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mountain on the island. So think the natives ; for as none have yet been able to reach its summit, it is fabled that there is to be found on it a beautiful country, constantly green, and abounding in trees, inhabited by a dwarfish race of men, whose sole employment is the care of their fine flocks of sheep.'*
From Baula our traveller proceeded to Reykiadal, or the Valley of Smoke, justly so named from the numerous columns of vapour which its hot springs incessantly send forth. One of these springs is described as remarkable for the resemblance of its operations to those of a steam-engine. In this valley Dr. Henderson was nearly suffocated with hot and dense vapours. At the distance of only a few yards before me,' he says, roared not fewer than sixteen boiling caldrons, the contents of which raised in broken heights were splashed about the margins, and ran with great impetuosity in numberless streamlets down the precipice on which the springs are situated.'
At Saurbæ our author met with an object of a different nature to excite his admiration, in the person of an old clergyman of seventy-four years of age, living on a small farm capable only of affording pasture to a few sheep and cattle, with a stipend of about thirty rix-dollars a year. “A man,' says our author, 'who had read more of his. Hebrew Bible than hundreds of the more opulent clergy in Great Britain ; and what was more surprising, did not commence the study of the original language of the Old Testamient, till he had reached his sixtieth year.'--Justly does our author observe, that' to whatever part of this surprising island the traveller may turn, he is sure to meet with some phenomenon or other, either of a physical or moral nature.' On the 29th of June he rereturned, for the second time, to Reykiavik.
Once more this indefatigable traveller set out, on the 18th of July, for the northern extremity of the island, to complete the object of his mission. In this jourvey he visited the remarkable cavern of Surtshellir, formed by a crust of lava, measuring about 40 feet in height, by 50 in breadth, and extending to the length of 4304 feet, containing within it many beautiful stalactites, vast quantities of ice and snow, and in some places water. The Doctor gives a minute account of this subterranean cavern, in which he spent four hours;--when he left this chilly vault and came into the open sunshine, the transition, he says, was almost the same as if one had suddenly exchanged a Greenland winter for an African summer.' We regret that we can only find room for that part of the description which opens upon the central desert.
We now entered the aperture at the opposite end, and almost instantaneously found ourselves enveloped in thicker darkness than ever, but * Hooker's Tour in Iceland, p. 244.
met with neither water nor stones. The floor was covered with a thick coating of ice, and dipped so rapidly, that, finding it impossible to keep our feet, we sat down, and slid forward by our own weight. On holding the torches close to the ice, we could discover its thickness to seven or eight feet, clear as crystal. It was not long till we reached a spot, the grandeur of which amply rewarded all our toil: and would have done so, though we had travelled an hundred times the distance to see it. The roof and sides of the cave were decorated with the most superb icicles, crystallized in every possible form, many of which rivalled in minuteness the finest zeolites; while, from the icy floor, rose pillars of the same substance, assuming all the curious and phantastic shapes imaginable, mocking the proudest specimens of art, and counterfeiting many well-known objects of animated nature. Many of them were upwards of four feet high, generally sharpened at the extremity, and about two feet in thickness. A more brilliant scene perhaps never presented itself to the human eye, nor was it easy for us to divest ourselves of the idea that we actually beheld one of the fairy scenes depicted in eastern fable. The light of the torches rendered it peculiarly enchanting.'- vol. ii. pp. 195, 196.
We must here (though much remains on which we could dwell with pleasure) close our account of these interesting volumes, which we venture to say will be found productive of a very high degree of instruction as well as amusement, by all who have any
relish for the grand and awful scenes of nature, or for the honest and artless simplicity, now so rarely found, of an uncorrupted race of people.
We had nearly overlooked the Appendix. It contains (besides a translation of a spirited Icelandic Ode on the Bible Society) an
Historical View of the Icelandic Translations of the Scriptures, compiled with great diligence; and an · Inquiry into the Nature and Characteristic Features of Icelandic Poetry,' which evinces not only good taste, but an acquaintance with the subject never attained before, we believe, by any of our countrymen.
Art. II.—Women; or, Pour et Contre. A Tale. By the Author
of Bertram. 3 vols. Edinburgh. 1818. A
HASTY reader might wonder what could induce an author to
take up a style of composition which appears to unite the extremes of vulgarity and heroics, of poverty and pedantry—to spoil a very ordinary story by extraordinary exertions, and to throw away thoughts and language, which would furnish out another Bertram, upon the ephemera of a circulating library. We have however discovered, or believe that we have discovered, that the work is not quite what it appears, nor the reverend author altogether so weak and inconsistent as he seems to be at first sight. He aspires (according to our view of the subject) to convey instruction through the pages of a romance; and as children (he. writes evidently for exo treme youth) are prevailed upon to take their powders in jelly, he has endeavoured to make his lessons palatable by administering them in the shape of a novel.
The great object of the author is to turn this species of writing into ridicule-to show with how little talent or ingenuity three volumes may be concocted-to exhibit the monstrous, the impossible absurdities which can be passed off as a plot—and to expose the raving nonsense which novel readers are content to receive as sublimity and pathos.
We have before seen some attempts of this kind, and we remember to have read the Heroine and one or two other mock romances with considerable amusement; but these were feeble and ineffective compared with the present production,--their irony was too fine, and their pleasantry hardly sufficiently obvious; nor did they expose, in sufficient caricature, all the absurdities which they proposed to laugh out of countenance :-the admirable work now before us is of a much higher pitch; in the first place its size and appearance (no inconsiderable points in the merit of a novel) are copied exactly from some of the best models; the insidious design of a satirical pamphlet is easily detected, but the imposing gravity of three volumes, of about three hundred pages each, sets suspicion (as well as some others of the faculties) asleep, and a reader may swallow the whole dose before he finds out that he has been tricked.
In the next place the author has taken care, every now and then, to assume so grave and serious à tone, that the detection of his pleasantry is postponed from page to page. Very often, when you are just ready to burst out, and laugh like parrots at a bagpiper,' the solemn wag puts on so sober a countenance that your muscles recompose themselves, and your delusion, or at least your wonder, is agreeably prolonged, even to the very catastrophe.
The third peculiar merit of this parody, for such we must call it, is that the objects of its ridicule are not imaginary: the author grapples manfully with the prevailing taste of the public, and does not hesitate to caricature the most striking characters of the most popular romances of the day; and his happy, though audacious art contrives to render personages copied from Madame de Staël, or the author of Waverley, absolutely ridiculous. This is the most effective part of the work, and if it happily shall diminish the admiration which but too many persons feel for Corinne or Meg Merrilies, the reverend monitor will, we presume, consider his time as not mispent.
The last and not the least merit which we shall notice is, that he has artfully contrived to wheedle the incautious reader into a
great deal of miscellaneous literature ; and while he appears to be relating the story of a gang of mad Irish men and women, he is really expending the fruits of his severer studies. The learning is not, as we shall see, very deep, nor very accurate; but still it is so much above what young ladies would otherwise read at Brighton or Broadstairs, that we think the author is entitled to great commendation for this happy mode of conveying instruction.
We have strong doubts whether it be quite fair to attempt to give a summary of the story. The absurdities, which pass off well enough when spread through three volumes, will hardly bear gathering up into half a dozen lines; and the reacier who should look at the mere skeleton of the plot, might accuse the author of pursuing his ridicule too openly, and of destroying the effect of his satire by the extreme lengths to which it is carried. We are aware of all this; but as there are several points of pleasantry which we can hardly bring to light without making some kind of statement of the story, we hope the ingenious author will forgive us if we venture on a brief but faithful abstract of the fable.
In the month of November, (the day unluckily is not mentioned) in the year 1814, about seven o'clock in the evening, the stage coach which plies between a remote province in Ireland and the capital, broke down at the little village of Lucan, about five miles from
Dublin. In this coach happened to be Mr. or rather Master De Courcy, a well-grown lad of good property, who had just left school and was proceeding to finish his education at the university of Dublin. His guardians (like true novel guardians) had sent him unattended, even by a servant, to find his way into his college, of which he knows nothing, through a city in which he never was. When the coach breaks down all the other passengers choose, most unaccountably, to remain at Lucan for the night, but De Courcythe only one probably who knows nothing of the way—sets forth manfully for the city, the evening was, as usual, delightful
, but it degenerated, as usual, into a stormy night: in the outskirts of the town our young traveller meets, as usual, a post-chaise and four driving furiously along--as usual, there is a heroine in it—as usual, she is in the power of some monster who is hurrying her away with some atrocious design. De Courcy, as usual, pursues the carriage, and after several of the usual difficulties rescues the beautiful and insensible Eva from an old hag in whose cottage she had been just deposited by the unknown ravisher, and restores her to her guardian, who luckily happens to be in the streets at that time of night, and hearing a person inquiring for a hackney coach naturally guesses he can be no other than the preserver of his niece. But the guardian is a methodist, who, little inclined to improve his acquaintance with De Courcy, takes his niece home without giving her preserver even an invitation to pay them a visit—the visit of inquiry is notwithstanding paid, and Charles and Eva become deeply enamoured of each other; he, our readers already know, is a perfect model of a man, six feet high, dark eyes, brown hair, and the noblest intelligence of countenance; she, on the contrary, is fair-louchingly fair—her eyes are of the usual melting blue, and her deportment has all the usual amiable and graceful timidity of the soft-eyed maids of romance. She is just fifteen, quite a marriageable age, but as he is only seventeen, and as both are in good health, new incidents must be imagined to make the book go on a little longer before it can be concluded either by death or wedlock.
VOL. XIX. NO, XXX VIII.
Accordingly, a brilliant Italian actress arrives in Dublin—not Madame Catalani, but a Madame Dalmatiani, who is a perfect parody of Corinne. With her too De Courcy is fascinated and by degrees enamoured, till at last he divides his time between the methodist meeting-house, where Eva never lifts her gentle eyes from her hymn book, and the theatre, where the adorable Dalmatiani wins all hearts and transports all imaginations. But she is no common actress. She is a woman of property, and rather plays from vanity and enthusiasm than for profit. She keeps a great house, troops of servants, gaudy equipages, an elegant table, and gives splendid assemblies, at which she sings, dances, and talks prose and poetry after the manner of her prototype. She is so fine a judge of the arts that she carries about with her a beautiful cast of the Venus de Medici,' to which she modestly transfers the wreaths which her admirers offer to her. De Courcy is adnitted to her select society; she, as in courtesy bound, grows enamoured of him-he, in return, becomes intoxicated with her; but she is, notwithstanding appearances, a woman of nice virtue, and De Courcy is a man of nice honour; so their love is all of a matrimonial tendency, and he offers her his hand. Poor Eva in the meanwhile pines away; she is too gentle to fret. De Courcy has fits of repentance, and Zaira (Madame Dalmatiani) is perplexed between jealousy of the one, love of the other--the stage in the evening—the assembly at night; in short, one wonders how she can avoid running mad.
Sur ces entrefaites, et à propos de bottes, the allies arrive in Paris, and thither the fascinating Zaira and the faithless Charles hasten. They are now inseparable and recognised lovers, and again the novel is threatened with a premature conclusion, when Charles fortunately learns from a French gentleman, that Zaira the young, the beautiful, the pure, has been many years married, and has even borne a child. At these words Dé Courcy rushed from the house in a species of fury and despair,' (vol. iii. p. 47.); and the thought of his . intellectual angel’s having condescended to beara child, staggers his resolution of marrying her : at this critical