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The widow of the poet, yet not solely living under the shadow of his great name, revisiting the country where she left the mortal remains of those most beloved-husband and children-is a picture full of sad reminiscences, but enlivened in this case by the presence of a son, whose opening career of life just brightening the solitudes and struggles of the past into promises of happier days, made the intellect sensible that a new generation had sprung up since graves opened on the path of life, and aroused frequent and strong sympathies with the future.
Mrs. Shelley is a traveller by feeling, as well as by experience ; for a real traveller can no more be made than a poet. It is a birthright, which gives to one person a little in many countries. The path followed may be one wellbeaten, and often traversed, by people of all kinds of sentiment and persuasions, for so many men, so many opinions; but a traveller, worthy of that name, is indifferent to that immutabilitas materiæ which appals the crowd, and confers, by the power of originality, new forms and new features upon the most familiar objects, and renders what is a solitude to many, instinct with life and feeling.
It is a privilege to be allowed to emigrate in such good company. “I feel a good deal of the gipsy coming upon me," says the amiable author, “ now that I am leaving Paris....... Among acquaintance, in the every-day scenes of life, want of means brings with it mortification, to embitter still more the perpetual necessity of self-denial. In society you are weighed with others according to your extrinsic possessions-your income, your connexiors, your position, make all the weight-you yourself are a mere feather in the scale. But what are these to me now? My home is the readiest means of conveyance I can command, or the inn at which I shall remain at night; my only acquaintance, the companions of my wanderings; the single business of my life to enjoy the passing scene."
Very bitter, but very true. The ancients were not wrong when they asserted, that he spends his life most advantageously who, from the cradle to the grave, passes it in privacy. Not privacy from nature, for our author is full of sympathies with the external world. “God,” she says, “ has not reduced our dwelling-place, as puritans would his, to a bare meeting-house :" "the beauty of the creation makes us full of gratitude and love for the Creator.”
The path followed by Mrs. Shelley and her companions is now a trodden one. It was not so much so in 1840. They attained the Rhine by the winding Moselle, whose sluggish waters were not then disturbed by the noisy paddles of steamboats; and a zest was then added to a voyage then unhackneyed by others, and hence accompanied a dash of uncertainty and the sense of novelty.
The Rhine was ascended to Mayence ; Baden-Baden was reached by Frankfort, Heidelberg, and Carlsruhe; the Hollenthal and the Swartzwald ("the Germans," says Mrs. Shelley, “ know how to give the glory of spirit-stirring names to their valleys and their forests, very different from the Little Woman, a muddy creek of America") led the way to Schaffhausen; and the Alps, which are only looked upon by the author as “the barriers to Italy,” are crossed by the Splugen, till the lake of Como is gained, and there the party rest awhile.
On such a journey it was almost impossible to discover anything new. The ruined castles and their ramparts were as extensive and as majestic as ever ; and the antique spires and Gothic abbeys spoke of the same princely clergy; ravines were shadowy, precipices beetling, hills tower-crowned, and ruins picturesque ; but where every name is the title of a volume of romance, there was no possibility of dragging from some hitherto unexplored nook, even a fragment which had novelty to boast of; equally impossible was it to invent a new term for Heidelberg ; or not to find rouge et noir at Baden-Baden ; or to
* Rambles in Germany and Italy, in 1840, 1842, and 1843. By Mrs. Shelley. 2 vols. 8vo. E. Moxon, London,
people the Black Forest with shadows more grim or fearful than has already been done by the mystic mind that dwells within its own savageness. But in exchange there is a tone and feeling, a manner in which old and familiar objects are viewed, which lends to them new interest and freshness. “What lives," says the author, “ did the ancient inhabitants of those crumbling ruins lead! The occupation of the men was war; that of the women, to hope, to fear, to pray, and to embroider. Very often, not having enough of the first in the usual course of their existence, they contrived a little more, which led to an extra quantity of the second and third ingredients of their lives, and in the end to many a grievous tragedy. Wayward human nature will rebel against mental sloth. We must act, suffer, or enjoy; or the worst of all torments is ours—such restless agony as old poets figured as befalling a living soul imprisoned in the bark of a tree. We are not born cabbages. The lady waiting at home for her husband, either quaked for fear, or relieved the tedium of protracted absence as she best might, too happy if death or a dungeon were not the result.”
