« AnteriorContinuar »
in the most manly manner, floored by a broad-shouldered young fellow of six feet high. The prostrate Charley, however, incontinently sprang his rattle, which brought to his assistancc a sufficient number of his brethren to lodge, after a desperate resistance, the Corinthian and his friends in the watch-house. And here it appeared that their behaviour was by no means peaceable or resigned; indeed, the constable averred, that he was finally necessitated to consign them to the strong-room for safety.
“ At length the morn and cool reflection came,” and found our heroes “ fully sated” with their manly and gentlemanly exploit, and still more so with its consequences. These, however, terminated only at Bow-street, for, besides having large pecuniary remuneration to make to the persons whom they had assaulted, they underwent a most severe and well-deserved rebuke from the magistrate for their folly, brutality, and blackguardism.
When these sapient and polished personages had been discharged, a woman was placed at the bar, accused of having been drunk and riotous in the streets at two o'clock in the morning. This unhappy creature could not be above nineteen. She had strong traces-for already they were only traces-of loveliness. Her form, wasted as it was, still retained that beauty of outline which can never be entirely lost to a finely-moulded figure; and her face, in despite of its hollow eye, shrunk cheek, and shrivelled lip, shewed that it was once possessed of eminent beauty. This wretched woman was in the lowest state of degradation ; her dress was ragged and filthy, and her looks were those of seared and desperate unconcern. Her eye had still the glassiness of inebriety, or, it might be, of habitual drunkenness; and when she spoke in answer to the magistrate, her
language was mingled with obscenity and oaths! Oh! if there be a spectacle revolting to humanity, it is the degradation of woman! To see her soft frame consumed by debauchery—by drunkenness!—to behold her delicate mind brutified into habitual indecency, and to hear her tongue—the tongue of woman !--profaned with oaths and beastliness! These are, indeed, things to make the flesh
creep, and the blood run cold. I shuddered and
We were called on next : and the business, as far as regarded my friend, was soon settled. Those who were proved to have been only players, were considered to have suffered punishment enough, and were let off lightly. I did not wait to see what became of the bankers and owners of the house. I left the office, thankful for the opportunity of having seen it, but fully resolved never to go thither again. I am one who wishes to see human nature in all shapes, in all conditions ; but I do not take pleasure in dwelling on the bad, in returning often to the degraded. Those who desire philosophical knowledge of their fellows, must witness much which is painful and revolting ; but there is no need to look to the dark side alone-to describe only the erring and the evil. In what I saw in a place to which people come but for their follies and their crimes, it is natural, indeed inevitable, that I should experience only different degrees of pity and of pain; but he who wishes to see nothing but what is pleasing, let him take care never to go to Bow-Street.
ON THE TASTE FOR THE PICTURESQUE.
There is nothing, which, at a first view, seems more strongly to mark the distinction between nations, to show them to be of separate origin, to establish a difference of national character, than the variety of their tastes, or rather the different manner in which the principle of taste appears to display itself in each.
The Italian sets up, as it were, an hereditary claim to be an exquisite judge of whatever is connected with the fine arts. A knowledge of music, of painting, of sculpture seems to be born with him. All other nations yield at once to his judgment. His certificate of birth is conclusive evidence that he cannot be wrong.
The pretensions of the Frenchman seem much more universal. He discusses every thing: there is no object which does not furnish him a topic of conversation. Yet it is not on his knowledge of arts or sciences that he builds the foundation of his superiority. It is only to dramatic poetry he lays an exclusive claim. This is his peculiar province ; here he will admit of no rival. The drama of other nations cannot, in his idea, be put in competition with that of France. They are only deserving of censure or of praise, inasmuch as they have deviated from, or have conformed to, the models set before them by Racine and Voltaire. The greatest merit they can hope to attain is that of successful imitation. Originality with them must be barbarism.
But, except in the drama, which is to him a part of life, the pretensions of the Frenchman to knowledge are by no means arrogant. As far as the fine arts contribute to the enjoyment of existence, he is willing to cultivate them ; but he speaks of them without rapture, he feels
for them no enthusiasm ; a true disciple of the school of Socrates, he looks on the works of nature or of art as unworthy of his serious attention. A knowledge of man is his chief pursuit ; the science of living the dearest study of his, mind. To increase his own comfort, to add to the happiness of those around him, is the limit of his ambition ; to this he incessantly directs all his faculties.
Not so the German : his tastes are of quite a different nature. He seems to care nothing for the world in which he lives : he walks with men almost without noticing their existence: he is a mere stranger on earth; its interests and affections are to him indifferent. His thoughts are in the wide region of metaphysics ; his communings with spirits of other worlds. He never occupies his reason but with things which are beyond the comprehension of inan; his credulity is never exercised but on matters which set at defiance all credibility; he delights in doubt; no view can give him pleasure, unless the haze of uncertainty hang over the perspective. Wrapt in idealism, the portico is his favourite haunt ; he bestows not a thought on any object unless clothed in the garb of mysticism. He has abandoned the practice of the Rosicrucians, without giving up their principles.
English taste takes yet another direction. No longer tormented with the love of liberty, the Englishman has lost his exclusive regard for politics ; the love of the picturesque is now his ruling passion ; this absorbs all his ideas; to this his nationality has yielded ; it has overcome his hatred of strangers.
Every year presents to astonished Europe the singular spectacle of myriads of British subjects, who leave the comforts of their home to wander in foreign lands, with no other object than to admire the beauties of nature, to climb the rugged precipices of the Alps, or the Pyrenees;
to tremble on the airy pinnacles of the Apennines ; or to measure and dispute on the dimensions of some mouldering tower, some remnant of a people whose very existence is forgotten.
Nor is this passion confined to travellers. It is not only displayed amidst the sublimer mountair-scenery of Italy or Switzerland; it shows itself with not less activity on the minuter landscape of Great Britain. Those who . cannot exercise their taste abroad are content to cultivate it at home ; less ambitious, but not less indefatigable, tourists visit every part of our island, and ransack every village in search of their beloved picturesque. Not a parish pound escapes their observation ; not a pigeon-house but is consigned to their portfolio. The sequestered dales of Derbyshire and Devonshire have been rendered trite as the ring in Hyde-Park. Each vagrant sonnetteer has sung the vale of Clwyd. The modest beauties of Loch Catrine have been laid bare to the vulgar gaze of cockney curiosity; and the affrighted Fauns and Dryads have trembled in their most sacred haunts, scared at their profanation by the portentous passage of a stage-coach.
It would not be an unamusing inquiry, nor one wanting in interest, to trace the causes which have given this different direction to the taste of the principal nations of Europe. I do not believe much in permanent national characters. Mer are the children of circumstances. Nations remain whilst their characters change. The Paladins, who upheld the throne, and extended the empire of Charlemagne, bore as little resemblance to the companions in arms of the virtuous Bayard, as these did to the frivolous courtiers of Marie Antoinette: yet all belonged to the same nation and to the same classall were equally French gentlemen.
VOL. 1. PART I.