HotFreeBooks.com
Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents
by William Beckford
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcribed from the 1891 Ward, Lock and Co. edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents; in a Series of Letters from Various Parts of Europe



LETTER I



June 19th, 1780.—Shall I tell you my dreams?—To give an account of my time is doing, I assure you, but little better. Never did there exist a more ideal being. A frequent mist hovers before my eyes, and, through its medium, I see objects so faint and hazy, that both their colours and forms are apt to delude me. This is a rare confession, say the wise, for a traveller to make: pretty accounts will such a one give of outlandish countries: his correspondents must reap great benefit, no doubt, from such purblind observations. But stop, my good friends; patience a moment!—I really have not the vanity of pretending to make a single remark, during the whole of my journey: if—be contented with my visionary way of gazing, I am perfectly pleased; and shall write away as freely as Mr. A., Mr. B., Mr. C., and a million others whose letters are the admiration of the politest circles.

All through Kent did I doze as usual; now and then I opened my eyes to take in an idea or two of the green, woody country through which I was passing; then closed them again; transported myself back to my native hills; thought I led a choir of those I loved best through their shades; and was happy in the arms of illusion. The sun set before I recovered my senses enough to discover plainly the variegated slopes near Canterbury, waving with slender birch-trees, and gilt with a profusion of broom. I thought myself still in my beloved solitude, but missed the companions of my slumbers. Where are they?—Behind yon blue hills, perhaps, or t'other side of that thick forest. My fancy was travelling after these deserters, till we reached the town; vile enough o' conscience, and fit only to be passed in one's sleep. The moment after I got out of the carriage, brought me to the cathedral; an old haunt of mine. I had always venerated its lofty pillars, dim aisles, and mysterious arches. Last night they were more solemn than ever, and echoed no other sound than my steps. I strayed about the choir and chapels, till they grew so dark and dismal, that I was half inclined to be frightened; looked over my shoulder; thought of spectres that have an awkward trick of syllabling men's names in dreary places; and fancied a sepulchral voice exclaiming: "Worship my toe at Ghent; my ribs at Florence; my skull at Bologna, Sienna, and Rome. Beware how you neglect this order; for my bones, as well as my spirit, have the miraculous property of being here, there, and everywhere." These injunctions, you may suppose, were received in a becoming manner, and noted all down in my pocket-book by inspiration (for I could not see), and hurrying into the open air, I was whirled away in the dark to Margate. Don't ask what were my dreams thither: —nothing but horrors, deep-vaulted tombs, and pale, though lovely figures, extended upon them; shrill blasts that sung in my ears, and filled me with sadness, and the recollection of happy hours, fleeting away, perhaps for ever! I was not sorry, when the bustle of our coming-in dispelled these phantoms. The change, however, in point of scenery was not calculated to dissipate my gloom; for the first object in this world that presented itself, was a vast expanse of sea, just visible by the gleamings of the moon, bathed in watery clouds; a chill air ruffled the waves. I went to shiver a few melancholy moments on the shore. How often did I try to wish away the reality of my separation from those I love, and attempt to persuade myself it was but a dream!

This morning I found myself more cheerfully disposed, by the queer Dutch faces with short pipes and ginger-bread complexions that came smirking and scraping to get us on board their respective vessels; but, as I had a ship engaged for me before, their invitations were all in vain. The wind blows fair; and, should it continue of the same mind a few hours longer, we shall have no cause to complain of our passage. Adieu! Think of me sometimes. If you write immediately, I shall receive your letter at the Hague.

It is a bright sunny evening: the sea reflects a thousand glowing colours, and, in a minute or two, I shall be gliding on its surface.



LETTER II



OSTEND, June 21st.

T'other minute I was in Greece, gathering the bloom of Hymettus, but now I am landed in Flanders, smoked with tobacco, and half poisoned with garlic. Were I to remain ten days at Ostend, I should scarcely have one delightful vision; 'tis so unclassic a place—nothing but preposterous Flemish roofs disgust your eyes when you cast them upwards; swaggering Dutchmen and mongrel barbers are the principal objects they meet with below. I should esteem myself in luck, were the nuisances of this seaport confined only to two senses; but, alas! the apartment above my head proves a squalling brattery, and the sounds which proceed from it are so loud and frequent, that a person might think himself in limbo, without any extravagance.

Am I not an object of pity, when I tell you that I was tormented yesterday by a similar cause? But I know not how it is; your violent complainers are the least apt to excite compassion. I believe, notwithstanding, if another rising generation should lodge above me at the next inn, I shall grow as scurrilous as Dr. Smollett, and be dignified with the appellation of the Younger Smelfungus. Well, let those make out my diploma that will, I am determined to vent my spleen, and like Lucifer, unable to enjoy comfort myself, tease others with the details of my vexatious. You must know, then, since I am resolved to grumble, that, tired with my passage, I went to the Capuchin church, a large solemn building, in search of silence and solitude; but here again was I disappointed. Half-a-dozen squeaking fiddles fugued and flourished away in the galleries, and as many paralytic monks gabbled before the altars, while a whole posse of devotees, in long white hoods and flannels, were sweltering on either side.

Such piety, in warm weather, was no very fragrant circumstance; so I sought the open air again as fast as I was able. The serenity of the evening, joined to the desire I had of casting another glance over the ocean, tempted me to the ramparts. There, at least, thought I to myself, I may range undisturbed, and talk with my old friends the breezes, and address my discourse to the waves, and be as romantic and whimsical as I please; but it happened that I had scarcely begun my apostrophe, before out flaunted a whole rank of officers, with ladies and abbes and puppy dogs, singing, and flirting, and making such a hubbub, that I had not one peaceful moment to observe the bright tints of the western horizon, or enjoy the series of antique ideas with which a calm sunset never fails to inspire me.

Finding, therefore, no quiet abroad, I returned to my inn, and should have gone immediately to bed, in hopes of relapsing into the bosom of dreams and delusions; but the limbo I mentioned before grew so very outrageous, that I was obliged to postpone my rest till sugar-plums and nursery eloquence had hushed it to repose. At length peace was restored, and about eleven o'clock I fell into a slumber, during which the most lovely Sicilian prospects filled the eye of my fancy. I anticipated the classic scenes of that famous island, and forgot every sorrow in the meadows of Enna.

Next morning, awakened by the sunbeams, I arose quite refreshed by the agreeable impressions of my dream, and filled with presages of future happiness in the climes which had inspired them. No other idea but such as Trinacria and Naples suggested, haunted me whilst travelling to Ghent. I neither heard the vile Flemish dialect which was talking around me, nor noticed formal avenues and marshy country which we passed. When we stopped to change horses, I closed my eyes upon the whole scene, and was transported immediately to some Grecian solitude, where Theocritus and his shepherds were filling the air with melody. To one so far gone in poetic antiquity, Ghent is not the most likely place to recall his attention; and I know nothing more about it, than that it is a large, ill-paved, dismal-looking city, with a decent proportion of convents and chapels, stuffed with monuments, brazen gates, and glittering marbles. In the great church were two or three pictures by Rubens, mechanically excellent, but these realities were not designed in so graceful a manner as to divert my attention from the mere descriptions Pausanias gives us of the works of Grecian artists, and I would at any time fall asleep in a Flemish cathedral, for a vision of the temple of Olympian Jupiter. But I think I hear, at this moment, some grave and respectable personage chiding me for such levities, and saying, "Really, Sir, you had better stay at home, and dream in your great chair, than give yourself the trouble of going post through Europe, in search of inspiring places to fall asleep. If Flanders and Holland are to be dreamed over at this rate, you had better take ship at once, and doze all the way to Italy." Upon my word, I should not have much objection to that scheme; and, if some cabalist would but transport me in an instant to the summit of AEtna, any body might slop through the Low Countries that pleased.

Being, however, so far advanced, there was no retracting; and as it is now three or four years since I have almost abandoned the hopes of discovering a necromancer, I resolved to journey along with Quiet and Content for my companions. These two comfortable deities have, I believe, taken Flanders under their especial protection; every step one advances discovering some new proof of their influence. The neatness of the houses, and the universal cleanliness of the villages, show plainly that their inhabitants live in ease and good humour. All is still and peaceful in these fertile lowlands: the eye meets nothing but round, unmeaning faces at every door, and harmless stupidity smiling at every window. The beasts, as placid as their masters, graze on without any disturbance; and I scarcely recollect to have heard one grunting swine or snarling mastiff during my whole progress. Before every village is a wealthy dunghill, not at all offensive, because but seldom disturbed; and there they bask in the sun, and wallow at their ease, till the hour of death and bacon arrives, when capacious paunches await them. If I may judge from the healthy looks and reposed complexions of the Flemings, they have every reason to expect a peaceful tomb.

But it is high time to leave our swinish moralities behind us, and to jog on towards Antwerp. More rich pastures, more ample fields of grain, more flourishing willows!—a boundless plain before this city, dotted with cows and flowers, from whence its spires and quaint roofs are seen to advantage. The pale colours of the sky, and a few gleams of watery sunshine, gave a true Flemish cast to the scenery, and everything appeared so consistent, that I had not a shadow of pretence to think myself asleep.

After crossing a broad, noble river, edged on one side by beds of osiers beautifully green, and on the other by gates and turrets preposterously ugly, we came through several streets of lofty houses to our inn. Its situation in the "Place de Mer," a vast open space surrounded by buildings above buildings, and roof above roof, has something striking and singular. A tall gilt crucifix of bronze, sculptured by some famous artist, adds to its splendour; and the tops of some tufted trees, seen above a line of magnificent hotels, have no bad effect in the perspective.

It was almost dusk when we arrived; and as I am very partial to new objects discovered by this dubious visionary light, I went immediately a-rambling. Not a sound disturbed my meditations; there were no groups of squabbling children or talkative old women. The whole town seemed retired into their inmost chambers; and I kept winding and turning about, from street to street, and from alley to alley, without meeting a single inhabitant. Now and then, indeed, one or two women in long cloaks and mantles glided about at a distance; but their dress was so shroud-like, and their whole appearance so ghostly, that I was more than half afraid to accost them. As the night approached, the ranges of buildings grew more and more dim, and the silence which reigned amongst them more awful. The canals, which in some places intersect the streets, were likewise in perfect solitude, and there was just light sufficient for me to observe on the still waters the reflection of the structures above them. Except two or three tapers glimmering through the casements, no one circumstance indicated human existence. I might, without being thought very romantic, have imagined myself in the city of petrified people, which Arabian fabulists are so fond of describing. Were any one to ask my advice upon the subject of retirement, I should tell him,—By all means repair to Antwerp. No village amongst the Alps, or hermitage upon Mount Lebanon, is less disturbed: you may pass your days in this great city without being the least conscious of its sixty thousand inhabitants, unless you visit the churches. There, indeed, are to be heard a few devout whispers, and sometimes, to be sure, the bells make a little chiming; but walk about, as I do, in the twilights of midsummer, and be assured your ears will be free from all molestation.

You can have no idea how many strange, amusing fancies played around me whilst I wandered along; nor how delighted I was with the novelty of my situation. But a few days ago, thought I within myself, I was in the midst of all the tumult and uproar of London: now, as if by some magic influence, I am transported to a city equally remarkable for streets and edifices, but whose inhabitants seem cast into a profound repose. What a pity that we cannot borrow some small share of this soporific disposition! It would temper that restless spirit which throws us sometimes into such dreadful convulsions. However, let us not be too precipitate in desiring so dead a calm; the time may arrive when, like Antwerp, we may sink into the arms of forgetfulness; when a fine verdure may carpet our Exchange, and passengers traverse the Strand, without any danger of being smothered in crowds, or lost in the confusion of carriages.

Reflecting, in this manner, upon the silence of the place, contrasted with the important bustle which formerly rendered it so famous, I insensibly drew near to the cathedral, and found myself, before I was aware, under its stupendous tower. It is difficult to conceive an object more solemn or imposing than this edifice at the hour I first beheld it. Dark shades hindered my examining the lower galleries or windows; their elaborate carved work was invisible; nothing but huge masses of building met my sight, and the tower, shooting up four hundred and sixty-six feet into the air, received an additional importance from the gloom which prevailed below. The sky being perfectly clear, several stars twinkled through the mosaic of the spire, and added not a little to its enchanted effect. I longed to ascend it that instant, to stretch myself out upon its very summit, and calculate from so sublime an elevation the influence of the planets.

Whilst I was indulging my astrological reveries, a ponderous bell struck ten, and such a peal of chimes succeeded, as shook the whole edifice, notwithstanding its bulk, and drove me away in a hurry. No mob obstructed my passage, and I ran through a succession of streets, free and unmolested, as if I had been skimming along over the downs of Wiltshire. My servants conversing before the hotel were the only sounds which the great "Place de Mer" echoed.

This universal stillness was the more pleasing, when I looked back upon those scenes of horror and outcry which filled London but a week or two ago, when danger was not confined to night only, and the environs of the capital, but haunted our streets at midday. Here, I could wander over an entire city; stray by the port, and venture through the most obscure alleys, without a single apprehension; without beholding a sky red and portentous with the light of fires, or hearing the confused and terrifying murmurs of shouts and groans, mingled with the reports of artillery. I can assure you, I think myself very fortunate to have escaped the possibility of another such week of desolation, and to be peaceably roosted at Antwerp. Were I not still fatigued with my heavy progress through sands and quagmires, I should descant a little longer upon the blessings of so quiet a metropolis, but it is growing late, and I must retire to enjoy it.



LETTER III



ANTWERP, June 23rd.

My windows look full upon the Place de Mer, and the sun, beaming through their white curtains, awoke me from a dream of Arabian happiness. Imagination had procured herself a tent on the mountains of Sanaa, covered with coffee-trees in bloom. She was presenting me the essence of their flowers, and was just telling me that you possessed a pavilion on a neighbouring hill, when the sunshine dispelled the vision; and opening my eyes, I found myself pent in by Flemish spires and buildings: no hills, no verdure, no aromatic breezes, no hope of being in your vicinity: all were vanished with the shadows of fancy, and I was left alone to deplore your absence. But I think it rather selfish to wish you here, for what pleasure could pacing from one dull church to another, afford a person of your turn? I don't believe you would catch a taste for blubbering Magdalens and coarse Madonnas, by lolling in Rubens' chair; nor do I believe a view of the Ostades and Snyders, so liberally scattered in every collection, would greatly improve your pencil.

After breakfast this morning I began my pilgrimage to all those illustrious cabinets. First, I went to Monsieur Van Lencren's, who possesses a suite of apartments, lined, from the base to the cornice, with the rarest productions of the Flemish school. Heavens forbid I should enter into a detail of their niceties! I might as well count the dew-drops upon any of Van Huysem's flower-pieces, or the pimples on their possessor's countenance; a very good sort of man, indeed; but from whom I was not at all sorry to be delivered.

My joy was, however, of short duration, as a few minutes brought me into the courtyard of the Chanoin Knyfe's habitation; a snug abode, well furnished with easy chairs and orthodox couches. After viewing the rooms on the first floor, we mounted a gentle staircase, and entered an ante-chamber, which those who delight in the imitations of art rather than of nature, in the likenesses of joint stools and the portraits of tankards, would esteem most capitally adorned: but it must be confessed, that, amongst these uninteresting performances, are dispersed a few striking Berghems and agreeable Polemburgs. In the gallery adjoining, two or three Rosa de Tivolis merit observation; and a large Teniers, representing a St. Anthony surrounded by a malicious fry of imps and leering devilesses, is well calculated to display the whimsical buffoonery of a Dutch imagination.

I was observing this strange medley, when the Canon made his appearance; and a most prepossessing figure he has, according to Flemish ideas. In my humble opinion his Reverence looked a little muddled or so; and, to be sure, the description I afterwards heard of his style of living, favours not a little my surmises. This worthy dignitary, what with his private fortune and the good things of the church, enjoys a revenue of about five thousand pounds sterling, which he contrives to get rid of in the joys of the table and the encouragement of the pencil.

His servants, perhaps, assist not a little in the expenditure of so comfortable an income; the Canon being upon a very social footing with them all. At four o'clock in the afternoon, a select party attend him in his coach to an alehouse about a league from the city; where a table, well spread with jugs of beer and handsome cheeses, waits their arrival. After enjoying this rural fare, the same equipage conducts them back again, by all accounts, much faster than they came; which may well be conceived, as the coachman is one of the brightest wits of the entertainment.

My compliments, alas! were not much relished, you may suppose, by this jovial personage. I said a few favourable words of Polemburg, and offered up a small tribute of praise to the memory of Berghem; but, as I could not prevail upon Mynheer Knyfe to expand, I made one of my best bows, and left him to the enjoyment of his domestic felicity.

In my way home, I looked into another cabinet, the greatest ornament of which was a most sublime thistle by Snyders, of the heroic size, and so faithfully imitated that I dare say no ass could see it unmoved. At length, it was lawful to return home; and as I positively refused visiting any more cabinets in the afternoon, I sent for a harpsichord of Rucker, and played myself quite out of the Netherlands.

It was late before I finished my musical excursion, and I took advantage of this dusky moment to revisit the cathedral. A flight of starlings was fluttering about one of the pinnacles of the tower; their faint chirpings were the only sounds that broke the stillness of the air. Not a human form appeared at any of the windows around; no footsteps were audible in the opening before the grand entrance; and, during the half hour I spent in walking to and fro beneath the spire, one solitary Franciscan was the only creature that accosted me. From him I learnt that a grand service was to be performed next day in honour of St. John the Baptist, and the best music in Flanders would be called forth on the occasion. As I had seen cabinets enough to form some slight judgment of Flemish painting, I determined to stay one day longer at Antwerp to hear a little how its inhabitants were disposed to harmony.

Having taken this resolution, I formed an acquaintance with Mynheer Vander Bosch, the first organist of the place, who very kindly permitted me to sit next him in his gallery during the celebration of high mass. The service ended, I strayed about the aisles, and examined the innumerable chapels which decorate them, whilst Mynheer Vander Bosch thundered and lightened away upon his huge organ with fifty stops.

