"Lille" [essay]
Passeport, monsieur, sʼil vous plait. I hate fortified towns, in general,
that is.—Their houses are like barracks, their public buildings like prisons,
their population like so many rats in a rat trap; they are arduous to get
in, a difficult to get out, and disagreeable to remain in. To all this, how‐
ever, Lille is an exception, except in one circumstance—its difficulty of access.
We were detained after a long dayʼs journey under a burning sun, hot,
hungry, and stupid, while our passport was examined. Slowly the sentinel
unfolded the paper, spelled over its contents with tiresome coolness and
provoking minuteness, slowly returned it, and then came—Passez. 1 And
pass we did right gladly. Lille is a beautiful, a most beautiful town. I
have seen none equal to it, for grandeur of effect, for the massive magni‐
ficence of its edifices, for the palace like nobility of its streets, except
Genoa. The day also on which we entered it was almost Italian, the sky
was of such a deep and unbroken blue, and a stream of rich, glowing,
tawny light shot upon the full fretwork and elaborate carving of the upper
parts of the houses; but their bases, owing to the narrowness of the
streets and the enormous height of the opposing buildings, were wrapt in
shade, deep, gloomily deep, when contrasted with the flood of sunshine
that glanced on the gable roofs, and almost gave to life b the many statues
of the Virgin, that stood beneath their Gothic niches, really very respect‐
ably sculptured, at every angle of the streets. 2