THE AMERICAN QUARTERLY REVIEW.
Philadelphia: CAREY & LEA.
SOLD IN PHILADELPHIA BY E. L. CAREY & A. HART. NEW-YORK, BY G. & C. & H. CARVILL.
LONDON:—R. J. KENNETT, 59 GREAT QUEEN STREET. PARIS:—A. & W. GALIGNANI, RUE VIVIENNE.
AMERICAN QUARTERLY REVIEW.
ART. I.—France in 1829-30. By LADY MORGAN. Author of "France in 1816," "Italy," &c. &c. &c. 2 vols. J. & J. Harper: New-York.
It was that solemn hour of the night, when, in the words of the poet, "creation sleeps;"—a silence as of the dead reigned amid the streets and alleys of the great city of Dublin, interrupted, ever and anon, only by the solitary voice of the watchman, announcing the time, and the prospects of fair or foul weather for the ensuing day. Even the noise of carriages returning from revels and festive scenes of various kinds, was no longer heard—
"The diligence of trades and noiseful gain, And luxury more late, asleep were laid: All was the night's:"
All! save the inhabitants of one mansion, situated in Kildare street, who were still invading nature's rest. Why were they alone up and stirring? Why were they debarred from taking their needful repose, and obliged to employ the time which should have been devoted to it, in active occupation? The reason is easily understood. Early in the morning, the master and mistress were to set off on a trip to Paris, and there was no small quantity of "packing up" yet to be done. Trunks innumerable lay scattered about a romantically furnished bed-chamber; some were partly filled with different articles of female habiliment; others seemed to be appropriated to literary purposes, and books without number, and of all descriptions, were lying around them—here was a pile of novels, amongst which, the titles of "The Novice of St. Dominick," "Ida of Athens," "The Wild Irish Girl," &c. &c. could be discerned—there was a heap of "Travels," composed of "Italy," "France in 1816," and others:—a couple of volumes, entitled "Life and Times of Salvator Rosa," were reposing in graceful dignity on the open lid of a portmanteau. Several maids were exerting all their activity to get every thing properly arranged; all was bustle and preparation.
Adjoining the chamber was a boudoir, furnished likewise in the most romantic manner, in which sat a lady of even a more romantic appearance than that of either of the apartments. How shall we describe her? She certainly (we must tell the truth, and shame you know whom) did not seem to be of that delightful age, in which a due regard to veracity would allow us to apply to her the line of the poet, "Le printemps dans sa fleur sur son visage est peint." Her cheeks, to be sure, were deeply tinged with a roseate hue, but it was not that with which nature loves to paint the face of spring; the colour proved too palpably, that it had been placed there by the exercise of those "curious arts" with which the sex are enabled to revive dim charms, "and triumph in the bloom of fifty-five." Her dress was romantic in the extreme. Of the unity of time, at all events, it was in direct violation, for its "gay rainbow colours," and modish arrangement, were out of all keeping with her matronly age. One would easily have inferred from it that she was fully impressed with the conviction, that the years which had glided over her head, were not of the old-fashioned kind that contain twelve months, or at least, that she did not consider the lapse of time as at all calculated to impair the attractions of her physiognomy, however prejudicial its effect might be upon the faces of the rest of the female part of the creation. In her countenance there was such an expression of blended affectation and self-complacency, that it was impossible to look upon it without feeling an inclination to smile. She was sitting near a prettily ornamented writing-desk, surmounted by a mirror (in which, by the way, she always found her greatest admirer), with her head reclining on her open hand, her elbow resting on a volume which bore on its back the appropriate title of "The Book of the Boudoir," and her eyes directed, we need hardly say where,—for who does not love to be admired? Her reflections were suddenly disturbed by a knock at the door, which she answered by an "Entrez!" "Ah, Sir Charles, c'est vous," she lisped, as the door opened, and a person in male attire entered, "eh bien, is every thing pret for our voyage?" "Yes, my dear"—we presume, from this appellation, that the gentleman was her caro sposo, as she might say,—"or at least every thing will be ready shortly; but let me essay again to dissuade you from this foolish expedition"—"de grace, Sir Charles, ayez pitie de moi; do not pester me with your betises; I am determined to faire une autre visite to my cher Paris, so that all you may say will be tout a fait inutile." "Well," sighed the caro sposo, "just as you please," and he returned to direct the "packing up," while she began to revel in the anticipations of triumphs, both personal and intellectual, which she intended to gain in the fashionable and literary capital of the world. Alas! "oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises."
Who is this lady? Had she lived in the days of Juvenal, it might have been supposed that he had her in his eye, when he drew, in his sixth satire, the picture of the "greatest of all plagues"—had her existence been cast in the time of the prince of French comic writers, she would undoubtedly have been presumed to be the prototype of the heroine in one of his most exquisite comedies; we need hardly say, therefore, that she is, in the words of Boileau, "une precieuse,
"Reste de ces esprits jadis si renommes Que d'un coup de son art Moliere a diffames."
Pity, then, kind reader, pity the lot of the unfortunate gentleman whom we have just introduced to your acquaintance. A further account of this dame may prove not unacceptable.
Her father was an honest actor, accustomed to afford great delight to those deities who inhabit the one shilling galleries of English and Irish theatres, and to receive, himself, vast gratification from worshipping at the shrine of Bacchus. The daughter having given early indications of quickness and pertness, came to be considered quite a genius by her family and friends, whose natural partiality soon induced her to entertain the same opinion. Determined, accordingly, not to hide her light under a bushel, she made her appearance before the world as an authoress, from which it may very reasonably be inferred that she had not yet attained the years of discretion. Her debut, of course, was as a wanderer in the realms of imagination, alias, a novel-writer, and in this capacity she continued to make the public stare for a series of years. We say stare, for we can find no more appropriate word for expressing the feelings which her fictions are calculated to excite. With plots of almost incomprehensible absurdity, they combine a style more inflated than any balloon in which Madame Blanchard ever sailed through the regions of air—a language, or rather jargon, composed of the pickings of nearly every idiom that ever did live, or is at present in existence, and sentiments which would be often of a highly mischievous tendency, if they were not rendered ridiculous by the manner in which they are expressed. The singularity of these productions excited a good deal of sensation, and, if we believe her own words, she was placed by them "in a definite rank among authors, and in no undistinguished circle of society." In some of the principal journals, however, the lady was severely taken to task, at the same time that she was counselled to obtain for herself a partner in weal and wo, by which she might be brought down from her foolish vagaries, to the sober realities of domestic duty. Wonderful to relate, she followed the advice of those whom her vanity must have taught her to consider as her bitterest foes, namely critics,—and as
"Nought but a genius can a genius fit, A wit herself, Amelia weds a wit."
This wit was a regular knight of the pestle and mortar—a physician, whose pills and draughts had acquired for him the enviable right of placing that dignified appellation, Sir, before his Christian name, by which our authoress became entitled to be addressed as "Your Ladyship," as much as if she had married an Earl or a Marquis. Oh! how delighted the ci-devant plain "Miss" must have been at hearing the servants say to her, "Yes, my lady,"—"No, my lady."—The year in which the ceremony was performed that gave her a lord and master, we cannot precisely ascertain; but as the happy pair favoured the capital of France with their presence in 1816, it may not be unreasonable to suppose, that they went there to spend the honeymoon. Miraculous as are the changes which matrimony sometimes operates, it was powerless in its influence upon her Ladyship's propensities, and, consequently, not very long after returning to her "maison bijou" in Dublin, she put forth a quarto! with the magnificent title of "France." There are phenomena in the physical world, in the moral world, in the intellectual world, but this book was a phenomenon that beat them all. It was absolutely wonderful how so much ignorance, nonsense, vanity, and folly, could be compressed within the compass even of a quarto. All the sense that could be discerned in it, was contained in four or five essays, upon Love, Law and Physic, and Politics, contributed by Sir the husband. Being anxious that "France" should have a companion, she subsequently made an expedition to the land of the Dilettanti, in company with the dear man who had made her, "she trusts, a respectable, and she is sure, a happy mistress of a family," and forthwith "Italy" appeared to sustain her well-earned reputation for qualities, which she has the singular felicity of possessing without exciting envy. But her "never ending, still beginning" pen, was not satisfied with two volumes as the fruits of her Italian campaigning, especially as there happened to be a goodly quantity of memoranda in the "diary" which had not yet been turned to any use. Some subject, therefore, was to be hit upon for another publication, in which they could be inserted, when beat out into a sizeable shape; and what could be better adapted for that purpose than the biography of a great Italian artist? The life of poor Salvator Rosa was, in consequence, attempted. Just think of making one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived, a peg to hang notes upon! The next offspring of her Ladyship's brain, was, we believe, another novel, which was as like its predecessors as possible. In the period that elapsed between this birth, and the moment in which we have had the honour of introducing her to our readers, her literary family was increased by another child, with the delightful name of "The Book of the Boudoir."
