Imágenes de páginas

thrown out!—between Royalties taking credit because they stayed away from the last act of the dear, dreadful tragedy, with block, sawdust, and headsman,—and Royalties expressing it down to Liverpool, “to bandy awkwardnesses"(as a saucy friend of mine puts it) with nervous Mayors who know nobody's places; or steaming like private folks, along the South Coast—one day popping into Cotele to look at the chests of old clothes; another, taking a peep at the Cider Islands, and beguiling the way with all manner of pleasant “parish talk” about Lighthouses, Sailors' Homes, Cornish Miners; a second trip to surprise, in a bathing-machine, our Arch-Enemy—the King of the French; and such like innocuous topics In spite of all this threat of reaction, times are pleasanter—aye, and more picturesque, Sir–now than they were a hundred years ago. Think, again, of the poor “harried” people of Edinburgh in 1746! What wrecks of old houses “divided against themselves!” What stately ladies crying coronach over the best and bravest, who had marched out under a phantom banner (as it were) to lay down their lives for a thankless Prince! What homely Mrs. Flockharts weeping over the cockades so lately worn by heads now bleaching on the gates of Carlisle What ruin of fortunes, what mystery and terror! What struggling with that bitterest of all feelings, the hate of impotent partizanship ! Well—the children of Ben Somebody will find it hard to persuade me, that the Scottish Gentlemen and Ladies have not had a happier and a healthier August, over the inauguration of their Scott Monument, than the August of one hundred years since' I don't care much about such celebrations: perhaps, it is my stupid way to look too keenly into the vanity and personality which is apt to disfigure them— making the celebrators discontented if they are not as much talked about as the Great Known or Unknown they unite to honour! But the personality of vanity is better than the personality of misery the strife of Mr. White Wand this, with Mr. Chairman t’other, more innocent than the life-and-death contest between such a concealed friend, and such another open enemy: and the romance which aspires to commemorate a departed Poet, is a higher thing than the Loyalty which seeks to invest with all the graces under Heaven, and all the rights upon the earth, a vain and false Prince—the last of an Exhausted Race! They were burning witches in Germany one hundred years ago —notinholes and corners; but in great cities. I have it from one of our firm, who has just made the journey on business, but has a taste for picking up old legends, that you are shown close to Würzburg, on the pleasant and flowery Main, a long low building, formerly a convent. From this a certain sister Renata was taken, in 1749—and burnt at Würzburg—doubtless in detestation of her black superstitions ! A little steam-boat, built in France, now bustles twice a-day past the spot. There is made the stuff for books of the presumptuous illuminati calling themselves German poets—and for the newspapers, which censors cannot utterly tame into no-meaning. The convent has become a paper-manufactory ! We have still Sister Renatas, it is true : enthusiastic ladies who translate hideous German books about Ghost-seeing, and the like; —triumphant Trollopes, who slap the Jesuits in the face, and call us poor Manchester manufacturers, so many cannibals and childeaters, clad in fustian:—and then start off “in full fandango” of bad French, incorrect description, and credulity that will swallow any given wonder, so it be only big enough to strain the throat– eager to describe the water-cure as glibly as if they were so many Meads or Mayos 1 (For the Ladies, sir, have a fancy for doctoring, one and all, though with some it does not get beyond my Mrs. Bell's bag of dried herbs, which have a bad smell and are otherwise totally harmless.) And it is true that our sister Renatas are still martyred. Crokers there are, who tear every Whig woman limb from limb. Hooks there have been, on which all manner of hard-hearted Radicalesses have been spitted: and like Pope's Ealden “rhymed and twisted" without writhing much. And Tory Ladies get Gored sometimes more than they admire. But bless you they mind it as little as the scratch of a pin. 'Tis all neat and easy—done on paper I and leaving them witchcraft enough wherewithal to retaliate on their judges and executioners. My Mrs. Bell is more of a Conservative than suits me at all times —but let me only just speak of Reaction in this shape, of sileneing gossipping authoresses, and bringing back nuns to burn; and you may hear her down Halcyon Row, as far as Bethesda! More could I say about the children of Ben Somebody, whose standing still is now explained to mean going back: who prophetically behold grass growing on the railroads, and see sheep browsing among the rusted chimneys of broken-up locomotives, as in Edwin Landseer's picture of Peace—who would trail the Continent through a French Retro-revolution; clap the old sevenpence on every letter—and sing “Return, blest days” to the golden time when six months of sea separated us from our Army-cousins in the East, in place of six weeks (including a flight across the desert sociably dotted with the corks of soda-water bottles). But I must pack up for the five o'clock train, to town, Sir : I am to dine at Brussels to-morrow: a message having come from the office to that effect since I began to dream. A hundred years ago, instead of putting up my two. shirts, I should have been to my attorney with notes of a codicil to my will l—but don't mention this: or he will, perhaps, join my Mrs. Bell and the tribe of Ben Somebody in fixed principles of Reaction. Ardwick, August 30th, 1846.



