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and fortune shew themselves on the promenades in splendid carriages, drawn by fine mules, or riding on spirited horses. The spirit of vanity and luxury, common in all great cities, manifests itself in the same forms at Peking.'—vol. ii., pp. 189—198.
From a list of the prices of provisions which follows this description, we find that the principal necessaries of life might be had at Peking in 1821, at about the same rates as usually prevail in Paris.
After devoting about a hundred and fifty pages of his second volume to a historical essay on Mongolia, our author resumes his narrative, and relates his return to Russia. As we have been chiefly desirous of eliciting from him the most interesting points of such information as he had collected concerning China, we here take leave of him, with a very humble request, that when he next travels into that country, he will confine his account of it to such matters as passed under his own observation. Had he followed this course in,the present work, instead of two tiresome volumes, we should have had one of a popular, instructive and amusing character. The extracts which we have given justifies us in saying as much; but we must add, that in order to get at them, we have been obliged to disencumber them of a vast weight of rubbish.
Art. XI. 1. The Guards. A Novel. 3 vols. 8vo. 1/. 8s. 6d. London:
Clerc Smith. 1827. 1. English Fashionables Abroad. A Novel. 3 vols. 8vo. \l.\\s.6d.
London: H. Colburn. 1827.
3. Hisloriettes; or, Tales of Continental Life. By the Author of " The English in Italy." 3 vols. 8vo. 1/. lis. 6d. London: Saunders and Ottley. 1827.
4. Falkland. 1 vol. 8vo. pp. 264. 10s. 6d. London: H. Colburn. 1827.
5. Richmond; or, Scenes in the Life of a Bow-Street Officer, drawn up from his private Memoranda. 3 vols. 8vo. \I. lis. 6d. London: H. Colburn. 1827.
Th E English "reading public" has, within the last two or three years, discovered symptoms of a taste for personalities, and a voracious appetite for gossip, seasoned by private scandal, unequalled even by the Athenians in the days of Aristophanes. There might have been some excuse in the times of the old Greek comedy, for subjecting " oculis fidelibus" the persons, and exhibiting in action, and embodying in words the doings and sayings of rulers, rebels, sophists, poets, and philosophers; because in those days the dramatic poet was at once' the periodical critic and public satirist—the newspaper editor, and the painter of manners. It was his business to submit all that was passing around him, through the eyes and ears, to the judgment of a hearing and seeing public; for as yet that grand impersonation, a " reading public," was not: and he was in some measure compelled to make every thing broad and palpable, in order to enable those to distinguish and seize upon his meanings, who could never have comprehended a subtle allusion, or caught a fine and glittering trait of satire. Like the comic masks worn by his actors, every characteristic feature was to be extravagantly protruded or extended, in order that those who were at a distance, both from the theatre of passing events, and the stage on which those events were caricatured, might be able to recognise a sort of distorted resemblance to the persons, with whose names, at least, and the rumour of whose deeds, they were familiar.
The tendency of this was obvious: the liberty of the poet grew into license; and from being at first a whimsical and ludicrous composition, to which, however, consistency of character, of truth, and language, were essential, the Aristophanic comedy degenerated into outrageous personality and insane scandal; its dialogue lost all its grace, and became a violent and vulgar diatribe against all that was pure and lofty, as well as all that was powerful in the land—a vehicle for impiety to the gods, and ill will to men.
A similar revolution in taste seems now to be in course of fulfilment in our own country, while we have no such apology as the Greek poets to plead. The pretended fashionable novels, that have lately been manufactured—the auto-biographies of unheard-of persons—the memoirs of recently deceased, and even of living individuals—the private letters that have been printed—the conversations that have so improperly been "set in a note-book," and sold to a publisher—are all symptoms of the odious love of private scandal which characterises the reading public of the present day. Let us turn to the publications of the last six months, and we shall find that the evil of which we complain, calls loudly for correction.
To begin with Biography. What are the books in this class that attract the " reading public V The lives of actors, written by themselves—of men who, from their profession, must mingle extensively with all classes of society, with those that are both above and below them; and possessing, as they generally do, the talent to amuse, they have found means to extract many private anecdotes, to catch many unobvious traits of character, and to see much of the natural disposition developed, in moments of conviviality and carelessness, when the feelings are permitted to flow unrestrained, and the undisguised heart laid open. It is the knowledge of this that has given popularity to the auto-biographies of so many players and playwrights; and but for the anecdotes of others, which they are thus enabled to tell, their lives would have been allowed to slumber, with the forgotten heroes they once enacted, or the abortive farces which they scribbled.
If we turn to the late Novels, we shall find that the mass of them rely for their attractions upon their personalities. It is impossible to take up a newspaper, without finding some paragraph which asserts that the story of this or that ingenious production is founded upon
real events; that all the characters are real, and moving in high life; and that the author belongs to the peculiar set he describes. Even proper names are hardly disguised; or, if they are, there is always something about them which fixes the character on the person intended; and " keys" are invented for meaner capacities, or the more vulgar lovers of scandal. Another very general practice, among the fashionable novel-writers of the present day, is to choose the name of some cdterie, of which both the members and the enemies are sure to patronise the book which bears its name; the one party in the hope of being praised, the other in the persuasion that the set will be ridiculed or abused. The more private and exclusive the cdterie, the more certain is the work of a sale: the vast monasteries called clubs, and the female cabals, called ball committees, are, in point of fact, merely severe inquisitions into family circumstances, and personal history; and people are naturally led to expect from such titles as " The Guards," "The Club Houses," "The Lancers," &c., an abundance of scandal, even if there should be a plentiful lack of sense and wit.
We have rarely seen three volumes of more dismal and vulgar trash, than those entitled 'The Guards.' As a novel, the work is exceedingly low, stupid, and common-place; and its author, while he has not even the talent for being abusive, evidently knows nothing of the distinguished corps which he has insulted, by giving its name to his publication. There is but one remedy to the evil of such impositions—we mean, the wise determination not to buy them: but this remedy the "reading public" seem to be resolved not to apply, till a few more such precious compositions as this shall compel them to adopt it. 'The Guards' is, indeed, powerfully calculated to hasten so desirable a consummation: and we could almost forgive the author the many risks we have run of dislocating our jaws by constant oscitation, during our forced perusal of his eight hundred mortal pages, if we were sure that the audacity and ignorance displayed in them, would put " fashionable" novels, and novel-writers, for ever out of fashion.
We next come to ' English Fashionables Abroad,' which appears to be another of the many unsuccessful attempts that have been made in this country, to describe Italian society and manners. It is styled a novel; but the plot is such a secondary object, so unconnected, and so little interesting, that we must consider the description of Italian life and society, including some well drawn English characters, brought in contact with these natives, to be the real object of the work. The scene is in Italy, from beginning to end; it shifts from Naples to Florence, and from Rome to Bologna, and in three volumes it would be wonderful if the writer could not have enlivened his readers with some amusing sketches of native manners. A few such sketches there are, but the choice in general, is not felicitous, and the impressions they leave on the mind of the reader, is apt to mislead him.
The following is meant as a humorous caricature sketch of what appears to English people as an irregularity in Italian life.
'At last Emily arrived at the Palazzo Altenise. There are no halldoors to the palaces at Rome, and she was obliged to wait till her servant went to the top of the house and back again, to ascertain whether Lady Mary was " at home." Meantime she amused herself with noticing some of the peculiarities that distinguish the Basse Cour* of which foreigners are so proud, as being particularly appropriated to the residence of their nobility. In the centre of the yard was a mutilated fountain, which was evidently intended for use, not ornament, as from it as from a common centre, were suspended ropes that were fastened to as many different windows as there were different families lodging in this magnificent palace, whether in the second story or the sixth. Each of these ropes was provided with a traveller, on which were slung various cans and other vessels, that, moved by hand-ropes and pullies, speedily supplied their various owners with water. Nor were these the only aerial traversers which this populous yard exhibited. The Palazzo Altenise is one of the many which, at Rome, affords no conveniences for domestic cookery; and in such cases there is but one remedy, namely, that trial of patience, a trattoria. One of these necessary evils was established at the Palazzo Altenise, and Emily recognised a basket of wild boar and ortolans, passing rapidly in its ascent to a window in the Mezzopiano (or intermediate floor), where her mantuamaker lived in a room about forty feet long, and scarcely high enough for a man to stand in.'—vol. i., p. 222.
Now all this appears very droll, and may prove amusing to the reader; but does it give him a correct idea of Italian life? We think not; for were we unacquainted with Italy, we should certainly have been led to suppose, that Italian princes and dukes have no such things as kitchens in their palaces, have not their dinner dressed at home, but get it hoisted to them from the trattoria, by means of one of those ropes and baskets; and that the lady duchess may be seen every day, at one o'clock, pulling up, or at least watching her servant maid hoisting, the basket containing the victuals for herself and her caro sposo. This, however, is a mere caricature. We confess we never heard of the Palazzo Altenise; but this we know, that many large houses are called palazzi in Italy, in which, however, no nobleman resides, and which even do not belong to any nobleman. Of those palaces which actually belong to, and are the residence of, some noble family, there is, at times, a part which, is let, especially the entresols and upper floors; the piano nobile, or best floor, being reserved for the use of the family; but in these we have never seen the display of ropes and
* This is a most unlucky adaptation of a French appellation to an Italian object. Why not use the appropriate word Cor tile, or the English "court," instead of basse cour, which means ,poultry yard.' Italian palaces, and indeed all large houses, have a court in the centre, enclosed by the four sides of the building.
cans and baskets, which our author describes. The practice of a nobleman letting part of his own palace, was, we believe, unknown at Rome before the late French invasions; and even now, the higher order of the resident nobility are above it, and keep their palaces and their courts for their own use, and that of their attendants and dependants. Many of the Roman nobility have suffered during the late wars and political vicissitudes, others have forsaken their mansions, and gone to reside at Florence, Naples, Genoa, or Milan; some families, like the Colonna, have become extinct; yet the order is not fallen so low as a stranger might suppose, from the above and similar other sketches. Another thing must be observed by the English reader, and that is, that the size and the distribution of an Italian palace, are such as to do away with many of the inconveniences which accompany the letting of part of a house in England. The two cannot be compared together. The apartments of a family, in Italy, are disposed horizontally, instead of being vertically; and one floor there is equivalent to a whole house here. The author intends the following as a moral.sketch of Italy:— 'If the familiarity of foreign manners appears at first the most attractive, one advantage results from the reserve of English customs, which these can never attain; for whenever the dignity which may have repelled us is thrown aside, our self-love ascribes the change to our own individual merits, and our gratitude and vanity are alike excited by a better degree of courtesy than that which, offered indiscriminately to all, is received with as wide indifference. It is the peculiar^ characteristic of English ladies of rank so to maintain their state, that it is never held in abeyance even in the equalising intercourse of intimacy; it throws a glory round the head of her who wears it, that brightens every action, and gives an added value to the slightest condescension of one who is herself thus honoured. This is, or at least was, the privilege of British aristocracy; but on the Continent it » far otherwise. There titles are so multiplied, the line of nobility is stretched to such a length, that it has lost its strength and poise; and when you are amused with the vivacity, or attracted by the suavity of the pretty girl in the red shawl, who has made herself agreeable for the last half hour, to all those who have happened to sit on the same bench with her, you forget she is a,duchessina in the involuntary comparisons she has led you into, between her address and that of the last good comedian or mantua-maker that has similarly entertained you.'—vol. iii., p. 24.
Now it is just possible that a foreigner may not find any difference between the language or manners of an Italian duchess, and of a mantua-maker; but he ought not to argue from this, that such a difference does not exist, because the former does not entrench herself within that fence of distant reserve that an English lady of rank is accustomed, by education and example, to keep round her person. Manners vary according to latitudes, and the quiet dignity of English manners, which is consonant to the present state of society, and the received ideas of this country, would be at variance with the greater vivacity and warmth of Italian intercourse, and would