A run to the Channel Islands20th March 2015
Extracts from an article in the United Service Magazine, Vol. 26, 1838. The author seems very much to prefer Guernsey to Jersey!
Driving into Southampton on this Winchester road is delightful. As far as the race-ground which skirts the way, groups of young ladies are met in their cheerful promenades along the walks on either side of the road on the park-like common that forms the approach to this new side of the town. Here a suburb has started up all splendid as the West End, the places, squares, and terraces vying in beauty of architecture with anything of the kind I have seen; nor do know any county town or watering-place having at once so lively and handsome a High-street. From the venerable gate (with its two grotesque figures) down to the water, all is bustle and animation, contrasting most glaringly with the dullness and poor appearance of Winchester; to say nothing of the many gay carriages to be seen driving about, and the numbers of welldressed idlers of both sexes.
Stopped and had a beefsteak at the Vine Tavern, at the bottom of the street, a small civil house that catches a good many steam-boat travellers in their transit. Found the Lady de Saumarez at the end of the new-made pier getting her steam up to start at seven for Guernsey and Jersey: and now it is that the state of the wind, which at other times 'passes idly by,' is scrutinised with no small anxiety. There was a quick-flying scud not quite agreeable, as it seemed to move quicker than the breeze below; besides, the weather looked squally.
This new pier, where the steamers can lay alongside at all times of the tide, and you walk on board without trouble, is well done of the Southamptonians. It was long wanted to put an end to the extortions (I am sorry to say it) of our boatmen, independent of the noise and confusion amidst twenty boats, all struggling for who should get possession of you. Now one pays twopence to go on the pier whether to walk (a capital one) or embark, and twopence more each trunk or parcel, and there's an end.
In the little bay that sweeps round the back of the town, if I may so say, there are a great many pretty villas and cottages; here too are numbers of boats. I have before now observed a sort of elegant canoe sort of duck-boat or skiff, covered in, except a hole for one man to sit in. Round this hole a sort of canvass hose is or might be nailed and drawn tight round the sitter, so that he might defy any sea or any weather, provided it did not upset: a neat ballast fastened to the keel would prevent that, I should think. We have taken this plan from savages—where, I forget.
We started very exactly at seven o'clock, and though it blew fresh, our passage was not so rough as I expected. It is as well always to go on board and secure a berth beforehand, as I did; but not so soon but that there was hardly one left, so knowing are travellers on this point. No stopping at Cowes: we only saw the lights of the town, and ran through the Needles. As the night was dark and chilly, I went to bed, the best place to doze over ten tedious hours.
Approaching Alderney on the outside when the wind blows strong from the westward, there is, at ebb-tide particularly, a heavy swell to encounter. This is called the 'Swinge,' being worse outside than the 'Race' is within. The Saumarez behaved very well, and kicked about very quietly here.
I was told afterwards at Guernsey that on some occasions it is not to be laughed at; the Atalanta, on the Tuesday previous, had had a narrow escape. A heavy sea struck her, going over her bows: there were some fears of her not rising in time for the next! Whether the captain thought so I know not; but it is certain such was the impression on board. However, the Atalanta is not so good a sea-boat as this, nor does she make so light of her engine: we have less trembling motion in the Saumarez than in any boat I remember. All steam-boats are evidently too weak and too narrow: they should have more beam and more bearing forward; that is, widening round the bows above the bends. All steam-boats look very wide, in consequence of the deck carried over the paddles. This defect is not being cured, for I see the enormous boat building in the river for a steam trial to New York as a packet, while she is 220 or 230 feet long, has only 40 feet beam! I for my part, would rather ten thousand times embark in one of the regular sailing packets. If it ever is found to answer at all, I should think doubtful, in spite of several ingenious lectures I have heard from Dr. Lardner and others. Steam I think will be found to be only fit for coasting and short runs, perhaps to the Western Isles; but beyond 900 or 1000 miles the inconveniencies (want of fuel, increased risk of gales, leaks, fire, &c) are multiplied beyond all proportion to the means; and should it succeed, the difference of time gained will hardly repay the added disagreeables.
Coming into the bay from the eastward, with the small islands of Herm and Sark on the left hand, the town of St. Peter's, Guernsey, looks very well, and very large for so small an island. As the steamer only calls here on her way to and from Jersey, they held on with a hawser to a sloop at anchor for half an hour, while those who wished to be put on shore got into any of the many boats which pulled out of the little square inner harbour, (dry at low water, and something like Dover,) other passengers going to Jersey coming on board at the same time.
