Sunday, April 17, 2011

A View of Calais

'...The Vice-Admiral dined with us, and in the afternoon my Lord called me to give him the commission for him, which I did, and he gave it him himself. A very pleasant afternoon, and I upon the deck all the day, it was so clear that my Lord’s glass shewed us Calais very plain, and the cliffs were as plain to be seen as Kent, and my Lord at first made me believe that it was Kent...'

On April 17, 1660, Samuel Pepys records (in his diary) enjoying the sight of Calais through a glass.  The telescope had been around for about 50 years at this time.  As Calais lies so close to England, it has seen its share of military action, as well as sight-seeing.  Walter Scott alludes to Calais' situation as a portal as part of the setting of "Quentin Durward":

'But the excitement of the moment presently gave way to the host of political considerations, which, at that conjuncture, rendered an open breach with Burgundy so peculiarly perilous. Edward IV, a brave and victorious king, who had in his own person fought thirty battles, was now established on the throne of England, was brother to the Duchess of Burgundy, and, it might well be supposed, waited but a rupture between his near connexion and Louis, to carry into France, through the ever open gate of Calais, those arms which had been triumphant in the English civil wars, and to obliterate the recollection of internal dissentions by that most popular of all occupations amongst the English, an invasion of France. To this consideration was added the uncertain faith of the Duke of Bretagne, and other weighty, subjects of reflection. So that, after a deep pause, when Louis again spoke, although in the same tone, it was with an altered spirit. "But God forbid," he said, "that aught less than necessity should make us, the Most Christian King, give cause to the effusion of Christian blood, if anything short of dishonour may avert such a calamity. We tender our subjects' safety dearer than the ruffle which our own dignity may receive from the rude breath of a malapert ambassador, who hath perhaps exceeded the errand with which he was charged. — Admit the envoy of Burgundy to our presence."...'

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