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The fuel made use of is dry sea-weed, fish-bones, and any refuse which can be coaxed to smoulder or puffed into a blaze; so that the smoke, as may well be imagined, is anything but grateful to the olfactory nerves.
An Icelander seems to have no sense of smell; perhaps it is well that he has none, for there is no possibility of gratifying that sense, whilst there is every opportunity of mortifying it. The enormous amount of snuff consumed is one cause of this deadness in the perception of scent. Nature has made a mistake in forming Icelanders' faces; she should have inverted their noses, so as to facilitate their plugging them with tobacco. Queen Charlotte, it is said, was wont to lay a train down her white satin sleeve, and snuff it up with a sweep of the nose; an Icelandic lady of a certain age does much the same sort of thing, laying her train in spirals from the wrist to the knuckles. But as " my nose knows not the titillating sensation which her nose knows," I am keenly alive to all the unpleasantness of the Reykjavikian slums, and I hasten to the market-place.
Yon tall house with men on the roof mending it, and recruiting exhausted nature by a pull at the snuff-horn after driving home each nail, is the Latin 'school (Lcertha skola). There are about forty-six boys now in it, which, considering that it is the only educational establishment in the island, is a scanty percentage. This is to be accounted for by the jealous fear which parents feel, lest their offspring should be corrupted by the grandeur and dissipation of the forty or fifty decent shanties which form the capital; lest, also, they should become too fond of the cleanliness of a Danish household, to return with enthusiasm to the ancestral dirt of the parental piggery. For Reykjavik is a Danish town essentially; Danish dress, Danish fashions, Danish neatness, Danish cookery, prevail.
The course of study at the college comprises a thorough grammar - school education in the classic tongues, with instruction in English, French, German, Danish, music, mathematics, geography, and history. But sufficient attention is hardly paid to mathematics; the consequence is, a very perceptible incapacity among educated Icelanders for following a train of reasoning or appreciating the force of an argument. At the school much care is taken to keep up the purity of the Icelandic tongue, which has suffered great corruption in and around Reykjavik.
The college has not always stood where it does now. The first Christian school was founded in 999 by Hallr at Haukadalr, near the Geysir. Soemund the Wise, the supposed collector of the elder Edda, established a second at Oddi. A more systematic attempt was made in 1057, by Bishop Isleif, at Skalholt, and in 1105, S. Jon Ogmundsson, Bishop of Holar, formed a school in connection with the cathedral. The boys must have been pretty well taught, for we are told in the Saint's Saga, that the master builder, then engaged on the construction of the cathedral church, learned Latin by overhearing the lads reciting their lessons. After the Reformation the school languished, so that in 1789, King Christian VII. of Denmark had entirely to reorganize it, and to remove it to Reykjavik. It was subsequently transported to Bessastathr, where there was a printing-press, but in 1846 it was brought back to the capital. The food of the lads, as prescribed by law, is as follows:—
On Sunday morning, before the students go to church, they have some breakfast with butter. At midday:—1st course, stock-fish and butter; 2nd course, meat broth; but if this cannot be got, pease with meat. In the evening:—1st, stock-fish and butter; 2nd, barley-water grout, with milk and butter.
Monday, midday:—Stock-fish and butter; meal grout, with milk. Evening:— Stock-fish and butter; curd with cold milk.
Tuesday, midday:—Stock-fish and butter; pease and meat. Evening:—Stockfish and butter; cold cods-sound.
Wednesday, midday:—Stock-fish and butter; meat soup. Evening :—Stockfish and butter; warm fish.
Thursday, midday:—Stock-fish and butter; pease and meat. Evening:—Stockfish and butter; cold or warm sausages.
Friday, midday:—Stock-fish and butter; meal grout, or buckwheat porridge. Evening :—Stock-fish and butter; haddock and flounder.
Saturday, midday:—Stock-fish andlratter; warm sausages. Evening:—Stockfish and butter; curd with milk.
"They are also to have with each meal some bread or kager (a flat rye and bran cake), or ship's biscuit; also 'brose,' as much as the pupil may want. At Christmas and Easter, they are to be specially indulged in sausages, sheep's head, and tripe."
The pupils no longer feed in the college, though they sleep in it. The food, as above specified, represents pretty fairly the diet of a well-to-do Icelander. From it will be seen how important a staple in the country, the split and winddried stock-fish proves to be.
Beside the stream flowing from the lake, and near the bridge, is the bishop's palace, a wooden booth, tarred all over, much like a settler's cabin in a Canadian clearing; I saw flowers in the window, and little girls peeping out between the pots.
A stone building, whitewashed during the reign of Jorgensen, having a turf patch before the door, and a little tree, twelve feet high, trained against the wall, is the governor's house. It was originally designed as a prison, but Icelanders are too lazy to become great criminals, so it remained untenanted for some time, and was then adapted to its present use.
It is the third stone edifice in Iceland; the first being Holar Church, the second, Fredriksborg, the seat of the northern governor, and of these three buildings every native is proud. The "Residence " boasts no architectural merit; it might do for a shed in a dockyard.
The governor is postman, and the letters for England may be left with him; but, as the postal arrangements are not very effective, many of the Danish merchants prefer sending their more important despatches by the captain, or one of the passengers, of the Arcturus. I have received letters myself, from Iceland, through private hands, whilst those sent me through the Post-office never reached their destination. On leaving Reykjavik I was loaded with letters which I was begged to post in England, some for Denmark, others for Germany and France, so unsafe is the Government Post-office considered to be.
Now let us push down the street, avoiding the drunken man who lies wallowing on the ground, sobbing as though his heart would break, because his equally drunken adversary will not turn his back and stand steady, to let him have a comfortable kick.
Stride across the gutter which traverses the road, and we are in High Street.
As the boat has not yet left the steamer with my comrades and their luggage, I saunter to the cathedral, a large stuccoed edifice, consisting of nave, chancel, east sacristy and south tower rising out of the nave (the church points north and south). This tower is perhaps the most hideous erection which head of man could devise or hand execute. The sides curve inward and are capped by a saddle-back roof, tarred, and surmounted by a vane never at rest. The interior of the church is no better. There are galleries for the sake of contributing additional ugliness, I presume, as they can be of no manner of use, as the whole population of Reykjavik could be accommodated on the floor. It would hold three or four hundred people easily, and the ordinary Sunday congregation in summer—I know nothing of winter—is from fifty to eighty, out of a population of one thousand four hundred souls!
In the lower gallery is a small organ played by the musicmaster of the Latin school.
The chancel is raised three steps above the nave, and is unfurnished with stalls, as the Icelandic established religion has but one service, entitled the "Mass," which is performed at the altar. There is no form for matins, evensong, or for the hour services. The roof of the chancel is painted blue, with gold stars. There is no east window, and the place is occupied by a baldacchino enclosing a painting of the Resurrection, feeble in design and bad in colour, belonging to the worst French sentimental school. The windows of the church are roundheaded and placed high in the walls. The brass chandeliers are fit only for a gin-palace. Thorwaldsen's font is in the chancel, a present to the isle from which his family came. It is beautiful as regards sculptured detail, but bad in general design, the motif being a Pagan altar. It is a squat rectangular block of marble, with a wreath around the diminutive bowl. On the front is a representation of our Lord's Baptism; on the right, Christ blessing little children; on the left, the Virgin and Child; whilst the back is occupied by a festoon and a cluster of fat cherubs, supporting the legend: "Opus hoc Romse fecit, et Islandise, terrse sibi gentiliacas, pietatis causa, donavit Albertus Thorvaldsen, anno M.dccc.xxvii." When will the stupid affectation of putting Latin inscriptions in churches cease? The living vernacular is so infinitely superior to the stilted dead Latin. A word or two about Thorwaldsen, and I shall return to the cathedral.
Albert Thorwaldsen was born on the high seas, November the 19th, 1770. His father was a ship-builder, and his grandfather the Icelandic parish priest of Miklibser. He was early sent to school at Copenhagen, where, whilst quite a child, he got into a little trouble, was arrested by the police and conveyed to the guard-house, but dismissed with a reprimand. At the age of eleven, he was placed in the school of the Society of Arts, and obtained several prizes and medals. He afterwards left Denmark to stay in Italy and study the remains of classic art; there his statue of Jason attracted the attention of Mr. Hope, who gave him an.order for its completion. His star now rose, and numerous orders poured in upon him from all sides, so many of which were from the government of Denmark, that he determined on returning to Copenhagen. The king at once placed a frigate at his disposal to convey him and his works to Denmark; and, on his arrival, showed him every mark of consideration. Rooms in the Charlottenborg royal palace were allotted him, and there he spent the remainder of his days.
Thorwaldsen was much attached to a Miss Mackenzie, but never married her. He died on the 24th March, 1844, and was buried with great pomp in the churchyard of the Fruenkirke at Copenhagen.
In character, he was open and straightforward, simple in his habits, and of a kindly generous disposition. He is