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Chapter 40

It was very well that my little tour was to termi-
nate at Dijon; for I found, rather to my chagrin, that
there was not a great deal, from the pictorial point of
view, to be done with Dijon. It was no great matter,
for I held my proposition to have been by this time
abundantly demonstrated, - the proposition with which
I started: that if Paris is France, France is by no
means Paris. If Dijon was a good deal of a disap-
pointment, I felt, therefore, that I could afford it. It
was time for me to reflect, also, that for my disap-
pointments, as a general thing, I had only myself to
thank. They had too often been the consequence of
arbitrary preconceptions, produced by influences of
which I had lost the trace. At any rate, I will say
plumply that the ancient capital of Burgundy is want-
ing in character; it is not up to the mark. It is old
and narrow and crooked, and it has been left pretty
well to itself: but it is not high and overhanging; it is
not, to the eye, what the Burgundian capital should
be. It has some tortuous vistas, some mossy roofs,
some bulging fronts, some gray-faced hotels, which
look as if in former centuries - in the last, for instance,
during the time of that delightful President de Brosses,
whose Letters from Italy throw an interesting side-light
on Dijon - they had witnessed a considerable amount
of good living. But there is nothing else. I speak as
a man who for some reason which he doesn't remem-
ber now, did not pay a visit to the celebrated Puits
de Moise, an ancient cistern, embellished with a sculp-
tured figure of the Hebrew lawgiver.

The ancient palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, long
since converted into an hotel de ville, presents to a
wide, clean court, paved with washed-looking stones,
and to a small semicircular _place_, opposite, which
looks as if it had tried to be symmetrical and had
failed, a facade and two wings, characterized by the
stiffness, but not by the grand air, of the early part of
the eighteenth century. It contains, however, a large
and rich museum, - a museum really worthy of a capi-
tal. The gem of this exhibition is the great banquet-
ing-hall of the old palace, one of the few features of
the place that has not been essentially altered. Of
great height, roofed with the old beams and cornices,
it contains, filling one end, a colossal Gothic chimney-
piece, with a fireplace large enough to roast, not an ox,
but a herd of oxen. In the middle of this striking
hall, the walls of which. are covered with objects more
or less precious, have been placed the tombs of Philippe-
le-Hardi and Jean-sans-Peur. These monuments, very
splendid in their general effect, have a limited interest.
The limitation comes from the fact that we see them
to-day in a transplanted and mutilated condition.
Placed originally in a church which has disappeared
from the face of the earth, demolished and dispersed
at the Revolution, they have been reconstructed and
restored out of fragments recovered and pieced to-
gether. The piecing his been beautifully done; it is
covered with gilt and with brilliant paint; the whole
result is most artistic. But the spell of the old mor-
tuary figures is broken, and it will never work again.
Meanwhile the monuments are immensely decorative.

I think the thing that pleased me best at Dijon
was the little old Parc, a charming public garden,
about a mile from the town, to which I walked by a
long, straight autumnal avenue. It is a _jardin fran-
cais_ of the last century, - a dear old place, with little
blue-green perspectives and alleys and _rondpoints_, in
which everything balances. I went there late in the
afternoon, without meeting a creature, though I had
hoped I should meet the President de Brosses. At the
end of it was a little river that looked like a canal,
and on the further bank was an old-fashioned villa,
close to the water, with a little French garden of its
own. On the hither side was a bench, on which I
seated myself, lingering a good while; for this was just
the sort of place I like. It was the furthermost point
of my little tour. I thought that over, as I sat there,
on the eve of taking the express to Paris; and as the
light faded in the Parc the vision of some of the things
I had seen became more distinct.

Henry James