« ElőzőTovább »
provided with a basket stored with provisions; and then, having gained a platform of verdure that commanded a superb view, or having ram, bled into a valley hedged in by singular precipices, they would sit down at their ease and make an excellent repast; and while a torrent roared on at their feet, talk of the amazing difference between this and the pic, nics they used to join in in Wiltshire; how much more of taste, of soul, and of true luxury there was, in thus revelling amidst the splendid so, litudes of Nature, than in the gay, bustling, and noisy parties, where there was nothing but each other's faces to see, and each other's con versation to listen to. How rapidly, how beautifully time fled away for many days that were thus passed! Then the evenings in their Swiss dwelling! There was a corridor into which the salon on the second-floor opened; a large, lofty corridor, where chairs and a table were set; and pots full of fragrant flowers stood beside. Here they sat and took their tea, and chatted of present and distant things; of their own quiet and affluent home, the mansion, its gardens and grounds; and of the wonders of the scene before their eyes. They might well be fascinated with it when the last beams of day were cast on the near and distant mountains : the mighty Wetterhorn, mountain of storms, that reared its head into the sky; the rushing of many torrents nearer by; the distant sound of the cataracts-often the cup of tea was suspended in the hand, and paused ere it reached the lips, as every sense was arrested for the moment by this splendid combination of sight and sound. Home faded from their thoughts; the names of absent friends died on their lips; the calm, large grey eyes of the good squire were lighted up with a different feeling from that with which he used to gaze from his drawing-room window on his own rich meadows, or on the quiet flocks of sheep that fed on them.
And could not this state of happy excitement last ? Was its fleeting duration to afford another instance of the cheating character of this life's delights, however long expected or fondly built on ? Cherished for years in imagination, this scene of romantic retirement might surely, have retained its zest for one season. The second month, however, was scarcely begun, ere the feelings of the party began to experience a change, as unexpected as it was unpleasant. The squire was the first to acknowledge some symptoms of weariness; the weather was uniformly lovely; the sky blue and serene; the sun rose and set magnificently as on their first arrival, but his eye roved over them certainly with a faded interest and an enthusiasm on the wane. The truth was, the change of habits was too entire at his age; not a single hour in the day passed the same as for the last twenty years it had used to do. In their own handsome country-house visitors were daily dropping in, of various kinds--fox-hunters, politicians, wealthy farmers; and all the news of the nation, and of the parish, were pleasantly retailed and commented on. But here it was solitude, or little better, as to all society; the daughter was the only one who could speak, French, and that not in the most fluent way, so that the good pair were reduced to a state of quiescence, or confusion, somewhat similar to the feelings of those at Babel, when they heard German fiercely jabbered, and French murdered, both by peasantry and bourgeois. More than once had the head of the family, venturing forth alone, missed his way on the mountains, and with great difficulty been enabled to find his road
home after devious wandering; for though bis uttering the name of the village where they lived, which was all he could do, was a sufficient indication, yet his way of pronouncing the word Meyringen was so different from that of the peasantry he met, that they stared at him, and endeavoured in vain to catch the meaning. The curé of the place was almost the only visitor, and he came and sat with them, and they looked at bim as he spoke, and then at each other; and his very bad French Mademoiselle could scarcely understand. Chance travellers there were of various countries, who passed through on their way to scenes farther on, or remained time enough only to visit the neighbouring sights: and to hold communion with Nature (the squire felt acutely) might be delicious for a season, but endured not for ever. His eyes actually ached at last, as he endeavoured to fix them on the lofty mountains and their glittering summits; and he thought with a sigh of his own long range of waving corn-fields, and flat rich-pasture land, with scarcely an undulation on the surface. There were minor grievances also : the loss of little luxuries, that was felt daily, and preyed on the temper. The cookery was extremely bad; hares were actually sent to the table by a Goth of a Swiss cook steeped in sour sauce, and covered all over with slices of lemon. The fish, and there was excellent fish in the river, that might almost be caught from the windows, were also rendered so sharp by the ingredients profusely poured on them, that the very flavour was taken away. The meat was not good in general; the veal was killed at a week old ; the mutton contracted a strong and most disagreeable flavour by being kept in the skin for two days after being killed; so that the chief, rich, and availing consolation that a thorough Englishman often finds a balance for the bitterest ills--a good dinner--was taken away. Often, as the Wiltshire traveller sipped his Madeira and Port, did he look with an angry and discontented eye on the viands before him, ill-dressed and ill-tasted; the noble sirloins, and the sightly, tempting legs of mutton, were far away; and as for poultry, what was called by that name resembled more in aspect and taste, a piece of dried leather, or