The residence on the shores of the lake of Como, otherwise a mingled scene of reminiscences and pleasurable enjoyments, was rendered somewhat distressing by a curious circumstance. Young Shelley and his collegiate friends had selected this spot wherein to pursue their studies, on account of their passion for water. All the lakes in the southern slopes of the Alps, from that of Como to Lago di Garda,
“ te Lari maxime, teque Fluctibus et frerintu Assurgens, Benaæ, Marino ?” have a sad renown from mediæval and more remote times for wreck and danger. It is not surprising that after the irreparable loss which Mrs. Shelley once sustained from a similar cause, that she shoáld on this occasion have re-experienced many apprehensions. One whose life," she says, " has been stained by tragedy, can never regain a healthy tone of mind—if it be healthy, that is, consonant to the laws of human life—not to fear for those we love."
The light skiff selected by young Shelley became a blot upon the surface of the otherwise beauteous lake, which
at once took away more than half its charms. The first night of her arrival, the author writes, “ It is night; the sky is dark; the waves lash the shore. I pray that no ruin arising from that fatal element may befal me here." The evening the boat arrived was one of pain and shuddering. She is, however, as usual on such occasions, scolded for her apprehensions, gets into the boat herself, and is twice nearly upset, till at length her heart is rejoiced by the boat being taken away a little before their departure, happily leaving them all scatheless.
Nocet empta dolore voluptas : “ Pleasures bought at the expense of pain are not worth the purchase."
Pleasure is an abstract feeling, made up of so many little ministering causes, that it is not surprising if Mrs. Shelley's feelings were strongly pre-engaged in favour of Italy and of the Italians. After the ascent up the bleak, bare, northern Swiss side of an Alp, the descent into vernal Italy is compared to the opening of the eyes of a saint, after dreary old age and the sickness of death, in Paradise; and in the ascent (returning) of the Simplon she could find no relish for the scenery, because " the horses' heads were turned the wrong way.” “Surely, on earth,” she exclaims, “ there is no pleasure (excepting that derived from moral good) so great as lingering, during the soft shades of an Italian evening, surrounded by all the beauty of an Italian landscape, sheltered by the pure radiance of an Italian sky!" Nor is her enthusiasm in favour of the Italians themselves much less fervent, although tempered by just and true views of their actual, moral, intellectual
, and political condition. “I love the Italians !" she exclaims, in the warmth of her heart. “ It is impossible to live among them and not love them. Their faults are many—the faults of the oppressed-love of pleasure, disregard of truth, indolence, and violence of temper.” And elsewhere she says, “I have spoken in praise of the Italians; but you must not imagine that I would exalt them to an unreal height—that were to shew that misrule and a misguiding religion were no evils. It is when I see what these people are—and from their intelligence, their sensitive organization, and native grace, I gather what they might be that I mourn over man's lost state in this country.”
On the occasion of the subsequent visit made to Italy, in 1842 and '43, the literature and present condition of the country are entered upon with more detail, and fill several entertaining and instructive chapters of the second volume.
The latter peregrination is penned in a very different tone to the first. The joyousness derived from the companionship of youth, and even from the promises of the future, appears to be altogether damped by sickness and nervous despondency, and there is much greater fastidiousness in regard to the creature comforts. But this last journey is by far the most comprehensive, and is, in many parts, more maturely and more carefully brought out. It comprises Bavaria and its watering places, Weimar and its poets' graves, Berlin and its galleries, Dresden and its collections, Prague and its wild legends, Lintz and Saltzburg—in our ideas, imperfectly understood--the Tyrol, and reminiscences of the immortal Hofer, Venice, Florence, and Rome.
