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1. Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope ; forming the completion
of her Memoirs. Narrated by her Physician, 3 vols. Lon
don, 1846. 2. Memoirs of a Babylonian Princess, written by Herself,
and translated into English, 2 vols. London, 1844. 3. Irby and Mangles' Travels in the Holy Land, (Murray's
Colonial and Home Library.) London, 1844. 4. The Athenæum. London, March 27, 1847.
In a late number of this Review, we selected the “ Letters from Madras” as a sort of text-book for a light article on Letters and Letter-writing in India. We now purpose-hoping that all Lady letter-writers are busily employed with their pens—to dwell a little on Lady travellers, Gentlemen travellers, and travellers of every description—all chiefly relating to a land in which all are interested.
We are well aware that it is too late for any lengthy critical opinions as to the merits of the works at the head of this article. We shall therefore merely take a brief glance at each, for the benefit of those who, like ourselves, had not read any portion of most of them before.
In doing this, we shall endeavour to scatter a few general remarks concerning Syria, &c. throughout our pages.
“ Travelling is a fool's paradise." We are coolly informed to this effect by a quaint philosophical Essayist, who, we must candidly confess, is right in part. Many men's minds are not sufficiently prepared for travel —especially those who travel for amusement :new scenes and adventures may possess them with a sort of vulgar ecstacy and surprise ; but that hallowed admiration, which springs from a sense of the sublime and beautiful in nature, is wanting in their souls. “ See Naples, and then die !" sounds very prettily to the ear.
Rome, the Pyramids, Thebes and Palmyra, come before the mind with a thousand associations.; but the grand difference between minds consists in the nature of these associations; we must discover whether they savour of vulgarity or intellectual refinement. The rage of travelling has become universal ; everything is tending to increase the vast incendiary. No doubt, after reading "Tancred," many of the fashionable world of England took it into their heads to pay à visit to Mount Calvary or Jericho. The “ Lady of the Lake” drew many thousands to Scotland : let us suppose that Mr. D'Israeli's Novel produced four enthusiastic departures for the Holy Land ; let us even suppose the victims of Romance, at this moment, kneeling in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Are they kneeling in the pure spirit of devotion ?--probably not. The act is accomplished, -the spell is broken ! They have knelt in the church of the Holy Sepulchre within the
walls of Jerusalem. They will gladly return to their own land of civilization. They will then discover that “mere place is nothing." Civilization in Syria! The Holy Land has been, and is yet to be blest.
An amusing reviewer in the Quarterly, some two or three years ago, in remarking on the literary and travelling talents of the Hon. Mrs. Dawson Damer, says—in allusion to the fair traveller's having requested a lock of Mahommed Ali's hair to place in a collection which already boasted the hair of Nelson, Napoleon, and Wellington, and been informed by the Pasha that in his will he would request Ibrahim Pasha to present her with his beard—“ Henceforth all generations of Dawson Damer will swear by the beard of the Pasha !"
How characterestic is this of our age of practice and utility-trifling although the incident-be!
Colonel Napier, however, when marching in Syria, from Nazareth to Naplouse, -the ancient Sychem,-holds beards in a different light. Incensed at the intended villainy of his guide, who wishes to make off from the party, the gallant Colonel, in his “ Reminiscences," informs us that “ after thrashing him right well with the flat of his sabre, he took out a pistol, and swearing by the beard of the Prophet, that if he did not behave himself, a bullet should be sent through his head ;he once more sullenly took the lead."*
These summary proceedings with a deceitful guide, in the Holy Land, form a curious comparison with the harmless audacity of a fair English lady's requesting from Mahommed Ali, a lock of hair, in the land of Egypt.
In 1847, we read of the Pasha creating a disturbance in Alexandria : should his “ fits of_insanity” continue, the Moslems may deprive the family of the Dawson Damers of his beard ; and this would be a want of gallantry of which the renowned Mahommed Ali would hardly be guilty.
