- The Carrier Pigeon
- Chapter I • Charolois and Branchimont
- Chapter II • A Pert Page
- Chapter III • Love’s Messenger
- Chapter IV • A Cruel Dart
- Chapter V • Another Message
- Chapter VI • Flight and Discovery
- Chapter VII • The Dove Returns to Imogene The Consul’s Daughter
- Chapter I • Henrietta
- Chapter II • A Fair Presentment
- Chapter III • The Mysterious Stranger
- Chapter IV • Mr. Ferrers Dines with the Consul
- Chapter V • A Tender Avowal
- Chapter VI • The Famous Lord Bohun
- Chapter VII • More Mystery
- Chapter VIII • A Welcome Message
- Chapter IX • The Mystery Revealed Walstein; Or a Cure for Melancholy
- Chapter I
- Chapter II • Containing Some Future Conversation
- Chapter III • Containing a Drive in the Park with a Very Charming Lady.
- Ibrahim Pasha
- The Court of Egypt
- The Valley of Thebes
- Egyptian Thebes
- Eden and Lebanon
- a Syrian Sketch
- The Bosphorus
- An Interview with a Great Turk
- Munich The Spirit of Whiggism
- Chapter I • Object of the Whigs
- Chapter II • Parliamentary Reform
- Chapter III • The Menace to England
- Chapter IV • The English Constitution
- Chapter V • A True Democracy
- Chapter VI • Results of Whiggism
The Carrier Pigeon
ALTHOUGH the deepest shades of twilight had descended upon the broad bosom of the valley, and the river might almost be recognised only by its rushing sound, the walls and battlements of the castle of Charolois, situate on one of the loftiest heights, still blazed in the reflected radiance of the setting sun, and cast, as it were, a glance of triumph at the opposing castle of Branchimont, that rose on the western side of the valley, with its lofty turrets and its massy keep black and sharply defined against the resplendent heaven.
Deadly was the hereditary feud between the powerful lords of these high places—the Counts of Charolois and the Barons of Branchimont, but the hostility which had been maintained for ages never perhaps raged with more virulence than at this moment; since the only male heir of the house of Charolois had been slain in a tournament by the late Baron of Branchimont, and the distracted father had avenged his irreparable loss in the life-blood of the involuntary murderer of his son.
Yet the pilgrim, who at this serene hour might rest upon his staff and gaze on the surrounding scene, would hardly deem that the darkest passions of our nature had selected this fair and silent spot for the theatre of their havoc.
The sun set; the evening star, quivering and bright, rose over the dark towers of Branchimont; from the opposite bank a musical bell summoned the devout vassals of Charolois to a beautiful shrine, wherein was deposited the heart of their late young lord, and which his father had raised on a small and richly wooded promontory, distant about a mile from his stern hold.
At the first chime on this lovely eve came forth a lovelier maiden from the postern of Charolois—the Lady Imogene, the only remaining child of the bereaved count, attended by her page, bearing her book of prayers. She took her way along the undulating heights until she reached the sanctuary. The altar was illumined; several groups were already kneeling,—faces of fidelity well known to their adored lady; but as she entered, a palmer, with his broad hat drawn over his face, and closely muffled up in his cloak, dipped his hand at the same time with hers in the fount of holy water placed at the entrance of of the shrine, and pressed the beautiful fingers of the Lady Imogene. A blush, unperceived by the kneeling votaries, rose to her cheek; but apparently such was her self-control, or such her deep respect for the hallowed spot, that she exhibited no other symptom of emotion, and, walking to the high altar, was soon buried in her devotions.
The mass was celebrated—the vassals rose and retired. According to her custom, the Lady Imogene yet remained, and knelt before the tomb of her brother. A low whisper, occasionally sounding,-assured her that someone was at the confessional; and soon the palmer, who was now shrived, knelt at her side. ‘Lothair!’ muttered the lady, apparently at her prayers, ‘beloved Lothair, thou art too bold!’
‘Oh, Imogene! for thee what would I not venture?’ was the hushed reply.
‘For the sake of all our hopes, wild though they be, I counsel caution.’
‘Fear naught. The priest, flattered by my confession, is fairly duped. Let me employ this golden moment to urge what I have before entreated. Your father, Imogene, can never be appeased. Fly, then, my beloved! oh, fly!’
‘Oh, my Lothair! it never can be. Alas! whither can we fly?’
‘Sweet love! I pray thee listen:—to Italy. At the court of my cousin, the Duke of Milan, we shall be safe and happy. What care I for Branchimont, and all its fortunes? And for that, my vassals are no traitors. If ever the bright hour arrive when we may return in joy, trust me, sweet love, my flag will still wave on my father’s walls.’
‘Oh, Lothair! why did we meet? Why, meeting, did we not hate each other like our fated race? My heart is distracted. Can this misery be love? Yet I adore thee———’
‘Lady!’ said the page, advancing, ‘the priest approaches.’
The Lady Imogene rose, and crossed herself before the altar.
‘To-morrow, at this hour,’ whispered Lothair.
The Lady Imogene nodded assent, and, leaning on her page, quitted the shrine.
‘DEAREST Lady,’ said the young page, as they returned to the castle, ‘my heart misgives me. As we quitted the shrine, I observed Rufus, the huntsman, slink into the adjoining wood.’ ‘Hah! he is my father’s most devoted instrument: nor is there any bidding which he would hesitate to execute—a most ruthless knave!’
‘And can see like a cat in the dark, too,’ observed young Theodore.
‘I never loved that man, even in my cradle,’ said the Lady Imogene; ‘though he can fawn, too. Did he indeed avoid us?’
‘Indeed I thought so, madam.’
‘Ah! my Theodore, we have no friend but you, and you are but a little page.’
‘I would I were a stout knight, lady, and I would fight for you.’
‘I warrant you,’ said Imogene; ‘you have a bold heart, little Theodore, and a kind one. O holy Virgin. I pray thee guard in all perils my bright-eyed Lothair!’
‘Lord Branchimont is the finest knight I ever set eyes upon,’ said Theodore. ‘I would I were his squire.’
‘Thou shalt be his squire, too, little Theodore, if all goes well.’
‘Oh! glorious day, when I shall wear a sword instead of a scarf! Shall I indeed be his squire, lady sweet?’
‘Indeed I think thou wilt make a very proper squire.’
‘I would I were a knight like Lord Branchimont; as tall as a lance, and as strong as a lion; and such a fine beard too!’
‘It is indeed a beard, Theodore,’ said the Lady Imogene. ‘When wilt thou have one like it?’
‘Another summer, perchance,’ said Theodore, passing his small palm musingly over his smooth chin.
‘Another summer!’ said the Lady Imogene, laughing; ‘why, I may as soon hope to have a beard myself.’
‘I hope you will have Lord Branchimont’s,’ said the page.
‘Amen!’ responded the lady.
THE apprehensions of the little Theodore proved to be too well founded. On the morning after the meeting of Lady Imogene with Lord Branchimont at the shrine of Charolois, she was summoned to the presence of her father, and, after having been loaded with every species of reproach and invective for her clandestine meeting with their hereditary foe, she was confined to a chamber in one of the loftiest towers of the castle, which she was never permitted to quit, except to walk in a long gloomy gallery with an old female servant remarkable for the acerbity of her mind and manners. Her page escaped punishment by flight; and her only resource and amusement was her mandolin.
The tower in which the Lady Imogene was imprisoned sprang out of a steep so precipitous that the position was considered impregnable. She was therefore permitted to open her lattice, which was not even barred. The landscape before her, which was picturesque and richly wooded, consisted of the en-closed chase of Charolois; but her jailers had taken due care that her chamber should not command a view of the castle of Branchimont. The valley and all its moving life were indeed entirely shut out from her. Often the day vanished without a human being appearing in sight. Very unhappy was the Lady Imo-gene, gazing on the silent woods, or pouring forth her passion over her lonely lute.
A miserable week had nearly elapsed. It was noon; the Lady Imogene was seated alone in her chamber, leaning her head upon her hand in thought, and dreaming of her Lothair, when a fluttering noise suddenly roused her, and, looking up, she beheld, to her astonishment, perched on the high back of a chair, a beautiful bird-a pigeon whiter than snow, with an azure beak, and eyes blazing with a thousand shifting tints. Not alarmed was the beautiful bird when the Lady Imogene gently approached it; but it looked up to her with eyes of intelligent tenderness, and flapped with some earnestness its pure and sparkling plume. The Lady Imogene smiled with marvelling pleasure, for the first time since her captivity; and putting forth her hand, which was even whiter than the wing, she patted the bright neck of the glad stranger, and gently stroked its soft plumage.
‘Heaven hath sent me a friend,’ exclaimed the beautiful Imogene; ‘Ah! what—what is this?’
‘Didst thou call, Lady Imogene?’ inquired the harsh voice of acid Martha, whom the exclamation of her mistress had summoned to the door.
‘Nothing—nothing—I want nothing,’ quickly answered Imogene, as she seized the bird with her hand, and, pressing it to her bosom, answered Martha over her shoulder. ‘Did she see thee, my treasure?’ continued the agitated Imogene, ‘Oh! did she see thee, my joy? Methinks we were not discovered.’ So saying, and tripping along on the lightest step imaginable, the captive secured the door; then bringing forth the bird from its sweet shelter, she produced a letter, which she had suddenly detected to be fastened under its left wing, and which she had perceived, in an instant, to be written by Lord Branchimont.
Her sight was dizzy, her cheek pale, her breath seemed to have deserted her. She looked up to heaven, she looked down upon the letter, and then she covered it with a thousand kisses; then, making a vigorous effort to collect herself, she read its strange and sweet contents:—
‘Lothair to Imogene.
‘Soul of my existence! Mignon, in whom you may place implicit trust, has promised me to bear you this sign of my love. Oh, I love you, Imogene! I love you more even than this bird can the beautiful sky! Kiss the dove a thousand times, that I may steal the kisses again from his neck, and catch, even at this distance, your fragrant breath. My beloved, I am planning your freedom and our happiness. Each day Mignon shall come to tell you how we speed; each day shall he bring back some testimony of your fidelity to your own
It was read—it was read with gushing and fast-flowing tears—tears of wild joy. A thousand times, ay, a thousand times, Imogene embraced the faithful Mignon; nor could she indeed have ever again parted with him, had she not remembered that all this time her Lothair was anxiously awaiting the return of his messenger. So she tore a leaf from her tablets and inscribed her devotion; then, fastening it with care under the wing, she bore Mignon to the window, and, bestowing upon him a last embrace, permitted him to extend his beautiful wings and launch into the air.
Bright in the sun glanced the white bird as it darted into the deep-blue sky. Imogene watched it until the sparkling form changed into a dusky shade, and the dusky shade vanished into the blending distance.
IT WAS now a principal object with the fair captive of Charolois, that her unsympathising attendant should enter her chamber as little as possible, and only at seasons when there was no chance of a visit from Mignon. Faithful was the beautiful bird in these daily visits of consolation; and by his assistance, the correspondence with Lothair respecting her escape was actively maintained. A thousand plans were formed by the sanguine lovers-a thousand plans were canvassed, and then decided to be impracticable. One day, Martha was to be bribed; another, young Theodore was to re-enter the castle disguised as a girl, and become, by some contrivance, her attendant; but reflection ever proved that these were as wild as lovers’ plans are wont to be; and another week stole away without anything being settled. Yet this second week was not so desolate as the first. On the contrary, it was full of exciting hope; and each day to hear that Lothair still adored her, and each day to be enabled to breathe back to him her own adoration, solaced the hours of her captivity. But Fate, that will often frown upon the fortunes of true love, decided that this sweet source of consolation should flow on no longer. Rufus, the huntsman, who was ever prowling about, and who at all times had a terribly quick eye for a bird, one day observed the carrier-pigeon sallying forth from the window of the tower. His practised sense instantly assured him that the bird was trained, and he resolved to watch its course.
‘Hah, hah!’ said Rufus, the huntsman, ‘is Branchimont thy dovecot? Methinks, my little rover, thou bearest news I long to read.’
Another and another day passed, and again and again Rufus observed the visits of Mignon; so, taking his cross-bow one fair morning, ere the dew had left the flowers, he wandered forth in the direction of Branchimont. True to his mission, Mignon soon appears, skimming along the sky. Beautiful, beautiful bird! Fond, faithful messenger of love! Who can doubt that thou well comprehendest the kindly purpose of thy consoling visits! Thou bringest joy to the unhappy, and hope to the despairing! She shall kiss thee, bright Mignon! Yes! an embrace from lips sweeter than the scented dawn in which thou revelest, shall repay thee for all thy fidelity! And already the Lady Imogene is at her post, gazing upon the unclouded sky, and straining her beautiful eyes, as it were, to anticipate the slight and gladsome form, whose first presence ever makes her heart tremble with a host of wild and conflicting emotions.
Ah! through the air an arrow from a bow that never erred—an arrow swifter than thy swiftest flight, Mignon, whizzes with fell intent. The snake that darts upon its unconscious prey less fleet and fatal!
It touches thy form—it transfixes thy beautiful breast! Was there no good spirit, then, to save thee, thou hope of the hopeless? Alas, alas! the blood gushes from thy breast, and from thine azure beak! Thy transcendent eye grows dim—all is over! The carrier-pigeon falls to the earth!
A DAY without hearing from Lothair was madness; and, indeed, when hour after heavy hour rolled away without the appearance of Mignon, and the Lady Imogene found herself gazing upon the vanishing twilight, she became nearly frantic with disappointment and terror. While light remained, an indefinite hope maintained her; but when it was indeed night, and nothing but the outline of the surrounding hills was perceptible, she could no longer restrain herself; and, bursting into hysteric tears, she threw herself upon the floor of her chamber. Were they discovered? Had Lothair forgotten her? Wearied with fruitless efforts, had he left her to her miserable, her solitary fate? There was a slight sound—something seemed to have dropped. She looked up. At her side she beheld a letter, which, wrapped round a stone, had been thrown in at the window. She started up in an ecstasy of joy. She cursed herself for doubting for an instant the fidelity of her lover! She tore open the letter; but so great was her emotion that some minutes elapsed before she could decipher its contents. At length she learned that, on the ensuing eve, Lothair and Theodore, disguised as huntsmen of Charolois, would contrive to meet in safety beneath her window, and for the rest she must dare to descend. It was a bold, a very perilous plan. It was the project of desperation. But there are moments in life when desperation becomes success. Nor was the spirit of the Lady Imogene one that would easily quail. Hers was a true woman’s heart; and she could venture everything for love. She examined the steep; she cast a rapid glance at the means of making the descent: her shawls, her clothes, the hangings of her bed—here were resources—here was hope!
Full of these thoughts, some time elapsed before she was struck at the unusual mode in which the communication reached her. Where was Mignon? But the handwriting was the handwriting of Lothair. That she could not mistake. She might, however, have observed that the characters were faint—that the paper had the appearance of being stained or washed; but this she did not observe. She was sanguine—she was confident in the wisdom of Lothair. She knelt before an image of the Virgin, and poured forth her supplications for the success of their enterprise. And then, exhausted by all the agitation of the day, the Lady Imogene sunk into a deep repose.
MORN came at length, but brought no Mignon. ‘He has his reasons,’ answered the Lady Imogene: ‘Lothair is never wrong. And soon, right soon, I hope, we shall need no messenger.’ Oh, what a long, long day was this, the last of her captivity! Will the night never come—that night she had once so much dreaded? Sun, wilt thou never set? There is no longer gladness in thy beams. The shadows, indeed, grow longer, and yet thine orb is as high in heaven as if it were an everlasting noon! The unceasing cry of the birds, once so consoling, now only made her restless. She listened, and she listened, until at length the rosy sky called forth their last thrilling chant, and the star of evening summoned them to roost.
It was twilight: pacing her chamber, and praying to the Virgin, the hours at length stole away. The chimes of the sanctuary told her that it wanted but a quarter of an hour to midnight. Already she had formed a rope of shawls: now she fastened it to the-lattice with all her force. The bell struck twelve, and the Lady Imogene delivered herself to her fate. Slowly and fearfully she descended, long suspended in the air, until her feet at length touched a ledge of rock. Cautiously feeling her footing, she now rested, and looked around her. She had descended about twenty feet. The moon shone bright on the rest of the descent, which was more rugged. It seemed not impracticable—she clambered down.
‘Hist! hist!’ said a familiar voice, ‘all is right, lady—but why did you not answer us?’
‘Ah! Theodore, where is my Lothair?’
‘Lord Branchimont is shaded by the trees—give me thy hand, sweet lady. Courage! all is right; but indeed you should have answered us.’
Imogene de Charolois is in the arms of Lothair de Branchimont.
‘We have no time for embraces,’ said Theodore; ‘the horses are ready. The Virgin be praised, all is right. I would not go through such an eight-and-forty hours again to be dubbed a knight on the spot. Have you Mignon?’
‘Mignon, indeed! he has not visited me these two days.’
‘But my letter,’ said Lothair-’you received it?’
‘It was thrown in at my window,’ said the Lady Imogene.
‘My heart misgives me,’ said little Theodore. ‘Away! there is no time to lose. Hist! I hear footsteps. This way, dear friends. Hist! a shout! Fly! fly! Lord Branchimont, we are betrayed!’
And indeed from all quarters simultaneous sounds now rose, and torches seemed suddenly to wave in all quarters. Imogene clung to the neck of Lothair.
‘We will die together!’ she exclaimed, as she hid her face in his breast.
Lord Branchimont placed himself against a tree, and drew his mighty sword.
‘Seize him!’ shouted a voice, instantly recognised by Imogene; ‘seize the robber!’ shouted her father.
‘At your peril!’ answered Lothair to his surrounding foes.
They stood at bay—an awful group! The father and his murdering minions, alike fearful of encountering Branchimont and slaying their chieftain’s daughter; the red and streaming torches blending with the silver moonlight that fell full upon the fixed countenance of their entrapped victim and the distracted form of his devoted mistress.
There was a dead, still pause. It was broken by the denouncing tone of the father, ‘Cowards! do you fear a single arm? Strike him dead! spare not the traitress!’
But still the vassals would not move; deep as was their feudal devotion, they loved the Lady Imogene, and dared to disobey.
‘Let me, then, teach you your duty!’ exclaimed the exasperated father. He advanced, but a wild shriek arrested his extended sword; and as thus they stood, all alike prepared for combat, yet all motionless, an arrow glanced over the shoulder of the Count and pierced Lord Branchimont to the heart. His sword fell from his grasp, and he died without a groan.
Yes! the same bow that had for ever arrested the airy course of Mignon, had now, as fatally and as suddenly, terminated the career of the master of the carrier-pigeon. Vile Rufus, the huntsman, the murderous aim was thine!
THE bell of the shrine of Charolois is again sounding; but how different its tone from the musical and inspiring chime that summoned the weary vassals to their grateful vespers! The bell of the shrine of Charolois is again sounding. Alas! it tolls a gloomy knell. Oh! valley of sweet waters, still are thy skies as pure as when she wandered by thy banks and mused over her beloved! Still sets thy glowing sun; and quivering and bright, like the ascending soul of a hero, still Hesperus rises from thy dying glory! But she, the maiden fairer than the fairest eve—no more shall her light step trip among the fragrance of its flowers; no more shall her lighter voice emulate the music of thy melodious birds. Oh, yes! she is dead—the beautiful Imogene is dead! Three days of misery heralded her decease. But comfort is there in all things; for the good priest who had often administered consolation to his unhappy mistress over her brother’s tomb, and who knelt by the side of her dying couch, assured many a sorrowful vassal, and many a sympathising pilgrim who loved to listen to the mournful tale, that her death was indeed a beatitude; for he did not doubt, from the distracted expressions that occasionally caught his ear, that the Holy Spirit, in that material form he most loves to honour, to wit, the semblance of a pure white dove, often solaced by his presence the last hours of Imogene de Charolois!
The Consul’s Daughter
AT ONE of the most beautiful ports in the Mediterranean Major Ponsonby held the office of British Consul. The Parliamentary interest of the noble family with which he was connected had obtained for him this office, after serving his country, with no slight distinction, during the glorious war of the Peninsula. Major Ponsonby was a widower, and his family consisted of an only daughter, Henrietta, who was a child of very tender years when he first obtained his appointment, but who had completed her eighteenth year at the period, memorable in her life, which these pages attempt to commemorate. A girl of singular beauty was Henrietta Ponsonby, but not remarkable merely for her beauty. Her father, a very accomplished gentleman, had himself superintended her education with equal care and interest. In their beautiful solitude, for they enjoyed the advantage of very little society save that of those passing travellers who occasionally claimed his protection and hospitality, the chief, and certainly the most engaging pursuit of Major Ponsonby, had been to assist the development of the lively talents of his daughter, and to watch with delight, not unattended with anxiety, the formation of her ardent and imaginative character: he had himself imparted to her a skilful practice in those fine arts in which he himself excelled, and a knowledge of those exquisite languages which he himself not only spoke with facility, but with whose rich and interesting literature he was intimately acquainted. He was careful, also, that, although almost an alien from her native country, she should not be ignorant of the progress of its mind; and no inconsiderable portion of his income had of late years been expended in importing from England the productions of those eminent writers of which we are justly as proud as of the heroes under whose flag he had himself conquered in Portugal and Spain.
The progress of the daughter amply repaid the father for his care, and rewarded him for his solicitude: from the fond child of his affections she had become the cherished companion of his society: her lively fancy and agreeable conversation prevented solitude from degenerating into loneliness: she diffused over their happy home that indefinable charm, that spell of unceasing, yet soothing excitement, with which the constant presence of an amiable, a lovely and accomplished woman can alone imbue existence; without which life, indeed, under any circumstances, is very dreary; and with which life, indeed, under any circumstances, is never desperate.
There were moments, perhaps, when Major Ponsonby, who was not altogether inexperienced in the great world, might sigh, that one so eminently qualified as his daughter to shine even amid its splendour, should be destined to a career so obscure as that which necessarily attended the daughter of a Consul in a distant country. It sometimes cost the father’s heart a pang that his fair and fragrant flower should blush unseen, and waste its perfume even in their lovely wilderness; and then, with all a father’s pride, and under all the influence of that worldly ambition from which men are never free, he would form plans by which she might visit, and visit with advantage, her native country. All the noble cousins were thought over, under whose distinguished patronage she might enter that great and distant world she was so capable of adorning; and more than once he had endeavoured to intimate to Henrietta that it might be better for them both that they should for a season part: but the Consul’s daughter shrunk from these whispers as some beautiful tree from the murmurs of a rising storm. She could not conceive existence without her father—the father under whose breath and sight she had ever lived and flourished—the father to whom she was indebted, not only for existence, but all the attributes that made life so pleasant; her sire, her tutor, her constant company, her dear, dear friend. To part from him, even though but for a season, and to gain splendour, appeared to her pure, yet lively imagination, the most fatal of fortunes; a terrible destiny—an awful dispensation. They had never parted, scarcely for an hour; once, indeed, he had been absent for three days; he had sailed with the fleet on public business to a neighbouring port; he had been obliged to leave his daughter, and the daughter remembered those terrible three days like a frightful dream, the recollection of which made her shudder.
Major Ponsonby had inherited no patrimony—he possessed only the small income derived from his office, and a slender pension, which rewarded many wounds; but, in the pleasant place in which their lot was cast, these moderate means obtained for them not merely the necessaries, but all the luxuries of life. They inhabited in the town a palace worthy of the high, though extinct nobility, whose portraits and statues lined their lofty saloons, and filled their long corridors and graceful galleries; and about three miles from the town, on a gentle ascent facing the ocean, and embowered in groves of orange and olive trees, the fanciful garden enclosed in a thick wall of Indian fig and blooming aloes, was a most delicate casino, rented at a rate for which a garret may not be hired in England; but, indeed, a paradise. Of this pavilion Miss Ponsonby was the mistress; and here she lived amid fruit and flowers, surrounded by her birds: and here she might be often seen at sunset glancing amid its beauties, with an eye as brilliant, and a step as airy, as the bright gazelle that ever glided or bounded at her side.
ONE summer day, when everybody was asleep in the little sultry city where Major Ponsonby, even in his siesta, watched over the interests of British commerce—for it was a city, and was blessed with the holy presence of a bishop—a young Englishman disembarked from an imperial merchant brig just arrived from Otranto, and, according to custom, took his way to the Consul’s house. He was a man of an age apparently verging towards thirty; and, although the native porter, who bore his luggage and directed his path, proved that, as he was accompanied not even by a single servant, he did not share the general reputation of his countrymen for wealth, his appearance to those practised in society was not undistinguished. Tall, slender, and calm, his air, though unaffected, was that of a man not deficient in self-confidence; and whether it were the art of his tailor, or the result of his own good frame, his garb, although remarkably plain, had that indefinable style which we associate with the costume of a man of some mark and breeding.
On arriving at the Consul’s house, he was ushered through a large, dark, cool hall, at the end of which was a magnificent staircase leading to the suite of saloons, into a small apartment on the ground floor fitted up in the English style, which, although it offered the appearance of the library of an English gentleman, was, in fact, the consular office. Dwarf bookcases encircled the room, occasionally crowned by a marble bust, or bronze group. The ample table was covered with papers, and a vacant easy-chair was evidently the consular throne. A portrait of his Britannic majesty figured on the walls of one part of the chamber; and over the mantel was another portrait, which immediately engaged the attention of the traveller, and, indeed, monopolised his observation. He had a very ample opportunity of studying it, for nearly a quarter of an hour elapsed before he was disturbed. It was the full-length portrait of a young lady. She stood on a terrace in a garden, and by her side was a gazelle. Her form was of wonderful symmetry; but although her dress was not English, the expression of her countenance reminded the traveller of the beauties of his native land. The dazzling complexion, the large deep blue eye, the high white forehead, the clustering brown hair, were all northern, but northern of the highest order. She held in her small hand a branch of orange-blossom-the hand was fairer than the flower.
‘Signor Ferrers, I believe,’ said a shrill voice. The traveller started, and turned round. Before him stood a little, parched-up, grinning, bowing Italian, holding in his hand the card that the traveller had sent up to the Consul.
‘My name is Ferrers,’ replied the traveller, slightly bowing, and speaking in a low, sweet tone.
‘Signor Ponsonby is at the casino,’ said the Italian: ‘I have the honour to be the chancellor of the British Consulate.’
It is singular that a mercantile agent should be styled a Consul, and his chief clerk a chancellor.
‘I have the honour to be the chancellor of the British Consulate,’ said the Italian; ‘and I will take the earliest opportunity of informing the Consul of your arrival. From Otranto, I believe? All well, I hope, at Otranto?’
‘I hope so too,’ replied the traveller; ‘and so I believe.’
‘You will be pleased to leave your passport, sir, with me—the Consul will be most happy to see you at the casino: about sunset he will be very happy to see you at the casino. I am sorry that I detained you for a moment, but I was at my siesta. I will take the earliest opportunity of informing the Consul of your arrival; but at present all the consular messengers are taking their siesta; the moment one is awake I shall send him to the casino. May I take the liberty of inquiring whether you have any letters for the Consul?’
‘None,’ replied the traveller.
The chancellor shrugged his shoulders a little, as if he regretted he had been roused from his siesta for a traveller who had not even a letter of introduction, and then turned on his heel to depart.
The traveller took up his hat, hesitated a moment, and then said, ‘Pray, may I inquire of whom this is a portrait?’
‘Certainly,’ replied the chancellor; ‘’tis the Signora Ponsonby.’
