Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

most curious modification of that amusing character, the old maid. Like their virgin sisters all over the world, they too have, more or less, a flirting period, of which the confessor is always the happy and exclusive object. The heart and soul of almost every nun not passed fifty are centred in the priest that directs her conscience. The convent messengers are seen about the town with lots of spiritual billetsdou.x, in search of a soothing line from the ghostly fathers. The nuns not only address them by that endearing name, but will not endure from them the common form of speech in the third person they must be tutoyé, as children are by their parents. Jealousy is a frequent symptom of this nameless attachment; and though it is impossible for every nun to have exclusive possession of her confessor, few will allow the presence of a rival within their own convent.

I do not intend, however, to cast an imputation of levity on the class of Spanish females which I am describing. Instances of gross misconduct are extremely rare among the nuns. Indeed, the physical barriers which protect their virtue are fully adequate to guard them against the dangers of a most unbounded mental intimacy with their confessors. Neither would I suggest the idea that nothing but obstacles of this kind keeps them, in all 'cases, within the bounds of modesty. My only object is to expose the absurdity and unfeelingness of a system which, while it surrounds the young recluses with strong walls, massive gates, and spiked windows, grants them the most intimate communication with a man-often a young man—that can be carried on in words and writing. The struggle between the heart thus barbarously tried, and the unnatural duties of the religious state, though sometimes a mystery to the modest sufferer, is plainly visible in most of the young captives.

About the age of fifty, (for spiritual flirtation seldom exhausts itself before that age,) the genuine nun has settled every feeling and affection upon that shifting centre of the universe, which, like some circles in astronomy, changes with every step of the individual—I mean self. It has been observed that no European language possesses a true equivalent for your English word comfort; and, considering the state of this country, Spanish would have little chance of producing a similar substantive, were it not for some of our nuns, who, as they. make a constant practical study of the subject, may, at length, enrich our dictionary with a name for what they know so well without it. Their comforts, however, poor souls! are still of an inferior kind, and arise chiefly from the indulgence of that temper, which, in the language of your ladies' maids, makes

their mistresses very particular; and which by a strange application of the word, confers among us the name of impertinente. The squeamishness, fastidiousness, and morbid sensibility of nuns, make that name a proverbial reproach against every sort of affected delicacy. As great and wealthy nunneries possess considerable influence, and none can obtain the patronage of the Holy Sisters (Mothers, as they are called by the Spaniards, without accommodating themselves to the tone and manners of the society, every person, male or female, connected with it, acquires a peculiar mincing air, which cannot be mistaken by an experienced observer. But in none does it appear more ludicrously than in the old-fashioned nundoctors. Their patience in listening to long, minute, and often-told

reports of cases; the mock authority with which they enforce their prescriptions and the peculiar wit they employ to raise the spirits of their patients, would, in a more free country, furnish comedy with a most amusing character. Some years ago, a very stupid practitioner bethought himself of taking orders, thus to unite the spiritual and bodily leech for the convenience of nuns. The Pope granted him a dispensation of the ecclesiastical law, which forbids priests practising physic, and he found himself unrivalled in powers among the faculty. The scheme succeeded so well that our doctor sent home for a lad, his nephew, whom he has brought up in this two-fold trade, which, for want of direct heirs, of which priests in this country cannot boast, is likely to be perpetuated in the collateral branches of that family. With regard to their curative system, as it applies to the soul, I am a very incompetent judge: the body, I know-at least the half-spiritualized bodies of the nuns-they treat exclusively with syrups. This is a fact of which I have a melancholy proof in a near relation, a most amiable young woman, who was allowed to drop into an early grave, while her growing disease was opposed with nothing but syrup of violets ! I must add, however, that the wary doctor, not forgetting the ghostly concerns of his patient, never omitted to add a certain dose of Agnus Castus to every ounce of the syrup; a practice to which, he once told a friend of mine, both he and his uncle most religiously adhered when attending young nuns, with the benevolent purpose of making their religious duties more easy.

L. D.

OA! cease,

ON HEARING AN ALMOST-FORGOTTEN SONG.

and never sing again
(Or not to me) that mournful strain ;
For round my heart its echoes rollid
All the pangs I felt of old:
Waked the thought of prospects blighted,

Friends too long, too well believed,
Fond affections unrequited,

Faults and follies unretrieved:-
Waked regret and shame in me,

Who on a reckless idol's shrine,
With passionate prodigality,

Cast a heart so warm as mine.
Sad they spoke-oh, vainly check'd,

Pours a flood of bitter tears;
For health departed, spirits wreck's,

And aimless life's declining years,
Spoke of all I've borne to prove-

All hopeless, fruitless, thankless still!
The long devotion of a love

Time cannot cure, nor absence chill.
Then wonder not if I implore
To hear those touching sounds no more:
I should not weep to this excess,
Did my heart own their sweetness less.

V. E. S.

STATE OF RELIGION IN THE HIGHLANDS. The two principal distinctions in the religion of the Highlanders are the Presbyterian and the Roman Catholic. The latter, with few exceptions, is confined to the county of Inverness, particularly to the districts of Lochaber, Moydart, Arasaik, Morrer, Knoydart, and Strath Glass, and to the islands of Cannay, Eig, South Ouist, and Barra, where the adherents to the religion of their ancestors are equal, if not superior in number, to the disciples of the Reformation. There are likewise a few Episcopalians, chiefly among the gentry; and I heard of some Methodists and Anabaptists. To these may be added some seceders from the Scotch church, whose consciences rebel against ecclesiastical patronage, but whose points of faith know no dissimilarity, and who wander about the country praying and preaching at their own discretion.

The religion of a Highlander is peaceable and unobtrusive. He never arms himself with quotations from Scripture to carry on offensive operations. There is no inducement for him to strut about in the garb of piety, in order to attract respect, as his own conduct insures it. Not being perplexed by doubt, he wants no one to corroborate his faith. Upon such a subject, therefore, he is silent, unless invited to the conversation, and then he entertains it with solemnity and reverence. The relationship between him and his Creator is more in his heart than on his tongue. I believe his religious feelings to be as sincere as they are simple and unassuming; and that moral precepts are more congenial to his disposition than mysteries.

That this should be the character of Papists as well as Protestants, may possibly create astonishment. I could not discover any difference; and my own opinion has been confirmed by the clergymen with whom I have conversed. They have invariably stated, in answer to my questions on this point, that the Roman Catholics were equally good members of society, and equally quiet in the enjoyment of their tenets, with their own Presbyterian parishioners; and moreover they paid the same compliment to the priests.

Another circumstance, still more astonishing, is, that Protestants and Papists, so often pronounced to be eternally inimical, live here in charity and brotherhood. On neither side is humanity forgotten in their doctrine of divinity. The world, it is hoped, will soon understand that distinctions in worship do not necessarily imply distinctions in our nature; and that our fellow beings of opposite religions are as capable of love and friendship, of benevolence and sympathy, as those who kneel on the same hassock, or chaunt the same psalm. In Fort William there is the Scotch church, and the Episcopal and the Roman Catholic chapels. The inhabitants of the town, and of the neighbourhood, know no division, except at the doors of their respective places of worship.* On a Sunday morning they may be seen in the street,

Pennant, speaking of the island of Cannay, says, “ The minister and the Popish priest reside in Eig; but, by reason of the turbulent seas that divide these isles, are very seldom able to attend their flocks. I admire the moderation of their congregations, who attend the preaching of either indifferently as they happen to Vol. III, No. 16.-1822.

2 T

and approaching by the several roads, conversing together “in unity of spirit and in the bond of peace,” till the time arrives for their separation, when each man bends his course according to the dictates of his own conscience, without note or comment from the others; and when the assemblies are dismissed, they meet again as cordially as they parted. The advocate for intolerance will say, such a people must either be lukewarm and indifferent, or the thing is impossible. Not at all. They are truly earnest in their devotion. The same spirit of charity is diffused throughout families. A master does not require his servants to think as he thinks; he merely requires them to do as they are bid. A husband is not offended becarise his wife loves consubstantiation better than transubstantiation, provided she loves him. As for their children, they easily come to an agreement about them, if they agree in every thing else. I visited a family, where the master of the house and his sons are Roman Catholics, his wife and daughter Episcopalians, and the tutor a Presbyterian. What a mixture! And does it not lead to confusion and wrangling? By no means; quite the contrary. It is a daily lesson of good-will and kind-hearted forbearance, and every one in the house is benefited by it.