When the first flashes of execution were a little subsided, I took an opportunity of surveying the celebrated "Descent from the Cross," which has ever been esteemed one of Rubens's chef d'oeuvres, and for which they say old Lewis Baboon offered no less a sum than forty thousand florins. The principal figure has, doubtless, a very meritorious paleness, and looks as dead as an artist could desire; the rest of the group have been so liberally praised, that there is no occasion to add another tittle of commendation. A swinging St. Christopher, fording a brook with a child on his shoulders, cannot fail of attracting your attention. This colossal personage is painted on the folding-doors which defend the capital performance just mentioned from vulgar eyes; and here Rubens has selected a very proper subject to display the gigantic coarseness of his pencil.

Had this powerful artist confined his strength to the representation of agonizing thieves and sturdy Barabbases, nobody would have been readier than your humble servant to offer incense at his shrine, but when I find him lost in the flounces of the Virgin's drapery, or bewildered in the graces of St. Catherine's smile, pardon me if I withhold my adoration. After I had most dutifully observed all the Rubenses in the church, I walked half over Antwerp in search of St. John's relics, which were moving about in procession, but an heretical wind having extinguished all their tapers, and discomposed the canopy over the Bon Dieu, I cannot say much for the grandeur of the spectacle. If my eyes were not greatly regaled by the Saint's magnificence, my ears were greatly affected in the evening by the music which sang forth his praises. The cathedral was crowded with devotees and perfumed with incense. Several of its marble altars gleamed with the reflection of lamps, and, altogether, the spectacle was new and imposing. I knelt very piously in one of the aisles while a symphony in the best style of Corelli, performed with taste and feeling, transported me to Italian climates, and I was quite vexed, when a cessation dissolved the charm, to think that I had still so many tramontane regions to pass, before I could in effect reach that classic country, where my spirit had so long taken up its abode. Finding it was in vain to wish or expect any preternatural interposition, and perceiving no conscious angel, or Loretto-vehicle, waiting in some dark consecrated corner to bear me away, I humbly returned to my hotel in the Place de Mer, and soothed myself with some terrestrial harmony; till, my eyes growing heavy, I fell fast asleep, and entered the empire of dreams, according to custom, by its ivory portal. What passed in those shadowy realms is too thin and unsubstantial to be committed to paper. The very breath of waking mortals would dissipate all the train, and drive them eternally away; give me leave, therefore, to omit the relation of my visionary travels, and have the patience to pursue a sketch of my real ones from Antwerp to the Hague.

Monday, June 26th, we were again upon the pave, rattling and jumbling along between clipped hedges and blighted avenues. The plagues of Egypt have been renewed, one might almost imagine, in this country, by the appearance of the oak-trees: not a leaf have the insects spared. After having had the displeasure of seeing no other objects for several hours, but these blasted rows, the scene changed to vast tracts of level country, buried in sand, and smothered with heath; the particular character of which I had but too good an opportunity of intimately knowing, as a tortoise might have kept pace with us without being once out of breath.

Towards evening, we entered the dominions of the United Provinces, and had all their glory of canals, track-shuyts, and windmills before us. The minute neatness of the villages, their red roofs, and the lively green of the willows which shade them, corresponded with the ideas I had formed of Chinese prospects; a resemblance which was not diminished upon viewing on every side the level scenery of enamelled meadows, with stripes of clear water across them, and innumerable barges gliding busily along. Nothing could be finer than the weather; it improved each moment, as if propitious to my exotic fancies; and, at sunset, not one single cloud obscured the horizon. Several storks were parading by the water-side, amongst flags and osiers; and, as far as the eye could reach, large herds of beautifully spotted cattle were enjoying the plenty of their pastures. I was perfectly in the environs of Canton, or Ning Po, till we reached Meerdyke. You know fumigations are always the current recipe in romance to break an enchantment; as soon, therefore, as I left my carriage, and entered my inn, the clouds of tobacco which filled every one of its apartments dispersed my Chinese imaginations, and reduced me in an instant to Holland.

Why should I enlarge upon my adventures at Meerdyke? To tell you that its inhabitants are the most uncouth bipeds in the universe would be nothing very new or entertaining; so let me at once pass over the village, leave Rotterdam, and even Delft, that great parent of pottery, and transport you with a wave of my pen to the Hague.

As the evening was rather warm, I immediately walked out to enjoy the shade of the long avenue which leads to Scheveling. It was fresh and pleasant enough, but I breathed none of those genuine woody perfumes, which exhale from the depths of forests, and which allure my imagination at once to the haunts of Pan and the good old Sylvanus. However, I was far from displeased with my ramble; and, consoling myself with the hopes of shortly reposing in the sylvan labyrinths of Nemi, I proceeded to the village on the sea-coast, which terminates the perspective. Almost every cottage door being open to catch the air, I had an opportunity of looking into their neat apartments. Tables, shelves, earthenware, all glisten with cleanliness; the country people were drinking tea, after the fatigues of the day, and talking over its bargains and contrivances.

I left them, to walk on the beach, and was so charmed with the vast azure expanse of ocean, which opened suddenly upon me, that I remained there a full half hour. More than two hundred vessels of different sizes were in sight, the last sunbeams purpling their sails, and casting a path of innumerable brilliants athwart the waves. What would I not have given to follow this shining track! It might have conducted me straight to those fortunate western climates, those happy isles which you are so fond of painting, and I of dreaming about. But, unluckily, this passage was the only one my neighbours the Dutch were ignorant of. To be sure they have islands rich in spices, and blessed with the sun's particular attention, but which their government, I am apt to imagine, renders by no means fortunate.

Abandoning therefore all hopes at present of this adventurous voyage, I returned towards the Hague, and, in my way home, looked into a country-house of the late Count Bentinck, with parterres and bosquets by no means resembling (one should conjecture) the gardens of the Hesperides. But, considering that the whole group of trees, terraces, and verdure were in a manner created out of hills of sand, the place may claim some portion of merit. The walks and alleys have all the stiffness and formality our ancestors admired; but the intermediate spaces, being dotted with clumps and sprinkled with flowers, are imagined in Holland to be in the English style. An Englishman ought certainly to behold it with partial eyes, since every possible attempt has been made to twist it into the taste of his country.

I need not say how liberally I bestowed my encomiums on Count B.'s tasteful intentions; nor how happy I was, when I had duly serpentized over his garden, to find myself once more in the grand avenue. All the way home, I reflected upon the economical disposition of the Dutch, who raise gardens from heaps of sand, and cities out of the bosom of the waters. I had still a further proof of this thrifty turn, since the first object I met was an unwieldy fellow (not able, or unwilling, perhaps, to afford horses) airing his carcass in a one- dog chair. The poor animal puffed and panted,—Mynheer smoked, and gaped around him with the most blessed indifference.



LETTER IV



June 30th.

I dedicated the morning to the Prince of Orange's cabinet of paintings and curiosities both natural and artificial. Amongst the pictures which amused me the most is a St. Anthony, by Hell-fire Brughel, who has shown himself right worthy of the title; for a more diabolical variety of imps never entered the human imagination. Brughel has made his saint take refuge in a ditch filled with harpies and creeping things innumerable, whose malice, one should think, would have lost Job himself the reputation of patience. Castles of steel and fiery turrets glare on every side, from whence issue a band of junior devils. These seem highly entertained with pinking poor St. Anthony, and whispering, I warrant ye, filthy tales in his ear. Nothing can be more rueful than the patient's countenance; more forlorn than his beard; more pious than his eye, which forms a strong contrast to the pert winks and insidious glances of his persecutors; some of whom; I need not mention, are evidently of the female kind.

But really I am quite ashamed of having detained you in such bad company so long; and, had I a moment to spare, you should be introduced to a better set in this gallery, where some of the most exquisite Berghems and Wouvermans I ever beheld would delight you for hours. I do not think you would look much at the Polemburgs; there are but two, and one of them is very far from capital; in short I am in a great hurry; so pardon me, Carlo Cignani! if I don't do justice to your merit; and excuse me, Potter! if I pass by your herds without leaving a tribute of admiration.

Mynheer Van Something is as eager to precipitate my motions as I was to get out of the damps and perplexities of Soorflect yesterday evening; so mounting a very indifferent staircase, he led me to a suite of garret-like apartments; which, considering the meanness of their exterior, I was much surprised to find stored with some of the most valuable productions of the Indies. Gold cups enriched with gems, models of Chinese palaces in ivory, glittering armour of Hindostan, and Japan caskets, filled every corner of this awkward treasury. What of all its baubles pleased me most was a large coffer of some precious wood, containing enamelled flasks of oriental essences, enough to perfume a zenana, and so fragrant that I thought the Mogul himself a Dutchman, for lavishing them upon this inelegant nation. If disagreeable fumes, as I mentioned before, dissolve enchantments, such aromatic oils have doubtless the power of raising them; for, whilst I scented their fragrance, scarcely could anything have persuaded me that I was not in the wardrobe of Hecuba, -

"Where treasur'd odours breath'd a costly scent."

I saw, or seemed to see, the arched apartments, the procession of venerable matrons, the consecrated vestments: the very temple began to rise upon my sight, when a Dutch porpoise approaching to make me a low bow; his complaisance was full as notorious as Satan's, when, according to Catholic legends, he took leave of Calvin or Dr. Faustus. No spell can resist a fumigation of this nature; away fled palace, Hecuba, matrons, temple, etc. I looked up, and lo! I was in a garret. As poetry is but too often connected with this lofty situation, you won't wonder much at my flight. Being a little recovered from it, I tottered down the staircase, entered the cabinets of natural history, and was soon restored to my sober senses. A grave hippopotamus contributed a great deal to their reestablishment.