IT WAS even upon as ignoble an animal as a Barbary ass, goaded by a dusky little islander almost in a state of nudity, that, an hour before sunset on the day of his arrival, the English traveller approached the casino of the Consul’s daughter, for there a note from Major Ponsonby had invited him to repair, to be introduced to his daughter, and to taste his oranges. The servant who received him led Mr. Ferrers to a very fine plane-tree, under whose spreading branches was arranged a banquet of fruit and flowers, coffee in cups of oriental filigree, and wines of the Levant, cooled in snow. The worthy Consul was smoking his chibouque, and his daughter, as she rose to greet their guest, let her guitar fall upon the turf. The original of the portrait proved that the painter had no need to flatter; and the dignified, yet cordial manner, the radiant smile, and the sweet and thrilling voice with which she welcomed her countryman would have completed the spell, had, indeed, the wanderer been one prepared, or capable of being enchanted. As it was, Mr. Ferrers, while he returned his welcome, with becoming complaisance, exhibited the breeding of a man accustomed to sights of strangeness and of beauty; and, while he expressed his sense of the courtesy of his companions, admired their garden, and extolled the loveliness of the prospect, he did not depart for a moment from that subdued, and even sedate manner, which indicates, the individual whom the world has little left to astonish, and less to enrapture, although, perhaps, much to please. Yet he was fluent in conversation, sensible and polished, and very agreeable. It appeared that he had travelled much, though he was far from boasting of his exploits. He had been long absent from England, had visited Egypt and Arabia, and had sojourned at Damascus. While he refused the pipe, he proved, by his observations on its use, that he was learned in its practice; and he declined his host’s offer of a file of English journals, as he was not interested in their contents. His host was too polished to originate any inquiry which might throw light upon the connections or quality of his guest, and his guest imitated his example. Nothing could be more perfectly well-bred than his whole demeanour—he listened to the major with deference, and he never paid Miss Ponsonby a single compliment: he never even asked her to sing; but the fond father did not omit this attention. Henrietta, in the most unaffected manner, complied with his request, because, as she was in the habit of singing every evening to her father, she saw no reason why he should, on this occasion, be deprived of an amusement to which he was accustomed. As the welcome sea-breeze rose and stirred the flowers and branches, her voice blended with its fresh and fragrant breath. It was a beautiful voice; and the wild and plaintive air in which she indulged, indigenous to their isle, harmonised alike with the picturesque scene and the serene hour. Mr. Ferrers listened with attention, and thanked her for her courtesy. Before they withdrew to the casino he even requested the favour of her repeating the gratification, but in so quiet a manner that most young ladies would have neglected to comply with a wish expressed with so little fervour.
The principal chamber of the casino was adorned with drawings by the Consul’s daughter: they depicted the surrounding scenery, and were executed by the hand of a master. Mr. Ferrers examined them with interest—his observations proved his knowledge, and made them more than suspect his skill. He admitted that he had some slight practice in the fine arts, and offered to lend his portfolio to Miss Ponsonby, if she thought it would amuse her. Upon the subject of scenery he spoke with more animation than on any other topic: his conversation, indeed, teemed with the observations of a fine eye and cultivated taste.
At length he departed, leaving behind him a very favourable impression. Henrietta and her father agreed that he was a most gentlemanlike personage-that he was very clever and very agreeable; and they were glad to know him. The major detailed all the families and all the persons of the name of Ferrers Of whom he had ever heard, and with whom he had been acquainted; and, before he slept, wondered, for the fiftieth time, what Ferrers he was.
THE next morning, Mr. Ferrers sent his portfolio to Miss Ponsonby, to the Consuls house, in the city; and her father called upon him immediately afterwards, to return his original visit, and to request him to dine with them. Mr. Ferrers declined the invitation; but begged to be permitted to pay his respects again at the casino, in the evening. The major, under the circumstances, ventured to press his new acquaintance to comply with their desire; but Mr. Ferrers became immediately very reserved, and the Consul desisted.
Towards sunset, however, mounted on his Barbary ass, Mr. Ferrers again appeared at the gate of the casino, as mild and agreeable as before. They drank their coffee and ate their fruit, chatted and sang, and again repaired to the pavilion. Here they examined the contents of the portfolio:—they were very rich, for it contained drawings of all kinds, and almost of every celebrated place in the vicinity of the Mediterranean shores; Saracenic palaces, Egyptian temples, mosques of Damascus, and fountains of Stamboul. Here was a Bedouin encampment, shaded by a grove of palms; and there a Spanish Señorita, shrouded in her mantilla, glided along the Alameda. There was one circumstance, however, about these drawings, which struck Miss Ponsonby as at least remarkable. It was obvious that some pencil-mark in the corner of each drawing, in all probability containing the name and initials of the artist, had been carefully obliterated.
Among the drawings were several sketches of a yacht, which Mr. Ferrers passed over quickly, and without notice. The Consul, however, who was an honorary member of the yacht club, and interested in every vessel of the squadron that visited the Mediterranean, very naturally inquired of Mr. Ferrers, to whom the schooner in question belonged. Mr. Ferrers seemed rather confused; but at length he said: ‘Oh, they are stupid things: I did not know they were here. The yacht is a yacht of a friend of mine, who was at Cadiz.’
‘Oh, I see the name,’ said the major; ‘“The Kraken.” Why, that is Lord Bohun’s yacht!’
‘The same,’ said Mr. Ferrers, but perfectly composed.
‘Ah! do you know Lord Bohun?’ said Miss Ponsonby. ‘We have often expected him here. I wonder he has never paid us a visit, papa. They say he is the most eccentric person in the world. Is he so?’
‘I never heard much in his favour,’ said Mr. Ferrers. ‘I believe he has made himself a great fool, as most young nobles do.’
‘Well, I have heard very extraordinary things of him,’ said the Consul. ‘He is a great traveller, at all events, which I think a circumstance in every man’s favour.’
‘And then he has been a guerilla chieftain,’ said Miss Ponsonby; ‘and a Bedouin robber, and—I hardly know what else; but Colonel Garth, who was here last summer, told us the most miraculous tales of his lordship.’
‘Affectations!’ said Mr. Ferrers, with a sneer. ‘Bohun, however, has some excuses for his folly: for he was an orphan, I believe, in his cradle.’
‘Is he clever?’ inquired Miss Ponsonby.
‘Colonel Garth is a much better judge than I am,’ replied Mr. Ferrers. ‘I confess I have no taste for guerilla chieftains, or Bedouin robbers. I am not at all romantic.’
And here he attracted her attention to what he called an attempt at a bull-fight; the conversation dropped, and Lord Bohun was forgotten.
A fortnight passed away, and Mr. Ferrers was still a visitant of our Mediterranean isle. His intimacy with the Consul and his daughter remained on the same footing. Every evening he paid them a visit; and every evening, when he had retired, the major and his daughter agreed that he was a most agreeable person, though rather odd; the worthy Consul always adding his regret that he would not dine with him, and his wonder as to what Ferrers he was.
Now, it so happened that it was a royal birthday; and the bishop, and several of the leading persons of the town, had agreed to partake of the hospitality of the British Consul. The major was anxious that Mr. Ferrers should meet them. He discussed this important point with his daughter.
‘My darling, I don’t like to ask him: he really is such a very odd man. The moment you ask him to dinner, he looks as if you had offered him an insult. Shall we send him a formal invitation? I wonder what Ferrers he is? I should be gratified if he would dine with us. Besides, he would see something of our native society here, which is amusing. What shall we do?’
‘I will ask him,’ replied Miss Ponsonby. ‘I don’t think he could refuse me.’
‘I am sure I could not,’ replied the major, smiling.
And so Miss Ponsonby seized an opportunity of telling Mr. Ferrers that she had a favour to ask him. He was more fortunate than he imagined, was his courteous reply.
‘Then you must dine with papa, to-morrow.’
Mr. Ferrers’ brow immediately clouded.
‘Now, do not look so suspicious,’ said Miss Ponsonby. ‘Do you think that ours is an Italian banquet? Is there poison in the dish? Or do you live only on fruit and flowers?’ continued Miss Ponsonby. ‘Do you know,’ she added, with an arch smile, ‘I think you must be a ghoul.’
A sort of smile struggled with a scowl over the haughty countenance of the Englishman.
‘You will come!’ said Miss Ponsonby, most winningly.
‘I have already trespassed too much upon Major Ponsonby’s hospitality,’ muttered Mr. Ferrers; ‘I have no claim to it.’
‘You are our countryman.’
‘The common consequence of being a traveller.’
‘You must come,’ said Miss Ponsonby, with a glance like sunshine.
‘You do with me what you like,’ exclaimed Mr. Ferrers, with animation. ‘Beautiful—weather,’ he concluded.
Mr. Ferrers was therefore their guest; and strange it is to say, that from this day, from some cause, which it is now useless to ascertain, this gentleman became an habitual guest at the Consul’s table; accepting a general invitation without even a frown; and, what is more remarkable, availing himself of it, scarcely with an exception.
Could it be the Consul’s daughter that effected this revolution? Time may perhaps solve this interesting problem. Certainly, whether it were that she was seldom seen to more advantage than when presiding over society; or whether, elate with her triumph, she was particularly pleasing because she was particularly pleased; certainly Henrietta Ponsonby never appeared to greater advantage than she did upon the day of this memorable festival. Mr. Ferrers, when he quitted the house, sauntered to the mole, and gazed upon the moonlight sea.-A dangerous symptom. Yet the eye of Mr. Ferrers had before this been fixed in mute abstraction on many a summer wave, when Dian was in her bower; and this man, cold and inscrutable as he seemed, was learned in woman, and woman’s ways. Shall a Consul’s daughter melt a heart that boasted of being callous, and clear a brow that prided itself upon its clouds?
But if the state of Mr. Ferrers’ heart were doubtful, I must perforce confess that, as time drew on, Henrietta Ponsonby, if she had ventured to inquire, could have little hesitated as to the state of her own feelings. Her companion, her constant companion, for such Mr. Ferrers had now insensibly become, exercised over her an influence, of the power of which she was unconscious,—only because it was unceasing. Had for a moment the excitement of her novel feelings ceased, she would have discovered, with wonder, perhaps with some degree of fear, how changed she had become since the first evening he approached their pleasant casino. And yet Mr. Ferrers was not her lover. No act,—no word of gallantry,—no indication of affection, to her inexperienced sense, ever escaped him. All that he did was, that he sought her society; but, then, there was no other. The only wonder was, that he should remain among them; but, then, he had been everywhere. The vague love of lounging and repose, which ever and anon falls upon men long accustomed to singular activity and strange adventure, sufficiently accounted for his conduct. But, whatever might be his motives, certain it is, that the English stranger dangerously interested the feelings of the Consul’s daughter; and when she thought the time must arrive for his departure, she drove the recollection from her mind with a swiftness which indicated the pang which she experienced by its occurrence. And no marvel either, that the heart of this young and lovely maiden softened at the thought, and in the presence of her companion: no marvel, and no shame, for nature had invested the Englishman with soul-subduing qualities. His elegant person; his tender, yet reserved manners; his experienced, yet ornate mind; the flashes of a brilliant, yet mellowed imagination, which ever and anon would break forth in his conversation: perhaps, too, the air of melancholy, and even of mystery, which enveloped him, were all spells potent in the charm that enchants the heart of woman. And the major, what did he think? The good Consul was puzzled. The confirmed intimacy between his daughter and his guest alike perplexed and pleased him. He certainly never had become acquainted with a man whom he would sooner have preferred for a son-in-law, if he had only known who he was. But two months, and more than two months, had elapsed, and threw no light upon this most necessary point of knowledge. The Consul hesitated as to his conduct. His anxiety almost mastered his good breeding. Now he thought of speaking to Mr. Ferrers, and then to his daughter. There were objections to each line of conduct, and his confidence in Mr. Ferrers was very great, although he did not exactly know who he was: he was decidedly a gentleman; and there was, throughout his conduct and conversation, a tone of such strict propriety; there was so much delicacy, and good feeling, and sound principle, in all he said and did, that the Consul at length resolved, that he had no right to suspect, and no authority to question him. He was just on the point, however, of conferring with his daughter, when the town was suddenly enlivened, and his attention suddenly engrossed, by the arrival of two other English gentlemen.
IT MUST be confessed that Captain Ormsby and Major M’Intyre were two very different sort of men to Mr. Ferrers. Never were two such gay, noisy, pleasant, commonplace persons. They were ‘on leave’ from one of the Mediterranean garrisons, had scampered through Italy, shot red-legged partridges all along the Barbary coast, and even smoked a pipe with the Dey of Algiers. They were intoxicated with all the sights they had seen, and all the scrapes they had encountered, which they styled ‘regular adventures’: and they insisted upon giving everyone a description of what everybody had heard or seen. In consequence of their arrival, Mr. Ferrers discontinued dining with his accustomed host; and resumed his old habit of riding up to the casino, every evening, on his Barbary ass, to eat oranges and talk to the Consul’s daughter.
‘I suppose you know Florence, Mr. Ferrers?’ said Major M’Intyre.
Mr. Ferrers bowed.
‘St. Peter’s, of course, you have seen?’ said Captain Ormsby.
‘But have you seen it during Holy Week?’ said the major. ‘That’s the thing.’
‘Ah, I see you have been everywhere,’ said the captain: ‘Algiers, of course?’
‘I never was at Algiers,’ replied Mr. Ferrers, quite rejoiced at the circumstance; and he walked away, and played with the gazelle.
‘By Jove,’ said the major, with elevated eyes, ‘not been at Algiers! why, Mr. Consul, I thought you said Mr. Ferrers was a very great traveller indeed; and he has not been at Algiers! I consider Algiers more worth seeing than any place we ever visited. Don’t you, Ormsby?’
The Consul inquired whether he had met any compatriots at that famous place. The military travellers answered that they had not; but that Lord Bohun’s yacht was there; and they understood his lordship was about to proceed to this island. The conversation for some time then dwelt upon Lord Bohun, and his adventures, eccentricities, and wealth. But Captain Ormsby finally pronounced ‘Bohun a devilish good fellow.’
‘Do you know Lord Bohun?’ inquired Mr. Ferrers.
‘Why, no!’ confessed Captain Ormsby: ‘but he is a devilish intimate friend of a devilish intimate friend of mine.’
Mr. Ferrers made a sign to Miss Ponsonby; she rose, and followed him into the garden. ‘I cannot endure the jabber of these men,’ said Mr. Ferrers.
‘They are very good-natured,’ said Miss Ponsonby.
‘It may be so; and I have no right to criticise them. I dare say they think me very dull. However, it appears you will have Lord Bohun here in a short time, and then I shall be forgotten.’
‘That is not a very kind speech. You would not be forgotten, even if absent; and you have, I hope, no thought of quitting us.’
‘I have remained here too long. Besides, I have no wish to play a second part to Lord Bohun.’
‘Who thinks of Lord Bohun? and why should you play a second part to anyone? You are a little perverse, Mr. Ferrers.’
‘I have been in this island ten weeks,’ said Mr. Ferrers, thoughtfully.
‘When we begin to count time, we are generally weary,’ said Miss Ponsonby.
‘You are in error. I would willingly compound that the rest of my existence should be as happy as the last ten weeks. They have been very happy,’ said Mr. Ferrers, musingly; ‘very happy, indeed. The only happy time I ever knew. They have been so serene, and so sweet.’
‘And why not remain, then?’ said Miss Ponsonby, in a low voice.
‘There are many reasons,’ said Mr. Ferrers; and he offered his arm to Miss Ponsonby, and they walked together, far away from the casino. ‘These ten weeks have been so serene, and so sweet,’ he continued, but in a calm voice, ‘because you have been my companion. My life has taken its colour from your character. Now, listen to me, dearest Miss Ponsonby, and be not alarmed. I love you!’
Her arm trembled in his.
‘Yes, I love you; and, believe me, I use that word with no common feeling. It describes the entire devotion of my existence to your life; and my complete sympathy with every attribute of your nature. Calm as may be my speech, I love you with a burning heart.’
She bowed her head, and covered her face with her right hand.
‘Most beauteous lady,’ continued Mr. Ferrers, ‘pardon me if I agitate you; for my respect is equal to my love. I stand before you a stranger, utterly unknown; and I am so circumstanced that it is not in my power, even at this moment, to offer any explanation of my equivocal position. Yet, whatever I may be, I offer my existence, and all its accidents, good or bad, in homage to your heart. May I indulge the delicious hope that, if not now accepted, they are at least considered with kindliness and without suspicion?’
‘Oh, yes! without suspicion,’ murmured Miss Ponsonby—‘without suspicion. Nothing, nothing in the world shall ever make me believe that you are not so good as you are———gifted.’
‘Darling Henrietta!’ exclaimed Mr. Ferrers, in a voice of melting tenderness; and he pressed her to his heart, and sealed his love upon her lips. ‘This, this is confidence; this, this is the woman’s love I long have sighed for. Doubt me not, dearest; never doubt me! Say you are mine; once more pledge yourself to me. I leave our isle this night. Nay, start not, sweet one. ‘Tis for our happiness; this night. I shall return to claim my bride. Now, listen, darling! our engagement, our sweet and solemn engagement, is secret. You will never hear from me until we meet again; you may hear of me and not to my advantage. What matter? You love me; you cannot doubt me. I leave with you my honour: an honour never sullied. Mind that. Oh no, you cannot doubt me!’
‘I am yours: I care not what they say: if there be no faith and truth in you, I will despair of them for ever.’
‘Beautiful being! you make me mad with joy. Has fate reserved for me, indeed, this treasure? Am I at length loved, and loved only for myself!’
He has gone; Mr. Ferrers has departed. What an event! What a marvellous event! A revolution has occurred in the life of Henrietta Ponsonby: she was no longer her own mistress; she was no longer her father’s child. She belonged to another; and that other a stranger, an unknown, and departed being! How strange! And yet how sweet! This beautiful young lady passed her days in pondering over her singular position. In vain she attempted to struggle with her destiny. In vain she depicted to herself the error, perhaps the madness, of her conduct. She was fascinated. She could not reason; she could not communicate to her father all that had happened. A thousand times her lips moved to reveal her secret; a thousand times an irresistible power restrained them. She remained silent, moody, and restless: she plucked flowers, and threw them to the wind: she gazed upon the sea, and watched the birds in abstraction wilder than their wing: and yet she would not doubt her betrothed. That voice so sweet and solemn, and so sincere, still lingered in her ear: the gaze of that pure and lofty brow was engraven on her memory: never could she forget those delicate adieus!
This change in his daughter was not unmarked by the Consul, who, after some reflection, could not hesitate in considering it as the result of the departure of Mr. Ferrers. The thought made him mournful. It pained his noble nature, that the guest whom he so respected might have trifled with the affections of the child whom he so loved. He spoke to the maiden; but the maiden said she was happy. And, indeed, her conduct gave evidence of restlessness rather than misery; for her heart seemed sometimes exuberantly gay; often did she smile, and ever did she sing. The Consul was conscious there was a mystery he could not fathom. It is bitter for a father at all times to feel that his child is unhappy; but doubly bitter is the pang when he feels that the cause is secret.
Three months, three heavy months passed away, and the cloud still rested on this once happy home. Suddenly Lord Bohun arrived, the much talked-of Lord Bohun, in his more talked-of yacht. The bustle which the arrival of this celebrated personage occasioned in the consular establishment was a diversion from the reserve, or the gloom, which had so long prevailed there. Lord Bohun was a young, agreeable, and somewhat affected individual. He had a German chasseur and a Greek page. He was very luxurious, and rather troublesome; but infinitely amusing, both to the Consul and his daughter. He dined with them every day, and recounted his extraordinary adventures with considerable self-complacency. In the course of the week he scampered over every part of the island; and gave a magnificent entertainment on board the Kraken, to the bishop and the principal islanders, in honour of the Consul’s daughter. Indeed it was soon very evident that his lordship entertained feelings of no ordinary admiration for his hostess. He paid her on all occasions the most marked attention; and the Consul, who did not for a moment believe that these attentions indicated other than the transient feelings that became a lord, and so adventurous a lord, began to fear that his inexperienced Henrietta might again become the victim of the fugitive admiration of a traveller.
One evening at the casino, his lordship noticed a drawing of his own yacht, and started. The Consul explained to him, that the drawing had been copied by his daughter from a sketch by an English traveller, who preceded him. His name was inquired, and given.
‘Ferrers!’ exclaimed his lordship. ‘What, has Ferrers been here?’
‘You know Mr. Ferrers, then?’ inquired Henrietta, with suppressed agitation.
‘Oh yes, I know Ferrers.’
‘A most agreeable and gentleman-like man,’ said the Consul, anxious, he knew not why, that the conversation would cease.
‘Oh yes, Ferrers is a very agreeable man. He piques himself on being agreeable,—Mr. Ferrers.’
‘From what I have observed of Mr. Ferrers,’ said Henrietta, in a firm, and rather decided tone, ‘I should not have given him credit for any sentiment approaching to conceit.’
‘He is fortunate in having such a defender,’ said his lordship, bowing gallantly.
‘Our friends are scarcely worth possessing,’ said Miss Ponsonby, ‘unless they defend us when absent. But I am not aware that Mr. Ferrers needs any defence.’
His lordship turned on his heel, and hummed an opera air.
‘Mr. Ferrers paid us a long visit,’ said the Consul, who was now desirous that the conversation should proceed.
‘He had evidently a great inducement,’ said Lord Bohun. ‘I wonder he ever departed.’
‘He is a great favourite in this house,’ said Miss Ponsonby.
‘I perceive it,’ said Lord Bohun.
‘What Ferrers is he?’ inquired the Consul.
‘Oh, he has gentle blood in his veins,’ said Lord Bohun. ‘I never heard his breeding impeached.’
‘And I should think, nothing else,’ said Miss Ponsonby.
‘Oh, I never heard anything particular against Ferrers,’ said his lordship; ‘except that he was a roué, and a little mad. That is all.’
‘Enough, I should think,’ said Major Ponsonby, with a clouded brow.
‘What a roué may be, I can scarcely be supposed to judge,’ said Henrietta. ‘If, however, it be a man remarkable for the delicacy of his thoughts and conduct, Mr. Ferrers has certainly some claim to the title. As for his madness, he was our constant companion for nearly three months: if he be mad, it must be a very little indeed.’
‘He was a great favourite of Henrietta,’ said her father, with a forced smile.
‘Fortunate man!’ said the lord. ‘Fortunate Ferrers!’
Lord Bohun stepped into the garden with the Consul: Miss Ponsonby was left alone. Firm as had been her previous demeanour, now, that she was alone, her agitated countenance denoted the tumult of her mind. A roué! Could it be so! Could it be possible! Was she, while she had pledged the freshness of her virgin mind to this unknown man, was she, after all, only a fresh sacrifice to his insatiable vanity! Ferrers a roué! That lofty-minded man, who spoke so eloquently and so wisely, was he a roué, an eccentric roué; one whose unprincipled conduct could only be excused at the expense of the soundness of his intellect? She could not credit it; she would not credit it: and yet his conduct had been so strange, so mysterious, so unnecessarily mysterious: and then she recollected his last dark-muttered words: ‘You may hear of me, and not to my advantage.’ Oh, what a prophecy! And from him she had never heard. He had, at least, kept this sad promise. Very sorrowful was the Consul’s daughter. And then she bethought herself of his pledge, and his honour that had been never sullied. She buried her face in her hands,—she conjured up to her recollection all that had happened since his arrival, perhaps his fatal arrival, in their island; all he had said and done, and seemed to think. She would not doubt him. It was madness for a moment to doubt him. No desolation seemed so complete, no misery so full of anguish, as such suspicion: she could not doubt him; all her happiness was hope. A gentle touch roused her. It was her gazelle; the gazelle that he had so loved. She caressed it, she caressed it for his sake: she arose and joined her father and Lord Bohun in the garden, if not light-hearted, at least serene.
THERE must have been something peculiarly captivating in the air of our island; for Lord Bohun, who, according to his own account, had never remained in any place a week in the whole course of his life, exhibited no inclination to quit the city where Major Ponsonby presided over the interests of our commerce. He had remained there nearly a month, made himself very agreeable, and, on the whole, was a welcome guest, certainly with the Consul, if not with the Consul’s daughter. As for the name of Mr. Ferrers, it occasionally occurred in conversation. Henrietta piqued herself upon the unsuspected inquiries which she carried on respecting her absent friend. She, however, did not succeed in eliciting much information. Lord Bohun was so vague, that it was impossible to annex a precise idea to anything he ever uttered. Whether Ferrers were rich or poor, really of good family, or, as she sometimes thought, of disgraceful lineage; when and where Lord Bohun and himself had been fellow-travellers—all was alike obscure and shadowy. Not that her noble guest was inattentive to her inquiries; on the contrary, he almost annoyed her by his constant devotion: she was almost, indeed, inclined to resent his singularly marked expressions of admiration as an insult; when, to her utter astonishment, one morning her father astounded her by an announcement that Lord Bohun had done her the honour of offering her his hand and heart. The beautiful Henrietta was in great perplexity. It was due to Lord Bohun to reject his flattering proposal without reservation: it was difficult, almost impossible, to convince her father of the expediency of such a proceeding. There was in the proposal of Lord Bohun every circumstance which could gratify Major Ponsonby. In the wildest dreams of his paternal ambition, his hopes had never soared higher than the possession of such a son-in-law: high born, high rank, splendid fortune, and accomplished youth, were combined in the individual whom some favouring destiny, it would seem, had wafted to this distant and obscure isle to offer his vows to its accomplished mistress. That his daughter might hesitate, on so brief an acquaintance, to unite her eternal lot in life with a comparative stranger, was what he had in some degree, anticipated; but that she should unhesitatingly and unreservedly decline the proposal, was conduct for which he was totally unprepared. He was disappointed and mortified—for the first time in his life he was angry with his child. It is strange that Lord Bohun, who had required a deputy to make, a proposition which, of all others, the most becomes and most requires a principal, should, when his fate was decided, have requested a personal interview with Miss Ponsonby. It was a favour which she could not refuse, for her father required her to grant it. She accordingly prepared herself for a repetition of the proposal from lips, doubtless unaccustomed to sue in vain. It was otherwise: never had Lord Bohun conducted himself in a more kind and unaffected manner than during this interview: it pained Miss Ponsonby to think she had pained one who was in reality so amiable: she was glad, however, to observe that he did not appear very much moved or annoyed. Lord Bohun expressed his gratitude for the agreeable hours he had spent in her society; and then most delicately ventured to inquire whether time might, perhaps, influence Miss Ponsonby’s determination. And when he had received her most courteous, though hopeless answer, he only expressed his wishes for her future happiness, which he could not doubt.
‘I feel,’ said Lord Bohun, as he was about to depart; ‘I feel,’ he said, in a very hesitating voice, ‘I am taking a great, an unwarrantable liberty; but believe me, dear Miss Ponsonby, the inquiry, if I could venture to make it, is inspired by the sincerest desire for your welfare.
Speak with freedom, Lord Bohun; you will ever, I am sure, speak with kindness.’
‘I would not willingly despair then, unless I believed that heart were engaged to another.’
Miss Ponsonby bent down and plucked a flower, and, her brow covered with blushes, with an agitated hand tore the flower to pieces.
‘Is this a fair inquiry?’ she murmured. ‘It is for your sake I inquire,’ answered Lord Bohun.