We hope we have not been understood as meaning to insinuate, that because her Ladyship is the mother of a couple of dozen of volumes, she is on that account a precieuse ridicule. This was far, very far from our intention. None can take more pleasure than ourselves in rendering all homage to genuine female talent, employed for useful and honourable purposes, or be more willing to acknowledge the peculiar excellence by which its productions are frequently marked. Were it our pleasant duty at present to notice the works of an Edgeworth, a Hemans, a Mitford, a Sedgwick, or of any others of that fair and brilliant assemblage, who reflect so great a lustre upon the literature of this age, we should use language as eulogistic as their warmest admirers could desire. But we have to do now with a person of a very different description from those bright ornaments of their sex—with one in whose mind, whatever flowers Nature may originally have planted, have been almost completely choked by the rank weeds of ignorance, presumption, frivolity, and vanity beyond measurement—who, in a list of works as long, to use one of her own delicate illustrations, as "Leporello's catalogue of Don Juan's mistresses," has given little or no aid to the cause of virtue generally, or evinced the slightest anxiety to improve and benefit her sex, but has devoted all her faculties to the erection of an altar on which she might worship herself, and only herself—who has even afforded cause, by the frequently extreme levity of her expressions, for the charge of lending countenance to licentiousness and impiety—whose writings, in fine, are calculated to inflict serious injury upon the tastes, the understandings, and the hearts of her youthful female readers, by accustoming them to a vicious and ridiculous style, by filling their minds with false and perverted sentiments and wrong impressions upon some of the most important matters, and by setting before them the example of a woman who boasts of being a member of no undistinguished circle of society, and yet constantly violates those laws of delicacy and refinement, the full observance of which is indispensable for every female who aspires to the name and character of a lady.
Pale Aurora began now to appear, "Tiphoni croceum linquens cubile," in vulgar parlance, day began to break. Behold our couple setting forth on their Parisian expedition. Some months afterwards, the "maison bijou," in Kildare street, again was illumined by the presence of our fair traveller, whose pen was soon mended, dipped in ink, and busily employed. In due time its labours were brought to a termination, and two goodly volumes were ushered into the light of day, purporting to contain an account of "France in 1829-30." These are the identical volumes which it is our design in this article to notice.
"Facit indignatio versus," exclaimed the old Roman satirist, and "indignation makes us write," would we exclaim, in assigning our motives for devoting a number of our pages to "France in 1829-30," could we for a moment be persuaded that our readers would credit the assertion. It seems to us, that we already behold every one of them smiling in derision, and giving an incredulous shake of the head, at the bare idea of a cold-blooded reviewer being actuated by indignant feelings to place his critical lance in rest, and run a course against an unfortunate author. We must, nevertheless, be permitted to protest, that we do feel a considerable quantity of very honest and virtuous indignation against the trash last put forth by Miladi—quite as much, we are sure, as impelled Juvenal to the composition of his searing satires. We may be told, however, that we are waging battle with a lady, and that we should be upon our guard not to give fresh cause for the exclamation, that "the age of chivalry is gone." A lady, true; but, when in your boasted "age of chivalry," persons of her sex buckled on armour and rushed into the melee, were they spared by the courteous knights with whom they measured swords? Did not Clorinda receive her death wound from the hand of Tancred? And why should the Amazon who wields the pen, be more gently dealt with than she who meddles with cold iron? In literature, as in war, there is no distinction of sex. We hope, therefore, we shall not be accused of ungallant, or anti-chivalric bearing, on account of the blows we may inflict upon the literary person of a most daring Thalestris, especially as her vanity is a panoply of proof.
In her preface, Lady M. says, that a second work on France from her pen could only be justified by the novelty of its matter, or by the merit of its execution. Then do we pronounce this second work, this "France in 1829-30," to be the most unjustifiable imposition on the good nature of the reading community that ever was practised. Its matter is nothing more nor less than Miladi herself; and is she a novelty? Something less than half a century ago, her Ladyship undoubtedly was a novelty, and one too of an extraordinary kind. As to the "merit of its execution," it is quite sufficient to know that it is the work of Lady Morgan, to form an idea of that requisite for its "justification." Out of thine own mouth have we condemned thee. The fact is, that "France in 1829-30," is almost, the counterpart of "France in 1816," and the same remarks may be made concerning it which we have already applied to the latter. All the information we could discover we had obtained from it on finishing its perusal, was that its author had improved in neither wisdom, knowledge, nor modesty, since her first visit to the land after which both of these productions have been christened. France! and what right have they to that name? Would it not induce one to suppose, that their author had at least travelled through the greater portion of that beautiful country, and eked out a number of her pages from the notes, such as they might be, made during the tour? And yet her Ladyship, on both occasions, went to Paris by the high road of Calais, remained in the capital a few months, and then returned by another high road. Even "Paris in 1816," "Paris in 1829-30," would be titles with which these publications would possess scarcely more affinity, than that by which children, on whom the preposterous fondness of their parents has bestowed the high-sounding appellations of warriors and monarchs, are connected with those worthies. Their only appropriate names would be, "Lady Morgan in 1816," "Lady Morgan in 1829-30;" for what information do they give about France or Paris, and what information do they not give about Lady Morgan? they even let us into the secrets of her Ladyship's wardrobe. It was Paris that saw Lady Morgan, and not Lady Morgan that saw Paris, in the same way as, according to Dr. Franklin, it was Philadelphia that took Sir William Howe, and not Sir William Howe that took Philadelphia.
To collect materials for a book of travels, it is necessary to be all eyes and ears with regard to every thing but one's self. Her Ladyship, however, was just the reverse throughout the whole period of her absence from Kildare street,—it seems always to have been her object to attract, and not to bestow, attention. In the volumes before us, it is her perpetual endeavour to win admiration by making known the admiration she entertains for herself, as well as that which she supposes she excites in others. They are consequently, in great measure, filled with what was said to Lady Morgan, and what Lady Morgan did and said during her last visit to Paris. While discoursing about anything else than herself, she appears to be on thorns until she gets back to that all absorbing subject, and no matter what is the title of the chapter, she generally contrives, by hook or by crook, to bring herself into it as the main object of interest. The poor reader is thus often sadly disappointed in the expectations he may form of deriving pleasure or information from various parts of her work, in consequence of the promises held out by their "headings." He almost always eventually discovers, that however he may have been induced to anticipate a meeting with other persons or matters, it is still "Monsieur Tonson come again." We must confess, that it is rather too bad to be Morbleued in this way; though it is but fair to acknowledge, that her Ladyship is not an intentional tormentor, like the malicious wags by whom the unfortunate Frenchman was teased out of house and home. On the contrary, her design is one altogether consonant to the general benevolence of her character. It is to give pleasure; and as her greatest delight arises from the contemplation of herself, she has presumed, naturally enough if we may believe the philosophers, that the same cause will produce the same effect upon the rest of the world. All her pictures, therefore, like those of the painter who doated upon his mistress to such a degree as to introduce her face into every one of his works, contain the object of her idolatry, either prominently in the foreground, or so ingeniously placed in the background, as to be quite as well fitted to draw attention.—But it is time to follow her in some of her peregrinations.
