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BASSET—BASSET HORN

follows the crest-line of the main range. Forts guard the upper valleys of the Nive and the Aspe, along which run important passes into Spain. The general direction of the rivers of the department is towards the north-west. The streams almost all meet in the Adour through the Gave de Pau, the Bidouze, and the Nive. In the north-east the two Luys flow directly to the Adour, which they join in Landes. In the south-west the Nivelle and the Bidassoa flow directly into the sea. The lower course of the Adour forms the boundary between Basses-Pyrénées and Landes; it enters the sea a short distance below Bayonne over a shifting bar, which has often altered the position of its mouth. The Gave de Pau, a larger stream than the Adour, passes Pau and Orthez, but its current is so swift that it is only navigable for a few miles above its junction with the Adour. On the left it receives the Gave d'Oloron, formed by the Gave d'Ossau, descending from the Pic du Midi, and the Gave d'Aspe, which rises in Spain. An important affluent of the Gave d'Oloron, the Saison or Gave de Mauléon, descends from the Pic d'Orhy. From the Pic des Escaliers, which rises above the forest of Iraty, the Bidouze descends northwards; while the forest, though situated on the southern slope of the chain, forms a part of French territory. The Nive, a beautiful river of the Basque country, takes its rise in Spain; after flowing past St Jean-Pied-de-Port, formerly capital of French Navarre and fortified by Vauban to guard the pass of Roncevaux, it joins the Adour at Bayonne. The Nivelle also belongs only partly to France and ends its course at St Jean-de-Luz. The Bidassoa, which is only important as forming part of the frontier, contains the Ile des Faisans, where the treaty of the Pyrenees was concluded (1659), and debouches between Hendaye (France) and Fuenterrabia (Spain).

The climate of the department is mild and it has an abundant rainfall, partly due to the west wind which drives the clouds from the gulf of Gascony. The spring is rainy; the best seasons are summer and autumn, the heat of summer being moderated by the sea. The winters are mild. The air of Pau agrees with invalids and delicate constitutions, and St Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz are much frequented by winter visitors.

Despite extensive tracts of uncultivated land, the department is mainly agricultural. Maize and wheat are the chief cereals; potatoes, flax and vegetables are also produced. Pasture is abundant, and horses, cattle, sheep and pigs are largely reared. The vine is grown on the lower slopes sheltered from the north wind, the wines of Jurançon, near Pau, being the most renowned. Of the fruits grown, chestnuts, cider-apples, and pears are most important. About one-thirteenth of the department consists of woods, a very small proportion of which belong to the government, the rest to the communes and private individuals.

The department furnishes salt, building-stone, and other quarry products. There are mineral springs at Eaux-Bonnes, Eaux-Chaudes, Cambo-les-Bains (resorted to by the Basques on St John's Eve), St Christau, and Salies. At Le Boucau, 3 m. from Bayonne, there are large metallurgical works, the Forges de l'Adour, and chemical works. The manufactures of the department include woollen caps and sashes, cord slippers, chocolate, and paper, and there are also tanneries, saw- and flour-mills. "Bayonne hams" and other table delicacies are prepared at Orthez. There is a considerable fishing population at Bayonne and St Jean-de-Luz. Bayonne is the principal port. Exports consist chiefly of timber, mine-props, minerals, wine, salt and resinous products. Coal, minerals, phosphates, grain and wool are leading imports. The interior commerce of the department is, however, of greater importance to its inhabitants; it takes the form of exchange of products between the regions of mountain and plain. The railway lines of Basses-Pyrénées, the chief of which is that from Bayonne to Toulouse via Orthez and Pau, belong to the Southern Company. The Adour, the Nive and the Bidouze are navigable on their lower courses. The department has five arrondissements—Pau, Bayonne, Oloron, Orthez and Mauléon, divided into 41 cantons and 559 communes. It constitutes the diocese of Bayonne, comes within the educational circumscription (académie) of Bordeaux and belongs to the district of the XVIII. army corps. Pau, the capital and seat of a court of appeal, Bayonne, Oloron, Biarritz, Orthez, Eaux-Bonnes, and St Jean-de-Luz are the principal towns. The following places are also of interest:—Lescar, which has a church of the 12th and 16th century, once a cathedral; Montaner, with a stronghold built in 1380 by Gaston Phoebus, count of Foix and viscount, of Béarn; and Sauveterre, a town finely situated on the Gave d'Oloron, with an old bridge, remains of a feudal castle, and a church in the Romanesque and Gothic styles.


BASSET, or Bassette, a French game of cards played by five persons with a pack of fifty-two cards. Once very popular, it is now practically obsolete. It is said to be of Venetian origin and to have been introduced into France by Justiniani, the ambassador of Venice in the second half of the 17th century. It resembles lansquenet (q.v.) in a general way, in that it is played between a banker and several punters, the players winning or losing according as cards turned up match those already exposed or not.


BASSET HORN (Fr. Cor de Basset, or Cor de Bassette; Ger. Bassethorn, Basshorn; Ital. Corno di Bassetto), a wood-wind instrument, not a "horn," member of the clarinet family, of which it is the tenor.

Basset-horn 1.png
Fig. 1.
(From photographs lent
by M. Victor Mahillon.)

The basset horn consists of a nearly cylindrical tube of wood (generally cocus or box-wood), having a cylindrical bore and terminating in a metal bell wider than that of the clarinet. For convenience in reaching the keys and holes, the modern instrument is usually bent or curved either near the mouthpiece or at the bell, which is turned upwards. The older models were bent in the middle at an obtuse angle, and had at the bottom of the lower joint, near the bell, a wooden block, inside which the bore was reflexed, and bent down upon itself.[1] The basset horn has the same fingering as the clarinet, and corresponds to the tenor of that instrument, being pitched a fifth below the clarinet in C. The alto clarinet in E♭ is often substituted for the basset horn, especially in military bands, but the instruments differ in three particulars:—(1) The basset horn has a metal bell instead of the pear-shaped contracted bell of the alto clarinet. (2) The bore of the basset horn is wider than that of the alto clarinet in E♭, or of the tenor clarinet in F. (3) The tube of the basset horn is longer than that of the clarinet, and contains four additional long keys, worked by the thumb of the right hand, which in the clarinet is only used to steady the instrument. These keys give the basset horn an extended compass of two tones downwards to F Basset-horn 2.png whereas the E♭ clarinet only extends to G Basset-horn 3.png and the F clarinet to A Basset-horn 4.png (actual sounds). This brings the compass of the basset horn to a range of four octaves from Basset-horn 5.png, actual sounds Basset-horn 6.png.

  1. An instrument of this type, stamped "H. Grenser, S. Wiesner, Dresden," is in the collection of the Rev. F. W. Galpin, of Hatfield, Broad Oak.