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´╗┐Title: Little Travels and Roadside Sketches
Author: Thackeray, William Makepeace, 1811-1863
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LITTLE TRAVELS AND ROADSIDE SKETCHES


By William Makepeace Thackeray (AKA Titmarsh)



I. FROM RICHMOND IN SURREY TO BRUSSELS IN BELGIUM

II. GHENT--BRUGES:--

Ghent (1840)

Bruges

III. WATERLOO



LITTLE TRAVELS AND ROADSIDE SKETCHES



I.--FROM RICHMOND IN SURREY TO BRUSSELS IN BELGIUM


. . . I quitted the "Rose Cottage Hotel" at Richmond, one of the
comfortablest, quietest, cheapest, neatest little inns in England, and
a thousand times preferable, in my opinion, to the "Star and Garter,"
whither, if you go alone, a sneering waiter, with his hair curled,
frightens you off the premises; and where, if you are bold enough to
brave the sneering waiter, you have to pay ten shillings for a bottle
of claret; and whence, if you look out of the window, you gaze on a view
which is so rich that it seems to knock you down with its splendor--a
view that has its hair curled like the swaggering waiter: I say, I
quitted the "Rose Cottage Hotel" with deep regret, believing that I
should see nothing so pleasant as its gardens, and its veal cutlets, and
its dear little bowling-green, elsewhere. But the time comes when people
must go out of town, and so I got on the top of the omnibus, and the
carpet-bag was put inside.


If I were a great prince and rode outside of coaches (as I should if I
were a great prince), I would, whether I smoked or not, have a case of
the best Havanas in my pocket--not for my own smoking, but to give them
to the snobs on the coach, who smoke the vilest cheroots. They poison
the air with the odor of their filthy weeds. A man at all easy in his
circumstances would spare himself much annoyance by taking the above
simple precaution.

A gentleman sitting behind me tapped me on the back and asked for a
light. He was a footman, or rather valet. He had no livery, but the
three friends who accompanied him were tall men in pepper-and-salt
undress jackets with a duke's coronet on their buttons.

After tapping me on the back, and when he had finished his cheroot,
the gentleman produced another wind-instrument, which he called a
"kinopium," a sort of trumpet, on which he showed a great inclination
to play. He began puffing out of the "kinopium" a most abominable
air, which he said was the "Duke's March." It was played by particular
request of one of the pepper-and-salt gentry.

The noise was so abominable that even the coachman objected (although
my friend's brother footmen were ravished with it), and said that it
was not allowed to play toons on HIS 'bus. "Very well," said the valet,
"WE'RE ONLY OF THE DUKE OF B----'S ESTABLISHMENT, THAT'S ALL." The
coachman could not resist that appeal to his fashionable feelings. The
valet was allowed to play his infernal kinopium, and the poor fellow
(the coachman), who had lived in some private families, was quite
anxious to conciliate the footmen "of the Duke of B.'s establishment,
that's all," and told several stories of his having been groom in
Captain Hoskins's family, NEPHEW OF GOVERNOR HOSKINS; which stories the
footmen received with great contempt.

The footmen were like the rest of the fashionable world in this
respect. I felt for my part that I respected them. They were in daily
communication with a duke! They were not the rose, but they had lived
beside it. There is an odor in the English aristocracy which intoxicates
plebeians. I am sure that any commoner in England, though he would die
rather than confess it, would have a respect for those great big hulking
Duke's footmen.

The day before, her Grace the Duchess had passed us alone in a
chariot-and-four with two outriders. What better mark of innate
superiority could man want? Here was a slim lady who required four--six
horses to herself, and four servants (kinopium was, no doubt, one of the
number) to guard her.

We were sixteen inside and out, and had consequently an eighth of a
horse apiece.

A duchess = 6, a commoner = 1/8; that is to say,

1 duchess = 48 commoners.

If I were a duchess of the present day, I would say to the duke my noble
husband, "My dearest grace, I think, when I travel alone in my chariot
from Hammersmith to London, I will not care for the outriders. In these
days, when there is so much poverty and so much disaffection in the
country, we should not eclabousser the canaille with the sight of our
preposterous prosperity."

But this is very likely only plebeian envy, and I dare say, if I were
a lovely duchess of the realm, I would ride in a coach-and-six, with a
coronet on the top of my bonnet and a robe of velvet and ermine even in
the dog-days.

Alas! these are the dog-days. Many dogs are abroad--snarling dogs,
biting dogs, envious dogs, mad dogs; beware of exciting the fury of
such with your flaming red velvet and dazzling ermine. It makes ragged
Lazarus doubly hungry to see Dives feasting in cloth-of-gold; and so
if I were a beauteous duchess . . . Silence, vain man! Can the Queen
herself make you a duchess? Be content, then, nor gibe at thy betters of
"the Duke of B----'s establishment-- that's all."


ON BOARD THE "ANTWERPEN," OFF EVERYWHERE.

We have bidden adieu to Billingsgate, we have passed the Thames Tunnel;
it is one o'clock, and of course people are thinking of being hungry.
What a merry place a steamer is on a calm sunny summer forenoon, and
what an appetite every one seems to have! We are, I assure you, no less
than 170 noblemen and gentlemen together, pacing up and down under the
awning, or lolling on the sofas in the cabin, and hardly have we passed
Greenwich when the feeding begins. The company was at the brandy and
soda-water in an instant (there is a sort of legend that the beverage is
a preservative against sea-sickness), and I admired the penetration of
gentlemen who partook of the drink. In the first place, the steward WILL
put so much brandy into the tumbler that it is fit to choke you; and,
secondly, the soda-water, being kept as near as possible to the boiler
of the engine, is of a fine wholesome heat when presented to the hot and
thirsty traveller. Thus he is prevented from catching any sudden cold
which might be dangerous to him.

The forepart of the vessel is crowded to the full as much as the
genteeler quarter. There are four carriages, each with piles of
imperials and aristocratic gimcracks of travel, under the wheels of
which those personages have to clamber who have a mind to look at the
bowsprit, and perhaps to smoke a cigar at ease. The carriages overcome,
you find yourself confronted by a huge penful of Durham oxen, lying
on hay and surrounded by a barricade of oars. Fifteen of these horned
monsters maintain an incessant mooing and bellowing. Beyond the cows
come a heap of cotton-bags, beyond the cotton-bags more carriages, more
pyramids of travelling trunks, and valets and couriers bustling and
swearing round about them. And already, and in various corners and
niches, lying on coils of rope, black tar-cloths, ragged cloaks, or hay,
you see a score of those dubious fore-cabin passengers, who are never
shaved, who always look unhappy, and appear getting ready to be sick.

At one, dinner begins in the after-cabin--boiled salmon, boiled beef,
boiled mutton, boiled cabbage, boiled potatoes, and parboiled wine for
any gentlemen who like it, and two roast-ducks between seventy. After
this, knobs of cheese are handed round on a plate, and there is a talk
of a tart somewhere at some end of the table. All this I saw peeping
through a sort of meat-safe which ventilates the top of the cabin, and
very happy and hot did the people seem below.

"How the deuce CAN people dine at such an hour?" say several genteel
fellows who are watching the manoeuvres. "I can't touch a morsel before
seven."

But somehow at half-past three o'clock we had dropped a long way down
the river. The air was delightfully fresh, the sky of a faultless
cobalt, the river shining and flashing like quicksilver, and at this
period steward runs against me bearing two great smoking dishes covered
by two great glistening hemispheres of tin. "Fellow," says I, "what's
that?"

He lifted up the cover: it was ducks and green pease, by jingo!

"What! haven't they done YET, the greedy creatures?" I asked. "Have the
people been feeding for three hours?"

"Law bless you, sir, it's the second dinner. Make haste, or you won't
get a place." At which words a genteel party, with whom I had been
conversing, instantly tumbled down the hatchway, and I find myself one
of the second relay of seventy who are attacking the boiled salmon,
boiled beef, boiled cabbage, &c. As for the ducks, I certainly had
some pease, very fine yellow stiff pease, that ought to have been
split before they were boiled; but, with regard to the ducks, I saw the
animals gobbled up before my eyes by an old widow lady and her party
just as I was shrieking to the steward to bring a knife and fork to
carve them. The fellow! (I mean the widow lady's whiskered companion)--I
saw him eat pease with the very knife with which he had dissected the
duck!

