Letter to Francis Towne


Arthur Champernowne, Letter to Francis Towne : 20 March 1786

Arras. March 20 17861

Be so good as to excuse this Scrall as I am obliged to write in a hurry -

As there is an English Gentleman going from this place to London, I trouble you to chuse me a dozen of the best Camelshair pencils of different sizes, & a half a dozen black led sliding ones: if you will be so good as to have them made up & directed to me I shall take it as a great favour, & to save you any farther trouble someone will call on you for them from a Merchant here who has all the custom of the English as he smuggles great quantities of contraband goods. -

I have long intended writing to you to give you an account of my travels hitherto. You will say indeed I have not proceeded far. We crossed from Dover to Calais in about four hours. Were persuaded by a Lady in the Paquet to come here instead of Lisle where there are so many English that we should never have learn't French as not one of them keeps any French Company. Were very gay here for about a fortnight while the Parliament (as they call it) met. This is the freest of all the Provinces in France They have no Farmers General and are not taxed so much as the rest. During last Summer We went to Lisle, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels. Lisle is a very regular well-built Town. The Rue Royale a mile long, the fortifications the finest in Europe. - Ghent is not so well built but is I believe larger than Lisle. The Emperor has lately destroyed the fortifications. Saw many very fine pictures by Rubens and all the Dutch and Flemish Painters. Bought some very pretty Sea pieces, two battles by Brydell etc. Observed in how great a degree the dirt and filth of the French decreased the nearer we came to Holland. Antwerp is a very pretty town. The tower very beautiful. The pictures very fine, especially the raising the Cross in the Church of the Saint Sepulchre. Saw many private Collections which are very fine. Went down the Scheld to Lillo which is now destroyed the Dutch having ceded it to the Emperor together with a handsome bribe. The view from the River very fine as we could see nothing but banks of mud with half starved yaffers grazing thereon A melancholy sight to see a river so well calculated for trade destitute of ships The road from Antwerp to Brussels very beautiful for a flat Country. Went a league in a Coche d'eau before we came to Brussels. After seeing Brussels all the other towns vanish from my thoughts. The buildings and the toute ensemble as the French saw is superbe, particularly the Park. but not to bastardize the English language with any more French words I will only tell you that I shall continue my journey thro' Germany.2 Shall be very happy to hear from you any hints about travelling down the Rhine & thro' Germany which will greatly oblige.

Sir your most obedient
humble Servant
Ar Champernowne.

You will oblige me by shewing Some of your drawings to the Bearer an Officer in Col Simco's Regiment.3
My Father's best Compliments4


  1. 1 This text from Emily Buckingham's transcript c.1915, Paul Oppé records.
  2. 2 This implies that Towne travelled down the Rhine through Germany in 1781, presumably when he drew FT342.
  3. 3 John Graves Simcoe. See the note at FT086.
  4. 4 Champernowne's father was Revd Richard Harrington (d.1813). See the note at FT602.