ENGLAND lies but a couple of hours' sail from France. 'Tis but a steam hop, step, and jump from the Cliff to the Falaise. -France swarms with English. In her capital and her provinces, in her inland cities and her coast towns, you will hardly enter a café, or saunter along an avenue-like line of Boulevard, without encountering the sturdy bearing of bluff John Bull. In the coupé of the Diligence—in the snug interior of the malle poste—the high shirt collar, and fair ruddy Saxon face, of Perfidious Albion is always conspicuous. At tables d" hote and restaurants, in picture galleries and cathedrals, 'tis the same thing : the Smiths and the Joneses, and all their kith and kin, surround you, now wondering at the mystic ingredients of a col au vent, anon gazing with aught but reverence at the gaily petticoated madonna in her niche, anon turning with smiling faces into a shop, where all manner of pretty nick-nackeries are disposed expressly to catch the tourist's eye, and advertised, for John Bull's benefit, by the somewhat formidable announcement that “Here one spikes the Anglich.” Verily we are a gad-about people; and the French in their turn are beginning to be very much more locomotive in their habits than in the olden time. Every packet which ploughs her way up the Pool brings freights of the moustached and bearded Jheroes, whom we used to designate as “outlandish,” but who are now beginning to appear wonderfully natural. The regions about Leicester Square, and the back of the Quadrant, are to London what the Chaussée d'Antin is to Paris. Saunter by the cafés and dingy eating-houses in la Française which embellish that particular portion of our metropolis, and you might imagine that you were threading yourwayamid the population of the Pays Latin, Napless hats, skin-tight fitting coats, and plaited trousers, with pockets invariably at the knees, and hands invariably in the pockets—all bear evidence to the irruption of Monsieurs, which of late years has appeared in London. But only of late years. The French are only beginning to be a travelling people. We are at least thirty years a-head of them in the art of locomotion, and in any advantage which that art brings in its train. As a people we know ten times more of the French than they know of us. And see how fast the knowledge of our good neighbours dissipates the absurd anti-Gallic prejudices which are so long made a part of our national religion. “Hate the French and the devil,” said Horatio Nelson to his midshipmen. “I hate the French because they are all slaves, and wear wooden shoes,” quoth Goldsmith, speaking his own mind through the old sailor; and “I hate the French because they eat frogs and soup maigre,” roared every honest, patriotic, loyal, anti-revolutionary, king-church-and-state, beef-and-plumpudding, free-born Englishman. But that was thirty years ago: we know better now. We have found, somehow, that our neighbours, instead of bloody-minded human scare-crows—“a cross,” as Edmund Burke, to his eternal disgrace, wrote, “between the monkey and the tiger"—are in reality a set of pleasant, jovial, light-hearted, clever and gallant people. Why I not the most wooden-headed squire who ever followed the hounds before dinner, or invoked, in bad grammar, the British Lion after it, would dream now-a-days of going back to the old frog-eating, raw head and bloody bones notions of his venerable papa. And why? He has been to Paris—all over France, mayhap, and he wasn't made a slave, or forced to put on wooden shoes, or starved on soup maigre, or poisoned with frogs, or consigned to a dungeon.a. hundred feet under ground for being an Englishman, or his head chopped off on the guillotine out of revenge for Waterloo. And so somehow he arrived—he was rather ashamed of it at first— at the conclusion that a people may be a very pleasant people, even, although plunged in the crassest ignorance as to plumpudding, and unable to chant the “Roast-beef of Old England” as a national hymn of glory. And so it has been with hundreds of thousands. Steam has done it all. Watt has laboured with more effect for European peace than all the diplomatists who ever cheated in cypher, or lied in protocols. We are beginning really to understand our neighbours—to see the lights as well as the shades in poor Johnny Crapeaud's national character, and having arrived at that satisfactory change in our onward progress, we have made the discovery that he is a much more pleasant fellow to walk with arm in arm than to fight with hilt to hilt— that on the whole it is better to flourish knives amicably together over the carcases of muttons at a table d'hôte than to brandish sabres over the carcases of men on a field of battle. But the French themselves are not so far advanced as we are. They have only got to the post we arrived at a score of years back —they must see more of us, mingle more with us, forget Waterloo, laugh at the Pritchard indemnity, and freely and frankly acknowledge that the perfidy of Albion is nothing more or less than a notable device of the scamps of Parisian journalism—the Dujarriers and Reanvallons of the Presse and the National, to replenish as speedily and as satisfactorily as possible the tills of these respected journals. As yet, French notions of England are of the dimmest. There is a terrible haze of prejudice still floating over our poor isle in the minds of the respectable bourgeoise of Labelle France. And the most notable of their Feuillitonists—the gentlemen who fill up what the up-hill Gautier, one of the fraternity, christened the “ground floor” of the thousand and one journals published from Calais to Marseilles, add to, rather than detract from, the amount of misconception and prejudice which exists. Apropos, of M. Gautier—and I may as well state that, although possessed only of a Parisian reputation, he is one of the liveliest writers and most acute critics of his day and nation—that gentleman was lately in London, and published sketches of his wanderings in La Presse. In one of these papers he informs his readers that Thomas Moore, the poet, still goes under the name of Little, from his diminutive stature; and in another, in giving an account of a banquet at the Mansion-House, he actually takes the Toast-Master for the Lord Mayor? Sue, Balzac, Soulie, and George Sand, all popular romancists of the day, have each of them done something to cast very novel, but not strikingly accurate bursts of light on English character and habits. Witness, for example, the “Countess Sarah Macgregor” of the

« AnteriorContinuar »