Anonymous manuscript account by an Englishman of travels in France, Switzerland and Italy, in a series of letters, including descriptions of the Paris Commune (including 'one of the best barricades') and the opening of the Italian parliament.

[Voyage of an Englishman in France, Switzerland and Italy, 1869-1872; The Paris Commune and the first Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy, 1871; Communism; Siege of Paris]
Publication details: 
The first entry, describing Paris, dated '? May, 1869.' The last entry dated 'Florence, May 1, 1872.'
SKU: 12514

31pp., 12mo. Stitched and unbound. In good condition, on lightly-aged paper. Comprising a series of transcriptions in a contemporary hand - from the annotations and emendations clearly that of the original author, an anonymous middleclass Englishman with Radical and Communist sympathies. Neatly and closely written at around 34 lines to a page - from thirteen letters, dated (with interrogation marks as given in the text): '? May, 1869', 'Paris, June 1869', 'Monastery of La Grande Chartreuse, Alps Dauphiny, Feast of S. Felix, Anno Salutis 1869', 'Bex, canton of Vaud, July 7 (?) 1869', 'Coire, Canton des Grisons, Aug. 10, 1869', 'Paris, Rue Castiglione, April 27, 1870', 'Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, (Alsace), June 8, 1870', 'Paris, Rue Castiglione, May 11, 1871', 'July 5th (?), 1871. - Paris. (Rue Castiglione.)', 'Rome, Dec. 7, 1871', 'Written from Naples, Jan 30, 1872', 'Naples, March 1872', 'Florence, May 1, 1872'. The first entry begins: 'It would have been hard to have stayed so long in Paris without seeing one of its chief specialities, so the Parisians have been good enough to show me a small attempt at a revolution. The movements of the Troops along the handsome streets made a fine military spectacle; and as they were in earnest and there was a little actual damage the interest was much increased. On Friday night I joined the crowd and afterwards went along the Boulevards as far as the Bastille, but met with no particular adventure except being nearly knocked down by a crowd running as if for life, and I afterwards went into a cafe which after a time put up its shutters as a protection from the mob. But in returning west, as far as the B. Montmartre, I found it entirely in possession of the military; - it was silent and almost dark, every house closed and scarcely a light in any of the windows. The centre of the road throughout its length was occupied bya line of armed cavalry in dead silence. [...] After a time I found the pavement occupied by infantry with fixed bayonets, which I could just see glittering by the few gas lights that were left burning, and was obliged to turn into a side street equally dark and silent and occupied by a body of police'. In the second letter, again from Paris, the author writes that, regarding the possibility of revolution, 'the only sign of excitement was the anxiety to purchase newspaper'. He concludes: 'I am glad to get back to Paris, and do not feel a wish to live in London again - it is agreeable to live in a bright atmosphere and amidst cheerful and handsome streets'. The third letter, from the Grande Chartreuse, is signed 'Brother Felix', and is written in a gently satirical tone, beginning: '+ The writer hereof, having seen much evil and suffered much weariness from men's vain doings, hath withdrawn from the multitude and retired into a holy house of religious men, and sendeth greetings to one whom he hath known in the vain world.' He describes his travels from Paris to Lyons, and then to 'the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvieres. Though without peas in his shoes he found the pebbles of the steep road suffice for penance'. In Bex he encounters monks who 'are not allowed to speak, but if you raise your hat to them in French fashion they at once return the salutation by throwing back their cowl and giving you as pleasant a smile and bow as if you were an old friend'. It is his 'first trial of a Swiss pension [...] The house is situated in a large orchard in a delightful valley almost surrounded by fine mountains. There are about 27 of us, in the proportion of 4 women to one man - it is a sort of Arcadian existence, our time being occupied with walking, riding, music, gossip, & meals.' He spends more time in Switzerland, before returning to Paris, where he discusses, on 27 April, 1870, the political situation, beginning: 'I do not think the Emperor has strengthened his position - he seems in reality to be preparing the way for a republic.' A transcription from a letter sent from 'Paris, Rue Castiglione, May 11, 1871' [towards the end of the Paris Commune], covers nearly four pages, beginning: 'As I am again in this hot bed of turbulence about which people are talking so much, I have thought you would like to know how I have got on.' His train from Calais 'was very long, and contained a considerable number of German officers and soldiers, about 40 French soldiers, a great many French passengers, and apparently one Englishman besides myself - he looked like a dog-fancier or something equally respectable. After we had travelled about 35 miles, a German officer in command of a station at which we stopped insisted on seeing the passes of the French soldiers, and as the passes did not satisfy him the soldiers had to get out and were left behind. About 10 miles before reaching Paris my passport was examined and I came on without any difficulty.' He returns to his 'old quarters': 