ePub 版

island, we can procure colonial produce at almost importation price. But it is in the quantity we make the greatest saving: in fact the profit of the retailer is entirely merged; and that which would enrich the grocer or chandler, goes into the coffers of the institution. In the same manner every interventionary profit is cut off from agents, stewards, and jobbers. Sic nos non nobis, cannot be applied to us ; for we rear what we sow to the uttermost sheaf, and enjoy, undiminished, all that we have exerted ourselves to obtain.

Ohjections have been raised against the institution, as if it were of a monastic and anti-social nature, and prevented the forming of alliances with the better part of creation; but these have been proved to be 'unfounded. They are the true respecters and adorers of women, whom regularity of life preserves from contaminating connexions. In their attachments to the charming sex, they evince infinitely more devotedness, than those to whom hourly contact exposes all the little foibles and contests of female vanity in the great world. Many of our companions, in their rambles through provincial parts of Great Britain, and Southern Europe, have found amiable and endearing partners, whose affections they have known how to secure; and have carried into domestic life that settled temper, and those providential habits, which guarantee its happiness, and enable them to look forward to the blessing of offspring, without repining at moderate incomes or baffled expectations. Such as have not been able to accomplish their secret aspirations after matrimonial alliances, are no worse off than thousands in society at large, who have no prospect of honourably overcoming the difficulties which poverty interposes ; and, on an average, the prospects of success are in the favour of those, who, with views more moderate, unite qualities as cultivated, and more adapted to various stations of life. Far from being secluded from the possibility of forming connexions, they enjoy more extensive opportunities than they did previous to their entrance into the society ; not only do they mingle familiarly with the respectable families of the island, but in London and abroad we keep up friendships, and make visits at a hundred leagues' distance, where a letter of introduction is sufficient to ensure us a hospitable welcome; for the friends of one soon become the acquaintance of all.

As to other objections of a speculative nature, this is not the place to answer them; when started by opponents, or persons seeking information relative to the institution, they shall be refuted or admitted, according as they are frivolous or valid. We are not beating up for recruits, for the republic is as populous as its territory will admit; but we are anxious that others should satisfy themselves of the practicability of this plan of mutual endeavour, and so be induced to attempt its execution, whether on a modified scale in the capital itself, or in full perfection in other parts of the United Kingdom, nearly, if not fully as eligible as NEWHOME.



[ocr errors]

Though the political degradation of Italy may be traced to a variety of causes, the deepest and most poisonous has never been sufficiently insisted upon. It is to be found in the toleration, or to speak more correctly, in the privileges granted to breaches of the sanctity of marriage, among people distinguished for rank and wealth. The observation of the fact is very old, and has been frequently repeated; sometimes with more severity by Italian writers than by strangers. Foreigners, on the other hand, fall into the error of suhjecting all the women of Italy to one undiscriminating censure : they cannot distinguish the classes to which corruption is confined, from those in which circumstances concur to preserve the virtue of wives and mothers. Lastly, we have not found that any writer, whether native or foreign, has ever traced the causes of this state of manners in the history of the country, nor pointed out how greatly it has contributed, does contribute, and will contribute, to the subjection of that unhappy country. The subject, if not viewed under this aspect--if not treated with this design—would not deserve our attention. Having seen in what way it has been handled by other writers, we hope to give it a character at once new and useful; free from the gossip, the licentiousness, or the cant, with which every writer, according to his disposition and his views, has invested it, in the multitude of classical or unclassical “ Tours in Italy."