The butterflies, I must needs confess, were very near leading me another dance: I thought of their native hills and beloved flowers, of Haynang and Nan-Hoa; {110} but the jargon which was prating all around me prevented the excursion, and I summoned a decent share of attention for that ample chamber which has been appropriated to bottled snakes and pickled foetuses.

After having enjoyed the same spectacle in the British Museum, no very new or singular objects can be selected in this. One of the rarest articles it contains is the representation in wax of a human head, most dexterously flayed indeed! Rapturous encomiums have been bestowed by amateurs on this performance. A German professor could hardly believe it artificial; and, prompted by the love of truth, set his teeth in this delicious morsel to be convinced of its reality. My faith was less hazardously established; and I moved off, under the conviction that art had never produced anything more horridly natural.

It was one o'clock before I got through the mineral kingdom; and another hour passed before I could quit with decorum the regions of stuffed birds and marine productions. At length my departure was allowable; and I went to dine at Sir Joseph Yorke's, with all nations and languages. The Hague is the place in the world for a motley assembly, and, in some humours, I think such the most agreeable.

After coffee I strayed to the great wood, which, considering that it almost touches the town with its boughs, is wonderfully forest-like. Not a branch being ever permitted to be lopped, the oaks and beeches retain their natural luxuriance, and form some of the most picturesque groups conceivable. In some places their straight boles rise sixty feet without a bough; in others, they are bent fantastically over the alleys, which turn and wind about just as a painter would desire. I followed them with eagerness and curiosity, sometimes deviating from my path amongst tufts of fern and herbage.

In these cool retreats I could not believe myself near canals and windmills; the Dutch formalities were all forgotten whilst contemplating the broad masses of foliage above, and the wild flowers and grasses below. Several hares and rabbits scudded by me while I sat; and the birds were chirping their evening song. Their preservation does credit to the police of the country, which is so exact and well regulated as to suffer no outrage within the precincts of this extensive wood, the depth and thickness of which seem calculated to favour half the sins of a capital.

Relying upon this comfortable security, I lingered unmolested amongst the beeches till the ruddy gold of the setting sun ceased to glow on their foliage; then taking the nearest path, I suffered myself, though not without regret, to be conducted out of this fresh sylvan scene to the dusty, pompous parterres of the Greffier Fagel. Every flower that wealth can purchase diffuses its perfume on one side; whilst every stench a canal can exhale, poisons the air on the other. These sluggish puddles defy all the power of the United Provinces, and retain the freedom of stinking in spite of their endeavours: but perhaps I am too bold in my assertion; for I have no authority to mention any attempts to purify these noxious pools. Who knows but their odour is congenial to a Dutch constitution? One should be inclined to this supposition by the numerous banqueting-rooms and pleasure-houses which hang directly above their surface, and seem calculated on purpose to enjoy them. If frogs were not excluded from the magistrature of their country (and I cannot but think it a little hard that they are), one should not wonder at this choice. Such burgomasters might erect their pavilions in such situations. But, after all, I am not greatly surprised at the fishiness of their site, since very slight authority would persuade me there was a period when Holland was all water, and the ancestors of the present inhabitants fish. A certain oysterishness of eye and flabbiness of complexion are almost proofs sufficient of this aquatic descent: and pray tell me for what purpose are such galligaskins as the Dutch burthen themselves with contrived, but to tuck up a flouncing tail, and thus cloak the deformity of their dolphin-like terminations?

Having done penance for some time in the damp alleys which line the borders of these lazy waters, I was led through corkscrew sand-walks to a vast flat, sparingly scattered over with vegetation. To puzzle myself in such a labyrinth there was no temptation, so taking advantage of the lateness of the hour, and muttering a few complimentary promises of returning at the first opportunity, I escaped the ennui of this endless scrubbery, and got home, with the determination of being wiser and less curious if ever my stars should bring me again to the Hague. To-morrow I bid it adieu, and if the horses but second my endeavours, shall be delivered in a few days from the complicated plagues of the United Provinces.



LETTER V



HAERLEM, July 1st.

The sky was clear and blue when we left the Hague, and we travelled along a shady road for about an hour, then down sunk the carriage into a sand-bed, and we were dragged along so slowly that I fell into a profound repose. How long it lasted is not material; but when I awoke, we were rumbling through Leyden. There is no need to write a syllable in honour of this illustrious city: its praises have already been sung and said by fifty professors, who have declaimed in its university, and smoked in its gardens. So let us get out of it as fast as we can, and breathe the cool air of the wood near Haerlem, where we arrived just as day declined. Hay was making in the fields, and perfumed the country far and wide with its reviving fragrance. I promised myself a pleasant walk in the groves, took up Gesner, and began to have pretty pastoral ideas; but when I approached the nymphs that were dispersed on the meads, and saw faces that would have dishonoured a flounder, and heard accents that would have confounded a hog, all my dislike to the walking filth of the Low Countries returned. I let fall the garlands I had wreathed for the shepherds; we jumped into the carriage, and were driven off to the town. Every avenue to it swarmed with people, whose bustle and agitation seemed to announce that something extraordinary was going forward. Upon inquiry I found it was the great fair at Haerlem; and before we had advanced much farther, our carriage was surrounded by idlers and gingerbread-eaters of all denominations. Passing the gate, we came to a cluster of little illuminated booths beneath a grove, glittering with toys and looking-glasses. It was not without difficulty that we reached our inn, and then the plague was to procure chambers; at last we were accommodated, and the first moment I could call my own has been dedicated to you.

You won't be surprised at the nonsense I have written, since I tell you the scene of the riot and uproar from whence it bears date. At this very moment the confused murmur of voices and music stops all regular proceedings: old women and children tattling; apes, bears, and show-boxes under the windows; French rattling, English swearing, outrageous Italians, frisking minstrels; tambours de basque at every corner; myself distracted; a confounded squabble of cooks and haranguing German couriers just arrived, their masters following open-mouthed; nothing to eat, the steam of ham and flesh-pots all the while provoking their appetite; Mynheers very busy with the realities, and smoking as deliberately as if in a solitary lusthuys over the laziest canal in the Netherlands; squeaking chambermaids in the galleries above, and prudish dames below, half inclined to receive the golden solicitations of certain beauties for admittance, but positively refusing them the moment some creditable personage appears; eleven o'clock strikes; half the lights in the fair are extinguished; scruples grow less and less delicate; Mammon prevails, darkness and complaisance succeed. Good-night; may you sleep better than I shall.



LETTER VI



UTRECHT, July 2nd.

Well, thank Heaven, Amsterdam is behind us! How I got thither signifies not one farthing; it was all along a canal, as usual. The weather was hot enough to broil an inhabitant of Bengal; and the odours, exhaling from every quarter, sufficiently powerful to regale the nose of a Hottentot.

Under these agreeable circumstances we entered the great city. The Stadt-huys being the only cool place it contained, I repaired thither as fast as the heat permitted, and walked in a lofty marble hall, magnificently covered, till the dinner was ready at the inn. That despatched, we set off for Utrecht. Both sides of the way are lined with the country-houses and gardens of opulent citizens, as fine as gilt statues and clipped hedges can make them. Their number is quite astonishing: from Amsterdam to Utrecht, full thirty miles, we beheld no other objects than endless avenues and stiff parterres scrawled and flourished in patterns like the embroidery of an old maid's work- bag. Notwithstanding this formal taste, I could not help admiring the neatness and arrangement of every inclosure, enlivened by a profusion of flowers, and decked with arbours, beneath which a vast number of round unmeaning faces were solacing themselves after the heat of the day. Each lusthuys we passed contained some comfortable party dozing over their pipes, or angling in the muddy fish-ponds below. Scarce an avenue but swarmed with female josses; little squat pug-dogs waddling at their sides, the attributes, I suppose, of these fair divinities.

But let us leave them to loiter thus amiably in their Elysian groves, and arrive at Utrecht; which, as nothing very remarkable claimed my attention, I hastily quitted to visit a Moravian establishment at Siest, in its neighbourhood. The chapel, a large house, late the habitation of Count Zinzendorf, and a range of apartments filled with the holy fraternity, are totally wrapped in dark groves, overgrown with weeds, amongst which some damsels were straggling, under the immediate protection of their pious brethren.

Traversing the woods, we found ourselves in a large court, built round with brick edifices, the grass-plats in a deplorable way, and one ragged goat, their only inhabitant, on a little expiatory scheme, perhaps, for the failings of the fraternity. I left this poor animal to ruminate in solitude, and followed my guide into a series of shops furnished with gew-gaws and trinkets, said to be manufactured by the female part of the society. Much cannot be boasted of their handiworks: I expressed a wish to see some of these industrious fair ones; but, upon receiving no answer, found this was a subject OF WHICH THERE WAS NO DISCOURSE.

Consoling myself as well as I was able, I put myself under the guidance of another slovenly disciple, who showed me the chapel, and harangued very pathetically upon celestial love. In my way thither, I caught a glimpse of some pretty sempstresses, warbling melodious hymns as they sat needling and thimbling at their windows above. I had a great inclination to have approached this busy group, but the roll of the brother's eye corrected me.

