Imágenes de páginas


negatively, or by comparison. The general aspect, then, of London is quite inferior to that of Paris. London has all the faults of great cities, in a greater degree, perhaps, than any other: and yet it seems to me to want almost all their redeeming virtues. There is no grandeur of effect arising from any one part of it, because from its immense extent, and from the purely accidental nature of the circumstances which have given rise to the different arrangements of it, there is no consistency, completeness, or totality of effect any where; and because the public buildings are so scattered about, as to lose all power of producing an impression, except one by one.. And then London is neither old enough nor young enough to excite any interest on either of those accounts. It has none of the venerableness of antiquity, and none of the splendour of newness—none of the wild interest of a half civilized city, and none of the beautiful uniformity of an over-civilized

There are no parts of it that rest upon, and recur to the memory spontaneously—such as the Boulevards, or the Quai des Thuilleries, or the place de Louis XV. at Paris. In short, London, unlike most other great cities, cannot be described so as to produce any distinct ideas of it. Rousseau might have said that its characteristic is, that it has no characteristic at all.

Yet notwithstanding all this, London contains, in detail, much to interest and be admired. I have passed the last few days in wandering about in the vicinity of the Parks, and in that part in which are situated the town residences of the nobility, and persons not connected with commerce. The Parks are most delightful places, quite unlike any thing elsewhere. They are large open spaces, several miles in circumference, covered with turf, and ornamented with plantations, sheets of water, inclosures containing deer, cattle, &c., and are intersected by roads and walks in all directions. It is in one of these Parks that all the fashionables of London meet before dinner every Sunday during the greater part of the year. On a fine day, the throng of carriages is so great, and the mode of their entering and going out is so badly arranged, that they are frequently lucked together for an hour or two without moving. The horsemen ride in and out between the wheels of the carriages with great dexterity, and in a way that would quite astonish a Parisian promenadeur in the Bois de Boulogne. But the Parks can scarcely be considered as parts of London, though they are situated in, and inclosed by it on all sides. They are like spots of land lying in the centre of the domain of an all-grasping proprietor, but which he has not yet been able to place his hands upon; and I dare say the Londoners think them blemishes accordingly.

The squares, which are chiefly situated at this end of the town are much the finest parts of London. They are large ranges of buildings, with open spaces in the centre, like the Place Vendôme. They are either circular or square, but are called squares, whatever their form · may be. The spaces in the middle are laid out as gardens, with pieces of water, statues of celebrated men, &c. The want of uniformity in the plans of the houses, and the bare and Quaker-like simplicity of English domestic architecture, destroy all the grandeur of effect which might be made to result from this mode of building : but yet these squares are greatly superior to any thing else of the kind that I have seen in great cities. I am told London contains not less than three or four and twenty of these squares, none of which are smaller than the Place Vendôme; and many are nearly as large as the Place de Louis XV. One of the largest of these is Grosvenor Square. The centre is occupied by a garden, laid out with an eye to uniformity, and, at the same time, to the concealment of it. It is covered with turf, and planted with trees, shrubs, flowers, &c., and intersected by gravel-walks; and the whole is enclosed by handsome iron rails. No one has access to these gardens but the inhabitants of each square respectively; and you never see any one walking in them but nursery-maids with children. Immediately outside the iron-railing there is a wide-paved carriage-way; beyond that a foot-path of smooth flat stones; and then the houses. of the ranges of houses that form the extremity of the square, it is singular that there are not two alike. You may easily guess the strange effect of this, in so large a range of buildings. Some are of stone, and others stuccoed, but the chief part are of different-coloured bricks; and the style of architecture is different in them all-or rather there is no style at all in any. There is no uniformity even in their heights,—which produces a worse effect than any thing else. They are all very low, most of them having only two stories, and none more than three.

In trying to discover whether any good can be imagined to result from this irregular style of building, I have found, or fancied, that each particular house, being thus marked and distinguished from its neighbour, suggests the idea of property much more readily than it would do if all were alike:-and this feeling is no unimportant one in the consideration of an Englishman so that it is probable the sum of pleasure gained by the owner of each house being able to think of, and recognise it as his own, is greater than would result from the admiration of strangers, if the various buildings had formed one grand and uniform whole. And this feeling is never disturbed by two or more families residing in one house-at least in this part of the town. Where lodgings are to be let, it is generally in a row of small houses which are all alike, and not one of which, perhaps, actually belongs to the inhabitant of it, but the whole to some one person, who has probably called the street or place by his own name. There is no country in the world where the feeling of property is so restless and intense as it is in England. Those who have money here generally embark it in something that they can set their mark upon, so as to look at it, and call it their own. An Englishman does not seem to be sure that his house will not be claimed by some one else, unless he makes it unlike all others, and puts his name upon it:-he cannot be certain that his little plot of land will not escape from under bis feet, until he has hemmed it in by a high paling, or a thick impenetrable hedge.