Lady travellers, -at least nearly all who have been so bold as publish. —are distinguished by their grace and the liveliness which abounds in their narration, by the strict attention they pay to the most trifling incidents and things,—which in their hands seem to gather a sort of pleasant importance ;-and by their good-humoured manner of treating subjects abounding in grave or churlish discussion. They have also just appreciations of the beauties of mother nature ; so that
, with all these pleasant advantages, we find every thing so “ lovingly and picturesquely done,” that the most stern critic is disarmed of severe censure, and the general reward of Lady travellers' books becomes a fair share of praise. The Letters from the Baltic,” written some few years ago by a fair young spinster,—the more recent “ Year of Consolation,” by Mrs. Butler, may be cited as two excellent examples of the travelling genius—there is no better word—of the fair
Napier's “ Reminiscences of Syria”-vol. 2, p. 114: an interesting work, to which we would refer the reader, should he wish to become acquainted with the events of the war in 1810, and the tribes and history of Mount Lebanon.
In most cases, well looked after by the vain lord of the creation, travelling ladies seldom trouble themselves about personal security, or comfort ; and while the husband or brother is “setting all to rights, the blue or black eyes of the fair wanderer roll about in search of incident and novelty, while she herself becomes the “ observed of all observers."
The authoress of the “ Letters from the Baltic,” moralizes on board a large steamer, on quitting England for the land of Denmark. The vessel moves on ; all that remains to be seen of England is a blue strip on the horizon, “ which a finger may cover.” (How delightful it would be if every spinster, on leaving England for India, could commence their observations thus :) And now even that has disappeared ; and I may turn with undivided attention to this little cluster of mankind, to this tiny epitome of the great world, who scarcely before had one interest in common, and are now all bound to the same bourn, without, perhaps, two motives in unison. What parts they intend to play on our tossing boards by no means yet appear. Some are on the sick list already, others on the verge of enrolment ; some inviting, but not accessible ; others too forbidding in their sullen walk overhead, in the deep retirement of their macintoshes, to make it a matter of interest—whether they be the one or the other." Nothing can exhibit better the peculiar charm of style, than when, after a severe storm, the steamer anchors in the harbour of Christiansand in Norway, and they lie beside another large steamer bound for St. Petersburg, which had also put in for refuge. The English party visit their French neighbours alongside ; and the Lady traveller launches out into very poetry—which reminds us a little of poor L. E. L.'s description of a ball :—“ But there were beautiful creatures among this reckless crew, with falling tresses and loose costumes, like pictures by Sir Peter Lely, and looks as light as if they had studied under the same royal patron,-and French viscomtes with Shakspeare-cut chins—and Italian Opera singers with bold flashing gaze,—and amongst the rest was a quiet, fair countrywoman, like a drop of pure chrystal midst a row of false pearls. We longed to carry her off and give one of our party in exchange."*
We would willingly have sacrificed these specimens-not Oriental, to similar ones from the “ Letters from Madras,” But the Baltic lady is just as superior in intellectual refinement to the Madras one, as Mrs. Crowe is to Mrs. Trollope.
Egypt and Syria have, of late years, found able advocates and describers in those accomplished ladies, whose delight during a “ Yacht Voyage" in the Mediterranean, awakened their ambition to the performance of Diarys and Journals in the Holy Land t. This
* Letters from the Baltic-Colonial and Home Library–Nos. 10, Letter 1. + In the Quarterly, no. 151, we find mentioned" Journal of a Tour in the Holy Land, By Lady F. Egerton.” “ The English woman in Egypt. By Mrs. Poole." Diary of a
Tour in Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and the Holy Land. By the Hon. Mrs. Dawson Damer, 1841,” &c.
may be called a new field of travel for the ladies. Italy and Ger. many have been nearly written dry: So have, perhaps, Egypt and Syria.
But the difference consists in the individual greatness of the travellers in, and writers on, the latter countries. With these we immediately associate the names of Volney, Clarke, Burckhardt, Richardson, Buckingham, &c. The Howitts and the Countess of Blessington, with a few others of similar talents, merely flit across our minds at the mention of Germany or Italy. Syria is a land to which as time passes on, increased attention will be given.
