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bound to let the author be heard, as he wishes to be understood, and as he modestly professes to speak. He says, " I do not pretend to justify opinions resulting from the superficial glance of a stranger ; and if I take upon myself to praise or to blame, it is in the character of one unacquainted with the origin and object of the custom to which he alludes. I do nothing but compare ;”--that is, he professes merely to compare superficialities; which processes are sure to be often remarkably incomplete, inconclusive, and odious.
We have alluded to Mr. Best's frequent comparisons, when the manners merely at table, and his personal feelings on such occasions, are the subject. His very first dinner after setting foot upon English ground, on his return to the land of his birth, furnishes a text for one of these disquisitions. But even in London the cookery, the manner of serving up the several dishes, and the general demeanour of the parties at the table, set all his preconceived notions at odds. We allude particularly to a feast, which must have been given by a wealthy rural squire, not much accustomed to fashion. able life in the metropolis. Neither alderman nor courtier, nor any of the Bull race aspiring to such distinctions, could have a hand in any such vulgarities :
The repast began with a soup, the whole flavour of which was derived from the pepper with which it abounded: this seems to be the usual and only English method of seasoning a dish. As at Dover, we had helped ourselves to pieces of heavy bread, cut into small potches and carried round in a tray. Is the English climate unable to ripen your wheat, or is it solely to adulteration that we must attribute the heaviness and uni. versal badness of your bread? This, however, sufficiently accounts for the comparatively little quantity eaten by my countrymen. The soup was removed, and four dishes with covers-as in France—were set upon the table. The mistress of the house informed us what was under each cover, and what would follow in the second course. In France, the lady of the house would have known nothing of the matter. According to the custom of the country, we first partook of the fried fish placed at the head of the table: in France and Italy, the master and mistress of the house are seated at the opposite sides of the table, whence they are able to pay more general attention to the whole of their guests. The servant brought round the stand of sauces : in France it would have been taken for a plateau à liqueurs : and, following the example of the others, I helped myself from one or two phials; mixing the contents with the melted butter and anchovy sauce contained in a separate vase. Another servant then handed round a deep octangular dish; at one end of which were potatoes, at the other cauliflowers: to me, this mixture of two vegetables on the same dish appeared far from inviting. Each helped himself to some of each sort, and then taking his silver fork-for each was provided with both steel and silver, the steel instrument being, it seems, destined for the meat-we at length tasted this long-preparing fish! The sauce mixture was very good; but a deal of time would have been saved had it been cooked up in the kitchen, and served on the same dish as the fish. I could not eat without bread; and yet found it difficult to manage at the same time the fish, sauces, potatoes, cauliflower, and bread, amongst which my appetite lost itself. However, in this embarras des richesses, I got on as well as I could; wishing to conform as much as possible to the customs of those amongst whom I was thrown. In the midst of the difficulty of distinguishing amongst the many and various articles which then covered my plate, the master of the house invited me to take a glass of wine with him.'
• Though I scarce understood What he wished me to do, I said, Thank him, I would.' The butler brought us a couple of glasses of white wine, and, following the movements of my adversary—for I had no will of my own, and, in true simplicity of heart, might have been led to do anything under the idea that it was English–I put on a grave look, and then, with a dismal, solemn, and important mien, returned the nod of my friend. The ser. vants carried off the glasses as soon as empty. Having recovered from this interruption, all proceeded well again. A couple of dishes were uncovered ; one contained a joint of roast mutton, the other a plain boiled fowl; for curiosity sake, I desired to taste the latter. I was helped to a wing, and a servant offered me melted butter with parsley : this I thought as odd a sauce as the dish for which it was intended. The bird had no flavour; that, of course, had been boiled away; and the butter was little able to replace it. I refused to join to this insipid meat, potatoes and boiled cauliflowers, equally insipid; and I thought with a sigh of the cookery of Very's and the Café de Paris."