Much as I am partial to the character of the Highlanders, I am unwilling to ascribe this generous toleration in social life to their own peculiar disposition: Would not all men act towards each other in the same manner, were there no external influence employed to goad and sting them into hatred ? Who will believe we are cursed with an innate horror at those who differ from us in sacred interpretations, or in metaphysical conjectures? Let us not entertain so humiliating an idea. Mankind are naturally averse to enmity; for it not only disturbs their better feelings, but there is personal danger in it. Every individual likes peace better than war; though there are certain stimulants which will infallibly make him fight. So likewise will anathemas from the pulpit turn a peaceful congregation into a set of persecuting zealots. To the honour of the Highland clergy, they are guiltless of employing their power for so atrocious a purpose; and indeed their tenets are not exclusive. Then again, the great cause in favour of their tranquillity, no political advantage can be gained by setting these people at variance. It is to the absence of these « spirit-stirring drums,” and not to the Highlanders themselves, that we are to attribute their freedom from the bitterness of superstition.

The Lowlanders are continually lamenting that the ministers of the Highland church are deficient in education. That this is partly true cannot be dissembled. Several have been described to me in terms unfavourable to members of a learned profession; and I have accidentarrive. As the Scotch are æconomists in religion, I would recommend the practice of one of the little Swiss mixed cantons, who, through mere frugality, kept but one divine; a moderate honest fellow, who, steering clear of controversial points, held forth to the Calvinist flock on one part of the day, and to his Catholic on the other. He lived long among them much respected, and died lamented.”— Scotland, vol. i.

Mr. Matthews likewise, in his “Diary of an Invalid,” describes Switzerland as a country “where the bitterness of religious differences is softened by the kindly feelings of human brotherhood.” But this character is not peculiar to mountaineers, as it belongs equally to the inhabitants of the United States. What a lesson to other countries !

page 316.

ally met with some few who answered the description. On the other hand, there are among them men of learning and science, of high intellectual powers, and of liberal principles. Those who accuse so many of their clergy of being ignorant fanatics, ought, at the same time, to do justice to their philosophers. It is fortunate, however, that none of their enthusiasts attack the creeds of others. Their zeal takes, perhaps, as uncharitable, though certainly not so pernicious a course. They do not hold up other churches to detestation, but are content to make their hearers detest themselves. A God of terror and the slender chance of escape from eternal punishment is their constant theme. Such a doctrine may be convenient, as it requires less ability to excite fear than to inspire hope. Their congregations listen with as much awe as they would to a ghost story, and finding their apprehensions alarmed, are apt to place it to the account of a pious influence working on their souls. Hearing one of these ministers address a table of communicants, and observing “his lengthened chin, his turned-up snout, his eldritch squeel and gestures,” I was curious to learn the nature of his Gaëlic harangue; when it was told me he was questioning the probability of more than two among them having received the sacrament worthily, and doubting if more than one would obtain salvation : now he is a great favourite of the multitude. But, as I have already remarked, such preachers form only a part of the Highland church; the better part are very distinct. I have been in company with some of their clergy, who cannot fail in engaging the highest admiration and esteem: men not merely of general knowledge, but of general humanity: neither formal nor sanctified in their own deportment, nor envious of the cheerfulness of others. Not content with attending to the spiritual welfare of their parishioners, they assist them in their temporal affairs; and are more anxious to make good members of society than bad theologians. Chaucer's "good country parson," and Goldsmith's “village preacher,” are here shown to be something more than the mere coinage of a poet's brain.

Even at this time ecclesiastical penance is enforced, in some of the remoter districts, with as much rigour as in the early days of the Kirk. The cutty-stool, their only relic of popery, long banished from the Lowlands, is yet to be found among the hills, in spite of the arguments of common sense, and (what is more difficult to withstand) the world's ridicule. In other respects, likewise, their church discipline is carried to a harsh extreme. Instances of excommunication, which not only deprives the devoted sinner, but also his children, of all religious rites, are still to be met with in some of the parishes. Notices have been publicly delivered in churches that all persons who had, during the preceding year, been guilty of profaning the Sabbath, even in so small a degree as the writing of a letter, should be debarred from the communion-table. This, one of the elders assured me, was a “wholesome severity," while he himself sat replenishing his rummer of whiskey. punch for the third time, and that too on a Sunday evening,-but punch, as the ordinary in Jonathan Wild argues, “is no where forbidden in Scripture.” Not long ago, a minister took it into his head to keep two books, white and black, wherein he set down the names of the righteous and the unrighteous throughout his parish. The idea, if not badly imagined, was badly executed; he should have kept a seven

« AnteriorContinuar »