Only Six Years Post-Battle
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
Pre-Revolutionary Dutch-Ruled Belgium
The First Modern Rollercoaster
At Champs-Élysées in Paris
Netherlands, France, Belgium, circa 1823. Manuscript fair copy travel journal of a “A Tour on the Continent” lasting one month from 13 September 1821 to 11 October 1821, which features a visit to the site of the Battle of Waterloo, made by J.D. and W.C., the latter being William Chapman, an ancestral relation of British historian and economist Guy Patterson Chapman, possibly his paternal grandfather. Evidently with the original travel journal or paper notes in hand, this volume was written in 1823, or shortly thereafter, as the leafs are watermarked with that year, and features the bookplate of William Chapman to front pastedown, presumably the author. 8vo. 134 pages in manuscript, in a fine hand, with a later manuscript dedication to front leaf dated July 1892. Paginated in manuscript by the writer to upper margins. Half green roan over brown paper boards. Some wear to boards, otherwise in very good condition, a pleasing volume.
Provenance: From the library of Major Guy Patterson Chapman, British historian, author, economist, and distinguished World War II soldier, son of a wealthy barrister G.W. Chapman, and husband to novelist Storm Jameson. Indeed, the journal would have been of special interest to him. He is said to have inherited his passion for travel, and for claret, from his maternal grandfather who was a partner in the large shipping firm Gellatly & Gellatly. His interest in writing may have stemmed from his paternal grandfather who was a publisher. Contemporary descriptions of him state that he descended from a family of country folk, which is reflected in William Chapman’s uncomplicated bookplate depicting an eagle grasping a sheath of wheat and a staff, surrounded by a garter that likens the English royal coat of amrs.
Major Guy Patterson Chapman OBE MC (1889-1972) served with the Royal Fusiliers in France and Belgium during the Great War, surviving the Battle of Somme in 1916. He also survived the Battle of Arras in 1917 but was badly affected by a mustard gas attack. Following treatment for this he returned to the Western Front, remaining until the armistice was signed on 11 November 1918.
The highlight of the journal is a contemplative walkabout on the field of Waterloo only six years after the great battle that defeated Napoleon’s army, with nine pages of the journal describing his observations at the site, including remnants of war, and reflections on the critical manoeuvres and assaults.
Excerpts from the text pertaining to Waterloo:
“Saturday 22 Sept. 1821. Our time this day was passed in a visit to the celebrated Field of Waterloo the place of the final overthrow of the Power of Bonaparte.“
“… a few miles distant from Brussels entered the Forest of Soignes… all young beeches… an oak of great size… as far as the eye could see.”
[Also known as the Sonian Forest or Sonian Wood, the forest lay behind the Anglo-allied Army of the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. From the time of the Romans it had generally been seen as a tactical blunder to position troops for battle in front of woodland because it hampers their ability to retreat.]
“… we reached the Village of Waterloo a neat place and until lately scarce known to be in existence tho’ now the fame of it…”
“We left our carriage at Mont St Jean a small village… walked to the place of battle which is a fine open field with two hills opposite each other about half a mile apart on which the adverse Armies were ranged and the small valley between was the place of desperate conflict. ”
[Upon learning that the Prussian army was able to support him, Wellington decided to offer battle on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, across the Brussels road. Here he withstood repeated attacks by the French throughout the afternoon, aided by the progressively arriving Prussians.]
“We stood upon the spot where the Duke of Wellington remained during the battle close to which are two Monuments… to the memory of the Officers of the German Legion and to the other… that of Sir Alexander Gordon.”
[Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon was a British Army officer who was killed at the Battle of Waterloo, having been wounded while rallying Brunswickers near La Haye Sainte. He died in Wellington’s own camp bed in his headquarters during the night.]
“From this place is an uninterrupted view of the field and though its extent is very considerable yet at one glance the eye can take the whole of the various pictures positions of the contending armies.”
“… nor fosse nor fence are found save where from out her shatter’d towers rise Hougoumont’s dismantled Towers. Close by is the Farm House of La Haye Sainte which formed one of the British Positions and the furthest spot to which the French Army penetrated, they did once obtain possession of it but did not hold it long.”
[On the western side of the main road, and in front of the rest of Wellington’s line, was the walled farmhouse and orchard of La Haye Sainte, which was garrisoned with 400 light infantry of the King’s German Legion. The farmhouse, situated at the foot of an escarpment on the Charleroi-Brussels road, was a crucial Allied stronghold during the battle.]
“… walked along the Road to the small House of La Belle Alliance the headquarters of Bonaparte during the Battle. In the Gable are still remaining many Cannon Balls which were sent there by the English Artillery and are plastered in with great care.”
[According to an account of 1820, originally La Belle Alliance consisted of three houses, one of which was a tavern, that now bears the name, and two adjacent houses.]
“We then turned to the right along the French line at a short distance from the extremity of which is the Chateau of Hougoumont which was the great object of contention and the scene of the most dreadful fighting… continued efforts of the French Troops to take it… set it on fire which forced its defenders out.It is now in a state of complete ruin as it was left and bears ample witness to the vigor of the attack… The garden still produces fruit of which we tasted sour apples.”
[The Château d’Hougoumont (originally Goumont) is a large farmhouse situated at the bottom of an escarpment near the Nivelles road in Braine-l’Alleud, near Waterloo. Hougoumont had become dilapidated and was recently restored.]
“We then returned along the English Line to Mont St Jean… the graves of twenty thousand men are no longer visible, the plough has levelled them.”
