Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

In one respect these volumes are more than usually valuable. The author's professional habits,-probably the state of his own health stimulating his views,-led him to inquire particularly into the hospital institutions wherever he went, whilst his knowledge in this department, of course, entitles his reports to no mean consideration. Certain countries and climates, in regard to salubrity and as resorts for invalids, also engaged his attention, especially Upper Egypt, on account of an atmosphere which he describes as being “eminently pure, and dry, and exhilarating ;" and therefore, for certain pulmonary complaints, highly salutary. Upon this point, indeed, he lays claim to having supplied some new information, and to having laboured to excite attention to such an important matter as that of the cure of an order of diseases the most sweeping and fatal of any in many countries.

Our author, late of the “ Bengal Medical Establishment,” and member of various learned and scientific societies, having suffered severely from inflammatory attacks of the chest, during the winter of 1835 6, in Paris, was induced to consult Mons. Andral," whose reputation for a superior knowledge of thoracic diseases is well known throughout Europe.” The physician prescribed a summer's residence at Bonnes in the Pyrenees, with the use of waters, and named Italy for the winter. Dr. Cumming, however, had a mind of his own, or rather was induced by the pressing invitation of an old and intimate friend to join him on a summer tour through Italy. Accordingly, quitting Paris towards the end of May 1836, he reached Avignon, having descended the Saone and the Rhone. He then took land to Marseilles, and thence by steam to Italy.

A tour through Italy and Switzerland does not appear to have materially benefitted our invalid's state of health. But being on the wing, accustomed and devoted to travelling, and cherishing a fancy to visit the land of the Pharaohs, he sailed once more from France for Alexandria. He ascended the Nile to the second Cataract, finding an advantage from the Egyptian air, which must have served to produce the decided opinion he has expressed in praise of it for consumptive persons. From Egypt he directed his course to Greece, visiting Malta in the way. After Greece, Turkey attracted him, returning homewards by the Danube, Vienna, and the Rhine. Having thus outlined his wanderings, it remains for us to start anew, and halt with him at a few of his stages.

If the reader of these “ Notes” wishes to test the style and character of the information contained in them, which we have already attempted to describe, he cannot do better than begin at the beginning of the first volume, or turn to any part where the Doctor treats of France or the French people. Take him up at Lyons, and on a visit to the Hótel Dieu, an establishment of vast extent. He says,

of

“The wards are lofty and spacious, and nearly all the beds were occupied. Several of the physicians were making their rounds, dressed in black silk gowns; but there was no crowd of pupils following them as in the hospitals of the capital. The Chirurgian Major lives in the establishment. His appointment is for ten years, during which time he is not permitted to marry. The whole duties of the hospital are performed gratuitously, by 300 • Freres et Seurs de la Charité.' The yearly revenue is two millions of francs ; according to the porter, who was my guide through. out the building, a sum appearing almost incredible. Some of the attendants were young girls of twenty. It was strange to see them in the sombre garb of the order of La Charité. They receive no pay, being merely clothed and fed ; make no vows on entering, and are not obliged to remain longer than they choose. The administration' can dismiss them at a moment's warning; but after fifteen years of service, they obtain a black cross, which entitles them to a perpetual asylum, from which they cannot be removed without some grave misdemeanour.