After dinner (as I need not tell the keen observer of human nature who
peruses this) the human mind, if the body be in a decent state, expands
into gayety and benevolence, and the intellect longs to measure itself
in friendly converse with the divers intelligences around it. We ascend
upon deck, and after eying each other for a brief space and with a
friendly modest hesitation, we begin anon to converse about the weather
and other profound and delightful themes of English discourse. We
confide to each other our respective opinions of the ladies round about
us. Look at that charming creature in a pink bonnet and a dress of the
pattern of a Kilmarnock snuff-box: a stalwart Irish gentleman in a green
coat and bushy red whiskers is whispering something very agreeable into
her ear, as is the wont of gentlemen of his nation; for her dark eyes
kindle, her red lips open and give an opportunity to a dozen beautiful
pearly teeth to display themselves, and glance brightly in the sun;
while round the teeth and the lips a number of lovely dimples make their
appearance, and her whole countenance assumes a look of perfect health
and happiness. See her companion in shot silk and a dove-colored
parasol; in what a graceful Watteau-like attitude she reclines. The tall
courier who has been bouncing about the deck in attendance upon these
ladies (it is his first day of service, and he is eager to make a
favorable impression on them and the lady's-maids too) has just brought
them from the carriage a small paper of sweet cakes (nothing is prettier
than to see a pretty woman eating sweet biscuits) and a bottle that
evidently contains Malmsey madeira. How daintily they sip it; how happy
they seem; how that lucky rogue of an Irishman prattles away! Yonder
is a noble group indeed: an English gentleman and his family. Children,
mother, grandmother, grown-up daughters, father, and domestics,
twenty-two in all. They have a table to themselves on the deck, and the
consumption of eatables among them is really endless. The nurses have
been bustling to and fro, and bringing, first, slices of cake; then
dinner; then tea with huge family jugs of milk; and the little people
have been playing hide-and-seek round the deck, coquetting with the
other children, and making friends of every soul on board. I love to
see the kind eyes of women fondly watching them as they gambol about; a
female face, be it ever so plain, when occupied in regarding children,
becomes celestial almost, and a man can hardly fail to be good and happy
while he is looking on at such sights. "Ah, sir!" says a great big man,
whom you would not accuse of sentiment, "I have a couple of those little
things at home;" and he stops and heaves a great big sigh and swallows
down a half-tumbler of cold something and water. We know what the honest
fellow means well enough. He is saying to himself, "God bless my girls
and their mother!" but, being a Briton, is too manly to speak out in a
more intelligible way. Perhaps it is as well for him to be quiet, and
not chatter and gesticulate like those Frenchmen a few yards from him,
who are chirping over a bottle of champagne.

There is, as you may fancy, a number of such groups on the deck, and
a pleasant occupation it is for a lonely man to watch them and build
theories upon them, and examine those two personages seated cheek by
jowl. One is an English youth, travelling for the first time, who has
been hard at his Guidebook during the whole journey. He has a "Manuel du
Voyageur" in his pocket: a very pretty, amusing little oblong work it is
too, and might be very useful, if the foreign people in three languages,
among whom you travel, would but give the answers set down in the book,
or understand the questions you put to them out of it. The other honest
gentleman in the fur cap, what can his occupation be? We know him at
once for what he is. "Sir," says he, in a fine German accent, "I am a
brofessor of languages, and will gif you lessons in Danish, Swedish,
English, Bortuguese, Spanish and Bersian." Thus occupied in meditations,
the rapid hours and the rapid steamer pass quickly on. The sun is
sinking, and, as he drops, the ingenious luminary sets the Thames on
fire: several worthy gentlemen, watch in hand, are eagerly examining the
phenomena attending his disappearance,--rich clouds of purple and gold,
that form the curtains of his bed,--little barks that pass black across
his disc, his disc every instant dropping nearer and nearer into the
water. "There he goes!" says one sagacious observer. "No, he doesn't,"
cries another. Now he is gone, and the steward is already threading the
deck, asking the passengers, right and left, if they will take a
little supper. What a grand object is a sunset, and what a wonder is an
appetite at sea! Lo! the horned moon shines pale over Margate, and the
red beacon is gleaming from distant Ramsgate pier.

*****

A great rush is speedily made for the mattresses that lie in the boat at
the ship's side; and as the night is delightfully calm, many fair ladies
and worthy men determine to couch on deck for the night. The proceedings
of the former, especially if they be young and pretty, the philosopher
watches with indescribable emotion and interest. What a number of pretty
coquetries do the ladies perform, and into what pretty attitudes do they
take care to fall! All the little children have been gathered up by the
nursery-maids, and are taken down to roost below. Balmy sleep seals
the eyes of many tired wayfarers, as you see in the case of the Russian
nobleman asleep among the portmanteaus; and Titmarsh, who has been
walking the deck for some time with a great mattress on his shoulders,
knowing full well that were he to relinquish it for an instant, some
other person would seize on it, now stretches his bed upon the deck,
wraps his cloak about his knees, draws his white cotton nightcap tight
over his head and ears; and, as the smoke of his cigar rises calmly
upwards to the deep sky and the cheerful twinkling stars, he feels
himself exquisitely happy, and thinks of thee, my Juliana!

*****

Why people, because they are in a steamboat, should get up so deucedly
early I cannot understand. Gentlemen have been walking over my legs ever
since three o'clock this morning, and, no doubt, have been indulging
in personalities (which I hate) regarding my appearance and manner of
sleeping, lying, snoring. Let the wags laugh on; but a far pleasanter
occupation is to sleep until breakfast-time, or near it.

The tea, and ham and eggs, which, with a beefsteak or two, and three
or four rounds of toast, form the component parts of the above-named
elegant meal, are taken in the River Scheldt. Little neat, plump-looking
churches and villages are rising here and there among tufts of trees and
pastures that are wonderfully green. To the right, as the "Guide-book"
says, is Walcheren; and on the left Cadsand, memorable for the English
expedition of 1809, when Lord Chatham, Sir Walter Manny, and Henry Earl
of Derby, at the head of the English, gained a great victory over the
Flemish mercenaries in the pay of Philippe of Valois. The cloth-yard
shafts of the English archers did great execution. Flushing was taken,
and Lord Chatham returned to England, where he distinguished himself
greatly in the debates on the American war, which he called the
brightest jewel of the British crown. You see, my love, that, though an
artist by profession, my education has by no means been neglected; and
what, indeed, would be the pleasure of travel, unless these charming
historical recollections were brought to bear upon it?


ANTWERP.

As many hundreds of thousands of English visit this city (I have met
at least a hundred of them in this half-hour walking the streets,
"Guide-book" in hand), and as the ubiquitous Murray has already depicted
the place, there is no need to enter into a long description of it,
its neatness, its beauty, and its stiff antique splendor. The tall
pale houses have many of them crimped gables, that look like Queen
Elizabeth's ruffs. There are as many people in the streets as in London
at three o'clock in the morning; the market-women wear bonnets of
a flower-pot shape, and have shining brazen milk-pots, which are
delightful to the eyes of a painter. Along the quays of the lazy Scheldt
are innumerable good-natured groups of beer-drinkers (small-beer is the
most good-natured drink in the world); along the barriers outside of
the town, and by the glistening canals, are more beer-shops and more
beer-drinkers. The city is defended by the queerest fat military. The
chief traffic is between the hotels and the railroad. The hotels give
wonderful good dinners, and especially at the "Grand Laboureur" may be
mentioned a peculiar tart, which is the best of all tarts that ever a
man ate since he was ten years old. A moonlight walk is delightful. At
ten o'clock the whole city is quiet; and so little changed does it seem
to be, that you may walk back three hundred years into time, and fancy
yourself a majestical Spaniard, or an oppressed and patriotic Dutchman
at your leisure. You enter the inn, and the old Quentin Durward
court-yard, on which the old towers look down. There is a sound of
singing--singing at midnight. Is it Don Sombrero, who is singing an
Andalusian seguidilla under the window of the Flemish burgomaster's
daughter? Ah, no! it is a fat Englishman in a zephyr coat: he is
drinking cold gin-and-water in the moonlight, and warbling softly--

     "Nix my dolly, pals, fake away,
     N-ix my dolly, pals, fake a--a--way."*


     * In 1844.

I wish the good people would knock off the top part of Antwerp Cathedral
spire. Nothing can be more gracious and elegant than the lines of the
first two compartments; but near the top there bulges out a little
round, ugly, vulgar Dutch monstrosity (for which the architects have, no
doubt, a name) which offends the eye cruelly. Take the Apollo, and set
upon him a bob-wig and a little cocked hat; imagine "God Save the King"
ending with a jig; fancy a polonaise, or procession of slim, stately,
elegant court beauties, headed by a buffoon dancing a hornpipe. Marshal
Gerard should have discharged a bombshell at that abomination, and have
given the noble steeple a chance to be finished in the grand style of
the early fifteenth century, in which it was begun.

This style of criticism is base and mean, and quite contrary to the
orders of the immortal Goethe, who was only for allowing the eye to
recognize the beauties of a great work, but would have its defects
passed over. It is an unhappy, luckless organization which will be
perpetually fault-finding, and in the midst of a grand concert of music
will persist only in hearing that unfortunate fiddle out of tune.