a starved rabbit, than any thing else. These were petty vexations, it is true; but when they come every hour before one's eyes, they are enough to disturb the most Platonic temper. The season grew dreadfully hot; it was the month of July, and in the confined valley the sun's rays seemed to be concentrated, and to dart down pitilessly on the wanderers' heads. The front of the house was open to the hottest aspect of the heavens: in vain, seated in the corridor, they souglit a mouthful of fresh air ; driven within the doors of their salon, they closed the shutters, and sought to find the resources within, which without it was vain to seek for. Gazing on the shining wood floor, the empty chimney, the almost curtainless windows, it was vain to fancy the view was as pleasant as a well-furnished, well-aired, cheerful-looking drawing-room in England. The lady then began to feel there was a void, a dreariness in this existence : no more the bell rang clear and animating, announcing the morning call, or the carriage of some neighbouring gossip just driven to the door ; no more the lively evening parties, and the unfailing, though not ruinous, hand at whist. It was strange, they said, when lingering at the dinner-table, that their minds should change so soon ; certainly the place was very lovely, and the scenery, beyond all imagination ; still time hung heavy: they could not be always
making excursions; they had been up the long valley of Hasli to see the great fall of the Aar and the Grimsel, and had found their way as far as the Devil's Bridge, and back again, and liad explored every vale and several of the great mountains, in the neighbourhood. When the cool of evening came, and it was most welcome, they left their dwelling, crossed the bridge, and proceeded to the noble falls of the Reichenbach, at a short distance. There they seated themselves on a rock, near the rushing of the stream, and found the air delightfully cool. It was the very attitude that Rousseau loved, and in which he is often painted ; but neither the squire, nor his lady, nor his daughter, had Rousseau's feelings on the subject of this or any other of the great things of Nature. So they gazed and listened; the squire leaned on the rock, his large staff in his hand, and fixed his eyes on the mighty fall, that descended from its lofty seat as if in scorn of the meaner scene on which it fell, and then bounded onwards from steep to steep, and held its broad course fiercely through the long and rich valley. · He grew wearied, however, wearied to excess, when this visit was repeated evening after evening, while the sultry heats lasted ; his head ached with the loud, incessant rush of the waters, and his sight was dazzled with the light spray and foam that was flung from them. This could not last; July and August passed, and cooler weather came, and it was resolved they should quit their dwelling in the village, and turn their face once more to their own shores. It were difficult to say whether the feelings of their arrival or departure were most vivid ; certain it was they left valley, and river, and mountain, all behind, without a lingering look; and had the penalty of Lot's wife been denounced to the party, it had fallen innocent, since onwards was bent every look, and homewards bounded every heart. And at home, and in Wiltshire they arrived, unscathed by storm or moving accident, satisfied to the full with travelling and all its joys.
There are a few traits of character, however, to be met with among the natives of the land, which display more enthusiasm than was evinced by this party of travellers. Near Locle, in the German part of Switzerland, upon the little river Jaluze, is a singular mill of four stages, the wheels being placed one below the other to receive their motion from the fall of the river, where it forms a cascade in a very narrow ravine; below the last of the wheels the water falls about fifty feet before it reaches the low ground. This mill was the scene of a singular event in 1814, when the Austrian and French troops were dispersed in this part of the country. The propriétor was strongly in the French interest, and commonly had parties of soldiers either at the mill or in the neighbourhood, who effected the destruction of any of the Austrians who unfortunately fell into their power. An officer of the latter country was posted at Locle, where he dwelt in the house of a watchmaker, whose son was frequently employed in showing him the remarkable places in the district, but who had received strict orders not to let him visit the mill, whose singular construction attracted the attention of all strangers; the number of Austrians who had disappeared there, having given rise to the opinion that they had been assasinated. After some time the officer received orders to join his corps, with the detachment under his command : he formed the party into two divisions for the convenience of quartering, and after having accompanied one of them a short distance, quitted it with the intention of joining the other. Not being well acquainted with the cross ways, he was soon at a loss ; and after wandering some time, he met a man habited as a peasant, to whom he offered a gratuity if he would conduct him as far as the highway. The man consented, and taking the lead, they soon arrived at the mill, where the guide proposed that they should stop and take some refreshment, as he was proprietor of the place. To this the officer agreed, and being glad of an opportunity to inspect the work, of which he had heard much, asked the miller to conduct him. The day having been wet, the latter went to change his clothes, and attend to some other affairs, and in the mean time the officer availed himself of the benefit of the kitchen fire, where he entered into conversation with the miller's