It is always as well to ask beforehand about your hotel, as several waiters are equally importunate with their cards and recommendations. I pitched on the reputed best, Marshall's, the name on the house itself staring one in the face plain enough. It is a good hotel, and Mr. and Mrs. Harris very civil. From the drawing-room windows (indeed all the windows) at the back of the house, there is an excellent view of the harbour, the Castle (Cornet), Sark, close by, and, faint in the distance, Jersey, with all the rocks, great and small, of this crab-like shore.
The first thing people do on landing (after breakfast, by the way) is to get a horse and gig, or fly, and drive over the island. This is very commendable; for in the crooked narrow High-street, where you find yourself imprisoned, there is nothing whatever to be seen, except indeed Smith-street, another narrow alley running up-hill out of it. This soon leads you at an angle of 35° up to the College and Government-house, where there is a sentinel, and going on, to a most superb aloe, just about to blow, near the corner of the Grange-street.
It was impossible to pass this glorious flower, which had this summer, I conclude, shot up higher than the house of its owner, close to the door, (ground, is scarce here of course,) so I stopped my horse a moment to have a good look at it. It is quite the lion of the town; for except hearing a little French spoken in the streets, there is nothing that strikes one at first as different from any small town of our own in England.
I have said crab, but in shape Guernsey is more like a lobster, and Jersey the crab, while their black rocks at low-water everywhere run out, showing their sharp ridges to seaward, like the legs and feelers of those excellent shell-fish.
My first cut was over the tail of this lobster, about three miles and a half right across from shore to shore. The day was so warm (now the middle of September) that I fancied I quite understood the shade of difference between this and Middlesex. The roads very good, and the whole country very pretty: stone walls and hedges very thick and complicated; so, too, are the small lanes running to the neat cottages, all built solidly of stone. The people all look comfortable and well dressed; no such thing as a beggar in the island.
We all know how much these little islands are favoured by the parent country: no taxes, and free ports; all the rights of Englishmen; none of the burdens and drawbacks that still, I am sorry to say, are allowed to press on our industry and enterprise at home. Here are, indeed, no beggars; none in rags; and the community so small as to be almost individually known to each other: with all this, I question very much whether they are a bit better off, or more happy than the people of England! Whether it is in the race, or in this happy medium, I know not, but it would seem that little or nothing accrues from these apparent advantages.
Trade is very dull; there seems no enterprise: the shops are very poor affairs; and every other thing seems on the slenderest scale: there is, in short, no life, no bustle. Not an amusement going on. One can understand a quiet content in the country; but in a thickly-populated town of ten or twelve thousand people it is very triste. I say this at first sight—it is Sunday; and, I confess, I expected to find some relaxation à la Francaise in the evening: on the contrary, they are much more strict and sombre than at Devonport or Falmouth!
I could never understand why cheerful amusements should be incompatible with piety and thanksgiving to the Almighty! just as well in Protestants as Catholics. It is certain, that until something of the sort is allowed, there will be no getting rid of drinking, and more vicious pastimes, hidden from the public eye, but most pernicious to the great mass of our population. One has but to see how our system in England works among that mass to be assured of its truth, without the trouble of examining the people of the Continent, among the lower classes, or coming here.
These happy islands—happy in situation, climate, freedom, and laws—have caught nothing of the sunshine of the heart of their near neighbours the French: here, all is of a dull, plodding, serious cast: perhaps I might except Government House, and the young officers of the two or three companies of some regiment, who ride about, and are social and joyous enough—in short, the English part of society.