On a certain day of the year 1829, which she has not had the goodness to designate, she arrived at Calais. She was accompanied by an Irish footman,—not, we presume, the "illiterate literatus," whom she has immortalized in her first "France,"—and by a person whom she once or twice alludes to in her volumes; first, by acknowledging her obligations to a "Sir C. M." for some articles which had been contributed by him to swell the dimensions of her work; and, secondly, by mentioning that somebody sent a "flask of genuine potteen," to her Ladyship's great delight, "with Mr. Somebody's compliments to Sir C. M." As there is an individual designated once or twice also as "my husband," we have shrewd suspicions that he and this Sir C. M. are one and the same being. The first thing that Miladi does at Calais, is to experience a "burst of agreeable sensations;" and the next, to feel a considerable degree of surprise at being delighted again with that renowned place—renowned for having been several times visited by Lady Morgan, besides other minor causes of celebrity, such as its sieges, and its having been the place where Yorick commenced his sentimental journey; but these have been completely forgotten since the year 1816. After her "little heart" had been fluttered by those agreeable and wonderful sensations, the nature of its palpitations was unfortunately changed by the indignation with which it was filled on her discovering "how English" every thing appeared. "English carpets, and English cleanliness; English delf and English damask," with various other Englishiana, gave such a John Bull aspect to the room of the hotel into which she was ushered, that she was on the point of swooning, when her ears were suddenly assailed by a loud sound—Gracious heavens! What noise is that? Her delicate little head is in a twinkling thrust out of the window, and she beholds,—oh horror of horrors—she beholds a mail-coach, built on the regular English plan, cantering into the yard, with all its concomitants completely a l'Anglaise—"horses curvetting, and not a hair turned—a whip that 'tips the silk' like a feather—'ribbons,' not ropes—a coachman, all capes and castor—a guard that cries 'all right,'" and who was at that moment puffing most manfully into a "reg'lar mail-coach horn." This was too much, and her Ladyship would inevitably have been driven distracted, or, at least, have gone into hysterics, had not a most delicious idea interposed its aid, and she exclaimed, "What luck to have written my France, while France was still so French!"—and what luck, say we, to have so commodious a safety-valve as vanity, by means of which to let off the superabundant steam of one's ire!
Now, as to her Ladyship's having written her "France," while France was still "so French," this we do not deny; but we do deny that her France itself is "so French." It would be an affair of some considerable difficulty, in our humble opinion, to find any thing French either about it or the "France" we are now reviewing, except their titles, and innumerable scraps of the French language, not unfrequently so expressed and so applied that they would do honour to Mrs. Malaprop herself.
Lady M.'s fondness for generalizing, has led her to relate this apparition of the "Bang-up" in such a way as would induce any one who did not know better, to suppose that the "Coach" had entirely superseded the "Diligence" upon the French roads. Truly would such a change be a cause of regret; for the traveller in France would thus be deprived of a fruitful source of amusement. But we have the pleasure of announcing, for the satisfaction of such of our readers as may entertain the design of paying a visit to that country, that the coach which Lady Morgan saw, was the only vehicle of the kind with which her eyes could have been annoyed. We speak understandingly on the subject, as we happened to be in France about the same time as her Ladyship. This coach, which, if we recollect aright, was called the Telegraph, and not the "Bang-up," was a speculation of some Englishman, who ran it for a short time between Boulogne and Calais, but without much success. The old national vehicle had too strong a hold upon the affections of the most national people in the world, to be pushed from the field by any foreign opponent, and the slow, sure, and comfortable Diligence kept on the even tenor of its way, while the dashing, rapid Telegraph arrived prematurely at the end of its journeying.
We do not deem ourselves competent to decide upon so momentous a subject as the respective merits of the English and French stages, to give them our technical appellation; but it may be remarked as perhaps somewhat singular, that with regard to comfort—a matter respecting which the French are as noted for their general heedlessness as the English are for their almost uniform concern—the Diligence can lay claim to unquestionable superiority over the coach. On the other hand, the coach is constructed in such a way as to possess far greater facilities for rapidity of locomotion,—a quality which it might be supposed the quick vivacious temperament of the French would especially prize in their conveyances. As to appearance also, the English vehicle is certainly a good deal better off than the French. Nothing, indeed, that a stranger may have heard or read about the latter, can prepare him for it sufficiently, to prevent him on first beholding it from giving way to something more than a smile. It is not, however, so much the mere machine itself that operates upon his risible faculties, as the whole equipage, or atalage,—the scare-crow horses, that seem to have been once the property of the keeper of some museum by whom their bones have been linked together and covered with skin as well as they might be, without inserting something between as a substitute for flesh; the non-descript gear by which these living anatomies are kept together and attached to the vehicle, composed of rope, leather, iron, steel, brass, and every thing else that could by any possibility be used for the purpose; the queer-looking postillion, with his long cue, huge boots, and pipe, all combine with the grotesque appearance of the Diligence itself, to form an ensemble irresistibly ludicrous.
What a difference, too, there is in the facility with which they get "under weigh." One crack of the coachman's whip, causes his fine animals to give "a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull together," and away you whirl in an instant. But the traveller in France does not find starting so easy a matter. He gets into the Diligence; every thing seems ready. The passengers are all in their places, and have saluted each other with true French politeness, except some gruff John Bull sitting in a corner seat and eyeing his associates with mingled scorn and distrust—the five or six apologies for horses are standing in an attitude of the greatest patience, waiting for the signal to make an attempt at putting one foot before the other—the conducteur, a person who has the supreme direction of the movements of the Diligence, is in his place on the top—the boots in which the legs of the postillion are buried, are dangling on both sides of the wheel horse on the left—crack! goes his whip—a jingling sound responds, caused by the endeavours of the "cattle" to advance—"mais que diable"—crack! crack! crack!—something like motion is experienced, when there is a sudden stop, and the conducteur is seen descending from his eminence, muttering sundry expressions of no very gentle nature—"what the devil's the matter now," growls a more than bass voice out of one window—"qu'est ce que c'est, conducteur," simultaneously demand a treble and a tenor from another window—"rien, Madame," the answer is always addressed to the lady, "rien du tout," he replies whilst endeavouring to repair some part of the "rigging" that could not stand the efforts of the poor beasts to move from their position. At length, however, you get fairly under weigh, with about a four knot breeze, and continue to make some progress for an hour or two amidst a noise caused by the rumbling of the vehicle, the creaking, jingling, rattling, and clanking, of the atalage, the unceasing crack of the whip, and the chattering of your companions, to which the sounds at Babel were music. The movement then becomes adagio, and soon afterwards the conducteur's voice is heard, begging the passengers in all parts of the vehicle to descend. Wondering what is the matter, you get out with the rest, and find the cause of this commotion to be a grande Montagne—anglice, a little hill—in mounting which, the tender care that is taken of the animals upon the road, however much the state of their flesh shows it is diminished in the stable, renders it indispensable that they should be relieved of every possible weight. To this inconvenience you are subjected on approaching almost every little elevation, the like of which in England or the United States, would not cause the slightest diminution of speed. But it must be confessed, that occasionally, a hill is to be passed of a magnitude which the steeds could never surmount without diminishing their load, and then the notice that is said to have been affixed to one of the Diligences, may very well be appended to all. "MM. les voyageurs, sont pries, quand ils descendent, de ne pas aller plus vite que la voiture:" passengers are requested, when they descend, not to go faster than the vehicle. A most necessary request! La Fontaine, when he wrote the fable in which he gives an account of a vehicle ascending a steep eminence, and the exertions of a fly to assist the horses, must have just returned from some excursion in a Diligence, during which he was witness to the creeping, toiling, panting of the animals pulling it up a hill. Pauvres diables! as the women are constantly exclaiming, a fly might really lend them some aid in their efforts. About every eight miles, fresh horses are in readiness, but the change is rarely for the better,—for the worse it cannot be.
It is only on the road that the postillions drive slowly; when they enter a town it is a sort of signal for them to dash on at a furious rate, notwithstanding the danger of going rapidly through streets which are little better than alleys, and in which there are no side-pavements to mark the limits for pedestrians. We never before experienced such philanthropic alarm for the safety of our fellow-mortals, as on the evening of our arrival in Paris, whilst whirling at a furious rate through its narrow streets, which were thronged with people, when it was so dark that their ears alone could give them warning to get out of the way. No accident, however, occurred. The French drivers, it must be confessed, though not very elegant or stylish "whips," are very sure; they contrive to guide the immense Diligences through the crowded labyrinths of a large city with wonderful safety, notwithstanding the swiftness with which they generally pass through them, and the loose manner in which the horses are linked together.
