On Grand Tour, 1740

Johann Georg Keyssler (1693-1743), was a German scholar who served as steward to a succession of German nobles before making his name as a skilled tutor ideal for leading young noblemen on the Grand Tour. In 1740 he published a collection of his travel letters as Neueste Reisen durch Deutschland, Böhmen, Ungarn, die Schweiz, Italien und Lothringen which was translated into English in 1756. Keyssler’s observations combined careful descriptions of terrain and town life along with keen assessments of the political and economic contexts of the European continent since the 1680s.

These excerpts come from “Letter XIX” in Volume 1 of Travels Through Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, and Lorrain. London: A. Linde & T. Field, 1756.


Lausanne lies in a valley, but so uneven that the carriage wheels must be continually shod. On the east side of the town is a very spacious walk, with a wall, and a prospect towards the city and lake of Geneva, which seems very near, but is a good half league off.

In the wall of the great Church was a crack wide enough for a man to creep through, occasion’d by an earthquake in the year 1634. The celebrated old professor Pictet used to say, that when he was a boy and at play in the church-yard, he has sometimes laid his cloak in it; about thirty years ago it was closed again by another earthquake, and the crevice which remain’d was fill’d up with mortar, being not above an inch in breadth. The tower does not want beauty, but having been twice burned, only half of it is now standing. A smaller tower belonging to this church was also set on fire by lightening, when they produently beat it down by a chain ball, by which the body of the church was saved, and since a spire has been raised on it. In the church is the marble tomb of a chevalier of the house of Granson, likewise of duke Charles Schomberg, who lost his life in Piedmont in the year 1698.[1] On one side of this cathedral is a wall’d terrass like that at Bern, with this difference, that the terrass of Bern is much higher wall’d, and that of Lausanne has the advantage in prospect, commanding the lake and all the low country towards Geneva. This country indeed from its nature, and the improvements of it, affords a delicious view in the variety of little hills and dales, fields, meadows, vineyards and woods, together with the neighbourhood of the lake. All these allurements, and the regularity and mildness of the government, draw people of all countries into the Païs de Vaud, and especially to pass the summers and autumns there; some also purchase lands.

The resort of persons of rank from Geneva and the canton of Bern, of men of letters and parts, of gentlemen who have travell’d, of experienced merchants, and other persons of amiable qualities who come hither as to refuge from civil and ecclesiastical tyranny, affords the most desirable opportunities of spending the time agreeably in improving conversation. Even ministers of state whose talents have shown in the greatest courts of Europe, have chosen this spot for the seat of their repose: and their conversation to a mind turn’d for instruction, whom they are pleased to honour with their confidence, cannot but be an exquisite entertainment, as they themselves may feel transports of rational pleasures, which they were strangers to amidst the tumult of a court, and the embarrassments of their station. [155-6]

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To return from my digression, and say a word more of the charming Païs de Vaud, which beginning at Morat, reaches to Geneva, and is to be distinguished from La Vaux, which is but a small part thereof lying betwixt Lausanne and Bevay, and not above three leagues in length, and but one in breadth; it produces the wine called Vin de la Vaux, of a good body and agreeable flavour, yet has not such a demand as the Vin de la Côte growing betwixt Lausanne and Geneva, which not being so strong is accounted more wholesome. The country from Lausanne to Geneva abounds in vineyards, but the wine of a strip of land betwixt the river Aubonne and Pronsontause, a little brook falling in to the lake, half a league on this sideNyon, is esteemed the choicest. This territory is three small leagues in length, and is distinguished by the name of la Côte. The wine of the growth of Rolle and Bursin, two particular spots from here, is reckoned to surpass the rest, and especially the white wine; a the barony of Copet, which lies nearer towards Geneva, is celebrated for red wine.

