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« THE RHINE-THE RHINE, O!"
Burlhen of a Drinking Song.
At the comṁencement of last spring, when the cholera, having donned its seven-leagued boots to take a ramble over Europe, was spreading consternation from capital to capital, it was our misfortune, or fault, or folly, to be infected with the general mania of flying before an enemy,
came neither frı m the East, nor from the West, nor yet from the South.” Driven from our aërial quatrième in the Rue Montblanc by a panic still more fatally contagious than the malady itself, and forewarned that quarantine was already established in all the ports of La Manche, we threw our despairing selves and microscopic valise into the Strasburg malle poste, determined to go and drink the waters of Selters, fresh from the rock, and, if possible, outstrip the pursuit of the ogre. The month was May, the weather May-like; and already the sun was assuming sufficient ardour to enhance the attraction of blue waters and green woods. With kindling enthusiasm, we now longed to behold the waves of the Rhine eddying round the Bingerloch, or rippling over the black altar-stone of Bacharach ; and the coup d'ail of the white walls, lofty poplars, and confluent streams of Coblentz filled us with agreeable anticipations !
Eighteen years had elapsed since our eyes were first feasted with “ Ehrenbreitstein and its shattered wall.” During the Congress of 1814, while Elba afforded only a temporary imprisonment to the ex-Postmaster General of the Continent, we had the good luck to achieve the tour of the Rhine ; to behold it ere yet the dust raised by invading armies was laid upon its highways, and while the gloss of nationality was still bright upon the land. No tourist had been maundering there with his sketch- book, no poet with his rhymes; there was no steam-boat, no Schreiber, no Reichard ! and the Rheingan, the Taunus mountains, Rolandseck, Nonnenwerder, and fifty other places, (now mere Cockney cake houses,) came upon us with the freshness of fairy-land !
On this, our second visit, we were aware that a change must necessarily come o'er the spirit of our dream ;” that we must prepare to behold this most frequented of aquatic gangways invested with somewhat of the familiar vulgarity of Fleet Street. The mere newspaper advertisement of “ Guides to the RHINE,” and “ Panoramas of the Ruine,” and “ Picturesque views of the Rhine,” and “ Lays of the Ruine,” having extinguished the romantic associations of the excursion, it is now a mere affair of seeing the Lions; a sort of holyday trip to the Hornsey or Hackney of Germany. Scarcely, however, had we arrived at Coblentz, established ourselves at the inn of the Trierische Hof, and looked out on the Platz to bestow, for the fiftieth time, our fiat of approval on the soldierlike breadth of chest distinguishing the troops of the
Schneider König, when (by the ministry of that most worthy and most tedious of men and hosts Herr Maas, once maitre d'hotel to the Marquis of Huntly, now mâitre of the best hotel in Coblentz) a list of the company at the Baths of Emms was placed in our hands; containing among the rest, the transcribable, but somewhat unpronounceable, patronymic of a certain Bohemian Princess, our favourite partner of the last Carnival, who was drinking the waters on her way to Vienna, across the Duchy of Nassau. Without a moment's hesitation, we secured a place for Emms by the earliest diligence ; but, as a compensation to our
NO. VIIT,VOL, II,
old friend Maas for the service he had unconsciously rendered us, we stept, meanwhile, into the Speise Saal; where (the clock having struck one) the table d'hôte dinner was smoking on the table. And what a din. ner for one o'clock on a warm May morning !-Within scope of our own observation stood a reeking tureen of sausage soup, with poached eggs floating on the greasy surface ; bouilli with damson sauce ; suet dumplings garnished with onion chips; a Rhine carp stewed in hop shoots ; roasted fieldfares; a ragout of liver with carrots and parsley; a mysterious mass of extremely infantine veal ; a pancake resembling a Witney blanket, and a dish of spinach and water, resembling a weedy pond ! The spectacle, with its concomitant fumet, was nauseous enough ; and not the less so from the celerity with which these savoury viands disappeared down the throats of some dozen or so of Rhenish-Prussian offi. cials, civil and military, who washed them down with potations of sour Moselles, (their half empty flask bottles generally distinguished by a dirty rag tied round the neck,) and liberal draughts of mineral water from the spring at Thal Ehrenbreitstein. Three courses did we endure with the excruciation of martyrdom ; nor was it till a dessert of Mandel-brod and Zucken-brod, of various kinds, comprehending a large sausage made of quince marmalade and chopped almonds, was placed on the table, that we began to breathe again. Looking round for some object on which to bestow the philanthropic sympathies melting within us, we perceived that a knife and fork, which had been peculiarly active on our left flank, were plied by an odd-looking animalcule, in a black wig ; attired (not to say disguised) in a large pair of green spectacles, a large pair of whiskers, a large pair of mustaches, a large double-breasted coat, and a very small pair of shrunken nankeen continuations; one of those strange looking figures peculiar to Les Eaux ; who are seen one summer at Barège, and the next at Carlsbad ; at Cheltenham one autumn, and the next at Lucca; without affording any clue to the whereabout of their winter residence, or means or motive of such extensive locomotion. We were about to apostrophize him as “ Monsieur le Baron !" (the general alias of the tribe,) when, “ Do me the honour of a glass of wine, sir ?" pronounced with a smirk and cringe savouring most vilely of the counters of Soho, mortified our susceptible bosom with the certainty that we were addressing an Englishman.
“My countryman! and yet I know him not !” was our involuntary exclamation, as we accepted the challenge ; and after a reciprocation of the compliment, and a considerable advance towards intimacy on the part of our anonymous neighbour, Herr Maas, whose swivel eye was fixed observingly upon his proceedings, seemed to think it time to apologize for the officiousness of his guest, by observing, half aside, though quite across the table, “I see you vind out your goundrymans, sirr ; Misder Smidz he fery long residence in Goblentz, sirr; Misder Smidz he know efery von vhat trafels the Rhine, sirr ; Misder Smidz he know efery ding vhat efery von trafels de Rhine to see, sir !” We sat corrected ! It was clear that a Mr. Smith, resident in Coblentz, was not the travel. ling Baron we had taken him for; and we accordingly made it a point of conscience to insinuate as much deprecation and amenity as we could command into our mode of reiterating the intelligence already received.
“ You have resided here some time, Mr. Smith ?”
« Yes, sir, yes ! When first I came to Coblentz, the city was up to sale, as one may say, sir; we didn't know for certain, sir, who she'd be knocked down to by the great auctioneers over yonder at the Con.
"gress. Lord bless you, sir ! since I've been here, I've seen every stone of Ehrenbreitstein laid one a-top o' t'other. The place isn't the same place as when I took up my quarters in it just afore the battle of Wa. terloo.”
“ The town, I understand, has doubled in size and population under the protection of the Prussian Government ?”
“Why, if you'll believe me, when first I settled on the Rhine, sir, there wasn't so much as a steam-packet a-going on the river.”
“ There were few, I fancy, established in Europe at that period.”
“ The people were quite uncivilized, as one may say, without no accommodation to speak of for travellers, or gentlemen in your line of business, sir."
“ Gentlemen, in my line of business !” What could the villain mean? We looked a forbearing note of interrogation.
Beg pardon, sir; hope no offence." “None, whatever !” We were predetermined against a quarrel with so small an individual, wearing such formidable whiskers.
“ Seldom have any travellers on the Rhine, at this time of year, sir, except in the picturesque way!”—
« Indeed ? "
“A little of both,” said we, willing to ascertain the limits of his vulgar audacity.
“ Aha !-a volume,-perhaps two volumes of an octavo tour, with head and tail pieces of your own; eh, sir ? -_- A Spring near the Rhine!' The Autumn near the Rhine had a wonderful run, sir; eight editions, I'm told ?”
“ I am not ambitious of attempting a rivalship with its attractions.”
“ Not a matter-of-fact writer, perhaps !-a novelist, then? or may be you are getting up an annual ? Lord bless you ! take my advice! The Rhine's drained dry, sir! Go to the Danube ; it wouldn't cost you a couple of hundred florins. Nobody's been at work on the Danube yet, but Planché! Or what do you think of trying the Wolga, sir ? There hasn't been a scratch of the pen or pencil about the Wolga! But as to the Rhine, it's growing as Cockneyfied as Greenwich or Blackwall.”
We now began to suspect a competitor; and accordingly arraigned “ Mister Smidz” as a foundling of the muses.
Why, to say the truth, my dear sir, I believe I may plead guilty to a little bit of literary ! Lord bless you, there hasn't been a single work made up out of the Rhine for the last fifteen years, without my finger in the pie! They get all their information out of me, sir, (a sad set, our literary brethren !) and then go home, and fancy themselves authors !"
“Why, you must have become acquainted with a succession of all the men of genius of the age ?”
“ Lord, sir, we have them in cargoes by every steam-packet! I'll be bound there's not a gentleman nor gentlewoman of the press, but what has made the Rotterdam trip. First of all, sir, we had Ackermann's people stuck about sketching on the rocks, like so many jackdaws. Then there was Leigh's fellows, and Galignani's, and Schreiber's, picking up materials for their Guide Books. Then came my Lord Byron with his third canto; and the “ Autumn” gentleman, and Dr. Russell, and Jefferson Hogg ; and Planché, with his “ Lays and Legends,” and Sullivan with his “ Historiettes,” and Praed with his “
Derwent Conway with his “ Tales ;” and a poetical touch or two from Lockhart, and a blunder or two from Sir Walter; and a rhodomontade from young D'Israeli; and it was only t'other day, sir, we had little Grattan, hunting over the country with his dog Ranger; and Fenimore Cooper, poking about among the ruins of the Palatinate! In short, sir, we've had 'em all, (my service to you !) and I'm afraid there's not so much as a twig or an old castle left for you; they've made away with 'em all."
“ The English public has been dosed with Rhenish picturesque, as largely as with counterfeit Hock," said we, trying to be sententious. “But the true Johannisberger still fetches its price, and a work of. rcal merit”
“ Pshou! pshou ! pshou !" cried Smith. “Every work is a work of merit to its author. But, just consider a moment how thoroughly the thing's worn out! « The Mouse Tower !' • The Pfalz ! For my part, I'd as soon write an ode to Aldgate Pump !"
“ The Rhenish provinces supply a curious variety of matter; and”
“ Variety! Why, you might just as well go beating the furze for game on Hampstead Heath. Every inch of ground has been hunted over and over, sir, till there's not so much as a cock.robin left! Lord ! if you did but know what tribes of blue ladies and black gentlemen are brought here by every Dampschiffe! I know 'em, sir, before ever they land! I could swear to the Picturesque gentlemen, before ever they set foot on shore ; (twigged you, sir, as soon as you stepped out of the Eilwagen yesterday!) There you see 'em, the moment the boat stops, out with their note-books, and questioning the Commissionär, frightened to death for fear the least inkling of useful knowledge should escape 'em. ' Pray, my friend, what was the name of that old ruin to the left?' Was that a castle, my good fellow, or a prison, on the rock to the right ?' Down it all goes, by way of novel information !"
« An intellectual gentleman, like yourself, Mr. Smith, must be an invaluable acquisition to travellers of this description.”
“ I believe I do sometimes save a little waste of ink, sir. They all dine at the table d'hôte. (Waiter ! a fresh bottle of Moselle to this gentleman !) Last week there was an amazing promising young writer, with a Byron shirt-collar, the Shelley stoop, and the Montgomery eye, 'in a fine frenzy rolling.' (I fancy he makes some noise in the periodicals, sir !) Never heard a finer melodrama voice in my life! Smith !' said he, (in a tone to make one's blood curdle if he'd been talking by moonlight,) 'Smith ! know you the Drachenfels ?'—' To be sure I do,' says I, but lord ! you've no chance there. It's all dicky with the Drachenfels. Byron did 'em, and Praed did 'em, and Planché did 'em. They're as common as Greenwich Hill.'
“ Poor young man!”
“Well, sir, next day a solemn young prig of a literator (one of the march of intellect chaps) arrives from Mayence by the boat, and decoys me up to the Fortress, under pretence of wanting an interpreter. I hadn't got half way up the hill, when he out's with his commonplace book, and gives me what he calls a philosophical sketch of Faustus in his laboratory. ' The great bell of the Dom-Kirch had revealed to the burghers of Maintz the commencement of a new day : but in a small deso. late chamber of the quadrangle of the Benedictines, overlooking the dark waters of the Rhine, a lamp was still burning. It was that of a recluse to whom the whole world of letters'-Lord, sir, what was the use of it
all ? As good and better's been said by Victor Hugo and all the romance-mongers of the cent et un! Then, sir, only last Friday, there was a very pretty youth, (nice dapper little fellow, something of your cut, sir_hope no offence,) and says he, ‘Smith, my good fellow,' says he, 'I'm thinking of a little tale about Rheinfels ; something intense, something startling, something d-d Gothic, and feudal, and apparitional ! -I mean to go and sleep on the mountain over night, and see the sun rise !'—Lord, sir!' says I, spare your pains; Rheinfels was very prettily done for the Winter's Wreath, two seasons back.'-'Well, then,' cried my young friend, slapping me on the shoulder, “I'll try Lahmeck ! There's a fine opening at Lahmeck.—The lugubrious masses of the dark rocks of Neider Lahnstein were casting the impressive shadows of their -Lord love you, sir, cried I, interrupting him, · Derwent Conway had all that four years ago.'—*Then, by Jove !' says he, “I'll have a touch at the Lurelei ; and L. E. L. ectrify the world of letters with a ballad.' Sorry for
you, sir !' as soon as he'd done spouting. - There's scarcely been an annual without a Lurelei for the last five years.”'
“ What will become of the poor fellow ?” cried we, attempting a sympathetic countenance.
“Ah, sir! as I said before, terrible bad spec. the Rhine, for literary gentlemen! You see there's been a great call of late years for small tales, and little picturesqueisms. There's the Souvenir, aud Keepsake, Gem, Forget-me-Not, Bijou, Christmas-Box, Landscape Annual, Continental Annual, Cadeau, Friendship’s Offering, (besides the Musicals and the Juveniles,) keep a wonderful number of hands going. Then, you know, there's the Monthlies ! Blackwood has given us two or three magnificent Rhine stories; and the Monthly, and the New Monthly, and Fraser, they have all a bit of “ It was during the non-bondage of the feudal era, that one evening a knight, fainting with toil, and accoutred in the iron harness of war ;' or, · Gisela of Eberstein was scated beside the arrow slit of the highest tower of the castle.' It cuts in neat among the heavy politics and light essays
“ You seem completely au fait to the mysteries of the profession."
« And even the Weeklies do now tale unfold.' The Athenæum's got hold of two or three monstrous showy getters-up of a baronial anecdote. Besides, there's the twopenny halfpenny periodicals; the Story Teller,' and · Thieves,' and—I protest I saw the Gödenfels as neatly dished up in a penny paper (with a wood..cut and all) as you'd wish to
And I'm told, Roscoe and Leitch Ritchie are at work at a series; and there are not two better hands for a mountain sunset, or a dungeon scene, or a winding staircase, from Paternoster Row to Ave-Maria Lane.”
“ I see the game is up !-It is all over with us !"
“ Hope you ha'n't been rash enough to take earnest of your publisher, sir?"
“Not quite so bad as that! But, alas !".
“Now, look here, my dear sir ; you may perceive that I have a little experience in these matters. Set off to the valley of the Næh; just up yonder by Bïngew. There's an old castle there, with a legend about a dragon and a crusader, that would do your business at once ; 'tis as fresh as a spring morning! I've kept it as snug as if it was my own! Claonicle of the Castle of St. Edelberg! What a jewel for a table of contents! Or the Murg—what say you to the Murg? The Black Forest, you know ! the God bless my soul ! sir, that's your cue! ‘Legends