But let me look a little more at things as they are here. Most people have read Mr. Inglis on the Channel Islands. He is full of descriptions of the appearance and product of the land—all which I forget. As to descriptions, they never can give the least idea of a place—at least, so I always find it—and, therefore, shall say little about the matter. On the higher part of the island, about a mile out of the town, one can see almost the whole of it at once (except towards the worst part, to the N.W.): the small, well-sheltered fields, mostly in grass, with the little Alderney cows we hear of so much, tethered, so as to eat away circle after circle—a sort of economy in grazing, as it prevents their trampling over the rest, &c.; a few fields in turnips; and they are famous for parsnips, but I never could see one at our table at Mr. Harris's; potatoes, too, of good quality are in great plenty. Each farm has an orchard—and this is a famous apple year: the bottled cider at the hotel is excellent; but there are no very good eating-apples that I could hear of, and those in the fruit-market under the Arcade in the town looked more fit for dumplings than the table; peaches scarce and dear; figs plentiful, and very cheap; hot-house grapes 1s. a pound; the common grape 6d., but has not ripened well this year—(they use the larger French pound). Apropos of markets: out of the Arcade runs the general market-place, admirably arranged— butchers, fish, poultry, &c. I see it is forbidden to keep the cattle imported from France more than four days (I think): thus they import only for the slaughter-house, carefully preserving their own breed for domestic purposes.
As I have said, the town is built on the side of a tolerably steep hill, and up a glen or two opening to the beach. All is up and down, and zigzag, a perfect labyrinth; and the streets narrow and crooked enough, and ugly enough; but after you wend your way out towards the suburbs, you come to very neat well-built rows of houses: as you advance they become detached, as with us, and assume the form of elegant villas and cottages, in their gardens and paddocks. They are, without exception, strikingly good and neat, with all the exact care we are accustomed to at home (which I found not to be the case at Jersey). Here, too, house-rent is less than in England, and no taxes. In Jersey house-rent is, at least, a third higher—why, I have not been able to learn; unless it is that there are so few places in Jersey of the villa order, and hardly one to sell or let. But why need that be? where they have more room, too!
Tuesday 19th.—Took a drive round down to La Raie (the N.W. point). Going along beyond the village of St. Martin's (all saints in these islands), I came across half-a-dozen little girls going home from school. The little things looked so smiling, that I could not resist giving them a ride, which I no sooner proposed (they all spoke English as well as French) than they scrambled up on my gig; three clung on the seat beside me, and three behind: telling them to hold on fast, away we trotted, as pleased as Punch, for about a mile, when I put them down, afraid to take them too far from their homes (a small hamlet we passed), and where their mothers wondered, I dare say, what it could mean. I asked them their names, and was glad to find them all Carolines, Sophias, Betseys, and Marys—not a French name among them. Each had her little basket in which they had taken their dinners with them to school.
I was delighted with this little frolic, as well as the children. I have no doubt they would have gone with me all round the island. In what mere trifles consist the conferring and receiving of pleasure!
After my little load left me, I had a rather dull ride, and got lost several times from the intricacy of the numerous cross-roads past St. Sauveur. I wanted to get rid of this barren side of the island, and cut across to the eastward by the Grand Moulin; but no; I found myself at last on the coast at the ultima Thule of La Raie—out of the world. There was, however, a pretty girl at an uncomfortable-looking stone house in this fishing-hamlet, who told me my way round by the new beach road back, if road it should be called, a parcel of loose stones thrown down for the first time. Along this track I went, tediously and heavily for my poor horse. Luckily my gig was well provided with such excellent springs (not springing at all!) that there was no danger of breaking them. It was very provoking, though I could see the whereabout of the village of Grand Moulin, I could not get to it, but found myself in another sort of main-road still to the west of it. It was too late to turn back.
There are two or three letters-out of flys and gigs in the town, where also saddle-horses are to be had. The first day I had a very nice spirited little black horse; but to-day I have had Hobson's choice, and a very lazy nag it is: not that it is of the least consequence with the day before one, since to look about one a walk is generally quite fast enough: for three hours I paid five francs—English or French coin passes equally well; for the day they ask ten shillings, and I believe as much for a horse (if they can get it). But travellers always come across the most sear'd consciences: the fellow I favoured in the crowd at the landing to carry my portmanteau up the steps to the hotel (not fifty yards), had the impudence to ask a shilling, and I was fool enough to order him a franc: I found afterwards he should have had three-pence, and quite enough. Hotel-keepers never prevent your being imposed on. I was prepossessed with Mrs. Harris's handsome face and civility, so that I said nothing, though I had predetermined to mention it—as 'too bad.'
St. Pierre is full of papers, and they are full of small local squabbles. I see the Bailli (next to the Governor in dignity) writes long letters, pro and con, with some merchant, who calls in question his impartiality as judge. In a word the Baillies of these islands (civil heads), and their councils, are lawyers, judge, jury, and all, in most causes, not strictly criminal: a vicious system, only kept in check by the press and opinion, in so small a community: the same thing goes on in Jersey. This was the old form, which, together with the French language, still holds on in their courts of justice. Of course the council themselves are much attached to it; and every body else either laugh or cry at it, as the case may be.
