[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 1, 168].
To his mother [Colvin 1911, pp. 96-98]
Hôtel du Pavillon, Menton, November 13, 1873.
My dear Mother,
[…] The Place is not where I thought; it is about where the old Post Office was. The Hôtel de Londres is no more an hotel. I have found a charming room in the Hôtel du Pavillon,
just across the road from the Prince’s Villa;
it has one window to the south and one to the east, with a superb view of Mentone and the hills, to which I move this afternoon. […]
In the old great Place there is a kiosque for the sale of newspapers; a string of omnibuses (perhaps thirty) go up and down under the plane-trees of the Turin Road on the occasion of each train;
the Promenade has crossed both streams, and bids fair to reach the Cap St. Martin.
The old chapel near Freeman’s house at the entrance to the Gorbio valley is now entirely submerged under a shining new villa, with pavilion annexed; over which, in all the pride of oak and chestnut and divers coloured marbles, I was shown this morning by the obliging proprietor. The Prince’s Palace itself is rehabilitated, and shines afar with white window-curtains from the midst of a garden, all trim borders and greenhouses and carefully kept walks.
On the other side, the villas are more thronged together, and they have arranged themselves, shelf after shelf, behind each other. I see the glimmer of new buildings, too, as far eastward as Grimaldi;
and a viaduct carries (I suppose) the railway past the mouth of the bone caves.
F. Bacon (Lord Chancellor) made the remark that ‘Time was the greatest innovator’; it is perhaps as meaningless a remark as was ever made; but as Bacon made it, I suppose it is better than any that I could make.
Does it not seem as if things were fluid? They are displaced and altered in ten years so that one has difficulty, even with a memory so very vivid and retentive for that sort of thing as mine, in identifying places where one lived a long while in the past, and which one has kept piously in mind during all the interval. Nevertheless, the hills, I am glad to say, are unaltered;
though I dare say the torrents have given them many a shrewd scar, and the rains and thaws dislodged many a boulder from their heights, if one were only keen enough to perceive it. The sea makes the same noise in the shingle;
and the lemon and orange gardens still discharge in the still air their fresh perfume;
and the people have still brown comely faces;
and the Pharmacie Gros still dispenses English medicines; and the invalids (eheu!) still sit on the promenade and trifle with their fingers in the fringes of shawls and wrappers;
and the shop of Pascal Amarante still, in its present bright consummate flower of aggrandisement and new paint, offers everything that it has entered into people’s hearts to wish for in the idleness of a sanatorium;
and the ‘Château des Morts’ is still at the top of the town;
and the fort and the jetty are still at the foot, only there are now two jetties; and – I am out of breath. (To be continued in our next.)
For myself, I have come famously through the journey; and as I have written this letter (for the first time for ever so long) with ease and even pleasure, I think my head must be better. I am still no good at coming down hills or stairs; and my feet are more consistently cold than is quite comfortable. But, these apart, I feel well; and in good spirits all round.
I have written to Nice for letters, and hope to get them to-night. Continue to address Poste Restante. Take care of yourselves.
This is my birthday, by the way – O, I said that before. Adieu. – Ever your affectionate son,