Now an irresistible conviction came over her mind that Lord Bohun was thinking of Ferrers, and a desire on her part as strong to learn at length something of her mysterious lover.
‘What, indeed, if I be not mistress of my heart?’ She spoke without raising her head.
‘In that case I will believe that it belongs to one worthy of such a treasure.’
‘You speak of Edmund Ferrers?’ said Miss Ponsonby.
‘You know him?’ she inquired, in a choking voice.
‘I know and honour him. I have long believed that the world did not boast a man more gifted; now I know that it does not possess a man more blessed.’
‘Shall you see him?’ she inquired in a quick tone.
‘Probably you will see him first; I am sufficiently acquainted with his movements to know that he will soon be here. This Greek boy whom you have sometimes noticed is his page; I wish him to join his master again; and methinks the readiest way will be to leave him in this isle. Here, Spiridion, bow to your new mistress, and be dutiful for her sake, as well as that of your lord’s. Adieu! dearest Miss Ponsonby!’
THIS strange conversation with Lord Bohun at parting, was not without a certain wild, but not unpleasing influence over the mind of Henrietta Ponsonby. Much as it at first had agitated her, its result, as she often mused over it, was far from being without solace. It was consoling, indeed, to know that one person, at least, honoured that being in whom she had so implicitly relied: Lord Bohun, also, had before spoken of Ferrers in a very different tone; but she felt confidence in the unusual seriousness of his last communication; and with satisfaction contrasted it with the heedlessness, or the levity, of his former intimations. Here, too, was the page of Ferrers, at her side—the beautiful and bright-eyed Spiridion. How strange it was! how very strange! Her simple life had suddenly become like some shifting fairy-tale; but love, indeed, is a fairy, and full of marvels and magic—it changes all things; and the quietest domestic hearth, when shadowed by its wing, becomes as rife with wonders and adventure as if it were the passionate theatre of some old romance. Yes! the bright-eyed Greek page of her mysterious and absent lover was at her side-but then he spoke only Greek. In vain she tried to make him comprehend how much she desired to have tidings of his master. The graceful mute could only indulge in airy pantomime, point to the skies and ocean, or press his hand to his heart in token of fidelity. Henrietta amused herself in teaching Spiridion Italian, and repaid herself for all her trouble in occasionally obtaining some slight information of her friend. In time she learned that Ferrers was in Italy, and had seen Lord Bohun before the departure of that nobleman. In answer to her anxious and often-repeated inquiries whether he would soon return, Spiridion was constant to his consoling affirmative. Never was such a sedulous mistress of languages as Henrietta Ponsonby. She learned, also, that an Albanian scarf, which the page wore round his waist, had been given him by his master when Spiridion quitted him; and Henrietta instantly obtained the scarf for a Barbary shawl of uncommon splendour.
Now, it happened one afternoon towards sunset, as the Greek page, rambling, as was his custom, over the neighbouring heights, beheld below the spreading fort, the neighbouring straits, and the distant sea, that a vessel appeared in sight, and soon entered the harbour. It was an English vessel—it was the yacht of Lord Bohun. The page started and watched the vessel with a fixed and earnest gaze; soon he observed the British Consul in his boat row to the side of the vessel, and also immediately return. At that moment the yacht hoisted a signal—upon a white ground a crimson heart—whereupon Spiridion, drawing from his breast a letter, kissed it twice, and bounded away.
He bounded away towards the city, and scarcely slackened his pace until he arrived at the Consul’s mansion—he rushed in, dashed up the staircase, and entered the saloons. At the window of one, gazing on the sunset, was Henrietta Ponsonby—her gaze was serious, but her beautiful countenance was rather tinged by melancholy than touched by gloom—pensive, not sorrowful. By her side lay her guitar, still echoing, as it were, with her touch; and near it the Albanian scarf, on which she had embroidered the name of her beloved. Of him, then, were her gentle musings? Who can doubt it? Her gentle musings were of him whom she had loved with such unexampled trust. Fond, beautiful, confiding maiden! It was the strength of thy mind as much as the simplicity of thy heart that rendered thee so faithful and so firm! Who would not envy thy unknown adorer? Can he be false? Suspicion is for weak minds and cold-blooded spirits. Thou never didst doubt; and thou wast just, for, behold, he is true!
A fluttering sound roused her—she turned her head, and expected to see her gazelle: it was Spiridion; his face was wreathed with smiles as he held towards her a letter. She seized it—she recognised in an instant the handwriting she had so often studied—it was his! Yes! it was his. It was the handwriting of her beloved. Her face was pale, her hand trembled; a cloud moved before her vision; yet at length she read, and she read these words:—
‘If, as I hope, and as I believe, you are faithful to those vows which since my departure have been my only consolation, you will meet me to-morrow, two hours before noon, in our garden. I come to claim my bride; but until my lips have expressed to you how much I adore you, let nothing be known to our father.’
MY DEAREST Henrietta,’ said the Consul as he entered, ‘who, think you, has returned? Lord Bohun.’
‘Indeed!’ said Henrietta. ‘Have you seen him?’ ‘No. I paid my respects to him immediately, but he was unwell. He breakfasts with us to-morrow, at ten.’
The morrow came, but ten o’clock brought no Lord Bohun; and even eleven sounded: the Consul sought his daughter to consult her—he was surprised to learn that Miss Ponsonby had not returned from her early ramble. At this moment a messenger arrived from the yacht to say that, from some error, Lord Bohun had repaired to the casino, where he awaited the Consul. The major mounted his barb, and soon reached the pavilion. As he entered the garden, he beheld, in the distance, his daughter and—Mr. Ferrers. He was, indeed, surprised. It appeared that Henrietta was about to run forward to him; but her companion checked her, and she disappeared down a neighbouring walk. Mr. Ferrers advanced, and saluted her father—
‘You are surprised to see me, my dear sir?’
‘I am surprised, but most happy. You came, of course, with Lord Bohun?’
Mr. Ferrers bowed.
‘I am very desirous of having some conversation with you, my dear Major Ponsonby,’ continued Mr. Ferrers.
‘I am ever at your service, my dearest sir, but at the present moment I must go and greet his lordship.’
‘Oh, never mind Bohun,’ said Mr. Ferrers, carelessly. ‘I have no ceremony with him—he can wait.’
The major was a little perplexed.
‘You must know, my dearest sir,’ continued Mr. Ferrers, ‘that I wish to speak to you on a subject in which my happiness is entirely concerned.’
‘Proceed, sir,’ said the Consul, looking still more puzzled.
‘You can scarcely be astonished, my dearest sir, that I should admire your daughter.’
The Consul bowed.
‘Indeed,’ said Mr. Ferrers; ‘it seems to me impossible to know her and not admire: I should say, adore her.’
‘You flatter a father’s feelings,’ said the Consul.
‘I express my own,’ replied Mr. Ferrers. ‘I love her—I have long loved her devotedly.’
‘Hem!’ said Major Ponsonby.
‘I feel,’ continued Mr. Ferrers, ‘that there is a great deal to apologise for in my conduct, towards both you and herself: I feel that my conduct may, in some degree, be considered even unpardonable: I will not say that the end justifies the means, Major Ponsonby, but my end was, at least, a great, and, I am sure a virtuous one.’
‘I do not clearly comprehend you, Mr. Ferrers.’
‘It is some consolation to me,’ continued that gentleman, ‘that the daughter has pardoned me; now let me indulge the delightful hope that I may be as successful with the father.’
‘I will, at least, listen with patience, to you, Mr. Ferrers; but I must own your meaning is not very evident to me: let me, at least, go and shake hands with Lord Bohun.’
‘I will answer for Lord Bohun excusing your momentary neglect. Pray, my dear sir, listen to me. I wish to make you acquainted, Major Ponsonby, with the feelings which influenced me when I first landed on this island. This knowledge is necessary for my justification.’
‘But what is there to justify?’ inquired the major.
‘Conceive a man born to a great fortune,’ continued Mr. Ferrers, without noticing the interruption, ‘and to some accidents of life, which many esteem above fortune; a station as eminent as his wealth—conceive this man master of his destiny from his boyhood, and early experienced in that great world with which you are not unacquainted—conceive him with a heart, gifted, perhaps, with too dangerous a sensibility; the dupe and the victim of all whom he encounters—conceive him, in disgust, flying from the world that had deceived him, and divesting himself of those accidents of existence which, however envied by others, appeared to his morbid imagination the essential causes of his misery—conceive this man, unknown and obscure, sighing to be valued for those qualities of which fortune could not deprive him, and to be loved only for his own sake—a miserable man, sir!’
‘It would seem so,’ said the Consul.
‘Now, then, for a moment imagine this man apparently in possession of all for which he had so long panted; he is loved, he is loved for himself, and loved by a being surpassing the brightest dream of his purest youth: yet the remembrance of the past poisons, even now, his joy. He is haunted by the suspicion that the affection, even of this being, is less the result of his own qualities, than of her inexperience of life—he has everything at stake—he dares to submit her devotion to the sharpest trial—he quits her without withdrawing the dark curtain with which he had enveloped himself—he quits her with the distinct understanding that she shall not even hear from him until he thinks fit to return; and entangles her pure mind, for the first time, in a secret from the parent whom she adores. He is careful, in the meanwhile, that his name shall be traduced in her presence—that the proudest fortune, the loftiest rank, shall be offered for her acceptance, if she only will renounce him, and the dim hope of his return. A terrible trial, Major Ponsonby!’
‘Indeed, most terrible.’
‘But she is true—truer even than truth—and I have come back to claim my unrivalled bride. Can you pardon me? Can you sympathise with me?’
‘I speak, then——-’ murmured the astounded Consul—
‘To your son, with your permission-to Lord Bohun!’
Walstein; Or a Cure for Melancholy
A Philosophical Conversation between a Physician and
DR. DE SCHULEMBOURG was the most eminent physician in Dresden. He was not only a physician; he was a philosopher. He studied the idiosyncrasy of his patients, and was aware of the fine and secret connection between medicine and morals. One morning Dr. de Schulembourg was summoned to Walstein. The physician looked forward to the interview with his patient with some degree of interest. He had often heard of Walstein, but had never yet met that gentleman, who had only recently returned from his travels, and who had been absent from his country for several years.
When Dr. de Schulembourg arrived at the house of Walstein, he was admitted into a circular hall containing the busts of the Caesars, and ascending a double staircase of noble proportion, was ushered into a magnificent gallery. Copies in marble of the most celebrated ancient statues were ranged on each side of this gallery. Above them were suspended many beautiful Italian and Spanish pictures, and between them were dwarf bookcases full of tall volumes in sumptuous bindings, and crowned with Etruscan vases and rare bronzes. Schulembourg, who was a man of taste, looked around him with great satisfaction. And while he was gazing on a group of diaphanous cherubim, by Murillo, an artist of whom he had heard much and knew little, his arm was gently touched, and turning round, Schulembourg beheld his patient, a man past the prime of youth, but of very distinguished appearance, and with a very frank and graceful manner. ‘I hope you will pardon me, my dear sir, for permitting you to be a moment alone,’ said Walstein, with an ingratiating smile.
‘Solitude, in such a scene, is not very wearisome,’ replied the physician. ‘There are great changes in-this mansion since the time of your father, Mr. Walstein.’
‘’Tis an attempt to achieve that which we are all sighing for,’ replied Walstein, ‘the Ideal. But for myself, although I assure you not a pococurante, I cannot help thinking there is no slight dash of the commonplace.’
‘Which is a necessary ingredient of all that is excellent,’ replied Schulembourg.
Walstein shrugged his shoulders, and then invited the physician to be seated. ‘I wish to consult you, Dr. Schulembourg,’ he observed, somewhat abruptly. ‘My metaphysical opinions induce me to believe that a physician is the only philosopher. I am perplexed by my own case. I am in excellent health, my appetite is good, my digestion perfect. My temperament I have ever considered to be of a very sanguine character. I have nothing upon my mind. I am in very easy circumstances. Hitherto I have only committed blunders in life and never crimes. Nevertheless, I have, of late, become the victim of a deep and inscrutable melancholy, which I can ascribe to no cause, and can divert by no resource. Can you throw any light upon my dark feelings? Can you remove them?’
‘How long have you experienced them?’ inquired the physician.
‘More or less ever since my return,’ replied Walstein; ‘but most grievously during the last three months.’
‘Are you in love?’ inquired Schulembourg.
‘Certainly not,’ replied Walstein, ‘and I fear I never shall be.’
‘You have been?’ inquired the physician.
‘I have had some fancies, perhaps too many,’ answered the patient; ‘but youth deludes itself. My idea of a heroine has never been realised, and, in all probability, never will be.’
‘Besides an idea of a heroine,’ said Schulembourg, ‘you have also, if I mistake not, an idea of a hero?’
‘Without doubt,’ replied Walstein. ‘I have preconceived for myself a character which I have never achieved.’
‘Yet, if you have never met a heroine nearer your ideal than your hero, why should you complain?’ rejoined Schulembourg.
‘There are moments when my vanity completes my own portrait,’ said Walstein.
‘And there are moments when our imagination completes the portrait of our mistress,’ rejoined Schulembourg.
‘You reason,’ said Walstein. ‘I was myself once fond of reasoning, but the greater my experience, the more I have become convinced that man is not a rational animal. He is only truly good or great when he acts from passion.’
‘Passion is the ship, and reason is the rudder,’ observed Schulembourg.
‘And thus we pass the ocean of life,’ said Walstein. ‘Would that I could discover a new continent of sensation!’
‘Do you mix much in society?’ said the physician.
‘By fits and starts,’ said Walstein. ‘A great deal when I first returned: of late little.’
‘And your distemper has increased in proportion with your solitude?’
‘It would superficially appear so,’ observed Walstein; ‘but I consider my present distemper as not so much the result of solitude, as the reaction of much converse with society. I am gloomy at present from a sense of disappointment of the past.’
‘You are disappointed,’ observed Schulembourg. ‘What, then, did you expect?’
‘I do not know,’ replied Walstein; ‘that is the very thing I wish to discover.’
‘How do you in general pass your time?’ inquired the physician.
‘When I reply in doing nothing, my dear Doctor,’ said Walstein, ‘you will think that you have discovered the cause of my disorder. But perhaps you will only mistake an effect for a cause.’
‘Do you read?’
‘I have lost the faculty of reading: early in life I was a student, but books become insipid when one is rich with the wisdom of a wandering life.’
‘Do you write?’
‘I have tried, but mediocrity disgusts me. In literature a second-rate reputation is no recompense for the evils that authors are heirs to.’
‘Yet, without making your compositions public, you might relieve your own feelings in expressing them. There is a charm in creation.’
‘My sympathies are strong,’ replied Walstein. ‘In an evil hour I might descend from my pedestal; I should compromise my dignity with the herd; I should sink before the first shaft of ridicule.’
‘You did not suffer from this melancholy when travelling?’
‘Occasionally: but the fits were never so profound, and were very evanescent.’
‘Travel is action,’ replied Schulembourg. ‘Believe me, that in action you alone can find a cure.’
‘What is action?’ inquired Walstein. ‘Travel I have exhausted. The world is quiet. There are no wars now, no revolutions. Where can I find a career?’
‘Action,’ replied Schulembourg, ‘is the exercise of our faculties. Do not mistake restlessness for action. Murillo, who passed a long life almost within the walls of his native city, was a man of great action. Witness the convents and the churches that are covered with his exploits. A great student is a great actor, and as great as a marshal or a statesman. You must act, Mr. Walstein, you must act; you must have an object in life; great or slight, still you must have an object. Believe me, it is better to be a mere man of pleasure than a dreamer.’
‘Your advice is profound,’ replied Walstein, ‘and you have struck upon a sympathetic chord. But what am I to do? I have no object.’
‘You are a very ambitious man,’ replied the physician.
‘How know you that?’ said Walstein, somewhat hastily, and slightly blushing.
‘We doctors know many strange things,’ replied Schulembourg, with a smile. ‘Come now, would you like to be prime minister of Saxony?’
‘Prime minister of Oberon!’ said Walstein, laughing; ‘’tis indeed a great destiny.’
‘Ah! when you have lived longer among us, your views will accommodate themselves to our limited horizon. In the meantime, I will write you a prescription, provided you promise to comply with my directions.’
‘Do not doubt me, my dear Doctor.’
Schulembourg seated himself at the table, and wrote a few lines, which he handed to his patient.
Walstein smiled as he read the prescription.
‘Dr. de Schulembourg requests the honour of the Baron de Walstein’s company at dinner, to-morrow at two o’clock.’
Walstein smiled and looked a little perplexed, but he remembered his promise. ‘I shall, with pleasure, become your guest, Doctor.’
WALSTEIN did not forget his engagement with his friendly physician. The house of Schulembourg was the most beautiful mansion in Dresden. It was situated in a delicious garden in the midst of the park, and had been presented to him by a grateful sovereign. It was a Palladian villa, which recalled the Brenda to the recollection of Walstein, with flights of marble steps, airy colonnades, pediments of harmonious proportion, all painted with classic frescoes. Orange trees clustered in groups upon the terrace, perfumed the summer air, rising out of magnificent vases sculptured in high relief; and amid the trees, confined by silver chains were rare birds of radiant plumage, rare birds with prismatic eyes and bold ebon beaks, breasts flooded with crimson, and long tails of violet and green. The declining sun shone brightly in the light blue sky, and threw its lustre upon the fanciful abode, above which, slight and serene, floated the airy crescent of the young white moon.
‘My friend, too, I perceive, is a votary of the Ideal,’ exclaimed Walstein.
The carriage stopped. Walstein mounted the marble steps and was ushered through a hall, wherein was the statue of a single nymph, into an octagonal apartment. Schulembourg himself had not arrived. Two men moved away, as he was announced, from a lady whom they attended. The lady was Madame de Schulembourg, and she came forward, with infinite grace, to apologise for the absence of her husband, and to welcome her guest.
Her appearance was very remarkable. She was young and strangely beautiful. Walstein thought that he had never beheld such lustrous locks of ebon hair shading a countenance of such dazzling purity. Her large and deep blue eyes gleamed through their long black lashes. The expression of her face was singularly joyous. Two wild dimples played like meteors on her soft round cheeks. A pink veil worn over her head was carelessly tied under her chin, and fastened with a white rose of pearls. Her vest and train of white satin did not conceal her sylphlike form and delicate feet. She held forth a little white hand to Walstein, adorned only by a single enormous ruby, and welcomed him with inspiring ease.
‘I do not know whether you are acquainted with your companions, Mr. Walstein,’ said Madame de Schulembourg. Walstein looked around, and recognised the English minister, and had the pleasure of being introduced, for the first time, to a celebrated sculptor.
‘I have heard of your name, not only in Germany,’ said Walstein, addressing the latter gentleman. ‘You have left your fame behind you at Rome. If the Italians are excusably envious, their envy is at least accompanied with admiration.’ The gratified sculptor bowed and slightly blushed. Walstein loved art and artists. He was not one of those frigid, petty souls who are ashamed to evince feeling in society. He felt keenly and expressed himself without reserve. But nature had invested him with a true nobility of manner as well as of mind. He was ever graceful, even when enthusiastic.
‘It is difficult to remember we are in the North,’ said Walstein to Madame Schulembourg, ‘amid these colonnades and orange trees.’
‘It is thus that I console myself for beautiful Italy,’ replied the lady, ‘and, indeed, to-day the sun favours the design.’
‘You have resided long in Italy?’ inquired Walstein.
‘I was born at Milan,’ replied Madame de Schulembourg, ‘my father commanded a Hungarian regiment in garrison.’
‘I thought that I did not recognise an Italian physiognomy,’ said Walstein, looking somewhat earnestly at the lady.
‘Yet I have a dash of the Lombard blood in me, I assure you,’ replied Madame de Schulembourg, smiling; ‘is it not so, Mr. Revel?’
The Englishman advanced and praised the beauty of the lady’s mother, whom he well knew. Then he asked Walstein when he was at Milan; then they exchanged more words respecting Milanese society; and while they were conversing, the Doctor entered, followed by a servant: ‘I must compensate for keeping you from dinner,’ said their host, ‘by having the pleasure of announcing that it is prepared.’
He welcomed Walstein with warmth. Mr. Revel led Madame to the dining-room. The table was round, and Walstein seated himself at her side.
The repast was light and elegant, unusual characteristics of a German dinner. Madame de Schulembourg conversed with infinite gaiety, but with an ease that showed that to charm was with her no effort. The Englishman was an excellent specimen of his nation, polished and intelligent, without that haughty and graceless reserve which is so painful to a finished man of the world. The host was himself ever animated and cheerful, but calm and clear—and often addressed himself to the artist, who was silent, and, like students in general, constrained. Walstein himself, indeed, was not very talkative, but his manner indicated that he was interested, and when he made an observation it was uttered with facility, and arrested attention by its justness or its novelty. It was an agreeable party.
They had discussed several light topics. At length they diverged to the supernatural. Mr. Revel, as is customary with Englishmen, who are very sceptical, affected for the moment a belief in spirits. With the rest of the society, however, it was no light theme. Madame de Schulembourg avowed her profound credulity. The artist was a decided votary. Schulembourg philosophically accounted for many appearances, but he was a magnetiser, and his explanations were more marvellous than the portents.
‘And you, Mr. Walstein,’ said Madame de Schulembourg, ‘what is your opinion?’
‘I am willing to yield to any faith that distracts my thoughts from the burthen of daily reality,’ replied Walstein.
‘You would just suit Mr. Novalis, then,’ observed Mr. Revel, bowing to the sculptor.
‘Novalis is an astrologer,’ said Madame Schulembourg; ‘I think he would just suit you.’
‘Destiny is a grand subject,’ observed Walstein, ‘and although I am not prepared to say that I believe in fate, I should nevertheless not be surprised to read my fortunes in the stars.’
‘That has been the belief of great spirits,’ observed the sculptor, his countenance brightening with more assurance.
‘It is true,’ replied Walstein, ‘I would rather err with my great namesake and Napoleon than share the orthodoxy of ordinary mortality.’
‘That is a dangerous speech, Baron,’ said Schulembourg.
‘With regard to destiny,’ said Mr. Revel, who was in fact a materialist of the old school, ‘everything depends upon a man’s nature; the ambitious will rise, and the grovelling will crawl—those whose volition is strong will believe in fate, and the weak-minded accounts for the consequences of his own incongruities by execrating chance.’
Schulembourg shook his head. ‘By a man’s nature you mean his structure,’ said the physician, ‘much, doubtless, depends upon structure, but structure is again influenced by structure. All is subservient to sympathy.’
‘It is true,’ replied the sculptor; ‘and what is the influence of the stars on human conduct but sympathy of the highest degree?’
‘I am little accustomed to metaphysical discussions,’ remarked Walstein; ‘this is, indeed, a sorry subject to amuse a fair lady with, Madame de Schulembourg.’
‘On the contrary,’ she replied, ‘the mystical ever delights me.’
‘Yet,’ continued Walstein, ‘perceiving that the discontent and infelicity of man generally increase in an exact ratio with his intelligence and his knowledge, I am often tempted to envy the ignorant and the simple.’
‘A man can only be content,’ replied Schulembourg, ‘when his career is in harmony with his organisation. Man is an animal formed for great physical activity, and this is the reason why the vast majority, in spite of great physical suffering, are content. The sense of existence, under the influence of the action which is necessary to their living, counterbalances all misery. But when a man has a peculiar structure, when he is born with a predisposition, or is, in vulgar language, a man of genius, his content entirely depends upon the predisposition being developed and indulged. And this is philosophical education, that sublime art so ill-comprehended!’
‘I agree with you,’ said Revel, who recollected the nonsense-verses of Eton, and the logic of Christ Church; ‘all the scrapes and unhappiness of my youth, and I assure you they were not inconsiderable, are to be ascribed to the obstinate resolution of my family to make a priest out of a man who wished to be a soldier.’
‘And I was disinherited because I would be a physician,’ replied Schulembourg; ‘but instead of a poor, insignificant baron, I am now a noble in four kingdoms and have the orders of all Europe, and that lady was not ashamed to marry me.’
‘I was a swineherd in the wilds of Pomerania,’ said Novalis, his eyes flashing with enthusiasm. ‘I ran away to Italy, but I broke my poor mother’s heart.’
There was a dead, painful pause, in which Walstein interposed. ‘As for myself, I suppose I have no predisposition, or I have not found it out. Perhaps nature intended me for a swineherd, instead, of a baron. This, however, I do know, that life is an intolerable burthen—at least it would be,’ he added, turning with a smile to his fair hostess, ‘were it not for occasionally meeting some one so inspiring as you.’
‘Come,’ said Madame, rising, ‘the carriages are at the door. Let us take a drive. Mr. Walstein, you shall give me your opinion of my ponies.’
MADAME DE SCHULEMBOURG’S carriage, drawn by two beautiful Hanoverian ponies, cream in colour, with long manes and tails like floss silk, was followed by a britzka; but despatches called away Mr. Revel, and Novalis stole off to his studio. The doctor, as usual, was engaged. ‘Caroline,’ he said, as he bid his guest adieu, ‘I commend Mr. Walstein to your care. When I return in the evening, do not let me find that our friend has escaped.’
‘I am sure that though unhappy he is not ungallant,’ replied Caroline, with a smile; and she took his offered arm, and ascended her seat.
Swiftly the little ponies scudded along the winding roads. The Corso was as yet but slightly attended. Caroline passed through the wide avenue without stopping, but sometimes recognising with bow and smile a flitting friend. They came to a wilder and woodier part of the park, the road lined on each side with linden trees, and in the distance were vast beds of tall fern, tinged with the first rich hues of autumn.
‘Here, Mr. Walstein,’ said Caroline, ‘with your permission, I shall take my afternoon walk.’ Thus speaking, she stopped the carriage, which she and her companion quitted. Walstein offered her his arm, but she declined it, folding herself up in her shawl.
‘Which do you like best, Mr. Walstein, Constantinople or Dresden?’ said Madame de Schulembourg.
‘At this moment, decidedly Dresden,’ replied her companion.
‘Ah! that is a compliment,’ said Madame de Schulembourg, after a moment’s musing. ‘My dear Mr. Walstein,’ she continued, looking up with an arch expression, ‘never pay me compliments.’
‘You mistake me: it was not a compliment,’ replied Walstein. ‘It was a sincere and becoming tribute of gratitude for three hours of endurable existence.’
‘You know that you are my patient,’ rejoined Madame de Schulembourg. ‘I have orders to cure your melancholy. I am very successful in such complaints.’
‘I have no doubt of it,’ replied Walstein, with a slight bow.
‘If we could but find out the cause!’ continued Caroline. ‘I venture to believe that, after all, it will turn out an affair of the heart. Come, be frank with your physician. Tell me, have you left it captive with a fair Greek of the Isles, or a dark-eyed maiden of the Nile? Is our heroine a captive behind a Spanish jalousie, or in an Italian convent?’
‘Women ever believe that all moods and tempers of man are consequences of their influence,’ replied Walstein, ‘and in general they are right.’
‘But in your case?’
‘I am determined to find it out,’ said Madame de Schulembourg.
‘I wish to heaven you could,’ said Baron de Walstein.
‘I think a wandering life has spoiled you,’ said Caroline. ‘I think it must be civilisation that you find wearisome.’