We presume that by this time Mr. Best prefers some of these solids and unadulterated dishes of portly John, to the made and vitiously seasoned contrarieties of French cookery. At any rate, we shall see, that he has retracted other opinions, hastily formed respecting the comparative merits and attractions of England and the Continent. But how came it that he had so much to learn about his native country,- that its scenery, its houses, the streets of its towns, the manners and character of the people were so strange to him? He must surely have often mixed with Englishmen when abroad; at any rate he would, we presume, meet with English books, such as the journals of travellers, who had been at pains to describe what he himself had forgotten, or never seen at home. Can we suppose that he was so incurious and so unthoughtful of the country in which he was born as not to peruse its newspapers ? And yet the following passage seems to intimate that these fast and far-travelling messengers of information about everything, were, on his arrival in England, strange to him, even to the very circumstance of size. He says,
“ My arms were at full stretch, endeavouring to manage a morning paper-so much larger than our foreign journals. Yet those I have met with in England do not seem to contain more readable matter. Two
sides of the sheet I was now trying to wield were exclusively devoted to advertisements, which, though they may be profitable to the editor, have little interest for must readers. After a small portion of an English newspaper has been given up to one leading article on the most interest. ing subject of the day, and to one short extract from a French journal, which is sufficient to satisfy those interested in foreign news and politics, -the rest of this enormous extent of paper seems to be generally devoted to reporting the movements of great personages; the proceedings at county or party meetings; a long list of births, marriages, and deatlis; dreadful accidents; shocking murders ; coroners' inquests; curious occurrences; the state of the weather; the particularly early appearance of different vegetables ; the exact dimensions of wonderfully large potatoes; and other articles equally interesting ; although to my mind they appeared insulting to the judgment of a British public. Nevertheless, they are certainly as harmless, and, perhaps, as useful, as the violent, coarse, and ungentlemanly political squabbles which, I admit, swell the unrestrained columns of a French newspaper."
We do not look upon advertisements as being generally uninteresting to a people who are generally devoted to business, trade, and traffic. What class is there that may not find much that nearly concerns it in the advertising pages of the Times ? There is even amusement as well as profit to be derived from many of the entries. Certainly there is a vast amount of information not only of a practical kind, but such as cannot fail to set the mind upon a wide sphere of speculation. Even Mr. Best appears to have apprehended some of the points to which we refer; for in the very passage in which we have found our last extract, he proceeds to say,
" I once lighted upon a journal entitled Lloyd's List:' the existence of such a paper as this speaks volumes,fof which an Englishman, nay, the whole world, may be justly proud. How must not the admiration of the most classical enthusiast be diminished by a single glance over these modern mercantile pages !”
A considerable number of years has elapsed since Mr. Best returned to England, in the course of which he has sojourned for a second time in France, Clermont, the capital of Auvergne, being the scene of his residence; one of the many old-fashioned and characteristic places, so interesting to the antiquary, and all who have an eye alive to the picturesque. Nor has our author overlooked the external significances of such provincial scenes, having also satisfactorily traced certain conventional manners and prevailing distinctions witnessed in such places to their source. Take a favourable example:
“Most towns in France contain garrisons; but it is only those situated in a corn or forage country that are suited for cavalry. Perhaps you are not aware of the difference which, as far as society and drawing-rooms
are concerned, exists between the French infantry and cavalry. At the beginning of the Revolution, the people-to avenge themselves on the nobility, who had given the rank of officer to none but those of their own caste-declared all nobles unable to hold any command in the army. They were subsequently placed on the same footing as others, and commissions were indiscriminately given to all who had distinguished them. selves as privates. The ranks were, nevertheless, the common nursery of all officers who had not been regularly educated in the military aca. demies; and admission to these was not obtained without difficulty.
“ This state of things could not but be grating to the aristocratic pride of the nobles : and the reëstablished government of the Bourbons was not unwilling to restore to them as many as possible of the lost privileges of their birth. The pay of a cavalry officer is scarcely sufficient to main-' tain, with credit, bimself and his horses; that of an officer in the regiments of foot is enough to enable him to meet, without difficulty, all the expenses incumbent on his situation. These reasons, and the secret influence of public opinion, have caused the command of the cavalry to be abandoned more exclusively to the nobles and to those to whom personal property compensates the deficiency of pay; and thus the infantry regiments are either exclusively commanded by officers raised from the ranks, or by some few nobles whom their small fortunes prevent from entering into the other service.”
