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with an undaunted mind and a steady hand. It rebounded obliquely, from the opposite side-cushion, to that at the end; from which it moved in a direct line towards the middle pocket, which seemed to stand in gaping expectation to receive it. The hearts of the spectators beat thick as it rolled along ; and they shewed, by the contortions of their faces and persons, how much they feared that it should move one hair-breadth in a wrong direction.
I must here interrupt this important narrative, to observe, that, when I talk of contortions, if
your idea from any thing of that kind which you may have seen around an English billiard-table or bowling-green, you can have no just notion of those which were exhibited on this occasion ; your imagination must triple the force
of every English grimace, before it can do justice to the nervous twist of an Italian countenance.At length the royal ball reached that of the enemy, and with a single blow drove it off the plain. An universal shout of joy, triumph, and applause burst from the beholders; but,
O thoughtless mortals, ever blind to fate,
Too soon dejected, and too soon elate ! the victorious ball, pursuing the enemy too far, shared the same fate, and was buried in the same grave, with the vanquished. This fatal and unforeseen event seemed to make a deep impression on the minds of all who were witnesses to it; and will no doubt be recorded in the annals of the present reign, and quoted by future poets and historians, as a striking instance of the instability of sublunary felicity.
It is imagined that the cabinet of this court is entirely guided by that of Spain; which, on its part, is thought to be greatly under the influence of French counsels. The manners, as well as the politics, of France, are said to prevail at present at the court of Madrid. I do not presume to say of what nature the politics of his Neapolitan majesty are, or whether he is fond of French counsels or not; but no true-born Englishman existing can
shew a more perfect contempt of 'their manners than be does. In domestic life, this prince is generally allowed to be an easy master, a good-natured husband, a dutiful son, and an indulgent father.
The queen of Naples is a beautiful woman, and seems to possess the affability, good-humour, and benevolence, which distinguish, in such an amiable manner, the Austrian family
Naples. The hereditary jurisdiction of the nobles over their vassals subsists, both in the kingdom of Naples and Sicily, in the full rigour of the feudal government. The peasants therefore are poor; and it depends entirely on the personal character of the masters, whether their poverty is not the least of their grievances. If the land was leased out to free farmers, whose property was perfectly secure, and the leases of a sufficient length to allow the tenant to reap the fruits of his own improvements, there is no manner of doubt that the estates of the nobility would produce much more. The landlord might have a higher rent paid in money, instead of being collected in kind, which subjects him to the salaries and impositions of a numerous train of stewards; and the tenants, on their parts, would be enabled to live much more comfortably, and to lay up, every year, a small pittance for their families. But the love of domineering is so predominant in the breasts of men who have been accustomed to it from their infancy, that, if the alternative were in their choice, many
of them would rather submit to be themselves slaves to the caprices of an absolute prince, than become perfectly independent, on the condition of giving independence to their vassals. There is reason to believe that this ungenerous spirit prevails pretty universally among the nobility all over Europe. The German barons are more shocked at the idea of their peasants becoming per
fectly free, like the farmers of Great Britain, than they are solicitous to limit the power of their princes : And, from the sentiments I have heard expressed by the French, I very much doubt, whether their high nobility would accept of the privileges of English peers, at the expense of that insolent superiority, and those licentious freedoms, with which they may, though no English peer can, treat with impunity the citizens and people of inferior rank.* We need be the less surprised at this, when we consider that, in some parts of the British empire, where the equable and generous laws of England prevail, those who set the highest value on freedom, who submit to every hardship, and encounter every danger, to secure it to theniselves, never have shewn a disposition of extending its blessings, or even alleviating the bondage of that part of the human species, which a sordid and unjustifiable barter has brought into their power.
