« ZurückWeiter »
the Capitol itself with exhausted sympathics. Once at Domo, or at Susa, the big, collective feeling should come over one, which, as Wordsworth says,
“ Moveth altogether, if it move at all.” But for lovely little spots of circumscribed association, wedded, as it were, to a single name, Switzerland is the country. And the traveller need not diverge from the high Simplon road, in order to visit and enjoy the greater number. Ferney, Coppet, Lausanne, Clarens, will each furnish their supply of pensive food to the sentimentalist. The first I reserve for some gay, satirical mood, so ill according with the scene.—Strange! that a being, that had chosen its resting-place on the banks of the Leman, between the Jura and the Savoy Alps, and with the monarch of mountains ever towering in his view, should there have so dwarfed his powers, so concentrated and narrowed them in the microscope of satire, merely to destroy some petty insect of a rival. To be at Ferney, to look round, and say, here wrote the author of the “ Pucelle,” is one of those most unpleasant contradictions that the fact so often gives to the probability.
If nature ever imitated a picture, it was in forming the Leman: beauty and sublimity in all the gradations and variety of each are crowded upon and around it. You drive along the Swiss side of the lake, through meadows and hedges of English luxuriance, trimly kept and divided too, after our country fashion, while the vine, the Swiss cottage, and Swiss costume, add foreign charms to what reminds us so strongly of home. The Jura rises above, the lake spreads beneath, with many a “quiet sail” upon its surface, that look as nothing while they glide over the reflection of the towering Alp upon the lake. The eye, on one side, follows up the curve of the sandy margin to Vevay' and Chillon, and on the other side marks the huge masses of Alp that overhang the lake, with a town here and there upon the brink, which, from their comparative size might be almost taken for so many napkins spread out to dry. The approach to the modern republic of Lausanne is worthy of forming the avenue to the most ancient and feudal of cas. tles: it rises and winds in the midst of majestic chesnut-groves, through whose waving foliage is seen at every step, here the bright surface of the lake and its opposite mountain border, and there the subtle spires and lofty brick buildings of the city. Lausanne itself, when entered, does not answer the promise of such an approach ; the traveller is annoyed at its steepness and its straightness, but one glance from almost any window of the town is sufficient to drive away his spleen.
The house of Gibbon was the first object of my search at Lausanne. It belonged to the banker, I was told. The lower part and garden, however, seem to appertain to another tenant, an old lady, into whose apartments I descended from the street, and was straight ushered into the garden to behold what the maiden called “ La Gibbon"-an old shattered tool-house.
“ It was on the day, or rather night, of the 27th of June, 1787," says Gibbon, “ between the hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of the last page, in a summer-house in my garden. After laying down my pen, I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk of acacias, which commands a prospect of the country,
VOL. VUJÍ. NO. XXXII.
the lake, and the mountains. The air was temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected from the waters, and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on the recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and that whatever might be the future date of my history, the life of the historian must be short and precarious."
The acacias still flourish, as does the weeping willow which he planted, and I need not add, that the scene remains the same. It had changed, however, more than once for Gibbon. When he first visited, or rather was exiled to Lausanne," he exchanged his elegant apartment in Magdalen College for a narrow, gloomy street, the most unfrequented of an unhandsome town, for an old, inconvenient house, and for a small chamber ill-contrived and ill-furnished, which, on the approach of winter, instead of a companionable fire, must be warmed by the dull, invisible heat of a stove.' When he returned again from London, the contrast was quite in favour of this “unhandsome town." “Instead of a small house between a street and a stable-yard, I began to occupy a spacious and convenient mansion, connected on the north side with the city, and open on the south to a beautiful and boundless horizon. A garden of four acres had been laid out by the taste of M. Deyverdun : from the garden a rich scenery of meadows and vineyards descends to the Leman Lake, and the prospect far beyond the lake is crowned by the stupendous mountains of Savoy,"
The French revolution, and the occupation of Savoy by the republican troops under General Montesquiou, once more changed the aspect of the-scene for Gibbon : what he admired as the kingdom of Savoy, he did not relish as the department of Mont Blanc.—" My noble scenery," writes he, “is clouded by the democratical aspect of twelve leagues of the opposite coast, which every morning obtrude themselves on my view."