The system of valieri Serventi, though at first sight it may seem to deserve nothing but ridicule and contempt, acted like one of the negative powers of mathematicians, condemning the more active powers to inertness. The custom was caused by the religious, and perpetuated by the political condition of the people of Italy. This anomalous personage disappeared almost instantly throughout the north of the peninsula, as soon as the lovely daughter of the King of Bavaria appeared there as the wife of Eugene Beauharnois, and the model of all the domestic virtues. The influence of her example, however, would probably have been comparatively slow and feeble, had she not strengthened it by the refusal to receive any lady at court who was not accompanied by her husband. Where will you find a woman who would not rather give up her cavalier servante than the society of a court. The effect of this attempt to employ vanity as a corrective of domestic vices, could, however, he but apparent, and was consequently very transient; while, in the southern provinces, manners underwent no change whatever. This was particularly the case in Rome, where the celibacy of the priests, who there hold the rank of sovereign princes, causes adultery to be tolerated as an incorrigible and necessary evil. This is the part of Italy from which almost all the accounts of the national manners-whether true or false-all the declamation, and all the exaggeration, are taken. Thither flock, from every country in Europe, women who have been too much or

too little favoured by fortune in their ties of love or marriage. They fly to the south of Italy as to a peaceful sanctuary; and when their days of gallantry are over, beguile their old age either with talking without restraint of the pleasures of their youth, or in displaying their zeal for virtue, in vehement indignation at the offences of their successors in the same career. These ladies, naturally soured by emigration, by domestic loneliness, by mutual jealousies, and, above all, by age, regularly meet in little coteries and conversazioni, where each of them introduces any traveller or countryman who may happen to fall in her way. It frequently happens that the traveller is wandering over the face of the earth with no other view than to make a book. By giving an attentive and believing ear to all their gossip, he thus accomplishes the double purpose of paying for the favour of an introduction, while he finds his own account in collecting matter which will swell volumes, and tickle the national vanity of his countrymen, by a comparison of their virtues with the vices of other countries. Lord Byron, who was the most accurate and impartial observer of the English and the Italians on this head, traces with the grace of a roet, but the rigorous truth of an historian, the origin of the numerous stories, forgotten in the country which gave them birth, but repeated over and over again to all Europe, in the volumes of travellers.

The pleasant scandals which arise next day ;
The nine days' wonders which are brought to light;
And why no husband sues for a divorce,

Soon find their way to London-press, of course. As we quote from memory, we must bespeak pardon for any unintentional misrepresentation of the illustrious poet. Let it not be supposed that it is from any puerile admiration of his genius, nor even of his acuteness in discovering truth, nor of the originality and manly courage with which he avowed it, that we subscribe to the sentiment he addressed to a reverend correspondent—" That all our words, manners, actions, religion, morals, our whole mind and existence in modern Europe, turn upon one single hinge, which the English, in one expressive word, call cant.”* Doubtless, if the demon cant had been as omnipotent among the ancients as it is among us, they would have raised altars and temples to so tremendous a deity.

“ Why an Italian husband does not sue for a divorce," appears a question definitively settled by the gypsies in their tents, and the decision is equally applicable to all cases among savage nations. But among civilized people, the Italians have some distinctive peculiarities in this matter; and we niust first examine those variations by which our common mother has distinguished their women from those of other climes. The remark of Eustace on this subject, that “ In Italy the beauty of the sex seemed more connected with sentiment than in our colder climate,” appears to us to admit of no dispute. The most interesting of all spectacles which nature can present to the eye or heart of man, are young mother with her

* Lord Byron's letter to the Rev. C. Bowles, on Pope's poetry and character.

+ Classical Tour.

[ocr errors]

bered that I am speaking throughout of the daughters of families of rank and wealth,) almost invariably depends on a husband who has pleased, not her, but her parents. It frequently happens, that the husband is chosen, and the marriage articles definitively settled by the father, before the girl knows any thing about the matter; her first-born at her breast, or a young girl who has the frank and cordial smile of her age on her lip, and at the same time the bashful and pensive expression of deep sentiment shed over her whole countenance. The former is rarely exhibited by the ladies of Italy; but in no country does love so early inflame and exalt the heart of woman. The passion, in them, is not mingled with romantic fantasies, still less with arithmetical calculations. Love, in their hearts, is nothing but love pure and unmingled-or if any other feeling is ever blended with it, it is that of religion. Their education, so different from that of English girls, conspires with this natural temper of their hearts. Society is not open to well educated young women till after their marriage; the habitual retirement in which they live, concentrates all their thoughts and sentiments in this one passion. At first it rarely takes the form of an individual attachment; love springs up vague and undetermined in their simple and ardent hearts. In this state of mind their affections soon find an object upon which to fix themselves; with true feminine instinct, they almost instantly guess the man by whom they are most beloved, and single him out as the object of their preference. Still the intercourse of hearts is carried on only by the eyes; nor are opportunities even for that very frequent. The interchange of letters is neither easy nor safe, surrounded as they are by mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and governesses, who irritate their passions by the excessive anxiety with which they watch them. If by any accident a girl meets her lover, or if he visits at her father's house, the law prescribed to Italian young ladies, to listen, but rarely to speak in company, is one which she is not only bound by decorum to respect, but which she would fear to break, where every indifferent word might excite suspicion and endanger her secret.