But where did we leave our Ladyship? Oh, with her head out of the window of the hotel, saying something about her France and the other France. We really beg her pardon for keeping her so long in such a situation, and hasten to relieve her from it, by placing her, together with Sir C. M. and the Irish footman, in a,—but here again we are at fault. She has not had the kindness to inform us what was the species of conveyance that she consecrated to eternal veneration by employing for her journey to Paris, and as we have neither time nor space for an adequate investigation of this important point, we must leave it to be mooted by other commentators, contenting ourselves with the knowledge that the illustrious trio arrived safely at the capital.
On reaching the hotel in the Rue de Rivoli, which she had resolved upon immortalizing by residing in it during her sojourn in Paris, she was again fearfully agitated by that dreadful fondness for things English, in France, by which her nervous system had before been so greatly discomposed. Woful to relate, she was received by "a smart, dapper, English-innkeeper-looking landlord," and conducted to apartments "which were a box of boudoirs, as compact as a Chinese toy." "There were carpets on every floor, chairs that were moveable, mirrors that reflected, sofas to sink on, footstools to stumble over; in a word, all the incommodious commodities of my own cabin in Kildare street." Poor Miladi! this was really too provoking, to have all the trouble and expense of journeying from Dublin to see just what was to be seen there; but no matter, it will serve for the subject of some twenty pages in your intended book. But then the change, so trying to the nerves of a romantic lady, which had taken place since 1816. In that year, she remembered, on driving into the paved court of the hotel d'Orleans, she had seen "an elderly gentleman, sitting under the shelter of a vine, and looking like a specimen of the restored emigration. His white hair, powdered and dressed a l'oiseau royale; his Persian slippers and robe de chambre, a grand ramage, (we hope, reader, you have a French dictionary near you) spoke of principles as old as his toilet. He was reading, too, a loyal paper, loyal, at least, in those days,—the Journal des Debats. Bowing, as we passed, he consigned us, with a graceful wave of the hand, to the care of Pierre, the frotteur. I took him for some fragment of a duc et pair of the old school; but, on putting the question to the frotteur, who himself might have passed for a figurante at the opera, he informed us that he was 'Notre bourgeois,' the master of the hotel." It is quite wonderful to us how Miladi could have survived to relate so shocking a metamorphosis. Ovid has nothing half so strange and heart-rending.
The instances we have mentioned are far from being the only ones in which her Ladyship was "put out of sorts" by the Anglomania, which, she would make us believe, is operating at present as great a revolution in the social, as was effected in '98 in the political condition of France. All along the road from Calais to Paris, she sees nothing but "youths galloping their horses in the cavalry costume of Hyde Park," "smart gigs and natty dennets," "cottages of gentility, with white walls and green shutters, and neat offices, rivalling the diversified orders of the Wyatvilles of Islington and Highgate," in short, nothing but "English neatness and propriety on every side," with one terrible exception, however, "an Irish jaunting car!" of which she chanced, to her infinite dismay, to catch a glimpse. The second appearance that she makes in the streets of Paris, is for the purpose of buying some "bonbons, diablotins en papillotes, Pastilles de Nantes, and other sugared prettinesses," for which Parisian confectioners are so renowned. Accordingly, she goes into a shop where she supposes that "fanciful idealities, sweet nothings, candied epics and eclogues in spun sugar, so light, and so perfumed as to resemble (was there ever such nonsense) congealed odours, or a crystallization of the essence of sweet flowers," are to be sold, but on inquiry she is told by a "demoiselle behind the counter, as neat as English muslin and French (what a wonder it wasn't English) tournure could make her," that 'we sell no such a ting,' but that she might have 'de cracker, de bun, de plom-cake, de spice gingerbread, de mutton and de mince pye, de crompet and de muffin, de gelee of de calves foot, and de apple dumplin.' Reader, Lady Morgan "was struck dumb!" She purchased a bundle of crackers, "hard enough to crack the teeth of an elephant," and hurried from the shop. But misfortunes never come single, and her ladyship, though an exception to most other general rules, was not destined to prove the correctness of that one in this instance, for just as she was escaping from the place where she had experienced the serious inconvenience of being "struck dumb," she was struck in another way—viz. on the left cheek, by the explosion of a bottle of "Whitbread's entire," the consequence of which was, that the exterior of her head became covered with precisely the same thing with which its interior is filled—"froth."—
Foaming with rage and brown-stout, her Ladyship was hastening home as fast as her "little feet" could carry her, when a perfumer's shop "caught the most acute of all her senses."—What a delightful mode, by the way, her ladyship has, of imparting knowledge en passant, as it were; here we have the important information communicated to us, that her "acutest sense" is situated in her nose, just because she happened to pass by a perfumery store; but what a nose her ladyship's nose must be, since it is endowed with more wonderful faculties than her eyes, which possess such miraculous powers as to enable her to see things in France perceptible by no other mortal optics! But to proceed with our dismal story. Her ladyship's olfactory nerves, as we have already mentioned, having made her aware of the proximity of a perfumer's shop, she was induced to go into it by the desire of procuring something which might relieve them from the torture produced by the exhalations of 'Whitbread's entire.' But here again she was doomed to disappointment. She asked for various "eaux, essences, and extraits," and was presented with bottles of "lavendre vatre, honey vatre, and tief his vinaigre;" she asked for savons, and was shown cakes of "Vindsor soap," and "de Regent's vashball." In an agony of despair, she rushes from the shop, first taking care, however, to "gather up her purse and reticule," and soon arrives at her—alas! English furnished apartments. After stumbling over a footstool, and being incommoded by other "incommodious commodities," she at length sinks exhausted upon a sofa, just opposite to a "mirror that reflected." But what other singular looking object, besides Miladi's face, is it that forms a subject of that glass's reflections, and is lying on a table just behind her? It is a little basket, the contents of which her ladyship soon begins to investigate,—and what do you suppose she finds?—"A flask of genuine potteen!!" This time she is struck loquacious, and she shrieks out, "this is too much! was it for this we left the snugness and economical comfort of our Irish home, and encountered the expensive inconveniencies of a foreign journey, in the hope of seeing nothing British, 'till the threshold of that home should be passed by our feet;'—to meet at every step with all that taste, health, and civilization (exemplified by 'lavendre vatre,' 'vindsor soap,' and 'a flask of potteen,') we cry down at home, as cheap and as abundant abroad," &c. &c. The piercing key on which her Ladyship pitched her voice while declaiming this magnificent soliloquy, brought Sir C. M., the Irish footman, and the English-looking landlord into the room, in a terrible flurry. "My dearest dear what is the matter?"—"Och! my leddy, what is it now that ails you?"—"Ah! madame, mille pardons, qu'est ce que c'est?" simultaneously issue from the mouths of the three worthies. "Avaunt! get out of my sight, you maudit imitateur; and you Sir Charles, et vous, Patrick, see that tout est prepare for returning to Dublin dans l'heure meme," meekly responds Miladi. But a sudden change comes over her countenance—sudden as that which took place in the aspect of Juno when she beheld the waves raised to the very heavens by the power of Neptune, and supposed that they had overwhelmed the bark which carried AEneas and his companions, the objects of her eternal hatred. She smiled, as the face of Nature smiles when the clouds that have long covered it with gloom, have disappeared before the potent influence of the "glorious orb that gives the day," and at length she rapturously cried out, "How lucky to have written my France, while France was still so French!"—Lady Morgan was herself again.
