Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXVIII, 4

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXVIII, chapter 4
Neuchâtel in Switzerland



I began the battles of my newly-established opposition immediately after my downfall; but they were interrupted by the death of Louis XVIII, and were not actively resumed until after Charles X’s coronation. In July, I re-joined Madame de Chateaubriand at Neuchâtel, she having gone there to await me. She had rented a cottage by the lake-shore. Before us, the Alpine chain stretched north and south to a great distance: we had our backs to the Jura, whose slopes black with fir-trees rose steeply above our heads. The lake was deserted; a wooden gallery served me for exercise. I recalled Milord Maréchal. When I climbed to the heights of the Jura, I could see Lake Biel to whose waves and breezes Jean-Jacques Rousseau owed one of his happiest inspirations. Madame de Chateaubriand was off to visit Fribourg and a country-house which we had been told was charming, but which she found chilly, even though it was nicknamed Little Provence. A thin black cat, half-wild, which caught little fish by dipping its paw into a large bucket filled with lake-water, was my only distraction. A tranquil old woman, who was always knitting, prepared our banquets on an earthenware stove, without moving from her chair. I had not lost the habit of eating like a field-mouse.

Neuchâtel has known moments of importance; it belonged to the Duchesse de Nemours; Jean-Jacques Rousseau walked, dressed as an Armenian, on its heights, and Madame de Charrière, so delicately observed by Monsieur de Saint-Beuve, described its society in her Lettres neuchâteloises: though Juliane, Mademoiselle de La Prise, and Henri Meyer, were not there; I only saw poor Fauche-Borel, out of the émigré past: he later threw himself from a window. Monsieur Pourtalès’ tidy gardens charmed me no more than did a rock from England erected by human hand in a neighbouring vineyard facing the Jura. Berthier, the last Prince of Neuchâtel, thanks to Bonaparte, was forgotten despite his little Simplon in the Val de Travers, and even though he shattered his skull in the same manner as Fauche-Borel.