'There are now 5 of us in a house adapted for sixty. We are in a broad street, and almost 100 yards from us there is a barricade composed of square blocks of stone and sandbags; at the base it is about 40 feet thick, and has a trench in front of it 30 feet wide. it is built with the regularity of a fortress; it has openings for cannon, which are placed ready, and there is a mortar behind it, it is also pierced for musketry, in such a manner that in case of an engagement we should not be able to look out at the street-door without almost a certainty of being shot; we are decidedly proud of it, as one of the best barricades in Paris.' He describes how he was 'once under fire': 'The firing having ceased for a time I went as far as a barricade erected across the broad avenue which descends towards Neuilly, and as the way appeared clear I passed the barricade for the purpose of exploring the district damaged by the bombardment. The asphalte [sic] pavements were strewn with large pieces of stone broken from the houses and with fragments of lamp-posts dashed to pieces, and glittered all over with broken glass; they had also large holes all about, where shells had exploded.' 'The noise of firing can be heard almost continually when the wind is favourable, and on a fine night, if dark, the flashes are reflected in the sky almost like summer lightning at the horizon. [...] There is an immense amount of marching about; the National Guards are seen everywhere in Paris, and you sometimes have to thread your way amidst stacks of arms, but there is no disorder anywhere; the city appears to be well taken care of by the Commune [...] I have occasionally been followed or questioned as a spy, but otherwise I have not been an object of notice, though I have not seen six other English since I have been in Paris. - At least 99 women out of a hundred are dressed wholly or partially in black, and I have not seen a single gay article of dress [...] From what I hear, the accounts we had during the German siege were not exaggerated. My host and hostess did not suffer greatly, [...] Their son and his wife, who keep a hotel, had a cat for dinner on New Years' day, and invited their friends as to a feast. A sparrow sold for 2 francs, and people were glad to eat rats, tallow, and pomatum.' In the following letter, written on 5 July 1871, on his return to Paris from 'my tour in Italy', he writes: 'I regret to say that I have not a single memorial of the Commune except the stamp of the Committee of Public Safety on my passport. I had no difficulty in getting out of Paris, but there was a great deal of questioning and examination of passports. Before crossing the ramparts Communist officials came round to examine; after a few miles Versailles officials came to inspect; 3 men in the same compartment as myself were questioned fiercely and their newspapers and passports examined - two of them were ordered to get out and were detained at the station - the third, after his answers had been taken down in writing, was allowed to proceed. A few miles further Versailles officials came to examine the newspapers we were reading and took from us all that were published in Paris. Fortunately I had only a time-table in my hand at the time, but I had two or three Communist papers in my pocket, and I began to fear that at the next station our pockets might be searched, so I tore up my papers without letting anybody see, and quietly dropped screws of them out of the window, but nothing further happened and I have since regretted the loss of my papers. It is an interesting fact that the writing in several of the Communist papers showed more good sense and moderation than that in the majority of Paris papers under the Empire.' The rest of the booklet describes Italian scenes, from Bologna, Florence and Rome down to Naples and Sicily. Writing from Rome on 7 December 1871 he describes 'the opening of the first parliament of the new kingdom of Italy [...] The day of the opening was like one of the finest days of an English June; and, to the mortification of the superstitious, it seemed made on purpose, being the only fine and warm day during the last fortnight. The illuminations were declared by the Papalini to have been a failure; - if so, they were a very beautiful failure. I had a good view of Victor Emmanuel when he came out upon the balcony of the Quirinal to make his bow to the people.' He attacks the pope as a 'kind-hearted-old man now filled with bitterness at the unfortunate result of his own generous impulses in 1847, when he thought he would give his beloved Romans a taste of liberal institutions, [...] the poor old man who for more than twenty years has seen the control of events slipping from him and hwo has tried to conceal his weakness by foolish self-assertion, as in the Syllabus and lately by his preposterous claim to infallibility'. He criticises his fellow tourists, and one group in particular: 'Then there are the Americans! There was a party of them at the Minerva, whose delight it appeared to be to drive about the ruins four-in-hand. Mixed with the rest there are a few sensible people who derive real enjoyment from what they see.' In the final transcription he writes that he expects to return to London 'about the 20th of this month [May 1872]', adding the note: 'returned on the 21st'. An emendation on the final page suggests authorial involvement: the phrase 'while the lava poured over the place' has been replaced by 'until the heat became so great that'.