Within--except where the rococo architects have introduced their
ornaments (here is the fiddle out of tune again)--the cathedral is
noble. A rich, tender sunshine is streaming in through the windows,
and gilding the stately edifice with the purest light. The admirable
stained-glass windows are not too brilliant in their colors. The
organ is playing a rich, solemn music; some two hundred of people are
listening to the service; and there is scarce one of the women kneeling
on her chair, enveloped in her full majestic black drapery, that is
not a fine study for a painter. These large black mantles of heavy silk
brought over the heads of the women, and covering their persons, fall
into such fine folds of drapery, that they cannot help being picturesque
and noble. See, kneeling by the side of two of those fine devout-looking
figures, is a lady in a little twiddling Parisian hat and feather, in
a little lace mantelet, in a tight gown and a bustle. She is almost as
monstrous as yonder figure of the Virgin, in a hoop, and with a huge
crown and a ball and a sceptre; and a bambino dressed in a little hoop,
and in a little crown, round which are clustered flowers and pots of
orange-trees, and before which many of the faithful are at prayer.
Gentle clouds of incense come wafting through the vast edifice; and in
the lulls of the music you hear the faint chant of the priest, and the
silver tinkle of the bell.

Six Englishmen, with the commissionaires, and the "Murray's Guide-books"
in their hands, are looking at the "Descent from the Cross." Of this
picture the "Guide-book" gives you orders how to judge. If it is the end
of religious painting to express the religious sentiment, a hundred of
inferior pictures must rank before Rubens. Who was ever piously affected
by any picture of the master? He can depict a livid thief writhing upon
the cross, sometimes a blond Magdalen weeping below it; but it is a
Magdalen a very short time indeed after her repentance: her yellow
brocades and flaring satins are still those which she wore when she was
of the world; her body has not yet lost the marks of the feasting and
voluptuousness in which she used to indulge, according to the legend.
Not one of the Rubens's pictures among all the scores that decorate
chapels and churches here, has the least tendency to purify, to touch
the affections, or to awaken the feelings of religious respect and
wonder. The "Descent from the Cross" is vast, gloomy, and awful; but the
awe inspired by it is, as I take it, altogether material. He might have
painted a picture of any criminal broken on the wheel, and the sensation
inspired by it would have been precisely similar. Nor in a religious
picture do you want the savoir-faire of the master to be always
protruding itself; it detracts from the feeling of reverence, just as
the thumping of cushion and the spouting of tawdry oratory does from
a sermon: meek religion disappears, shouldered out of the desk by
the pompous, stalwart, big-chested, fresh-colored, bushy-whiskered
pulpiteer. Rubens's piety has always struck us as of this sort. If he
takes a pious subject, it is to show you in what a fine way he, Peter
Paul Rubens, can treat it. He never seems to doubt but that he is doing
it a great honor. His "Descent from the Cross," and its accompanying
wings and cover, are a set of puns upon the word Christopher, of which
the taste is more odious than that of the hooped-petticoated Virgin
yonder, with her artificial flowers, and her rings and brooches. The
people who made an offering of that hooped petticoat did their best, at
any rate; they knew no better. There is humility in that simple, quaint
present; trustfulness and kind intention. Looking about at other altars,
you see (much to the horror of pious Protestants) all sorts of queer
little emblems hanging up under little pyramids of penny candles that
are sputtering and flaring there. Here you have a silver arm, or
a little gold toe, or a wax leg, or a gilt eye, signifying and
commemorating cures that have been performed by the supposed
intercession of the saint over whose chapel they hang. Well, although
they are abominable superstitions, yet these queer little offerings seem
to me to be a great deal more pious than Rubens's big pictures; just as
is the widow with her poor little mite compared to the swelling Pharisee
who flings his purse of gold into the plate.

A couple of days of Rubens and his church pictures makes one thoroughly
and entirely sick of him. His very genius and splendor pails upon one,
even taking the pictures as worldly pictures. One grows weary of being
perpetually feasted with this rich, coarse, steaming food. Considering
them as church pictures, I don't want to go to church to hear, however
splendid, an organ play the "British Grenadiers."


The Antwerpians have set up a clumsy bronze statue of their divinity
in a square of the town; and those who have not enough of Rubens in the
churches may study him, and indeed to much greater advantage, in a good,
well-lighted museum. Here, there is one picture, a dying saint taking
the communion, a large piece ten or eleven feet high, and painted in an
incredibly short space of time, which is extremely curious indeed
for the painter's study. The picture is scarcely more than an immense
magnificent sketch; but it tells the secret of the artist's manner,
which, in the midst of its dash and splendor, is curiously methodical.
Where the shadows are warm the lights are cold, and vice versa; and the
picture has been so rapidly painted, that the tints lie raw by the side
of one another, the artist not having taken the trouble to blend them.

There are two exquisite Vandykes (whatever Sir Joshua may say of them),
and in which the very management of the gray tones which the President
abuses forms the principal excellence and charm. Why, after all, are we
not to have our opinion? Sir Joshua is not the Pope. The color of one
of those Vandykes is as fine as FINE Paul Veronese, and the sentiment
beautifully tender and graceful.

I saw, too, an exhibition of the modern Belgian artists (1843), the
remembrance of whose pictures after a month's absence has almost
entirely vanished. Wappers's hand, as I thought, seemed to have grown
old and feeble, Verboeckhoven's cattle-pieces are almost as good as
Paul Potter's, and Keyser has dwindled down into namby-pamby prettiness,
pitiful to see in the gallant young painter who astonished the Louvre
artists ten years ago by a hand almost as dashing and ready as that of
Rubens himself. There were besides many caricatures of the new German
school, which are in themselves caricatures of the masters before
Raphael.


An instance of honesty may be mentioned here with applause. The
writer lost a pocket-book containing a passport and a couple of modest
ten-pound notes. The person who found the portfolio ingeniously put it
into the box of the post-office, and it was faithfully restored to the
owner; but somehow the two ten-pound notes were absent. It was, however,
a great comfort to get the passport, and the pocket-book, which must be
worth about ninepence.


BRUSSELS.

It was night when we arrived by the railroad from Antwerp at Brussels;
the route is very pretty and interesting, and the flat countries
through which the road passes in the highest state of peaceful, smiling
cultivation. The fields by the roadside are enclosed by hedges as in
England, the harvest was in part down, and an English country gentleman
who was of our party pronounced the crops to be as fine as any he had
ever seen. Of this matter a Cockney cannot judge accurately, but any man
can see with what extraordinary neatness and care all these little plots
of ground are tilled, and admire the richness and brilliancy of the
vegetation. Outside of the moat of Antwerp, and at every village by
which we passed, it was pleasant to see the happy congregations of
well-clad people that basked in the evening sunshine, and soberly smoked
their pipes and drank their Flemish beer. Men who love this drink must,
as I fancy, have something essentially peaceful in their composition,
and must be more easily satisfied than folks on our side of the water.
The excitement of Flemish beer is, indeed, not great. I have tried both
the white beer and the brown; they are both of the kind which schoolboys
denominate "swipes," very sour and thin to the taste, but served, to be
sure, in quaint Flemish jugs that do not seem to have changed their
form since the days of Rubens, and must please the lovers of antiquarian
knick-knacks. Numbers of comfortable-looking women and children sat
beside the head of the family upon the tavern-benches, and it was
amusing to see one little fellow of eight years old smoking, with much
gravity, his father's cigar. How the worship of the sacred plant of
tobacco has spread through all Europe! I am sure that the persons who
cry out against the use of it are guilty of superstition and unreason,
and that it would be a proper and easy task for scientific persons
to write an encomium upon the weed. In solitude it is the pleasantest
companion possible, and in company never de trop. To a student it
suggests all sorts of agreeable thoughts, it refreshes the brain when
weary, and every sedentary cigar-smoker will tell you how much good he
has had from it, and how he has been able to return to his labor, after
a quarter of an hour's mild interval of the delightful leaf of Havana.
Drinking has gone from among us since smoking came in. It is a wicked
error to say that smokers are drunkards; drink they do, but of gentle
diluents mostly, for fierce stimulants of wine or strong liquors are
abhorrent to the real lover of the Indian weed. Ah! my Juliana, join
not in the vulgar cry that is raised against us. Cigars and cool drinks
beget quiet conversations, good-humor, meditation; not hot blood such as
mounts into the head of drinkers of apoplectic port or dangerous claret.
Are we not more moral and reasonable than our forefathers? Indeed I
think so somewhat; and many improvements of social life and converse
must date with the introduction of the pipe.

We were a dozen tobacco-consumers in the wagon of the train that brought
us from Antwerp; nor did the women of the party (sensible women!) make a
single objection to the fumigation. But enough of this; only let me add,
in conclusion, that an excellent Israelitish gentleman, Mr. Hartog
of Antwerp, supplies cigars for a penny apiece, such as are not to be
procured in London for four times the sum.

Through smiling corn-fields, then, and by little woods from which rose
here and there the quaint peaked towers of some old-fashioned chateaux,
our train went smoking along at thirty miles an hour. We caught a
glimpse of Mechlin steeple, at first dark against the sunset, and
afterwards bright as we came to the other side of it, and admired long
glistening canals or moats that surrounded the queer old town, and were
lighted up in that wonderful way which the sun only understands, and
not even Mr. Turner, with all his vermilion and gamboge, can put down
on canvas. The verdure was everywhere astonishing, and we fancied we saw
many golden Cuyps as we passed by these quiet pastures.

Steam-engines and their accompaniments, blazing forges, gaunt
manufactories, with numberless windows and long black chimneys, of
course take away from the romance of the place but, as we whirled into
Brussels, even these engines had a fine appearance. Three or four of the
snorting, galloping monsters had just finished their journey, and there
was a quantity of flaming ashes lying under the brazen bellies of each
that looked properly lurid and demoniacal. The men at the station came
out with flaming torches--awful-looking fellows indeed! Presently the
different baggage was handed out, and in the very worst vehicle I ever
entered, and at the very slowest pace, we were borne to the "Hotel de
Suede," from which house of entertainment this letter is written.

We strolled into the town, but, though the night was excessively fine
and it was not yet eleven o'clock, the streets of the little capital
were deserted, and the handsome blazing cafes round about the theatres
contained no inmates. Ah, what a pretty sight is the Parisian Boulevard
on a night like this! how many pleasant hours has one passed in watching
the lights, and the hum, and the stir, and the laughter of those happy,
idle people! There was none of this gayety here; nor was there a person
to be found, except a skulking commissioner or two (whose real name
in French is that of a fish that is eaten with fennel-sauce), and who
offered to conduct us to certain curiosities in the town. What must we
English not have done, that in every town in Europe we are to be fixed
upon by scoundrels of this sort; and what a pretty reflection it is on
our country that such rascals find the means of living on us!


Early the next morning we walked through a number of streets in the
place, and saw certain sights. The Park is very pretty, and all the
buildings round about it have an air of neatness--almost of stateliness.
The houses are tall, the streets spacious, and the roads extremely
clean. In the Park is a little theatre, a cafe somewhat ruinous, a
little palace for the king of this little kingdom, some smart public
buildings (with S. P. Q. B. emblazoned on them, at which pompous
inscription one cannot help laughing), and other rows of houses somewhat
resembling a little Rue de Rivoli. Whether from my own natural greatness
and magnanimity, or from that handsome share of national conceit that
every Englishman possesses, my impressions of this city are certainly
anything but respectful. It has an absurd kind of Lilliput look with it.
There are soldiers, just as in Paris, better dressed, and doing a vast
deal of drumming and bustle; and yet, somehow, far from being frightened
at them, I feel inclined to laugh in their faces. There are little
Ministers, who work at their little bureaux; and to read the journals,
how fierce they are! A great thundering Times could hardly talk more
big. One reads about the rascally Ministers, the miserable Opposition,
the designs of tyrants, the eyes of Europe, &c., just as one would
in real journals. The Moniteur of Ghent belabors the Independent of
Brussels; the Independent falls foul of the Lynx; and really it is
difficult not to suppose sometimes that these worthy people are in
earnest. And yet how happy were they sua si bona norint! Think what a
comfort it would be to belong to a little state like this; not to abuse
their privilege, but philosophically to use it. If I were a Belgian,
I would not care one single fig about politics. I would not read
thundering leading-articles. I would not have an opinion. What's the use
of an opinion here? Happy fellows! do not the French, the English, and
the Prussians, spare them the trouble of thinking, and make all their
opinions for them? Think of living in a country free, easy, respectable,
wealthy, and with the nuisance of talking politics removed from out of
it. All this might the Belgians have, and a part do they enjoy, but not
the best part; no, these people will be brawling and by the ears, and
parties run as high here as at Stoke Pogis or little Pedlington.

These sentiments were elicited by the reading of a paper at the cafe in
the Park, where we sat under the trees for a while and sipped our cool
lemonade. Numbers of statues decorate the place, the very worst I
ever saw. These Cupids must have been erected in the time of the Dutch
dynasty, as I judge from the immense posterior developments. Indeed the
arts of the country are very low. The statues here, and the lions before
the Prince of Orange's palace, would disgrace almost the figurehead of a
ship.

Of course we paid our visit to this little lion of Brussels (the
Prince's palace, I mean). The architecture of the building is admirably
simple and firm; and you remark about it, and all other works here, a
high finish in doors, wood-works, paintings, &c., that one does not see
in France, where the buildings are often rather sketched than completed,
and the artist seems to neglect the limbs, as it were, and extremities
of his figures.

The finish of this little place is exquisite. We went through some dozen
of state-rooms, paddling along over the slippery floors of inlaid woods
in great slippers, without which we must have come to the ground. How
did his Royal Highness the Prince of Orange manage when he lived here,
and her Imperial Highness the Princess, and their excellencies the
chamberlains and the footmen? They must have been on their tails many
times a day, that's certain, and must have cut queer figures.

The ball-room is beautiful--all marble, and yet with a comfortable,
cheerful look; the other apartments are not less agreeable, and the
people looked with intense satisfaction at some great lapis-lazuli
tables, which the guide informed us were worth four millions, more or
less; adding with a very knowing look, that they were un peu plus cher
que l'or. This speech has a tremendous effect on visitors, and when we
met some of our steamboat companions in the Park or elsewhere--in so
small a place as this one falls in with them a dozen times a day--"Have
you seen the tables?" was the general question. Prodigious tables are
they, indeed! Fancy a table, my dear--a table four feet wide--a table
with legs. Ye heavens! the mind can hardly picture to itself anything so
beautiful and so tremendous!

There are some good pictures in the palace, too, but not so
extraordinarily good as the guide-books and the guide would have us
to think. The latter, like most men of his class, is an ignoramus,
who showed us an Andrea del Sarto (copy or original), and called it a
Correggio, and made other blunders of a like nature. As is the case in
England, you are hurried through the rooms without being allowed time
to look at the pictures, and, consequently, to pronounce a satisfactory
judgment on them.

In the Museum more time was granted me, and I spent some hours with
pleasure there. It is an absurd little gallery, absurdly imitating the
Louvre, with just such compartments and pillars as you see in the noble
Paris gallery; only here the pillars and capitals are stucco and
white in place of marble and gold, and plaster-of-paris busts of great
Belgians are placed between the pillars. An artist of the country
has made a picture containing them, and you will be ashamed of your
ignorance when you hear many of their names. Old Tilly of Magdeburg
figures in one corner; Rubens, the endless Rubens, stands in the
midst. What a noble countenance it is, and what a manly, swaggering
consciousness of power!

The picture to see here is a portrait, by the great Peter Paul, of one
of the governesses of the Netherlands. It is just the finest portrait
that ever was seen. Only a half-length, but such a majesty, such a
force, such a splendor, such a simplicity about it! The woman is in a
stiff black dress, with a ruff and a few pearls; a yellow curtain is
behind her--the simplest arrangement that can be conceived; but this
great man knew how to rise to his occasion; and no better proof can
be shown of what a fine gentleman he was than this his homage to the
vice-Queen. A common bungler would have painted her in her best clothes,
with crown and sceptre, just as our Queen has been painted by--but
comparisons are odious. Here stands this majestic woman in her every-day
working-dress of black satin, LOOKING YOUR HAT OFF, as it were. Another
portrait of the same personage hangs elsewhere in the gallery, and it is
curious to observe the difference between the two, and see how a man of
genius paints a portrait, and how a common limner executes it.

Many more pictures are there here by Rubens, or rather from Rubens's
manufactory,--odious and vulgar most of them are; fat Magdalens, coarse
Saints, vulgar Virgins, with the scene-painter's tricks far too evident
upon the canvas. By the side of one of the most astonishing color-pieces
in the world, the "Worshipping of the Magi," is a famous picture of Paul
Veronese that cannot be too much admired. As Rubens sought in the first
picture to dazzle and astonish by gorgeous variety, Paul in his seems
to wish to get his effect by simplicity, and has produced the most noble
harmony that can be conceived. Many more works are there that merit
notice,--a singularly clever, brilliant, and odious Jordaens, for
example; some curious costume-pieces; one or two works by the Belgian
Raphael, who was a very Belgian Raphael, indeed; and a long gallery
of pictures of the very oldest school, that, doubtless, afford much
pleasure to the amateurs of ancient art. I confess that I am inclined
to believe in very little that existed before the time of Raphael.
There is, for instance, the Prince of Orange's picture by Perugino, very
pretty indeed, up to a certain point, but all the heads are repeated,
all the drawing is bad and affected; and this very badness and
affectation, is what the so-called Catholic school is always anxious to
imitate. Nothing can be more juvenile or paltry than the works of the
native Belgians here exhibited. Tin crowns are suspended over many
of them, showing that the pictures are prize compositions: and pretty
things, indeed, they are! Have you ever read an Oxford prize-poem! Well,
these pictures are worse even than the Oxford poems--an awful assertion
to make.

