"Calais" [essay]
How much has been said of Calais. Every one who has ever set his
foot on the French shore, from poor Yorick to the veriest scribbler ever
blotted paper, has written half a volume upon Calais. And no marvel.
Calais—the busy—the bustling, the—I had almost said the beautiful, for
beautiful it was to me, and I believe to every one who enters it as a
vestibule—an introduction to France, and to the French. 1 See Calais,
and you can see no more, though you should perambulate France from
the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. It is a little France, a miniature

picture, but not the less a resemblance. Stand on the pier and look round
you. The sky is a French sky, it is a very turquoise, the sea is a French
sea in everything but its want of motion, the air is French air, none of
your English boisterous sea puffs that blow the dust in your eyes when
you wish to be particularly clear sighted. No, it is a mere breath, you
canʼt call it a breeze, yet bearing a delicious, a balmy coolness, and a
little, a very little smell of the sea. Look at the fishing boats, they are
peculiarly French, and particularly clumsy. The red, tattered, shapeless
sail, the undistinguishable resemblance of stem to stern, the porpoise like
manner in which the vessel labours through the water, the incorrigible
disorder that reigns on board, the confusion of fish out of water with
men—that are at least out of their element, would mark a French fishing‐
boat whatever quarter of the world it might happen to be driven to.
And look at the town; the chimneys are entirely vapourless, and have
that peculiarly awkward look incident to all useless things. And look at
the people; the countenance, the costume, the tout ensemble is altogether
different from anything you ever saw in England, and yet Englandʼs
cliffs are on the horizon, half‐an‐hoursʼ might see you beneath them. 2 It
is most extraordinary.