« AnteriorContinuar »
officers permission to visit Spa, and has forbidden the medical men to recommend the waters. The Russians also flocked in great numbers to Spa, but the emperor, although very indifferent about their losing their money, is very particular about his subjects gaining revolutionary opinions, and Spa being in a revolutionary country, has been condemned; they may just as well ask to go to Siberia, for that would probably be their route ; and lastly, there is one more cause which this last two seasons has had a powerful effect, neither more nor less than a certain book, called the “ Bubbles of Brunnen." I say for the last two seasons, for its influence will not extend to a third, as hundreds and hundreds who have gone there with the intention of passing this season, have already returned in disgust. A word upon this.
When Sir George Head published his “Bubbles,” he set people almost as mad as they were during the great “ Bubble Mania," and like all the mining and other associations, they have proved but bubbles at last. It is said that one hundred and thirty-five thousand passports were taken out last year to go up the Rhine, by people who wished to see the pigs go through their daily manæuvres, to an unearthly solo on the horn, and to witness the decapitation of the Seltzer-water bottles, who were condemned as traitors. Now, so large an influx of people to these German watering-places could have but one effect, that of a glorious harvest to the innkeepers, and those who had lodgings to let, with a proportionate tax upon curiosity. The prices, at these places, have now become so enormous, that three forins have been asked for a single bed, and every thing else has risen in the same proportion. The re-action has now begun to take place, and every day, and every hour, we have carriages returning through Liege, and other towns, from these watering-places, the occupants holding up their hands, quite forgetting the pigs and bottles, and only exclaiming against extortion, and every thing German. They have paid too dear for their whistle, as Franklin used to say ; the bubble has burst, and they look with regret at their empty purses. And yet, all that Head said in his amusing book was true. He rambled through a verdant and unfrequented lane, and described what he felt as he stopped to pick blackberries. An immense multitude have followed him, the green lane has been beaten down into a high road, and, as for blackberries, they are only to be procured at the price of peaches in May.
And now let us reflect whether the bubble will not also burst with the Germans. Formerly they were contented with moderate profits, and received their visitors with humility and thankfulness. Now, that they have suddenly made large profits, they have become independent and unceremonious, and, like most people, because they have reaped a golden harvest for two years, they anticipate that this will continue. The value of property at these places has risen, spéculations have been entered into on a large scale, provisions and the necessaries of life have become dear; new houses are building against time, and the proprietors smoke their pipes with becoming gravity, calculating upon their future gains. But the company will fall off more and more each succeeding year, although the speculations will continue, for people always find a good reason for a bad season, and anticipate a Dec. 1835.-VOL. XIV.NO. LVI.
better one the next. At last, they will find that they are again de serted, and property will sink in value to nothing; the reaction will have fully taken place, prices will fall even lower than they were at first; honesty and civility will be re-assumed, although, probably, the principal will have been lost. Thus will the bubble burst with them, as it has already with deserted Spa. Sir George Head little thought when he was correcting the press that so much mischief might be created by writing a book too well. However, as commissioner of the new Poor Law Bill, Sir George has a greater bubble than ever to employ him, and like all Whig measures, it will prove so.
But when all idle people shall have visited all the bubbling fountains of Germany, where are they to go next? There are some very nice springs in Iceland not yet patronised; but although the springs there are hot, the Springs, vernally speaking, are cold. I can inform them where they will find out something new, and as the steam-boats which are to run to America will have to take their coals in them, I advise them to proceed by boiling to the boiling springs at St. Michael's, one of the western isles, and which are better worth seeing than all the springs that Germany can produce. I will act as guide de voyage.