In the matter of eating, dear sir, which is the next subject of the fine
arts, a subject that, after many hours' walking, attracts a gentleman
very much, let me attempt to recall the transactions of this very day at
the table-d'-hote. 1, green pea-soup; 2, boiled salmon; 3, mussels; 4,
crimped skate; 5, roast-meat; 6, patties; 7, melons; 8, carp, stewed
with mushrooms and onions; 9, roast-turkey; 10, cauliflower and butter;
11, fillets of venison piques, with asafoetida sauce; 12, stewed
calf's-ear; 13, roast-veal; 14, roast-lamb; 15, stewed cherries;
16, rice-pudding; 17, Gruyere cheese, and about twenty-four cakes of
different kinds. Except 5, 13, and 14, I give you my word I ate of all
written down here, with three rolls of bread and a score of potatoes.
What is the meaning of it? How is the stomach of man to be brought to
desire and to receive all this quantity? Do not gastronomists complain
of heaviness in London after eating a couple of mutton-chops? Do not
respectable gentlemen fall asleep in their arm-chairs? Are they fit for
mental labor? Far from it. But look at the difference here: after dinner
here one is as light as a gossamer. One walks with pleasure, reads with
pleasure, writes with pleasure--nay, there is the supper-bell going at
ten o'clock, and plenty of eaters, too. Let lord mayors and aldermen
look to it, this fact of the extraordinary increase of appetite in
Belgium, and, instead of steaming to Blackwall, come a little further to
Antwerp.

Of ancient architectures in the place, there is a fine old Port de
Halle, which has a tall, gloomy, bastille look; a most magnificent
town-hall, that has been sketched a thousand of times, and opposite
it, a building that I think would be the very model for a Conservative
club-house in London. Oh! how charming it would be to be a great
painter, and give the character of the building, and the numberless
groups round about it. The booths lighted up by the sun, the
market-women in their gowns of brilliant hue, each group having a
character and telling its little story, the troops of men lolling in all
sorts of admirable attitudes of ease round the great lamp. Half a dozen
light-blue dragoons are lounging about, and peeping over the artist as
the drawing is made, and the sky is more bright and blue than one sees
it in a hundred years in London.

The priests of the country are a remarkably well-fed and respectable
race, without that scowling, hang-dog look which one has remarked
among reverend gentlemen in the neighboring country of France. Their
reverences wear buckles to their shoes, light-blue neck-cloths, and
huge three-cornered hats in good condition. To-day, strolling by the
cathedral, I heard the tinkling of a bell in the street, and beheld
certain persons, male and female, suddenly plump down on their knees
before a little procession that was passing. Two men in black held a
tawdry red canopy, a priest walked beneath it holding the sacrament
covered with a cloth, and before him marched a couple of little
altar-boys in short white surplices, such as you see in Rubens, and
holding lacquered lamps. A small train of street-boys followed the
procession, cap in hand, and the clergyman finally entered a hospital
for old women, near the church, the canopy and the lamp-bearers
remaining without.

It was a touching scene, and as I stayed to watch it, I could not but
think of the poor old soul who was dying within, listening to the last
words of prayer, led by the hand of the priest to the brink of the black
fathomless grave. How bright the sun was shining without all the time,
and how happy and careless every thing around us looked!


The Duke d'Arenberg has a picture-gallery worthy of his princely house.
It does not contain great pieces, but tit-bits of pictures, such as suit
an aristocratic epicure. For such persons a great huge canvas is too
much, it is like sitting down alone to a roasted ox; and they do wisely,
I think, to patronize small, high-flavored, delicate morceaux, such as
the Duke has here.

Among them may be mentioned, with special praise, a magnificent small
Rembrandt, a Paul Potter of exceeding minuteness and beauty, an Ostade,
which reminds one of Wilkie's early performances, and a Dusart quite
as good as Ostade. There is a Berghem, much more unaffected than that
artist's works generally are; and, what is more, precious in the eyes of
many ladies as an object of art, there is, in one of the grand saloons,
some needlework done by the Duke's own grandmother, which is looked at
with awe by those admitted to see the palace.

The chief curiosity, if not the chief ornament of a very elegant
library, filled with vases and bronzes, is a marble head, supposed to
be the original head of the Laocoon. It is, unquestionably a finer head
than that which at present figures upon the shoulders of the famous
statue. The expression of woe is more manly and intense; in the group as
we know it, the head of the principal figure has always seemed to me to
be a grimace of grief, as are the two accompanying young gentlemen
with their pretty attitudes, and their little silly, open-mouthed
despondency. It has always had upon me the effect of a trick, that
statue, and not of a piece of true art. It would look well in the vista
of a garden; it is not august enough for a temple, with all its jerks
and twirls, and polite convulsions. But who knows what susceptibilities
such a confession may offend? Let us say no more about the Laocoon, nor
its head, nor its tail. The Duke was offered its weight in gold, they
say, for this head, and refused. It would be a shame to speak ill of
such a treasure, but I have my opinion of the man who made the offer.

In the matter of sculpture almost all the Brussels churches are
decorated with the most laborious wooden pulpits, which may be worth
their weight in gold, too, for what I know, including his reverence
preaching inside. At St. Gudule the preacher mounts into no less a place
than the garden of Eden, being supported by Adam and Eve, by Sin and
Death, and numberless other animals; he walks up to his desk by a
rustic railing of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, with wooden peacocks,
paroquets, monkeys biting apples, and many more of the birds and
beasts of the field. In another church the clergyman speaks from out a
hermitage; in a third from a carved palm-tree, which supports a set of
oak clouds that form the canopy of the pulpit, and are, indeed, not much
heavier in appearance than so many huge sponges. A priest, however tall
or stout, must be lost in the midst of all these queer gimcracks; in
order to be consistent, they ought to dress him up, too, in some odd
fantastical suit. I can fancy the Cure of Meudon preaching out of such a
place, or the Rev. Sydney Smith, or that famous clergyman of the time of
the League, who brought all Paris to laugh and listen to him.


But let us not be too supercilious and ready to sneer. It is only bad
taste. It may have been very true devotion which erected these strange
edifices.



II.--GHENT--BRUGES.


GHENT. (1840.)


The Beguine College or Village is one of the most extraordinary sights
that all Europe can show. On the confines of the town of Ghent you come
upon an old-fashioned brick gate, that seems as if it were one of the
city barriers; but, on passing it, one of the prettiest sights possible
meets the eye: At the porter's lodge you see an old lady, in black and
a white hood, occupied over her book; before you is a red church with a
tall roof and fantastical Dutch pinnacles, and all around it rows upon
rows of small houses, the queerest, neatest, nicest that ever were seen
(a doll's house is hardly smaller or prettier). Right and left, on each
side of little alleys, these little mansions rise; they have a courtlet
before them, in which some green plants or hollyhocks are growing;
and to each house is a gate, that has mostly a picture or queer-carved
ornament upon or about it, and bears the name, not of the Beguine who
inhabits it, but of the saint to whom she may have devoted it--the house
of St. Stephen, the house of St. Donatus, the English or Angel Convent,
and so on. Old ladies in black are pacing in the quiet alleys here and
there, and drop the stranger a curtsy as he passes them and takes off
his hat. Never were such patterns of neatness seen as these old ladies
and their houses. I peeped into one or two of the chambers, of which the
windows were open to the pleasant evening sun, and saw beds scrupulously
plain, a quaint old chair or two, and little pictures of favorite saints
decorating the spotless white walls. The old ladies kept up a quick,
cheerful clatter, as they paused to gossip at the gates of their little
domiciles; and with a great deal of artifice, and lurking behind walls,
and looking at the church as if I intended to design that, I managed to
get a sketch of a couple of them.


But what white paper can render the whiteness of their linen; what black
ink can do justice to the lustre of their gowns and shoes? Both of the
ladies had a neat ankle and a tight stocking; and I fancy that heaven
is quite as well served in this costume as in the dress of a scowling,
stockingless friar, whom I had seen passing just before. The look and
dress of the man made me shudder. His great red feet were bound up in
a shoe open at the toes, a kind of compromise for a sandal. I had just
seen him and his brethren at the Dominican Church, where a mass of music
was sung, and orange-trees, flags, and banners decked the aisle of the
church.

One begins to grow sick of these churches, and the hideous exhibitions
of bodily agonies that are depicted on the sides of all the chapels.
Into one wherein we went this morning was what they called a Calvary: a
horrible, ghastly image of a Christ in a tomb, the figure of the natural
size, and of the livid color of death; gaping red wounds on the body and
round the brows: the whole piece enough to turn one sick, and fit only
to brutalize the beholder of it. The Virgin is commonly represented with
a dozen swords stuck in her heart; bleeding throats of headless John
Baptists are perpetually thrust before your eyes. At the Cathedral
gate was a papier-mache church-ornament shop--most of the carvings and
reliefs of the same dismal character: one, for instance, represented
a heart with a great gash in it, and a double row of large blood-drops
dribbling from it; nails and a knife were thrust into the heart; round
the whole was a crown of thorns. Such things are dreadful to think of.
The same gloomy spirit which made a religion of them, and worked upon
the people by the grossest of all means, terror, distracted the natural
feelings of man to maintain its power--shut gentle women into
lonely, pitiless convents--frightened poor peasants with tales
of torment--taught that the end and labor of life was silence,
wretchedness, and the scourge--murdered those by fagot and prison
who thought otherwise. How has the blind and furious bigotry of man
perverted that which God gave us as our greatest boon, and bid us hate
where God bade us love! Thank heaven that monk has gone out of sight! It
is pleasant to look at the smiling, cheerful old Beguine, and think no
more of yonder livid face.

One of the many convents in this little religious city seems to be the
specimen-house, which is shown to strangers, for all the guides conduct
you thither, and I saw in a book kept for the purpose the names of
innumerable Smiths and Joneses registered.