Reflecting upon my unworthiness, I retired from the consecrated buildings, and was driven back to Utrecht, not a little amused with my expedition. If you are as well disposed to be pleased as I was, I shall esteem myself very lucky, and not repent sending you so incorrect a narrative. I really have not time to look it over, and am growing so drowsy, that you will, I hope, pardon all its errors, when you consider that my pen writes in its sleep.



LETTER VII



SPA, July 6th.

From Utrecht to Bois le Duc nothing but sand and heath; no inspiration, no whispering foliage, not even a grasshopper, to put one in mind of Eclogues and Theocritus. "But why did you not fall into one of your beloved slumbers, and dream of poetic mountains? This was the very country to shut one's eyes upon without disparagement." Why so I did, but the postillions and boatmen obliged me to open them, as soon as they were closed. Four times was I shoved, out of my visions, into leaky boats, and towed across as many idle rivers. I thought there was no end of these tiresome transits; and, when I reached my journey's end, was so completely jaded that I almost believed Charon would be the next aquatic I should have to deal with. The fair light of the morning (Tuesday, July 4th) was scarcely sufficient to raise my spirits, and I had left Bois le Duc a good way in arrears before I was thoroughly convinced of my existence; when I looked through the blinds of the carriage, and saw nothing but barren plains and mournful willows, banks clad with rushes, and heifers so black and dismal that Proserpine herself would have given them up to Hecate. I was near believing myself in the neighbourhood of a certain evil place, where I should be punished for all my croakings. We travelled at this rate, I dare say, fifteen miles, without seeing a single shed: at last, one or two miserable cottages appeared, darkened by heath, and stuck in a sand-pit; from whence issued a half-starved generation, that pursued us a long while with their piteous wailings. The heavy roads and ugly prospects, together with the petulant clamours of my petitioners, made me quite uncharitable. I was in a dark, remorseless mood, which lasted me till we reached Bree, a shabby decayed town, encompassed by walls and ruined turrets. Having nothing to do, I straggled about them, till night shaded the dreary prospects, and gave me an opportunity of imagining them, if I pleased, noble and majestic. Several of these waning edifices were invested with thick ivy: the evening was chill, and I crept under their covert. Two or three brother owls were before me, but politely gave up their pretensions to the spot, and, as soon as I appeared, with a rueful whoop flitted away to some deeper retirement. I had scarcely begun to mope in tranquillity, before a rapid shower trickled amongst the clusters above me, and forced me to abandon my haunt. Returning in the midst of it to my inn, I hurried to bed, and was soon lulled asleep by the storm. A dream bore me off to Persepolis; and led me thro' vast subterraneous treasures to a hall, where Solomon, methought, was holding forth upon their vanity. I was upon the very point of securing a part of this immense wealth, and fancied myself writing down the sage prophet's advice how to make use of it, when a loud vociferation in the street, and the bell of a neighbouring chapel, dispersed the vision. Starting up, I threw open the windows, and found it was eight o'clock (Wednesday, July 5th), and had hardly rubbed my eyes, before beggars came limping from every quarter. I knew their plaguy voices but too well; and that the same hubbub had broken my slumbers, and driven me from wisdom and riches to the regions of ignorance and poverty. The halt, the lame, and the blind, being restored, by the miracle of a few stivers, to their functions, we breakfasted in peace, and, gaining the carriage, waded through sandy deserts to Maestricht: our view, however, was considerably improved, for a league round the town, and presented some hills and pleasant valleys, smiling with crops of grain: here and there, green meadows, spread over with hay, varied the prospect, which the chirping of birds (the first I had heard for many a tedious day) amongst the barley, rendered so cheerful, that I began, like them, my exultations, and was equally thoughtless and serene. I need scarcely tell you, that, leaving the coach, I pursued a deep furrow between two extensive corn-fields, and reposed upon a bank of flowers, the golden ears waving above my head, and entirely bounding my prospect. Here I lay, in peace and sunshine, a few happy moments; contemplating the blue sky, and fancying myself restored to the valley at F., where I have passed so many happy hours, shut out from the world, and concealed in the bosom of harvests. It was then I first grew so fond of dreaming; and no wonder, since I have frequently imagined that Ceres did not disdain to inspire my slumbers; but, half concealed, half visible, would tell me amusing stories of her reapers; and, sometimes more seriously inclined, recite the affecting tale of her misfortunes. At midday, when all was still, and a warm haze seemed to repose on the face of the landscape, I have often fancied this celestial voice bewailing Proserpine, in the most pathetic accents. From these sacred moments I resolved to offer sacrifice in the fields of Enna; to explore their fragrant recesses, and experience whether the Divinity would not manifest herself to me in her favourite domain. It was this vow, which tempted me from my native valleys. Its execution, therefore, being my principal aim, I deserted my solitary bank and proceeded on my journey. Maestricht abounds in Gothic churches, but contains no temple to Ceres. I was not sorry to quit it, after spending an hour unavoidably within its walls. Our road was conducted up a considerable eminence, from the summit of which we discovered a range of woody steeps, extending for leagues; beneath lay a winding valley, richly variegated and lighted up by the Maese. The evening sun, scarcely gleaming through hazy clouds, cast a pale, tender hue upon the landscape, and the copses, still dewy with a shower that had lately fallen, diffused the most grateful fragrance. Flocks of sheep hung browsing on the acclivities, whilst a numerous herd were dispersed along the river's side. I stayed so long, enjoying this pastoral scene, that we did not arrive at Liege till the night was advanced, and the moon risen. Her interesting gleams were thrown away upon this ill-built, crowded city; and I grieved that gates and fortifications prevented my breathing the fresh air of the surrounding mountains.

Next morning (July 6th) a zigzag road brought us, after many descents and rises, to Spa. The approach, through a rocky vale, is not totally devoid of picturesque merit, and as I met no cabriolets or tituppings on the chaufee, I concluded that the waters were not as yet much visited; and that I should have their romantic environs pretty much to myself. But, alas, how rudely was I deceived! The moment we entered up flew a dozen sashes. Chevaliers de St. Louis, meagre Marquises, and ladies of the scarlet order of Babylon, all poked their heads out. In a few minutes half the town was in motion; tailors, confectioners, and barbers thrusting bills into our hands with manifold grimaces and contortions. Then succeeded a grand entre of valets de place, who were hardly dismissed before the lodging letters arrived, followed by somebody with a list of les seigneurs and dames as long as a Welsh pedigree. Half-an-hour was wasted in speeches and recommendations; another passed before we could snatch a morsel of refreshment; they then finding I was neither inclined to go to the ball, nor enter the land where Pharaoh reigneth, peace was restored, a few feeble bows were scraped, and I found myself in perfect solitude. Taking advantage of this quiet moment, I stole out of town, and followed a path cut in the rocks, which brought me to a young wood of oaks on their summits. Luckily I met no saunterer: the gay vagabonds, it seemed, were all at the assembly, as happy as billiards and chit-chat could make them. It was not an evening to tempt such folks abroad. The air was cool, and the sky lowering; a melancholy cloud shaded the wild hills and irregular woods at a distance. There was something so importunate in their appearance, that I could not help asking their name, and was told they were skirts of the forest of Ardenne, amongst whose enchanted labyrinths the heroes of Boyardo and Ariosto roved formerly in quest of adventures. I felt myself singularly affected whilst gazing upon a wood so celebrated in romance for feats of the highest chivalry; and, Don Quixote-like, would have explored its recesses in search of that memorable fountain of hatred, which (if you recollect the story) was raised by Merlin to free illustrious knights and damsels from the torments of rejected love. So far was I advanced in these romantic fancies, that, forgetting the lateness of the hour, I wandered on, expecting to reach the fountain at every step; but at length it grew so dusky that, unable to trace back my way amongst the thickets, in vain I strayed through intricate copses, till the clouds began to disperse and the moon appeared. Being so placed as to receive the full play of silver radiance, to my no small surprise, I beheld a precipice immediately beneath my feet. The chasm was deep and awful; something like the entrance to a grot discovered itself below, and if I had not already been disappointed on the score of the fount, I won't answer but that I should have flung myself adventurously down, and tried whether I might not have seen such wonders as appeared to Bradamante, when cast by Pinnabel, rather impolitely, into Merlin's cave. But no propitious light beaming from the cavity, I concluded times were changed; and searching about me, found at last a shelving steep, which it was just possible to descend without goat's heels, and that's all.

In my way home, I passed the redoute, and seeing a vast glare of lustres in its apartments, I ran upstairs and found the gamblers all eager in storming the Pharaoh Bank: a young Englishman of distinction seemed the most likely to raise the siege, which increased every instant in turbulence; but not feeling the least inclination to protract or to shorten its fate, I left the knights to their adventures, and returned ingloriously to my inn.

All languages are chattering at the Table d'Hote, and all sorts of business transacted under my very windows. The racket and perfume of this place make me resolve to get out of it to-morrow; as that is the case, you won't hear from me till I reach Munich. Adieu! May we meet in our dreams by the fountain of Merlin, and from thence take our flight with Astolpho to the moon; for I shrewdly suspect the best part of our senses are bottled up there; and then, you know, it will be a delightful novelty to wake up with a clear understanding.

