Letter from David Berdan to Pierre Munro Irving, September 22, 1826

  • Posted on: 13 December 2017
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Letter from David Berdan to Pierre Munro Irving, September 22, 1826



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections


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Letter from David Berdan to Pierre Munro Irving, September 22, 1826

action: sent

sender: David  Berdan
Birth: 1803  Death: 1827-07-20

location: Paris, France

receiver: Pierre Irving
Birth: 1802-04-03  Death: 1876-02-25

location: Venice, Italy


revision:  2017-12-06


Page 1

Extracts from a letter

Editorial Note

Excerpt of a letter written by David Berdan, Jr. in Paris on September 22, 1826 to Pierre Munro Irving in Venice and transcribed by James Berdan and sent to William Henry Seward.
to Pierre
Birth: 1802-04-03 Death: 1876-02-25
in Venice
Paris September 22d 1826.
From St. Denis I walked to Montmorency two leagues further- The road
for some distance on approaching it was bordered with grape vines and the
grapes looked so tempting that after a few ogles I could not resist making
nearer advances and at last I sat down and made love to the finest- Think
of the difference between eating them at the Palais Royal on a plate or at
Montmorency off the vines–
On arriving in the great square of the village and
asking the way to the Hermitage a troop of women assailed me with offers
of their jackasses and at last succeeded in pressing into my service a boy in
a blue frock and with a flannel night cap on his head who conducted me to
the Hermitage about a quarter of a mile off– A pleasant road leads to it–
not far from it is a kind of Tavern on the edge of the hill that rises
behind it where the boy told me the people of the village came on
Sundays and he showed me a spot shaded by fine chestnuts where there
was dancing every Sunday afternoon– I was sorry to find that the
building Rousseau
 Death: 1778-07-02
inhabited had been torn down and a new one erected
on its site. A servant girl belonging to the house showed me the
curiosities of the place– The first was a rose tree he had planted– the
next a stone shaded by some bushes on which he used to sit, and
where (the fille said) he had composed part of his Emile
 Publisher: A La Haye Place of Publication:Paris, France Date: 1762
– This was a
delightful spot– A little bubbling fountain issued out of the moss
and flowers near it, and its gentle lulling sound made me sorry to quit
the spot– There was a bust of Rousseau in a niche near the house
with some ordinary lines under it by Madame d’Epinay
Birth: 1726-03-11 Death: 1783-04-17
complaining of his leaving her &c. I felt provoked at the woman
for writing this mawkish stuff when she had driven him out of the
Hermitage in the middle of the winter– Several copies of her works
were for sale in the house but I did not even look into them–
The girl took me into a room on the ground-floor and showed me
the table on which he always wrote– his bedstead and two bureaux
belonging to Therese
Birth: 1721-09-21 Death: 1801-07-17
his gouvernante as she called her– These arti–
cles had been carefully preserved by Getry
Birth: 1741-02-10 Death: 1813-09-24
a celebrated musicalcomposer
who occupied the house after Rousseau– There was a bust of this
Getry in the room, and in a corner of the garden was his heart de-
posited in a marble urn– After leaving the hermitage I ascended
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the hill back of the tavern which commands a fine view (though partially
obstructed by the trees) of the surrounding country–Paris is faintly seen
in the distance–the opening of the valley of Montmorency appears to the
right– I was so pleased with the fine woods around this quarter that I
determined to ramble over them the following day so I returned to the vil-
lage at dusk to get my dinner and a bed– I soon found a shabby looking
Taverne ou on donne a manger a pied et a cheval and there I established
myself– My bed-room would have made you laugh– It was so completely
filled by the bed that it reminded me of a reel in a bottle–My
landlady bid me good night when I reached the door (which opened on the
outside) and at the sight of my room I pondered how I should undress
and where I should put the light– I first put the candle on a shelf in
one corner and stood upon the bed to get off my clothes which was the
only way of escaping from having to undress in the cold windy garret-
Next morning after breakfast I asked for my bill and found that dinner bed
and breakfast were only three francs and a half which I thought amazingly
cheap– In the fullness of my heart on being dunned by the fille for her mite
I gave her fifteen sous and pushed off for the woods not knowing ex-
actly whether I should return or not–I spent the whole day rambling
about the woods– losing myself in the variety of paths and for hours
meeting no one to inform me of the direction I had taken– In the afternoon
however I met a peasant who told me I was not more than two leagues
from Montmorency and pointed out to me a lane through the woods at the
end of which was a spot from which might be seen Eighty six communes
I hastened there of course– The view was indeed a delightful one. The
whole valley was spread before me– one entire vineyard interspersed with
groves of trees and “rustic roofs”– It was enclosed on the opposite side
by gentle hills whose distant ridges were enveloped in mist– A small
glittering lake (or pond) to the left of the valley increased its beauty–
The village of Montomorency with the tapering spire of its Gothic church–
St. Denis in the distant plain–the heights of Montmartre
windmills that harmonized with the quiet beauty of every thing around
and lastly the dome of the Invalids piercing the misty shroud that con-
cealed the rest of Paris from view– all formed a picture that I gazed on
for hours and wished you were there to participate in the pleasure I
experienced– The next day was Sunday so as I was in no hurry
I determined not to quit my cheap quarters but stay and see the
dancing in the afternoon near the Hermitage– I spent all the mor-
ning in the woods that skirt the right of the valley but there we[ re ]


