William Porden’s letter to his daughter Henrietta

The recipient of the letter

D3311/3/1

Berne, Oct 8, 1818

My dear Henrietta,

As you doubtless see the letters we send for Mama’s amusement little apology is necessary for not writing to you more frequently; but be assured that you are not forgotten, you are well acquainted with our route and the principal circumstances of our journey and I need not repeat them; but I assure you that I am surprised to find myself here and cannot imagine how it is.  Lord have mercy upon us! Whoever thought I should ever see Swisserland [sic] or the Alps, or that I should be within a hair’s breadth of crossing the Simplon [Pass] and visiting Milan.  A day of incessant rain turned the balance in favour of returning homeward though I had agreed for horses to take me forward and Mr Thomson and Mr Bond are now expecting us in that city.  I need not say I have had much pleasure from this journey and have got a store of new ideas and a different opinion of these countries than I had previously entertained.  We have indeed had enough of the disagreeables you complain of; but we do not let that torment us which we cannot mend. 

I seldom make a good dinner though we sometimes have half a score dishes beside 5 or 6 dessert and I do not find the best bread of France or Swisserland supply a Berners Street loaf of bread. Royal Eleanor on the contrary eats a great deal and is a long time about it.  I mean at the regular meals, not counting on the intermedes, which altogether may be said to keep her teeth in action all day long, yet so long as she continues well let her eat.  A hungry fever is better than any other fever.  But I cannot account for a woman of her age needing such continual support from victuals and so little capable of bearing hunger for a very few hours.  I rejoice to find that the waters of Chiltenham [sic] has been of use to you and I hope they have done their duty and by [the time you] receive this that you will be well in Bedford Street.  We are now in a very find city.  [Berne] you know is the capital of Swisserland – till we got here Dijon was our favourite [nowhere else] in France being equal to it in cleanliness and cheerfulness; But Berne surpasses it and has one advantage that no other city that I know possesses, you may walk through every part of it, with the exception of crossing the streets and a few inferior streets, in the heaviest rain without being wet for the houses are built on arcades or piazzas, paved with flag-stones, and kept very clean.  The middle of the street I am in is as wide as Berners street in the carriage way.  In the arcades are the shops like the Coffee Houses in Covent Garden Piazza, and under them opening to the carriageway are cellars of considerable extent which I believe are warehouses.  The houses are of stone with containing three stories about the arcade and one more in the roof which projects 5 or 6 feet over the carriage way with a tin pipe as long or longer through which the rain water is shot into the street and in a heavy shower makes so many pretty arcades.  This however is no annoyance to those below, for the people on foot are under cover and the carriages may keep the middle of the street or drive between the streets and the arcade.  The houses are of different dimensions; but are not very irregular as to height though some of them are perfectly regular one with another for a considerable length. 

Second page of William Porden's letter

The bad weather has prevented us from seeing much of the country; but the city is built among hills that are now verdant and well wooded and is itself on a hill which is nearly surrounded by the Aar, a broad and rapid river nearly as blue as the Rhone, which from different parts of the town and public walks we see winding (perhaps) two hundred feet below us.  There is a lower town on its bank on the south side to which we have not yet descended, where the interior artificers reside.  The public buildings are in a good style of architecture and appear almost new, and one large church of superior taste is in reality not many years old.  The cathedral is gothic, not strikingly handsome; but with many good parts and some peculiarities.  We came hither from Lausanne and where driven by a German who could speak neither French nor English and our intercourse with him was ludicrous enough.  When we wanted to tell our wishes, Eleanor had to find a waiter who could speak French and German to whom she expressed herself in French and the waiter, or other interpreter (for we sometimes had a gentleman in that office) conveyed her meaning to the postillion in German who replied in the same language which the interpreter gave us back in French.  After much sputtering we frequently found that we misunderstood one another, the interpreter not being equally master of both languages.  We got on however very well with our postillion who was a civil good-natured fellow.  We were three days under his guidance.  When we spoke to him if he guessed our meaning he obeyed, and if he did not he looked pleased and said nothing.  You will have our preceding journeys from our letters tomorrow.  We spent one day with Mr Bond at Lausanne who looked miserably ill and appears to be acting systematically wrong with regard to diet.  He drinks no wine or spirits.  He is low spirited and inactive.  As we hoped to meet him more at leisure in Milan I did not speak to him on our private affairs and I am sorry I lost the opportunity for his spiritless appearance renders it probable that he will never return if he pursues his journey into Greece, which he talks of, for what purpose I cannot conjecture, yet he seems to think it will be of advantage to him as an architect.  I told him that at his time of life he could not expect his business to be benefited by a journey into Greece which cut him off from all his connections.  If I live to get home I must take some advice as to the consequence of his death as he is your trustee.  With regard to us he was the same as formerly, civil officious and obliging; but he said nothing of the change with regard to us.  We shall leave this place in a day or two for Basle and Strasburg; but if you write again you must direct to Chalon sur Marne, Lille or Calais.  Give my love to Mary Anne, and to William when you see him, and the little ones.  I have written a short letter to Emily which you must interpret to her, and make my compliments to Miss Burton.  I am disappointed in not hearing froom Mr Kay, as Eleanor has told you.  If you write I beg you will let me know how Dr Hutton is.  Miss Stevenson has not mentioned him, and give our kindest compliments to him and Miss Hutton.  To our other friends Mama has opportunities of seeing almost every day.  I am my dear Henrietta your affectionate father,

W. Porden

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