While in London my Lord G. or my Lord P. do not trouble themselves about the petty concerns of these two or three fertile rocks: perhaps they would not mend the matter if they did! But one may judge of this extreme indifference to what does very much more intimately concern Great Britain, from the fact that, in spite of the most pressing instances, a certain Lord has preferred his idleness or his amusements to having the oyster fishery question arranged, and put on a just and proper footing. A delegate sent to London in the summer could never see his Lordship—he was in the country: and, after other frivolous excuses, Mr. —— was obliged to return with a few civil no-meaning words from the under-secretary. All this while (and to this day) the French commissioners were waiting for ours at Granville, threatening to go away, &c. All this said and known publicly in the islands, while the said Lord is dressing and bowing at Windsor, or shooting partridges at his country seat.
Many idlenesses of men in office are excusable or laughable, but this is too bad, seeing that half an hour's attention—nay, a simple order—a short note, written by the under-secretary, would settle the question.
As I write, two commissioners have, after months' inexcusable dawdling, been named to meet the French ones (not yet, thank God, tired out). Most of our natives and Colckesters come from this most important fishery; and we all know that it is not long since the boats on the coast were coming to open violence on the subject of how far from low-water mark, on the French coast, our boats could lawfully fish, the French authorities and guardo coast as interfering, and ordering off our fishermen; till at last, very lately, it came to a fight; and a French boat, officer and all, was taken and sent into Jersey, after some similar affair on the French side. This has been hushed up; but we know that less things have led to long and disastrous wars. Surely public men ought to be most severely punished for neglecting their duty; and thank their stars it does not affect their very lives; seeing that through their indolence, or indifference, or incapacity, so many lives may be lost—so much intolerable expense brought on their country! Have we not had enough of it yet? But, whichever way one turns, politics are sickening.
Guernsey, like all islands, has her forts and strongholds: a few towers on the north side, and Fort St. George and Castle Cornet, to defend the town, to the south; but the whole green land is so ribbed seaward with bristly rocks running far out, that it hardly wants artificial defence beyond a sturdy militia. Besides, what with their immunities, indulgences, their no taxes, free ports, and free trade, their spirit is wholly English. Within the last twenty years our language is fast wearing out the French, all the children being now taught to speak English, even in the remoter places, seven miles off, in the country.
It is very certain that a traveller, running about from place to place, must see things with a very different eye to that of an inhabitant: some few things one may guess at, at sight; others again must be seen through a very false medium. Thus of society at Guernsey, one can only conclude, without knowing any thing positively, that it is much as at home in any small town. The Governor leads the upper circle, to which, of course, are admitted the officers, the higher natives, or 'sixtys,' as they are called, and those of the English who have hired or bought houses here to live economically and retired, and who are sufficiently genteel. The second circle are the native 'fortys,' or merchants or shopkeepers, and a good many English with no great pretensions to be very fastidious. I think, however, I could perceive a good deal of independent spirit everywhere, and a sort of confidence of manner in the shopkeepers and country people, partaking of the manners of the French.
20th.—I tried three times this morning to get out of the town to Fort St. George, on the hill to the south; but in vain. I found myself as constantly beset by stone walls, glens, inclosures, &c, through a labyrinth of streets up and down hill. The difficulty lay in my not wishing to go round about to the north, making it a walk of two miles, whereas the fort is not much more than half a mile from the south-east end of the town; and I naturally thought some of the little dirty muddy lower streets would run out at last along the shore, and, zig-zag, up hill to it.