"There is certainly something very striking in some of the effects of the Catholic faith. In what other religion, for instance, do we find so many of its professors devote their whole lives to unrequited services of charity and benevolence? Here are three hundred persons, male and female, voluntarily submitting to the strict discipline, the irksome confinement, and disgusting drudgery of a large hospital, without other fee or reward than that derived from the approval of their own breasts. That many them betake themselves to the office to secure the means of living, I do not doubt. Others by way of atoning for past sins, and many from a disgust at the world, or from disappointed hopes ; but unquestionably there must be some who act from higher motives than these. A man may go into the splendid churches of the Catholic faith-he may witness the gorgeous processions and the rich ceremonial of its worship, and ex. claim that all is vanity and empty pomp, that there is nothing betokening the influence of religion in the heart; but wben be beholds the practical working, if I may so speak, of the creed, especially as it is to be seen in the great hospitals and other charitable institutions, he certainly must acknowledge that, if a sentiment of piety prevail less generally in France than elsewhere, there is no nation on earth where, among a portion at least of its inhabitants, the visible fruits of religion are so zealously cultivated and so richly developed. I can hardly conceive an office more irksome (unless to a mind overflowing with benevolence) than that of an hospital nurse, In England, it is one that is highly paid, and yet its duties grudgingly performed. In France, on the contrary, the Sisters of Chariiy do everything without pay, and, so far as my observation has extended, with a cheerfulness and tenderness to the sick, not elsewhere to be found. Indeed this is not to be wondered at, for in every relation of life, what we do voluntarily is done with a better and readier grace than services rendered for gain. In the one case, it is the heart that prompis—the love of money in the other.”

What a contrast, he adds, does the life of the Seur de la Charité offer when compared with the useless and drone-like exist. ence of the nun! We find him soon after saying that there is

much less stiffness and aristocratic morgue in France, than is to be found in society in England. “In France, the genius of the people is essentially republican: the gradations of rank are lost in a general amalgamation ; and yet there is none of the brusquerie of the lower class of Yankees to be met with. All are polite without being servile.'

This last is one of the passages in which our author appears to us to sketch accurately the characteristic manners of Englishmen and foreigners. If we go forward to a much later part of these “ Notes,” we shall find a fuller detail of national peculiarities. For example, speaking of one period in his wanderings, of meeting after the lapse of many months with a large assemblage of his countrymen, where he found himself less at home than if he had been among foreigner, he adds,

" John Bull is certainly a strange specimen of humanity, when contrasted with other nations. It is impossible for one moment to mistake him : he has an air and manner peculiar to himself; he enters the saloon of the hotel with a sturdy step and straightforward look, taking no notice of the salutation that foreigners usually make when a stranger enters. John says to himself, don't know the fellows, then why should they bow to me? or if they choose to do so, that is no reason why I should bow to them. You can read his supreme contempt for foreigners and everything foreign, on his brow. He has an unconquerable antipathy to takeing off his hat, either in saluting in the street, or entering a public room. Hence, from a neglect of this easily adopted custon of the Continent, he gets the credit of being a mannerless cub. In England, a gentleman never thinks of taking off his hat, except it be to salute a lady; whereas all over the Continent, the custom prevails from the highest to the lowest rank. I recollect one day walking with the Baron de Würsburg in the gardens of Schønbrun, and being in doubt as to the direction we ought to take, the Baron addressed himself for information to a private soldier who was standing sentry, at the time taking off his hat. An English sentinel would have thought he was insulted by such a mark of respect; and yet it is in despotic countries that these observances are attended to, and perhaps it it is a wise policy. The lower orders are flattered by the tokens of respect from their superiors, and being thus treated to the shadow, are content, perhaps, to forego the substance of power. How an English barmaid would stare, if iny Lord this or that were to take off his hat, and make her a profound salution, in walking past her little realm! Yet so it is throughout the Continent; and the Englishman who, from ignorance, or more likely from thinking it humbug, neglects this formality, is at once get down as entirely deficient in the breeding of a gentleman."

In another chapter we find the following observations :

“ It has often been matter of wonder to me, that in England,

-the freest country on the face of the earth, America not excepted, there should be the greatest number of gradations in society, and the most ini

passable gulf between the two extremes, and even the intermediate links of the social chain. It might almost be set down as a rule, that in proportion as the power of the state is absolute, so is the distance between master and servant, or in other words, the upper and lower classes, diminished. In Turkey, for example, there is not half the servility in the manners of the people that there is in Britain. Nay, the very slave from Ethiopia is on a much more familiar footing in his master's housa than the chief domestic in England. In the absolute governments of Germany and Italy, the servant and master are on comparatively equal and companionable terms. I lived once in a house in Paris kept by two old maids, where the two man servants were Negroes from the Isle of Bourbon, and I have often been struck and pleased with the perfect ease and familiarity of the said grinning Negroes in the presence of their mistresses. In the island of Martinique I had the opportunity of witnessing the much greater kindness of manner with which the French masters treated their slaves; and yet the political servitude was far more severe in the French than the English colonies; and probably too the treatment, as far as regarded food and clothing, was better under us."

We think that in the statement of his case, Dr. Cumming has here touched upon one or two of the very facts which go a good way to explain the contradictions or anomalies alluded to. The circumstance of England being the freest country in the world, and where persons of mean birth may rise to the highest stations in the realm,

excepting royalty, has produced a jealousy of inferiors on the part of superiors, whatever may be the respective distances between them, or whatever may be the points of their stations in the social scale. All are entitled and habituated to look upwards, to aspire, and therefore regard the grades immediately below with especial bauteur. We believe that an English lord is far more generally on familiar terms with his footman, than a millionaire of the city, who has risen from the desk or the shop, is with his clerks or appren. tices. There is far less likelihood of an approximation or equality in the one case than there is in the other, and therefore far less fear of amalgamation. Just so was it during the feudal ages in this country. The salt alone divided at table the lord from his vassala and retainers.

We must also attribute something to the stanch English character, whether as exemplified on the part of master or of servant, or of any other distinct grades, cherishing a despite of the mere formality of companionship and kindliness when the more solid and substantial matters of " food and clothing,” and real political freedom, are more or less denied. No man understands the mean, ing of “ humbug” better than John Bull. That he is servile, is not to be denied ; but it is in the pursuit of wealth that he may equal those he serves, not the servility of sycophancy to the mere tinsel of lordlings. On all occasions, whether poor or rich, whether

at his own fireside or on the footpath, and whenever business does not bind him by its conventional rules, he is as independent in speech and deed as a monarch.

John feels what he is, and is proud of what he enjoys ; exhibiting his self-importance when at home by grumbling at everything about him, when abroad by despising everything that is not English. Nationally speaking he is the most active, the most wealthy, and the most honourable of men. But the various features and facts which we have now noticed, have produced a corresponding sort of contradiction among his foreign critics. To use Dr. Cumming's ideas, he is respected on the Continent above all other men on account of his integrity, and the power and honour of his country, but he is not liked on account of his manners. Both views, how. ever, inust unite to make him a noticed personage. But we are told that other circumstances conspire to distinguish him than any yet mentioned. He has a greater freshness of complexion, is more stoutly built, and displays more attention to cleanliness than the people of other countries. The portrait, upon the whole, which our author draws of his countrymen as compared with foreigners, in the most civilized of the Continental nations, is highly flattering. It is also gratifying to hear that in France there is almost universally, according to the Doctor's extended nieans of forming a judgment, a growing appreciation of the best English qualities, and a rapidly increasing desire to become more closely bound to us internationally, and on the terms of amity.

Let it not be thought that our author, either from prolonged absence from his native land, from the circumstance of having had much enjoyment among foreigners and in many distant countries, or from any want of patriotic feeling, is destitute of those emotions that the most honourable, amiable, and enlightened minds experience and cherish when from home, whenever the cause or name of that home is put to the touchstone. Take a proof of his tenderness and spirit on any such point :

“It is an inexpressible satisfaction to an Englishman that he may travel from one end of France to the other, and see no trophy erected by the vanity of the nation at the expense of his country's honour. Almost every other people of Europe see monuments to remind them that they were once under the iron grasp of Bonaparte. Every stranger who visits Paris bas these tristes souvenirs' before his eyes. There is the Pont de Jena, the Pont d'Austerlitz, for the Prussian and Austrian; triumphal monuments to commemorate the battles of Borodino, Madrid, the Pyramids, and a hundred besides; but nowhere is to be seen one solitary memento of a victory gained over Great Britain. While England can boast of her Trafalgar Square and Bridge of Waterlo, France must be content with the bitter recollections wbich those names inspire. Nothing would wound me more, or more effectually take from the enjoyment of

« PredošláPokračovať »