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May she never be able to understand the feelings which she is so apt and so welcome to make merry with! May a perpetual light from within continue to give, as it does now, life, beauty, and newness to every thing about her! I know, as well as she does, that this earth is, properly understood, a place about the surface of which we ought to glide as with wings; that the spirit ought to bear up the body from seeming to touch it; that we ought to pass over it as the bees pass over flowers-only to collect their sweets: I know all this, but I am constantly finding that I only know it ;—she feels it.
Adieu, my dear Claire,
D. S. F. P.S. You will remember that the letters I address to you are intended for all the home circle; and that the wishes and adieus I bid to you are offered for them all.
Brighton, Monday, Sept. 22, 1817. It is an instinct of our nature to judge by externals. In the present, state of the world, I know, this instinct is apt sometimes to lead us astray; but, it is, upon the whole, a very valuable one: and I generally, to a certain extent, yield myself up to it. I suffer it to influence, but not to fix me.
No one can visit a foreign country with less prejudice against the inhabitants of it than I have against those of England; and yet my first impression is, that I do not like them, and that I never can. You will not, however, do them or me the injustice to take this as a deliberate opinion. It is merely an impulse, arising from the external indications of character which first present themselves to me. There is a hard coarseness of feature, and a repulsive coldness of manner, which, whatever of good or of beauty they may cover, are unequivocally bad in themselves: and these the English appear to me to possess in a remarkable degree. There is, besides, in all they say and do, an awkward and blundering abruptness, which is peculiarly offensive to a Frenchman. One is accustomed in France, on all occasions, to give and receive a smile at meeting and at parting, even in one's intercourse with strangers. Perhaps these smiles do not mean much; but they are at least harmless. Here I never meet with any thing like a smile, except sometimes an awkward half-suppressed one at my foreign English. This is one of the worst of rudenesses, and one to which the people here are more addicted than to any other; or perhaps it may appear so to me, because it is one which a Frenchman never falls into, though our language possesses such an endless variety of delicacies, which foreigners, and above all the English, are perpetually violating. But for the present I will turn from the people to the country.
We are extremely interested by this town. The features of it are not what can be called striking, but they are, I think, very remarkable. There is nothing about it in the slightest degree venerable or impressive, like some of the great French and Flemish towns. There is no beauty or grandeur in the houses or public buildings. On the contrary, there is an air of smallness every where; but this is accompanied by a newness, a completeness, and a finish, which give to the whole the effect of a picture. Any part that can be taken in by the eye at once has the appearance of a newly-painted scene on the stage. Most of the houses look as if they had been kept in a case, and were now just uncovered for some public occasion. The Prince Regent has lately been staying at a palace he has here; and I inquired whether the houses had been newly beautified on this account, as the people are compelled to do in Spain when the king travels. All the answer i got to the inquiry was a “No, Sir!" accompanied by a rude smile, I suppose at my ignorance in making it.
The houses are mostly built in rows or sets of from ten to twenty, each being a fac-simile of all the rest in the set; or rather each set looking like one long low house, with a door between every two or three windows. But what seems to me to give the peculiar effect, is the extreme cleanness and newness of every thing. The paint looks as if just laid on, the windows shine like crystal, the stone steps are as white as snow; and in some parts of the town the houses are faced with coloured and varnished tiles or bricks, which glitter so when the sun shines, that you cannot look at them steadily.
From what I can judge of the Regent's palace by seeing it at a distance, it seems to be built in a very strange taste indeed. The most conspicuous part of it is a large dome, almost as large as that of the Invalids, composed entirely of glass. The palace is nearly surrounded, and all the lower part of it hid, by a range of odd-looking buildings, which are the stables.
There are public libraries, where the people meet together in the evening ; besides a theatre, assembly.rooms, exhibitions of various kinds, baths, public walks, &c., all included in a town containing not more than twelve thousand inhabitants. So that, if Brighton may be taken as a fair specimen of an English county town, we must have been strangely misinformed as to the people's love of amusement.
D. S. F.
Brighton, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 1817 You know part of our plan is never to be in a hurry; never to. mistake moving for travelling; or to arrive at a place for no other purpose than to quit it. I was too happy at home to have been induced to leave it in search of mere pleasure-even if pleasure were to be found in the rattle of wheels. I am certain I shall spend no day so happily while I am away, as I should have done at V-with every thing that is dear to me about me. But I hope to return there, less unworthy of the love that will greet me, and capable of loving the givers of it better than ever-more I cannot. In the mean time, I shall continue to fulfil the condition on which we mutually consented to separate, namely, that I should tell you all I see and think and feel; in short, that I should talk to you as I do when we are sitting together on the terrace, or sauntering under the chesnut-trees; talk, by the way, which if you hear with delight, it is because your hearts are the chief listeners to it.