The hill and dale I find admirably intermixed with beautiful spots, ill adorned by handsome villas, replete with every luxury of a country residence. The Messieurs Carey have three or four of the best houses and most beautiful situations overlooking the town. One of them, a sort of castellated yellow villa, is very prominent to the east, and forms, with the College, a conspicuous feature from the bay. The country Seat of Lady De Saumarez is spoken of: her town-house looks comfortable. St. Pierre has, too, its small park, called the New Ground; and a very delightful spot it is, on the eastern sweep of the hills above the body of the town. Here Dash and I took our walk and held sociable converse; but Dash would have a stone to run after in spite of all I could say to reason him out of his tooth-spoiling plaything. This faithful creature, a large strong water spaniel, with a courageous cross of the Scotch terrier, possessing an excellent coat of glossy black and tan colour, I beg to recommend to all wanderers to Guernsey and Mr. Harris's house—where Master Dash superintends in the entry—the terror of all the town curs, and the great favourite of all excursionists round the island, whom he follows with an indefatigable relish very remarkable. Dash and I were great friends; indeed he was the only being I had the honour of being at all known to: I felt absolutely sorry when poor Dash wagged his tail to me, looking so good-natured, for the last time, at the sill of his own door. Poor Dash! Good faithful creature! What a pity you cannot live as long as some very respectable persons I have the pleasure of knowing!
This evening, seeing some flys and carriages drawn up at the Town Hall, over the Arcade, and several ladies and gentlemen going upstairs, I made my way through a crowd of idlers and children to a kind of porter, who stood at the foot of the stairs with a stick across the door, which he withdrew as each party approached: this I found was one of the balls given alternately by the inhabitants to each other, instead of at their own houses; a very good plan. I could not judge of the beauty of the young ladies; but there must be a certain proportion of pretty girls everywhere; nay, youth itself is beauty—a very great beauty.
Going up to the Grange-street for the dozenth time, to look at the superb aloe, which is just at the corner by the College-wall, I sauntered down a road leading to the New Ground. The wall on the left incloses the burying ground. Conspicuous among the tombs is that of a Chevalier, émigré who must needs write his own epitaph in very limping French verse, saying something about his having found an asylum here for his persecuted loyalty. The strain of panegyric on himself, aided by the hobbling poetry in rhyme, struck me, instead of being impressive, as supremely ridiculous.
Somewhere in Pere la Chaise may be seen, among hundreds of odd inscriptions to the dear departed, that of an Epoux cher, dont la Femme bien aimée et inconsolable, tient boutique toujours, Rue St. Denis, numero 10, or 100. This Chevalier is hardly less comical in stone.
I could not find that St. Pierre is famous for any thing particularly. Happily the islands have no manufactures. At the little island of Herm, to the east, between the harbour and Sark, they collect shells, of which they speak highly. I looked about in the shops, but could see none: at last I stumbled on a very ingenious shell artist, exactly opposite the aloe; not that the shells were beautiful, but the manner they were made to form the leathered tribe was very much so—a turkey, a cock, and peacock, in the window, particularly; but a traveller, with a small portmanteau, has no business to begin loading himself, at setting out, with objects of vertu. Besides, I suspect all this labour and ingenuity must be rather expensive, even here; very fragile, and very obnoxious to Messrs. the Custom-House Officers at last, after having lugged them about some hundreds of miles. So I consoled myself for leaving them for some richer or more determined virtuoso.
There is not much activity in the port, and but two vessels building (I forget three schooners just launched). A Swede was unloading plank; and a few sloops and schooners lined the quays; trading in potatoes and other farm produce to Plymouth or Weymouth; with three or four sail, as passage boats, for those who cannot afford to come and go by steam (at 25s. and 15s.). Besides the two steam-boats every other day from Southampton, there is the Government one from Weymouth, carrying the mail. She calls, going and coming, at Guernsey, on her way to Jersey, as the others do, taking passengers also.
Farming and fishing, in these islands, are joined as one trade. There are few regular fishermen; nor is the supply regular. Most of the boats are round in a secure harbour (for them) to the east of Vale Castle, about thirty in number. It was fine weather, with the wind to the west during my stay, yet I never saw more than half-a-dozen of them in the bay before the town, perhaps as many more in the inner harbour.
The French and their island trading boats, on the nearest coast, at Carteret, and Granville, and St. Malo, are a very sensible craft of about twelve or sixteen tons, not decked, but well out of the water, great beam, and look not only very strong but as if they could sail well; mostly two lugs. They bring over from France fowls, eggs, cattle, wines, brandy, &c, almost, if not quite, duty free.