If it be desired to meet our author on English ground, and when the subject is of a nature to engage his earnest observation, and is in itself important, having a high and extensive bearing upon national manners, Mr. Best will then appear to best advantage, although in such a case of personal earnestness he is apt to become keen and opinionative. The text to the passage we now cite is this,-“ England appears to me to be the most priest-ridden country in Europe.” Then comes the illustrations :
“ I pretend not to affirm that the influence of which I speak is exercised by the clergy over the consciences of the people ; far from it. Their power is derived from the wealth of the whole body, and from the connexions of each individual; and, by these means, is extended over society in general. When I declare to my friends here, that in Catholic countries we never, unless we send for him, meet a priest out of his church-that he never mingles in society--and that, heyond his own sphere and what regards his own duties, he has not the least influence even with his own parishioners--I am scarcely believed. Some Catholic priests there doubtless are who would wish to extend the political influence of the church; but in the society of private life a priest is never seen.
“Here, on the contrary, I never go to a dinner-party without finding at least half of the company composed of the clergy of the neighbourhood. If I go to an evening party, I find that three-fourths of the young ladies are daughters of clergymen; and the remainder of the fair group is made up of wives, sisters, cousins, or nieces of the servants of the church. Not a family but has some living at its disposal, some son looking out for
VOL. II. (1839.) NO. I.
church preferment, or some relation handsomely endowed with it. Not a family but is, in some way or other, interested in the support of the wealthiest church establishment in Europe-in the assertion of a politicoreligious monopoly of loyalty and faith. All this it is which gives the Anglican clergy their amazing influence in society-particularly in the society of the country. They themselves may affect, or even feel liberality; but wo to the man who there incurs the displeasure of their wives and daughters by being indisposed towards anything in church or state which they may fancy it to be the interest of their corporation to maintain ! I think I may justly call the Anglican Church a corporation, and a political corporation to boot; for how often do we not hear the clergy declare that the support of the State is essential to the prosperity of their religion? How often do we not hear them cry out, whenever they fancy that the State is inclined to withdraw any portion of its exclusive support or favour, that the Church is in danger ? One accustomed to see religion dependent upon itself for the influence which it may exercise, is greatly astonished by this avowed necessity for the earthly patronage of a heavenly object.”
We fear there is less truth in the following unqualified criticism, that is to say, if we limit the preceding remarks to certain corners or localities in the land, although in both passages certain prepossessions may have been at work in the author's brain. Quoth Mr. Best,
Of landscape painting I must venture to say that my countrynien, at least the generality of those who have exposed their works, have not the most distant idea: their attempts to render the foliage of trees are, for the greater part, most completely unsuccessful, and shew an apparently insurmountable stiffness of manipulation. They do not atteinpt to mark the leaves of their trees, however near ; but lay on dabs of yellow or green paint which they seem too idle to subdivide or to restrict to any outline. I was surprised to find them equally at a loss to represent clouds; in that department, I should have anticipated a different result."
But Mr. B. does not humble us on all occasions by his comparisons, nor leave us dissatisfied with our country, with its climate, its scenery, and its domestic peculiarities. If, when he returned to us, he at first felt the landscapes, though beautiful, yet contracted as to scale, our atmosphere heavy and gloomy, our very coaches so handsome and neat as to inspire a species of doubt and timidity, he afterwards states :
“I retract all former opinions on the alleged tameness of English scenery. In fact, having now journeyed over a great part of the island, I often ask myself what Continental country of equal extent may compete with it for the admiration of the traveller? We have not, I admit, the varied and ever-glowing tints of a Southern sun-the only object for which I would again wish to travel; but we have green fields and woodland scenery, which the South of Europe never offers; we have, more.