The court of Naples has not yet ventured, by one open act of authority, to abolish the immoderate power of the lords over their tenants. But it is believed that the mi. nister secretly wishes for its destruction; and in cases of flagrant oppression, when complaints are brought before the legal courts, or directly to the king himself, by the peasants against their lord, it is generally remarked that the minister favours the complainant. Notwithstanding this, the masters have so many opportunities of oppress
Whatever justice may have been in this remark, when these letters were first published, it is now apparent that some of the first nobility of France entertain different sentiments from those here imputed to them,
Whether the French imbibed their love of freedom from their intercourse with British America, or from the progress of philosophy and good sense in their own country, a complete alteration in the political sentiments of the nation seems to have preceded the late revolution in their government ; a revolution more extraordinary than any which the annals of mankind present to our admiration. The inhabitants of a great kingdom, in one instant, by an influence as sudden as that of electricity, are shocked at the idea of their being slaves : they start up and assert the rights of mankind to be free, and they are free ! Long may they continue 80, and may their example be followed by every nation now suffering undør the scourge of despotism.
ing, and such various methods of teasing, their vassals, that they generally choose to bear their wrongs in silence; and perceiving that those who hold their lands immedi. ately from the crown, are in a much easier situation than themselves, without raising their hopes to perfect freedom, the height of their wishes is to be sheltered, from the vexations of litile tyrants, under the unlimited power of one common master. The objects of royal attention, they fondly imagine, are too sublime, and the minds of kings too generous, to stoop to, or even to countenance, in their servants, the minute and unreasonable exertions, which are wrung at present from the hard hands of the exhausted labourer.
Though the Neapolitan nobility still retain the ancient feudal authority over the peasants, yet their personal importance depends, in a great measure, on the favour of the king; who, under pretext of any offence, can confine them to their own estates, or imprison them at pleasure ; and who, without any alleged offence, and without going to such extremes, can inflict a punishment, highly sensible to them, by not inviting them to the amusements of the court, or not receiving them with smiles when they attend on any ordinary occasion. Unless this prince were so very impolitic as to disgust all the nobility at once, and so unite the whole body against him, he has little to fear from their resentment. Even in case of such an union, as the nobles have lost the affection and attachment of their peasants, what could they do in opposition to a standing army of thirty thousand men, entirely devoted to the crown? The establishment of standing armies has universally given stability to the power of the prince, and ruined that of the great lords. No nobility in Europe can now be said to inherit political importance, or to act independent of, or in opposition to, the influence of the crown ; except the temporal peers of that part of Great Britain called England.
As men of high birth are seldom, in this country, called to the management of public affairs, or placed in those
situations where great political knowledge is required ; and as his majesty relies on his own talents and experience in war for the direction of the army; neither the civil nor military establishments open any very tempting field for the ambs.ion of the nobles, whose education is usually adapted to the parts in life which they have a probability of acting. Their fortunes and titles descend to them, independent of any effort of their own. All the literary distinctions are beneath their regard; it is therefore not thought expedient to cloud the playful innocence of their childhood, or the amiable gaiety of their youth, with severe study. In some other countries, where a very small portion of literary education is thought becoming for young men of rank, and where even this small portion has been neglected, they sometimes catch a little knowledge of history and mythology, and some useful moral sentiments, from the excellent dramatic pieces that are represented on their theatres. They also sometimes pick up some notion of the different governments in Europe, and a few political ideas, in the course of their travels. ' But the nobility of this country very seldom travel ; and the only dramatic pieces, represented here, are operas; in which music, not sentiment, is the principal thing attended to. In the other theatrical entertainments, Punchinello is the shining character. To this disregard of literature among the nobles, it is owing, that in their body are to be found few tiresome, scholastic pedants, and none of those perturbed spirits, who ruffle the serenity of nations by political alarms, who clog the wheels of government by opposition, who pry into the conduct of ministers, or in any way disturb that total indifference with regard to the public, which prevails all over this kingdom. We are told by a great modern historian,* that « force of mind, a sense of personal dignity, gallantry in enterprise, invincible perseverance in execu. tion, contempt of danger and of death, are the character. istic virtues of uncivilized nations. But as the pobles of
• Vide Dr. Robertson's History of the Emperor Charles V, Sect. I. VOL. 11.