The wine growing on the Savoy side of the lake of Geneva had formerly a very soniderable vent, the people of Geneva, and the neighbouring Switzers buying their wine from Savoy; but a certain rapacious placeman put the duke upon laying a duty upon this wine, which, as the Switzers could not be without it, he said would be a great increase to the revenue. Such counsellors are but too readily listened to, and the imposition took place. This of course occasioned the wine to rise, and the Switzers were not wanting to make remonstrances, but to no purpose; at last, seeing no remedy, it came into the minds of some leading men, that though their forefathers had never any thoughts of planting vines, yet that it was not impossible that their country, especially that part of it between Geneva and Lausanne, might yield as good wine as Savoy; the position of their mountains and of the land in general, affording a better exposure to the sun than the Savoy territory. The business was set on foot, and the consequence far exceeded all expectation; whereas the Savoy wines remained upon their hands, and instead of the uncertain advantage which the duke’s finances were gaping after, they lost, besides the detriment to the industrious subjects, a certain income, which they have never since been able to retrieve.

From Lausanne through Morges to Rolle is reckoned five hours journey; but it is usually gone in four. On the right-hand lies Aubonne, at present a government of the canton of Bern, but formerly a lordship belonging to the marquis du Quesne, which he purchased of Tavernier, the famous traveller, and afterward sold it to Bern. Tavernier had bought it upon the king of France’s having given him letters of nobility, with an intent of quietly spending there the remainder of his life; but by the knavery of a cousin of his, whom he had sent to the East-Indies with a cargo of two hundred and twenty two thousand French livres value, and the sale of which would at least have fetched a million, became involved in such troubles, that he was obliged to dispose of every thing, and ended his life in a manner very different from the ease and affluence with which he had flattered himself. As for the marquis du Quesne, he was eldest son of the famous admiral du Quesne, the only person whom the French could oppose to the Dutch admiral Ruyter. These two sea heroes are said to have had such mutual esteem, and such a dread of losing the honour they had gained, that they always avoided each other, sending private information of the course they intended to steer; till once du Quesne being by contrary winds hindered from pursuing the course which he had specified to Ruyter, they happened, contrary to the inclinations of both to meet of Mesina, and thus there was a necessity of coming to an engagement. It is also said, that from a false motion made by the Dutch admiral’s ship, du Quesne concluding Ruyter to be no longer in command, immediately animated his men with assuring them that Ruyter was killed; whereas he lived some days after he received the wound.[2]

Du Quesne continued a firm Protestant; so that when, in his advanced age Lewis XIV. Was practising upon him to forsake his religion, he frankly answered, Sire, j’ai rendu asses long temps á Cesar ce qui est dû á cesar; il est temps, que je rende aussi á Dieu ce qui lui est dû. ‘I have long enough been rendering to Cesar the things which are Cesar’s, it is now time for me to render also to God what is due to him.’ So little did the king understand this, that turning to the by-standers he said, Est ce que la tête tourney á cet homme? Veut il server l’empereur? ‘Is the man out of his mind? Is he for serving the emperor?’ Being on account of his naval qualities, the person whom in those times the crown of France could not spare, he was the only one who, at the time of the repeal of the edict of Nantz, was connived at, and not compelled to abjure his religion, or quit the country. The heart of this great man lies in a marble tomb erected by his son in the church of Aubonne; the spirit of persecution, after all his eminent services, not allowing the whole body to be carried out of town. [161-3]


[1] Charles Schomberg (1645-93) was born in Brandenburg but ended life as an English duke under William & Mary. He served as a general in the Prussian, Dutch, and English armies. He perished at the Battle of Marsaglia during the Nine Years’ War, among the 10,000 allies who perished failing to take the French-held town of Pinerolo.

[2] Keyssler here refers to the 1676 death of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter during the Franco-Dutch War as a result of wounds suffered at the Battle of Agosta. Admiral Abraham Duquesne, a renowned Huguenot naval leader, disengaged his fleet from the attack upon word of his rival’s injuries but continued to serve Louis XIV until 1684

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