Deep as is our author's love of nature, the great creations of art enshrined in the cities here mentioned are the inexhaustible wells from whence she draws for long and happily descriptive materials. Mrs. Shelley disclaims pretensions to connoisseurship; nor yet does she lay claim to that untaught instinct which says, “I do not know what is called good; but I know what pleases me." She believes good taste, in matters of art, to result from natural powers, joined to familiarity with the best productions; and she has an opinion of her own, venturing to differ with Sir Joshua Reynolds in the question of colour v. drawing; and still more especially does she love to dwell with the rapt poetry of those religious paintings which, in the Romish church, concentrate, vivity, and exalt the faith of intellectual worshippers, whatever they may do to the uneducated image.adorers.
Mrs. Shelley's admiration is raised to its highest by the contemplation of the fresco of Leonardo di Vinci. “Ilow vain," she exclaims, “ are copies! Not in one, nor in any print, did I ever see the slightest approach to the expressions in our Saviour's face, such as it is in the original. Majesty and love—these are the words that would describe it-joined to an absence of all guile, that expresses the divine nature more visibly than I ever saw it in any other picture.” We participate partly in these high encomiums of a now fading fresco ; and we know that, in the Crista Della Moneta, of Titian, in the Dresden gallery, that nothing is wanting in the expression of gentleness, resignation, love, and suffering ; but still we are much inclined to think that we possess in the cartoons of Raphael one of the most perfect representations of our Saviour which piety, aided by genius, ever achieved. No doubt, no fear, no care, no anxiety, no reproof, is in that face, but the music inspired by the certainty of the triumphs which the scheme of divine benevolence is to effect through the dauntless exertions of the lovely little band before him, breathes with unalloyed sublimity from an almost faultless countenance and gently-opened lips.
Our notice of this work, embracing so many different subjects, is necessarily brief-a touchstone notice, rather than a real analysis—but we feel persuaded that it is sufficient to induce those who have already travelled the same path az Mrs. Shelley to retrace their steps in such sensible and agreeable company, and that those who have not yet visited the same realms of intellectual enjoyment will be allured away by these sweetly-reflective pages.
The Land of Promise. A Tale. Written in aid of the Saint Ann's Society. By the Baroness de Calabrella. 8vo. pp. 92.-A labour of love-clad, not in the sober-coloured garments of charity, but in sumptuous clothing of blue and gold-places itself evidently beyond the pale of ordinary criticism. The “ Land of Promise" is an abstract idea of what this world could be rendered, supposing every action to be regulated in anticipation of that rapid and final review of all past transactions, which is supposed to flit before the mind previous to dissolution. The reader is ingeniously seduced to contemplate ordinary life under such a philosophical aspect, by à pleasing and simple tale, woven, with the accomplished authoress's customary skill, into the moral which she designs to convey.
WERE we to imagine certain spots of country to be aboriginally designed as coverts for the world's wanderers, commonly called gipsies, there is one wild and savage-featured valley in South Wales which might seem expressly adapted to their wants, as the rock recess to the eagle's eyrie, it is called Cwm Cothey—a beautiful winding dale embosoming the pastoral river Cothey, Carmarthenshire. And it so happens, that a young beauty of that wandering tribe (becoming tragically famous in our rustic annals) has taken a name from this Alpine dell
, and in return bestowed a local celebrity on its solitude. Lydia Ceombe is the Anglicised name of this unfortunate gipsy heroine, derived from the word Cwm (a valley), pronounced Coom— whence the more common proper name Coombe, by which she is known, she having been born in this vale.