The biography of those days, or the history of men's private opinions during this time, forms a most humiliating study-to observe how idly formed, how stubbornly held and perniciously advanced were the principles of men of the first intellect, yet how easily the political half
was overturned by alarm, and, as it were, by very bodily fear, while they kept the religious half firm, merely to preserve some show of consistency. I remember being much pleased with a paragraph in the Edinburgh Review, which sought to prove the necessary union
of Toryism and infidelity. The argument, though weak in reasoning, was strong in example; and I wondered at not seeing the name of Gibbon adduced by the side of those of Bolingbroke and Hume. The fact is, that we were imitators of France in those days, and that our historians took their tone servilely from the imposing cant of Parisian society: That the beaur esprits of that circle were deists, we
are aware ; and that they were, with the exception of Rousseau, (the only man amongst them who possessed intellectual honesty,) aristocrats, is not clear, but equally true. There is no despotic act, that will not find itself abetted in the writings of the liberal Voltaire ;--see for example, how the ultras of late quoted his History in support of tle invasion of Spain. He thought the partition of Poland a just act of self-preservation on the part of the surrounding powers, and he seems to have made freedom ignominious, merely with a hatred to the soutane. Hume and Gibbon were the gossips and followers of this man and his school ; and a more ridiculous, contradictory, tesselated set of principles than theirs, was never stuck together by hazard and imitation-cold and curious in those spiritual and imaginative questions where they should liave been generous and confiding, yet unseasonably soft-hearted in those plain passages of life where severe and rational justice was the duty of the moralist and the historian!
The above-mentioned arguer of the necessary connexion between Toryism and infidelity, might have found in Gibbon's Memoirs a most curious proof of his doctrine; as in one passage the historian confesses that his hatred and opposition to Christianity was founded on that most Tory of all Tory principles,—an hatred to innovation.
“ Burke's book," writes he to Lord Sheffield, “is a most admirable medicine against the French disease, which has made too much progress even in this happy country. I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can forgive even his superstition. The primitive Church, which I have treated with some freedom, was itself at that time an innovation, and I was attached at the time to the old Pagan establishment."
Let but two words be altered in this notable exposition of creed, and it will serve precisely any Tory of the present day to oppose Reform withal. So far did this eleutherophobia carry Gibbon, that we find this hater of Christianity as an innovation, upholding one of its most detestable consequences—the Inquisition: “I recollect," says Lord Sheffield, “ in a circle where French affairs were the topic, and some Portuguese present, he seemingly, with seriousness, argued in favour of the Inquisition at Lisbon, and said, he would not, at the present moment, give up even that old establishment."
MYSTIFICATION-THE WHITE PATIENT.
“ There's a knot, a gang, a pack, a conspiracy against me." "Well, if I be served such another trick, I'll have my brains taken out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a new•year's gift."-Merry Wives of Windsor.
Though the word “ mystification” is somewhat of the newest in our language, and not very old in the French, from which we have borrowed it, yet the thing it represents is by no means an affair of yesterday. Mystification is as old as idleness, and idleness as old as civilization, and civilization as old as Triptolemus and his plough. From the remotest tradition, before History began to write, we hear of mystifications and mystifiers. Was not Saturn finely mystified when he swallowed, what the Irish would call, a lump of a stone, for a young sucking god ? Mystification is indeed of all ages, being an integral portion of human nature. Ulysses, the great mystifier of antiquity, was seldom without some practical joke at his fingers' ends; and was never so happy as when he was selling a bargain.” He was so far, however, lucky, that he lived in an age when folks were not “ up to snuff,” and he had rarely to deal with “ the knowing ones.” Thus, the old Cyclops had brains as hard as his own anvil, or he never would have been “done" by the “rigmarol" tale of Nobody. Achilles also, or we are much mistaken, proved himself as dull as any modern "great captain" of them all, not to " understand trap,” when Ulysses shewed him the armour in the court of the King of Scyros, -and the young rascal in love too, which never fails to sharpen a man's wits, provided he have any to sharpen. The maríner in which the wily Greek “ diddled" the Syrens, was more knowing; and the way in which he “bamboozled” his wife's suitors, "flogged the world," and was as rum a touch" as need be. Yet even Ulysses was mystified by Palamedes, in his young days; and some think that Penelope with her cock-and-bull story of a web, was, in his older and riper experience, "one too many for him.”
The ascent of Romulus to heaven, under the nick-name of Quirinus, was a flat mystification of the Romans, who, it must be confessed, were ready-made dupes to the hands of their church and state operators, and swallowed Quintus Curtius's leap, and Menenius Agrippa's sophistical fable with equal facility. Brutus's shamming mad was a "go" of the first order, though rather too jacobinical for our pure times; and Cæsar's conduct to Cato, in the senate, when he gave him his sister's love-letter to read, was a “dead toke-in.” In the dark ages, mystification was universal. The donations to the Papal See were not bad specimens of the art of humming, and the false decretals are allowed to have been an admirable joke. In our own history, Oliver Cromwell shines the prince of mystifiers. His “seeking the Lord" in the shape of a corkscrew was quite “prime.” Monk, and Anthony Ashley Cooper were both “goud in their way;" and Churchill, the great Duke of Marlborough, “ ran his rigs" on the Stuarts in a superior style. The glorious revo...... ; but it's as well to stop where we are, lest we break the invisible line, which divides the demesne of history, from that of the attorney-general.