"Indeed, Sir, no Monsieur comme il faut, ever left Spa in such dudgeon before, unless jilted by a Polish princess, or stripped by an itinerant Count! You have neither breakfasted at the Vauxhall, nor attended the Spectacle, nor tasted the waters. Had you but taken one sip, your ill-humour would have all trickled away, and you would have felt both your heels and your elbows quite alive in the evening."— Granted; but pray tell your postillions to drive off as fast as their horses will carry them.

Away we went to Aix-la-Chapelle about ten at night, and saw the mouldering turrets of that once illustrious capital by the help of a candle and lantern. An old woman asked our names (for not a single soldier appeared); and traversing a number of superannuated streets without perceiving the least trace of Charlemagne or his Paladins, we procured comfortable though not magnificent apartments, and slept most unheroically sound, till it was time to set forward for Dusseldorf.

July 8th.—As we were driven out of the town, I caught a glimpse of a grove, hemmed in by dingy buildings, where a few water-drinkers were sauntering along to the sound of some rueful French horns; the wan greenish light admitted through the foliage made them look like unhappy souls condemned to an eternal lounge for having trifled away their existence. It was not with much regret that I left such a party behind; and, after experiencing the vicissitudes of good roads and rumbling pavements, found myself, towards the close of evening, upon the banks of the Rhine.

Many wild ideas thronged into my mind, the moment I beheld this celebrated river. I thought of the vast regions through which it flows, and suffered my imagination to expatiate as far as its source. A red, variegated sky, reflected from the stream, the woods trembling on its banks, and the spires of Nuys rising beyond them, helped to amuse my fancy. Not being able to brook the confinement of the carriage, I left it to come over at its leisure; and, stepping into a boat, rowed along, at first, by the quivering osiers; then, launching out into the midst of the waters, I glided a few moments with the current, and resting on my oars, listened to the hum of voices afar off, while several little skiffs, like canoes, glanced before my sight, concerning which distance and the twilight allowed me to make a thousand fantastic conjectures. When I had sufficiently indulged these extravagant reveries, I began to cross over the river in good earnest; and being landed on its opposite margin, travelled forwards to the town.

Nothing but the famous gallery of paintings could invite strangers to stay a moment within its walls; more crooked streets, more indifferent houses, one seldom meets with; except soldiers, not a living creature moving about them; and at night a complete regiment of bugs "marked me for their own." Thus I lay, at once both the seat of war and the victim of these detestable animals, till early in the morning (Sunday, July 9th), when Morpheus, compassionating my sufferings, opened the ivory gates of his empire, and freed his votary from the most unconscionable vermin that ever nastiness engendered. In humble prose, I fell fast asleep; and remained quiet, in defiance of my adversaries, till it was time to survey the cabinet.

This collection is displayed in five large galleries, and contains some valuable productions of the Italian school; but the room most boasted of is that which Rubens has filled with no less than three enormous representations of the last day, where an innumerable host of sinners are exhibited as striving in vain to avoid the tangles of the devil's tail. The woes of several fat luxurious souls are rendered in the highest gusto. Satan's dispute with some brawny concubines, whom he is lugging off in spite of all their resistance, cannot be too much admired by those who approve this class of subject, and think such strange imbroglios in the least calculated to raise a sublime or a religious idea.

For my own part, I turned from them with disgust, and hastened to contemplate a Holy Family by Camillo Procaccini, in another apartment. The brightest imagination can never conceive any figure more graceful than that of the young Jesus; and if ever I beheld an inspired countenance or celestial features, it was here: but to attempt conveying in words what colours alone can express, would be only reversing the absurdity of many a master in the gallery, who aims to represent those ideas by colours which language alone is able to describe. Should you admit this opinion, you won't be surprised at my passing such a multitude of renowned pictures unnoticed; nor at my bringing you out of the cabinet without deluging ten pages with criticisms in the style of the ingenious Lady M—-.

As I had spent so much time in gazing at Camillo's divinity, the day was too far advanced to think of travelling to Cologne; I was therefore obliged to put myself once more under the dominion of the most inveterate bugs in the universe. This government, like many others, made but an indifferent use of its power, and the subject suffering accordingly was extremely rejoiced at flying from his persecutors to Cologne.

July 10th.—Clouds of dust hindered my making any remarks on the exterior of this celebrated city; but if its appearance be not more beautiful from without than within, I defy Mr. Salmon himself to launch forth very warmly in its praise. But of what avail are stately palaces, broad streets, or airy markets, to a town which can boast of such a treasure as the bodies of those three wise sovereigns who were star-led to Bethlehem? Is not this circumstance enough to procure it every respect? I really believe so, from the pious and dignified contentment of its inhabitants. They care not a hair of an ass's ear whether their houses be gloomy and ill-contrived, their pavements overgrown with weeds, and their shops with filthiness, provided the carcasses of Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar might be preserved with proper decorum. Nothing, to be sure, can be richer than the shrine which contains these precious relics. I paid my devotions before it the moment I arrived; this step was inevitable: had I omitted it, not a soul in Cologne but would have cursed me for a Pagan.

Do you not wonder at hearing of these venerable bodies so far from their native country? I thought them snug in some Arabian pyramid ten feet deep in spice; but you see one can never tell what is to become of one a few ages hence. Who knows but the Emperor of Morocco may be canonized some future day in Lapland? I asked, of course, how in the name of miracles they came hither; but found no story of a supernatural conveyance. It seems the holy Empress Helena, as great a collectress of relics as the D—-s of P. is of profane curiosities, first routed them out: then they were packed off to Rome. King Alaric, having no grace, bundled them down to Milan; where they remained till it pleased God to inspire an ancient archbishop with the fervent wish of depositing them at Cologne. There these skeletons were taken into the most especial consideration, crowned with jewels and filigreed with gold. Never were skulls more elegantly mounted; and I doubt whether Odin's buffet could exhibit so fine an assortment. The chapel containing these beatified bones is placed in a dark extremity of the cathedral. Several golden lamps gleam along the polished marbles with which it is adorned, and afford just light enough to read the following monkish inscription:-

"CORPORA SANCTORUM RECUBANT HIC TERNA MAGORUM; EX HIS SUBLATUM NIHIL EST ALIBIVE LOCATUM."

After I had satisfied my curiosity with respect to the peregrinations of the consecrated skeletons, I examined their shrine; and was rather surprised to find it not only enriched with barbaric gold and pearl, but covered with cameos and intaglios of the best antique sculpture. Many an impious emperor and gross Silenus, many a wanton nymph and frantic bacchanal, figure in the same range with the statues of saints and evangelists. How St. Helena could tolerate such a mixed assembly (for the shrine was formed under her auspices) surpasses my comprehension. Perhaps you will say it is no great matter, and give me a hint to move out of the chapel, lest the three kings and their star should lead me quite out of my way. Very well; I think I had better stop in time, to tell you, without further excursion, that we set off after dinner for Bonn.

Our road-side was lined with beggarly children, high convent walls, and scarecrow crucifixes, lubberly monks, dejected peasants, and all the delights of Catholicism. Such scenery not engaging a share of my attention, I kept gazing at the azure irregular mountains which bounded our view, and in thought was already transported to their summits. Various are the prospects I surveyed from this imaginary exaltation, and innumerable the chimeras which trotted in my brain. Mounted on these fantastic quadrupeds, I shot swiftly from rock to rock, and built castles in the style of Piranesi upon most of their pinnacles. The magnificence and variety of my aerial towers hindered my thinking the way long. I was still walking with a crowd of phantoms upon their terraces, when the carriage made a halt. Immediately descending the innumerable flights of steps which divide such lofty edifices from the lower world, I entered the inn at Bonn, and was shown into an apartment which commands the chief front of the Elector's palace. You may guess how contemptible it appeared to one just returned from the court of fancy.

In other respects, I saw it in a very favourable moment; for the twilight, shading the whole facade, concealed its plaistered walls and painted pillars; their pediments and capitals being tolerably well proportioned, and the range of windows beneath considerable, I gave the architect more credit than he deserved, and paced to and fro beneath the arcade, as pompously as if arrived at the Vatican; but the circumstance which rendered my walk in reality agreeable, was the prevalence of a delicious perfume. It was so dusky, that I was a minute or two seeking in vain the entrance of an orangery, from whence this reviving scent proceeded. At length I discovered it; and, passing under an arch, found myself in the midst of lemon and orange trees, now in the fullest blow, which form a continued grove before the palace, and extend, on each side of its grand portal, out of sight. A few steps separate this extensive terrace from a lawn, bordered by stately rows of beeches. Beyond, in the centre of this striking theatre, rises a romantic assemblage of distant mountains, crowned with the ruins of castles, whose turrets, but faintly seen, were just such as you have created to complete a prospect. I was the only human being in the misty extent of the gardens, and was happier in my solitude than I can describe. No noise disturbed its silence, except the flutter of moths and trickling of fountains. These undecided sounds, corresponding with the dimness and haze of the scenery, threw me into a pensive state of mind, neither gay nor dismal. I recapitulated the wayward adventures of my childhood, and traced back each moment of a period, which had seen me happy. Then, turning my thoughts towards future days, my heart beat at the idea of that awful veil which covers the time to come. One moment, 'twas the brightest hope that glittered behind it; the next, a series of melancholy images clouded the perspective. Thus, alternately swayed by fears and exultation, I passed an interesting hour in the twilight, ranging amongst the orange trees, or reclined by the fountain. I could not boast of being perfectly satisfied, since those were absent, without whom not even the fields of Enna could be charming. However, I was far from displeased with the clear streams that bubbled around, and could willingly have dropped asleep by their margin. Had I reposed in so romantic a situation, the murmurs of trees and waters would doubtless have invited "some strange mysterious dream" to hover over me, and perhaps futurity might have been unveiled.



