Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXIX, 11

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XXXIX, 10 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXIX, 12


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXIX, chapter 11
The Bretons and Venetians – Breakfast on the Riva degli Schiavoni – Mesdames at Trieste




Venice, September 1833.

On waking, I discovered why I love Venice so much: suddenly imagining I was in Brittany: the blood in me was roused. In Caesar’s day was there not a tribe of Venetians in Armorica, civitas Venetum, civitas Venetica? Does not Strabo say that they say that the Venetians were descended from the Gallic Venetians?

It has been maintained, in contradiction to this, that the fishers of Morbihan were a colony of pescatori from Pellestrina: Venice was the mother and not the daughter of Vannes. One can settle the matter by supposing (which is quite probable moreover) that Vannes and Venice were mutually derived from one another. So I consider the Venetians as Bretons; the gondoliers and I are cousins and emerged from the horn of Gaul, cornu Galliae.

Rejoicing in this thought, I went to breakfast in a café on the Riva degli Schiavoni, the Quay of Slav(e)s. The bread was soft, the tea scented, the cream like that in Brittany, the butter à la Prévalaie; since butter, thanks to the progress of the enlightenment, has improved everywhere: I ate some excellent butter in Granada. A harbour’s activity always delights me: boatmen were having a picnic; fruit and flower sellers offered me citrons, raisins and bouquets; fishermen were preparing their boats; naval cadets leapt into a launch, off to their sailing lessons aboard the flagship; gondolas carried passengers to the Trieste steamboat. It was Trieste which nearly caused me to be cut to pieces by Bonaparte on the steps of the Tuileries, when he threatened me, after I had taken it into my head to write in the Mercury:

‘He left to us the discovery, at the end of the Adriatic, of the grave of two royal daughters whose funeral oration we heard pronounced in an attic in London. Oh, the grave that contains those noble ladies will have found its silence broken once at least; the sound of a Frenchman’s footsteps will have made two Frenchwomen stir in their coffins! Respects paid by a poor gentleman, at Versailles, would have meant nothing to the Princesses; the prayer of a Christian, on foreign soil, will perhaps have proved agreeable to the saints.’

It seems to me I have served the Bourbons for years: they have scouted my loyalty, but they never tire of it. I breakfast on the Quay of Slav(e)s, while waiting for the exile.