Now we beg leave to observe, that this Anglomania bugbear, by which her ladyship pretends to have been so much distressed, is the merest piece of nonsense and affectation in the world. We will not be so ungallant as to suppose that Lady Morgan has intentionally related what is not altogether so true as might be, but she has been accustomed for such a length of time to roam about the varied realms of fancy, that it would be impossible for her ever to descend to the flat regions of fact. Besides, as we have already stated, she has been gifted with powers of vision more surprising than those of the lynx or the seer—the first can only see through a stone, the second can only see things which may exist at a future day, when they will be visible to every one else—but she sees things existing at present, that defy the ken of all other animals, rational and irrational. While reading her account of the English vehicles, English cottages, &c. &c. which she observed in her journey from Calais to Paris, we could not help asking ourselves, where were our eyes during the time we travelled that road? We are satisfied, however, that they were in their right place, and tolerably well employed; and that if they did not encounter the signs of Anglomania mentioned by her Ladyship, it was because these were to be perceived by no one but herself. Wide indeed is the difference between travelling in France and England! The poet Grey, in one of his charming letters, affirms, that in the former country it would be the finest in the world, were it not for the terrible state of the inns; but it must have greatly deteriorated there, or have improved in his native isle since his time, for there can not be the slightest question as to the superior delights of journeying in the latter at present. The inns in France are still bad enough, in all conscience, and offer but a dreary welcome to one who has been accustomed to the neatness and comforts of English hostels. There are, however, various other particulars of importance for a traveller's enjoyment, which Shakspeare's "sea-walled garden" furnishes in by far the greater abundance. In France the roads are comparatively much inferior, and the general appearance of the country is less pleasing. You meet there with few or none of those detached farm-houses, with their little dependencies of cottages, which everywhere greet the eye in England, bespeaking the honest and well-conditioned yeoman, and presenting a picture of prosperity and contentment,—the villages through which you pass, mostly wear a decayed and squalid appearance—the magnificent country-seats, with their parks and other appurtenances, whose frequent recurrence in England constitutes so rich a feast for the gaze of the stranger, are rarely rivalled in France—the landscape here, also, is much seldomer able to borrow that venerable grace and romantic charm which the remains of feudal ages alone can lend. This last circumstance is one greatly to be regretted; for perhaps the most exquisite gratification to be derived from travelling through a country, where for centuries civilization in a greater or less degree has exercised sway, arises from the contemplation of the various monuments of by-gone days, some slowly mouldering into dust, others still proudly defying the assaults of the great destroyer. The mind dwells upon them with a species of pensive delight, and that peculiar charm which their association with the fictions and annals of times past inspires. It would seem, that France should be especially rich in the relics of that feudalism of which for a long time it was the chief seat, but a reason for their scantiness may be found in the policy which caused Louis XI., and which was subsequently pursued by Richelieu, and completed by Louis le Grand, to call the nobles from their estates, where they exercised almost sovereign authority, to the capital, and convert them into mere hangers on of the court—in the destructive hostilities which have almost incessantly desolated the kingdom—and especially in the determined war that was made upon castles by the patriots of the Revolution. These, at all events, are the causes which Sir Walter Scott, in his "Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk," assigns for the circumstance we are lamenting. The first one of them had also been previously intimated by that worthy personage, the father of Tristram Shandy,—"Why are there so few palaces and gentlemen's seats, (he would ask with some emotion, as he walked across the room,) throughout so many delicious provinces in France? Whence is it that the few remaining chateaux amongst them are so dismantled, so unfurnished, and in so ruinous and desolate a condition?—Because, sir, (he would say,) in that kingdom no man has any country-interest to support:—the little interest of any kind which any man has anywhere in it, is concentrated in the court, and the looks of the Grand Monarch; by the sunshine of whose countenance, or the clouds which pass across it, every Frenchman lives or dies." This, however, is certainly not the case with Frenchmen of the present day.
But the principal drawback upon the pleasure of travelling in France, is decidedly the multitude of mendicants by whom you are continually annoyed, and whose miserable appearance offends the eye, while it sickens the heart. Scarcely ever does the vehicle stop without being immediately surrounded by the most distressing objects that the mind can conceive, in such numbers as to render it impossible for any one except the possessor of Fortunatus's or Rothschild's purse, to bestow alms, however inconsiderable, upon them all. A humane individual, who should attempt to do it, with a pocket of but moderate dimensions, would soon be reduced to the necessity of enrolling himself in the mendicant band, and crying out with the rest of them, in their peculiar tone, "Donnez un sous, a un pauvre malheureux, pour l'amour de Dieu, et de la Sainte Vierge." "Give a sous to a poor unfortunate, for the love of God and of the Holy Virgin." The crowds of these beggars upon the French roads, lead the stranger to apprehend that in Paris they will swarm to such an extent as to mar in a degree the pleasure of his residence there; he is, however, agreeably disappointed at finding in his perambulations through its streets, that they are completely free from them, in consequence of the admirable regulations of the police. It is worthy of remark, that the reverse of this is the case in England. There the roads and villages rarely afford cause for the tear of compassion, or the exclamation of disgust, elicited by scenes of misery; but in walking about London, one must be made of sterner stuff than was sentimental Yorick, who can avoid endeavouring to repeat "Psha! with an air of carelessness," at almost every step, after being obliged to refuse infinitely stronger claims upon charity than those which were advanced by the poor Franciscan.
We have thus enumerated most of the reasons why travelling in England is preferable to that in France, yet there is one circumstance to be remarked in favour of the latter, which almost counterbalances every consideration of an unfavourable kind. We allude to the facility with which a stranger can make acquaintance with his fellow passengers, in the "gay, smiling land of social mirth and ease." In England he may journey from Plymouth to Berwick without speaking more than ten words to any persons who chance to be his companions in the coach, or hearing ten words spoken by them if they happen not to know each other; but in a French public conveyance, only a short time elapses before all its occupants are as much at ease, and upon as good terms with each other, as if they were familiar acquaintances. Many a pleasant hour have we spent in a diligence, in consequence of the conversations we have fallen into with individuals whom we have there encountered, some of which were of a highly ludicrous character. We shall never forget a series of interrogatories put to us by a loquacious fellow next to whom we were seated in the diligence in going from Rouen to Paris, and who was about as ignorant as he was garrulous. Hearing us say, in answer to a question of another person, that we were from the United States, he asked us how we liked Italy; and on our telling him we had never been there, inquired with a face of great surprise, whether the United States was not on the other side of Italy? After endeavouring to give him an idea of the situation of our country, he asked successively, if we had crossed the ocean in a steam-boat, if the United States belonged to England or to France, and if Philadelphia was not the place where the great revolt of the Negroes took place. But we must return to her Ladyship, with the wish that she would contrive to render her company more agreeable, that we might have less temptation to wander from her at this rate.
With regard to the English furniture of her Ladyship's apartments, and the English confectionaries and perfumeries which gave rise to the memorable adventures we have related above, we may remark that it may have been so ordained by fate that she should light upon one of the very few hotels, one of the very few confectionary shops, and one of the very few perfumery stores in Paris, in which matters are ordered in the English style; but to give us to understand, in consequence, that all the hotels are furnished in the same way, and that bonbons, extraits, &c. are not to be procured, is like the proceeding of the Hon. Frederick de Roos, R. N. who affirms, in his sapient work on the United States, that all the inhabitants in Philadelphia take tea on the steps before their doors in summer evenings, because, forsooth, he saw a family sitting on those of the house in which they lived, in order to enjoy a July twilight.
One of the first things that her Ladyship does on the morning subsequent to her arrival, is to give notice to her friends of that important event,—a gratuitous piece of kindness altogether, as it seems to us, for it must doubtless have been announced by as many portentous signs as accompanied the birth of Owen Glendower. Nevertheless, in order to make assurance doubly sure, she despatched 'cards to some, and notes to others, after the Parisian fashion,' but previously indulged in a very pretty sentimental fit. This was caused by the first name that met her eye as she opened her 'old Paris visiting book for 1818'—that of Denon, "the page, minister, and gentilhomme de la chambre of Louis XV., the friend of Voltaire, the intimate of Napoleon, the traveller and historian of Modern Egypt, the director of the Musee of France," &c. &c., who, we are informed, used always to be so particularly delighted with her Ladyship's visits to Paris, that he was wont to hail them with his hand, and welcome them with a cordial smile. Alas! death had overtaken him, notwithstanding his friendship with Lady Morgan; and she could no longer expect his salutations. "Other hands were now extended, other smiles beamed now as brightly; but his were dimmed for ever!" How kind her Ladyship is! Fearing her readers might be distressed by the idea, that, in consequence of the decease of Denon, she might have been in some want of welcoming, she has taken the precaution of setting them at ease upon that point, by the above ingenious sentence. In mentioning the reasons of her intimacy with Denon, she employs language of a very singular kind, which, if maliciously interpreted to the letter, might subject her to uncomfortable remarks, though we are sure it is nothing but an effusion of gurgling vanity. It is an instance, however, to what a degree that sentiment, when extreme, gets the better of all sense of propriety and decorum. She says, that even if Denon had not been such a person as she describes him, "still, he suited me, I suited him. There was between us that sympathy, in spite of the disparity of years and talents, which, whether in trifles or essentials,—between the frivolous or the profound,—makes the true basis of those ties, so sweet to bind, so bitter to break!" It is well for Sir Charles Morgan's peace of mind, that he is acquainted, as he must be, with his wife's frivolity and egotism. How, indeed, he could have allowed her to come before the world with such phraseology in her mouth, we cannot imagine, unless on the supposition that he is such a husband as La Bruyere has described. "Il ne sert dans sa famille qu' a montrer l'exemple, d'un silence timide et d'une parfaite soumission. Il ne lui est du ni douaire ni conventions; mais a cela pres, et qu'il n'accouche pas, il est la femme, et elle le mari."
