ePub 版
[ocr errors]

society. An Englishman has an uncomfortable consciousness of the presence and observation of others; an immense love of approbation, with either a shyness or a defiance of opinion.

• Thoroughly well bred people are essentially the same every where. You will find much more conventional breeding here than with us, and, of course, the general level of manners is higher and the surface more uniform.

Society is smoothed to that excess,

That manners differ hardly more than dress.' They are more quiet, and I should say there was less individuality ; but from a corresponding remark having been made by English travellers among us, I take it the impression results from the very slight revelations of character that are made on a transient acquaintance. There is much more variety and richness in conversation here, resulting naturally from more leisure and higher cultivation. But after all, there seems to me to be a great defect in conversation. The feast of wit and reason it may be, but it is not the flow and mingling of soul. The Frenchman, instructed by his amour propre, said truly, · Tout le monde aime planter son mot.' Conversation seems here to be a great arena, where each speaker is a gladiator who must take his turn, put forth his strength, and give place to his successor. Each one is on the watch to seize his opportunity, show his power, and disappear before his vanity is wounded by an indication that he is in the way. Thus conversation becomes a succession of illuminations and triumphs-or failures. There is no such · horreur' as a bore ; no such bore as a proser. A bore might be defined to be a person that must be listened to. I remember R. saying that 'kings are always bores, and so are royal dukes, for they must not be interrupted as long as they please to talk.' The crowning grace of conversation, the listening with pleased eagerness, I have rarely seen. When Dr. C. was told that Coleridge pronounced him the most agreeable American he had ever seen, he replied, • Then it was because he found me a good listener, for I said absolutely nothing !' And yet, as far as we may judge from Coleridge's Table-Talk, he would have been the gainer by a fairer battle than that where One side only gives and t’other takes the blows.'

-Ib. 100-102. The following refers to a feature of our society, which is too anomalous permanently to consist with the advancement of the public mind in intelligence and liberalism.

• The system of ranks here, as absolute as the Oriental caste, is the feature in English society most striking to an American. For the progress of the human race it was worth coming to the New World to get

rid of it. Yes, it was worth all that our portion of the human family sacrificed, encountered, and suffered. This system of castes is the more galling, clogging, and unhealthy, from its perfect unfitness to the present state of freedom and progress in England.

[ocr errors]

and as,

• Travellers laugh at our pretensions to equality, and Sir Walter Scott has said, as truly as wittily, that there is no perfect equality except among the Hottentots. But our inequalities are as changing as the surface of the ocean, and this makes all the difference. Each rank is set about here with a thorny, impervious, and almost impass. able hedge. We have our walls of separation, certainly ; but they are as easily knocked down or surmounted as our rail-fences.

* With us, talents, and education, and refined manners command respect and observance; and so, I am sorry to say, does fortune : but fortune has more than its proverbial mutability in the United States. The rich man of to-day is the poor man of to-morrow,

and so vice versa. This unstableness bas its evils, undoubtedly, and so has every modification of human condition ; but better the evil that is accidental than that which is authorized, cherished, and inevitable. That system is most generous, most christian, which allows a fair start to all ; some must

. reach the goal before others, as, for the most part, the race is ordained to the swift, and the battle to the strong. · But

you would rather have my observations than my speculations ;

brief survey, I have only seen the outside, it is all I can give you, my dear C. I have no details of the vices of any class. I have heard shocking anecdotes of the corruption prevailing among the high people ; and men and women have been pointed out to me in public places who have been guilty of notorious conjugal infidelities, and the grossest violations of parental duty, without losing caste; and this I have heard imputed to their belonging to a body that is above public opinion. I do not see how this can be, nor why the opinion of their own body does not bear upon them. Surely there should be virtue enough in such people as the Marquis of Lansdowne and the Duchess of Sutherland, to banish from their world the violators of those laws of God and man, on which rest the foundations of social virtue and happiness.'—Ib. pp. 107–109.

From England our author proceeded to the continent, and as her route lay along the highways of Europe, we shall not detain our readers by transferring to our pages her descriptions of the scenery she witnessed, and the habits and condition of the people amongst whom she journeyed. Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy have been so frequently described by modern tourists, that we may pass over this part of Miss Sedgwick’s volumes with slight notice. The following will be interesting to all who are acquainted with the writings of one of the most eminent philosophic historians of Europe.

• Towards evening, K. and I drove out to M. Sismondi's. sides at Chesne. We drove away from the lake on a level road, past pleasant villas, and in face of Mont Blanc; thickly veiled his face was though, and, as we are told, he does not show it, on an average, more than sixty times a-year. After a pleasant drive of a mile and a half, we reached M. Sismondi's house, a low, cottage-like building, with a pretty hedge before it, and ground enough about it to give it an air of

He re

seclusion and refinement. On the opposite side of the road, and withdrawn from it, is a Gothic church, shaded by fine old trees; and before it is the Salève, and Mont Blanc for a back-ground. I envied those who could sit down on the stone benches in the broad vestibule of the church, with these glorious high altars before them. It pleased me to find Sismondi's home in a position so harmonizing with the elevation and tranquillity of his philosophic mind. As we drove up the serpentine approach to his door, I felt a little trepidation, lest I might not find a friend in my long and intimate correspondent-a natural dread of the presence of a celebrated man; but I had no sooner seen his benignant face, and heard the earnest tones of his kind welcome, than I felt how foolish, how pitiful was such a dread; and that I might as well have feared going into the sunshine, or into the presence


any other agent, however powerful, that is the source of general health and happiness. To our surprise, we found we were expected. Confalonieri is in Geneva, and, expecting to intercept us, has delayed for some days his return to Paris.

• After an hour we came away perfectly satisfied. Not a look, a word, or tone of voice had reminded us that we were meeting for the first time. We seemed naturally, and with the glow of personal intercourse, to be carrying on the thread of an acquaintance that we had been all our lives weaving. I can say nothing truer, nor to you more expressive, than that the atmosphere of home seemed to enfold us. You would like to know how M. Sismondi looks. I can tell you that he is short, stout, and rather thick; that he has a dark complexion, plenty of black hair, and brilliant hazel eyes ; and then you will have just about as adequate a notion of his soul-lit face as you would have of the beauty of Monument Mountain, the Housatonic, and our meadows, if you had never seen the sun shine upon them or the shadows playing over them. I sometimes think it matters not what the original structure is, when the character is written on it, and the golden light of the soul shines over it. It is a very common opinion, but is it not an erroneous one? that you cannot form a correct opinion of an author from his works. Nine-tenths (ninety-nine hundredths ?) of authors, so called, are mere collectors-rifucitori-ingenious makers of patchwork. An original writer writes with earnestness and sincerity. As Titian is said to have ground up flesh to produce his true coloring, so their works are a portion of their spirits ; the book is, in fact, the man, ...

• Sisinondi rarely dines out, and has not,' Madame S. says, “in his life drunk a half-glass of wine beyond what was good for him ;' and surely he has his reward in a clear head and unshaken hand. He is sixty-seven. Madame S. expressed her regret that he was so near the allotted term of life, while he had yet so much to do.' 'I wish,' she added, playfully, that I were nineteen, and my husband twenty-one.' Sismondi replied, that he should not care to live his life over again ; • it had been so happy, he hould not dare to trust the chances.' We in our rash love would have exclaimed, “O king, live for ever!' forgetting that he will for live ever without the chances.'....

*K. and I walked out this morning to breakfast with the Sismondis.

It was scarcely nine when we sat down to the table. He breakfasted on curd and cream, and on these delicate articles Madame S. says he expends all his gourmandise. Nine is not late now (October 6), and he had already written three letters and several graceful stanzas for some lady's album. It is by these well-ordered habits of diligence that he accomplishes such an immensity of work. And with all this labor his mind is as free, as much at ease, as if he had nothing in the world to do but make his social home the cheerful place it is. He spoke in terms of high commendation of Prescott's Ferdinand and Isabella, but he thought Mr. P. had painted his heroine-queen en beau, and he went on to express his detestation of her bigotry, and his horror of its tremendous effects. We women contended for her conjugal and maternal character. • And what,' he asked, • bad she done for her children but educate a mad woman?' Madame S. reminded him of Catherine of Aragon. • But she,' he said, ' was not Isabella's daughter. We all smiled, and I said that I was glad to find him at fault in a point of history. * Ah !' he replied, history for me is divided into two parts: that which I have written and forgotten, and that which I have not written and have not yet learned.'..

• I asked if the working classes here were making progress. He said · No; on the contrary, there was less development of mind than tifty years ago, for then there existed a law, now annulled, forbidding a master-workman to employ more than two journeymen. Now the tendency of things is make great capitalists, and to reduce the mass of men to mere · mechanicals.' As to progress with the peasantry, that was quite out of the question. What a strange and death-like condition this seems to us! When I think of the new, the singularly happy condition of our people among the working classes of the world, I am vexed at their solemn, anxious faces. If they have all outward prosperity, they have not that cheerfulness of the countenance which the wise man says betokeneth the prosperity of the heart. There is something wrong in this—some contravention of Providence.'



249-255. We take leave of Miss Sedgwick with the most hearty goodwill, and with a sincere desire that all our tourists, whether American or English, may imitate the spirit in which she has related to her kindred at home' what she saw and heard in the Old World. It is surely time that the mean spirit of detraction in which many have written should be abandoned. Neither the Americans nor ourselves can gain any thing by the reputation of the other being diminished; while each


be benefited by a fair and candid exhibition of the character and habits of its contemporary. To misrepresent the institutions or to caricature the manners of a great people, for the purpose of misleading the judgment of our own countrymen, is one of the most serious offences which can be committed, and should be marked by the reprobation of every well-constituted mind.


Art. IV. The Biblical Cabinet : or Hermeneutical, E.cegetical, and

Philological Library. Vols. 1.—XXXI. Edinburgh: Thomas Clark.

B EFORE the appearance of the Edinburgh Biblical Cabinet,

we had long felt the desirableness of such a series. When, therefore, it actually started into existence, it was hailed as the auspicious harbinger of a brighter day in the progression of biblical literature. Here was the commencement of an exegetical library for the intelligent divine, which would constantly excite a taste for profounder study, and foster the nascent predilection for critical inquiry in our native land. Great gratitude is due to the publisher for undertaking a work not likely soon to be extensively popular—a work of sterling and staple material, fitted to command the confidence, and to challenge the assent, of every right-hearted student of the Bible. We fear, however, that he has not been well sustained in his disinterested efforts to diffuse a better taste; but that oft desponding, he laments the failure of a generous experiment, on whose success he had calculated with overweening confidence. Britain had done comparatively little for the advancement of philological studies, and it was perhaps too much to expect that she should be speedily awakened to a right appreciation of their severe exercises. Her taste had been scarcely formed for them. Her spirit had no yearning towards them. In hermeneutical science, too, she had been slumbering, whilst other nations were running the career of an honorable and hallowed zeal for the better understanding of the word of God. Was it probable, then, that the scientific apparatus of a people habituated to such inquiries should be welcomed by her as a valuable gift, or received with cordial affection?' Thus the mental habits of the British nation augured little success.

But it were idle to conceal or to palliate the fact, that the management of the Biblical Cabinet has been marked by several defects. Let us plainly and candidly allege, that it has not sustained a character brightening and improving by time. It can hardly have escaped the notice of the most unreflecting, that little progressive improvement has marked the entire series. And yet this was a matter of easy accomplishment. It was what the readers had a right to look for; and when disappointed an equal right to complain of. What, then, is the reason that obliges them to give expression to feelings of dissatisfaction with its management? What induces them to pronounce over it a decision less friendly and favorable than

« 上一頁繼續 »