« PreviousContinue »
ciel !!!” cum multis aliis quæ nunc præscribere longum est-are in intonation very similar to the voice of the animal aforesaid. Seriously, the violent heavings of voice, if I may so express myself, which are universally used by French tragedians, are so totally unnatural and extravagant, that they give an air of ridicule rather than of pathos to the very frequent passages in which they are employed. Mlle. Duchesnois has this defect quite as much as any of her fellows, and I observed that the higher she carried it the greater was the applause. These people can know nothing of tragedy in real life, or they would not think that it ought to be so represented on the stage.
The Iphigénie has some beautiful verses, but it is on the whole exceedingly tiresome. I know the French would call me Goth, Hun, and what not, for saying this ; but to a person who has been accustomed to Shakspeare and Otway, I aver, meo periculo, that the best French tragedies are tedious." It is the nature of the beast,”-it is in the structure, in the grain of plays formed on this model to be wearisome, and I have no doubt that nine out of ten impartial persons, not being French, will say the same; that is, they would say the same if they would speak honestly; which is to be questioned; for it is astonishing what the prestige of a name does, and how many people who have been bored to death during the representation, would not have courage to say that they thought Racine or Corneille tiresome.
I paid my farewell visit to the Louvre yesterday. Being Sunday, it was a public day, and the galleries were crowded with all sorts and ranks of people. The Louvre is open only twice a week to the French, whereas it may be seen by foreigners every day except Monday,
It is plain what is the cause of this hospitable distinction ; namely, that foreigners are birds of passage, and may be pressed for time, whereas the French have always opportunities of seeing it. I think, if any distinction of this kind were made at our public institutions (if we have any which can be mentioned with this,) John Bull would grumble not a little. But without going this length, I look on our manner of conducting the few establishments we have as sordid and disgraceful when contrasted with what is done here. The British Museum is the only collection that you do not pay to see; and before you can get in there you are obliged to have an order, which there is so much difficulty in procuring, that it would seem the object of the institution was to keep its contents secluded from the eyes of all men. To every other collection, I believe, without exception, you are obliged to pay your way, which effectually precludes all the poorer classes from any enjoyment in them. The consequence is, that instead of a taste for the arts being spread to the very lowest of the people, it is confined to those who have shillings and half-crowns to spare, while the or folder are compelled to confine their curiosity to gazing at the contents of Mr. Humphreys' shop window.
This never struck me so forcibly as yesterday, when the great gallery of the Louvre was thronged with people of all ranks, many of whom were of the very lowest ; and they all took an interest and delight in the beauties around them, which was quite manifest, and I confess to me very gratifying. It is strange, that with our popular form of government, all our pleasurable institutions should be so aristocratic. I am sure any one of common feeling, who saw a scene like that of yesterday; where those who, during the week, earn their bread literally by the sweat of their brow, enjoyed gratification of the most exalted kind, and that with as much order and decorum as could be shewn by the highest bred; any one, I say, who witnessed this could not but lament and condemn the narrow-minded and exclusive spirit which debars the
poor from all participation in pleasures of this kind in England. It will be urged, that our common people would not enjoy these things; that a London labourer would rather sot away his Sunday in an alehouse, than go with his wife and children to see works of art; but are not these low and degrading tastes in great measure caused by the impossibility of his enjoying every other? Is not the encouragement given in France to gratification of this kind one great cause why the desire for that gratification exists ? and if this encouragement and permission were to cease, would not the working classes of Paris soon sink into those habits which are such a reproach to our commonality?-I think they would—I think the intellectual tastes, which are so striking to an Englishman in the lower orders here, are principally caused by the many avenues which are open to their being indulged; and I see no reason why the same causes should not produce the same effects in England.
I lingered in the Louvre yesterday till it was closed. I felt very great regret at leaving for the last time this really magnificent institution. I paused again and again before my favourite pictures, and took leave of them almost as I would from old friends. Perhaps this may be considered romantic or affected; but I have derived such enjoyment from the Louvre-I have so much admired its arrangements and regulations of every kind, and the collections it contains have made so strong and vivid an impression on my mind, that it was with no common feelings that I crossed its threshold for the last time. Alas! alas ! when shall we see a thing like this in London !
LETTER OF AN ADVENTURER
TO AN OBJECT OF EARLY ATTACHMENT_WRITTEN ON
THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS EXECUTION.
You will start at sight of this writing, with a sensation of pain: yet you will not at first recollect to whom it belongs. The characters resemble some which you once traced with delight, but they have lost their former freedom and strength.
I know exactly the hour at which this will reach you— seven in the evening. How often at that hour have we together inquired for letters, at the little shop near the church. You are sitting at your tea-table, encompassed by your two rosy boys, your smiling fairy girl, and your excellent husband. How well I know the room in the Parsonage. I see the green curtains, the blazing hearth, and the print of the Transfiguration over the chimneypiece. You perceive, that I am acquainted with all your habits ; but you have long-lost sight of me: you do not even know the name which I now bear, and which you would to-morrow read in the papers with indifference, but for the sheet which now trembles in your hand.
A glance at the end will explain all, and awaken some scorching sparks of a flame, which, ten years ago, was light to your path, and warmth to your heart. Oh! Mary, during those years, on what waves have I been tossed ! But I can accuse no one : the tempest was
raised by myself. Yet when about to plunge into the abyss of death ; it is indeed a consolation to reflect, that no parents survive to shudder at my infamy, and that you have glided calmly along on gentle and sunny streams, far from the lightning and the hurricane.
It would be a vile selfishness to wring your kind heart with my hateful tale, if I were not anxious to bequeath an indelible lesson to your children. Your children ! How these simple words make my hand shakewhat vain regrets, what deliciousness of once wellfounded hope do they not conjure forth before my aching sight! Your children ! Is it possible that I am livingsuch as now I am-1, who might once have been their father?
Do you remember the night when we parted? We walked from your father's house along the path that winds by the lake: the moon was at her full-that moon, which gleamed so sadly on me then-on which I have never since had the heart to gaze.
Two days brought me to London ; to an inn near the prison, where I am now immured. How rapturous was my first glimpse of the capital : it seemed the very atmosphere I was born to breathe. My enjoyment of its splendours was heightened, too, by the sweet expectation of soon sharing them in your society. For the first seven months I sent you a regular and faithful detail of all my feelings and actions ; the tenth was to have returned me to Westmoreland : how eagerly I used to look forward to it !but it came to you without me.
You cannot fail to remember one person, whom I painted to you in colours the most glowing. I early regarded him with a sort of instinctive admiration ; for he was one of those remarkable men of whom we encounter only two or three in the course of a life. His