Inglis says Sark is worth seeing, but it is ten miles off, and requires a day's hard work. He lived in these islands for two years: as I am only here for as many days, I content myself with looking at it out of the hotel windows over the harbour: with a glass one might make out a cow or a man on it, but there is no such convenience. It is odd hotel-keepers never keep such a thing as a telescope, nor a map of the town or country, nor any sort of guide or description of a place. They are all in league against the unhappy victims, who must needs come and put up with them. Yes, there must be some understanding with the shopkeepers who may have such things to sell; it might hurt the market. There is another thing: in vain a man gets out of London and England, and comes to these dog-cheap islands;—as a traveller, whether here, or in France, or Germany, or Italy, no matter where, his tavern-bill is still the same; or so near the matter as to make no sensible or reasonable difference. Hence I should say, looking at the enormous difference in the price of these same things to them—all foreign hotel-keepers are much greater knaves than ours at home. This conclusion is comfortable at least. This holds good of steam-boat keepers. I should like to know why there is never such a thing to be seen on their tables as a fowl, a turkey, or a goose—fish never: wine and brandy, too, at London rates, though it is well known they do get all these things in France, or at these islands. After all, it is a very stupid kind of extortion; and partly punishes itself, by keeping the demand and supply on the same meagre miserable scale. Steam-boat companies should look to it, and not leave it in the hands of their fat-mutton and bottled-stout cabin stewards.
Guernsey is a charming pretty island, with its quiet economical 25,000 inhabitants (half at St. Peter's I should think). It would be no hard matter to stay here altogether; but still I looked out for the Atalanta's appearance in the east with something like impatience. A beautiful morning, but with a hard ungenial east wind, the boat's coming, in fine weather, is known to last half an hour—generally from six to seven in the morning, with a fair wind (about ten if contrary, and between eleven and fifteen hours' run). They never come into the harbour, but either send out a hawser to a buoy or sloop, or drop their anchor for half an hour. As I have said, off we go, bag and baggage, in the boats. In a few minutes we were running out of the bay, close under Castle Cornet. As we gained the offing, and hauled up for Jersey, the wind contrary, the jib lifting; why they kept it on at all puzzled me. Coming in this direction, more than half the north coast of Jersey has to be run round—an abrupt bold shore, but I think not so perpendicular as I was led to think. We ran round, very near the rocks, at the north-west end, across the wide sweeping bay of St. Aubin's, and passing close to Elizabeth Castle, ran at once into the harbour and alongside the Southern Pier. Walking round after our porter, at the foot of the rock on which the formidable citadel (the Regent) is built, close over the body of the town to the Royal Square, where my peregrinations for the day ended at the Union Hotel, not a large house, but remarkable as being built of granite, as many of the buildings are. This solidity of the houses, and of everything that meets the eye first, strikes one at Guernsey:—here it is increased by the greater prevalence of granite; the Fort Regent above, the harbour under it, the quays, the walls imperishable granite, and not a few of the private houses; all the corner stones, steps, sills of doors and windows, and gate-posts in the country, of the same material. The Royal Square is paved across with it:—to be sure it is not very large: however, it boasts of a very indifferent statue in bronze on a granite pedestal of George II., holding something in the right hand, what I cannot make out—it looks more like a sausage than anything else.
I do not like St. Hillier's so well as St. Pierre at first sight; it is a dirty careless-looking town; nor do the people appear so clean or well dressed. It looks more French, and yet it is in fact more anti-French than Guernsey. There is not a good street in either town, all crooked and ill paved enough; in the suburbs are to be found the better houses and the beau monde; but they are not so elegant here, nor have they such nice wellkept gardens and pleasure-grounds, nor so much of them; though altogether the island is a good third larger. Although the citadel is built on a pretty high granite rock, forming the south-east side of the bay, yet the whole town is on a flat, ranging, perhaps, a mile in breadth, to a sweep of gentle hills that rise all round the bay and round the coast to the east, as far as the Castle of Mont Orgueil six miles off. Looking sea-ward, Jersey, like the sister isle, is everywhere fringed by her sharp jagged rocks running out in innumerable legs, showing their black ridges more or less as the tide is down or up, and in form it is exactly the shape of a crab, the inner part being St. Aubin's bay.
The Guernsey people have a sort of contempt for the Jerseyans, calling them Toads: the latter return the compliment by retorting on thein the name of Donkeys:—
'Sad, such difference should be,
'Twixt tweedle-dum aud tweedle-dee.'