‘That would be very sublime,’ replied Walstein. ‘But I assure you, if there be one thing that disgusts me more than another, it is the anticipation of renewed travel! I have seen all that I wish, and more than I ever expected. All that I could experience now would be exertion without excitement, a dreadful doom. If I am not to experience pleasure, let me at least have the refuge of repose. The magic of change of scene is with me exhausted. If I am to live, I do not think that I could be tempted to quit this city; sometimes I think, scarcely even my house.’
‘I see how it is,’ exclaimed Madame de Schulembourg, shaking her head very knowingly, ‘you must marry.’
‘The last resource of feminine fancy!’ exclaimed Walstein, almost laughing. ‘You would lessen my melancholy, I suppose, on the principle of the division of gloom. I can assure you, my dear Madame de Schulembourg,’ he continued, in a very serious tone, ‘that, with my present sensations, I should consider it highly dishonourable to implicate any woman in my destiny.’
‘Ha! ha! ha!’ laughed Madame; ‘I can assure you, my dear Mr. Walstein, that I have a great many very pretty friends who will run the risk. ‘Tis the best cure for melancholy, believe me. I was serious myself at times before I married, but you see I have got over my gloom.’
‘You have, indeed,’ said Walstein; ‘and perhaps, were I Doctor de Schulembourg, I might be as gay.’
‘Another compliment! However, I accept it, because it is founded on truth. The fact is, I think you are too much alone.’
‘I have lived in a desert, and now I live in what is called the world,’ replied Walstein. ‘Yet in Arabia I was fairly content, and now I am——-what I shall not describe, because it will only procure me your ridicule.’
‘Nay! not ridicule, Mr. Walstein. Do not think that I do not sympathise with your affliction, because I wish you to be as cheerful as myself. If you were fairly content in Arabia, I shall begin to consider it an affair of climate.’
‘No,’ said Walstein, still very serious, ‘not an affair of climate—certainly not. The truth is, travel is a preparation, and we bear with its yoke as we do with all that is initiatory—with the solace of expectation. But my preparation can lead to nothing, and there appear to be no mysteries in which I am to be initiated.’
‘Then, after all, you want something to do?’
‘What shall it be?’ inquired Madame de Schulembourg, with a thoughtful air.
‘Ah! what shall it be?’ echoed Walstein, in accents of despondence; ‘or, rather, what can it be? What can be more tame, more uninteresting, more unpromising than all around? Where is there a career?’
‘A career!’ exclaimed Caroline. ‘What, you want to set the world in a blaze! I thought you were a poetic dreamer, a listless, superfine speculator of an exhausted world. And all the time you are very ambitious!’
‘I know not what I am,’ replied Walstein; ‘but I feel that my present lot is an intolerable burthen.’
‘But what can you desire? You have wealth, youth, and station, all the accidents of fortune which nature can bestow, and all for which men struggle. Believe me, you are born to enjoy yourself; nor do I see that you require any other career than the duties of your position. Believe me, my dear Mr. Walstein, life is a great business, and quite enough to employ any man’s faculties.’
‘My youth is fast fading, which I don’t regret,’ replied Walstein, ‘for I am not an admirer of youth. As for station, I attribute no magic to it, and wealth I value only because I know from experience its capacity of producing pleasure; were I a beggar tomorrow, I should be haunted by no uneasy sensations. Pardon me, Madame de Schulembourg; your philosophy does not appear to be that of my friend, the Doctor. We were told this afternoon that, to produce happiness, the nature of a being and his career must coincide. Now, what can wealth and station produce of happiness to me, if I have the mind of a bandit, or, perhaps, even of a mechanic?’
‘You must settle all this with Augustus,’ replied Madame de Schulembourg; ‘I am glad, however, to hear you abuse youth. I always tell Sidonia that he makes his heroes too young, which enrages him beyond description. Do you know him?’
‘Only by fame.’
‘He would suit you. He is melancholy too, but only by fits. Would you like to make his acquaintance?’
‘Authors are best known by their writings,’ replied Walstein; ‘I admire his, because, amid much wildness, he is a great reader of the human heart, and I find many echoes in his pages of what I dare only to think and to utter in solitude.’
‘I shall introduce you to him. He is exceedingly vain, and likes to make the acquaintance of an admirer.’
‘I entreat you not,’ replied Walstein, really alarmed. ‘It is precisely because I admire him very much that I never wish to see him. What can the conversation of Sidonia be compared with his writings? His appearance and his manner will only destroy the ideal, in which it is always interesting to indulge.’
‘Well, be not alarmed! He is not now in Dresden. He has been leading a wild life for some time in our Saxon Switzerland, in a state of despair. I am the unhappy nymph who occasions his present desperation,’ continued Madame de Schulembourg, with a smile. ‘Do not think me heartless; all his passion is imagination. Change of scene ever cures him; he has written to me every week—his letters are each time more reasonable. I have no doubt he has by this time relieved his mind in some mad work which will amuse us all very much, and will return again to Dresden quite cool. I delight in Sidonia—he is my especial favourite.’
After some little time the companions re-entered the carriage. The public drive was now full of sparkling equipages. Madame de Schulembourg gaily bowed, as she passed along, to many a beautiful friend.
‘Dear girls, come home with us this eve,’ she exclaimed, as she curbed her ponies by the side of an open carriage, and addressed two young ladies who were seated within it with their mother. ‘Let me introduce Mr. Walstein to you-Madame de Man-heim, the Misses de Manheim, otherwise Augusta and Amelia. Ask any of our friends whom you pass. There is Emilius—How do you do? Count Voyna, come home with us, and bring your Bavarian friend.’
‘How is Sidonia, Madame de Schulembourg?’ inquired Augusta.
‘Oh, quite mad. He will not be sane this week. There is his last letter; read it, and return it to me when we meet. Adieu, Madame de Manheim; adieu, dear girls; do not stay long: adieu, adieu.’ So they drove away.
THE eyes of all Europe have been lately directed with feverish anxiety towards the East. With the early history of the present ruler of Egypt, and with his projects of military reform, our readers are doubtless well acquainted. We shall, therefore, only rapidly glance at the present condition of Syria, as on the causes that led to the astonishing success of a campaign that at one time threatened to construct, upon a new basis, the political geography of the East.
In contemplating the state of degradation and impotency into which have fallen Syria, and that vast Peninsula which extends westward of the Euphrates, after having occupied so proud a place in the page of history, from the earliest traditionary periods down to the time when the Turkish Sultans abandoned Broussa for Adrianople, we naturally inquire what has become of the intellectual inheritance which the ancient inhabitants of these countries left behind them? Where are the successors of the skilful workmen of Damascus, of Mossul, and of Angora; the navigators of Phoenicia, the artists of Ionia, and the wise men of Chaldea? Several distinct characters of civilisation have successively flourished in this part of Asia. To the primitive ages, to the reign of the Pelasgi, correspond the subterraneous excavations of Macri, and the Phrygian monuments of Seïdï Gazi; to the Babylonian power, the ruins of Bagdad, and the artificial mountains of Van; to the Hellenic period, the baths, the amphitheatres, and the ruins which strew the coast of the Archipelago; to the Roman empire, the military roads which traverse in every direction the whole Peninsula; to the Greeks of the middle ages, the church of Iznik.
And now that Mussulman civilisation, which at its brightest periods produced the beautiful mosque of the Sultan Bayazid at Amasia, is at its last gasp; for we can, with safety, affirm that not a single grand thought, either social, religious, or political, any longer connects together the four millions of inhabitants which the Porte numbers in this part of her dominions. All unity has disappeared, and the Asmoulis, who compose the predominating race, no longer obey but some old habits and recollections. The downfall of the Janizary system destroyed their last connecting link. Forgetting that their destiny was conquest—that they were only encamped in the land—that they had received a military organisation for a permanent state of warfare—that their headquarters was Constantinople—they have become attached to the soil, and shut themselves up in their harems, have established a feudal system, are divided among themselves by hereditary enmities, and their contempt for foreigners is no longer founded on their courage and power.
Near the coasts of the Archipelago European intercourse has, in some degree, civilised the manners of the Turks, but as the traveller advances into the interior, civilisation sensibly decreases. On approaching the central plateau of Asia Minor, he perceives that cultivation seldom extends beyond the distance of half a league round a village; the inhabitants are secreted in the mountains, and carefully avoid the vicinity of the great roads; it is a well-known statistical phenomenon, that the most inaccessible districts are the most populous and the richest. This will be easily understood, when it is told that the passage of troops through a district is a pest more dreaded than the fatal plague itself. The once flourishing and magnificent plains of Eske-Seher have been deserts since the Sultan Amurath traversed them, at the head of 300,000 men, to lay siege to Bagdad. His passage was marked by all the devastating effects of the hurricane. When a body of those horsemen called Delhis, who are attached to the suite of every Pasha, enters a village, the consternation is general, and followed by a system of exaction that to the unfortunate villager is equivalent to ruin. To complain to the Pasha would be to court instant destruction.
From this we can conceive the horror of the peasantry of Anatolia at the passage of large bodies of troops through their country, and consequently the obstacles a European army would encounter which should ever be masters of the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The Turcomans, a Nornase tribe, who sometimes pitch their tents on the shores of the Archipelago, and who pay but a moderate tribute to the Porte, are also another cause of devastation. But it is the Musseleins, the farmers of the Pasha, who are the oppressors par excellence; they are always present to despoil the unfortunate fellah, to leave him, to use a common expression in the mouths of this oppressed race, ‘but eyes wherewith to weep.’ The welfare of the people, respect for the orders of the Porte, are things to them of the utmost indifference; to govern is to raise men and taxes; to obey, is to fear. Thus the law of force reigns almost exclusively at forty or fifty leagues from the capital.
But on a nearer approach to the Euphrates, the dissolution of every social tie becomes more striking. We find ourselves amid the independent tribes—the cruel Lendes; among the Tezdis—a people who adore the spirit of Erib. Towards the north we fall in with the Lazzi, and all those fierce natives who are entrenched like vultures amid the fastnesses of the Caucasus. Again, in the South we discover the wandering Arabs, the pirates of the desert, and the mountaineers of Lebanon, who live in a state of perpetual discord. Over this immense line of countries centuries have passed, and left no trace behind; all that the ancients and the crusaders have related to us of them, is typical of their condition at this day. The bows and arrows, the armour, exhibited as objects of curiosity in our museums, are still in use among them. It is only by chance, or by profiting by their intestine divisions, that the authority of the Porte is recognised. The Pashas are mostly hereditary, and live in a state of perpetual insurrection. Thus from the shores of the Archipelago to the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, civilisation and vegetation appear to obey the same law of decrease.
It is incontestable that Syria and the Pashalics on the confines of Upper Asia are of no real importance to the Sultan; and that the pride of this monarch would be the only sufferer by their loss. Desolation has reached such a point in the Ottoman Empire, that it is almost impossible to regenerate her, unless the branches of the tree, lopped of all those parts so eccentric by their position, are detached from it, and organised into independent states. Towards the North, Russia has pushed on her battalions as far as Erzeroum, but it will be found more difficult, to govern Armenia from St. Petersburg than from Constantinople. In politics, the calculation of distances is an important element. In the South of Asia, Egypt lays claim to Syria, and that part of Caramania situated between Mount Taurus and the sea—a territory in which she will find those resources she at present stands so much in need of, such as timber for shipbuilding, etc., a Christian population, among whom the seeds of European civilisation will be more easily implanted. She will thus form an empire that will one day become powerful, if not prematurely exhausted by that system of monopoly so rigorously put in force by her present ruler.
The history of the quarrels of the Pasha of Acre with Mehemet Ali, justifies, in some degree, the pretensions of the latter. Abdallah Pasha had rendered himself famous by his extortions, and in 1822 took it into his head to seize Damascus. The neighbouring Pasha formed a league against him, and laid siege to his capital, when Mehemet Ali negotiated his pardon for a sum of 60,000 purses, which of course the people paid. Interest soon prevailed over gratitude; the Pasha of Acre felt there was more to be gained from Constantinople than from Cairo—that the authority of the Sultan in the Pashalic would never be more than nominal, and that the Porte, satisfied by some presents, would not be in a condition to prevent his exactions; he therefore sought, on every occasion, to get rid of the influence of Mehemet Ali, and to excite the jealousy of the Porte against him. An opportunity soon offered itself. Some Egyptian fellahs had taken refuge under the guns of Abdallah Pasha; Mehemet Ali demanded these men, but the Governor of Acre refused to give them up, on the plea that they were subjects of the Grand Signor, and referred the matter to the Porte, who on this occasion was seized with a fit of humanity, and bewailed the oppression of the peasantry of the Valley of the Vale—Inde Bellum.’ This was at the close of 1831.
The moment was favourable for the Viceroy’s great designs. Europe was sufficiently agitated to leave him no apprehensions of an intervention on the part of Russia. The Albanians and the Borneans were in open revolt, and insurrections had broken out also in several Pashalics on the side of Upper Asia. The Sultan was considered the slave of the Russians, and his conduct excited the contempt and hatred of the whole empire. In the meantime, since the revolution the exactions of the government had extended to every object of production and industry, while the conscription decimated the most industrious portion of the population; and if to this organised system of spoliation we farther add the ravages of the plague and cholera, we may form some idea of the wretched state of those provinces, and shall be no longer surprised that the Egyptians were everywhere hailed as deliverers.
Ibrahim Pasha, the step-son of Mehemet Ali, was placed at the head of the Egyptian army. Of a short, thick-set figure, he possesses that gigantic strength which Homer so loved in his heroes, and which inspires such respect among barbarous nations. To strike off the head of a bull with a blow of his scimitar—to execute, like Peter the Great, his victims with his own hand—to fall, dead drunk, amid the broken wrecks of champagne bottles, are three diversions of his. But latterly his manners, from his intercourse with Europeans, have been somewhat polished, and in deference to them, he has displayed both clemency and dignity—in fact, Ibrahim is excessively anxious to acquire the good opinion of Europe. He possesses all that strong common-sense that so distinguishes the Turks, rather than an elevated intelligence of mind. Soliman Bey, a renegade Frenchman, formerly an officer on the staff of Marshal Grouchy, was associated with him, and it is to him that the success of the Egyptian army may be chiefly attributed.
Syria, with her various productions, was the first country which offered itself to the conquest of the Egyptians. Closed entirely on the side of Asia by Mount Amanus, which belongs to the chain of Taurus, and extends from the Gulf of Scanderoun to the Euphrates, she is bounded on one side by the Mediterranean, and on the other by the desert. Her length from Aintab to Gaza is one hundred and fifty leagues, and the mean breadth about thirty. By a single glance at the map we perceive the most important military points for the defence of Syria are the fortress of Saint Jean d’Acre; Tyre, which ought to be fortified; Bolbeck, as the key to several valleys; Antakea, the passage of the Beilan; Alexandretta, situated upon a tongue of land between the marshes and the sea; and lastly, Aentab and Zenyma, which command the two passages on the right side of Mount Amanus.
We have entered into details in order to show how destitute of all strategetical combinations was the whole plan of campaign in Syria. Malte Brun estimates the population of the district of Sham at two millions, but we are inclined to question the accuracy of this calculation, since no two travellers are agreed as to the numbers of the Druses, some estimating them at 120,000, others at a million. The Turks form two-fifths of the population—they inhabit the large towns with the Greeks; the remainder of the population is composed of Arab fellahs, of Kurds, and of Turcomans, who wander in the valley of the Orontes; of Bedouin Arabs, who pitch their tents on the banks of the Jordan and along the edge of the desert of Ansarich, worshippers of the sun, the descendants of the servants of the Old Man of the Mountain of Maronites, who profess the Catholic ritual; of Druses, whose creed is doubtful; of all the inhabitants of Mount Lebanon; of Mebualis, Mussulmans of the sect of Ali; of Naplonsins and other tribes who have preserved a state of independence. We shall not be astonished to know that amidst this prodigious diversity of races Syria is more easy to conquer than to keep possession of. With the exception of the Ansarich, who inhabit the north of Syria, all of them obeyed, at the moment when the war broke out, the Emir Bechir, a Druse, prince of the family of the celebrated Fakr el Din, who revolted against Amurath the Fourth. The Emir Bechir, when Abdallah raised the standard of revolt in 1822, sought the protection of Mehemet Ali, who re-established him in his government.
Let us now follow Ibrahim in his march. At the head of 32,000 regular troops, and four or five thousand Bedouin Arabs and Hassouras, he took the same route as Bonaparte, and rapidly advanced against Saint Jean d’Acre. Without firing a shot, he made himself master of Jaffa, Caipha, Jerusalem, Naplonsia. Tabaneh and all the country between Gaza and Acre submitted at his approach. Master of the sea, by which he expected reinforcements both in men and material, he made haste to occupy the whole line of coast as far as Ladikich, and set down on the 27th of November, before Saint Jean d’Acre, with a corps of 15,000 regular infantry, two regiments of lancers, 1,000 Bedouins, two companies of sappers, one of cannoniers, one of bombardiers, and a train of field and siege artillery. The place is situated on a promontory surrounded on three sides by the sea, and defended on the fourth by a fort, crowned by a tower, which serves as a citadel. This last fort, the bastions of which, from their retiring flanks being too short, is the only one accessible on the land side, but it was enfiladed from a neighbouring height. Bonaparte, at the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre, was destitute of siege artillery, and was not master of the sea. He had, therefore, many more obstacles to encounter than Ibrahim.
During the first ten days the cannonade of the besiegers was not very vigorous, but on the 9th of December, five frigates having cast anchor before the place, with some gun-boats under sail, a general attack was made, and from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon the fleet and the batteries on shore kept up a well-directed fire. The besieged on their side were not inactive. The Egyptians experienced a heavy loss, and several of their ships were much cut up. From the 9th to the 18th the bombardment lasted night and day. On the 10th some heavy guns were placed in battery. The operations of the siege were now pushed forward with great ardour, but yet nothing denoted the immediate reduction of the place. The defence of Ab-dallah Pasha was marked by the most determined energy. He had sworn, it was reported, that he would blow up the town. It was, however, of the utmost importance to push forward the operations with the greatest activity. The first disposition of the population, which had been favourable, might undergo a change should not Ibrahim succeed in striking a great blow. The mountaineers of Lebanon and of Naplonsia had sent their chiefs to the Egyptian camp, and were ready to furnish a contingent of their warriors.
The news of the invasion of Syria by the army of Mehemet Ali, spread terror at Constantinople. The Porte, with her usual craft, dissimulated, and feigning to see in this event but a quarrel between two Pashas, she summoned them to lay before her their respective griefs; but finding her orders were disregarded, she made preparations for war. On the 16th of December, 1831, Mehemet Pasha, already governor of Racca, was appointed governor of Aleppo, and Seraskier of Syria and Arabia. Orders were sent to the directors of the Imperial Mines, Osman Pasha, to the Musselims of Marash, of Sevas, of Adana, and of Payas, to levy troops. Strict injunctions were also given to the governors of Caramania, and of Caesarea, to hold themselves in readiness; but this movement of Tartars was insufficient to produce a numerous army; the lukewarm devotion of the subjects of the Porte found ample means of evasion; and every day the efforts of the Turkish government in Syria to reestablish its authority, encountered new obstacles.
The son of the Emir Bechir assembled troops in the mountains, and held out for Mehemet Ali. Damascus armed itself through fear, but retained as an hostage the Pasha appointed to conduct the caravan to Mecca. Memiran Osman Pasha had been selected by the Porte for the government of Tripoli, but it was necessary to take possession of it by force of arms. -This port was already occupied, in the name of Mehemet Ali, by Mustapha Agar Barbar, a man of considerable note in the country. The Seraskier Mehemet Pasha consented to furnish Osman with some thousand irregular horsemen, and fourteen small field-pieces.
The latter arrived before his capital early in April. Believing the Egyptian Commander-in-Chief still occupied with the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre, all his dispositions of attack consisted in scattering his troops over the surrounding hills, and in ordering his artillery to play upon the town, which did not displace a single stone; the guns of the castle were also so badly pointed that the Turkish horsemen galloped up to the very houses, and were only beaten off by a brisk fire of musketry, which, galling them severely, drove them across the heights. Night put an end to the affair.
A few days after this skirmish, Ibrahim Pasha, having left to one of his lieutenants the direction of the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre and wishing to reconnoitre the country, appeared at the head of 800 men, with six field-pieces, before Osman’s camp, who, seized with a panic, immediately abandoned it to the enemy, and hastened to form a junction with the Pasha of Aleppo, who was posted near Hameh. The Egyptian general immediately pursued him, and took up a position at Horn. But, threatened upon this point by three brigades of the Seraskier Mehemet Pasha, he retired, after some skirmishes, to Bolbeck, where he established his camp, and was joined by Abaz Pasha, his nephew, at the head of 800 men. But his presence was required in other quarters. Divisions had broken out at several points, and the slowness with which the operations of the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre was carried on had damped the ardour of his partisans.
At Tripoli a conspiracy was discovered, in which were implicated the Cadi, the Mufti, and the principal Turks. After receiving a considerable reinforcement of troops from Candia, and making some defensive dispositions to the south of Bolbeck, Ibrahim encamped before Saint Jean d’Acre, to bring the siege to a conclusion by a decisive attack. On the 19th of May the fire was recommenced with great vigour; the Egyptians made the most extraordinary efforts to get into the city, and experienced a heavy loss; but no sooner was a breach effected than it was again closed up. Nothing was left standing in the town. The palace was destroyed, and Abdullah Pasha obliged to retire to the caves dug by Djezzar. The garrison was reduced to less than 2,000 men. At last, on the 27th of May, a general assault was made. Three breaches were practicable, one on the tower of Kapon Bourdjon, the other two at Nebieh Zaleh, and at Zavieh. Six battalions had the horrors of the attack, which commenced at daybreak and lasted twelve hours.
At Kapon Bourdjon the Arabs were on the point of giving ground, but Ibrahim having with his own hand struck off the head of a captain, and having turned a battery against them, they returned to the assault. Unfortunately for Abdullah, his gunners ran from their pieces, and he was obliged to capitulate. The Egyptians confessed a loss but of 1,429 wounded, and 512 killed. Thus fell Saint Jean d’Acre, after a memorable defence of six months. The capture of this place insured to Ibrahim the possession of Lower Syria, and enabled him to advance in perfect security.
While the son of Mehemet Ali was thus vigorously pushing forward the war, the Porte was still occupied with her preparations. In the month of March, Hussein Pasha, celebrated by the destruction of Janizaries, and by the extraordinary bravery he displayed in the Russian Campaign, but in other respects, a soldier à la Turc, was appointed chief of the expedition to Arabia. To this soldier was confided the safety of the empire, with the title of field-marshal of Anatolia. He was solemnly invested with the Har-vani (a short cloak) with an embroidered collar. He received a sabre set in brilliants, and two Arabian horses, superbly caparisoned; and, on the 17th of April, he received orders to join the army which Horsen Pasha had organised, the headquarters of which was at Konisk.
By the formation and rapid assembly of the new regular regiments, the army had been raised to 60,000 men, including artillery and engineers. The mass of their forces was composed of Beckir Pasha’s brigade of infantry, with the 2nd regiment of cavalry and a strong brigade of irregulars, under the orders of the governor of Silistria; of Skender Pasha’s brigade of infantry, and the 6th cavalry; and Delaver Pasha’s brigade, with the cavalry of the guard. Each of these corps was accompanied by its batteries. An European organisation had been given to the different services, such as the paymaster-general’s department, commissariat, etc. The Sultan had written out many of the regulations with his own hand.
The young general of division, Mehemet Pasha, a manumitted slave of Hussein, was specially charged with the direction of the regular troops, under the orders of Hussein Pasha. He was tolerably well acquainted with all our manoeuvres, and possessed some military talent. The European instructors were attached to his suite. They were the captain of artillery, Thernin, whose counsels would have saved the Turkish army had they been listened to; the engineer officer, Reully, a brave and experienced soldier; and the captain of the cavalry, Colosso. The two former (Frenchmen) saw almost the whole of the war. Taken prisoners by the Egyptians, they refused to enter their service, and were sent back. As for Colosso, he sojourned but a short time in the camp; for, on his endeavouring to put a stop to the frightful abuses that pervaded every branch of the service, the generals and colonels formed a league against him, and he retired in disgust.
On the 14th of May the field-marshal arrived at Koniah, where he displayed the most culpable negligence and carelessness. It was in vain that the European inspectors requested him to put in force ‘the regulation for troops in the field,’ of the French general Prevan, which had been translated into Turkish; they were no more listened to than were their complaints on the bad state of the camp, and on the indolence and negligence of the chiefs.
The generalissimo never even deemed it once requisite to review his army. The most frightful disorder prevailed in the Turkish military administrations, which subsequently led to all their reverses; in fact, it was evident to every experienced eye that an army so constituted, once overtaken by defeat, would soon be totally disorganised, and that the Porte ought to place no reliance upon its army. But there was an arm which, in the flourishing times of Islamism, was worth 100,000 Janizaries. This was excommunication. The Sultan at last resolved to unsheathe this weapon. The fatal fetva was launched against the traitor Mehemet Ali, and his son, the indolent Ibrahim. Those who have studied the Turkish history must have thought that the Viceroy of Egypt would find at last his master—the executioner; but since the late victories of the Russians, all national faith is extinguished among the Osmanlis. Excommunication is an arm as worn out at Constantinople as at Rome.
Whilst the Porte was fulminating her bull of excommunication, she directed a note to the corps diplomatique at Constantinople, in which she explained the quarrel with her subjects, and in which she demanded the strictest neutrality on the part of the great powers, and declared Egypt in a state of blockade. The Emperor Nicholas recalled his consul from Alexandria, and even made an offer of a fleet, and an auxiliary corps d’armee. Austria, an enemy to all revolutions, went so far as to threaten the Viceroy. England appeared to preserve the strictest neutrality, while France strenuously employed all her influence to bring about an accommodation; but in vain.
The Divan refusing the demands of Mehemet Ali, the solution of the question was referred to Field-Marshal Hussein, who proceeded with that calculated exertion which the Ottomans take for dignity; and thus three weeks were lost before the army advanced on Mount Taurus. It was only on the 1st of June that Mehemet Pasha arrived with the vanguard and Beker’s brigade at Adana. A reconnaissance, pushed forward as far as Tarsons, brought back the news of the fall of Saint Jean d’Acre. It became, therefore, an imperative necessity to occupy the passes of Syria, and to march upon Antioch, in order to cover Beylau. A Tartar was despatched to Hussein, who posted off in great haste to Adana, only to halt there for a fortnight. At last the movement was effected, and the army reached Antioch, where the cholera broke out in its ranks, and where eight days were lost. Instead of profiting by Ibrahim’s delay to take up a more advanced position, the latter descended into the valley of the Orontes, and entered Damascus on the 15th of June, after a short engagement with the Turkish irregulars.
But all Ibrahim’s operations were marked by a want of rapidity. After securing Antioch, the Turkish army should have marched upon Horns, which offered an excellent position, where they might have established a communication with the Druses, upon whom some hopes were founded, and whence they would have commanded the road to Damascus. But it was not till the 6th of July that Hussein would execute this movement. Mehemet Pasha commenced his march; but in their haste they forgot to issue rations to the troops, who reached Horns at ten in the morning, almost dead with hunger and fatigue. The Seraskier of Aleppo was encamped, with his irregular troops, at the gates of the city; but without deigning even to think of the enemy, whom they thought to be at some distance, or to issue rations to the serving troops, they wasted their time in vain ceremonies.
The young Mehemet Pasha was carried, under a salute of artillery, into a magnificent tent pitched upon the bank of the river. There the two viziers made a long interchange of compliments, and smoked the hargueleh.
Midst of all this mummery, intelligence was brought in that the Egyptian army was within two hours’ march of them. The disorder that ensued was dreadful. The hungry soldiers dragged themselves in masses to meet the Arabs. The latter waited for them, with their front masked by light troops, presenting twenty-seven battalions deployed in line, the left of which rested on the Orontes, and the right upon a hamlet at the foot of a hill. The Egyptians, who were ignorant of the presence of the Turkish regular infantry, had adopted this vicious disposition against their irregular cavalry. But no one really commanded among the Turks, and thus the opportunity of striking a decisive blow was lost. Every colonel had an opinion of his own. One Pasha wished to retreat, while the European instructors insisted on an immediate attack. In short, the artillery even refused to advance to the front. However, Ibrahim Pasha did not remain inactive; he pressed the Turks closely, doubled his line from right to left, and pushed forward some battalions on the side of the Orontes, but they were checked by part of Beker’s brigade and two pieces of cannon. Then the whole Egyptian line halted and opened their fire. In the course of twenty minutes the left of the Turks suffered considerably.
Mehemet Pasha resolved to charge the enemy with the bayonet; but instead of remaining with the second line in order to direct the movement, he put himself at the head of his soldiers to attack the Arabs, who immediately formed in column. Before he reached them, he was abandoned by his artillery, while his cavalry, which should have turned the enemy, fell back in disorder before a battery which they might have carried. The second line of infantry did not support the movement with vigour; and on the Egyptian columns deploying into line, preparatory to a decisive charge, the whole Turkish army went to the right-about in the most disgraceful manner, pursued by the enemy’s cavalry. It was a general sauve qui peut. The approach of night alone saved the Turkish army from total destruction. The loss of the Sultan’s forces in this affair amounted to 2,000 killed and 2,500 prisoners.
The wrecks of the Turkish corps retired pell-mell upon Antioch. Instead of rallying them, Ned-geb Pasha’s brigade, which was encamped at two hours’ march from the field of battle, fled with them.
The field-marshal, on learning this disaster, took post at the tête du pont on Djezzer, on the Orontes. He received the fugitives at the point of the bayonet, and cut off the heads of the first mutineers who endeavoured to cross. It was in such moments that Hussein showed himself to be above the ordinary stamp of mankind. His energy was admirably calculated for quelling a revolt; but, on the other hand, though he was able to master the confusion of a retreat, he knew not how to avoid it. Such was his military incapacity that he was incapable of foreseeing anything. In a short time he expended all the money in the military chest, impoverishing all the districts through which he passed, paying nowhere and holding up the name of his master to universal execration. At the action of Horns, the mass of his forces were not engaged, so that there yet remained 40,000 regular troops; but the field-marshal allowed an army to perish, to which Horsen Pasha had given a tolerable organisation. Instead of taking any measures of defence, he set out for Antioch, with the view of effecting a junction with some troops in the neighbourhood of Aleppo; but finding no provisions in those districts, he returned by forced marches to Alexandretta, after fatiguing his troops by a march of eight hundred leagues.
However, Ibrahim was advancing, having recalled all his garrisons, and made new levies in the mountains. As he advanced, the whole country declared in his favour, and the castle of Aleppo was delivered up to him. His conduct was marked by great skill and generosity. Under his protection the numerous Christians began to raise their heads. There now only remained, to complete the entire occupation of Syria, to seize Antioch and Alexandretta; but his operations were pushed forward with extreme slowness, because he always expected from Constantinople a decision favourable to the pretensions of his father-in-law. The Turkish field-marshal had thus plenty of time to stop his passage into Carmania.
Antioch offered a position for an entrenched camp; but this he disregarded, and made his advanced posts fall back upon the defile of Beylau. This defile, formed by a deep valley, is so narrow in some places that a camel can scarcely pass. Nevertheless, this is the grand route of the Mecca caravan. Nothing was more easy than to defend it; yet on the 5th of August the Egyptians made themselves masters of it, after an action of two hours. The passage of the Beylau delivered to the conqueror Alexandretta, its immense magazines, and one hundred pieces of cannon. The Turks, instead of rallying in the rear, in the favourable positions which the ground afforded, fled in the direction of Adana. Ibrahim pursued them with his cavalry, which passed the Djihun at a ford, Hussein Pasha having blown up the superb bridge of nine arches that crossed that river at Missis.
The Ottoman troops continued their retreat across the plain of Adana, but they had scarcely reached that city before they were dislodged by the enemy, who were on the point of capturing the field-marshal. The whole district of Adana declared for Ibrahim, who had at length reached the new line of frontiers which Mehemet Ali wished to make the boundaries of his empire. There was now nothing to prevent the march of the Egyptians upon Constantinople itself, for the demoralised soldiers of Hussein Pasha deserved not the name of an army. The Kurds and the Anatolian peasantry murdered the Turkish regulars wherever they could find them, which was not difficult, for, deserted by platoons, the provinces of Upper Asia were in such a state of insurrection that a single officer of Ibrahim’s would have been sufficient to make the most considerable town capitulate.
The Viceroy, at one moment, had the insane idea of himself attacking the Turkish capital by sea, while Ibrahim should threaten it from Scutari. But his prudence doubtless prevented the execution of the enterprise, for however popular the cause of Mehemet Ali may have been, he would have appeared in Constantinople only as a subject, and certainly could not have prevented the intervention of Russia. And lastly, had he succeeded in these projects of unbounded ambition, what would have been the result? Instead of a compact state bounded by Mount Taurus, he would have found himself embarrassed with a great empire, tottering to its base, which no human power can regenerate.
Mehemet Ali listened, therefore, to the sagacious counsel of France, and endeavoured to obtain the recognition of his independence. But the Porte, listening to the perfidious suggestions, and governed by the blind obstinacy that led to the battle of Navarino and the victories of the Russians, would make no terms, and reduced Ibrahim, after an armistice of five months, to conquer her again. Hussein Pasha was succeeded by the Grand Vizier, Redchid Pasha, the same who had distinguished himself in Greece, and quelled the revolt of Scodro Pasha. Brave and accustomed to the camp, a sound politician, Redchid was superior to his predecessor, but even he was only a Turkish general. He had been selected principally on account of his great influence in Turkey in Europe. He therefore received orders to repair to Constantinople, with considerable levies of Bosnians and Albanians, of which they knew he could dispose, and with the six regiments of infantry and cavalry that belonged to them.
In the meantime the indefatigable Hussein Pasha had succeeded in re-organising an army with about 40,000 regulars of the reserve; it was echeloned between the capital and Koniah, reinforced by the troops brought by the Grand Vizier; it was sufficiently numerous to have prevented Ibrahim’s further advance; but there was neither skill in the general nor ardour among the troops; the councils of the European instructors were, as usual, disregarded, while the Egyptian army, on the contrary, was almost exclusively under the direction of European officers. A single piece of artillery would have sufficed to defend the passage of the Taurus, and yet when Ibrahim appeared on its northern declivity he had to encounter but a few irregulars, of whom he soon gave a good account. He then fixed his camp on the plain of Erekli, at one hundred and sixty days’ march of a camel from Constantinople, and then advanced upon Koniah.
Reuff Pasha, who had provisionally assumed the command of the Turkish army until the arrival of Red-chid Pasha, prudently fell back upon Acken at the approach of the Egyptians. But forgetting the disastrous day of Koulaktche, the Grand Vizier merely assumed the offensive instead of taking up a position in the mountains; and, allowing the unusual rigour of the season to thin the ranks of the enemy, he precipitately advanced. The cold was so excessive, the weather so dreadful, and the roads rendered so impassable by the snow, that only a small portion of the artillery and ammunition could follow the movement, so that they found themselves, as at Horns, without provisions in the presence of the enemy.
Some distance from Koniah, Redchid Pasha sent forward his selector at the head of a body of irregulars, with orders to advance across the mountains up the village of Lilé, which was occupied by a strong detachment of Arabs, while the Grand Vizier on his side with the grand army, was to pursue the route of the plain. The attack was to have been simultaneous, but unfortunately the selector arrived too soon on the scene of action, and was totally defeated. Undaunted by this check, the Grand Vizier continued his advance, and did not halt till he was in presence of the enemy, whom he found strongly entrenched, and prepared to give him a warm reception. It was the 29th of the Redgeb (21st of December), and from the advanced hour of the day there was no alternative but to attack, otherwise he must have passed a night upon the field, without bread, exposed to the action of an intense cold that would have paralysed the ardour of the troops.
Redchid Pasha made therefore no dispositions for attack, but his order of battle was best: he drew up his army in four lines, thus rendering useless a great part of his troops, and when he at length resolved to alter his dispositions for a more extended order of battle, he did not reconnoitre the ground to ascertain if it would permit such an extension of front. His left wing therefore was unable to deploy, and remained formed in columns of attack, while the enemy’s artillery committed dreadful havoc on their profound masses. He committed also another fault, that of placing his artillery between the interval of the lines, so that it did not reach the Egyptians, while theirs on the contrary, posted in their front, did great execution.
Mehemet Redchid’s main plan of battle was to attack with the mass of his forces, composed chiefly of Albanians, the centre of the enemy’s army, whilst the cavalry should make a demonstration upon the wings. But Ibrahim, who had foreseen this manoeuvre, leaving only on the point attacked a sufficient force to make ahead for a short time, turned his adversary to the gorges of the mountains. On gaining the flanks of the Ottoman party, he impetuously attacked and routed their cavalry, and afterwards advanced against the principal Turkish corps, which thus found itself attacked on both sides. The Albanians, in spite of all the efforts of the Grand Vizier, broke and fled.
Redchid Pasha then put himself at the head of his guard for a last effort, but after performing prodigies of valour, he was again repulsed, and fell, severely wounded, into the hands of the Egyptians. The loss of the Turks was immense; one regiment alone, the first infantry of the line, left 3,000 men upon the field of battle.
The battle was decisive. The second army of the Grand Seigneur was annihilated, and the road to Constantinople again open to Ibrahim; and the tottering empire of Mahmoud was saved by the intervention of the Russian Autocrat, who felt that it was his own property that was at stake rather than that of the unfortunate Sultan. Mehemet Ali is now on independent sovereign, and it is to the military genius of Europe that he owes this glory; while the once formidable empire of Mahomet is rapidly sinking under an accumulation of evils, the operation of which European diplomacy will in vain attempt to arrest.
TWO or three miles from Cairo, approached by an avenue of sycamores, is Shoubra, a favourite residence of the Pasha of Egypt. The palace, on the banks of the Nile, is not remarkable for its size or splendour, but the gardens are extensive and beautiful, and adorned by a kiosk, which is one of the most elegant and fanciful creations I can remember.
Emerging from fragant bowers of orange trees, you suddenly perceive before you tall and glittering gates rising from a noble range of marble steps. These you ascend, and entering, find yourself in a large quadrangular colonnade of white marble. It surrounds a small lake, studded by three or four gaudy barques, fastened to the land by silken cords. The colonnade terminates towards the water by a very noble marble balustrade, the top of which is covered with groups of various kinds of fish in high relief. At each angle of the colonnade the balustrade gives way to a flight of steps which are guarded by crocodiles of immense size, admirably sculptured in white marble. On the farther side the colonnade opens into a great number of very brilliant banqueting-rooms, which you enter by withdrawing curtains of scarlet cloth, a colour vividly contrasting with the white shining marble of which the whole kiosk is formed. It is a frequent diversion of the Pasha himself to row some favourite Circassians in one of the barques and to overset his precious freight in the midst of the lake. As his Highness piques himself upon wearing a caftan of calico, and a juba or exterior robe of coarse cloth, a ducking has not for him the same terrors it would offer to a less eccentric Osmanli. The fair Circassians shrieking, with their streaming hair and dripping finery, the Nubian eunuchs rushing to their aid, plunging into the water from the balustrade, or dashing down the t marble steps,—all this forms an agreeable relaxation after the labours of the Divan.
All the splendour of the Arabian Nights is realised in the Court of Egypt. The guard of Nubian eunuchs with their black, glossy countenances, clothed in scarlet and gold, waving their glittering Damascus sabres, and gently bounding on their snow-white steeds, is, perhaps, the most picturesque corps in the world. The numerous harem, the crowds of civil functionaries and military and naval officers in their embroidered Nizam uniforms, the vast number of pages and pipe-bearers, and other inferior but richly attired attendants, the splendid military music, for which Mehemet Ali has an absolute passion, the beautiful Arabian horses and high-bred dromedaries, altogether form a blending of splendour and luxury which easily recall the golden days of Bagdad and its romantic Caliph.
Yet this Court is never seen to greater advantage than in the delicious summer palace in the gardens of Shoubra. During the festival of the Bairam the Pasha usually holds his state in this enchanted spot, nor is it easy to forget that strange and brilliant scene. The banqueting-rooms were all open and illuminated, the colonnade was full of guests in gorgeous groups, some standing and conversing, some seated on small Persian carpets smoking pipes beyond all price, and some young grandees lounging, in their crimson shawls and scarlet vests, over the white balustrade, and flinging their glowing shadows over the moonlit water: from every quarter came bursts of melody, and each moment the river breeze brought gusts of perfume on its odorous wings.
UPPER EGYPT is a river flowing through a desert; the banks on each side affording a narrow margin of extreme fertility. Rocks of granite and hills of sand form, at slight intervals, through a course of sev-earl hundred miles, a chain of valleys, reaching from the rapids of the Nile to the vicinity of Cairo. In one of these valleys, the broadest and the most picturesque, about half-way between the cataracts and the modern capital, we find the most ancient, the most considerable, and the most celebrated of architectural remains. For indeed no Greek, or Sicilian, or Latin city—Athens, or Agrigentum, or Rome; nor the platforms of Persepolis, nor the columns of Palmyra, can vie for a moment in extent, variety, and sublime dimensions, with the ruins of ancient Thebes.
These remains may be classed, generally, in four considerable divisions: two of these great quarters of ruins being situated on each side of the river Nile—Karnak and Luxor towards the Red Sea; the Memnonion and Medcenet Habu towards the great Libyan Desert. On this side, also, are the cemeteries of the great city—the mummy-caves of Gornou, two miles in extent; above them, excavated in the mountains, are the tombs of the queens; and in the adjacent valley of Beban-el-Maluk, the famous tombs of the kings.
The population of the city of a hundred gates now consists of a few Arab families, who form four villages of mud huts, clustered round those gigantic columns and those mighty obelisks, a single one of which is sought for by the greatest sovereigns of Europe for their palaces and museums. Often, indeed, have I seen a whole Arab village rising from the roof of a single Egyptian temple. Dendera is an instance. The population of Gornou, numbering between three and four hundred, resides solely in the tombs.
I think that Luxor, from its situation, usually first attracts the notice of the traveller. It is close on the river, and is built on a lofty platform. Its enormous columns are the first specimens of that colossal genius of the Pharaohs, which the Ptolemies never attempted to rival. The entrance to this temple is through a magnificent propylon;-that is, a portal flanked by massy pyramidal moles. It is two hundred feet in breadth, and rises nearly sixty feet above the soil. This gate is entirely covered with sculpture, commemorating the triumph of a conquering monarch.
On each side of the portal are two colossal statues of red granite, buried in the sand up to their shoulders, but measuring thence, to the top of their crowns, upwards of twenty feet. On each side of them, a little in advance, at the time of my visit, were the two most perfect obelisks remaining. One of them is now at Paris;—that famous obelisk of Luxor, of which we have heard so much. From the propylon, you pass into a peristyle court,—about two hundred and thirty feet long, by one hundred and seventy—the roof of which was once supported by double rows of columns, many of which now remain: and so on through other pyramidal gates, and courts, and porticoes, and chambers, which are, in all probability, of a more ancient date than those first described.
From Luxor you proceed to Karnak, the other great division on this side of the river, through an avenue of sphinxes, considerably above a mile in extent, though much broken. All the marvels of the world sink before the first entrance into Karnak. It is the Alps-the Andes—of architecture. The obelisks of Luxor may be unrivalled; the sculptures of Medoenet Habu more exquisite; the colossus of the Memnonion more gigantic; the paintings of the royal tombs more curious and instructive: but criticism ceases before the multifarious wonders of the halls and courts of Karnak, and the mind is open only to one general impression of colossal variety.
I well remember the morning when I stood before the propylon, or chief entrance of Karnak. The silver stars were still shining in the cold blue heaven, that afforded a beautiful relief to the mighty structure, built of a light yellow stone, and quite unstained by the winds of three thousand years. The front of this colossal entrance is very much broader than the front of our cathedral of St. Paul, and its height exceeds that of the Trajan column. It is entirely without sculpture—a rare omission, and doubtless intended that the unity of effect should not be broken. The great door in the centre is sixty-four feet in height.
Through this you pass into colonnaded courts, which in any other place would command undivided attention, until you at length arrive in front of a second propylon. Ascending a flight of steps, you enter the great hall of Karnak. The area of this hall is nearly fifty-eight thousand square feet, and it has recently been calculated that four such churches as our St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields might stand side by side in this unrivalled chamber without occupying the whole space. The roof, formed of single stones—compared with which the masses at Stonehenge would appear almost bricks—has fallen in; but the one hundred and thirty-four colossal columns which supported it, and which are considerably above thirty feet in circumference, still remain, and with the walls and propyla are completely covered with sculptured forms.
I shall not attempt to describe any other part of Karnak;-the memory aches with the effort. There are many buildings attached to it, larger than most temples; and infinite number of gates and obelisks, and colossi; but the imagination cannot refrain from calling up some sacred or heroic procession, moving from Luxor to Karnak, in melodious pomp, through the great avenue of sphinxes, and ranging themselves in groups around the gigantic columns of this sublime structure. What feudal splendour, and what Gothic ceremonies; what tilts and tournaments, and what ecclesiastical festivals, could rival the vast, the beautiful, and the solemn magnificence of the old Egyptians?
Crossing the river to Western Thebes, we arrive at two seated colossi, one of which is the famous musical statue of Memnon. It is fine to see him still seated on his throne, dignified and serene, on the plain of Thebes. This colossus is fifty feet in height; and its base is covered with inscriptions of Greek and Roman travellers, vouching that they had listened to the wild sunrise melody. This statue and its remaining companion, though now isolated in their situation, were once part of an enormous temple, the ruins of which yet remain, and the plan of which may yet be traced.
The Memnonion itself is now near at hand. In the colossal Caryatides we recognise the vast genius that excavated the rocks of Ipsambul, and supported a cavern temple upon the heads of giants. From the Memnonion came the statue that is now in the British Museum. But this figure, though a fine specimen of Egyptian sculpture, sinks, so far as magnitude is concerned, into insignificance, when compared with the statue of the supposed Sesostris, which, broken off at the waist, now lies prostrate in the precincts of the sanctuary. This is, probably, the most huge colossus that the Egyptians ever constructed. The fragment is of red granite, and of admirable workmanship. Unfortunately, the face is entirely obliterated. It lies upon its back, and in its fall has destroyed all the temple within reach. It measures more than sixty feet round the shoulders, the breadth of the instep is nearly seven feet, and the hieroglyphical figures engraven on the arm are large enough for a man to walk in.
Perhaps the most interesting group of ruins at Thebes is the quarter of Medoenet Habu, for here, among other vast remains, is that of a palace; and it is curious, among other domestic subjects, that we find represented on the walls, in a very admirable style, a Pharaoh playing chess with his queen. It is these domestic details that render also the sepulchres of Thebes so interesting. The arts of the Egyptians must be studied in their tombs; and to learn how this remarkable people lived, we must frequent their burial-places. A curious instance of this is, that, in a tomb near Beni-hassan, we learn by what process the Egyptians procured from the distant quarries of Nubia those masses of granite with which they raised the columns of Karnak and the obelisks of Luxor.
If I were called upon to describe in a word the principal and primary characteristic of Egyptian architecture, I should at once say Imagination, as Grace is the characteristic of the architecture of the Greeks. Thus, when the Ptolemies assumed the sceptre of the Pharaohs, they blended the delicate taste of Ionia t with the rich invention of the Nile, and produced Philoe, Dendera, and Edfou. It is from the Pharaohs, however, that you must seek for the vast and the gigantic: the pyramid, the propylon, the colossus, the catacomb, the obelisk, and the sphinx.
It was in the early part of the year of the invasion of Syria by the Egyptians, some eight years gone, that I first visited Thebes. My barque was stowed against the bank of the river, near the Memnonion; the last beam of the sun, before it sunk behind the Libyan hills, quivered on the columns of Luxor; the Nubian crew, after their long and laborious voyage, were dispersed on shore; and I was myself reposing in the shade, almost unattended, when a Turk, well mounted, and followed by his pipe-bearer, and the retinue that accompanies an Oriental of condition, descended from the hills which contain the tombs of the queens, and approached the boat. I was surprised, on advancing to welcome him, to be hailed in my native tongue; and pleased, at such a moment and in such a place, to find a countryman. While we smoked the pipe of salutation, he told me that he had lived at Thebes for nearly ten years, studying the antiquities, the history, and the manners of its ancient inhabitants. I availed myself of his invitation to his residence, and, accompanying him, I found that I was a visitor in a tomb, and yet by no means a gloomy dwelling-place. A platform, carved in the mountain, was surrounded by a mud wall and tower, to protect it from hostile Arabs. A couple of gazelles played in this front court, while we, reposing on a divan, arranged round the first chamber of the tomb, were favoured with a most commanding view of the valley outspread beneath. There were several inner chambers, separated from each other by hangings of scarlet cloth. Many apartments in the Albany have I seen not half as pleasant and convenient. I found a library, and instruments of art and science; a companion full of knowledge, profound in Oriental manners, and thoroughly master of the subject which naturally then most interested me. Our repast was strictly Eastern, but the unusual convenience of forks was not wanting, and my host told me that they were the very ones that he had used at Exeter College. I shall never forget that first day at Thebes, and this my first interview with one then unknown to fame, but whom the world has since recognised—the learned, the ingenious, and amiable Mr. Wilkinson.
THE characteristic of Egyptian architecture is Imagination; of Grecian architecture, Grace. When the Ptolemies assumed the sceptre of the Pharaohs, they blended the delicate taste of Ionia with the rich invention of the Nile; and they produced the most splendid creations of architectural power that can now be witnessed. Such is the refined Philoe—such the magnificent Dendera—such the sumptuous Edfou!
All the architectural remains of the most famous nations and the greatest empires,—the amphitheatres, and arches, and columns of the Romans; the fanes of the Greeks; the temples of the Syrians and Sicilians; the Colosseum, the Parthenon, the courts of Baalbec, the pillars of Palmyra and Girgenti,—sink into insignificance when compared with the structures that line the banks of an African river. The mind makes a leap amid their vastness, their variety, and their number. New combinations rise upon our limited invention and contract the taste,—the pyramid, the propylon, the colossus, the catacomb, the obelisk, the sphinx.
Take the map; trace the windings of the mysterious stream, whose source baffles even this age of enterprise, and which remains unknown even when the Niger is discovered. It flows through a wilderness. On one side are the interminable wastes of Libya; on the other, a rocky desert, leading to the ocean: yet its banks are fertile as a garden; and within 150 miles of the sea it divides into two branches, which wind through an immense plain, once the granary of the world.
A Nubian passed me in a state of nudity, armed with a poisoned spear, and guarded by the skin of a hippopotamus, formed into a shield. In this country, the animal called man is fine, although his wants are few,—some rice, a calabash of palm wine, and the fish he himself spears. Are his ancestors the creators of the adjoining temple, covered with beautiful sculptures, and supported by colossal figures fifty feet in height? It is well to ponder, by the roar of the cataracts of the Nile, over the perfectibility of man.
A light has at length broken into the darkness of Egyptian ages; and although we cannot discover the source of the Nile, we can at least decipher its hieroglyphics. Those who are ignorant of the study are incredulous as to its fruits; they disbelieve in the sun, because they are dazzled by its beams. A popular miscellany is not the place to enter into a history, or a vindication, of the phonetic system. I am desirous here only of conveying to the general reader, in an intelligible manner, some idea of the discoveries that are now unfolding themselves to the Egyptian antiquarian, and of wandering with him for a moment amid the marvellous creations of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, with a talisman which shall unfold for his instruction and amusement their mystical and romantic history.
I approach this mighty temple. A goose and globe, encircled in an oval, at once inform me that it was constructed by a ‘Son of the Sun,’ or a ‘Phrah,’ or ‘Pharaoh.’ It is remarkable that the Greeks never once mention this memorable title, simply because they have always translated it by their celebrated personification, ‘Sol,’ or ‘Apollo.’ In the obelisk of Hermapion, given by Ammianus Marcellinus, we should therefore read, in the third column, instead of ‘the powerful Apollo,’ ‘the powerful Phrah, the all-splendid Son of the Sun.’ Proceeding with the inscription, I also discover that the temple was constructed by Rameses the Second, a monarch of whom we have more to hear, and who also raised some of the most wonderful monuments of Thebes.
The first step of the Egyptian student should be to eradicate from his mind all recollection of ancient authors. When he has arrived at his own results, he may open Herodotus with interest, read Diodorus with suspicion; but, above all, he will then learn to estimate the value of the hitherto reviled Manetho, undoubtedly the fragments of the work of a genuine Egyptian writer. The history and theology of ancient Egypt must be studied on the sculptured walls of its palaces and temples, breathing with sacred mysteries and heroic warfare; its manners and customs in its catacombs and sepulchres, where the painter has celebrated the minutest traits of the social life and the domestic economy of the most ancient of nations.
Even in the time of Strabo, Egyptian Thebes was a city of enormous ruins, the origin of which no antiquary could penetrate. We now know by the inscriptions we decipher that these mighty monuments chiefly celebrate the achievements of a great conqueror,—Rameses the Second, or the Great, whom the most rigid critic would be rash to place later than fifteen hundred years before Christ. These great creations, therefore, demonstrate the mature civilisation of Egypt far beyond three thousand years back. Rameses and his illustrious predecessors, the Thothmes and the Amunophs, are described as monarchs of the eighteenth dynasty. Thothmes the Fourth, one of these ancestors, cut the great Sphinx of the Pyramids; as for the Pyramids themselves, it is now undeniable that they were not raised at the comparatively late period ascribed to them by Herodotus and Diodorus. No monuments in Egypt can be compared in antiquity with these buildings; and the names of the predecessors of Rameses the Great are found in their vicinity, evidently sculptured at a much later epoch. ‘The Pyramids are at least ten thousand years old,’ said Champollion to a friend of mine in Egypt, rubbing his hands, with eyes sparkling with all the enthusiasm of triumphant research.
It is highly probable that Rameses the Great was the Sesostris of Herodotus. This name is entirely a Greek invention, and is found on no Egyptian monuments. The splendid tomb, first opened by Belzoni, in the Valley of the Kings, is of the grandfather of this monarch—Rameses the First. It is evident from the Theban sculptures and inscriptions, that Rameses and his predecessors were engaged in a long war with a most powerful enemy,’ and that that enemy was an Oriental people, a nation with fair countenances and flowing robes, dwelling in a hilly and well-wooded country. It is probable that this nation was the Assyrians, who, according to ancient writers, invaded Egypt under Ninus and Semiramis. Thothmes the Third and Fourth, Amunoph, and Rameses the First, carried on this war with uncertain success. The successor of Rameses the First, whose phonetic name is doubtful, was not unworthy of the son whom the gods accorded to him as a reward for his valour and magnificence. This anonymous sovereign led the war in person, and probably against degenerate princes. On the walls of Karnak—a sculptured scroll, more durable than those of his poets and historians—we find him in his triumphal chariot, leading a host of infantry and chariots, attacking fortified places, defended by lofty walls and surrounded by water. The enemy is seen clearing their country in advance, driving away their cattle, and felling forests to impede the progress of the invader’s chariots; but at length the victorious Pharaoh returns to his Nile with crowds of prisoners, bearing every variety of rich and fantastic tribute.
The son of this chieftain was Rameses the Second, or the Great. Following the example of his illustrious predecessor, he soon led a numerous and chosen army to extend the Oriental conquests of the Egyptians. He passed along the sea-coast of a country, which is, without doubt, Syria, since the name of Rameses the Second is still found on that shore, near the ancient Berytus and modern Beirut. He continued his march into the interior, where we at length find him opposed by a powerful force on the banks of a great river, probably the Euphrates. On the opposite bank of the river is a vast and strongly-fortified city. The battle is fought and won. The Orientals are defeated, and sue for peace. The city is not represented as taken, yet sieges are often sculptured on these walls, and the Egyptian army is always supplied with scaling-ladders and the testudo. And what was this city? Was it Babylon? Was it Nineveh? How wonderful is it at this remote period, to read for the first time, the Gazettes of the Pharaohs! It does not appear to have been the object of the Egyptians to make a permanent settlement in these conquered countries. They laid waste the land, they accumulated plunder, they secured peace by the dread of their arms, and, returning home with the same rapidity that they advanced, they enjoyed and commemorated their victories in the embellishment of their majestic cities. The remainder of the long reign of Rameses the Great was passed in the cultivation of the arts. A greater number of monuments, statues, and temples bear the name of this king than of any other who ruled in Egypt, and there are few remains of any city in that country where it is not met with. To him we are indebted alike for the rock temples of Nubia, and the inimitable obelisks of Luxor. He raised that splendid structure on the western side of Thebes, supported by colossal statues, which is foolishly styled the Memnonion; he made great additions to Karnak; he built the temple of Osiris at Abydus; he adorned the great temple of Memphis with colossal statues, for which he evidently had a passion; and, finally, amid a vast number of other temples, especially in Nubia, which it would be tedious to recount, and other remains, he cut the famous Monticoelian obelisk now at Rome. Whatever may have been the actions recorded of Sesostris, one thing is certain, that no Egyptian king ever surpassed or equalled the second Rameses. Let us then allow that history has painted in too glowing colours the actions of the former-too great for the limited power of Europe—and remain persuaded, that, so far from aiming at the conquest of the world, the utmost extent of his march was confined to the countries bordering on Assyria, Arabia, and part of Æthiopia, from which country he is represented as receiving tribute. The conquests of Rameses the Second secured a long peace to Egypt. The reigns of his two successors, however, are celebrated for the creation of the great avenue of sphinxes at Thebes, leading from Luxor to Karnak, a mile and a quarter in extent, a sumptuous evidence of the prosperity of Egypt and of the genius of the Pharaohs. War, however, broke out again under Rameses the Third, but certainly against another power, and it would appear a naval power. Returning victorious, the third Rameses added a temple to Karnak, and raised the temple and the palace of Medcenet Habu. Here closes the most interesting period of Egyptian history. A long succession of princes, many of whom bore the name of Rameses, followed, but, so far as we can observe, they were distinguished neither in architecture nor war. There are reasons which may induce us to believe that the Trojan war happened during the reign of the third Rameses. The poetical Memnon is not found in Egyptian records. The name is not Egyptian, although it may be a corruption. It is useless to criticise this invention of the lying Greeks, to whose blinded conceit and carelessness we are indebted for the almost total darkness in which the records of antiquity are enveloped. The famous musical statue of Memnon is still seated on its throne, dignified and serene, on the plain of Thebes. It is a colossus, fifty feet in height, and the base of the figure is covered with inscriptions of the Greek and Roman travellers, vouching that they had listened to the wild sunrise melody. The learned and ingenious Mr. Wilkinson, who has resided at Thebes upwards of ten years, studying the monuments of Egypt, appears to me to have solved the mystery of this music. He informed me that having ascended the statue, he discovered that some metallic substance had been inserted in its breast, which, when struck, emitted a very melodious sound. From the attitude of the statue, a priest might easily have ascended in the night, and remained completely concealed behind the mighty arms while he struck the breast; or, which is not improbable, there was probably some secret way to ascend, now blocked up; for this statue, with its remaining companion, although now isolated in their situation, were once part of an enormous temple, the ruins of which yet remain, and the plan of which may yet be traced. Thanks to the phonetic system, we now know that this musical statue is one of Amunoph the Second, who lived many centuries before the Trojan war. The truth is, the Greeks, who have exercised almost as fatal an influence over modern knowledge as they have a beneficial one over modern taste, had no conception of anything more ancient than the Trojan war, except Chaos. Chaos is a poetic legend, and the Trojan war was the squabble of a few marauding clans.
‘Where are the records of the great Assyrian monarchy? Where are the books of the Medes and Persians? Where the learned annals of Pharaohs?
‘Fortunate Jordan! Fortunate Ilissus! I have waded through the sacred waters; with difficulty I traced the scanty windings of the classic stream. Alas! for the exuberant Tigris; alas! for the mighty Euphrates; alas! for the mysterious Nile!’
It is curious that no allusion whatever to the Jews has yet turned up on any Egyptian monuments. But upon the walls of Medoenet Habu I observed, more than once repeated, the Ark borne in triumph. This is not a fanciful resemblance. It responds in every particular.
I have noticed the history of Ancient Egypt, because some knowledge of it is necessary to illustrate Thebes. I quit a subject which, however curious, is probably of too confined an interest for the general reader, and I enter in his company the City of the Hundred Gates.
The Nile winds through the valley of Thebes—a valley formed by ranges of mountains, which on one side defend it from the great Lybian desert, and on the other from the rocky wilderness that leads to the Red Sea. On each side of the stream are two great quarters of ruins. On the side of the Red Sea are Luxor and Karnak, on the opposite bank the great temple called the Memnonion, and the various piles which, under the general title of Medoenet Habu, in all probability among other structures comprise the principal palace of the more ancient Pharaohs. On the Lybian side, also, are the cemeteries of the great city-the mummy caves of Gornou, two miles in extent; above them, excavated in the mountains, the tombs of the Queens, and in the adjacent valley of Beban-el-Maluk the famous tombs of the Kings. The population of the City of the Hundred Gates now consists of a few Arab families, who form four villages of mud huts clustered round those gigantic columns and mighty obelisks, a single one of which is sought for by the greatest sovereigns of Europe for their palaces and museums as the rarest of curious treasures. Often, indeed, have I seen a whole Arab village rising from the roof of a single Egyptian temple. Dendera is an instance. The population of Gornou, in number between three and four hundred, reside solely in the tombs.
I think that Luxor, from its situation, first attracts the notice of the traveller. It is close on the river, and is built on a lofty platform. Its enormous columns are the first specimen of that colossal genius of the Pharaohs which the Ptolemies never attempted to rival. The entrance to this temple is through a magnificent propylon, that is, a portal flanked by massy pyramidal moles. It is two hundred feet in breadth, and rises nearly sixty feet above the soil. This gate is entirely covered with sculpture, commemorating the triumph of Rameses the Great over the supposed Assyrians. On each side of the portal are two colossal statues of red granite, buried in the sand up to their shoulders, but measuring thence, to the top of their crowns, upwards of twenty feet. On each side of them, a little in advance, rise the two most perfect obelisks that remain, also of red granite, and each about eighty feet high. From the propylon you pass into a peristyle court, about two hundred and thirty feet long by one hundred and seventy, the roof of which was once supported by double rows of columns, many of which now remain; and so on through other pyramidal gates and courts and porticoes and chambers which are, in all probability, of a more ancient date than the gates and obelisks and colossi first described, which last were perhaps added by Rameses, who commemorated his triumph by rendering a celebrated building still more famous.
From Luxor you proceed to Karnak, the other great division on this side of the river, through an avenue of sphinxes considerably above a mile in extent; and here I should observe that Egyptian sphinxes are either andro or crio sphinxes, the one formed by the union of the lion with the man, and the other of the lion with the ram. Their mystery is at length penetrated. They are male and never female. They are male and they are monarchs. This great avenue, extending from Luxor to Karnak, was raised by the two immediate successors of the great Rameses, and represents their long line of ancestry.
All the marvels of the world sink before the first entrance into Karnak. It may vie with the Alps and the Andes. The obelisks of Luxor may be unrivalled, the sculptures of Medcenet Habu more exquisite, the colossus of Memnonion more gigantic, the paintings of the royal tombs more curious and instructive, but criticism ceases before the multifarious wonders of the halls and courts of Karnak and the mind is open only to one general impression of colossal variety.
I well remember the morning I stood before the propylon, or chief entrance of Karnak. The silver stars were still shining in the cold blue heaven, that afforded a beautiful relief to the mighty structure, built of a light yellow stone, and quite unstained by the winds of three thousand years. The front of this colossal entrance is very much broader than the front of our cathedral of St. Paul’s, and its height exceeds that of the Trajan column. It is entirely without sculptures, a rare omission, and doubtless intended, that the unity of the effect should not be broken. The great door in the centre is sixty-four feet in height.
Through this you pass into columned courts, which, in any other place, would command undivided attention, until you at length arrive in front of a second propylon. Ascending a flight of steps, you enter the great hall of Karnak. The area of this hall is nearly fifty-eight thousand square feet, and it has recently been calculated that four such churches as our St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields might stand side by side in this unrivalled chamber without occupying the whole space. The roof, formed of single stones, compared with which the masses at Stonehenge would appear almost bricks, has fallen in; but the one hundred and thirty-four colossal columns which supported it, and which are considerably above thirty feet in circumference, still remain, and, with the walls and propyla, are completely covered with sculptured forms. I shall not attempt to describe any other part of Karnak. The memory aches with the effort; there are many buildings attached to it, larger than most temples; there are an infinite number of gates, and obelisks, and colossi; but the imagination cannot refrain from calling up some sacred or heroic procession, moving from Luxor to Karnak, in melodious pomp, through the great avenue of sphinxes, and ranging themselves in glorious groups around the gigantic columns of this sublime structure. What feudal splendour, and what Gothic ceremonies, what tilts and tournaments, and what ecclesiastic festivals, could rival the vast, the beautiful, and solemn magnificence of the old Egyptians?
Crossing the river to Western Thebes, we arrive at the two seated colossi, one of which I have already noticed as the musical Memnon. These doubtless once guarded the entrance of some temple more ancient than any remaining, for they were raised by Amunoph the Second, a predecessor, by some generations, of the great Rameses. They were, doubtless, once seated on each side of a propylon, as at Luxor, and in all probability were flanked by obelisks. Whether the temple were destroyed for materials, for more recent structures, or whether it has sunk under the accumulations of the slimy soil, may be decided by the future excavator.
We arrive at the Memnonion. This temple was raised by Rameses the Great. In the colossal Caryatides we recognise the same genius that excavated the rocks of Ipsambul, and supported a cavern temple upon the heads of giants. From the Memnonion came the statue that is now in the British Museum. But this figure, though a fine specimen of Egyptian sculpture, sinks, so far as magnitude is concerned, into insignificance when compared with the statue of Rameses himself, which, broken off at the waist, now lies prostrate in the precincts of the sanctuary. This is probably the most huge colossus that the Egyptians ever constructed. The fragment is of red granite, and of admirable workmanship. Unfortunately the face is entirely obliterated. The statue lies upon its back, and in its fall has destroyed all the temple within reach. It measures more than sixty feet round the shoulders, the breadth of the instep is nearly seven feet, and the hieroglyphical figures engraven on the arm are large enough for a man to walk in.
Perhaps the most interesting group of ruins at Thebes is the quarter of Medcenet Habu. Most of the buildings are of the time of Rameses the Third.
The sculptured walls of the great temples, covered with battles, chariots, captives, and slaves, have been worthily described by the vivid pen of Mr. Hamilton. They celebrate the victorious campaigns of the monarch. Here also the Third Rameses raised his palace. And it is curious, among other domestic subjects, that we find represented on the walls, in a very admirable style, Rameses playing chess with his Queen. Chess is, probably, a most ancient Oriental game. Rameses the Third lived before the Trojan war, to which the Greeks, as usual, ascribe the invention of chess.
The sepulchres of Thebes still remain to be described, a theme more fertile in interest and instruction than even its palaces and temples. The arts of the Egyptians must be studied in their tombs, and to learn how this remarkable people lived, we must even go where they were buried. To cite no other instances in a sketch which is already too long, it is from a painting in a tomb near Beni-hassan that we learn how the Egyptians procured from the distant quarries of Nubia those masses of stone and granite with which they raised the columns of Karnak and the obelisks of Luxor.
But we must conclude. We have touched a virgin subject rich with delightful knowledge, and if our readers be not wearied with wandering on the banks of the Nile, we may perhaps again introduce them to the company of the Pharaohs.
ORIENTAL palaces, except perhaps in the great Indian peninsula, do not realise the dreams and glittering visions of the Arabian Nights, or indeed the authentic histories written in the flush and fullness of the success of the children of the desert, the Tartar and the Saracen. Commerce once followed in the train of the conquerors of Asia, and the vast buildings which they hastily threw up of slight and perishing materials, were filled, not only with the plunder of the East, but furnished with all the productions of art and curious luxury, which the adventurous spirit of man brought from every quarter of the globe to Samarcand and Bagdad. The site of these mighty capitals is almost erased from the map of the modern traveller; but tribute and traffic have also ceased to sustain even the dilapidated serail of the once omnipotent Stamboul, and, until very recently, all that remained of the splendour of the Caliphs of Egypt was the vast Necropolis, which still contains their palatial sepulchres.
How the bold Roumelian peasant who in our days has placed himself on the ancient throne of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, as Napoleon on the seat of the Merovingian kings, usurping political power by military prowess, lodged and contented himself in the valley of the Nile, was not altogether an uninteresting speculation; and it was with no common curiosity that some fifteen years ago, before he had conquered Syria and scared Constantinople, I made one morning a visit to Shoubra, the palace of Mehemet Ali.
Nothing can be conceived more animated and picturesque than Cairo during the early morning or at night. It seems the most bustling and populous city in the world. The narrow streets, abounding with bazaars, present the appearance of a mob, through which troops of richly dressed cavaliers force with difficulty their prancing way, arrested often in their course by the procession of a harem returning from the bath, the women enveloped in inscrutable black garments, and veils and masks of white linen, and borne along by the prettiest donkeys in the world. The attendant eunuchs beat back the multitude; even the swaggering horsemen, with their golden and scarlet jackets, rich shawls and scarfs, and shining arms, trampling on those around, succeed in drawing aside; but all efforts are vain, for at the turning of the street appears the first still solemn visage of a long string of tall camels bearing provisions to the citadel, a Nubian astride on the neck of the leader, and beating a wild drum, to apprise the people of his approach. The streets, too, in which these scenes occur are in themselves full of variety and architectural beauty. The houses are lofty and latticed, abounding in balconies; fountains are frequent and vast and as richly adorned as Gothic shrines; sometimes the fortified palace of one of the old Mamlouks, now inhabited by a pasha, still oftener the exquisite shape of an Arabian mosque. The temples of Stamboul cannot vie with the fanes of Cairo. Their delicate domes and airy cupolas, their lofty minarets covered with tracery, and the flowing fancy of their arabesques recalled to me the glories of the Alhambra, the fantastic grace of the Alcazars and the shrines of Seville and Cordova.
At night the illuminated coffee-houses, the streaming population, each person carrying a lantern, in an atmosphere warmer and softer than our conservatories, and all the innocent amusements of an out-door life—the Nubian song, the Arabian tale, the Syrian magic—afford a different, but not less delightful scene.
It was many hours before noon, however, that I made my first visit to Shoubra, beneath a sky as cloudless as it remained during the whole six months I was in Egypt, during which time I have no recollection that we were favoured by a single drop of rain; and yet the ever-living breeze on the great river, and the excellent irrigation of the earth, produce a freshness in the sky and soil, which are missed in other Levantine regions, where there is more variety of the seasons.
Shoubra is about four or five miles from the metropolis. It rises on the banks of the Nile, and the road to it from Cairo is a broad but shady avenue, formed of sycamores, of noble growth and colour; on one side delightful glimpses of the river, with its palmy banks and sparkling villages, and on the other, after a certain tract of vivid vegetation, the golden sands of the desert, and the shifting hillocks which it forms; or, perhaps, the grey peaks of some chain of pyramids.
The palace of Shoubra is a pile of long low buildings looking to the river—moderate in its character, and modest in its appointments; but clean, orderly, and in a state of complete repair; and, if we may use such an epithet with reference to oriental life, comfortable. It possesses all the refined conveniences of European manners, of which the pasha at the time I am referring to was extremely proud. Most of these had been the recent gift of the French government, and his highness occasionally amused his guests—some sheikh from Arabia, or some emir from the Lebanon—by the exhibition of some scientific means of domestic accommodation with which use has made us familiar, but which I was assured had sensibly impressed the magnates of the desert and the mountain with the progress of modern civilisation.
The gardens of Shoubra, however, are vast, fanciful, and kept in admirable order. They appeared to me in their character also entirely oriental. You enter them by long, low, winding walks of impenetrable shade; you emerge upon an open ground sparkling with roses, arranged in beds of artificial forms, and leading to gilded pavilions and painted kiosks. Arched walks of orange trees, with the fruit and the flowers hanging over your head, lead again to fountains, or to some other garden-court, where myrtles border beds of tulips, and you wander on mosaic walks of polished pebbles. A vase flashes amid a group of dark cypresses, and you are invited to repose under a Syrian walnut tree by a couch or a summer-house.
The most striking picture, however, of this charming retreat is a lake surrounded by light cloisters of white marble, and in its centre a fountain of crocodiles, carved in the same material. That material as well as the art, however, are European. It was Carrara that gave the pure and glittering blocks, and the Tuscan chisel called them into life. It is a pity that the honourable board of directors, in their recent offering of the silver fountain to the pasha, had not been aware of the precedent thus afforded by his highness’s own creation for the introduction of living forms into Moslem sculpture and carving. They might have varied their huge present with advantage. Indeed, with the crocodile and the palm-tree, surely something more beautiful and not less characteristic than their metallic mausoleum might easily have been devised.
This marble pavilion at Shoubra, indeed, with its graceful, terraced peristyles, its chambers and divans, the bright waters beneath, with their painted boats, wherein the ladies of the harem chase the gleaming shoals of gold and silver fish, is a scene worthy of a sultan; but my attendant, a Greek employed in the garden, told me I ought to view it on some high festival, crowded by the court in their rich costumes, to appreciate all its impressive beauty. This was a scene not reserved for me, yet my first visit to Shoubra closed with an incident not immemorable.
I had quitted the marble pavilion and was about to visit the wilderness where roam, in apparent liberty, many rare animals, when I came, somewhat suddenly, on a small circular plot into which several walks emptied, cut through a thick hedge of myrtle. By a sun-dial stood a little man, robust, though aged, rather stout, and of a very cheerful countenance; his attire plain and simple, a pelisse of dark silk, and a turban white as his snowy beard; he was in merry conversation with his companion, who turned out to be his jester. In the background, against the myrtle wall, stood three or four courtiers in rich dresses—courtiers, for the little old man was their princely master—the great Pasha of Egypt.
I FOUND myself high among the mountains, and yet amid a series of green slopes. All around me sparkled with cultivation—vineyards, gardens, groves of young mulberry trees, clustering groups of the sycamore and the walnut. Falling around, the cascades glittered in the sun, until, reaching the bottom of the winding valley, they mingled with the waters of a rivulet that glided through a glade of singular vividness.
On the broad bosom of a sunny hill, behind which rose a pyramid of bare rock, was a most beautiful village—flat cottages with terraced roofs, shaded by spreading trees, and surrounded by fruit and flowers. A cerulean sky above; the breath of an infinite variety of fragrant herbs around; and a land of silk and wine; everywhere the hum of bees and the murmur of falling streams; while, on the undulating down, a band of beauteous children were frolicking with the kids.
The name of this village, the fairest spot in the region of Lebanon, is Eden, which, rendered from the Arabic into the English tongue, means a ‘Dwelling of Delight.’
I ascended the peak that overhung this village. I beheld ridges of mountains succeeding each other in proportionate pre-eminence, until the range of the eternal glaciers, with their lustrous cones, flashed in the Syrian sun. I descended into the deep and solemn valleys, skirted the edges of rocky precipices, and toiled over the savage monotony of the dreary table-land. At length, on the brow of a mountain, I observed the fragments of a gloomy forest—cedar, and pine, and cypress. The wind moaning through its ancient avenues and the hoarse roar of a cataract were the only sounds that greeted me.
In the front was a scanty group of gigantic trees, that seemed the relics of some pre-Adamite grove. Their grey and massive trunks, each of which must have been more than twelve yards in girth, were as if quite dead; while, about twenty feet from the ground, they divided into five or six huge limbs, each equal to a single tree, but all, as it were, lifeless amid their apparent power.
Bare of all foliage, save on their ancient crests—black, blasted, riven, and surrounded by deep snows—behold the trees that built the palaces of Solomon!
When I recall the scene from which I had recently parted, and contrasted it with the spectacle before me, it seemed that I had quitted the innocence and infancy of Nature to gaze on its old age—of exhausted passions and desolate neglect.
THE sun was quivering above the horizon, when I strolled forth from Jaffa to enjoy the coming breeze amid the beautiful gardens that environ that agreeable town. Riding along the previous day, my attention had been attracted by a marble gate, the fragment of some old temple, that now served as the entrance to one of these enclosures, their secure boundary otherwise formed by a picturesque and impenetrable hedge of Indian fig.
It is not a hundred yards from the town; behind it stretches the plain of Ramie—the ancient Arimathea-broad and fertile, and, at this moment, green; for it was just after the latter rains, when Syria is most charming. The caravan track winding through it led to Jerusalem.
The air was exquisitely soft and warm, and sweet with the perfume of the orange bowers. I passed through the marble portal, adorned with some florid yet skilful sculptures, and found myself in a verdant wilderness of fruit-trees, rising in rich confusion from the turf, through which not a single path seemed to wander. There were vast groups of orange and lemon-trees, varied occasionally with the huge offspring of the citron-tree, and the glowing produce of the pomegranate; while, ever and anon, the tall banana raised its head aloft with its green or golden clusters, and sometimes the graceful and languid crest of the date-bearing palm.
While I was in doubt as to the direction I should bend my steps, my ear was caught by the wild notes of Turkish music; and, following the sounds, I emerged upon a plot of turf, clear from trees, in the middle of which was a fountain, and, by its margin, seated on a delicate Persian carpet, a venerable Turk. Some slaves were near him, one of whom, at a little distance, was playing on a rude lyre; in the master’s left hand was a volume of Arabian poetry, and he held in his right the serpentine tube of his narghileh, or Syrian pipe. When he beheld me, he saluted me with all the dignity of the Orient, pressing his hand to his heart, but not rising. I apologised for my intrusion; but he welcomed me with serene cordiality, and invited me to share his carpet and touch his pipe.
Some time elapsed in answering those questions respecting European horses and European arms, wherein the Easterns delight. At length, the solemn and sonorous voice of the muezzin, from the minarets of Jaffa, came floating on the air. The sun had set; and, immediately, my host and his companions performed their ablutions in the fountain; and kneeling towards Mecca, repeated their accustomed prayers. Then rising, the Turkish aga, for such was his rank, invited me to enjoy the evening breeze, and accompany him in a walk round his garden.
As we proceeded, my companion plucked an orange, and taking a knife from his girdle, and cutting the fruit in half, offered me one moiety, and threw the other away. More than once he repeated this ceremony, which somewhat excited my surprise. At length he inquired my opinion of his fruit. I enlarged, and with sincerity, on its admirable quality, the racy sweetness of its flavour, which I esteemed unequalled; but I could not refrain from expressing my surprise, that of fruit so exquisite he should studiously waste so considerable a portion.
‘Effendi,’ said the Turk, with a grave though gracious smile, ‘to friends we give only the sunny side.’
THE stranger whose felicity it has been to float between the shores of the Bosphorus will often glance back with mingled feelings of regret and satisfaction to the memory of those magical waters. This splendid strait, stretching from the harbour of Constantinople to the mouth of the Euxine, may be about twenty miles in length, and its ordinary breadth seldom exceeds one mile. The old Greek story tells that one might hear the birds sing on the opposite shore. And thus two great continents are divided by an ocean stream narrower than many rivers that are the mere boundaries of kingdoms. Yet it is strange that the character of these two famous divisions of our earth is nowhere more marked than on the shores of the Bosphorus. The traveller turns without disappointment from the gay and glittering shores of Europe to the sublimer beauty and the dusky grandeur of Asia.
The European side, until you advance within four or five miles of the Black Sea, is almost uninterruptedly studded with fanciful and ornamental buildings: beautiful villages, and brilliant summer palaces, and bright kiosks, painted in arabesque, and often gilt. The green background to the scene is a sparkling screen of terraced gardens, rising up a chain of hills whose graceful undulations are crowned with groves of cypress and of chestnut, occasionally breaking into fair and delicate valleys, richly wooded, and crossed by a grey and antique aqueduct.
But in Asia the hills rise into mountains, and the groves swell into forests. Everything denotes a vast, rich and prolific land, but there is something classical, antique, and even mysterious in its general appearance. An air of stillness and deep repose pervades its less cultivated and less frequented shores; and the very eagles, as they linger over the lofty peak of ‘the Giant’s grave,’ seem conscious that they are haunting some heroic burial-place.
I remember that one of the most strange, and even sublime, spectacles that I ever beheld occurred to me one balmy autumnal eve as I returned home in my caique from Terapia, a beautiful village on the Bosphorus, where I had been passing the day, to Pera. I encountered an army of dolphins, who were making their way from the Ægean and the Sea of Marmora through the Strait to the Euxine. They stretched right across the water, and I should calculate that they covered, with very little interval, a space of three or four miles. It is very difficult to form an estimate of their number, but there must, of course, have been many thousands. They advanced in grand style, and produced an immense agitation: the snorting, spouting, and splashing, and the wild panting rush, I shall never forget. As it was late, no other caique was in sight, and my boatmen, apprehensive of being run down, stopped to defend themselves with their oars. I had my pistols with me, and found great sport, as, although the dolphins made every effort to avoid us, there were really crowds always in shot. Whenever one was hit, general confusion ran through the whole line. They all flounced about with increased energy, ducked their round heads under water, and turned up their arrowy tails. We remained thus stationary for nearly three-quarters of an hour, and very diverting I found the delay. At length the mighty troop of strangers passed us, and, I suppose, must have arrived at the Symplegades about the same time that I sought the elegant hospitality of the British Palace at Pera.
WHEN I was in Egypt the great subject of political speculation was the invasion of Syria; not that the object of the formation of the camp at Alexandria was generally known; on the contrary, it was a secret,-but a secret shared by many ears. Forty thousand well-disciplined troops were assembled at Cairo; and it was whispered at Court that Abdallah Pasha of Acre might look to himself, a young and valiant chief, by-the-bye, whom I well know, but indulging in dissipation, extraordinary even in the Levant. I was exceedingly anxious of becoming in some manner attached to this expedition; and as I was not without influence in the proper quarters, there appeared little probability of my wish not being gratified. With these views I remained in Egypt longer than I had intended, but it would seem that the invaders were not quite as ardent as their intended volunteer, for affairs at Alexandria progressed but indifferently. Orders and counter-orders, marches and counter-marches, boats pressed on the Nile for the passage of troops from the capital, which were all liberated the next day, many divans and much smoking; but still the troops remained within pistol-shot of the citadel, and months glided away apparently without any material advancement.
I had often observed that although there was in most subjects an excellent understanding between the two Pashas, Mehemet Ali and Ibrahim, a degree of petty jealousy existed between them on the point of their mutual communications with foreigners; so that if I happened one morning to attend the divan of the Grand Pasha, as the Franks styled the father, I was sure, on some excuse or other, of being summoned the next day to the levee of the son; I was therefore not surprised when, one day, on my return from paying my respects to the divan at the citadel of Cairo, I found a Nubian eunuch in attendance at my quarters, telling me that Ibrahim Pasha was anxious to see me.
I accordingly repaired without loss of time to the sumptuous palace of that chieftain: and being ushered into his presence, I found the future conqueror of Syria attended only by his dragoman, his secretary; and an aide-de-camp.
A pipe was immediately brought me, but Ibrahim himself did not smoke. After the usual compliments, ‘Effendi,’ said Ibrahim, ‘do you think the English horses would live in Egypt?’
I was too practised an observer of the Turkish character to suppose that English horses were really the occasion of my summons. The Turks are very diplomatic, and are a long time coming to the point. I answered, however, that, with English grooms, I was of opinion that English horses would flourish in any climate. A curt, dry, uninteresting conversation about English horses was succeeded by some queries, which I had answered fifty times before, about English pistols: and then came a sly joke or two about English women. At length the point of the interview began to poke its horns out of this shell of tittle-tattle.
‘If you want to go with the army,’ said his Highness, ‘’tis I who am the person to speak to. They know nothing about those things up there’ (meaning the citadel).
I answered his Highness that I had attended the divan merely as a matter of ceremony, and that I had not interchanged a word with the Grand Pasha on the subject of the expedition.
‘I suppose you talked with Boghaz?’ said Ibrahim.
Boghaz was the favourite of Mehemet Ali.
‘Neither with Boghaz nor any one else. Your Highness having once graciously promised me that I should attend you, I should have thought it both impertinent and unnecessary to apply to any other person whatever.’
‘Tahib!’ exclaimed his Highness, which meant that he was satisfied. ‘After all, I do not know whether the army will march at all. You have been in Syria?’
I answered, in the affirmative, a question which had often been addressed to me.
‘Do you think I could march as far as Gaza?’ inquired Ibrahim, with a smile.
This was a question of mockery. It was like asking whether the Life Guards could take Windsor. I therefore only returned the smile, and said that I did not doubt the enemy would agree to settle affairs upon that condition.
‘Tahib! Well I think I can march as far as they speak Arabic!’ This was a favourite phrase of his Highness.
I answered that I hoped, if I had the honour of attending his Highness, the army would march till we could see another ocean.
‘It is all talk up there,’ replied Ibrahim; ‘but my life is a life of deeds.’
‘Words are very good things sometimes,’ I replied; ‘that is, if we keep marching at the same time.’
‘God is great!’ exclaimed Ibrahim; and looking round to his officers, ‘the Effendi speaks truth; and thus it was that Redchid beat the beys.’
Ibrahim alluded to the Albanian campaign of the preceding year, when the energy of the grand vizier crushed the rebellious beys of the ancient Epirus.
‘What do you think of Redchid?’ he inquired.
‘I think he is worthy of being your Highness’s rival.’
‘He has always been victorious,’ said Ibrahim; ‘but I think his sabre is made of gold. That will not do with me.’
‘It’s a pity,’ I observed, ‘that if your Highness find time to march into Syria, you had not acted simultaneously with the Albanians, or with the Pasha of Scutari.’
‘May I kill my mother but it is true; but up there, they will watch, and watch, and watch, till they fall asleep.’
The truth is, the Orientals have no idea of military diversions; and even if they combine, each strives to be the latest in the field, in order that he may take advantage of the other’s success or discomfiture. Mehemet Ali, at an immense expenditure, had excited two terrible revolts in European Turkey, and then waited to invade Syria until the armies of the Porte were unemployed. The result with some will justify his policy; but in the conquest of Syria, the truth is, Ibrahim himself used a golden sabre, and the year, before, the contingents of the pashas, whom he was obliged to bribe, were all busied in Europe.
The night previous to this conversation the style of the military oath of the Egyptian army had been altered; and the troops, instead of swearing allegiance to the Sultan, had pledged themselves to Mehemet Ali. The Grand Pasha was so nervous about this change, that the order for it was countermanded twice in four hours; however, what with gratuities to the troops, and the discreet distribution of promotion among the officers, everything went off very quietly. There was also a rumour that Mehemet Ali intended immediately to assume the title of Caliph.
This piece of information is necessary to explain the following striking observation of Ibrahim Pasha.
‘Effendi, do you think that a man can conquer Syria, who is not called a caliph? Will it make 40,000 men 80,000?’
I replied, that I thought the assumption of the title would have a beneficial effect at foreign courts.
‘Bah! before the Yahoos hear of it, I shall be at Damascus. Up there, they are always busying themselves with forms. The eagle in his flight does not think of his shadow on the earth!’
THE destiny of nations appears to have decreed that a society should periodically, though rarely, flourish, characterised by its love of the Fine Arts, and its capacity of ideal creation. These occasional and brilliant ebullitions of human invention elevate the race of man; they purify and chasten the taste of succeeding generations; and posterity accepts them as the standard of what is choice, and the model of what is excellent.
Classic Greece and Christian Italy stand out in our universal annals as the epochs of the Arts. During the last two centuries, while manners have undergone a rapid transition, while physical civilisation has advanced in an unprecedented degree, and the application of science to social life has diverted the minds of men from other pursuits, the Fine Arts have decayed and vanished.
I wish to call the attention of my countrymen to another great movement in the creative mind of Europe; one yet young and little recognised, but not inferior, in my opinion, either to that of Athens or of Florence.
It was on a cloudless day of the autumn of last year, that I found myself in a city that seemed almost visibly rising beneath my eye. The street in which I stood was of noble dimensions, and lined on each side with palaces or buildings evidently devoted to public purposes. Few were completely finished: the sculptor was working at the statues that adorned their fronts; the painter was still touching the external frescoes; and the scaffold of the architect was not in every instance withdrawn. Everywhere was the hum of art and artists. The Byzantine style of many of these buildings was novel to me in its modern adaptation, yet very effective. The delicate detail of ornament contrasted admirably with the broad fronts and noble façades which they adorned. A church with two very lofty towers of white marble, with their fretted cones relieved with cerulean blue, gleamed in the sun; and near it was a pile not dissimilar to the ducal palace at Venice, but of nobler and more beautiful proportions, with its portal approached by a lofty flight of steps, and guarded by the colossal statues of poets and philosophers—suitably guarded, for it was the National Library.
As I advanced, I found myself in squares and circuses, in every instance adorned by an obelisk of bronze or the equestrian statue of some royal hero: I observed a theatre with a lofty Corinthian portico, and a pediment brilliantly painted in fresco with designs appropriate to its purpose; an Ionic museum of sculpture, worthy to enshrine the works of a Phidias or a Praxiteles; and a palace for the painter, of which I was told the first stone had been rightly laid on the birthday of Raffaelle. But what struck me most in this city, more than its galleries, temples, and palaces, its magnificent buildings, splendid paintings, and consummate statues, was the all-pervading presence and all-inspiring influence of living and breathing Art. In every street, a school: the atelier of the sculptor open, the studio of the painter crowded: devoted pupils, aspiring rivals: enthusiasm, emulation, excellence. Here the long-lost feudal-art of colouring glass re-discovered; there fresco-painting entirely revived, and on the grandest scale; while the ardent researches of another man of genius successfully analyses the encaustic tenting of Herculaneum, and secures the secret process for the triumph of modern Art. I beheld a city such as I had mused over amid the crumbling fanes of Pericles, or, aided alike by memory and fancy, had conjured up in the palaces and gardens of the Medici.
Such is Munich, a city which, half a century ago, was the gross and corrupt capital of a barbarous and brutal people. Baron Reisbech, who visited Bavaria in 1780, describes the Court of Munich as one not at all more advanced than those of Lisbon and Madrid. A good-natured prince, fond only of show and thinking only of the chase; an idle, dissolute, and useless nobility; the nomination to offices depending on women and priests; the aristocracy devoted to play, and the remainder of the inhabitants immersed in scandalous debauch.
With these recollections of the past, let us enter the palace of the present sovereign. With habits of extreme simplicity, and a personal expenditure rigidly economical, the residence of the King of Bavaria, when completed, will be the most extensive and the most sumptuous palace in the world. But, then, it is not merely the palace of a king: it is a temple dedicated to the genius of a nation. The apartments of state, painted in fresco on the grandest scale, bold in design, splendid in colour, breathe the very Teutonic soul. The subjects are taken from the ‘Nibelungenlied,’ the Gothic epic, and commemorate all the achievements of the heroic Siegfried, and all the adventures of the beautiful Chrimhilde. The heart of a German beats as he gazes on the forms and scenes of the Teutonic Iliad; as he beholds Haghen the fierce, and Dankwart the swift; Volker, the minstrel knight, and the beautiful and haughty Brunhilda. But in point of harmonious dimension and august beauty, no chamber is perhaps more imposing than the Kaiser Saal, or Hall of the Sovereigns. It is, I should think, considerably above one hundred feet in length, broad and lofty in exact proportion. Its roof is supported on either side by columns of white marble; the inter-columniations are filled by colossal statues, of gilded brass, of the electors and kings of the country. Seated on his throne, at the end of this imperial chamber, Louis of Bavaria is surrounded by the solemn majesty of his ancestors. These statues are by Schwanthaler, a sculptor who to the severe and classic taste and profound sentiment of his master, Thorwaldsen, unites an exuberance of invention which has filled Munich with the greatest works since Phidias. Cornelius, Julius Schnorr, and Hess are the principal painters who have covered the galleries, churches, and palaces of Munich with admirable frescoes. The celebrated Klenze is known throughout Europe as the first of living architects, and the favourite of his sovereign when that sovereign did not wear a crown; but we must not forget the name of Gartner, the architect who has revived the Byzantine style of building with such admirable effect.
But it was in the private apartments of the king that I was peculiarly impressed with the supreme genius of Schwanthaler. These chambers, eight in number, are painted in encaustic, with subjects from the Greek poets, of which Schwanthaler supplied the designs. The ante-chambers are devoted to Orpheus and Hesiod, and the ornaments are in the oldest Greek style; severely simple; archaic, but not rude; the figures of the friezes in outline, and without relief. The saloon of reception, on the contrary, is Homeric; and in its colouring, design, and decoration, as brilliant, as free, and as flowing as the genius of the great Mæonian. The chamber of the throne is entirely adorned with white bas-reliefs, raised on a ground of dead gold; the subjects Pindaric; not inferior in many instances to the Attic remains, and characterised, at the same time, by a singular combination of vigour and grace. Another saloon is devoted to Æschylus, and the library to Sophocles. The gay, wild muse of Aristophanes laughs and sings in his Majesty’s dressing-room; while the king is lulled to slumber by the Sicilian melodies and the soothing landscapes of Theocritus.
Of these chambers, I should say that they were a perfect creation of Art. The rooms themselves are beautifully proportioned; the subjects of their decorations are the most interesting in every respect that could be selected; and the purity, grace, and invention of the designs, are equalled only by their colouring, at the same time the most brilliant and harmonious that can be conceived; and the rich fancy of the arabesques and other appropriate decorations, which blend with all around, and heighten the effect of the whole. Yet they find no mean rivals in the private chambers of the queen, decorated in an analogous style, but entirely devoted to the poets of her own land. The Minnesingers occupy her first apartments, but the brilliant saloon is worthy of Wieland, whose Oberon forms it frieze; while the bedchamber gleams with the beautiful forms and pensive incidents of Goethe’s esoteric pen. Schiller has filled the study with his stirring characters and his vigorous incidents. Groups from ‘Wallenstein’ and ‘Wilhelm Tell’ form the rich and unrivalled ceiling: while the fight of the dragon and the founding of the bell, the innocent Fridolin, the inspired maiden of Orleans, breathe in the compartments of the walls.
When I beheld these refined creations, and recalled the scenes and sights of beauty that had moved before me in my morning’s wanderings, I asked myself, how Munich, recently so Boeotian, had become the capital of modern Art; and why a country of limited resources, in a brief space, and with such facility and completeness, should have achieved those results which had so long and utterly eluded the desires of the richest and most powerful community in the world?
It is the fashion of the present age to underrate the influence of individual character. For myself, I have ever rejected this consolation of mediocrity. I believe that everything that is great has been accomplished by great men. It is not what witnessed at Munich, or know of its sovereign, that should make me doubt the truth of my conviction. Munich is the creation of its king, and Louis of Bavaria is not only a king but a poet. A poet on a throne has realised his dreams.
The Spirit of Whiggism
[In the following pages Lord Beaconsfield expounds that theory of the English Constitution which he had previously set forth in his pamphlet ‘A Vindication of the English Constitution in a Letter to a Noble and Learned Lord.’ The same theory is expounded in another way in the three great novels, ‘Coningsby,’ ‘Sybil,’ and ‘Tancred.’ His contemporaries never seem to have understood it, while his assailants of a later date appear to have written and spoken concerning him in absolute ignorance of his real political creed. The concluding paragraph of the tract ought, in the minds of all candid men, to disperse at once and forever the innumerable calumnies levelled at Lord Beaconsfield during and since the Reform struggle of 1859-1867.]
ENGLAND has become great by her institutions. Her hereditary Crown has in a great degree insured us from the distracting evils of a contested succession; her Peerage, interested, from the vast property and the national honours of its members, in the good government of the country, has offered a compact bulwark against the temporary violence of popular passion; her House of Commons, representing the conflicting sentiments of an estate of the realm not less privileged than that of the Peers, though far more numerous, has enlisted the great mass of the lesser proprietors of the country in favour of a political system which offers them a constitutional means of defence and a legitimate method of redress; her Ecclesiastical Establishment, preserved by its munificent endowment from the fatal necessity of pandering to the erratic fancies of its communicants, has maintained the sacred cause of learning and religion, and preserved orthodoxy while it secured toleration; her law of primogeniture has supplied the country with a band of natural and independent leaders, trustees of those legal institutions which pervade the land, and which are the origin of our political constitution. That great body corporate, styled a nation-a vast assemblage of human beings knit together by laws and arts and customs, by the necessities of the present and the memory of the past—offers in this country, through these its vigorous and enduring members, a more substantial and healthy framework than falls to the lot of other nations. Our stout-built constitution throws off with more facility and safety those crude and dangerous humours which must at times arise in all human communities. The march of revolution must here at least be orderly. We are preserved from those reckless and tempestuous sallies that in other countries, like a whirlwind, topple down in an instant an ancient crown, or sweep away an illustrious aristocracy. This constitution, which has secured order, has consequently promoted civilisation; and the almost unbroken tide of progressive amelioration has made us the freest, the wealthiest, and the most refined society of modern ages. Our commerce is unrivalled, our manufacturers supply the world, our agriculture is the most skilful in Christendom. So national are our institutions, so completely have they arisen from the temper and adapted themselves to the character of the people, that when for a season they were apparently annihilated, the people of England voluntarily returned to them, and established them with renewed strength and renovated vigour.
The constitution of England is again threatened, and at a moment when the nation is more prosperous, more free, and more famous than at any period of its momentous and memorable career. Why is this? What has occasioned these distempered times, which make the loyal tremble and the traitor smile? Why has this dark cloud suddenly gathered in a sky so serene and so splendid? Is there any analogy between this age and that of the first Charles? Are the same causes at work, or is the apparent similarity produced only by designing men, who make use of the perverted past as a passport to present mischief? These are great questions, which it may be profitable to discuss and wise to study.
Rapin, a foreigner who wrote our history, in the course of his frigid yet accurate pages, indulged in one philosophical observation. Struck at the same time by our greatness and by the fury of our factions, the Huguenot exclaimed: ‘It appears to me that this great society can only be dissolved by the violence of its political parties.’ What are these parties? Why are they violent? Why should they exist? In resolving these questions, we may obtain an accurate idea of our present political position, and by pondering over the past we may make that past not a prophecy, as the disaffected intend, but a salutary lesson by which the loyal may profit.
The two great parties into which England has during the last century and a half been divided originated in the ancient struggle between the Crown and the aristocracy. As long as the Crown possessed or aspired to despotic power, the feeling of the nation supported the aristocracy in their struggles to establish a free government. The aristocracy of England formed the constitution of the Plantagenets; the Wars of the Roses destroyed that aristocracy, and the despotism of the Tudors succeeded. Renovated by more than a century of peace and the spoils of the Papacy, the aristocracy of England attacked the first Stuarts, who succeeded to a despotism which they did not create. When Charles the First, after a series of great concessions which ultimately obtained for him the support of the most illustrious of his early opponents, raised the royal standard, the constitution of the Plantagenets, and more than the constitution of the Plantagenets, had been restored and secured. But a portion of the able party which had succeeded in effecting such a vast and beneficial revolution was not content to part with the extraordinary powers which they had obtained in this memorable struggle. This section of the aristocracy were the origin of the English Whigs, though that title was not invented until the next reign. The primitive Whigs-’Parliament-men,’ as they liked to call themselves, ‘Roundheads,’ as they were in time dubbed—aspired to an oligarchy. For a moment they obtained one; but unable to maintain themselves in power against the returning sense and rising spirit of a generous and indignant people, they called to their aid that domestic revolutionary party which exists in all countries, and an anti-national enemy in addition. These were the English Radicals, or Root-and-Branch men, and the Scotch Covenanters. To conciliate the first they sacrificed the Crown; to secure the second they abolished the Church. The constitution of England in Church and State was destroyed, and the Whig oligarchy, in spite of their machinations, were soon merged in the common ruin.
The ignoble tyranny to which this great nation was consequently subject produced that reaction which is in the nature of human affairs. The ancient constitution was in time restored, and the Church and the Crown were invested with greater powers than they had enjoyed previously to their overthrow. So hateful had been the consequences of Whig rule, that the people were inclined rather to trust the talons of arbitrary power than to take refuge under the wing of these pretended advocates of popular rights. A worthless monarch and a corrupted court availed themselves of the offered opportunity; and when James the Second ascended the throne, the nation was again prepared to second the aristocracy in a struggle for their liberties. But the Whigs had profited by their previous experiment: they resolved upon a revolution, but they determined that that revolution should be brought about by as slight an appeal to popular sympathies as possible. They studiously confined that appeal to the religious feelings of the nation. They hired a foreign prince and enlisted a foreign army in their service. They dethroned James, they established themselves in power without the aid of the mass; and had William the Third been a man of ordinary capacity, the constitution of Venice would have been established in England in 1688. William the Third told the Whigs that he would never consent to be a Doge. Resembling Louis Philippe in his character as well as in his position, that extraordinary prince baffled the Whigs by his skilful balance of parties; and had Providence accorded him an heir, it is probable that the oligarchical faction would never have revived in England. The Whigs have ever been opposed to the national institutions because they are adverse to the establishment of an oligarchy. Local institutions, supported by a landed gentry, check them; hence their love of centralisation and their hatred of unpaid magistrates.
An independent hierarchy checks them; hence their affected advocacy of toleration and their patronage of the Dissenters. The power of the Crown checks them; therefore they always labour to reduce the sovereign to a nonentity, and by the establishment of the Cabinet they have virtually banished the King from his own councils. But, above all, the Parliament of England checks them, and therefore it may be observed that the Whigs at all times are quarrelling with some portion of those august estates. They despair of destroying the Parliament; by it, and by it alone, can they succeed in their objects. Corruption for one part, force for the other, then, is their motto. In 1640 they attempted to govern the country by the House of Commons, because the aristocracy was then more powerful in the House of Commons than in the House of Lords, where a Peerage, exhausted by civil wars, had been too liberally recruited from the courtiers of the Tudors and the Stuarts. At the next revolution which the Whigs occasioned, they attempted to govern the country by the House of Lords, in which they were predominant; and, in order to guarantee their power for ever, they introduced a Bill to deprive the King of his prerogative of making further Peers. The revolution of 1640 led to the abolition of the House of Lords because the Lords opposed the oligarchy. Having a majority in the House of Lords, the Whigs introduced the Peerage Bill, by which the House of Lords would have been rendered independent of the sovereign; unpopular with the country, the Whigs attacked the influence of popular election, and the moment that, by the aid of the most infamous corruption, they had obtained a temporary majority in the Lower House, they passed the Septennial Act.
The Whigs of the eighteenth century ‘swamped’ the House of Commons; the Whigs of the nineteenth would ‘swamp’ the House of Lords. The Whigs of the eighteenth century would have rendered the House of Lords unchangeable; the Whigs of the nineteenth remodel the House of Commons.
I conclude here the first chapter of the ‘Spirit of Whiggism’-a little book which I hope may be easily read and easily remembered. The Whig party have always adopted popular cries. In one age it is Liberty, in another reform; at one period they sound the tocsin against popery, in another they ally themselves with papists. They have many cries, and various modes of conduct; but they have only one object—the establishment of an oligarchy in this free and equal land. I do not wish this country to be governed by a small knot of great families, and therefore I oppose the Whigs.
WHEN the Whigs and their public organs favour us with their mysterious hints that the constitution has provided the sovereign with a means to re-establish at all times a legislative sympathy between the two Houses of Parliament, it may be as well to remind them that we are not indebted for this salutary prerogative to the forbearance of their party. Suppose their Peerage Bill had passed into an Act, how would they have carried the Reform Bill of 1832? The Whigs may reply, that if the Peerage Bill had become a law, the Reform Bill would never have been introduced; and I believe them. In that case, the British House of Lords would have been transformed into a Venetian Senate, and the old walls of St. James’s might have witnessed scenes of as degrading mortification as the famous ducal palace of the Adriatic.
George III. routed the Whigs, consolidated by half a century of power; but an ordinary monarch would have sunk beneath the Coalition and the India Bill. This scheme was the last desperate effort of the oligarchical faction previous to 1830. Not that they were inactive during the great interval that elapsed between the advent of Mr. Pitt and the resurrection of Lord Grey: but, ever on the watch for a cry to carry them into power, they mistook the yell of Jacobinism for the chorus of an emancipated people, and fancied, in order to take the throne by storm, that nothing was wanting but to hoist the tricolour and to cover their haughty brows with a red cap. This fatal blunder clipped the wings of Whiggism; nor is it possible to conceive a party that had effected so many revolutions and governed a great country for so long a period, more broken, sunk, and shattered, more desolate and disheartened, than these same Whigs at the Peace of Paris. From that period till 1830, the tactics of the Whigs consisted in gently and gradually extricating themselves from their false position as the disciples of Jacobinism, and assuming their ancient post as the hereditary guardians of an hereditary monarchy. To make the transition less difficult than it threatened, they invented Liberalism, a bridge by which they were to regain the lost mainland, and daintily recross on tiptoe the chasm over which they had originally sprung with so much precipitation. A dozen years of ‘liberal principles’ broke up the national party of England, cemented by half a century of prosperity and glory, compared with which all the annals of the realm are dim and lack-lustre. Yet so weak intrinsically was the oligarchical faction, that their chief, despairing to obtain a monopoly of power for his party, elaborately announced himself as the champion of his patrician order, and attempted to coalesce with the liberalised leader of the Tories. Had that negotiation led to the result which was originally intended by those interested, the Riots of Paris would not have occasioned the Reform of London.
It is a great delusion to believe that revolutions are ever effected by a nation. It is a faction, and generally a small one, that overthrows a dynasty or remodels a constitution. A small party, stung by a long exile from power, and desperate of success except by desperate means, invariably has recourse to a coup-d‘état. An oligarchical party is necessarily not numerous. Its members in general attempt, by noble lineage or vast possessions, to compensate for their poverty of numbers. The Whigs, in 1830, found themselves by accident in place, but under very peculiar circumstances. They were in place but not in power. In each estate of the realm a majority was arrayed against them. An appeal to the Commons of England, that constituency which, in its elements, had undergone no alteration since the time of Elizabeth, either by the influence of the legislature or the action of time—that constituency which had elected Pym, and Selden, and Hampden, as well as Somers, Walpole, and Pulteney—an appeal to this constituency, it was generally acknowledged, would be fatal to the Whigs, and therefore they determined to reconstruct it. This is the origin of the recent parliamentary reform: the Whigs, in place without being in power, resolved as usual upon a coup-d‘état, and looked about for a stalking-horse. In general the difficult task had devolved upon them of having to accomplish their concealed purpose while apparently achieving some public object. Thus they had carried the Septennial Act on the plea of preserving England from popery, though their real object was to prolong the existence of the first House of Commons in which they could command a majority.
But in the present instance they became sincerely parliamentary reformers, for by parliamentary reform they could alone subsist; and all their art was dedicated so to contrive, that in this reformation their own interest should secure an irresistible predominance.
But how was an oligarchical party to predominate in popular elections? Here was the difficulty. The Whigs had no resources from their own limited ranks to feed the muster of the popular levies. They were obliged to look about for allies wherewith to form their new popular estate. Any estate of the Commons modelled on any equitable principle, either of property or population, must have been fatal to the Whigs; they, therefore, very dexterously adopted a small minority of the nation, consisting of the sectarians, and inaugurating them as the people with a vast and bewildering train of hocus-pocus ceremonies, invested the Dissenters with political power. By this coup-d‘état they managed the House of Commons, and having at length obtained a position, they have from that moment laid siege to the House of Lords, with the intention of reducing that great institution and making it surrender at discretion. This is the exact state of English politics during the last five years. The Whigs have been at war with the English constitution. First of all they captured the King; then they vanquished the House of Commons; now they have laid siege to the House of Lords. But here the fallacy of their grand scheme of political mystification begins to develop itself. Had, indeed, their new constituency, as they have long impudently pretended, really been ‘the people,’ a struggle between such a body and the House of Lords would have been brief but final. The absurdity of supposing that a chamber of two or three hundred individuals could set up their absolute will and pleasure against the decrees of a legislative assembly chosen by the whole nation is so glaring that the Whigs and their scribes might reasonably suspect that in making such allegations they were assuredly proving too much. But as ‘the people’ of the Whigs is in fact a number of Englishmen not exceeding in amount the population of a third-rate city, the English nation is not of opinion that this arrogant and vaunting moiety of a class privileged for the common good, swollen though it may be by some jobbing Scots and rebel Irish, shall pass off their petty and selfish schemes of personal aggrandisement as the will of a great people, as mindful of its duty to its posterity as it is grateful for the labours of its ancestors. The English nation, therefore, rallies for rescue from the degrading plots of a profligate oligarchy, a barbarising sectarianism, and a boroughmongering Papacy round their hereditary leaders—the Peers. The House of Lords, therefore, at this moment represents everything in the realm except the Whig oligarchs, their tools—the Dissenters, and their masters—the Irish priests. In the meantime the Whigs bawl aloud that there is a ‘collision’! It is true there is a collision; but it is not a collision between the Lords and the people, but between the Ministers and the Constitution.