Take your berth on board one of those American steamers, and after a run of one thousand two hundred miles, you will arrive at the island, that is, if you are not blown up before. When you land, you will find yourself in one of the dirtiest towns in the world, and will put up at one of the worst hotels ; however, you will have to pay just as dear as if lodged at the Clarendon, and fed at the Rocher de Cancale. The town contains many inhabitants, but more pigs. German pigs are not to be compared to them. You must then hire donkeys and ascend to the mountains, and after a hot ride, you will arrive at a small valley in the centre of the mountains, which was once the crater of a volcano, but is now used by nature as a kettle, in which she keeps hot water perpetually boiling for those who may require it. There you will behold the waters bubbling and boiling in all directions, throwing up huge white columns of smoke, brought out in strong relief by the darker sides of the mountains which rear their heads around you. The ground you tread upon trembles as you walk; you feel that it is only a thin crust, and that in a moment you may sink into the vast caldron below, and have a hot bath without paying for it. Continue along the valley, and you will find lakes of still
, deadly-cold water, with hot springs at their verge, throwing the smoke over their surface, while they pour in their boiling water as if they would fain raise the temperature, depositing sulphur in cakes and crystals in their course. And in another spot there is a dark, unfathomable hole, called the Devil's Mouth: you approach it, and you hear low moanings and rumblings, as if nature had the stomach ache; and then you will have a sudden explosion, and a noise like thunder, and a shower of mud will be thrown out to a distance of several yards. Wait again, you will again hear the moans and rumblings, and in about three minutes the explosion and the discharge will again take place, and thus has this eternal diarrhæa continued ever since the memory or tradition of man.
Yet, upon this apparently insecure and dangerous spot have been
erected houses and baths, and it is resorted to by the fashionables of St. Michael's, who wish, by its properties, to get rid of a certain cutaneous disorder, as well as by those who were cured the year before ; for the whole air is loaded with sulphurous vapour, as the eternal pot keeps boiling.
Observe the advantages of this place : you may have a bath as hot as you please, as cold as you please, or you may have a mud douche, if you have that buffalo propensity; and then you will have to rough it, which is so delightful; you will find little or nothing to eat, and plenty of bedfellows in all their varieties, a burning sun, and a dense atmosphere, and you will be very delighted to get back again, which, after all, is the summum bonum to be obtained by travel.
Not very far from this valley of hot water there is another containing four small lakes, and in those lakes are found the most beautiful gold and silver fish, perhaps, in the world. How they came there, Heaven only knows; but I mention this because there is a curious coincidence. These lakes are known by the name of the Quadre Cidade, or four cities. Now, if my readers will recollect, in the “ Arabian Nights,” there is a story of a valley with four lakes, which were once four cities, and that in these lakes were fish of various beautiful colours, who were once the inhabitants. If I recollect right, when the fish are caught and put into the frying-pan, they jump up and make a speech ; (so would fish now-a-days, if they were not mute ;) and the story is told by a prince, whose lower extremities are turned into black marble, very convenient, certainly, if he dined out every day, as he had only his upper toilet to complete. This coincidence appeared to me to be very curious, and had I had time and opportunity I certainly should have fried four of these unfortunate fish, to ascertain whether they were of the real breed spoken of in the Arabian Tales, of the authenticity of which no one, 1 presume, will venture to doubt.
Mem.- Passports for St. Michael's must be applied for at the Portuguese ambassador’s.
Spa, July 15. What a curious history might be afforded by Spa and its gaming tables ! When Spa was in its glory, when crowned heads met and dukes were forced to remain in their carriages for want of accommodation, when it was the focus of all that was recherché and brilliant, for Spa was so before the French revolution, the gaming-tables were a source of immense profit; and to whom do you imagine that a great portion of the profits belonged ?-to no less a person than the most sacred and puissant prince, the Bishop of Liege, who derived a great revenue from them. But it would appear as if there was a judgment upon this anomalous secular property, for these gaming-tables were the cause of the Prince Bishop losing all and being driven out of his territories. There were two gaming establishments at Spa, the Redoubt in the town, and the Vauxhall about a quarter of a mile outside of it.
The Redoubt is a fine building, with splendid ball rooms and a theatre, but you must go through the gaming-rooms to enter either the ballroom or the theatre. This was planned by a priest most decidedly. The Vauxhall has no theatre, but the rooms are even more spacious ; but when Spa was at its zenith, even these two immense edifices were barely sufficient for the company. Both these establishments were under the same proprietors, and it so happened, that the English nobility, who were always a very strong party here, were displeased with the conduct of the lessees, and immediately raised funds for the building of a second Vauxhall. The bishop ordered the building to be discontinued, but, as by the privileges granted by former bishops, this was a violation of the rights of the Liegeois, his order was disregarded, and the Vauxhall, now known by the name of the Vauxhall, was finished. When finished, the bishop would not permit it to be opened, but his commands being disregarded, he came down with two hundred soldiers and two pieces of cannon and took possession. This created a revolution, and the bishop was ultimately obliged to fly his territory and seek assistance. The Prussians marched an army into the city and there was apparent submission, but as soon as they quitted, the insurrection again took place, and the bishop was forced again to solicit aid from the Austrians, for Prussia would no longer interfere. Metternich, who was so fond of legitimacy that he considered the gaming tables a legitimate source of revenue to the apostle, marched in an Austrian army, and thousands were slaughtered that the bishop might obtain his rights. Imagine this man of God! extending his hands and blessing the people. Such was the state of affairs when the French revolution broke out and convulsed Europe, and the province of Liege was among the very first to receive with open arms the bonnet rouge and to join themselves with France, and thus did the bishop lose his beautiful province for ever. As far as Liege was concerned, the French revolution proved a blessing. It certainly was a disgraceful finale to an ecclesiastical power, which, as I have before mentioned, had led the van in the march of christianity and liberty.