One of the crimes against Jersey is, that they have absolutely no coin of their own, and are beholden to the spirited sister isle for certain penny pieces, very well struck, called doubles. By the way, the currency of these islands is rather complicated: to keep English silver and gold from disappearing, they give it a value rather above;—thus an English shilling is 13d. or doubles; a sovereign is thence 1/. 1s. 5d. currency. This creates a great many misunderstandings (always against travellers). Then again, French money is equally used and in currency; the knaves creating a pleasant confusion of francs and shillings sterling and current.
Sept. 22.—Went round Fort Regent: it is stupendous. One need not wonder at a million of money having been expended on it; but as Mr. Inglis says, 'very unwisely,' making great fortresses is wholly out of date; and this could only destroy the town, not prevent the island from being taken. As a commanding post, a well-secured battery on it (as it was) must answer every purpose of modern warfare—allowing it at all likely that any serious descent would be made, on the part of France, sufficient to overcome the 4000 or 5000 militia of the island, ail animated with a very sensible liking for the mother country, which has taken such good care of them: and after all, the command of the sea wilt always decide the question in the long-run.
The town is full of very bad dirty hotels and boarding-houses: even at the best hotels they have things boarding-house fashion—breakfasting all together at eight, dining at three, and drinking tea at seven. There would be no great harm in this if Mesdames, who make the tea and coffee at the head of the table, would make it drinkable, instead of hut water of various shades of colour.
At dinner the landlord presides, with a good deal of the on a par mode of the Maitres d'Hotel in France—certainly very un-English—neither is it quite French. I am not sure whether the British Hotel, the next best house, was in the same way; I conclude it is a Jersey fashion. It is nothing to say people are civil at an inn; but here, at the Union, the waiter, John, is an uncommonly nice obliging young man, whose situation is no sinecure; obliged to watch and hoard the steam-boats in and out in the scramble with the other hotel waiters, and attend to everybody and everything besides; two maids help to wait at table to be sure.
Walking about, the town rather improves, as you can thread your way out of the narrow dirty streets, along the suburbs on the St. Saviour's road, and out by St. James's church. Good streets are building about the Clarendon road quarter, the west end. Here some of the houses look neat and comfortable. There are two or three nursery gardens well stocked with dahlias and hydrangeas; the latter the prevalent flower all over the island. I was going to say the only one, but a gardener stood out stoutly for the honour of his craft, and would have it that they have as great a variety as we have in England. I see no geraniums, no jessamine, and no rose, except a few very poor ones; but it is rather late. Fruit, too, is very expensive in the market, except melons, which are not only very good but in great plenty. On market-days there is a very good show of vegetables; so there was of fish I thought, but they say the supply is extremely irregular, and its price varies accordingly from cheap to extravagant.
I am told that at St. Hillier's people are all pretty much on a level with each other, and that wealth alone makes any distinction. They have no marked 'sixties' and 'forties,' but are all sixes and sevens; except, perhaps, among the English, who form a pretty numerous medium body; but they too, high or low, must be much influenced by the received notions of the place. Since Mr. Inglis lived here and wrote his account of the island, they have formed a promenade, where the beau monde may be seen occasionally. (He could never see any, except on a Sunday at church.) This promenade is on the side of the nearest eminence skirting the suburbs; the entrance is 1d. under the superintendence of a Mr. Hartung. There is another promenade further on in the little bay of La Grève, at the back of the fort and town, where, too, they have sea-bathing machines. They advertise to have music at both places on certain days, but I was not so fortunate as to hear it, or indeed see more than half-a-dozen ladies walking about. From the (Hartung) gardens there is a very pretty view over the town, bay, shipping, and Castle Elizabeth; but not only in this, but in their best houses in town and country, in their roads and improvements of all sorts, there has been an astonishing spring within the last ten years—so that, say they, you would not know the place again. St. James's church, a handsome edifice, has been recently built: here the Governor comes, and no doubt all the beaux and belles; not that I can compliment the young men of the island much on their appearance. To help them out, there are sixteen young officers of the 200 riflemen, forming the garrison and Governor's guard; their uniform is anything but graceful, at least the undress of those I met walking about. Without being able to judge from any large party of young ladies of the island together, yet I should say, from those I saw, that there was a very fair proportion of fine girls, and very well dressed. I am told of no less than six soirees in the town this evening, most of them, if not all, dances:—d'la bonne heure—is this mere accident, or are they so very sociable?
The article continues to describe Jersey and its inhabitants in similarly uncomplimentary terms.