IT MAY be as well to remind the English nation that a revolutionary party is not necessarily a liberal one, and that a republic is not indispensably a democracy. Such is the disposition of property in England that, were a republic to be established here to-morrow, it would partake rather of the oligarchical than of the aristocratic character. We should be surprised to find in how few families the power of the State was concentrated. And although the framers of the new commonwealth would be too crafty to base it on any avowed and ostensible principle of exclusion, but on the contrary would in all probability ostentatiously inaugurate the novel constitution by virtue of some abstract plea about as definite and as prodigal of practical effects as the rights of man or the sovereignty of the people, nevertheless I should be astonished were we not to find that the great mass of the nation, as far as any share in the conduct of public affairs was concerned, was as completely shut out from the fruition and exercise of power as under that Venetian polity which has ever been the secret object of Whig envy and Whig admiration. The Church, under such circumstances, would probably have again been plundered, and therefore the discharge of ecclesiastical duties might be spared to the nation; but the people would assuredly be practically excluded from its services, which would swarm with the relations and connections of the senatorial class; for, whether this country be governed only by the House of Commons, or only by the House of Lords, the elements of the single chamber will not materially differ; and although in the event of the triumph of the Commons, the ceremony of periodical election may be retained (and we should not forget that the Long Parliament soon spared us that unnecessary form), the selected members will form a Senate as irresponsible as any House of Parliament whose anomalous constitution may now be the object of Whig sneers or Radical anathemas.
The rights and liberties of a nation can only be preserved by institutions. It is not the spread of knowledge or the march of intellect that will be found a sufficient surety for the public welfare in the crisis of a country’s freedom. Our interest taints our intelligence, our passions paralyse our reason. Knowledge and capacity are too often the willing tools of a powerful faction or a dexterous adventurer. Life, is short, man is imaginative; our means are limited, our passions high.
In seasons of great popular excitement, gold and glory offer strong temptations to needy ability. The demagogues throughout a country, the orators of town-councils and vestries, and the lecturers of mechanics’ institutes present, doubtless in most cases unconsciously, the ready and fit machinery for the party or the individual that aspires to establish a tyranny. Duly graduating in corruption, the leaders of the mob become the oppressors of the people. Cultivation of intellect and diffusion of knowledge may make the English nation more sensible of the benefits of their social system, and better qualified to discharge the duties with which their institutions have invested them, but they will never render them competent to preserve their liberties without the aid of these institutions. Let us for a moment endeavour to fancy Whiggism in a state of rampant predominance; let us try to contemplate England enjoying all those advantages which our present rulers have not yet granted us, and some of which they have as yet only ventured to promise by innuendo. Let us suppose our ancient monarchy abolished, our independent hierarchy reduced to a stipendiary sect, the gentlemen of England deprived of their magisterial functions, and metropolitan prefects and sub-prefects established in the counties and principal towns, commanding a vigorous and vigilant police, and backed by an army under the immediate orders of a single House of Parliament. Why, these are threatened changes—aye, and not one of them that may not be brought about to-morrow, under the plea of the ‘spirit of the age’ or ‘county reform’ or ‘cheap government.’ But where then will be the liberties of England? Who will dare disobey London?—the enlightened and reformed metropolis! And can we think, if any bold squire, in whom some of the old blood might still chance to linger, were to dare to murmur against this grinding tyranny, or appeal to the spirit of those neighbours whose predecessors his ancestors had protected, can we flatter ourselves that there would not be judges in Westminster Hall prepared and prompt to inflict on him all the pains and penalties, the dungeon, the fine, the sequestration, which such a troublesome Anti-Reformer would clearly deserve? Can we flatter ourselves that a Parliamentary Star Chamber and a Parliamentary High Commission Court would not be in the background to supply all the deficiencies of the laws of England? When these merry times arrive—the times of extraordinary tribunals and extraordinary taxes—and, if we proceed in our present course, they are much nearer than we imagine-the phrase ‘Anti-Reformer’ will serve as well as that of ‘Malignant,’ and be as valid a plea as the former title for harassing and plundering all those who venture to wince under the crowning mercies of centralisation.
Behold the Republic of the Whigs! Behold the only Republic that can be established in England except by force! And who can doubt the swift and stern termination of institutions introduced by so unnatural and irrational a process. I would address myself to the English Radicals. I do not mean those fine gentlemen or those vulgar adventurers who, in this age of quackery, may sail into Parliament by hoisting for the nonce the false colours of the movement; but I mean that honest and considerable party, too considerable, I fear, for their happiness and the safety of the State-who have a definite object which they distinctly avow—I mean those thoughtful and enthusiastic men who study their unstamped press, and ponder over a millennium of operative amelioration. Not merely that which is just, but that which is also practicable, should be the aim of a sagacious politician. Let the Radicals well consider whether, in attempting to achieve their avowed object, they are not, in fact, only assisting the secret views of a party whose scheme is infinitely more adverse to their own than the existing system, whose genius I believe they entirely misapprehend. The monarchy of the Tories is more democratic than the Republic of the Whigs. It appeals with a keener sympathy to the passions of the millions; it studies their interest with a more comprehensive solicitude. Admitting for a moment that I have mistaken the genius of the English constitution, what chance, if our institutions be overthrown, is there of substituting in their stead a more popular polity? This hazard, both for their own happiness and the honour of their country, the English Radicals are bound to calculate nicely. If they do not, they will find themselves, too late, the tools of a selfish faction or the slaves of a stern usurper.
A CHAPTER on the English constitution is a natural episode on the spirit of Whiggism. There is this connection between the subjects—that the spirit of Whiggism is hostile to the English constitution. No political institutions ever yet flourished which have been more the topic of discussion among writers of all countries and all parties than our famous establishment of ‘King, Lords, and Commons;’ and no institutions ever yet flourished, of which the character has been more misrepresented and more misconceived. One fact alone will illustrate the profound ignorance and the perplexed ideas. The present Whig leader of the House of Commons, a member of a family who pique themselves on their constitutional reputation, an author who has even written an elaborate treatise on our polity, in one of his speeches, delivered only so late as the last session of Parliament, declared his desire and determination to uphold the present settlement of the ‘three estates of the realm, viz.—King, Lords, and Commons.’ Now, his Gracious Majesty is no more an estate of the realm than Lord John Russell himself. The three estates of the realm are the estate of the Lords Spiritual, the estate of the Lords Temporal, and the estate of the Commons. An estate is a popular class established into a political order. It is a section of the nation invested for the public and common good with certain powers and privileges. Lord John Russell first writes upon the English constitution, and then reforms it, and yet, even at this moment, is absolutely ignorant of what it consists. A political estate is a complete and independent body. Now, all power that is independent is necessarily irresponsible. The sovereign is responsible because he is not an estate; he is responsible through his Ministers; he is responsible to the estates and to them alone.
When the Whigs obtained power in 1830, they found the three estates of the realm opposed to them, and the Government, therefore, could not proceed. They resolved, therefore, to remodel them. They declared that the House of Commons was the House of the people, and that the people were not properly represented. They consequently enlarged the estate of the Commons; they increased the number of that privileged order who appear by their representatives in the Lower House of Parliament. They rendered the estate of the Commons more powerful by this proceeding, because they rendered them more numerous; but they did not render their representatives one jot more the representatives of the people. Throwing the Commons of Ireland out of the question, for we cannot speculate upon a political order so unsettled that it has been thrice remodelled during the present century, some 300,000 individuals sent up, at the last general election, their representatives to Westminster.
Well, are these 300,000 persons the people of England? Grant that they are; grant that these members are divided into two equal portions. Well, then, the people of England consist of 150,000 persons. I know that there are well-disposed persons that tremble at this reasoning, because, although they admit its justice, they allege it leads to universal suffrage. We must not show, they assert, that the House of the people is not elected by the people. I admit it; we must not show that the House of the people is not elected by the people, but we must show that the House of Commons is not the House of the people, that it never was intended to be the House of the people, and that, if it be admitted to be so by courtesy, or become so in fact, it is all over with the English constitution.
It is quite impossible that a whole people can be a branch of a legislature. If a whole people have the power of making laws, it is folly to suppose that they will allow an assembly of 300 or 400 individuals, or a solitary being on a throne, to thwart their sovereign will and pleasure. But I deny that a people can govern itself. Self-government is a contradiction in terms. Whatever form a government may assume, power must be exercised by a minority of numbers. I shall, perhaps, be reminded of the ancient republics. I answer, that the ancient republics were as aristocratic communities as any that flourished in the middle ages. The Demos of Athens was an oligarchy living upon slaves. There is a great slave population even in the United States, if a society of yesterday is to illustrate an argument on our ancient civilisation.
But it is useless to argue the question abstractedly.
The phrase ‘the people’ is sheer nonsense. It is not a political term. It is a phrase of natural history. A people is a species; a civilised community is a nation. Now, a nation is a work of art and a work of time. A nation is gradually created by a variety of influences—the influence of original organisation, of climate, soil, religion, laws, customs, manners, extraordinary accidents and incidents in their history, and the individual character of their illustrious citizens. These influences create the nation—these form the national mind, and produce in the course of centuries a high degree of civilisation. If you destroy the political institutions which these influences have called into force, and which are the machinery by which they constantly act, you destroy the nation. The nation, in a state of anarchy and dissolution, then becomes a people; and after experiencing all the consequent misery, like a company of bees spoiled of their queen and rifled of their hive, they set to again and establish themselves into a society.
Although all society is artificial, the most artificial society in the world is unquestionably the English nation. Our insular situation and our foreign empire, our immense accumulated wealth and our industrious character, our peculiar religious state, which secures alike orthodoxy and toleration, our church and our sects, our agriculture and our manufactures, our military services, our statute law, and supplementary equity, our adventurous commerce, landed tenure, and unprecedented system of credit, form, among many others, such a variety of interests, and apparently so conflicting, that I do not think even the Abbe Sieyès himself could devise a scheme by which this nation could be absolutely and definitely represented.
The framers of the English constitution were fortunately not of the school of Abbe Sieyès. Their first object was to make us free; their next to keep us so. While, therefore, they selected equality as the basis of their social order, they took care to blend every man’s ambition with the perpetuity of the State. Unlike the levelling equality of modern days, the ancient equality of England elevates and creates. Learned in human nature, the English constitution holds out privilege to every subject as the inducement to do his duty. As it has secured freedom, justice, and even property to the humblest of the commonwealth, so, pursuing the same system of privileges, it has confided the legislature of the realm to two orders of the subjects—orders, however, in which every English citizen may be constitutionally enrolled—the Lords and the Commons. The two estates of the Peers are personally summoned to meet in their chamber: the more extensive and single estate of the Commons meets by its representatives. Both are political orders, complete in their character, independent in their authority, legally irresponsible for the exercise of their power. But they are the trustees of the nation, not its masters; and there is a High Court of Chancery in the public opinion of the nation at large, which exercises a vigilant control over these privileged classes of the community, and to which they are equitably and morally amenable. Estimating, therefore, the moral responsibility of our political estates, it may fairly be maintained that, instead of being irresponsible, the responsibility of the Lords exceeds that of the Commons. The House of Commons itself not being an estate of the realm, but only the representatives of an estate, owes to the nation a responsibility neither legal nor moral. The House of Commons is responsible only to that privileged order who are its constituents. Between the Lords and the Commons themselves there is this prime difference—that the Lords are known, and seen, and marked; the Commons are unknown, invisible, and unobserved. The Lords meet in a particular spot; the Commons are scattered over the kingdom. The eye of the nation rests upon the Lords, few in number, and notable in position; the eye of the nation wanders in vain for the Commons, far more numerous, but far less remarkable. As a substitute the nation appeals to the House of Commons, but sometimes appeals in vain; for if the majority of the Commons choose to support their representatives in a course of conduct adverse to the opinion of the nation, the House of Commons will set the nation at defiance. They have done so once; may they never repeat that destructive career! Such are our two Houses of Parliament—the most illustrious assemblies since the Roman Senate and Grecian Areopagus; neither of them is the ‘House of the People,’ but both alike represent the ‘Nation.’
THERE are two propositions, which, however at the first glance they may appear to contradict the popular opinions of the day, are nevertheless, as I believe, just and true. And they are these:—First. That there is no probability of ever establishing a more democratic form of government than the present English constitution.
Second. That the recent political changes of the Whigs are, in fact, a departure from the democratic spirit of that constitution.
Whatever form a government may assume, its spirit must be determined by the laws which regulate the property of the country. You may have a Senate and Consuls, you may have no hereditary titles, and you may dub each householder or inhabitant a citizen; but if the spirit of your laws preserves masses of property in a particular class, the government of the country will follow the disposition of the property. So also you may have an apparent despotism without any formal popular control, and with no aristocracy, either natural or artificial, and the spirit of the government may nevertheless be republican. Thus the ancient polity of Rome, in its best days, was an aristocracy, and the government of Constantinople is the nearest approach to a democracy on a great scale, and maintained during a great period, that history offers. The constitution of France during the last half century has been fast approaching that of the Turks. The barbarous Jacobins blended modern equality with the refined civilisation of ancient France; the barbarous Ottomans blended their equality with the refined civilisation of ancient Rome. Paris secured to the Jacobins those luxuries that their system never could have produced: Byzantium served the same purpose to the Turks. Both the French and their turbaned prototypes commenced their system with popular enthusiasm, and terminated it with general subjection. Napoleon and Louis Philippe are playing the same part as the Suleimans and the Mahmouds. The Chambers are but a second-rate Divan, the Prefects but inferior Pachas: a solitary being rules alike in the Seraglio and the Tuileries, and the whole nation bows to his despotism on condition that they have no other master save himself.
The disposition of property in England throws the government of the country into the hands of its natural aristocracy. I do not believe that any scheme of the suffrage, or any method of election, could divert that power into other quarters. It is the necessary consequence of our present social state. I believe, the wider the popular suffrage, the more powerful would be the natural aristocracy. This seems to me an inevitable consequence; but I admit this proposition on the clear understanding that such an extension should be established on a fair, and not a factious, basis.
Here, then, arises the question of the ballot, into the merits of which. I shall take another opportunity of entering, recording only now my opinion, that in the present arrangement of the constituencies, even the ballot would favour the power of the natural aristocracy, and that, if the ballot were simultaneously introduced with a fair and not a factious extension of the suffrage, it would produce no difference whatever in the ultimate result.
Quitting, then, these considerations, let us arrive at the important point. Is there any probability of a different disposition of property in England—a disposition of property which, by producing a very general similarity of condition, would throw the government of the country into the hands of any individuals whom popular esteem or fancy might select?
It appears to me that this question can only be decided by ascertaining the genius of the English nation. What is the prime characteristic of the English mind? I apprehend I may safely decide upon its being industry. Taking a general but not a superficial survey of the English character since the Reformation, a thousand circumstances convince me that the salient point in our national psychology is the passion for accumulating wealth, of which industry is the chief instrument. We value our freedom principally because it leaves us unrestricted in our pursuits; and that reverence for law and for all that is established, which also eminently distinguishes the English nation, is occasioned by the conviction that, next to liberty, order is the most efficacious assistant of industry.
And thus we see that those great revolutions which must occur in the history of all nations when they happen here produce no permanent effects upon our social state. Our revolutions are brought about by the passions of creative minds taking advantage, for their own aggrandisement, of peculiar circumstances in our national progress. They are never called for by the great body of the nation. Churches are plundered, long rebellions maintained, dynasties changed, parliaments abolished; but when the storm is passed, the features of the social landscape remain unimpaired; there are no traces of the hurricane, the earthquake, or the volcano; it has been but a tumult of the atmosphere, that has neither toppled down our old spires and palaces nor swallowed up our cities and seats of learning, nor blasted our ancient woods, nor swept away our ports and harbours. The English nation ever recurs to its ancient institutions—the institutions that have alike secured freedom and order; and after all their ebullitions, we find them, when the sky is clear, again at work, and toiling on at their eternal task of accumulation.
There is this difference between the revolutions of England and the revolutions of the Continent—the European revolution is a struggle against privilege; an English revolution is a struggle for it. If a new class rises in the State, it becomes uneasy to take its place in the natural aristocracy of the land: a desperate faction or a wily leader takes advantage of this desire, and a revolution is the consequence. Thus the Whigs in the present day have risen to power on the shoulders of the manufacturing interest. To secure themselves in their posts, the Whigs have given the new interest an undue preponderance; but the new interest, having obtained its object, is content. The manufacturer, like every other Englishman, is as aristocratic as the landlord. The manufacturer begins to lack in movement. Under Walpole the Whigs played the same game with the commercial interests; a century has passed, and the commercial interests are all as devoted to the constitution as the manufacturers soon will be. Having no genuine party, the Whigs seek for succour from the Irish papists; Lord John Russell, however, is only imitating Pym under the same circumstances. In 1640, when the English movement was satisfied, and the constitutional party, headed by such men as Falkland and Hyde, were about to attain power, Pym and his friends, in despair at their declining influence and the close divisions in their once unanimous Parliament, fled to the Scotch Covenanters, and entered into a ‘close compact’ for the destruction of the Church of England as the price of their assistance. So events repeat themselves; but if the study of history is really to profit us, the nation at the present day will take care that the same results do not always occur from the same events.
When passions have a little subsided, the industrious ten-pounder, who has struggled into the privileged order of the Commons, proud of having obtained the first step of aristocracy, will be the last man to assist in destroying the other gradations of the scale which he or his posterity may yet ascend; while the new member of a manufacturing district has his eye already upon a neighbouring park, avails himself of his political position to become a county magistrate, meditates upon a baronetcy, and dreams of a coroneted descendant.
The nation that esteems wealth as the great object of existence will submit to no laws that do not secure the enjoyment of wealth. Now, we deprive wealth of its greatest source of enjoyment, as well as of its best security, if we deprive it of power. The English nation, therefore, insists that property shall be the qualification for power, and the whole scope of its laws and customs is to promote and favour the accumulation of wealth and the perpetuation of property. We cannot alter, therefore, the disposition of property in this country without we change the national character. Far from the present age being hostile to the supremacy of property, there has been no period of our history where property has been more esteemed, because there has been no period when the nation has been so industrious.
Believing, therefore, that no change will occur in the disposition of property in this country, I cannot comprehend how our government can become more democratic. The consequence of our wealth is an aristocratic constitution; the consequence of our love of liberty is an aristocratic constitution founded on an equality of civil rights. And who can deny that an aristocratic constitution resting on such a basis, where the legislative, and even the executive office may be obtained by every subject of the realm, is, in fact, a noble democracy? The English constitution, faithful to the national character, secures to all the enjoyment of property and the delights of freedom. Its honours are a perpetual reward of industry; every Englishman is toiling to obtain them; and this is the constitution to which every Englishman will always be devoted, except he is a Whig.
In the next Chapter I shall discuss the second proposition.
THE Tories assert that the whole property of the country is on their side; and the Whigs, wringing their hands over lost elections and bellowing about ‘intimidation,’ seem to confess the soft impeachment. Their prime organ also assures us that every man with 500L. per annum is opposed to them. Yet the Whig-Radical writers have recently published, by way of consolation to their penniless proselytes, a list of some twenty Dukes and Marquises, who, they assure us, are devoted to ‘Liberal’ principles, and whose revenues, in a paroxysm of economical rhodomontade, they assert, could buy up the whole income of the rest of the hereditary Peerage. The Whig-Radical writers seem puzzled to reconcile this anomalous circumstance with the indisputably forlorn finances of their faction in general. Now, this little tract on the ‘Spirit of Whiggism’ may perhaps throw some light upon this perplexing state of affairs. For myself, I see in it only a fresh illustration of the principles which I have demonstrated, from the whole current of our history, to form the basis of Whig policy. This union of oligarchical wealth and mob poverty is the very essence of the ‘Spirit of Whiggism.’
The English constitution, which, from the tithing-man to the Peer of Parliament, has thrown the whole government of the country into the hands of those who are qualified by property to perform the duties of their respective offices, has secured that diffused and general freedom, without which the national industry would neither have its fair play nor its just reward, by a variety of institutions, which, while they prevent those who have no property from invading the social commonwealth, in whose classes every industrious citizen has a right to register himself, offer also an equally powerful check to the ambitious fancies of those great families, over whose liberal principles and huge incomes the Whig-Radical writers gloat with the self-complacency of lackeys at the equipages of their masters. There is ever an union in a perverted sense between those who are beneath power and those who wish to be above it; and oligarchies and despotisms are usually established by the agency of a deluded multitude. The Crown, with its constitutional influence over the military services, a Parliament of two houses watching each other’s proceedings with constitutional jealousy, an independent hierarchy and, not least, an independent magistracy, are serious obstacles in the progressive establishment of that scheme of government which a small knot of great families—these dukes and marquises, whose revenues according to the Government organ, could buy up the income of the whole peerage-naturally wish to introduce. We find, therefore, throughout the whole period of our more modern history, a powerful section of the great nobles ever at war with the national institutions, checking the Crown, attacking the independence of that House of Parliament in which they happen to be in a minority—no matter which, patronising sects to reduce the influence of the Church, and playing town against country to overcome the authority of the gentry.
It is evident that these aspiring oligarchs, as a party, can have little essential strength; they can count upon nothing but their retainers. To secure the triumph of their cause, therefore, they are forced to manoeuvre with a pretext, and while they aim at oligarchical rule, they apparently advocate popular rights. They hold out, consequently, an inducement to all the uneasy portion of the nation to enlist under their standard; they play their discontented minority against the prosperous majority, and, dubbing their partisans ‘the people,’ they flatter themselves that their projects are irresistible. The attack is unexpected, brisk, and dashing, well matured, dexterously mystified. Before the nation is roused to its danger, the oligarchical object is often obtained; and then the oligarchy, entrenched in power, count upon the nation to defend them from their original and revolutionary allies. If they succeed, a dynasty is changed, or a Parliament reformed, and the movement is stopped; if the Tories or the Conservatives cannot arrest the fatal career which the Whigs have originally impelled, then away go the national institutions; the crown falls from the King’s brow; the crosier is snapped in twain; one House of Parliament is sure to disappear, and the gentlemen of England, dexterously dubbed Malignants, or Anti-Reformers, or any other phrase in fashion, the dregs of the nation sequester their estates and install themselves in their halls; and ‘liberal principles’ having thus gloriously triumphed, after a due course of plunder, bloodshed, imprisonment, and ignoble tyranny, the people of England, sighing once more to be the English nation, secure order by submitting to a despot, and in time, when they have got rid of their despot, combine their ancient freedom with their newly-regained security by re-establishing the English constitution.
The Whigs of the present day have made their assault upon the nation with their usual spirit. They have already succeeded in controlling the sovereign and in remodelling the House of Commons. They have menaced the House of Lords, violently assailed the Church, and reconstructed the Corporations. I shall take the two most comprehensive measures which they have succeeded in carrying, and which were at the time certainly very popular, and apparently of a very democratic character,-their reform of the House of Commons, and their reconstruction of the municipal corporations. Let us see whether these great measures have, in fact, increased the democratic character of our constitution or not—whether they veil an oligarchical project, or are, in fact, popular concessions inevitably offered by the Whigs in their oligarchical career.
The result of the Whig remodelling of the order of the Commons has been this—that it has placed the nomination of the Government in the hands of the popish priesthood. Is that a great advance of public intelligence and popular liberty? Are the parliamentary nominees of M’Hale and Kehoe more germane to the feelings of the English nation, more adapted to represent their interests, than the parliamentary nominees of a Howard or a Percy? This papist majority, again, is the superstructure of a basis formed by some Scotch Presbyterians and some English Dissenters, in general returned by the small constituencies of small towns—classes whose number and influence, intelligence and wealth, have been grossly exaggerated for factious purposes, but classes avowedly opposed to the maintenance of the English constitution. I do not see that the cause of popular power has much risen, even with the addition of this leaven. If the suffrages of the Commons of England were polled together, the hustings-books of the last general election will prove that a very considerable majority of their numbers is opposed to the present Government, and that therefore, under this new democratic scheme, this great body of the nation are, by some hocus-pocus tactics or other, obliged to submit to the minority. The truth is, that the new constituency has been so arranged that an unnatural preponderance has been given to a small class, and one hostile to the interests of the great body. Is this more democratic? The apparent majority in the House of Commons is produced by a minority of the Commons themselves; so that a small and favoured class command a majority in the House of Commons, and the sway of the administration, as far as that House is concerned, is regulated by a smaller number of individuals than those who governed it previous to its reform.
But this is not the whole evil: this new class, with its unnatural preponderance, is a class hostile to the institutions of the country, hostile to the union of Church and State, hostile to the House of Lords, to the constitutional power of the Crown, to the existing system of provincial judicature. It is, therefore, a class fit and willing to support the Whigs in their favourite scheme of centralisation, without which the Whigs can never long maintain themselves in power. Now, centralisation is the death-blow of public freedom; it is the citadel of the oligarchs, from which, if once erected, it will be impossible to dislodge them. But can that party be aiming at centralised government which has reformed the municipal corporations? We will see. The reform of the municipal corporations of England is a covert attack on the authority of the English gentry,-that great body which perhaps forms the most substantial existing obstacle to the perpetuation of Whiggism in power. By this democratic Act the county magistrate is driven from the towns where he before exercised a just influence, while an elective magistrate from the towns jostles him on the bench at quarter sessions, and presents in his peculiar position an anomaly in the constitution of the bench, flattering to the passions, however fatal to the interests, of the giddy million. Here is a lever to raise the question of county reform whenever an obstinate shire may venture to elect a representative in Parliament hostile to the liberal oligarchs. Let us admit, for the moment, that the Whigs ultimately succeed in subverting the ancient and hereditary power of the English gentry. Will the municipal corporations substitute themselves as an equivalent check on a centralising Government? Whence springs their influence? From property? Not half a dozen have estates. Their influence springs from the factitious power with which the reforming Government has invested them, and of which the same Government will deprive them in a session, the moment they cease to be corresponding committees of the reforming majority in the House of Commons. They will either be swept away altogether, or their functions will be limited to raising the local taxes which will discharge their expenses of the detachment of the metropolitan police, or the local judge or governor, whom Downing Street may send down to preside over their constituents. With one or two exceptions, the English corporations do not possess more substantial and durable elements of power than the municipalities of France. What check are they on Paris? These corporations have neither prescription in their favour, nor property. Their influence is maintained neither by tradition nor substance. They have no indirect authority over the minds of their townsmen; they have only their modish charters to appeal to, and the newly engrossed letter of the law. They have no great endowments of whose public benefits they are the official distributers; they do not stand on the vantage-ground on which we recognise the trustees of the public interests; they neither administer to the soul nor the body; they neither feed the poor nor educate the young; they have no hold on the national mind; they have not sprung from the national character; they were born by faction, and they will live by faction. Such bodies must speedily become corrupt; they will ultimately be found dangerous instruments in the hands of a faction. The members of the country corporations will play the game of a London party, to secure their factitious local importance and obtain the consequent results of their opportune services.
I think I have now established the two propositions with which I commenced my last chapter: and will close this concluding one of the ‘Spirit of Whiggism’ with their recapitulation, and the inferences which I draw from them. If there be a slight probability of ever establishing in this country a more democratic government than the English constitution, it will be as well, I conceive, for those who love their rights, to maintain that constitution; and if the more recent measures of the Whigs, however plausible their first aspect, have, in fact, been a departure from the democratic character of that constitution, it will be as well for the English nation to oppose, with all their heart, and all their soul, and all their strength, the machinations of the Whigs and the ‘Spirit of Whiggism.’