Madame de Stäel's observation, that female beauty in England attracts admiration at once, while in Italy, with slow but more magical enchantment, it kindles love,* is perfectly just, and goes far to explain one of the causes of the superiority of painting and sculpture in Italy.

In Englishwomen all the warmth of their hearts flows without fear or restraint to the surface, and appears in all their words and actions ; whilst in Italians it is always suppressed, and labouring to burst its bonds — always lightening on their countenances, and then again checked and forced back. Englishwomen would frequently furnish more beautiful and more graceful models to an artist; but the serenity of their countenances borders upon an imperturbable coldness ; whilst nature and education have combined to produce that expression in Italian women, which has furnished their painters and sculptors with a captivation and a soul elsewhere inimitable. Nevertheless, the future virtue and happiness of the Italian girl, (let it be remem

[ocr errors]

* Corinna.

refusal then to sign the contract would render her guilty of an act of disobedience which would compromise her father's honour, and a perpetual seclusion in a convent would be the only effect of her persisting in requiring that the choice of a husband should be left to herself. Her consent is registered in the marriage contract, with legal forms, and every thing is conducted as in a treaty of partnership, which has no other elements or considerations but pecuniary interest and law. It is not difficult to guess, that such an union is embittered by hostility, by coldness, by perpetual suspicion.

But marriage is a matter of more worth

Than to be dealt in by attorneyship. At the time of the Spectator, writers on domestic morals were obliged to avoid quoting the authority of Shakspeare against marriages, at which the only presiding deities are arithmetic and law. Some remains of romantic sentimentality were still existing, which might have led to an abuse of the text of the great bard, to the disregard of all the dictates of sober reason. But that danger is all over, and especially among the daughters of wealthy houses. The genius of our age, which is completely mercantile, leads them to look upon marriage as a means of acquiring a capital, which, in proportion to its bulk, will secure them against the attacks of fortune, and the neglect or contempt of the world. The ancient allegorical representation of Love would be ludicrous now, even in the greatest modern poets, if they were to venture upon it; and is barely tolerated in the master-pieces of painting and sculpture. The most girlish fancy no longer pictures him as a wicked urchin, laughing in his heart while he affects to weep; he is not even

A little, curly-headed, good-for-nothing,

And mischief-making monkey from his birth ;he has now the grave physiognomy and deportment of a wise man. Nor let it be imagined that he runs about naked, as he used to do. He is clad from head to foot in the dress of a lawyer. His quiver is turned into a blue bag, and his arrows into deeds and settlements the most powerful weapons, both with men and women: such, indeed, was the idea which the Greeks implied in their personification. When the god wished to inspire an unsuccessful passion, he tipped his arrow with lead; but to excite a triumphant flame, he made use of gold.

As philosophers and prudent men, we must confess, that love is an inconstant and capricious passion, which vanishes with youth ; whereas, that kind of calculation, mis-named avarice by romantic heads, thrives and increases with years, and is most vigorous in old age. These two passions, neutralizing each other, produce a third, very useful to the estate of matrimony. Whatever may be thought of this metaphysical disquisition of ours, it is unquestionable, that Cupid, even in his modern transformation, retains his former propensities, and plays many of his old tricks; which are not the less mischievous because they are less sportive. His laugh is no longer joyous, but malicious. His impudence is veiled under hypocrisy, and

« 上一頁繼續 »