot, or Rabelais' robe, not a morsel of the original was left. The real had given way to a copy; but even this was destined in its turn to fall before the insatiable tourist. Finding, in fact, that the thirst of travellers for these relics continued unabated, the family, in utter despair, allowed the last remnant of the reerected structure to take its flight beneath the cloak of a particularly greedy sightseer. A little later, the guides of parties to this spot began to point out the venerable Madame Grenier, if she chanced to be in the garden, as the widow of Gibbon—the bachelor who, had he been living, would have been old enough to be her grandfather!
Gradually this cult was forgotten, and the pilgrimages had long ceased when I first reached the city to whose fame Gibbon so largely added.
I have mentioned my comparative ignorance at the time of the historian's daily life and surroundings. I was indeed familiar with his great work, and had read his Memoirs in my thirteenth year; but time had swept the autobiographical details from my mind, though leaving me still under the vague spell of their shadowy forms. It was thus with but meagre aids that I first found my way to the Hôtel Gibbon, ignorant indeed, but ashamed of my ignorance-only to find there residents no better informed than myself.
I had reached Lausanne from Ouchy by the tramway, which compassed the ascent by machinery stationed in the former city and worked by water. To the left was Montbenon, with its line of tall trees, where in Jean Noir's cabaret the Bailiff of Lausanne arrested (November 17, 1705) many followers of Jean Cavalier, chief of the Cevenols, or Camisards.
Passing under the Grand Pont, I mounted the Rue Pepinet, and reached the Place of St. Francis. In a drawing-room of the Hôtel Gibbon I found a portrait of the great man after whom it is named, and a wretched cut done at Lausanne sixty years before, representing a small pavilion standing below a terrace, with a large house looking over the trees, to the right of the site now occupied by the caravansary. The proprietor of the hotel was absent, but the secretary informed me, in reply to my questions, that he believed Gibbon wrote the last volume of his
History' in the extreme left-hand corner at the bottom of the garden. My own researches, however, proved that Gibbon's pavilion occupied the upper and north-east corner, beneath the terrace on which the hotel stands.
At the bottom of the garden was a green summer-house of recent construction, and a want of faith took possession of me. The locality did not correspond to the engraving, and my inquiries were only commencing.
The hotel is an imposing edifice on an elevated plain, whence one descends by stone steps to pleasure grounds that roll in undulating lines to the wall at its southern extremity. A fountain throws up its bright spray, and trees, shrubs, green lawns, bright flowers, and tuneful birds, make a charming ensemble, especially enjoyable when from the terrace and its handsome embrasures the eye looks also on the city, the lake, and the surrounding mountains.
A secretary there at first said that Gibbon's house had been pulled down to make way for the establishment of a photographer. He made every possible effort to gratify my curiosity, but his ideas were so confused that I begged him to obtain further knowledge on the subject. After some reflection he left me, and, having repaired to different persons, said on his return: 'I believe that Mr. Gibbon resided at La Grotte, but I do not know the number.'
Calling a fiacre, I directed the coachman to La Grotte, and he drove me at a leisurely pace down the Rue du Petit Chêne. After some time, I ventured to inquire if we were not nearing our destination. “Excuse me, monsieur,' he replied, there are two places called La Grotte, one below and the other above. I don't know to which of the two you desire to go.'
“I wish to find the former residence of Mr. Gibbon, the historian.'
*Gibbon? Gibbon ?' he muttered in a lazy interrogative tone; I never heard of that name in this country, and I am sure there is no such gentleman or family in Lausanne.'
Truly, I thought, the memory of Gibbon is thoroughly effaced here, and in utter disgust I requested my sleepy Jehu to drive me back to the hotel.
Some time after the above incident a correspondent of • Notes and Queries' overheard the following between a guest at the hotel and his wife : “Whose portrait is that? ' asked the lady. "Gibbon, after whom the hotel is named.' But who was Gibbon ?' 'One of the English Royal Family!'
At length I found in the hotel one who said: 'I believe I know the house you are looking for,' and he conducted me to the residence of Madame Grenier.
My way became much smoother through the intelligence of Madame and M. Henri Grenier, but it still appears to me strange that so many difficulties and obstacles had to be surmounted before acquaintance was made with a spot which, less than half a century before, was a centre of world-wide attraction.
Since M. Constantin Grenier sold that part of the ancient property of La Grotte where the Hôtel Gibbon stands, efforts have been naturally made to attract attention to the hotel garden and its historical associations; and in this course the landlord has had the approval of the owners of La Grotte, who thus escaped the former horde of sightseers.
I shall never forget my feelings on finding myself in the house consecrated by the labours of Edward Gibbon.
From the first moment my interest was excited, my enthusiasm aroused; and my researches have since been prosecuted with a zealous pleasure which has known no interruption or satiety, but which has carried me far beyond the limits of my original intention.
La Grotte is  the property and the residence of the Grenier family, one of the most esteemed and eminent in Switzerland. The Greniers inherited the estate from Colonel George de Molin de Montagny, grandfather of the present repre