Also fascinating is Chapman’s firsthand description of The Promenades Aeriennes or Aerial Strolls – the first modern rollercoaster – which was powered by horses and operated for seven years from 1817 to 1824 in Parc Beaujon, an amusement park on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
With three-wheeled cars securely locked to a track, guide rails to keep them on course, early nineteenth century thrill seekers rode up and descended down steep inclines at what was then considered high speeds. In true nineteenth century dialogue, Chapman presents a rather sophisticated and eloquent account of the early form of an exhilarating amusement of the senses.
On 28 September he and his travel companion had departed from La Mézière in a “carriole de poste.”Reaching Paris on Sunday the 30th, they settled in the “Hotel d’Angleterre” on Rue Filles de St. Thomas, and began taking in the experience that only the City of Lights can offer. Thirty-four (34) pages are devoted to the tour of Paris, where an entire week was spent.
Excerpts from the text describing Paris:
“30 September 1821…. a desire to roam… we went to that centre of Gaiety and dissipation the Palais Royal where the splendour of the Shops, the Magnificence of the Restaurateurs and Cafes and the Gaiety of the Visitors form a Scene perhaps without its equal in any part of Europe.”
“1st Oct 1821…. we rambled over many streets and places not knowing exactly whither we were going… Walking is disagreeable… the carriages drive so close to the houses and so confusedly… a pedestrian is exposed to considerable danger of being run over and is certain to be well splashed unless is careful to avoid coming on Coaches and Cabriolets… The streets are lighted by lamps suspended in the middle of the street by a rope attached to the opposite houses… In the Boulevards they have lately introduced Gas.“
[Paris started gas illumination of its streets in 1820. Gas was led through pipe installations to the gas lanterns that were placed on poles. Every evening the lamplighters manual lit the lanterns and every morning they put them out, until the invention of a mechanical system that released gas into the lamp. The first electric streetlight would appear in Paris in 1878 – some 55 years after Chapman’s visit, being Russian engineered arc lamps called “Yablochkov candle”.]
“The Boulevards… The best Shops by far are here and innumerable Cafés and it is the favourite Lounge of the French Exquisites…”
“… the Place Vendôme… the Luxembourg Palace built by Mary de Medici… the Place du Carrousel in which is a Beautiful triumphal Arch erected by Bonaparté on which were placed the four celebrated Horses brought by him from Venice and restored to that city at the Peace of 1815. Bonaparté’s spoiling of conquered nations has been very much censured…”
“2 Oct. 1821. The Palais Royal likewise occupied a great portion of our time. The interior is a large Parallelogram of the most elegant architecture… an arcade extending round the Building in which are the Shops… a Promenade… beautiful fountain… once the Palace of the Duke of Orleans the Promoter of the French Revolution…”
“4 Oct. 1821…. To aid us in our movement this day we hired a Fiacre or Hackery Coach which are better than the London and inferior to the Brussel ones…”
“In the Evening we went to the Jardin Beaujon… the principal amusements are dancing and seeing conjurors [magicians]… and above all, riding down the mountains which here are the most superior in Paris. Two persons seat themselves in a Car which is then set in Motion down a gentle descent(running in grooves and so secured that they cannot be overturned) when they arrive at the bottom of a steep hill the Car by the force of its motion ascends a short way up this and there catches in a revolving chain which draws up to the top an elevation of upwards of fifty feet… guided to another descent much steeper than the first and in shape like a semi-circle down this the base runs with inconceivable rapidityto the spot from which it started where they are stopped by a strong spring which arrests their course very gently…” The Parisians & especially the Females delight in this amusement… The price of a ride is half a franc. Eight horses are employed to work the Machinery to draw them up.
“5 Oct. 1821… to the Telegraph on Montmartre… a Battle was fought here in 1814 between the Troops of Bonaparte & the English who… captured the grandest City of Europe… We then went to that most romantic burying ground of Pere Lachaise, situated a little distance from the Town as no burials are allowed within the City… The cemetery is of great extent and the Tombs very numerous and of all Forms than Fancy can devise.”
“6 Oct. 1821. Our morning ramble was through the Champs Elysees… a fine opera which is called Place de Louis 15… to the Palais Bourbons… From this it is a short walk to the Hotel des Invalides…”
Beginning “on board the King George Packet at Dover” the month-long “Tour on the Continent,” and thus the present manuscript, yields even more nostalgic imagery of Europe nearly two hundred years ago. Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, Liège, Aix la Chapelle in Aachen, Calais, Gravelines, Versailles, Reims and Dunkirk were all visited, as well as Waterloo and Paris as described above.
Early modes of transportation – usually horse-drawn or on rivers and canals, simple and foremost methods of street lighting, fashion and customs, languages foreign to the writer, chateaus, cathedrals, streets and shops, a palatial spa, and further sites of historical battles of the Napoleonic Wars leading up to the fall of Napoleon, are all described in firsthand observations of an astute and well-written English traveller. Historic hotels are named and described, as are certain city streets which have changed drastically in the past two centuries.
A pleasing and detailed visual image of the old-time charm of notable continental cities, splendid tree-lined vistas and promenades which have since been commercially overtaken, ancient architecture and nineteenth century homes, citizens of three unique countries and their customs!
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands finds its origin in the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat in 1813. In March 1815, amidst the turmoil of the Hundred Days, the Sovereign Prince adopted the style of “King of the Netherlands”. Following Napoleon’s second defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the Vienna Congress supplied international recognition of William’s unilateral move. The new King of the Netherlands was also made Grand Duke of Luxembourg, a part of the Kingdom that was, at the same time, a member state of the German Confederation. In 1830, Belgium seceded from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a step that was recognised by the Netherlands only in 1839. At that point, Luxembourg became a fully independent country in a personal union with the Netherlands. Luxembourg also lost more than half of its territory to Belgium.