But it appears that the clergy are fated to have an interest in these gaming-tables, the stipend of the English resident being, even now, paid out of their profits ; for when Belgium was made over to the Netherlands, King William assumed his right to the bishop's former share of the profits of the tables, and of course brought as many people down here as he could to lose their money, as he pocketed his thirds. Since the revolution, Leopold is in King William's shoes, but there are little or no profits, as Spa is deserted and the expenses are great of the establishments. Perhaps there is no spot of ground in Europe - I will not except Paris—where so much money has been lost by gaming as at Spa. 'I was walking with a friend who pointed out to me a small pavilion in a garden. “ There,” says he, “ the Prince of Orange, who played very deeply, lost those very jewels which were pretended to be stolen, to a Spanish gentleman. It was well got up in the papers, but that is the real truth.” How far it may be the truth or not, I cannot pretend to say, and only know that in Spa you cannot pick your teeth without all the world knowing it, and that this is fully believed at Spa to be the real truth of the disappearance of the splendid jewels of the princess, which have since been redeemed from the Spanish gentleman, who now resides at the Hague. Gaming has always been held up in abhorrence as a vice ; but it is
passion strongly implanted by nature, and abhorrent from the dreadful effects produced by its overpowering influence, than a vice per se. Life itself is a lottery, and the best part of our life is passed in gambling. It is difficult to draw the line between gambling and speculation, for every speculation is a gambling transaction. Is not the merchant a gambler ? in fact, is not every venture an act of gambling? As for the Stock Exchange, it is the very worst species of gambling. All we can say is, that gambling may be legitimate or otherwise ; that is, there are species of gambling which may enrich the individual if he is fortunate, but whether it enriches him or not, at all events it is beneficial to the community at large. A merchant speculates—he sends out manufactures of every description; he fails, and is ruined; but the artisans have procured employment for their industry, and, although the merchant fails, the community at large has benefited. This is legitimate gambling, but do people in business stop there? No: they will agree to deliver so many thousands of casks of tallow or tons of hemp at such and such a time and at a certain price, whatever the price may then be. They cannot complete their engagement, and they are ruined ; but in this instance, which is softened into speculation, we have quite as much gambling as if the money were at once laid down on the table, and the chances decided in an hour instead of so many months. But there is this difference, that this party would not lose his character by such a transaction, whereas, if he lost his money at the gaming-table he would. The English are the most gambling nation under heaven : naturally so, because they are the greatest mercantile nation. The spirit of gambling is innate, and when directed into the proper channel it becomes enterprise. It is doubtless a great moral error on the part of a government to encourage vice with the view of increasing the revenue, but at the same time, there is no tax so well laid on as that which is imposed on vice. Again, there are certain propensities in man which cannot be overcome, and which, if attempted to be wholly eradicated by legal enactments, would occasion more evil still. All that a judicious government can or should attempt to effect is, to restrain them within proper bounds, to regulate them, and as much as possible to keep them out of sight, that the virus may not extend. It is well known, that certain houses are licensed by the magistrates because it being impossible to eradicate the vice, they can do no more than to separate it, that it may not be communicated to the healthier part of the community. Now upon this principle, which is the true principle of sound legislation, I have often thought that it was a great error in our legislature when they consented to put down the public lotteries in England. I am convinced that they were beneficial, acting as safety valves to the gambling spirit of the nation, and that their prohibition has been productive of much crime and misery. The spirit of gambling cannot be eradicated; it ought, therefore, to be kept within due bounds. There was one great advantage in the