Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

will inform you. My first letter to him, with which doubtless he has edified your whole fireside, left me safely landed at Hamburg on the Elbe Stairs, at the Boom House. While standing on the stairs, I was amused by the contents of the passage

boat which crosses the river once or twice a day from Hamburg to Haarburg. It was stowed close with all people of all nations, in all sorts of dresses; the men all with pipes in their mouths, and these pipes of all shapes and fancies-straight and wreathed, simple and complex, long and short, cane, clay, porcelain, wood, tin, silver, and ivory; most of thein with silver chains and silver bole-covers. Pipes and boots are the first universal characteristic of the male Hamburgers that would strike the eye of a raw traveller. But I forget my promise of journalizing as much as possible.

- Therefore, Septr. 19th Afternoon. My companion who, you recollect, speaks the French language with unusual propriety, had formed a kind of confidential acquaintance with the emigrant, who appeared to be a man of sense, and whose manners were those of a perfect gentle

He seemed about fifty or rather more. Whatever is unpleasant in French manners from excess in the degree, had been softened down by age or affliction; and all that is delightful in the kind, alacrity and delicacy in little attentions, &c. remained, and without bustle, gesti

man.

culation, or disproportionate eagerness. Hig demeanour exhibited the minute philantrophy of a polished Frenchman, tempered by the sobriety of the English character disunited from its reserve. There is something strangely attractive in the character of a gentleman when you apply the word emphatically, and yet in that sense of the term which it is more easy to feel than to define. It neither includes the possession of high moral excellence, nor of necessity even the ornamental graces of manner.

. I have now in

my
mind's

eye a parson whose life would scarcely stand scrutiny even in the court of honour, much less in that of conscience; and his manners, if nicely observed, would of the two excite an idea of awkwardness rather than of elegance: and yet every one who conversed with him felt and acknowledged the gentlemen. The secret of the matter, I believe to be thiswe feel the gentlemanly character present to us, whenever under all the circumstances of social intercourse, the trivial not less than the important, through the whole detail of his manners and deportment, and with the ease of a habit, a person shews respect to others in such a way, as at the same time implies in his own feelings an habitual and assured anticipation of reciprocal respect from them to himself. In short, the gentlemanly character arises out of the feeling of Equality acting, as a Habit, yet flexible to the

varieties of Rank, and modified without being disturbed or superseded by them. This description will perhaps explain to you the ground of one of your own remarks, as I was englisling to you the interesting dialogue concerning the causes of the corruption of eloquence. “What perfect gentlemen these old Romans must have been! I was impressed, I remember, with the same feeling at the time I was reading a translation of Cicero's philosophical dialogues and of his epistolary correspondence: while in Pliny's Letters I seemed to have a different feelinghe gave me the notion of a very fine gentleman.". You uttered the words as if

you

had felt that the adjunct had injured the substance and the encreased degree altered the kind. Pliny was the courtier of an absolute monarch -Cicero an aristocratic republican. For this reason the character of gentleman, in the sense to which I have confined it, is frequent in England, rare in France, and found, where it is found, in age or the latest period of manhood; while in Germany the character is almost unknown. But the proper antipode of a gentleman is to be sought for among the AngloAmerican democrats.

I owe this digression, as an act of justice, to this amiable Frenchman, and of humiliation foi myself. For in a little controversy between us on the subject of French poetry, he made me feel

Oo

my own ill behaviour by the silent reproof of contrast, and when I afterwards apologized to him for the warmth of my language, he answered me with a chearful expression of surprize, and an immediate compliment, which a gentleman might both make with dignity and receive with pleasure. I was pleased, therefore, to find it agreed on, that we should, if possible, take up our quarters in the same house. My friend went with him in search of an hotel, and I to deliver my letters of recommendation.

I walked onward at a brisk pace, enlivened not so much by any thing I actually saw, as by the confused sense that I was for the first time in my life on the continent of our planet. I seemed to myself like a liberated bird that had been hatched in an aviary, who now after his first soar of freedom poises himself in the upper air. Very naturally I began to wonder at all things, some for being so like and some for being so unlike the things in England-Dutch women with large umbrella hats shooting out half a yard before them, with a prodigal plumpness of petticoat behind-the women of Hamburg with caps plaited on the caul with silver or gold, or both, bordered round with stiffened lace, which stood out before their eyes, but not lower, so that the eyes sparkled through it the Hanoverian women with the fore part of the head bare, then a stiff lace standing up

like a wall perpendicular on the cap, and the cap behind tailed with an enormous quantity of ribbon which lies or tosses on the back :

“ Their visnomies seem'd like a goodly banner
Spread in defiance of all enemies.”

SPENSER. -The ladies all in English dresses, all rouged, and all with bad teeth: which you notice instantly from their contrast to the almost animal, too glossy mother-of-pearl whiteness and the regularity of the teeth of the laughing, loud-talking country-women and servant-girls, who with their clean white stockings and with slippers without heel-quarters tripped along the dirty streets, as if they were secured by a charm from the dirt: with a lightness too, which surprized me, who had always considered it as one of the annoyances of sleeping in an Inn, that I had to clatter

up stairs in a pair of them. The streets narrow; · to my English nose sufficiently offensive, and explaining at first sight the universal use of boots; without any appropriate path for the foot-passengers; the gable ends of the houses all towards the street, some in the ordinary triangular form and entire as the botanists say, but the greater number notched and scolloped with more than Chinese grotesqueness. Above all, I was struck with the profusion of windows, so large and so many, that the houses look all glass. Mr. Pitt's Window Tax, with its pretty

« AnteriorContinuar »