A very kind, sweet-voiced, smiling nun (I wonder, do they always choose
the most agreeable and best-humored sister of the house to show it to
strangers?) came tripping down the steps and across the flags of the
little garden-court, and welcomed us with much courtesy into the neat
little old-fashioned, red-bricked, gable-ended, shining-windowed Convent
of the Angels. First she showed us a whitewashed parlor, decorated with
a grim picture or two and some crucifixes and other religious emblems,
where, upon stiff old chairs, the sisters sit and work. Three or four of
them were still there, pattering over their laces and bobbins; but the
chief part of the sisterhood were engaged in an apartment hard by, from
which issued a certain odor which I must say resembled onions: it was in
fact the kitchen of the establishment.

Every Beguine cooks her own little dinner in her own little pipkin; and
there was half a score of them, sure enough, busy over their pots and
crockery, cooking a repast which, when ready, was carried off to a
neighboring room, the refectory, where, at a ledge-table which is drawn
out from under her own particular cupboard, each nun sits down and
eats her meal in silence. More religious emblems ornamented the carved
cupboard-doors, and within, everything was as neat as neat could be:
shining pewter-ewers and glasses, snug baskets of eggs and pats of
butter, and little bowls with about a farthing's-worth of green tea in
them--for some great day of fete, doubtless. The old ladies sat round
as we examined these things, each eating soberly at her ledge and never
looking round. There was a bell ringing in the chapel hard by. "Hark!"
said our guide, "that is one of the sisters dying. Will you come up and
see the cells?"

The cells, it need not be said, are the snuggest little nests in the
world, with serge-curtained beds and snowy linen, and saints and martyrs
pinned against the wall. "We may sit up till twelve o'clock, if we
like," said the nun; "but we have no fire and candle, and so what's the
use of sitting up? When we have said our prayers we are glad enough to
go to sleep."

I forget, although the good soul told us, how many times in the day,
in public and in private, these devotions are made, but fancy that the
morning service in the chapel takes place at too early an hour for most
easy travellers. We did not fail to attend in the evening, when likewise
is a general muster of the seven hundred, minus the absent and sick, and
the sight is not a little curious and striking to a stranger.

The chapel is a very big whitewashed place of worship, supported by half
a dozen columns on either side, over each of which stands the statue
of an Apostle, with his emblem of martyrdom. Nobody was as yet at the
distant altar, which was too far off to see very distinctly; but I could
perceive two statues over it, one of which (St. Laurence, no doubt) was
leaning upon a huge gilt gridiron that the sun lighted up in a blaze--a
painful but not a romantic instrument of death. A couple of old ladies
in white hoods were tugging and swaying about at two bell-ropes that
came down into the middle of the church, and at least five hundred
others in white veils were seated all round about us in mute
contemplation until the service began, looking very solemn, and white,
and ghastly, like an army of tombstones by moonlight.

The service commenced as the clock finished striking seven: the organ
pealed out, a very cracked and old one, and presently some weak old
voice from the choir overhead quavered out a canticle; which done,
a thin old voice of a priest at the altar far off (and which had now
become quite gloomy in the sunset) chanted feebly another part of the
service; then the nuns warbled once more overhead; and it was curious to
hear, in the intervals of the most lugubrious chants, how the organ went
off with some extremely cheerful military or profane air. At one time
was a march, at another a quick tune; which ceasing, the old nuns began
again, and so sung until the service was ended.

In the midst of it one of the white-veiled sisters approached us with a
very mysterious air, and put down her white veil close to our ears and
whispered. Were we doing anything wrong, I wondered? Were they come to
that part of the service where heretics and infidels ought to quit the
church? What have you to ask, O sacred, white-veiled maid?

All she said was, "Deux centiemes pour les suisses," which sum was paid;
and presently the old ladies, rising from their chairs one by one, came
in face of the altar, where they knelt down and said a short prayer;
then, rising, unpinned their veils, and folded them up all exactly in
the same folds and fashion, and laid them square like napkins on their
heads, and tucked up their long black outer dresses, and trudged off to
their convents.

The novices wear black veils, under one of which I saw a young, sad,
handsome face; it was the only thing in the establishment that was
the least romantic or gloomy: and, for the sake of any reader of a
sentimental turn, let us hope that the poor soul has been crossed in
love, and that over some soul-stirring tragedy that black curtain has
fallen.

Ghent has, I believe, been called a vulgar Venice. It contains dirty
canals and old houses that must satisfy the most eager antiquary, though
the buildings are not quite in so good preservation as others that may
be seen in the Netherlands. The commercial bustle of the place seems
considerable, and it contains more beer-shops than any city I ever saw.

These beer-shops seem the only amusement of the inhabitants, until,
at least, the theatre shall be built, of which the elevation is now
complete, a very handsome and extensive pile. There are beer-shops in
the cellars of the houses, which are frequented, it is to be presumed,
by the lower sort; there are beer-shops at the barriers, where the
citizens and their families repair; and beer-shops in the town, glaring
with gas, with long gauze blinds, however, to hide what I hear is a
rather questionable reputation.

Our inn, the "Hotel of the Post," a spacious and comfortable residence,
is on a little place planted round with trees, and that seems to be the
Palais Royal of the town. Three clubs, which look from without to
be very comfortable, ornament this square with their gas-lamps. Here
stands, too, the theatre that is to be; there is a cafe, and on evenings
a military band plays the very worst music I ever remember to have
heard. I went out to-night to take a quiet walk upon this place, and the
horrid brazen discord of these trumpeters set me half mad.

I went to the cafe for refuge, passing on the way a subterraneous
beer-shop, where men and women were drinking to the sweet music of a
cracked barrel-organ. They take in a couple of French papers at this
cafe, and the same number of Belgian journals. You may imagine how well
the latter are informed, when you hear that the battle of Boulogne,
fought by the immortal Louis Napoleon, was not known here until some
gentlemen out of Norfolk brought the news from London, and until it had
travelled to Paris, and from Paris to Brussels. For a whole hour I could
not get a newspaper at the cafe. The horrible brass band in the meantime
had quitted the place, and now, to amuse the Ghent citizens, a couple of
little boys came to the cafe and set up a small concert: one played ill
on the guitar, but sang, very sweetly, plaintive French ballads; the
other was the comic singer; he carried about with him a queer, long,
damp-looking, mouldy white hat, with no brim. "Ecoutez," said the waiter
to me, "il va faire l'Anglais; c'est tres drole!" The little rogue
mounted his immense brimless hat, and, thrusting his thumbs into the
armholes of his waistcoat, began to faire l'Anglais, with a song in
which swearing was the principal joke. We all laughed at this, and
indeed the little rascal seemed to have a good deal of humor.

How they hate us, these foreigners, in Belgium as much as in France!
What lies they tell of us; how gladly they would see us humiliated!
Honest folks at home over their port-wine say, "Ay, ay, and very good
reason they have too. National vanity, sir, wounded--we have beaten them
so often." My dear sir, there is not a greater error in the world
than this. They hate you because you are stupid, hard to please,
and intolerably insolent and air-giving. I walked with an Englishman
yesterday, who asked the way to a street of which he pronounced the name
very badly to a little Flemish boy: the Flemish boy did not answer; and
there was my Englishman quite in a rage, shrieking in the child's ear
as if he must answer. He seemed to think that it was the duty of "the
snob," as he called him, to obey the gentleman. This is why we are
hated--for pride. In our free country a tradesman, a lackey, or a
waiter will submit to almost any given insult from a gentleman: in these
benighted lands one man is as good as another; and pray God it may soon
be so with us! Of all European people, which is the nation that has the
most haughtiness, the strongest prejudices, the greatest reserve, the
greatest dulness? I say an Englishman of the genteel classes. An honest
groom jokes and hobs-and-nobs and makes his way with the kitchen-maids,
for there is good social nature in the man; his master dare not unbend.
Look at him, how he scowls at you on your entering an inn-room; think
how you scowl yourself to meet his scowl. To-day, as we were walking and
staring about the place, a worthy old gentleman in a carriage, seeing a
pair of strangers, took off his hat and bowed very gravely with his
old powdered head out of the window: I am sorry to say that our first
impulse was to burst out laughing--it seemed so supremely ridiculous
that a stranger should notice and welcome another.

As for the notion that foreigners hate us because we have beaten them
so often, my dear sir, this is the greatest error in the world:
well-educated Frenchmen DO NOT BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE BEATEN THEM. A man
was once ready to call me out in Paris because I said that we had beaten
the French in Spain; and here before me is a French paper, with a
London correspondent discoursing about Louis Buonaparte and his jackass
expedition to Boulogne. "He was received at Eglintoun, it is true," says
the correspondent, "but what do you think was the reason? Because the
English nobility were anxious to revenge upon his person (with some
coups de lance) the checks which the 'grand homme' his uncle had
inflicted on us in Spain."