The father of this girl was known by the name of the “gipsy giant,” and long made his haunt of this sequestered neighbourhood. He was a man of great personal strength and beauty, and possessed a mind perhaps of natural powers almost equal to his bodily; but evil passions had driven him from out the pale of society at first, and the wild liberty of houseless life congenial to his nature, had permanently attached him to its habits. He was accompanied by a wretched, faded, but still beautiful woman, evidently not of the tawny fraternity, for she was fair in spite of sun and storm; and it was whispered, had “rushed madly from her sphere,” (one of no mean order,) charmed by the glozing tongue and noble form of her gipsy seducer. However this was, she soon expiated her frailty (for she had forsaken a husband) by death; Samson, as he was called, striking her a fatal blow in an ungovernable passion. Prior to this, a dark rumour had run among the cottagers that he had murdered a child with which she had presented him, before the period that rendered his paternity certain. In the doubt of this, her savage seducer had conceived a hatred of the innocent infant, as possibly the offspring of the husband she had forsaken; and this hatred it appeared he had gratified by its destruction. Some threat on her part, of denouncing him to justice, it was believed, led to the murderous act. Standing, tearless, over the corpse of the unhappy woman, lying at the tent's mouth, after submitting himself to the legal power, while the infant Lydia (the second and undoubted fruit of their guilty union) lay crying within, the savage father thus addressed his farewell to a boy about thirteen years old, who was trying, amidst all his grief and terror, to pacify the motherless little one-his half-sister:
“ Boy, if I escape the gibbet for this, (for it can't be wilful murder -it was all passion,) I shall come back to you yet, after some seven or fourteen years. For this helpless little wretch do your best to keep her alive; and if you cannot, knock her on the head, or plunge her into one of the dark pools here. Don't let me find her, if I should
return, eating workhouse bread, or drudging like a slave for bread as bitter—the wages of her slavery. Bring her up a gipsy, or let her die. You are a good boy, and clever. Go on basket-making, and stick to the spots where the osiers are plenty, and the great rushes that we make tapers of; you can beg the household grease, and these Cothey herdsmen have soft hearts enough, and will not be niggard of milk and meal for the poor baby, (you must always talk of her to the wives.) Shun the cursed city, and hard-hearted townfolk, and make your home of this fine greensward and river bank. Though that wretched woman,” pointing to the dead, “was the cause of this bad turn, by her sulky misery, that maddened me, and by her taunting me about the child we lost-curse her white face, and the hour I first saw it! I say, whatever you may feel towards her-seem to pity her, and however you may pity me, sent over the seas for one blow too hard, seem to hate me.”
The selfish savage forgot himself for one minute in parting from the boy-his favourite child, as being the offspring of his first and only real passion. The mother had died in giving him birth. Dashing off one tear that gathered in his eye, while the boy hung on his fettered hand, the felon forsook the tent and vale for the gaol, there to await judgment and retribution for his crime. His doom was transportation for life.
The young boy Gilbert fulfilled the part of both parents to the desolate orphan of the tent and solitary dale. While he pursued those simple trades which these singular people practise, this most lonely child of that lonely region—the forsaken Lydia, lay listening in the still noon-day for her half-brother's step, would crawl when of strength sufficient, to the tent's mouth, to gather the cowslips or harebells that spring profusely in the shelter of the lofty walls of rocks, there tapestried with many-coloured mosses, and affording growth to overhanging trees. Every echo of a herdsman's voice high up in the green chasms, calling across to some shepherd or cabin, made her small heart palpitate with expectation of that only human being she heard or saw, by night or day, unless when some curious cottager would steal to the tent, kiss and pity the little infant-hermit, who only wept with disappointment at the strange face and unwelcome arms. Such visitors often brought her milk, and the finer oaten cake, and left wool for her softer bedding at night.
The fond and faithful brother, as she grew older, was often seen bearing her at his back to distant spots where materials for his trade were to be sought, that he might enjoy her society, and she his. Her earliest efforts at speech were taught by him; to him addressed, while he sat plaiting rushes or osiers by the romantic river. The simple housewives of the lofty white cottage farmhouses, dotting the green precipices all about, became fondly attached to this remarkable boy, at once father, mother, and fondest brother to this most forlorn, otherwise, of infants. She grew more and more striking for beauty, and obtained the name of “the beauty of the cwm.”
That beauty, after some sixteen years, attracted the eyes of a youth belonging to a tribe of gipsies located on the other side of the vast bank, forming one barrier of her native valley; and Lydia, for the first time, learned to look with anxious longing for another form than that of her life's companion-her heart's brother-her childhood's nurse.