LETTER VIII



July 11th.—Let those who delight in picturesque country repair to the borders of the Rhine, and follow the road which we took from Bonn to Coblentz. In some places it is suspended like a cornice above the waters; in others, it winds behind lofty steeps and broken acclivities, shaded by woods and clothed with an endless variety of plants and flowers. Several green paths lead amongst this vegetation to the summits of the rocks, which often serve as the foundation of abbeys and castles, whose lofty roofs and spires, rising above the cliffs, impress passengers with ideas of their grandeur, that might probably vanish upon a nearer approach. Not choosing to lose any prejudice in their favour, I kept a respectful distance whenever I left my carriage, and walked on the banks of the river.

Just before we came to Andernach, an antiquated town with strange morisco-looking towers, I spied a raft, at least three hundred feet in length, on which ten or twelve cottages were erected, and a great many people employed in sawing wood. The women sat spinning at their doors, whilst their children played among the water-lilies that bloomed in abundance on the edge of the stream. A smoke, rising from one of these aquatic habitations, partially obscured the mountains beyond, and added not a little, to their effect.

Altogether, the scene was so novel and amusing, that I sat half an hour contemplating it from an eminence under the shade of some leafy walnuts; and should like extremely to build a moveable village, people it with my friends, and so go floating about from island to island, and from one woody coast of the Rhine to another. Would you dislike such a party? I am much deceived, or you would be the first to explore the shades and promontories beneath which we should be wafted along.

But I don't think you would find Coblentz, where we were obliged to take up our night's lodging, much to your taste. 'Tis a mean, dirty assemblage of plastered houses, striped with paint, and set off with wooden galleries, in the beautiful taste of St. Giles's. Above, on a rock, stands the palace of the Elector, which seems to be remarkable for nothing but situation. I did not bestow many looks on this structure whilst ascending the mountain across which our road to Mayence conducted us.

July 12th.—Having attained the summit, we discovered a vast, irregular range of country, and advancing, found ourselves amongst downs bounded by forests and purpled with thyme. This sort of prospect extending for several leagues, I walked on the turf, and inhaled with avidity the fresh gales that blew over its herbage, till I came to a steep slope overgrown with privet and a variety of luxuriant shrubs in blossom; there reposing beneath its shade, I gathered flowers, listened to the bees, observed their industry, and idled away a few minutes with great fascination. A cloudless sky and bright sunshine made me rather loth to move on; but the charms of the landscape, increasing every instant, drew me forward.

I had not gone far, before a winding valley discovered itself, shut in by rocks and mountains clothed to their very summits with the thickest woods. A broad river, flowing at the base of the cliffs, reflected the impending vegetation, and looked so calm and glassy that I was determined to be better acquainted with it. For this purpose we descended by a zigzag path into the vale, and making the best of our way on the banks of the Lune (for so is the river called), came suddenly upon the town of Ems, famous in mineral story; where finding very good lodgings, we took up our abode, and led an Indian life amongst the wilds and mountains.

After supper I walked on a smooth lawn by the river, to observe the moon journeying through a world of silver clouds that lay dispersed over the face of the heavens. It was a mild genial evening; every mountain cast its broad shadow on the surface of the stream; lights twinkled afar off on the hills; they burnt in silence. All were asleep, except a female figure in white, with glow-worms shining in her hair. She kept moving disconsolately about; sometimes I heard her sigh; and if apparitions sigh, this must have been an apparition. Upon my return, I asked a thousand questions, but could never obtain any information of the figure and its luminaries.

July 13th.—The pure air of the morning invited me early to the hills. Hiring a skiff, I rowed about a mile down the stream, and landed on a sloping meadow, level with the waters, and newly mown. Heaps of hay still lay dispersed under the copses which hemmed in on every side this little sequestered paradise. What a spot for a tent! I could encamp here for months, and never be tired. Not a day would pass by without discovering some new promontory, some untrodden pasture, some unsuspected vale, where I might remain among woods and precipices lost and forgotten. I would give you, and two or three more, the clue of my labyrinth: nobody else should be conscious of its entrance. Full of such agreeable dreams, I rambled about the meads, scarcely knowing which way I was going; sometimes a spangled fly led me astray, and, oftener, my own strange fancies. Between both, I was perfectly bewildered, and should never have found my boat again, had not an old German naturalist, who was collecting fossils on the cliffs, directed me to it.

When I got home it was growing late, and I now began to perceive that I had taken no refreshment, except the perfume of the hay and a few wood strawberries; airy diet, you will observe, for one not yet received into the realms of Ginnistan. {127}

July 14th.—I have just made a discovery, that this place as full of idlers and water-drinkers as their Highnesses of Orange and Hesse Darmstadt can desire; for to them accrue all the profits of its salubrious fountains. I protest, I knew nothing of all this yesterday, so entirely was I taken up with the rocks and meadows; no chance of meeting either card or billiard players in their solitudes. Both abound at Ems, where they hop and fidget from ball to ball, unconscious of the bold scenery in their neighbourhood, and totally insensible to its charms. They had no notion, not they, of admiring barren crags and precipices, where even the Lord would lose his way, as a coarse lubber decorated with stars and orders very ingeniously observed to me; nor could they form the least conception of any pleasure there was in climbing like a goat amongst the cliffs, and then diving into woods and recesses where the sun had never penetrated; where there were neither card-tables prepared nor sideboards garnished; no jambon de Mayence in waiting; no supply of pipes, nor any of the commonest delights, to be met with in the commonest taverns.

To all this I acquiesced with most perfect submission, but immediately left the orator to entertain a circle of antiquated dames and weather-beaten officers who were gathering around him. Scarcely had I turned my back upon this polite assembly, when Monsieur l'Administrateur des bains, a fine pompous fellow, who had been maitre d'hotel in a great German family, came forward purposely to acquaint me, I suppose, that their baths had the honour of possessing Prince Orloff, "avec sa grande maitresse, son Chamberlain et quelques Dames d'Honneur:" moreover, that his Highness came hither to refresh himself after his laborious employments at the Court of Petersburg, and expected (grace aux eaux!) to return to the domains his august sovereign had lately bestowed upon him in perfect health, and to become the father of his people.

Wishing Monsieur d'Orloff all possible success, I should have left the company at a great distance, had not a violent shower stopped my career, and obliged me to return to my apartment. The rain growing heavier, intercepted the prospect of the mountains, and spread such a gloom over the vale as sank my spirits fifty degrees; to which a close foggy atmosphere not a little contributed. Towards night the clouds assumed a more formidable aspect. Thunder rolled awfully along the distant cliffs, and several rapid torrents began to run down the steeps. Unable to stay within, I walked into an open portico, listening to the murmur of the river, mingled with the roar of falling waters. At intervals a blue flash of lightning discovered their agitated surface, and two or three scared women rushing through the storm and calling all the saints in Paradise to their assistance.

Things were in this state, when the orator who had harangued so brilliantly on the nothingness of ascending mountains, took shelter under the porch, and entering immediately into conversation, regaled my ears with a woful narration of murders which had happened the other day on the precise road I was to follow next morning.

"Sir," said he, "your route is, to be sure, very perilous: on the left you have a chasm, down which, should your horses take the smallest alarm, you are infallibly precipitated; to the right hangs an impervious wood, and there, sir, I can assure you, are wolves enough to devour a regiment; a little farther on, you cross a desolate tract of forest land, the roads so deep and broken, that if you go ten paces in as many minutes you may think yourself fortunate. There lurk the most savage banditti in Europe, lately irritated by the Prince of Orange's proscription; and so desperate, that if they once attack, you can expect no mercy. Should you venture through this hazardous district to-morrow, you will, in all probability, meet a company of people who have just left the town to search for the mangled bodies of their relations; but, for Heaven's sake, sir, if you value your life, do not suffer an idle curiosity to lead you over such dangerous regions, however picturesque their appearance."

I own I felt rather intimidated by so formidable a prospect, and was very near abandoning my plan of crossing the mountains, and so go back again and round about, the Lord knows where; but considering this step would be quite unheroical, I resolved to attribute my fears to the gloom of the moment, and the dejection it occasioned. It was almost nine o'clock before my kind adviser ceased inspiring me with terrors; then, finding myself at liberty, I retired to bed, not under the most agreeable impressions; and after tossing and tumbling in the agitation of tumultuous slumbers, I started up at seven in the morning of July 15th, ordered the horses, and set forward, without further dilemmas. Though it had thundered almost the whole night, the air was still clogged with vapours, the mountains bathed in humid clouds, and the scene I had so warmly admired no longer discernible. Proceeding along the edge of the precipices I had been forewarned of, for about an hour, and escaping that peril at least, we traversed the slopes of a rude, heathy hill, in instantaneous expectation of foes and murderers. A misty rain prevented us seeing above ten yards before us, and every uncouth oak or rocky fragment we approached seemed lurking spies or gigantic enemies. One time the murmur of the wind among invisible woods of beech, sounded like the wail of distress; and at another the noise of a torrent we could not discover, counterfeited the report of musquetry. In this suspicious manner we journeyed through the forest which had so recently been the scene of assaults and depredations. At length, after winding several restless hours amongst its dreary avenues, we emerged into open daylight. The sky cleared, a cultivated vale lay before us, and the evening sun, gleaming bright through the vapours, cast a cheerful look upon some corn-fields, and seemed to promise better times. A few minutes more brought us safe to the village of Viesbaden, where we slept in peace and tranquillity.