After her Ladyship had "shuddered," and "felt as if she was throwing earth upon Denon's grave whilst drawing her pen across his precious and historical name," she spent about half an hour in weeping, "like a fair flower surcharged with dew," over the names of others of her departed friends, Guinguene, Talma, Langlois, Lanjuinais, &c., until she fortunately recollected that the climate of Paris is one that "developes a sensibility prompt, not deep." Lucky thought! She immediately threw down the visiting-book, threw up the window to let in the climate, wiped from her eyes the tears "which parted thence, as pearls from diamonds dropp'd," and began to think of "all that death had left her, of the 'greater still behind,'—of friends, each in his way, a specimen of that genius and virtue, which, in all regions, and in all ages, make the ne plus ultra of human excellence." Admire the delicacy of the method by which Miladi lets us into the secret of her being a ne plus ultra; it is not by a bold assertion, but by a modest inuendo. She keeps company with ne plus ultras—birds of the same feather flock together—ergo, she is a ne plus ultra herself. And so she is, but in her own way. "Il y a malheureusement," observes a French writer of the present day "plus d'une maniere de se rendre celebre,"—"there is, unfortunately, more than one method of becoming celebrated,"—and as this writer is an acquaintance of Lady Morgan, we are half inclined to think he committed that sentence to paper after returning from a visit to her Celebrityship.
We may as well cite here a few more instances of her ingenuity in communicating, obliquely, how distinguished a personage she is,—a quality she possesses in a degree that we do not recollect ever to have seen rivalled. We copy verbatim.
"The other day I dined in the Chaussee d'Antin, in that house where it is always such a privilege to dine; where the wit of the host, like the menus of his table, combines all that is best in French or Irish peculiarity; and where the society is chosen with reference to no other qualities than merit and agreeability."
Speaking of the weekly assemblies at an eminent individual's house, at which she was a constant attendant, she says, they
"Are among the most select and remarkable in Paris. Inaccessible to commonplace mediocrity and pushing pretension, their visitor must be ticketted in some way or another" (by writing a "France," or an "Italy," for instance,) "to obtain a presentation."
With regard to another circle of which she was a large segment, she observes,—
"It is sufficient to have merit, agreeability, or the claims of old acquaintance to belong to it, but, truth to tell, it is still so far exclusive, that what Madame Roland calls l'universelle mediocrite, gains no admission there."
"I happened one night at Gen. La Fayette's to say that I should remain at home on the following morning, and the information brought us a numerous circle of morning visitors; others dropped in by chance, and some by appointment. From twelve till four, my little salon was a congress composed of the representatives of every vocation of arts, letters, science, bon ton," (the Congress of Vienna was nothing to this,) "and philosophy, in which, as in the Italian opera-boxes of Milan and Naples, the comers and goers succeeded each other, as the narrow limits of the space required that the earliest visitor should make room for the last arrival."
We might fill pages with similar specimens of her modesty, but we must proceed.
The notes and cards being all despatched, authentic intelligence is at length diffused throughout Paris of her arrival, and such a commotion is forthwith excited as had never been seen even in that city of commotions, since the time the Giraffe made her entree into it, and said to the gaping multitude, "Mes amis, il n'y a qu'une bete de plus." Perhaps the sensation might be excepted which was created by "Messieurs les Osages," the American deputation whose "France" has not yet, we believe, appeared in either hemisphere. The Rue de Rivoli was instantly crowded with "old friends" and "intimate acquaintances," ne plus ultras included, besides various others anxious for the honour of an introduction, all striving who should get first into the "Hotel de la Terrasse;" and such was the press of visits, dinner-parties, suppers, balls, &c. &c. that for a period her Ladyship could not, as she says, "find leisure to register a single impression for her own amusement, or haply for that of a world, which, it must be allowed, is not very difficult to amuse." In this sentiment we request leave, before going further, to record our unqualified concurrence, and also to state, that we know of no one from whom it could proceed with more propriety and weight than from Miladi. It has been, doubtless, expressed before, by various other book-makers, but never, we feel confident, by one whose career affords fuller evidence of its correctness, or who could adduce more forcible proofs in support of it, should they be required. In such case, the simple fact need only be cited, that "France in 1830" is the work of the same hand which indited "Ida of Athens," some twenty years previous, and which, during that interval, has furnished the world almost annually, with quartos, octavos, or duodecimos.
The accounts that her Ladyship gives of the various festive entertainments of which she partook, constitute the matter of a large number of her pages. If it be true, however, that in order to observe well, one ought to screen one's self from observation, she could have had little opportunity of obtaining acquaintance with the constitution of French society; for, if we believe her own story, there was no social assemblage of any kind to which she went, where she was not the observed of every one, the centre of attraction, the nucleus of excellence. And what information is to be derived from her relation of a ball here, or a soiree there, beyond the very interesting, highly important, and most credible intelligence, that as soon as the announcement of Lady Morgan's name falls upon the ears of the company, everything else is forgotten; a dead silence instantaneously takes place of the conversational hum that before prevailed; all eyes are directed towards the door; LADY MORGAN ENTERS; a buzz of admiration succeeds; she advances with a dignified air towards the hostess, or rather the hostess runs eagerly forward to meet her; she drops a romantic curtesy; she sits down; and thenceforward nothing is thought of by any of the guests but Miladi, and the pearls that fall from her lips. As the French are fond of forming queues, or files, for the purpose of avoiding confusion, when there is any great earnestness among a large collection of persons with regard to any object of curiosity, we can imagine the whole assemblage falling into one as soon as she takes her seat, and thus enjoying, each in turn, the coveted delight.—But we mistake; other information respecting French society is communicated, unwittingly however, by her Ladyship. It is this: that they are as fond of ridicule in 1830, as they were in 1816, and as they have ever been. We have little difficulty in believing, that her Ladyship received a vast deal of attention in Paris; still, we must confess, that it appears to us impossible not to be convinced, from her own story, that it was owing to a very different reason from the one to which it is attributed by her self-love. If there is any feature in the French character peculiarly salient or prominent, it is the love of ridicule. "Take care," said a lady to her son, who was on the eve of departure for his travels, "of the Inquisition at Madrid, of the mob at London, and of ridicule at Paris." Nothing that is at all calculated to excite an ironical smile or a sarcastic remark, escapes a "fasting Monsieur's" observation, and even the greatest virtues and genius, if combined with any quality which can afford matter for a joke, will scarcely prevent their possessor from being made a laughing-stock. Napoleon was so well aware of this propensity of his subjects, that he was prevented by it from placing his own figure in the car which surmounts the triumphal arch erected between the Court of the Tuileries and the Place du Carousal, being apprehensive that the wags would avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded of punning at his expense—le char le tient—le charlatan. What a delectable tit-bit, consequently, for this appetite of the Parisians, must be a darling little philosopher in petticoats, (not quite sexagenary,) who dabbles in all sciences and arts, and is at the same time a pretender to the pretty affectations and hoydenish manners of a youthful belle! Such a person, especially if she possess that happy opinion of herself, which prevents her from having the slightest suspicion that she can be the object of anything but admiration with all, is regarded by them as a legitimate subject for a mystification, which, in our vernacular, means hoax,—elle se prete au ridicule, as they say, she lends herself, as it were, to ridicule; and to be convinced that they know how to take consummate advantage of the loan, it is only necessary to glance over "France in 1830." Every one who does so will, we feel confident, understand in the same manner as ourselves, the meaning of that "brilliant welcome," which Miladi, with so much complacency, informs us she received "in the capital of European intellect." From beginning to end, these volumes afford almost continued specimens of perfection in the art of "quizzing," and may therefore be particularly indicated to such as are anxious to acquire proficiency in that way. We are glad that we have at length discovered a description of persons to whom we can conscientiously recommend the work we are reviewing, as calculated to afford desirable information.
There is another cause, besides this fondness for ridicule, to which the mystification of her Ladyship may be attributed. Whoever is at all acquainted with her writings, must be aware that she pretends to be a great republican, and to entertain a most orthodox horror of royalism and the appendages thereof, and that she has called the royalist party in France all the hard names she could find in the most approved collection of opprobrious epithets. This circumstance, it is easy to imagine, may have excited a slight desire of revenge in the breasts of some of the younger members of that party.
In her very preface, we have an evidence of her having been the victim of as well concerted and admirably conducted a hoax, as was ever played off upon any one—it surpasses that which was put upon poor Malvolio in "Twelfth Night." After making the remark upon which we have already commented, that a second work on France from her pen could "alone be justified by the novelty of its matter, or by the merit of its execution," she says—
"It may serve, however, as an excuse, and an authentication of the attempt, that I was called to the task by some of the most influential organs of public opinion, in that great country. They relied upon my impartiality (for I had proved it, at the expense of proscription abroad, and persecution at home); and, desiring only to be represented as they are, they deemed even my humble talents not wholly inadequate to an enterprise whose first requisite was the honesty that tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
Oh you wicked wags! If the abolition of capital punishment be effected in France, we hope you will be specially excepted as unworthy of mercy for this cruel plot to make Miladi Morgan expose herself thus to the sneers of an ill-natured world. We think we see you in conclave, laughing and joking over an epistle you have just concocted and signed with the names of half a dozen of the leaders of the liberals, in which her Ladyship is earnestly conjured to cross the Irish and the English channels and hasten to Paris, in order to dispel by the effulgence of her intellectual rays, the mists and darkness that the fiend of ultraism had spread over the political horizon. Seriously speaking, we cannot divine any other than this or a similar manner of accounting for her Ladyship's assertion, that "she was called to the task by some of the most influential organs of public opinion in France;"—she would not certainly affirm what she knew to be false, and the idea that she did receive a bona fide request of the above purport from such individuals, is too absurd to command belief for a moment. Would any one in his senses, who is "desirous of being represented as he is," put in requisition the pencil of an artist by which he would be sure to be caricatured?
The "persecution at home," that her Ladyship affects to have suffered, refers, we suppose, to sundry articles in the Quarterly Review and other Journals, in which she was rather roughly handled. We all know, however, what a pleasant thing it is to deem ourselves the objects of persecution, when it does not interfere with our profit—it is a flattering unction we love to lay to the soul, as it seems to augment our importance—and Miladi appears to have been highly delighted with the persecutions she has encountered. She is continually alluding to the attacks of the Quarterly, and whenever an opportunity occurs, favours us with extracts from them, and now and then she slips in some satirical observation concerning herself from the Journal des Debats. The different manner in which she has been treated by the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, is an exemplification of the potent influence which party spirit exercises over those journals. In the latter, one or two of her works have been criticised with overwhelming power, and in a tone and spirit superlatively bitter. In the former, on the contrary, she is spoken of with studied lenity, although the Reviewer is obliged to confess that he is not one of her particular admirers, and seems to be perpetually restraining himself from indulging in the language of raillery and sarcasm. We need hardly add that the political principles which her Ladyship professes to entertain, are the main cause of this discrepancy. For our own part, we conscientiously believe that the English journal has not gone half so far beyond the truth as its Scotch rival has fallen short of it, in their respective strictures. With regard to the republican bursts of Lady Morgan, we cannot help suspecting that there is more affectation and cant in them than sincerity:—she is too anxious to let it be known that she is caressed every where by the ne plus ultras of aristocracy and rank, as well as by those of intellect, and, at the same time, there is too much parade and ostentatious vehemence in her explosions against the royalist party.
As to the other article which her Ladyship says she has received in exchange for her impartiality!—"proscription abroad,"—we feel pretty confident that it exists no where but in her own imagination. There it has, doubtless, been engendered by the malice of some ultra in disguise, who has made her Ladyship believe, that the Emperor of Austria, the Grand Signior, the King of Owyhee, and the other despots of the earth, have forbidden, on pain of racking, roasting, and every kind of torture, the importation of her books into their dominions, lest these should be revolutionized by them forthwith. Heaven defend us! we are very much afraid that Lady Morgan will set this world of ours on fire, somewhere about the time when it comes in contact with the comet. It is not mere supposition on our part that her Ladyship deems herself an object of dread to the Austrian government at least;—read what she says apropos of the entree of its ambassador into a ball-room where she was making all the lamps and candles hide their diminished heads. "When his Austrian excellence was announced, how I started, with all the weight of Aulic proscription on my head! The representative of the long-armed monarch of Hapsburg so near me,—of him, who, could he only once get his fidgetty fingers on my little neck, would give it a twist, that would save his custom-house officers all future trouble of breaking carriages and harassing travellers, in search of the pestilent writings of 'Ladi Morgan.' I did not breathe freely, till his excellency had passed on with his glittering train, into the illumined conservatory, and was lost in a wilderness of flowering shrubs and orange trees." Ought not this ambassador to be recalled for his negligence, his want of loyalty, in not attempting to get his fingers about Miladi's 'little neck,' in order to restore his Imperial master to peace and tranquillity of mind? Poor Francis! still are you doomed to be fidgetty on your throne. We think we see you receiving intelligence of the appearance of this last emanation from Ladi Morgan's untiring pen—a mortal paleness overspreads your face, as Metternich rushes into your presence with terror depicted in his countenance, articulating only "Ladi Morgan, Ladi Morgan," having just obtained himself a knowledge of the dreadful fact from an almost breathless courier—in an agony of suspense you gaze wildly at your faithful counsellor, until he has recovered composure sufficient to unfold to you the whole tale of horror. It is told! The monarch in whose hands are the lives of fifty millions of subjects, lies himself, to all appearance, deprived of existence. But see! he revives—his lips move—what are the words which fall faintly upon the ears of the bewildered attendants who have been called into the apartment by the cries of the prime minister? They are words of malediction, of the same purport as those which Henry II. of England uttered against his servants, for their want of zeal in allowing him to be so long tormented by Thomas a Becket, and which caused that prelate's death. But alas! for your repose, Imperial Caesar, it is not so easy at the present day, as in former times, for de Luces and de Morevilles to gratify the vengeful wishes of their masters, and Lady Morgan yet breathes the breath of life (although it is true she did not do it "freely," according to her own account, while in the vicinity of your ambassador in Paris,) to keep your nervous system in disorder, and for the continued vexation of the rational part of the reading world.
Multifarious are the other instances we might cite of the manner in which her simple Ladyship was mystified by the ironical propensities of some, and the malicious ultraism of others, during her visit to Paris in 1829-30. "There are certain characters," observes M. Jouy, "who may be considered as the scourges of whatever is ridiculous (les fleaux du ridicule;) they discover it under whatever form it may be hid, and pitilessly immolate it with the weapon of irony," and into the hands of persons of this merciless tribe she seems to have been perpetually falling. We must content ourselves, however, with referring to but one example more; a conversation between herself and a young Frenchman, about Romanticism and Classicism, which she has detailed in her first volume. This is a subject, which, as every one must know, has set all Paris by the ears, and attracts almost as much attention there as the overthrow of one dynasty and the creation of another. Lady Morgan, of course, is a thorough-going romantique, and demonstrates the greater excellence of the school of which she deems herself the chief support and brightest ornament, in pretty much the same way as the superiority of modern writers over the ancients used to be proved by the advocates of the former, viz. by two methods, reason and example, the first of which they derived from their own taste, and the second from their own works. At the time she was delivered of her quarto about France in 1810, Paris was still immersed in classical darkness, and it may therefore be fairly inferred that the romantic light with which it has since been illumined, radiated from that same tome. What can be more natural? When she left France, "the word 'Romanticism' was unknown (or nearly so) in the circles of Paris; the writers a la mode, whether ultra or liberal, were, or thought themselves to be, supporters and practisers of the old school of literature;" in the interval of her absence she published a work in which she told the Parisians that Racine was no poet, and gave them other valuable information of the kind, calculated to dispel their classical infatuation:—when she returned, every thing was changed; poets and prosers were vieing with each other in gloriously offending against all rules and canons; Romanticism, in short, was, as she asserts, completely the order of the day. The classical wrath of one man was the source of unnumbered woes to ancient Greece, and why may not the romantic wrath of one woman—a woman too, who keeps autocrats and sultans fidgetty on their thrones, be the cause of a change in the literature of a country? This change, at all events, however it may have been operated, seems to have inspired her with additional courage in her assaults, and additional fury in her anathemas upon the poor French authors whom the ignorant world has hitherto been in the habit of regarding as objects of admiration. She now asserts, in "France in 1829-30," that the whole classic literature of that country is "feeble and unuseful," nay, even fitted to "enervate and degrade;" and in a wonderfully luminous chapter about modern literature, she has shown as clearly as Hudibras could have proved by "force of argument" that "a man's no horse," that Classicism is the ally of despotism, and that it was the policy of arbitrary power to encourage a fondness for the ancient authors!
