Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the ball-room to the prison. In political as in domestic life, happiness depends as well on little things as on great things. And so saith the scripture most sublimely of the wisest of men-" his heart was as the sands of the sea ;" “one of the largest bodies," observes Bacon, “consisting of the smallest proportions."

In passing from one subject to another I have written with a feeling which I have long entertained, viz., that ideas are most naturally introduced into the minds of others, in the form and order in which they most naturally introduce themselves into our own minds ;-in endeavouring to cut and to square, and to press and to clip, our thoughts into exact forms and proportions, we most frequently injure every part of a work, on a false idea of improving the whole, and make our book on the plan which presided over that royal palace, where all the pictures of Italy were systematically mutilated to the form and size of an apartment.

The plan I have adopted, then, is not without its method; but, however in some respects I might deem it desirable, I have not attempted to throw the colouring of one particular idea over the whole of my work, or to connect every effect that I have observed with one particular cause. Indeed I confess, for my own part, that when I pursue speculations of this kind, I advance on my way with considerable hesitation and doubt.

I confess that I am one of those who believe there to be so many chains, visible and invisible, in the connexion of human affairs—so much mystery and intricacy in the government of human actions--that oftentimes I hesitate involuntarily even at the moments when I feel most inclined to be presumptuous.

The plague breaks out at Florence; all the pious virgins, the religious matrons, and even the sacred sisters devoted to seclusion and God, give themselves up in a species of voluptuous delirium to the wildest excesses of prostitution and debauch. The same pestilence visits Aix, and the oldest courtezans of the place rush in a pious frenzy to the hospitals, and devote themselves to the certain death which seizes those who attend upon the sick. religious education does not lead necessarily to debauch-nor are brothels the best seminaries of charity and christian zeal.

What happened once may never happen again. Yet that which forms no ground for a theory, is often interesting as a fact.

I will now allude to one difficulty I have laboured under in this work-a difficulty which I particularly feel, and which if I had been writing of England I should have been spared. In speaking of our own country, we speak in spirit which induces us to believe that we may take any liberty we think proper with friends. We are at home, and we have the pri

Yet a

/

а

our

vilege of relationship. But it is different in a foreign land.

Received as

a stranger, but received with kindness and hospitality-the seal of courtesy is placed upon our lips, and we ought to shrink with disgust from being, or seeming, guilty of ingratitude. If then I could suspect myself of any of that national hostility which might induce me to find unnecessary fault with my hosts -if I disliked the French because they wear wooden shoes, or if I despised them because they do not live upon roast beef and plumb pudding—if I felt that kind of antipathy or rather jealousy towards them which I have remarked among some of my countrymen-if I thought all their women had the features of Calmucks, and all their men the principles of Count Fathom--if I deemed the New Road infinitely superior to the Boulevards, and the Louvre a hovel by the side of St. James's palace,-if I believed all this, and even believed it conscientiously, I should hesitate long, after the kindness I have experienced, before I stated my opinions. But France to me is a country in which repose many of my affections.

I visited it young-its scenes and its people are connected with some of my earliest and therefore with some of my dearest, recollections. I never touch its soil but the green memory of fresher and happier times rises up around me. Some of those whom I have most valued - some of those whom I have most loved, link me

with the land of which I write, and infuse into my thoughts a colour which is assuredly not the hue of jealousy or aversion. I ask myself then, whether the opinions of a friend, even if they are delivered with impartiality-of a friend, who, seeing with foreign eyes, gazes as it were through a magnifying glass, on all around him, and discerns at once both beauties and blemishes which are imperceptible to

persons, who, under the influence of long habit and custom, regard without observing-I ask myself whether the opinions of such a friend, even if they do not always contain praise, ought to be considered as any derogation from that amity which he is bound to feel, and very distant from forswearing. It is told of Hercules (a great reverer of the gods) that when he saw the statue of Adonis in the temple of Venus, he exclaimed with indignation “nil sacri es." And so surely there are objects which a traveller may venture to criticise, even when he finds them in a nation which he is most inclined and bound to respect.

But enough of this--the preceding pages have been written too much for the sake of the author -the few introductory remarks I have to add will concern the reader only—and I imagine that he may like to have submitted to him a rough sketch of the form, and a brief summary of the materials of the country to which he is about to be introduced.

A SHORT ANALYSIS OF FRANCE.

The extent of France from north to south, from Dunkirk to Perpignan, is 575 French miles ; its breadth from east to west, from Strasbourg to Brest, is 499 French miles ; its total superficies about 53,000,000 hectares ;* its population in 1833, 32,560,934 inhabitants.t This population is divided between the towns and the country in the following man

ner:

23,725,809 inhab.

35,384 little communes contain
1,620 towns, from 1,50) to 50,000 inh.

contain
8 great cities, varying from 59,000

inh, to near 800,000 $

7,209,855

1,625,270

* An hectare is equal to two acres, one rood, thirty-five two-fifths perches English measure.

+ In France the population increases every sixteen years by one-tenth. The proportion of male to female births is as sixteen to fifteen, and not as twenty-two to twenty-one-a proportion anciently established. The average of life calculated fifty years ago at twenty-eight years, is now calculated at thirty-five.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »