« PreviousContinue »
After he has perused these numerous extracts and remarks, the reader will probably be able to judge what degree of merit this work can claim. To lovers of miscellaneous reading and diversified information, it will doubtless prove very acceptable.
ART. XIII. Voyage à Constantinople, en Italie, &c. &c. i. e. Travels to Constantinople, in Italy, and to the Islands of the Archipelago, through Germany and Hungary. 8vo. PP. 331. Paris. 1799. Imported by De Boffe, London. Price 6s. sewed.
"HIS tour is described in a series of letters, which display much vivacity, sometimes more levity than we could wish, but which evince at the same time a turn for observation, and considerable sagacity in appreciating national characters. The style is light and ai y, and the author is rather too ambitious of saying good things; yet we have met with considerable. amusement in his volume; and we shall endeavour to impart some of it to our readers.
At Bonne, the author observes that the King of Bohemia and his seven castles are nothing compared to the Archduke Maximilian, who has castles everywhere.. At the sign of the Imperial crown, where the traveller lodged, he was amused by the Teutonic simplicity of the person who took charge of the chambers, and who had written with chalk on the door of some former lodgers, " M. the Baron de Br-, Madame de M. Madame the Countess de M, M. the Bishop of P
The society at Vienna, of the first class, is described as extremely formal and insipid. This, our author thinks, is chiefly owing to the exclusion of young men from mixed companies of both sexes. One would suppose (he says) that one lived here with the last age, for scarcely any but old men are to be seen in society. If there be any who are young, they are most illustrious princes; and wit is not more particularly attached here to that class, than elsewhere. Three-fourths of them accost a lady only to say, "Angelic creature, what heavenly weather !" Prince Ch- of Lich was sent to Paris to inform the king of the coronation of the Emperor. He observed that Louis XVI had large napkins and small diamonds.'
Etiquette is founded on such a basis as to be insurmountable at Vienna. Those who have thirty quarters in their arms
*It must be observed that these travels were performed from October 1790, to November 1791201
"Femme charmante, il fait un temps des Dieux." (1)
(1) C'est un vers tiré d'une jolie fièce de vers, imitulée LA VIE DE VIENNE.
visit each other: thirty and fifteen only salute. This boun dary, which is sufficiently ridiculous, has one moral advantage: it shews that money cannot do every thing; a man of ambition and capacity, therefore, is not tempted to use all methods of raising himself to a class, from which he is thus absolutely debarred; and, making a proper use of his talents, he aims rather at solid respect, than at a brilliant reputation.
With regard to unequal marriages, the author makes a very sensible observation: vanity, he says, is the only subordinate motive for their prevention.
The great places of the empire are the chaptral dignities, which are the exclusive patrimony of the most illustrious families. A rich heiress, who has twelve quarterings less than her husband, would not be so advantageous a match as a young lady of very small fortune, of a chaptral family. She opens to all her children the way to solid dignities; and their number, which is a ruinous burden to the fa ther of a family in France, is an additional support in Germany.'
In the seventh letter, the author indulges in a theory of conversation, worthy of Sterne: he supposes that the dis tinctions of dress, which are appropriated to certain ranks and professions in Germany, restrict the wearers to the discussion of particular subjects. The liberty of dress, he thinks, has produced liberty of speech.-This is a curious subject, and would afford much amusing research in the hands of a man of genius. Buffon asserted that our clothes formed a part of ourselves. They seem, indeed, to have occupied the attention of legislators, in modern times: for particular modes of dress have been proscribed as seditious. Perhaps some curious observer may inform us, how the philosophy and politics of the age were affected by the variation of vests and pantaloons; out of what dimensions of the hat, proceeded the new chemistry; and what barriers of the understanding were opened by the disuse of buckles at the knees and shoes.
In the eighth letter, we have a rapid but instructive account of the Austrian army, which has acted so signal a part in the eventful tragedy that has appeared since the date of these travels. The author dwells particularly, in his description of the arsenal at Vienna, on the spoils of Gustavus Adolphus, taken from his body at the battle of Lutzen* in 1632.
Can we see, without sympathy, the surtout of buff, fastened with buttons of white thread, pierced through and through? Half of the hat, which is black, and not turned up, has been shot away at the crown. This simple dress is all that the Imperialists could take from him. It is impossible to turn from these interesting objects
It is erroneously printed Hutzen, in the book.
without regretting the memory of a Prince, who possessed such excellent and brilliant qualities; and who said, a short time before his death, on seeing the people crowd around him, that he feared lest God, offended by their acclamations, might soon teach them that he whom they seemed to revere as a deity was a mere mortal.'
The author seems to have lived in the best society at Vienna, and he has offered many entertaining traits of it to his readers. The mansion of the Prince de L- * is described, with some humour, as extremely irregular: the Prince himself, it is said, termed it a charade. Of the emperor Joseph II, then living, we are told that his heart was better than his understanding. All innovations pleased him. His passion was for change, when he had nothing new to produce. Active, and accessible, he had an energy and an independence of human passions, which under happier circumstances would have been reckoned heroic. Posterity will probably rank this Prince among those who have possessed more philanthropy than political wisdom; and who would have been more happy and useful in a private station+.-Several anecdotes are related of his condescension and familiarity on different occasions: but the public have been made acquainted with so many of a similar cast, that we shall only translate one. On visiting the hospital which he was building for lunatics, he remarked a staircase, which a madman could not pass without danger. The keeper replied that, when a lunatic was brought up, the attendant went before, he himself came behind, and the madman was in the middle. This was precisely the situation of the emperor: he took no notice of the expression: but, on returning from his visit, he said to the keeper, at the top of the staircase, "I have played the madman long enough; it is your turn to be in the middle."
It was during one of his visits to this house, we recollect, that an unmerciful pasquinade was put up against the wall, by some adherent of the monks;
"Josephus, alibi secundus, hic primus.”
Prince Kaunitz is treated with very little ceremony by this writer. Even the praise bestowed on him by the great Frederic, that he never committed any mistakes, is defeated by a sarcastic remark, that the wily monarch always spoke well of the Generals whom he had beaten; and that he ordered maps to be published, which were calculated to deceive an enemy.-Prince
* Lichtenstein, we presume,
+ Compare this with the remarks which occur relative to Joseph, near the close of the preceding article, p. 547.
See the account of this statesman, at the close of the preceding article, p. 548.
K. we are told, did not condescend to know the names of the guests who dined at his table; and, if a stranger went from this house, where his excellency never talked, to that of Count Sa-, the difference was, that Count Sa-, did not return his bow. This nobleman, who had been minister under the Empress Maria Theresa, had contracted such an immobility of the spine, from habits of pride, that it became at last physically impossible for him to stoop. It is said that he one day let fall a paper in the Empress's closet. She was too great to bend; and the minister could not command his muscles: it was necessary, therefore, to ring for an attendant,
In passing through Hungary, the author describes the coronation of the Archduke Frederick (the late Emperor) at Presburg. It affords a fine picture of feudal magnificence. To give an idea of the costly dresses of the nobles, we are informed that the Count C, Captain of the Hungarian guards, presented his spurs to his daughter on her marriage, as a set of diamonds. The disputes of Joseph II. with the Hungarians seem to have originated in the same manner as our unfortunate dispute with America. They wished to retain the power of taxing themselves: he insisted on imposing such a contribution as he pleased. One cause of offence seems to have been wantonly given: Joseph, instead of going to be crowned at Presburg, sent for the regalia, and the mantle of St. Stephen, by the post. An insult of this nature excites deeper resentment than a real injury..
We find many valuable remarks, but nothing particularly interesting, on the route from Buda to Constantinople; excepting the view of manners in Wallachia, which is rather of too free a cast.-A fit of home sickness seized our author, at the sight of a pot of mustard from Paris, which he encountered at table. This stroke of sensibility is exceedingly characteristic. At Cazanlik, at the foot of Mount Hamus, the author was more reasonably transported by the immense plantations of rose-bushes, from the flowers of which the essence of roses is prepared.
"The character of the Turks is drawn with considerable spirit. The writer observes that their religion and their cus toms have prevented them from improving, but that they have also prevented their degeneracy. The Turks who lost İsmael were as brave, and as ignorant, as those who took Rhodes. They remain at the same point, but other nations have advanced. They are a people whose character can only be described by Antithesis: brave and pusillanimous, kind and ferocious, firm and feeble, active and indolent, brutal and devout, sensual and unfeeling, &c. Such is our author's mode of de
lineation, à peu près. All these qualities, of which the bad prevail over the good, in the bulk of the nation, are covered by a coating of ignorance and insensibility, which protects them from becoming miserable. Their gestures are noble.
ture, which places in the meadows of Kiathana the mournful foliage of the cypress, amid the tender verdure of the turf,. seems to have imparted to the Turks, somewhat of the majesty and gravity of her smile.'
The military spirit (it can hardly be called art) of the Turks is described in a very desultory, and consequently a suitable manner; it much resembles the account of the Baron de Tott. The late siege of Acre will furnish a difficult problem for these supercilious observers of this singular people. It was reserved for these spoiled children, as the French travellers regard them, to defend an old line-wall (with English assistance, indeed,) against the utmost skill and fury of the first General, and the best troops of France.
Our enterprizing author has also undertaken a sketch of the state of Russia; in which, according to his usual manner, he discovers all kinds of contradictions: luxury in the court, misery and ignorance in the rest of the country. He even represents the military power of Russia as illusory. Present events shew that he has rather mistaken this subject.
Nothing remarkable occurs in the description of the Greek islands, a subject which is completely exhausted; excepting the notice of a custom among the Maltese sailors, that has been supposed peculiar to the islands in the South-Sea:
All my sailors (he observes) were tatoowed. They have a rage for painting flower-pots, saints, and other figures, on their arms and legs. When they have undergone this operation, which swells the limb during a fortnight, they exhibit for the rest of their lives a handsome madonna, or a pretty little tree, on their legs or fore-arms.'
A visit to Mount Etna, and an account of Naples, Pompeii, &c. close the volume.
Though we have been much amused by this work, we cannot rank it above the class of light reading. The author sees every thing en Frangis; and his philosophy lies no deeper than the study of Voltaire. He seems to have written, as he travelled, in great haste: but, as he manifests perfect goodhumour, on all occasions, we feel no inclination to quarrel with him because his information is not more solid, nor better digested. We cannot require from him that knowlege which he never seems to have obtained for himself.