July 16th.—Our apprehensions entirely dispersed, we rose light and refreshed from our slumbers, and passing through Mayence, Oppenheim, and Worms, travelled gaily over the plain in which Mannheim is situated. The sun set before we arrived there, and it was by the mild gleams of the rising moon, that I first beheld the vast electoral palace, and those long straight streets and neat white houses, which distinguish this elegant capital from almost every other.

Numbers of well-dressed people were amusing themselves with music and fireworks in the squares and open spaces; other groups appeared conversing in circles before their doors, and enjoying the serenity of the evening. Almost every window bloomed with carnations; and we could hardly cross a street without hearing the German flute. A scene of such happiness and refinement contrasted in the most agreeable manner with the dismal prospects we had left behind. No storms, no frightful chasms, were here to alarm us, no ruffians or lawless plunderers. All around was peace, security, and contentment in their most engaging attire.

July 17th.—Though all impatience to reach that delightful classic region which already possesses, as I have often said, the better half of my spirit, I could not think of leaving Mannheim unexplored; and therefore resolved to give up the day to the halls and galleries of the electoral palace. Those, which contain the cabinet of paintings and sculptures in ivory, form a regular suite of nine immense apartments, about three hundred and seventy-two feet in length, well- proportioned and uniformly floored with inlaid wood. Each room has ample folding-doors richly gilt and varnished. When seen in perspective these entrances have the most magnificent effect imaginable. Nothing can give nobler ideas of space than such an enfilade of saloons unencumbered by heavy furniture, where the eyes range without interruption: I wandered alone from one to the other, and was never wearied with contemplating the variety of pictures which enliven the scene, and convey the highest idea of the collector's taste. When my curiosity was a little satisfied, I left this amusing series of apartments with regret, visited the library which the present Elector Palatine has formed, upon the same great scale that characterizes his other collections, and, after viewing the rest of the palace, saw the opera house, which may boast of having contained one of the first bands in Europe: from thence I returned home in a very musical humour.

An excellent harpsichord seconded this disposition, which lasted me till late in the evening; when growing drowsy, I yielded to the influence of sleep, and was in an instant transported to a far more delightful palace than that of the elector; where I expatiated in perfumed apartments with yellow light, and conversed with none but Albano and Claude Lorrain, till the beams of the morning sun entered my chamber, and forced my visiting companions to fly murmuring to the shades. I cannot say but I was sorry to leave Mannheim, though my acquaintance with it was entirely confined to inanimate objects. The cheerful air and free range of the galleries would be sufficient, for several days, for my amusement; as you know I could people them with phantoms. Not many leagues out of town, lie the famous gardens of Schweidsing. The weather being extremely warm, we were glad to avail ourselves of their shades. There are a great many fountains inclosed by thickets of shrubs, and cool alleys which lead to arbours of trellis-work, festooned with nasturtiums and convolvuluses. Several catalpas and sumachs in full flower gave considerable richness to the scenery; and whilst we walked amongst them, a fresh breeze gently waved their summits. The tall poplars and acacias, quivering with the air, cast innumerable shadows on the intervening plats of greensward, and, as they moved their branches, discovered other walks beyond, and distant jets of water rising above their foliage, and sparkling in the sun. After passing a multitude of shady avenues, terminated by temples or groups of statues, we followed our guide through a kind of arched bower to a little opening in the wood, neatly paved with different coloured pebbles. On one side, appeared niches and alcoves, ornamented with spars and polished marbles; on the other, an aviary; in front, a superb pavilion, with baths, porticos, and cabinets, fitted up in the most elegant and luxurious style. The song of exotic birds; the freshness of the surrounding verdure heightened by falling streams; and that dubious poetic light admitted through thick foliage, so agreeable after the glare of a sultry day, detained me for some time in an alcove reading Spenser, and imagining myself but a few paces removed from the Idle Lake. I would fain have loitered an hour more in this enchanted bower, had not the gardener, whose patience was quite exhausted, and who had never heard of the Red-Cross Knight and his achievements, dragged me away to a sunburnt, contemptible hillock, commanding the view of a serpentine ditch, and decorated with the title of Jardin Anglois. Some object like decayed limekilns and mouldering ovens, is disposed in an amphitheatrical form, on the declivity of this tremendous eminence: and there is to be ivy, and a cascade, and what not, as my conductor observed. A glance was all I bestowed on this caricature upon English gardens; I then went off in a huff at being chased from my bower, and grumbled all the road to Entsweigen; where, to our misfortune, we lay amidst hogs and vermin, who amply revenged my quarrels with their country.

July 20th.—After travelling a post or two, we came in sight of a green moor, with many insulated woods and villages; the Danube sweeping majestically along, and the city of Ulm rising upon its banks. The fields in its neighbourhood were overspread with cloths bleaching in the sun, and waiting for barks which convey them down the great river, in ten days, to Vienna, and from thence through Hungary, into the midst of the Turkish Empire. I almost envied the merchants their voyage, and descending to the edge of the stream, proffered my orisons to Father Danube, beseeching him to remember me to the regions through which he flows. I promised him an altar and solemn rites, should he grant my request, and was very idolatrous, until the shadows lengthening over the unlimited plains on his margin, reminded me that the sun would be shortly sunk, and that I had still above fifteen miles to go. Gathering a purple iris that grew upon the bank, I wore it to his honour; and have reason to fancy my piety was rewarded, as not a fly or an insect dared to buzz about me the whole evening.

You never saw a brighter sky nor more glowing clouds than gilded our horizon. The air was impregnated with the perfume of clover, and for ten miles we beheld no other objects than smooth levels enamelled with flowers, and interspersed with thickets of oak, beyond which appeared a long series of mountains, that distance and the evening tinged with an interesting azure. Such were the very spots for youthful games and exercises, open spaces for tilts, and spreading shades to screen the spectators.

Father Lafiteau tells us, there are many such vast and flowery meads in the interior of America, to which the roving tribes of Indians repair once or twice in a century to settle the rights of the chase, and lead their solemn dances; and so deep an impression do these assemblies leave on the minds of the savages, that the highest ideas they entertain of future felicity consist in the perpetual enjoyment of songs and dances upon the green boundless lawns of their elysium. In the midst of these visionary plains rises the abode of Aneantsic, encircled by choirs of departed chieftains leaping in cadence to the mournful sound of spears as they ring on the shell of the tortoise. Their favourite attendants, long separated from them whilst on earth, are restored again in this ethereal region, and skim freely over the vast level space; now hailing one group of beloved friends, and now another. Mortals newly ushered by death into this world of pure blue sky and boundless meads, see the long-lost objects of their affection advancing across the lawn to meet them. Flights of familiar birds, the purveyors of many an earthly chase, once more attend their progress, whilst the shades of their faithful dogs seem coursing each other below. Low murmurs and tinkling sounds fill the whole region, and, as its new denizens proceed, increase in melody, till, unable to resist the thrilling music, they spring forward in ecstasies to join the eternal round.

A share of this celestial transport seemed communicated to me whilst my eyes wandered over the plain, which appeared to widen and extend in proportion as the twilight prevailed.

The dusky hour, favourable to conjurations, allowed me to believe the spirits of departed friends not far removed from the clouds, which, to all appearance, reposed at the extremity of the prospect, and tinted the surface of the horizon with ruddy colours. This glow still lingered upon the verge of the landscape, after the sun disappeared; and 'twas in those peaceful moments, when no sound but the browsing of cattle reached me, that I imagined benign looks were cast upon me from the golden vapours, and I seemed to catch glimpses of faint forms moving, amongst them, which were once so dear; and even thought my ears affected by well-known voices, long silent upon earth. When the warm hues of the sky were gradually fading, and the distant thickets began to assume a deeper and more melancholy blue, I fancied a shape like Thisbe {133} shot swiftly along; and, sometimes halting afar off, cast an affectionate look upon her old master, that seemed to say, When you draw near the last inevitable hour, and the pale countries of Aneantsic are stretched out before you, I will precede your footsteps, and guide them safe through the wild labyrinths which separate this world from yours. I was so possessed with the ideas and so full of the remembrance of that poor, affectionate creature, whose miserable end you were the witness of, that I did not, for several minutes, perceive our arrival at Guntsberg. Hurrying to bed, I seemed in my slumbers to pass that interdicted boundary which divides our earth from the region of Indian happiness. Thisbe ran nimbly before me; her white form glimmered amongst dusky forests; she led me into an infinitely spacious plain, where I heard vast multitudes discoursing upon events to come. What further passed must never be revealed. I awoke in tears, and could hardly find spirits enough to look around me, till we were driving through the midst of Augsburg.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse