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natural for Lord Byron, when comparing Vathek’ with other Eastern tales, to think rather of • Zadig' and · Rasselas,' than
• Of Thalaba—the wild and wondrous song.' The preface to the present volumes informis us that they include a reprint of the book of travels, of which a small private edition passed through the press forty years ago, and of the existence of which-though many of our readers must have heard some hints—few could have had any knowledge. Mr. Beckford has at length been induced to publish his letters, in order to vindicate his own original claim to certain thoughts, images, and expressions, which had been adopted by other authors whom he had from time to time received beneath his roof, and indulged with a perusal of his secret lucubrations. The mere fact that such a work has lain for near half a century, printed but unpublished, would be enough to stamp the author's personal character as not less extraordinary than his genius. It is, indeed, sufficiently obvious that Mr. Rogers had read it before he wrote his • Italy'a poem, however, which possesses so many exquisite beauties entirely its own, that it may easily afford to drop the honour of some, perhaps unconsciously, appropriated ones, and we are also satisfied that this book had passed through Mr. Moore's hands before he gave us his light and graceful · Rhymes on the Road, though the traces of his imitation are rarer than those which must strike every one who is familiar with the " Italy. We not so sure as to Lord Byron; but, although we have not been able to lay our finger on any one passage in which he has evidently followed Mr. Beckford's vein, it will certainly rather surprise us should it hereafter be made manifest that he had not seen, or at least heard an account of, this performance, before he conceived the general plan of his · Childe Harold.' Mr. Beckford's book is entirely unlike any book of travels in prose that exists in any European language; and if we could fancy Lord Byron to have written the · Harold' in the measure of " Don Juan,' and to have availed himself of the facilities which the ottava rima affords for intermingling high poetry with merriment of all sorts, and especially with sarcastic sketches of living manners, we believe the result would have been a work more nearly akin to that now before us than any other in the library.
Mr. Beckford, like · Harold,' passes through various regions of the world, and, disdaining to follow the guide-book, presents his reader with a series of detached, or very slenderly connected, sketches of the scenes that had made the deepest impression on himself. He, when it suits bim, puts the passage of the Alps into a parenthesis. On one occasion, he really treats Rome as if
it had been nothing more than a post-station on the road from Florence to Naples; but again, if the scenery or the people strike his fancy, he has as royal a reluctance to move on, as his own hero showed when his eye glanced on the grands caractères rouges, tracés par la main de Carathis?'
• Qui me donnera des loix ? _s'écria le Caliphe.'
• England's wealthiest son' performs his travels, of course, in a style of great external splendour.
Conspicuus longé cunctisque notabilis intratcourts and palaces, as well as convents and churches, and galleries of all sorts, fly open at his approach : he is caressed in every capital -he is fété in every chateau. But though he appears amidst such accompaniments with all the airiness of a Juan, he has a thread of the blackest of Harold in his texture; and every now and then seems willing to draw a veil between him and the world of vanities. He is a poet, and a great one too, though we know not that he ever wrote a line of verse. His rapture amidst the sublime scenery of mountains and forests--in the Tyrol especially, and in Spain-is that of a spirit cast originally in one of nature's finest moulds; and he fixes it in language which can scarcely be praised beyond its deserts—simple, massive, nervous, apparently little la boured, yet revealing, in its effect, the perfection of art. Some immortal passages in Gray's letters and Byron's diaries, are the only things, in our tongue, that seem to us to come near the profound melancholy, blended with a picturesque of description at once true and startling, of many of these extraordinary pages. Nor is his sense for the highest beauties of art less exquisite. He seems to us to describe classical architecture, and the pictures of the great Italian schools, with a most passionate feeling of the grand, and with an 'inimitable grace of expression.
expression. On the other hand, he betrays, in a thousand places, a settled voluptuousness of temperament, and a capricious recklessness of self-indulgence, which will lead the world to identify him henceforth with his Vathek, as inextricably as it has long since connected Harold with the poet that drew him; and then, that there may be no limit to the inconsistencies of such a strange genius, this spirit, at once so capable of the noblest enthusiasm, and so dashed with the gloom of over-pampered luxury, can stoop to chairs and china, ever and anon, with the zeal of an auctioneer-revel in the design of a clock or a candlestick, and be as ecstatic about a fiddler or a soprano as the fools in Hogarth's concert. On such occasions' he reminds us, and will, we think, remind every one, of the Lord of Strawberry-bill. But even here all we have is on a grander scale. The oriental prodigality of his magnificence shines out even about trifles. He buys a library where the other would have cheapened
VOL. LI. NO, CII.
a missal. He is at least a male Horace Walpole; as superior to the silken Baron,' as Fonthill, with its York-like tower embosomed among hoary forests, was to that silly band-box which may still be admired on the road to Twickenham,
One great charm of this book is in the date of its delineations. We have of late been surfeited with sketches of things as they are: here all is of the past; and what an impression is left of the magnitude of those changes that have, within the memory of one still vigorous mind, swept over the whole existence of the European nations. Mr. Beckford's first letters are dated at Ghent and Antwerp in June, 1780—the week after Lord George Gordon's riots. The Netherlands are still the Austrian Netherlands—the princebishopricks of the Rhine are still in their entire pomp and dignity of ceremonial sway–Venice is still a republic-no voice of reform has disturbed the purple' abbots of Spain and Portugalin France, the pit has indeed been dug, but it is covered with flowers; and as this voluptuous stranger roves from court to court, all he sees about him is the uncalculating magnificence of undoubting security.
We have no discussions of any consequence in these volumes : even the ultra-aristocratical opinions and feelings of the author-who is, we presume, a Whig-are rather hinted than avowed. From a thousand passing sneers, we may doubt whether he has any religion at all; but still he may be only thinking of the outward and visible absurdities of popery—therefore we have hardly a pretext for treating these things seriously. In short, this is meant to be, as he says in his preface, nothing but a book of light reading ;' and though no one can read it without having many grave enough feelings roused and agitated within him, there are really no passages to provoke or justify any detailed criticism either as to morals or politics. We shall, therefore, find little more to do on this occasion, than to exemplify the justice of the praises which we have been bestowing on the author's descriptive powers, by a few extracts; and we shall endeavour to be as miscellaneous as possible in the character of our selections.
We begin with a specimen of our traveller's lightest manner : here is his account of a Sunday evening at the court of the Elector of Bavaria-July the 23d, 1780. Nothing can be more lively than it is ; and the latter part of the scene is to this hour as perfectly German as anything in Sir Francis Head's “ Bubbles :
• We were driven in the evening to Nymphenburg, the Elector's country palace, the bosquets, jet d'eaux, and parterres of which are the pride of the Bavarians. The principal platform is all of a glitter with gilded Cupids, and shining serpents spouting at every pore ; beds of poppies, holyhocks, scarlet lychnis, and other flame-coloured
flowers border the edge of the walks, which extend till the perspective appears to meet, and swarm with ladies and gentlemen in partycoloured raiment. The Queen of Golconda's gardens, in a French opera, are scarcely more gaudy and artificial. Unluckily, too, the evening was fine, and the sun so powerful, that we were half-roasted before we could cross the great avenue and enter the thickets, which barely conceal a very splendid hermitage.
• Amongst the ladies was Madame la Comtesse, I forget who, a production of the venerable Haslang, with her daughter, Madame de Baumgarten, who has the honour of leading the Elector in her chains. These goddesses, stepping into a car, vulgarly called a cariole, the mortals followed, and explored alley after alley, and pavilion after pavilion. Then, having viewed Pagodenburg, which is, as they told me, all Chinese, and Marienburg, which is most assuredly all tinsel, we paraded by a variety of fountains in full squirt; and though they certainly did their best (for many were set agoing on purpose), I can. not say I greatly admired them.
The ladies were very gaily attired; and the gentlemen, as smart as swords, bags, and pretty clothes would make them, looked exactly like the fine people one sees represented on Dresden porcelain. Thus we kept walking genteelly about the orangery till the carriage drew up and conveyed us to Mr. Trevor's. Immediately after supper, we drove once more out of town, to a garden and tea-room, where all degrees and ages dance jovially together till morning. Whilst one party wheel briskly away in the waltz, another amuse themselves in a corner with cold meat and Rhenish. That despatched, out they whisk amongst the dancers, with an impetuosity and liveliness I little expected to have found in Bavaria. After turning round and round with a rapidity that is quite astounding to an English dancer, the music changes to a slower movement, and then follows a succession of zigzag minuets, performed by old and young, straight and crooked, noble and plebeian, all at once, from one end of the room to the other. Tallow-candles, snuffing and stinking; dishes changing, at the risk of showering down upon you their savoury contents ; heads scratching ; and all sorts of performances going forward at the same moment; the flutes, oboes, and bassoons snorting, grunting, and whining with peculiar emphasis-now fast, now slow, just as Variety commands, who seems to rule the ceremonial of this motley assembly, where every distinction of rank and privilege is totally forgotten. Once a week-on Sundays, that is to say—the rooms are open, and Monday is generally far advanced before they are deserted. If good-humour and coarse merriment are all that people desire, here they are to be found in perfection.'
As a contrast, take this rapid glimpse among the Tyrol forests : it comes but a few pages after, for on the present occasion the author made but a short stay in Germanyhis anxiety was all for
• There seemed no end to these forests, except where little irregular spots of herbage, fed by cattle, intervened. Whenever we gained an eminence, it was only to discover more ranges of dark wood, variegated with meadows and glittering streams. White clover, and a profusion of sweet-scented Aowers, clothe their banks ; above waves the mountain-ash, glowing with scarlet berries; and beyond, rise hills, and rocks, and mountains, piled upon one another, and fringed with fir to their topmost acclivities. Perhaps the Norwegian forests alone equal these in grandeur and extent. Those which cover the Swiss highlands rarely convey such vast ideas. There the woods climb only half-way up their ascents, which then are circumscribed by snows; here no boundaries are set to their progress; and the moun. tains, from their bases to their summits, display rich, unbroken masses of vegetation.
• As we were surveying this prospect, a thick cloud, fraught with thunder, obscured the horizon, whilst flashes of lightning startled our horses, whose snorts and stampings resounded through the woods. The impending tempest gave additional gloom to the firs, and we travelled several miles almost in total darkness. One moment the clouds began to fleet, and a faint gleam promised serener intervals ; but the next, all was blackness and terror: presently, a deluge of rain poured down upon the valley, and in a short time, the torrents beginning to swell, raged with such violence as to be forded with difficulty. Twilight drew on just as we had passed the most terrible; then ascending a mountain, whose pines and birches rustled with the storm, we saw a little lake below. A deep azure haze veiled its eastern shore, and lowering vapours concealed the cliffs to the south ; but over its western extremities hung a few transparent clouds; the rays of a struggling sunset streamed on the surface of the waters, tinging the brow of a green promontory with tender pink. I could not help fixing myself on the banks of the lake for several minutes, till this apparition faded away.'
The first opening of Italy is given with equal spirit; but we can afford only one or two paragraphs of a truly splendid chapter. The
pass is rocky and tremendous, guarded by the fortress of Covalo, in possession of the Empress Queen, and only fit, one should think, to be inhabited by her eagles. There is no attaining this exalted hold but by the means of a cord, let down many
fathoms by the soldiers, who live in dens and caverns, which serve also as arsenals and magazines for powder; whose mysteries I declined prying into, their approach being a little too aërial for my earthly frame. A black vapour, tinging their entrance, completed the romance of the prospect, which I never shall forget ....
• For two or three leagues it continued much in the same style ; cliffs nearly perpendicular on both sides, and the Brenta foaming and thundering below. Beyond, the rocks began to be mantled with