Fiercely romantic, however, as her Ladyship is, she is mild as a cooing dove in comparison with the male interlocutor in the famous conversation to which we have alluded. This personage completely out-herods Herod; but that he was an ultra in disguise, endeavouring to make her Ladyship write down absurdities, is a conviction which 'fire and water could not drive out of' us;—even she, herself, at one period of the dialogue, can not help doubting whether she "is or is not the subject of what in England is called a hoax, and in France a mystification," and when she doubts upon such a point, it would be extremely difficult for any one else not to deem it a matter of certainty. Had we space sufficient, we should transcribe the whole of this colloquy, as it deserves repetition; but we can only give a small specimen of it for the amusement of our readers. The gentleman having informed Miladi, that Racine, Corneille, and Voltaire, are "dethroned monarchs," and no longer tolerated at the Theatre, she asks him what is to be seen or heard there, to which he answers:—
"'Our great historic dramas, written not in pompous Alexandrines, but in prose, the style of truth, the language of life and nature, and composed boldly, in defiance of Aristotle and Boileau. Their plot may run to any number of acts, and the time to any number of nights, months, or years; or if the author pleases, it may take in a century, or a millennium: and then, for the place, the first scene may be laid in Paris, and the last in Kamschatka. In short, France has recovered her literary liberty, and makes free use of it.'
"'Oui da!' I rejoined, a little bothered, and not knowing well what to say, but still looking very wise, 'In fact, then, you take some of those liberties, that you used to laugh at, in our poor Shakspeare?'
"'Your poor Shakspeare! your divine, immortal Shakspeare, the idol of new France!—you must see him played textuellement at the Francais, and not in the diffuse and feeble parodies of Ducis.'
"'Shakspeare played textuellement at the Francais!" I exclaimed—'O, par exemple!'
"'Yes, certainly. Othello is now in preparation; and Hamlet and Macbeth are stock pieces. But even your Shakspeare was far from the truth, the great truth, that the drama should represent the progress, development, and accomplishment of the natural and moral world, without reference to time or locality. Unknown to himself, his mighty genius was mastered by the fatal prejudices and unnatural restrictions of the perruques of antiquity. Does nature unfold her plots in five acts? or confine her operations to three hours by the parish clock?'
"'Certainly not, Monsieur; but still....'
"'Mais, mais, un moment, chere Miladi. The drama is one great illusion of the senses, founded on facts admitted by the understanding, and presented in real life, past or present. When you give yourself up to believe that Talma was Nero, or Lafont Britannicus, or that the Rue Richelieu is the palace of the Caesars, you admit all that at first appears to outrage possibility. Starting, then, from that point, I see no absurdity in the tragedy, which my friend Albert de S—— says he has written for the express purpose of trying how far the neglect of the unities may be carried. The title and subject of this piece is "the Creation," beginning from Chaos (and what scenery and machinery it will admit!) and ending with the French revolution; the scene, infinite space; and the time, according to the Mosaic account, some 6000 years.'
"'And the protagonist, Monsieur? Surely you don't mean to revive the allegorical personages in the mysteries of the middle ages?'
"'Ah ca! pour le protagoniste, c'est le diable. He is the only contemporaneous person in the universe that we know of, whom in these days of cagoterie we can venture to bring on the stage, and who could be perpetually before the scene, as a protagonist should be. He is particularly suited, by our received ideas of his energy and restlessness, for the principal character. The devil of the German patriarch's Faust is, after all, but a profligate casuist; and the high poetical tone of sublimity of Milton's Satan is no less to be avoided in a delineation that has truth and nature for its inspiration. In short, the devil, the true romantic devil, must speak, as the devil would naturally speak, under the various circumstances in which his immortal ambition and ceaseless malignity may place him. In the first act, he should assume the tone of the fallen hero, which would by no means become him when in corporal possession of a Jewish epileptic, and bargaining for his pis aller in a herd of swine. Then again, as a leader of the army of St. Dominick, he should have a fiercer tone of bigotry, and less political finesse, than as a privy councillor in the cabinet of the Cardinal de Richelieu. At the end of the fourth act, as a guest at the table of Baron Holbach, he may even be witty; while as a minister of police, he should be precisely the devil of the schoolmen, leading his victim into temptation, and triumphing in all the petty artifices and verbal sophistries of a bachelor of the Sorbonne. But as the march of intellect advances, this would by no means be appropriate; and before the play is over, he must by turns imitate the patelinage of a Jesuit a robe courte, the pleading of a procureur general, the splendid bile of a deputy of the cote droit, and should even talk political economy like an article in the 'Globe.' But the author shall read you his piece—'La Creation! drame Historique et Romantique, in six acts, allowing a thousand years to each act. C'est l'homme marquant de son siecle.''
"'But,' said I, 'I shall remain in Paris only a few weeks, and he will never get through it in so short a time.'
"'Pardonnez moi, madame, he will get through it in six nights—the time to be actually occupied by the performance; an act a night, to be distributed among the different theatres in succession, beginning at the Francais and ending at the Ambigu.'"
It is here that her Ladyship begins to doubt whether this romantic gentleman was not hoaxing her, and certes it was time; but 'melt and disperse ye spectre doubts!' an attempt to hoax Lady Morgan, impossible! They do quickly pass away, and the conversation is pursued in the same strain, until "Monsieur de —— one of the conscript fathers of classicism" is announced. No sooner has his name passed the lips of the servant, than the romantic gentleman snatches up his hat, and endeavours to make an exit from the room, in as much consternation as if the "protagonist" himself were about to appear. But Monsieur de —— the classicist, enters before he can escape; "he draws up." The two then "glanced cold looks at each other, bowed formally, and the romanticist retired, roughing his wild locks, and panting like a hero of a tragedy." What a picture! We venture to affirm, however, that had an attentive observer been present, he would have seen something like a wink or a covert glance passing between the two worthies as they enacted the above scene, which might have led him to suspect that they knew each other better than Miladi supposed: it was only on the previous evening, be it stated, on her own authority, that she had made the acquaintance of the romanticist, whom she describes as having "something of an exalte in his air, in his open shirt collar, black head, and wild and melancholy look." The dialogue that ensues with the classicist after the disappearance of the other, is quite as ridiculous as the foregoing one, and quite as well calculated to give her Ladyship a fit of the "doubts," though it does not appear that she suffered by them a second time. We may mention, before leaving this subject, that when the romanticist told her, in the extract we have just made, that Othello was in preparation for the Theatre Francais, he told her truth; but, if we are not very much mistaken, the other piece of information he communicated—that Hamlet and Macbeth are stock-tragedies at that theatre—could only have been related by a gentleman of great fertility of imagination. Othello, we know, was actually performed, and went off tolerably well until the final scene, but then the nerves of the Frenchmen were put to a trial they could not by any possibility endure. The sight of a Moor and an Infidel, endeavouring to smother a lady and a Christian, so completely aroused all the gallant and religious sensibilities of the audience, that shouts of terrible, abominable, resounded from every part of the house, and Monsieur Othello was (theatrically) damned for his wickedness. As far as we know, he never showed his copper-coloured visage again at the Theatre Francais, but contented himself thenceforward with running after poor Desdemona, and stabbing her behind the scene at the opera, where this minor exhibition of cruelty is tolerated in consideration of the roulades, with which he smooths her passage into the other world.