daughter, who was much prepossessed by his handsome person and engaging manners. She seemed uneasy on learning his intention of inspecting the mill, and hinted to him that her father being a great friend to the French, was consequently very hostile to his nation ; that the place had been fatal to many of his countrymen, and in short, that his life was already menaced. She suggested, with earnestness, that he should make some excuse to depart as quickly as possible. The officer, being well armed, did not pay sufficient attention to her warning, seeing no one in the dwelling but the miller and his daughter ; and on the former returning, they descended together. When they arrived at one of the lower wheels, where there was a kind of trap-door, the miller suddenly seized the officer with the intention of plunging him beneath, as he had before done to many Austrians. The latter being on his guard, closed with his enemy, and a struggle ensued; at that moment the daughter, who had followed unperceived, sprang upon them, and the father, finding himself detected, desisted from fartber violence, and they reascended. Some Austrian soldiers, having been informed by a peasant who had seen the officer in company with the miller, that he was in a place of imminent danger, hastened to his rescue, and arrived just in time to hear the noise of the scuffle. The daughter was the first to ascend, when the soldiers, concluding her to be in league with her father, were on the point of ill-treating her, but their commander instantly protected her, and the generous girl saw her timely interference crowned with all the success she desired. The Austrians had entered but a short time when a party of French soldiers came to the mill, according to their usual custom, and a skirmish took place, at the commencement of which the unfortunate officer received a musket-ball, and fell dead on the spot. The Austrians were on the point of being overpowered, when the young woman who had already acted so devoted a part, knowing that his body would be ill-treated and plundered, dragged it to the lower part of the mill, and precipitated it into the torrent; in doing which her foot slipped, and falling in also, she quickly perished. Many say that in a fit of disappointed or enthusiastic feeling, she threw herself after the body; but there is little doubt that her death was accidental.
O'CONNELL AND SHEIL. The names of the celebrated individuals who give a title to this article, have become almost relative and correlative terms, as the grammarian would say, in the English language; the mere mention of one immediately suggests the other, and it would require something more than an Act of Parliament to dissolve this association. As a natural consequence of being thus brought together, a comparison of their respective merits has long since been instituted. The joint career of O'Connell and Sheil had, from its commencement, furnished an occasion for this species of criticism, and, as such, has not been overlooked, especially in these stages of it, when the expectation of their being tried in the highest ordeal of talent is most likely, at no very distant period, to be fulfilled. Hitherto, on this subject, opinion has been merely oral; for us it remains to consign it to the less perishable records of the press, nor do we conceive that we shall thereby give rise to any invidions reflections, since, besides the abilities of the learned gentlemen being such as upon examination will not be found to clash, the individuals themselves are, we feel assured, superior to all feelings but those of an honourable emulation. The inquiry, too, is calculated to disabuse the public mind of any misconceptions which it may have entertained of their powers, and may serve to raise from underneath an accumulated mass of misrepresentation their real and genuine merits. In making the following remarks, however, we shall not use the language of advocacy. A true estimate of talent must furnish the gross amount, and exbibit the items both of profit and of loss.
To the subject. Speaking in the general, with respect to capacity, we believe prevalent opinion has allotted to Mr. O'Connell a supremacy, at the same time that the sentiments of a very considerable party are more favourable to the claims of his colleague. Now, we are more disposed to strike a balance between the parties. We think that the talents of both differ more in kind than in degree, and that, on the whole, there does not exist any material disparity. Talent is a very wide word ; it comprehends many grades of intellect, from ardent reasoning up to cold calculation. There is nothing which shows so little insight into the structure of the mind, as to pronounce a sentence of general incapacity upon those who fail in any of its departments. The moralist may be iotally incompetent as the mathematician—witness Johnson; the best practical statesman may be the most irrational public speaker, and vice versa-witness Cromwell and Calonne; and persons who had hitherto stagnated as idiots, may, upon the vibrating chord of intellect being struck, start into life with all the vitality of wisdom witness Swift. We ask pardon of the reader for making this digression; as it is, however, a sort of preamble illustrative of the statute of comparison which we are about to enact, it will not, perhaps, be deemed altogether superfluous. With respect to the nature of their abilities, as we have just observed, these two gentlemen differ widely from one another, although their pursuits in life are the same, and their temperaments not dissimilar.
Mr. O'Connell has been heretofore presented to us in that sphere of action which was perhaps better calculated than any other to develope to the best advantage his highest powers. As the bold, dauntless, and
Oct. 1829.-VOL. XXVI. NO. CVI.