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at least, exchanged the prospect of "La belle France" for that of homely Switzerland, the first time I had visited either, with a degree of satisfaction which I cannot, and shall not, attempt to describe. Indeed, it is well to skip entirely the copious raptures which burst from all our party, and I suppose do from every other, when they have climbed the intervening ridges of the Jura chain, and come all at once in sight of the Lake of Geneva, backed by Mont Blanc and its attendant range of Alps.
On first viewing these wonderful mountains, though under great advantages of position and weather, I felt grievously disappointed. The vertical angle which they subtended, that is to say, the portion of the sky which they filled above the horizon, was so small, compared to what my imagination had pictured and led me to expect, that I could scarcely suppress, along with the disappointment, a feeling of contempt. I did not go quite so far, indeed, as the cockney who persevered in thinking Primrose Hill superior to Mount Etna, but I did think the Alps had been much overpraised, and that other hills-Scottish, Welsh, and Irish-had been unduly depreciated in the scale of grandeur and elevation. It is true, that when I came to wander far and near among the Swiss mountains, and learned something of their real height from the labour and time required
to surmount even their lowest and most accessible shoulders, and when I viewed them close at hand on every side, I was gradually taught to respect their magnitude, and to admire their innumerable and infinitely varied beauties. So that, after visiting them twice, first on going to Italy, and again on coming back, I bade them adieu with a very different feeling from that which I had experienced on being first presented to them; just as one parts from a highly-informed and agreeable new acquaintance, whom, at the time we were first introduced, we had thought a common-place personage whose merits had been exaggerated.
Still, as I afterwards found out, I had formed on these early visits by no means a just conception of their true magnificence. All this is quite natural and easily understood, and what every person who has had opportunities of trying the experiment must have found to be true; but as there are, perhaps, not many persons who have had the means of putting the grandeur and beauty of these same Alps to such a test as the accidents of my professional life have thrown in my way, the resulting impression produced by the comparison may be thought interesting. It requires, indeed, an extensive, as well as a varied, acquaintance with mountains to perceive that the comparison of one vast ridge with another, under circumstances which are
calculated to bring their respective merits properly before us, whether of sublimity or of picturesque beauty, has not the effect of depreciating either, but, on the contrary, adds to the essential interest and importance which belong in common to such stupendous scenes.
Not long after taking leave of the Alps, professional avocations called me to South America, where it so happened that a continuous series of duties on that station put it in my power to see the Andes along a line of coast extending, with only occasional short interruptions, between three and four thousand miles! This enormous range stretched from the southern parts of Chili, in latitude 48° South, very nearly to California, in latitude 20° North. My good fortune-for I shall ever consider it such-was not limited to looking at these gorgeous mountains from a distance, as I had opportunities, from time to time, of landing, and examining them close at hand. I must mention, however, one severe disappointment which I experienced incidentally in the course of the voyage in question. The service on which the ship was employed having taken us to Guayaquil, we were told fifty times a-day by the natives, that their city commanded, in clear weather, one of the very best views anywhere to be seen of their great Chimborazzo, and consequently, they said, the grandest in all
the world. Alas! the weather was not once clear .during our stay; so that, after lingering in the neighbourhood as long as the duty I was employed to execute could possibly admit of, I was reluctantly compelled to sail away, without having seen the summit of the grandest peak in all the Cordilleras for one single moment unveiled!
On returning to Switzerland, fifteen years after the first visit, I made sure, that this long experience of the stupendous and still more elevated Andes, along the coasts of Chili, Peru, Quito, and Mexico, must prove fatal to the grandeur of the Alps. But the result was so much the reverse that it was difficult to believe some geological upheaving of the ground had not taken place in the interval; so enormously did the elevation and general sublimity of the Swiss mountains appear to have been magnified! Instead, therefore, of being degraded by the comparison, they were exalted; while the beauty of their exquisite scenery seemed vastly to surpass that of anything I had seen even among the tropical districts of the Andes.
It then became clear, upon reviewing all that had passed in my mind, that on first seeing the Alps, I had judged them by some purely ideal and false standard, which, from resting upon a very slender experience of mountain scenery, furnished no satisfactory or adequate scale. There was
wanting, in short, that comparative standard or estimate of heights and distances which the actual examination of analogous scenes could alone furnish; and, therefore, it was not until I had become quite familiar with the vast chains, or Cordilleras of the Andes, in all their variety of magnificence, that I became qualified to form any right judgment of the kindred glories of the Alps, and especially of that most interesting of them all, "the monarch of mountains," the beautiful Mont Blanc !
The purposes of our journey, however, not being limited to scenery, when we came to Geneva we delivered our letters, and set about visiting the residents; and nothing, certainly, could be more hospitable or more kind to us than these good people were. But we were by this time mountain-mad; and even had the charms-literary, scientific, and social-of the society of that celebrated city been ten times more fascinating than they were, they must have proved unavailing in keeping us back from the hills, into the valleys of which we longed to plunge-to which we often looked, and of which we exclusively spoke, with an impatience scarcely civil to our obliging entertainers. They, it is true, had long become so familiarised to the scene, as to have grown almost callous to the wonders, beauties, and other endless charms which lay