« PreviousContinue »
ART. XI.- Extract from ‘An Autumn near the Rhine.'
MANNERS AND SOCIAL INTERCOURSE IN GERMANY. THE ordinary
style of visiting in the little capitals is confined to réunions particulières, or circles in the evening; dinners being as únfrequent in private houses as they are common, and a matter of course at court. This is chiefly owing to the limited fortunes of the nobility, which are by no means adequate to ostentation and solid comfort united. Now the German noble likes both; but gives a preference to the former. The circles in the evening are pleasant and familiar; and you are received with a friendliness which proves that the want of more substantial compliments does not arise from inhospitality. One or two houses of the first nobility or ambassadors, are generally open to company every evening: once initiated, you are always welcome. The saloons are open, and tea, made in a family way, by the young mademoiselle la Countesse, or la Baronne, is in progress from seven or eight, till nine or ten. But the want of rational topics of common interest, is the main cause that gives an insipid frivolity to conversation, equal to all that the decriers of market-towns or genteel villages, in England, can conceive. The Germans are a literary nation; but in the south of Germany, the man of literature is still looked upon as the musty old bookworm, whose habits little qualify him for the drawing room; and in the absence of his imposing company, frivolity and dulness revel. The ladies, in general, barely know the titles of Schiller's works: they have wept over Werter, know something of Kotzebue, and have sometimes studied the poetry and tales in some of the swarms of fashionable almanacks. Politics, which in England are a rallying point among the most stupid, have here no interest. The politics of the German nation are too vague, the politics of the little monarchy are matters of petty routine, which interest none but employés and chancellery clerks. The only subjects which come home to all, and which are discussed with lively interest, are the opera of last Sunday, the approaching gala in honour of some travelling highness, speculations as to the length of his stay, and whether he will or will not lodge at the hotel, from being rather too poor to pay the usual 100 louis to the servants of the palace, the prospect of a court mourning, the amours of a great or little prince, or remarks on the recent ennobling of a batch of generals' ladies, who (poor souls!) can't speak three words of French. With all the occasional languor and heaviness of the intervals between the stimulating waltz and the drawing-room games, this society has, however, one charm which redeems a host of defects,—that of natural good humour and the absence of pretension. 'The freshness of nature and simplicity, little improved by cultivation, 'tis true, but little spoilt by affectation, are often to be found here in a higher degree than in more refined and cultivated circles.
EDUCATION IN GERMANY. The ordinary plan of education of German boys, from the higher down to all but the lowest classes, is at the public gymnasium; à free school, to be found in every considerable town. They a good deal resemble the grammar-schools in our large towns, except that the ranks of the boys are even more mixed, and the system of education and discipline by no mean's comparable. The sons of many of the noblesse frequent these places of instruction; the more opulent, or judicious, have private tutors in their own houses. Latin and Greek, of course, form a principal part of their instruction; but it is a proof of the defectiveness of the system, that in spite of drilling at the gymnasium, and a residence, at least of two years, at the university, you seldom find a man in the higher ranks, who possesses more than the merest smattering of classical attainments. The professors, and some of the pastors, are almost the only tolerable scholars. The higher classes of the gymnasium are instructed, besides the dead languages, in philosophy, theology, &c. The boys are placed, on their entrance, in the class for which they appear fit, on a preliminary examination. The noblesse rarely send their sons to any but the higher classes, into which, a little favour often admits young barons, who are more fitted for the lowest.
Art. XII.- New Tales of My Landlord.' [The following extracts are from the Bride of Lammermoor,
which, together with «The Legend of Montrose,' form the • Third Series' of these popular novels. The extracts are taken from a copy sent to Mr. Thomas previous to the publication of the work in Great Britain.]
CHAPTER I. FEW have been in my secret while I was compiling these narra
tives, nor is it probable that they will ever become public during the life of their author. Even were that event to happen, I am not ambitious of the honoured distinction, monstrari digito. I confess, that, were it safe to cherish such dreams at all, I should more enjoy the thought of remaining behind the curtain unseen, like the ingenious manager of Punch and his wife Joan, and enjoying the astonishment and conjectures of my audience. Then might I, perchance, hear the productions of the obscure Peter Pattieson praised by the judicious, and admired by the feeling, engrossing the young, and attracting even the old; while the critic traced their name up to some name of literary celebrity, and the question when, and by whom, these tales were written, filled up the pause of conversation in a hundred circles and coteries. This I may never enjoy during my lifetime; but farther than this, I am certain, my vanity should never induce me to aspire.
I am too stubborn in habits, and too little polished in manners, to envy or aspire to the honours assigned to my literary contemporaries. I could not think a whit more highly of myself, were I even found worthy to come in place as a lion,' for a winter in the great metropolis. I could not rise, turn round, and show all my honours, from the shaggy mane to the tufted tail, roar ye as it were any nightingale, and so lie down again like a well-behaved beast of show, and all at the cheap and easy rate of a cup of coffee, and a slice of bread and butter as thin as a wafer. And I could ill stomach the fulsome flattery with which the lady of the evening indulges her show-monsters on such occasions, as she crams her parrots with sugar-plumbs, in order to make them talk before company. I cannot be tempted to come aloft,' for these marks of distinction, and, like imprisoned Samson, I would rather remainif such must be the alternative-all my life in the mill-house, grinding for my very bread, than be brought forth to make sport for the Philistine' lords and ladies. This proceeds from no dislike, real or affected, to the aristocracy of these realms. But they have their place, and I have mine; and, like the iron and earthen vessels in the old fable, we can scarce come into collision without my being the sufferer in every sense.
may be otherwise with the sheets which I am now writing. These may be opened and laid aside at pleasure; by amusing themselves with the perusal, the great will excite no false hopes; by neglecting or condemning them, they will inflict no pain; and how seldom can they converse with those whose minds have toiled for their delight, without doing either the one or the other.
In the better and wiser tone of feeling, which Ovid only expresses in one line to retract in that which follows, I can address these quires
Parve, nec invideo, sine me, liber, ibis in urbe. Nor do I join the regret of the illustrious exile, that he himself could not in person accompany the volume, which he sent forth to the mart of literature, pleasure, and luxury. Were there not a hundred similar instances on record, the fate of my poor friend and school-fellow, Dick Tinto, would be sufficient to warn me against seeking happiness, in the celebrity which attaches itself to a successful cultiyator of the fine arts.
Dick Tinto, when he wrote himself artist, was wont to derive his origin from the ancient family of Tinto, of that ilk, in Lanarkshire, and occasionally hinted that he had somewhat derogated from his gentle blood, in using the pencil for his principal means of support. But if Dick's pedigree was correct, some of his ancestors must have suffered a more heavy declension, since the good man his father executed the necessary, and, I trust, the honest, but certainly not very distinguished employment, of tailor in ordinary to the village of Langdirdum in the west. Under his humble roof was Richard born, and to his father's humble trade was Richard, greatly contrary to his inclination, early indentured. Old Mr. Tinto, had, however, no reason to congratulate himself upon having compelled the youthful genius of his son to forsake its natural bent. He fared like the school-boy, who attempts to stop with his finger the spout of a water-cistern, while the stream, exasperated at this compression, escapes by a thousand uncalculated spirts, and wets him all over for his pains. Even so fared the senior Tinto, when his hopeful apprentice not only exhausted all the chalk in making sketches upon the shop-board, but even executed several caricatures of his father's best customers, who began loudly to murmur, that it was too hard to have their persons deformed by the vestments of the father, and to be at the same time turned into ridicule by the pencil of the son. This led to discredit and loss of practice, until the old tailor, yielding to destiny, and to the entreaties of his son, permitted him to attempt his fortune in a line for which he was better qualified.
There was about this time, in the village of Langdirdum, a peripatetic brother of the brush, who exercised his vocation sub yove frigido, the object of admiration to all the boys of the village, but especially to Dick Tinto. The age had not yet adopted, amongst other unworthy retrenchments, that illiberal measure of economy, which, supplying by written characters the lack of symbolical representation, closes one open and easily accessible avenue of instruction and emolument against the students of the fine arts. It was not yet permitted to write upon the plastered doorway of an alehouse, or the suspended sign of an inn, 'The Old Magpie,' or “The Saracen's Head, substituting that cold description for the lively effigies of the plumed chatterer, or the turban'd frown of the terrific soldan. That early and more simple age considered alike the necessities of all ranks, and depicted the symbols of good cheer so as to be obvious to all capacities; well judging, that a man, who could not read a syllable, might nevertheless love a pot of good ale as well as his better educated neighbours, or even as the parson himself. Acting upon this liberal principle, publicans as yet hung forth the painted emblems of their calling, and sign-painters, if they seldom feasted, did not at least absolutely starve.
To a worthy of this decayed profession, as we have already intimated, Dick Tinto became an assistant; and thus, as is not unusual among heaven-born geniuses in this department of the fine arts, began to paint before he had any notion of drawing.
His natural talent for observing nature soon induced him to rectify the errors, and soar above the instructions, of his teacher. He particularly shone in painting horses, that being a favourite sign in the Scotish villages; and, in tracing his progress, it is beautiful to observe, how by degrees he learned to shorten the backs, and prolong the legs, of these noble animals, until they came to look less like crocodiles, and more like nags, Detraction, which always pursues merit with strides proportioned to its advancement, has indeed alleged, that Dick once upon a time painted a horse with five legs, instead of four. I might have rested his defence upon the license allowed to that branch of the profession, which, as it permits all sorts of singular and irregular combinations, may be allowed to extend itself so far as to bestow a limb supernumerary on a favourite subject. But the cause of a deceased friend is sacred; and I disdain to bottom it so superficially. I have visited the sign in question, which yet swings exalted in the village of Langdirdum, and I am ready to depose upon oath, that what has been idly mistaken or misrepresented as being the fifth leg of the horse, is, in fact, the tail of that quadruped, and, considered with reference to the posture in which he is represented, forms a circumstance, introduced and managed with great and successful, though daring art. The nag being represented in a rampant or rearing posture, the tail, which is prolonged till it touches the ground, appears to form a point d'appui, and gives
the firmness of a tripod to the figure, without which it would be difficult to conceive, placed as the feet are, how the courser could maintain his ground without tumbling backwards. 'This bold conception has fortunately fallen into the custody of one by whom it is duly valued; for, when Dick, in his more advanced state of proficiency, became dubious of the proprie ety of so daring a deviation from the established rules of art, and was desirous to execute a picture of the publican himself in exchange for this juvenile production, the courteous offer was declined by his judicious employer, who had observed, it seems, that when his ale failed to do its duty in conciliating his guests, one glance at his sign was sure to put them in good humour.
It would be foreign to my present purpose to trace the steps by which Dick Tinto improved his touch, and corrected, by the rules of art, the luxuriance of a fervid imagination. The scales fell from his eyes on viewing the sketches of a contemporary, the Scotish Teniers, as Wilkie has been deservedly styled. He threw down the brush, took up the crayons, and, amid hunger and toil, and suspense and uncertainty, pursued the path of his profession under better auspices than those of his original master. Still the first rude emanations of his genius (like the nursery rhymes of Pope, could these be recovered,) will be dear to the companions of Dick Tinto's youth. There is a tankard and gridiron painted over the door of an obscure change-house in the Back-wynd of GanderscleughBut I feel I must tear myself from the subject, or dwell on it too long
Amid his wants and struggles, Dick Tinto had recourse, like his brethren, to levying that tax upon the vanity of mankind which he could not extract from their taste and liberality—in a word, he painted portraits. It was in this more advanced stage of profici. ency, when Dick had soared above his original line of business, and highly disdained any allusion to it, that, after having been estranged for several years, we again met in the village of Ganderscleugh, I holding my present situation, and Dick painting copies of the human face divine at a guinea per head.
This was a small premium, yet, in the first burst of business, it more than sufficed for all Dick's moderate wants; so that he occupied an apartment at the Wallace inn, cracked his jest with impunity even upon mine host himself, and lived in respect and observance with the chambermaid, hostler, and waiter.
Those halcyon days were too serene to last long. When his honour the laird of Ganderscleugh, with his wife and three daughters, the minister, the gauger, mine esteemed patron Mr. Jedediah Cleishbotham, and some round dozen of the fears and farmers, VOL. XIV.