I made an odd mistake in my last, about the Regent's palace. I described the stables as the palace, and the palace as the stables. I suppose the architect, or his employers, just at the time of forming the plan, must have been reading the English Rabelais' account of a nation, in which horses governed and men served them; and so raised
the buildings according to that writer's ideas of the comparative nobility of those two races of animals. I was quite mistaken, too, in supposing this to be a fair specimen of an English provincial town. We find it has very peculiar features, and seems extremely well adapted to exhibit the manners, habits, &c. of almost all classes of the people. We shall therefore remain here for a few days.
Fashion, you must know, is as peremptory in her decrees here, as she is in France; and as effectually destroys all natural and simple tastes and habits of feeling. But both here and there, in spite of the remonstrances of her votaries, she seems obstinately determined, for her health's sake, to transfer her shrine, during the summer months, to a distance from the great cities and the metropolis. What is to be done in this case? For a person of fashion to vegetate among green fields, trees, flowers, and running brooks, would doubtless be a most lamentable waste of life; but then not to be a person of fashion would be still worse. In this dilemma a compromise has been made between inclination and duty. Fashion forbids them to live in London, and habit prevents them from living out of it; so they contrive to live in and out of it at the same time, by establishing on the sea-coast, and in different parts of the island, certain little Londons, of which this at Brighton is said to be the most in favour-I suppose because it is the least of all others like the country. The centre of Paris, with its Tuileries and Camps Elysées, is a garden of Eden to it. The country, for leagues round, is one uninterrupted range of brown, barren, chalk-hills; on which a few lean dirty-looking sheep tantalize their appetites by nibbling at the dry turf. Nature has, to be sure, scattered a tree here and there, to show that the want of vegetation is not her fault; and a few spots of land have been cultivated ;-but I imagine this has been done only to make the rest look more barren (that is to say more beautiful) by the contrast-as coquettes put black patches on their faces, to make the white and red look more brilliant. Never have our own vinecovered hills and delicious valleys of Languedoc shone out upon my memory in absence, with such luxuriance as during the few days I have been here. But they tell us we must not judge of the face of their island by any thing we see in the near neighbourhood of this town; and have referred us to a spot about two leagues distant, for a most extensive and beautiful view of the adjacent country. We intend going there to-morrow. Till then, adieu.
D. S. F.
Brighton, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 1817. We have just returned from visiting what is called the Devil's Dyke. The view from the top of this singular place has a very peculiar character; and is certainly most beautiful. The road to the spot from whence the view is seen is admirably calculated to enhance its beauties by direct and sudden contrast. It lies, at first, through corn-fields; but all the latter part is what they call here Downs: that is, an immense tract of country undulating on all sides, so that you have nowhere a single receding distance, as far as the eye can reach; but several separate distances, each distinctly marked, but more and more faintly, as they recede behind each other; and all shifting and varying with the position of the eye, or the rise and fall of the track (for there is no road) over which you are Vol. III. No. 14.-1822.
passing. The whole is covered with a short brown turf, and unbroken by a single tree or a single habitation : and, with the exception of a view of the sea now and then on the left, bounded only by the horizon. The effect of this, besides being exceedingly fine in itself, adds greatly to that of the noble prospect which, at a turn of the hill, bursts upon the eye suddenly, and at once.
The character of this view is, in almost every thing, different from those we are accustomed to in France; but if it wants their grandeur and variety, it is still extremely beautiful. The spectator stands on the ridge of a range of Downs, such as I have been describing to you, which seem, as far as the eye can reach on either side, to form an inaccessible barrier to the sea.
Smooth brown turf covers their almost perpendicular declivity down to the very foot; and then the country lies before the eye in one immense flat, or plain, which, in the front, stretches out interminably, till the blue distance becomes lost in the blue sky. Nothing can be more luxuriant than the cultivation with which the whole of this plain is covered ; and yet it is totally different from any thing I have seen before. That part which lies near enough for the eye to distinguish the detail of it, consists of square patches of from one to three or four arpents,* completely divided from each other by thick hedge-rows. This, together with the wood which is scattered about in small quantities every where, gives to the scene the appearance of a vast garden-at this season almost of a flower-garden, from the endless variety of tints with which the whole is covered. To complete the effect of the picture, narrow roads wind about like the course of a river, and lead to little villages, which are seen here and there, with their small simple-looking church-spires rising out of clumps of trees, which seem to have been planted there not by man, but by Nature. This appearance, both of the roads and the trees, is almost unknown with us; but it is extremely pleasing. Indeed, I am half inclined not to confess to you how very much I have been delighted by this view; for, if I have succeeded in giving you any thing like a distant idea of it, you will see how entirely it differs from our own favourite ones. Here are no forest-crowned mountains rising majestically in the distance; no laughing valleys which seem to exult in their own beauty; no rivers winding and glittering between their banks, till they become lost to the eye, but not to the fancy; no vine-covered hills jutting out in the foreground on either side, round the corners of which the imagination is enticed to wander, and paint for itself pictures even more lovely than the one it leaves. Here every thing is seen; but then neither the eye nor the mind has a desire to wander: they feel as if they could rest for ever on the beautiful creation which seems to lie breathing and basking in the sunshine before them. You know I am accustomed to find, or to fancy, every where in external nature symbols of the mind. Our favourite French landscapes seem, then, like the song of the nightingale, to talk of joy. This English one, like the voice of the stockdove, seems to breathe and to murmur of happiness. The one laughs outwardly like a bacchante of Titian ; the other smiles inwardly, like a Madonna of Corregio. Adieu for a day or two.
D. S. F.
* About an acre.
CASANOVA'S VISIT TO HALLER AND VOLTAIRE. [The following article is extracted from a MS. consisting of 600 closely written sheets that fell in the hands of the Editor of the “Urania,” a periodical publication at Leipsic, and was written by J. J. Casanova. It includes a period of nearly fifty years, commencing with the year 1730; and contains a history of the author's life, from his youth to his latter years, with notices of the principal characters with whom he became acquainted in all the great courts of Europe. The writer was brother to Casanova, late director of the Royal Academy of Arts in Dresden, whose name is mentioned in Mensel's “ Gelehrtes Deutschland;" or, “ The History of the Learned Germans of the 18th Century." The ancestors of J. J. Casanova are said to have been Spaniards, but he himself states Venice to have been his birth-place. He received his first education at Padua; he then entered a seminary, and again returned to Venice. In 1743 he went to Constantinople, where, besides others, he formed an interesting acquaintance with Bonneval. Twelve years after, i. e. in 1755, we find him again at Venice, confined in the lead prisons, from which, by the most astonishing efforts, he escaped in 1756. In 1757 he went to Paris, and after a variety of adventures he removed in 1757 to Spain. During a journey which he made thence to the South of France, he passed through Aix in Provence, in his way to Italy. At Madrid he became acquainted with the Count of Aranda, the Duke Medina Celi, and with Olavides; but he was induced, or rather obliged, for various reasons, to leave that country. In 1774, after having passed eighteen years in travelling, he was declared free by the Republic of Venice. From the year 1785 he lived at Dux, in Bohemia, as librarian to the Count Waldstein, and completely gave himself up to the study of the sciences till his death, which was nearly at the end of the century.]
I was introduced to Haller by letters of recommendation. He was a man of tall stature, being about six feet high, and his features displayed a perfect symmetry.
Whatever can be reasonably expected from a hospitable man, was offered to me by this great philosopher. Whenever I put a question to him, he displayed to me his knowledge with a correctness and precision that merited my warmest admiration. This was done with such inodesty, that a man like myself might have imagined it was carried to excess. He appeared to be receiving instruction himself, when he was in reality conveying instruction to me. When he questioned me on any scientific subject, there was always enough in the question to guide me, and to render it impossible to answer him erroneously.
Haller was eminent as a philosopher, a physician and an anatomist. Like Morgagni, whom he called his preceptor, he had made many discoveries in physiology. He showed me several letters of Morgagni and Pontevedra, who were Professors of the same University. Pontevedra had directed his attention principally to botany: Haller had also made it his study. The conversation we held concerning these distinguished men, by whom I also had been instructed, induced him to complain of Pontevedra. His letters, he observed, gave him much trouble, partly because it was difficult to decipher his writing, and partly because he wrote in obscure Latin.