In my next I shall tell you something of the most remarkable public buildings; and in the order, or rather the disorder, in which they occur in my walks, and in my note-book.

D. S. F.



Burleigh, thy groves are leafless, thy walls are naked

“ And dull, cold winter does inhabit here." The yellow evening rays gleam through thy fretted Gothic windows, but I only feel the rustling of withered branches strike chill to my breast; it was not so twenty years ago. Thy groves were leafless then as now; it was the middle of winter twice that I visited thee before; but the lark mounted in the sky, and the sun smote my youthful blood with its slant ray, and the ploughman whistled as he drove his team afield ; Hope spread out its glad vistas through thy fair domains, oh, Burleigh! Fancy decked thy walls with works of sovereign art, and it was spring, not winter, in my breast. All was the same, like a petrifaction of the mind—the same things in the same places; but their effect was not the same upon me. I was twenty years the worse for wear and tear. What was become of the never-ending studious thoughts that brought their own reward or promised good to mankind ? of the tears that started welcome and unbidden 7 of the sighs that whispered future peace? of the smiles that shone, not in my face, indeed, but that cheered my heart, and made a sunshine there when all was gloom around ? That fairy vision—that invisible glory, by which I was once attended-ushered into life, had left my side, and®“ faded to the light of common day,” and I saw what was, or had been—not what might lie hid in Time's bright circle and golden chaplet! Perhaps this is the characteristic difference between youth and a later period of lifethat we learn to take things more as we find them, call them more by their right names; that we feel the warmth of summer, but the winter's cold as well; that we see beauties, but can spy defects in the fairest face; and no longer look at every thing through the genial atmosphere of our own existence. We grow more literal and less credulous every day, lose much enjoyment, and gain some useful, and more useless knowledge. The second time I passed along the road that skirts Burleigh Park, the morning was dank and“ ways were mire." I saw and felt it not: my mind was otherwise engaged. Al! thought I, there is that fine old head by Rembrandt; there, within those cold grey walls, the painter of old age is enshrined, immortalized in some of his inimitable works. The name of Rembrandt lives in the fame of him who stamped it with renown, while the name of Burleigh is kept up by the present owner. An artist survives in the issue of his brain to all posterity—a lord is nothing without the issue of his body lawfully begotten, and is lost in a long line of illustrious ancestors. So much higher is genius than rank—such is the difference between fame and title! A great man in one way bestrides two centuries—it requires twenty generations of a noble house to keep alive the memory of the first founder for the same length of time.' So I reasoned, and was not a little proud of my discovery.

In this dreaming mood, dreaming of deathless works and deathless names, I went on to Peterborough, passing, as it were, under an archway of Fame,

"and still walking under,
Found some new matter to look up and wonder."

I had business there: I will not say what. I could at this time do nothing. I could not write a line– I could not draw a stroke. “I was brutish;" though not“ like warlike as the wolf, nor subtle as the fox for prey." In words, in look, in deeds, I was no better than a changeling. Why then do I set so much value on my existence formerly? Oh God! that I could but be for one day, one hour, nay but for an instant, (to feel it in all the plenitude of unconscious bliss, and take one long, last, lingering draught of that full brimming cup of thoughtless freedom,) what then I was—that I might, as in a trance, a waking dream, hear the hoarse murmur of the bargemen, as the Minster tower appeared in the dim twilight, come up from the willowy stream, sounding low and underground like the voice of the bittern—that I might paint that field opposite the window where I lived, and feel that there was a green, dewy moisture in the tone, beyond my pencil's reach, but thus gaining almost a new sense, and watching the birth of new objects without me--that I might stroll down Peterborough bank, (a winter's day,) and see the fresh marshes stretching out in endless level perspective, (as if Paul Potter had painted them,) with the cattle, the windmills, the red-tiled cottages, gleaming in the sun to the very verge of the horizon, and watch the fieldfares in innumerable flocks, gambolling in the air, and sporting in the sun, and racing before the clouds, making summersaults, and dazzling the eye by throwing themselves into a thousand figures and movements —that I might go, as then, a pilgrimage to the town where my mother was born, and visit the poor farm-house where she was brought up, and leau

upon gate where she told me she used to stand when a child of ten years old and look at the setting sun.- I could do all this still, but it would be with different feelings. As our hopes leave us, we lose even our interest and regrets for the past. I had at this time, simple as I seemed, many resources. I could in some sort “play at bowls with the sun or moon;" or at any rate, there was no question in metaphysics that I could not bandy to and fro, as one might play at cup and ball, for twenty, thirty, forty miles of the great north road, and at it again, the next day, as fresh as ever. I soon get tired of this now, and wonder how I managed formerly. I knew Tom Jones by heart, and was deep in Peregrine Pickle. I was intimately acquainted with all the heroes and heroines of Richardson's romances, and could turn from one to the other as I pleased. I could con over that single passage in Pamela about “ her luinpish heart," and never have done admiring the skill of the author and the truth of nature. I had my sports and recreations too, some such as these following :

“ To see the sun to bed, and to arise,
Like some hot amourist, with glowing eyes,
Bursting the lazy bands of sleep that bound him,
With all his fires and travelling glories round him.
Sometimes the moon on soft night clouds to rest,
Like beauty nestling in a young man's breast,
And all the winking stars, her handmaids, keep
Admiring silence while those lovers sleep.
Sometimes outstretcht, in very idleness,
Nought doing, saying little, thinking less,
To view the leaves, thin dancers upon air,
Go eddying round; and small birds, how they fare,


[ocr errors]

When Mother Autumn fills their beaks with corn,
Filch'd from the careless Amalthea's horn :
And how the woods berries and worms provide
Without their pains, when earth has nought beside
To answer their small wants.
To view the graceful deer come tripping by,
Then stop and gaze, then turn, and know not why,
Like bashful younkers in society.
To mark the structure of a plant or tree,

And all fair things of earth, how fair they be. I have wandered far enough from Burleigh-House, but I had some associations about it, which I could not well get rid of, without troubling the reader with them. The Rembrandts disappointed me quite. I could hardly find a trace of the impression which had been inlaid in my imagination. I might as well

“ Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream." Instead of broken wrinkles and indented flesh, I saw hard lines and stained canvass. I had seen better Rembrandts since, and had learned to see. Nature better. It was painting my old woman's head and verifying the dim floating notions I had before, that put me up to the right thing. Was it a disadvantage then, that for twenty years I had carried this fine idea in my brain, enriching it from time to time from my observations of nature or art, and raising it as they were raised; or did it much signify that it was disturbed at last? Neither. The picture was nothing to me: it was the idea it had suggested. The one hung on the wall at Burleigh, the other was an heir-loom in my mind. Was it destroyed, because the picture after long absence did not answer to it? No. There were other pictures in the world that did, and objects in nature still more perfect. This is the melancholy privilege of art; it exists chiefly in idea, and leads to nothing beyond itself. If we are disappointed in the character of one we love, it breaks the illusion altogether, for we drew certain consequences from a face. If an old friendship is broken up, we cannot tell how to replace it, without the aid of habit and a length of time. But a picture is nothing but a face, it interests us only in idea. Hence we need never be afraid of raising our standard of taste too high ; for the mind rises with it, exalted and refined, and can never be much injured by finding out its casual mistakes. Like the possessor of a splendid collection, who is indifferent to or turns away from common pictures, we have a selecter gallery in our own minds. In this sense, the knowledge of art is its own exceeding great reward. But is there not danger that you may become too fastidious, and have nothing left to admire? None: for the conceptions of the human soul cannot rise superior to the power of art; or if they do, then you have surely every reason to be satisfied with them. The mind, in what depends on itself alone, “ soon rises from defeat unhurt,” though its pride may for a moment “ humbled by such rebuke,"

“ And in its liquid texture mortal wound

Receives no more than can the fluid air." As an illustration of the same thing, there are two Claudes at Burleigh, which certainly do not come up to the celebrity of the artist's name. They did not hit me formerly: the sky, the water, the trees


« AnteriorContinuar »