Reason: hole

Page 3

too many people there– The woods rang with the snapping of whips–
I met whole parties mounted on jackasses not one third as big as them–
selves– the men sweating under the labour of switching the lazy beasts
on which their wives or the ladies generally were mounted– After
dinner I went to the hill behind the tavern of the Hermitage and
under one of the venerable trees on it I watched the approach of the
parties assembled for the dance– It was dusk before they commenced– There
were two rings– one for the ladies and gentlemen that came there, and the
other for the village girls and their beaux– All the country girls were dressed
in white with very pretty little caps, and the groups looked very picturesque
when lamps were hung from the trees and the music put the dancers in mo–
–tion– There was a little by-scene too without the circles that
amused me– Tables of drinkers whose glasses tingled together when they
prepared to drain them– An open billiard room where the balls on the
table kissed so loudly that the music could not prevent their being
heard– Cake-stands where the simple rustic girls thronged to purchase
sugar-candy, and whose example I imitated– A lively old
man near the music who sold his macaroni-cakes by lottery,
and called long and loud upon the company to purchase
tickets, &c. & c. I staid there till 9 o’clock and stopped several
times on my way home in the moon-light to catch the
strains of music which were still animating the company– The next
morning I called for my bill as I intended to proceed to Mortfontaine
It was about five leagues to Mortfontaine and the walk was
delightful as I was constantly going along by-paths bordered with turf
and filled with fruit-trees– I went through a great number of villages–
all very neat and flourishing– My little adventures in the taverns
and wherever I stopped to enquire the road were all pleasing and I
walked along in a happy state of indifference to the future having
my little expedition for the actual limit of my thoughts–
I won’t say any thing about Morte-
–taine and Ermenonville until you return,
I saw at the latter place of course the tomb of Rousseau–
the house he inhabited– the temple erected to Montaigne, &c. From
Ermenonville I was obliged to return to Mortefontaine where I spent the
evening in the same room with a party who were to visit E. The
following day– A pretty black-eyed girl
looking love at every glance
Page 4

was among them and I should have been delighted to have acted as
guide to the party and accompanied them the next day– I saw my
fair unknown ride off the following morning on a stately jackass
and I wished in the innocence of my heart that I could have
had the happiness her cousin
enjoyed of switching the animal
forward into a fast walk– I intended from there to have gone to
Vincennes but no body knew the road so I was obliged to return
direct to Paris as there was nothing else to be seen in that quarter.
William H. Seward Esq:
Counsellor of Law
Auburn, N.Y.


Type: postmark