Crossing therefore the water, we proceed at once to remark that the French are the “mystificateurs par excellence ;" at least that part of the nation which "lives at home at ease" in Paris, and upon whose hands time and talent are often observed to hang rather heavily. But here we beg to be understood as not alluding in the slightest degree to the government of that country; or, more especially, as insinuating aught against the king's pacific speech, on the eve of the Spanish war. The Bourbons, to do them justice, are all“ fair and above board;" and they speak their intentions with a plainness which none but an ideot can mistake. Na, we confine our remarks exclusively to those happy wights, who have no earthly occupation but " faire le bel esprit," and to shew the contempt they feel for that wretched canaille by whose labour and industry they are supported, comforted, and amused.
In this class flourished “ n'aguères," a certain Duc de Caudale, who divided his superabundant talent for mystification between two pursuits—the cheating his tradesmen, and the seduction of that order of females known in Paris by the name of "grisettes.” The former he contrived to effect by holding out the bait of extraordinary and usurious gains ; the latter he was wont to accomplish by an artifice, now sufficiently common-place,-a promise of marriage. With this worthy gentleman a promise of marriage was a mere bagatelle; and he gave
it with the same indifferent facility that a dashing speculator in London. “ flies his kites," when on the verge of bankruptcy. By the persevering use of these arts, the Duke acquired for himself á reputation, which, if it was not splendid, was at least wide-spreading ; but reputations are not made for nothing; and his Grace, accordingly found himself one day under the necessity of leaving Paris, and of returning, for the benefit of his---character, to his estates in a remote province.
On the eve of departure, this important event got wind; and the Duke's hotel was besieged by a whole army of creditors. A day later with them, and it would have been the “ day after the fair;" but as it was, Caudale was caught on his form, and no doubling could enable him to put off the interview. The horses therefore being at the door, and every thing in readiness for flight, the duns,“ horrible monsters," were admitted. The Duke's reception of them was polite; he heard their story with patience, lamented their loss of time, leaned heavily on his " homme d'affaires,” whose irregularities, he said, were the cause of their disappointments, and finally, calling for pen, ink, and paper, he asked for their accounts. Running his eye over the numerous bills, with the air of an hasty examination, he noted and signed each separate document, and then, turning to his intendant, delivered him a bundle of papers, and desired him to give every creditor his order for payment; which, he observed, was the more easily done, as each paper was endorsed with its owner's name. So saying, he took his leave, mounted his horse and set off. The creditors, eager for their long-looked-for money, scarcely suffered him to leave the room, when they crowded round the man of figures to receive the expected order; but their astonishment may be readily conceived, when, instead of “Please to pay the bearer," each man read in his own billet "I Duc de Caudale, &c. &c. hereby promise to marry Mr. So and So.” The intendant, who was perhaps aware of the cheat, endeavoured to excuse his master to the best of his power, saying " It was an unlucky mistake." “It arose entirely from absence of mind and the inveterate habit of writing such promises." "He had no doubt that as soon as his master was aware of the error he would hasten to rectify it ;" and in this way he dismissed the enraged dupes, about as well satisfied with their morning's work, as the Jew creditors of the elder Baron de Felsheim with Brandt's mode of "equitable adjustment” in Pigault Le Brun's whimsical novel.
A mystifier in a lower rank in society was Turpin, celebrated by his countrymen and neighbours for a wicked wit. Turpin seems to have been born for the express purpose of humbugging all the world, and to have been what we call a first-rate wag. Happening to sit one day at church next to a jolly fat-faced lady, whose nose was the least prominent feature in her platter-formed visage, he began to fidget and grunt, and make sueh horrible contortions as induced his good-natured neighbour to ask what ailed him. “ Alas! my good lady,” cried Turpin, with the utmost gravity of voice and demeanour, “I am a poor paralytic, who cannot use my hands; and here I have been sitting this full quarter of an hour without any one to blow my nose, of which I am in urgent necessity." The answer, as may be anticipated-for women are ever compassionate—was a proposition to assist the sick man in his need. Turpin readily expressed his assent, and the fat lady, seeking