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Life in Normandy
Sketches of French Fishing, Farming, Cooking, Natural History and Politics drawn from Nature in two volumes.

The following pages were written for pastime in 1848, by a Highland gentleman resident in Normandy, at the suggestion of an honoured friend, who named the subjects of French Cookery, Fishing, Natural History, Farming, Gardening, and Politics. It was suggested that ingenious foreign devices and engines for ensnaring, growing, and gathering food, and for making it eatable, might be so described as to benefit the poor at home, whose single dish of potatoes might easily be varied at small cost. It was argued that a good cheap dinner at home would tempt a poor man from bad dear drink abroad, and that a poor Scotchman’s wife might be taught to do that which poor wives do elsewhere. And, as even salmon when raw, are nasty, while well-cooked marrots, cuttle-fish, limpets, frogs, snails, and maggots are eaten and relished, so instruction might be seasoned and made agreeable with sketches from life in Normandy, such as it then was.

The suggestions were taken, the papers were written and sent, and they are now published, though both the author and his friend have passed away, because it was their wish, and in the hope that the object which they aimed at may be attained.

“There are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it,” and many a barren Scotch strand might yield a good harvest, if men only knew how to reap it and use it.

In Hope and Cross, and their conversations about France and the French Revolution, it is easy to recognise the mind of the experienced, liberal, clear-sighted politician, who knew the meaning of political gratitude; who tolerated all forms of religious worship, though he steadfastly adhered to his own, at home and abroad; who could foresee that communism, disorder, and a French republic, would lead to well-defined rights of property, stricter order, and something like despotism; and who held that the rigid system of protection, which placed a custom-house at the gate of every petty town, levied dues on every basket of eggs, and even planted sentries over sea water, to guard the salt monopoly, must give way to more liberal measures. The empire and the tariff of our day now prove the sagacity which predicted a change in the direction of monarchy and free trade.

Those who knew the writer need not be told his name. They will recognise the generosity whose chief luxury was to give pleasure to others, and the chivalry of the gentleman who was courteous to a bare-footed fisher-girl as to the highest in the land.

Those who knew provincial France some fourteen years ago, will recognise the country gentleman of old Norman and Breton type, who has so much in common with his Norse and British relations. They will know the warm, adventurous, hospitable, polite nature that still delights in love and war, danger and hardship; in riding, sailing, shooting, fishing, country life, good living, and good fellowship; and which in the olden time made vikings and gallant knights, hospitable chiefs, good soldiers and minstrels, of Norseman and Norman, Celt and Saxon.

They will also recognise some characteristics of other classes.

If there be a shade of caricature, it is evenly applied to friend and foreigner, and there is no gall in the ink. “ The Marquis ” cooked a dinner; —but it was for his friends, and, if he ate his full share, he earned it by wading for it like a man.

Men, and their manners and customs, are lightly sketched, but from nature, and on the spot:—the habits of animals are described from close observation by one who always delighted to watch them and catch them, without caring much for their long book-names or for learned theories.

The lithographs are copied from rough sketches made on the spot, and if the volumes do no more, they may at least serve to amuse the reader, and perhaps remind him of an old friend.

Edinburgh, December 1862.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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