This opinion is so general among the French, that they would laugh at
you with scornful incredulity if you ventured to assert any other. Foy's
history of the Spanish War does not, unluckily, go far enough. I have
read a French history which hardly mentions the war in Spain, and calls
the battle of Salamanca a French victory. You know how the other day,
and in the teeth of all evidence, the French swore to their victory of
Toulouse: and so it is with the rest; and you may set it down as pretty
certain, 1st, That only a few people know the real state of things in
France, as to the matter in dispute between us; 2nd, That those who do,
keep the truth to themselves, and so it is as if it had never been.

These Belgians have caught up, and quite naturally, the French tone.
We are perfide Albion with them still. Here is the Ghent paper, which
declares that it is beyond a doubt that Louis Napoleon was sent by the
English and Lord Palmerston; and though it states in another part of
the journal (from English authority) that the Prince had never seen Lord
Palmerston, yet the lie will remain uppermost--the people and the editor
will believe it to the end of time. . . . See to what a digression
yonder little fellow in the tall hat has given rise! Let us make his
picture, and have done with him.


I could not understand, in my walks about this place, which is certainly
picturesque enough, and contains extraordinary charms in the shape of
old gables, quaint spires, and broad shining canals--I could not at
first comprehend why, for all this, the town was especially disagreeable
to me, and have only just hit on the reason why. Sweetest Juliana, you
will never guess it: it is simply this, that I have not seen a single
decent-looking woman in the whole place; they look all ugly, with coarse
mouths, vulgar figures, mean mercantile faces; and so the traveller
walking among them finds the pleasure of his walk excessively damped,
and the impressions made upon him disagreeable.

In the Academy there are no pictures of merit; but sometimes a
second-rate picture is as pleasing as the best, and one may pass an hour
here very pleasantly. There is a room appropriated to Belgian artists,
of which I never saw the like: they are, like all the rest of the things
in this country, miserable imitations of the French school--great nude
Venuses, and Junos a la David, with the drawing left out.


BRUGES.

The change from vulgar Ghent, with its ugly women and coarse bustle,
to this quiet, old, half-deserted, cleanly Bruges, was very pleasant. I
have seen old men at Versailles, with shabby coats and pigtails, sunning
themselves on the benches in the walls; they had seen better days, to be
sure, but they were gentlemen still: and so we found, this morning, old
dowager Bruges basking in the pleasant August sun, and looking if not
prosperous, at least cheerful and well-bred. It is the quaintest and
prettiest of all the quaint and pretty towns I have seen. A painter
might spend months here, and wander from church to church, and admire
old towers and pinnacles, tall gables, bright canals, and pretty little
patches of green garden and moss-grown wall, that reflect in the clear
quiet water. Before the inn-window is a garden, from which in the early
morning issues a most wonderful odor of stocks and wallflowers; next
comes a road with trees of admirable green; numbers of little children
are playing in this road (the place is so clean that they may roll in it
all day without soiling their pinafores), and on the other side of the
trees are little old-fashioned, dumpy, whitewashed, red-tiled houses. A
poorer landscape to draw never was known, nor a pleasanter to see--the
children especially, who are inordinately fat and rosy. Let it be
remembered, too, that here we are out of the country of ugly women: the
expression of the face is almost uniformly gentle and pleasing, and the
figures of the women, wrapped in long black monk-like cloaks and hoods,
very picturesque. No wonder there are so many children: the "Guide-book"
(omniscient Mr. Murray!) says there are fifteen thousand paupers in the
town, and we know how such multiply. How the deuce do their children
look so fat and rosy? By eating dirt-pies, I suppose. I saw a couple
making a very nice savory one, and another employed in gravely sticking
strips of stick betwixt the pebbles at the house-door, and so making for
herself a stately garden. The men and women don't seem to have much more
to do. There are a couple of tall chimneys at either suburb of the town,
where no doubt manufactories are at work, but within the walls everybody
seems decently idle.

We have been, of course, abroad to visit the lions. The tower in the
Grand Place is very fine, and the bricks of which it is built do not
yield a whit in color to the best stone. The great building round this
tower is very like the pictures of the Ducal Palace at Venice; and there
is a long market area, with columns down the middle, from which hung
shreds of rather lean-looking meat, that would do wonders under the
hands of Cattermole or Haghe. In the tower there is a chime of bells
that keep ringing perpetually. They not only play tunes of themselves,
and every quarter of an hour, but an individual performs selections from
popular operas on them at certain periods of the morning, afternoon, and
evening. I have heard to-day "Suoni la Tromba," "Son Vergin Vezzosa,"
from the "Puritani," and other airs, and very badly they were played
too; for such a great monster as a tower-bell cannot be expected to
imitate Madame Grisi or even Signor Lablache. Other churches indulge in
the same amusement, so that one may come here and live in melody all day
or night, like the young woman in Moore's "Lalla Rookh."

In the matter of art, the chief attractions of Bruges are the pictures
of Hemling, that are to be seen in the churches, the hospital, and the
picture-gallery of the place. There are no more pictures of Rubens to
be seen, and, indeed, in the course of a fortnight, one has had quite
enough of the great man and his magnificent, swaggering canvases. What
a difference is here with simple Hemling and the extraordinary creations
of his pencil! The hospital is particularly rich in them; and the legend
there is that the painter, who had served Charles the Bold in his war
against the Swiss, and his last battle and defeat, wandered back wounded
and penniless to Bruges, and here found cure and shelter.

This hospital is a noble and curious sight. The great hall is almost
as it was in the twelfth century; it is spanned by Saxon arches, and
lighted by a multiplicity of Gothic windows of all sizes; it is very
lofty, clean, and perfectly well ventilated; a screen runs across the
middle of the room, to divide the male from the female patients, and we
were taken to examine each ward, where the poor people seemed happier
than possibly they would have been in health and starvation without it.
Great yellow blankets were on the iron beds, the linen was scrupulously
clean, glittering pewter-jugs and goblets stood by the side of each
patient, and they were provided with godly books (to judge from
the binding), in which several were reading at leisure. Honest old
comfortable nuns, in queer dresses of blue, black, white, and flannel,
were bustling through the room, attending to the wants of the sick. I
saw about a dozen of these kind women's faces: one was young--all were
healthy and cheerful. One came with bare blue arms and a great pile of
linen from an outhouse--such a grange as Cedric the Saxon might have
given to a guest for the night. A couple were in a laboratory, a tall,
bright, clean room, 500 years old at least. "We saw you were not
very religious," said one of the old ladies, with a red, wrinkled,
good-humored face, "by your behavior yesterday in chapel." And yet
we did not laugh and talk as we used at college, but were profoundly
affected by the scene that we saw there. It was a fete-day: a mass of
Mozart was sung in the evening--not well sung, and yet so exquisitely
tender and melodious, that it brought tears into our eyes. There were
not above twenty people in the church: all, save three or four, were
women in long black cloaks. I took them for nuns at first. They were,
however, the common people of the town, very poor indeed, doubtless,
for the priest's box that was brought round was not added to by most of
them, and their contributions were but two-cent pieces,--five of these
go to a penny; but we know the value of such, and can tell the exact
worth of a poor woman's mite! The box-bearer did not seem at first
willing to accept our donation--we were strangers and heretics; however,
I held out my hand, and he came perforce as it were. Indeed it had only
a franc in it: but que voulez-vous? I had been drinking a bottle of
Rhine wine that day, and how was I to afford more? The Rhine wine is
dear in this country, and costs four francs a bottle.

Well, the service proceeded. Twenty poor women, two Englishmen, four
ragged beggars, cowering on the steps; and there was the priest at the
altar, in a great robe of gold and damask, two little boys in white
surplices serving him, holding his robe as he rose and bowed, and the
money-gatherer swinging his censer, and filling the little chapel with
smoke. The music pealed with wonderful sweetness; you could see the prim
white heads of the nuns in their gallery. The evening light streamed
down upon old statues of saints and carved brown stalls, and lighted up
the head of the golden-haired Magdalen in a picture of the entombment
of Christ. Over the gallery, and, as it were, a kind protectress to the
poor below, stood the statue of the Virgin.



III.--WATERLOO.


It is, my dear, the happy privilege of your sex in England to quit the
dinner-table after the wine-bottles have once or twice gone round it,
and you are thereby saved (though, to be sure, I can't tell what the
ladies do up stairs)--you are saved two or three hours' excessive
dulness, which the men are obliged to go through.

I ask any gentleman who reads this--the letters to my Juliana being
written with an eye to publication--to remember especially how many
times, how many hundred times, how many thousand times, in his hearing,
the battle of Waterloo has been discussed after dinner, and to call to
mind how cruelly he has been bored by the discussion. "Ah, it was lucky
for us that the Prussians came up!" says one little gentleman, looking
particularly wise and ominous. "Hang the Prussians!" (or, perhaps,
something stronger "the Prussians!") says a stout old major on half-pay.
"We beat the French without them, sir, as beaten them we always have!
We were thundering down the hill of Belle Alliance, sir, at the backs
of them, and the French were crying 'Sauve qui peut' long before the
Prussians ever touched them!" And so the battle opens, and for many
mortal hours, amid rounds of claret, rages over and over again.

I thought to myself considering the above things, what a fine thing it
will be in after-days to say that I have been to Brussels and never seen
the field of Waterloo; indeed, that I am such a philosopher as not to
care a fig about the battle--nay, to regret, rather, that when Napoleon
came back, the British Government had not spared their men and left him
alone.

But this pitch of philosophy was unattainable. This morning, after
having seen the Park, the fashionable boulevard, the pictures, the
cafes--having sipped, I say, the sweets of every flower that grows in
this paradise of Brussels, quite weary of the place, we mounted on a
Namur diligence, and jingled off at four miles an hour for Waterloo.

The road is very neat and agreeable: the Forest of Soignies here and
there interposes pleasantly, to give your vehicle a shade; the country,
as usual, is vastly fertile and well cultivated. A farmer and the
conducteur were my companions in the imperial, and could I have
understood their conversation, my dear, you should have had certainly a
report of it. The jargon which they talked was, indeed, most queer and
puzzling--French, I believe, strangely hashed up and pronounced, for
here and there one could catch a few words of it. Now and anon, however,
they condescended to speak in the purest French they could muster; and,
indeed, nothing is more curious than to hear the French of the country.
You can't understand why all the people insist upon speaking it so
badly. I asked the conductor if he had been at the battle; he burst out
laughing like a philosopher, as he was, and said "Pas si bete." I asked
the farmer whether his contributions were lighter now than in King
William's time, and lighter than those in the time of the Emperor? He
vowed that in war-time he had not more to pay than in time of peace (and
this strange fact is vouched for by every person of every nation),
and being asked wherefore the King of Holland had been ousted from
his throne, replied at once, "Parceque c'etoit un voleur:" for which
accusation I believe there is some show of reason, his Majesty having
laid hands on much Belgian property before the lamented outbreak which
cost him his crown. A vast deal of laughing and roaring passed between
these two worldly people and the postilion, whom they called "baron,"
and I thought no doubt that this talk was one of the many jokes that my
companions were in the habit of making. But not so: the postilion was an
actual baron, the bearer of an ancient name, the descendant of gallant
gentlemen. Good heavens! what would Mrs. Trollope say to see his
lordship here? His father the old baron had dissipated the family
fortune, and here was this young nobleman, at about five-and-forty,
compelled to bestride a clattering Flemish stallion, and bump over dusty
pavements at the rate of five miles an hour. But see the beauty of high
blood: with what a calm grace the man of family accommodates himself to
fortune. Far from being cast down, his lordship met his fate like a man:
he swore and laughed the whole of the journey, and as we changed horses,
condescended to partake of half a pint of Louvain beer, to which the
farmer treated him--indeed the worthy rustic treated me to a glass too.

Much delight and instruction have I had in the course of the journey
from my guide, philosopher, and friend, the author of "Murray's
Handbook." He has gathered together, indeed, a store of information,
and must, to make his single volume, have gutted many hundreds of
guide-books. How the Continental ciceroni must hate him, whoever he is!
Every English party I saw had this infallible red book in their hands,
and gained a vast deal of historical and general information from it.
Thus I heard, in confidence, many remarkable anecdotes of Charles V.,
the Duke of Alva, Count Egmont, all of which I had before perceived,
with much satisfaction, not only in the "Handbook," but even in other
works.

The Laureate is among the English poets evidently the great favorite of
our guide: the choice does honor to his head and heart. A man must have
a very strong bent for poetry, indeed, who carries Southey's works in
his portmanteau, and quotes them in proper time and occasion. Of course
at Waterloo a spirit like our guide's cannot fail to be deeply moved,
and to turn to his favorite poet for sympathy. Hark how the laureated
bard sings about the tombstones at Waterloo:--

         "That temple to our hearts was hallow'd now,
            For many a wounded Briton there was laid,
          With such for help as time might then allow,
            From the fresh carnage of the field conveyed.
          And they whom human succor could not save,
            Here, in its precincts, found a hasty grave.
          And here, on marble tablets, set on high,
            In English lines by foreign workmen traced,
          The names familiar to an English eye,
            Their brethren here the fit memorial placed;
          Whose unadorned inscriptions briefly tell
            THEIR GALLANT COMRADES' rank, and where they fell.
          The stateliest monument of human pride,
            Enriched with all magnificence of art,
          To honor chieftains who in victory died,
            Would wake no stronger feeling in the heart
          Than these plain tablets by the soldier's hand
            Raised to his comrades in a foreign land."

There are lines for you! wonderful for justice, rich in thought and
novel ideas. The passage concerning their gallant comrades' rank should
be specially remarked. There indeed they lie, sure enough: the Honorable
Colonel This of the Guards, Captain That of the Hussars, Major So-and-So
of the Dragoons, brave men and good, who did their duty by their country
on that day, and died in the performance of it.

Amen. But I confess fairly, that in looking at these tablets, I felt
very much disappointed at not seeing the names of the MEN as well as the
officers. Are they to be counted for nought? A few more inches of marble
to each monument would have given space for all the names of the men;
and the men of that day were the winners of the battle. We have a right
to be as grateful individually to any given private as to any given
officer; their duties were very much the same. Why should the country
reserve its gratitude for the genteel occupiers of the army-list,
and forget the gallant fellows whose humble names were written in the
regimental books? In reading of the Wellington wars, and the conduct
of the men engaged in them, I don't know whether to respect them or
to wonder at them most. They have death, wounds, and poverty in
contemplation; in possession, poverty, hard labor, hard fare, and
small thanks. If they do wrong, they are handed over to the inevitable
provost-marshal; if they are heroes, heroes they may be, but they
remain privates still, handling the old brown-bess, starving on the old
twopence a day. They grow gray in battle and victory, and after thirty
years of bloody service, a young gentleman of fifteen, fresh from a
preparatory school, who can scarcely read, and came but yesterday with a
pinafore in to papa's dessert--such a young gentleman, I say, arrives
in a spick-and-span red coat, and calmly takes the command over our
veteran, who obeys him as if God and nature had ordained that so
throughout time it should be.

That privates should obey, and that they should be smartly punished if
they disobey, this one can understand very well. But to say obey for
ever and ever--to say that Private John Styles is, by some physical
disproportion, hopelessly inferior to Cornet Snooks--to say that Snooks
shall have honors, epaulets, and a marble tablet if he dies, and that
Styles shall fight his fight, and have his twopence a day, and when
shot down shall be shovelled into a hole with other Styleses, and so
forgotten; and to think that we had in the course of the last war
some 400,000 of these Styleses, and some 10,000, say, of the Snooks
sort--Styles being by nature exactly as honest, clever, and brave as
Snooks--and to think that the 400,000 should bear this, is the wonder!

Suppose Snooks makes a speech. "Look at these Frenchmen, British
soldiers," says he, "and remember who they are. Two-and-twenty years
since they hurled their King from his throne and murdered him" (groans).
"They flung out of their country their ancient and famous nobility--they
published the audacious doctrine of equality--they made a cadet
of artillery, a beggarly lawyer's son, into an Emperor, and took
ignoramuses from the ranks--drummers and privates, by Jove!--of whom
they made kings, generals, and marshals! Is this to be borne?" (Cries of
"No! no!") "Upon them, my boys! down with these godless revolutionists,
and rally round the British lion!"

So saying, Ensign Snooks (whose flag, which he can't carry, is held by
a huge grizzly color-sergeant,) draws a little sword, and pipes out a
feeble huzza. The men of his company, roaring curses at the Frenchmen,
prepare to receive and repel a thundering charge of French cuirassiers.
The men fight, and Snooks is knighted because the men fought so well.

But live or die, win or lose, what do THEY get? English glory is too
genteel to meddle with those humble fellows. She does not condescend to
ask the names of the poor devils whom she kills in her service. Why was
not every private man's name written upon the stones in Waterloo Church
as well as every officer's? Five hundred pounds to the stone-cutters
would have served to carve the whole catalogue, and paid the poor
compliment of recognition to men who died in doing their duty. If the
officers deserved a stone, the men did. But come, let us away and drop a
tear over the Marquis of Anglesea's leg!

As for Waterloo, has it not been talked of enough after dinner? Here are
some oats that were plucked before Hougoumont, where grow not only
oats, but flourishing crops of grape-shot, bayonets, and legion-of-honor
crosses, in amazing profusion.

Well, though I made a vow not to talk about Waterloo either here or
after dinner, there is one little secret admission that one must make
after seeing it. Let an Englishman go and see that field, and he NEVER
FORGETS IT. The sight is an event in his life; and, though it has been
seen by millions of peaceable GENTS--grocers from Bond Street, meek
attorneys from Chancery Lane, and timid tailors from Piccadilly--I will
wager that there is not one of them but feels a glow as he looks at the
place, and remembers that he, too, is an Englishman.

It is a wrong, egotistical, savage, unchristian feeling, and that's
the truth of it. A man of peace has no right to be dazzled by that
red-coated glory, and to intoxicate his vanity with those remembrances
of carnage and triumph. The same sentence which tells us that on earth
there ought to be peace and good-will amongst men, tells us to whom
GLORY belongs.





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