Images de page
PDF
ePub

life. Had Blucher left nothing of Paris but the Louvre, (and he might as well have determined to demolish it as the Austerlitz pillar, which he was on the point of sending up like a skyrocket,) even despoiled as it is of some of its rarest furniture, no Parisian could have the smallest excuse for suffering ennui. If ever I venture to say any thing of the interesting contents of this grand national museum,

it must be when we are better acquainted ; for though first impressions are said to be the most correct, yet are they liable to be hyperbolized; and hyperbole, when we write or speak from our feeling under a first impression, all the world will allow is not a figure to sport with.

It is quite impossible not to notice the contrast between the reception a stranger meets with here, and when viewing some of the places of national interest in our own country,— Westminster Abbey, for instance. While the Louvre is open, without costing one sou, our grand cemetery cannot be viewed without encountering exaction, and it may be some insolence to boot. The policy and the taste are equally questionable, in my opinion, which throw any impediment in the way of viewing the monuments of a nation. Indeed the whole value of such things is their being freely accessible. They tend to raise the national character by supplying a perpetual source of innocent recreation, or to cherish patriotism and public spirit by kindling an ambition to emulate the virtues of the great benefactors of mankind; — national purposes, which, if they were not recommended by the most illustrious examples of antiquity, one would think too obvious to be overlooked. * An established perquisite to a door-keeper invariably converts him into a shark, and this shark must be propitiated, which may often happen to be neither an agreeable nor a convenient operation. N.B. It takes half-a-crown to secure a good seat in the gallery of our House of Commons, as the current price of the favour. Now surely our House of Com

[graphic]

#

Scipio and Maximus used to say, Cùm majorum ima- '. gines intuerentur, vehementissimè, sibi animum ad virtutem accendi.

mons is the last place where a seat should be purchased, or have any thing to do with private favour or affection. It is, in fact, to convert the gallery into a rotten borough.

I have dwelt on these things, because they are so frequently the topic of conversation with foreigners who have visited our national institutions.

When one views the superb structure in which the royal family are lodged here, it is impossible to avoid some feeling of shame for the old black-and-brown pile at the bottom of St. James's Street. To be sure the Tuileries are the work of centuries; and hardly a reign passes without contributing its quota of addition or alteration. Then why should not we have done the same? What a saving it would produce to the nation, if we calculate the expense of our dilapidations! Borrowing from ancient Rome, in its most luxurious days, our maxim has been, diruere et ædificare; and these operations being, like action and reaction, equal and contrary, so exactly balance one another, that at the end of a century we are precisely where we started, if not in actual arrear. Up to the present hour there has been in London nothing that we can call a palace worthy either of its king or country: and I should be very sorry to swear that even Buckingham Palace will remain true to its present destination, a hundred years hence, without at least undergoing some revolution similar to that in Sir John Haslar's stockings; of which it was said, that they were so often altered and patched, it puzzled the philosophers to say whether they were Sir John's identical original stockings or not.

Feb. 17th. — Have just had an interesting conversation with an intelligent French gentleman on different matters connected with the popular establishments of this country; a subject which, if my distractions, and this abominable weather will allow, I hope to enlarge upon at some length; but it will cost some fagging, as I mean to take as little on trust as I can help.

It is impossible to converse with a Frenchman for five minutes together on the state of his country, without discovering his raving abhorrence of Jesuits. Indeed, whether Jesuit or Gallican, the hydrophobia is intense with which he views the jonglerie of priests, together with the mummery of forms and ceremonies which have extinguished every semblance of rational religion. No man gets credit with these hypocrites for the smallest pretensions to being a Christian, who refuses to perform his round compliment of pater nosters and confessions : if he does this, he has absolution to do what else he likes: I was going to say he might rob a church; whereas he would be at liberty to rob any thing else,-the priesthood here, I believe, being no less tenacious of any thing belonging to themselves than the clergy of any other country.

In the substantial interior accommodation of their houses, Paris certainly falls as far behind London, as in their exterior they surpass us in grandeur and durability. And, with all their fancy and finery, one soon discovers that mirrors, gilding, and splendid hangings, are but a sorry set-off, in a cold winter day, against the misery of wood fires, pyrolignic-acid fumes, and bare floors, however well they may be polished.

I have already had salutary caution, how

« PrécédentContinuer »