Prophecy has founded her power in that land, and every jot of it must eventually be fulfilled. How wonderful are the expositions of the travellers we have named! Volney-an unbeliever—in des cribing Syria, calls it a delicious country; and says, that the Greeks and Romans thought it not inferior to Egypt-Voltaire-an unbeliever also, but we think one of
worse description than Volney-asserts, that ancient Palestine, great part of Syria, was execrable as a country. The coolness of Voltaire's assertion-made not from a knowledge of the subject, but merely as an attack on the tenets of the Christian religion-is sufficiently apparent in the confutations which exist in the works of all recent travellers, most of whom inform us that a great part of Syria is covered with the richest productions, that it is a highly favoured. and might be made a very valuable land. Irby and Mangles, in comparing the picturesque beauty of the ruins in Egypt and Syria, assert that, “ To an amateur of the picturesque, the ruins of Syria must have a decided advantage over those of Egypt, where an arid climate totally prevents there being the least spot of verdure on : ruined fabric, be it ever so old." In Syria the ruins are said to be surmounted by verdure. Flowers embracing the pillars, and bushes hiding with their leafy canopies the stony remains of a great antiquity—all this seems to heighten the pleasure of the idea that Syria and her people will eventually be blest. In a beautiful spot, in this interesting country, far away from the land which her uncle, Mr. Pitt, had governed— England, the first in the scale of nations-on the rocky heights of Mount Lebanon, one of the most extraordinary women of her time lived and died.
Few works have ever interested us more than the “ Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope.” None have ever afforded us more severe dis appointment than the “ Travels.” Dr. M. is an excellent Boswell, and a pleasant relater of travels: but he is—or perhaps the publisher is a better book-maker than either. There never was a more palpable case of book-mking than that exhibited in the last volume of these “ Travels;” and we venture to assert, for the information of Dr. M., the publisher, and all friends and admirers of Lady Stanhope in Europe, that, although the work has been in India upwards of one year, in almost every Book-Club or Book Society, 'two thirds of the third volume remain uncut. It is difficult to understand how
the "Travels” met with success at home. It must have been owing to the pleasant vein which runs through the “Memoirs;" or, perhaps, the entry of Lady Hester into Palmyra-escorted thither with a show of respect which likens her to Queen Zenobia of old-described as it is, would have caused any book to sell.
Indian readers, from the nature of the climate they inhabit, are excellent judges of quantity and quality; and knowing this fact, as we believe or at least hope some of the London booksellers do, and being unable to send the two volumes without the third, for Book Clubs or Book Societies in India, especially, the “ Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope,” should not have quitted England at all. There is a pleasant story current in India—though we cannot vouch for the truth of it—that a certain London book-seller, previous to forwarding the required books to regiments and stations, causes the volumes to be perused and examined by his wife and daughters, in order to send out nothing but what is good. If the “ Travels” had gone through this excellent ordeal, we do not think, at this moment, we should be writing about them in India. Nearly all that is very good or worth knowing in the “Travels” might easily have been thrown into the “Memoirs,"—and in these even copious omissions might have been made;—and then we would have had one of the most interesting books of biography, mystery, anecdote, scandal, and travel, in the English language, or, perhaps, in the world. We think three volumes would have amply satisfied Lady Hester, had her life and travels been published before her death; the utilitarian spirit of the age would have caused her to shudder in beholding six large volumes about herself, Dr. M., and others in glaring red and gold.
Lady Hester Stanhope left England at the beginning of the year 1810. The reasons she assigned for leaving her native land, we are informed in her “Memoirs,” were “grounded chiefly on the narrowness of her income.” The demon, debt, victimized the great Pitt, as it did the brilliant Sheridan; and his neice was not left what Lady Hester considered sufficient to support a “lady of quality” in England. Her health, it is stated at the commencement of the Travels," had much to do with Lady Hester's quitting the scenes of her former glory. Family afflictions—the death of England's mighty “ Pilot, who weathered the storm," and that of a brother, who fell at Corunnawere too severe to bear; so the child of sorrow resolved to seek relief in travel in order to disburden herself of the oppressive recollections of life-a life once really brilliant. Flattered by the king and many of the great lights of a great age, Lady Hester Stanhope appears to have secretly cherished a wish to be continually reverenced on earth; and people of this description generally com mence business by defeating their own ends, namely, by waging war with society and the human race. The consequence is, they too frequently die neglected, and, in some cases, despised. It is a sad thing to forget that we are mortal, that the chief way of living happily here is to reconcile ourselves to the changes and ingratitude