« AnteriorContinuar »
After various accidents by flood and field, he returns home, clears his character from all that has been alleged against it, is rewarded by gaining the hand of his beloved Agnes, and seeing his sister Emily married to his friend Ernest Bonner. The moral of the tale is, that virtue and religion will ultimately overcome slander and misrepresentation.
Mr. Victor Hugo is a veteran French writer, known to all lovers of literature as one of the writers of the best of modern historical novels. He has written "Hans of Iceland," a work full of romantic incident and scenery. It is a Norwegian legend, in which a strange monster of a man is contemplated in contrast with a lovely young virgin, for whom the greatest sympathy is sought to be excited by the author. “Bug-jargal” is another of M. Hugo's romances, and is drawn from the annals of the revolt of the slaves in Domingo, in the memorable year of 1791. “The last day of a man condemned to Death,” is another of those peculiar romances which shows the genius and peculiarities of the mind of M. Hugo in a very striking manner.
The work before us, the “Notre Dame de Paris," is the largest which has as yet been published by this gentleman. The scene of the romance is exclusively in Paris, and it is laid in the year 1482, one of the most remarkable periods in the annals of France. It is a strange and wayward tale, in which fatality forms one of its leading features. The origin of the plan took place in the church of Notre Dame, where the author some few years since was exploring every corner of that noble cathedral. He found in a dark corner, during his researches in one of the towers this word in Greek capitals, evidently engraven by a hand on the wall, ANAGKE.
These characters, black with age and deeply cut in the stone, with certain peculiarities of form and posture belonging to the Gothic calligraphy, as if to declare that they had been traced there by some hand of the middle ages,--and above all, the dismal and fatal meaning they conveyed, -struck the author forcibly. He asked himself, he strove to divine, what suffering spirit it might be, that had determined not to quit this life without stamping this memento of crime or misfortune. on the walls of the old cathedral. Since then, the wall has been washed over, or scraped-he remembered not which-and the inscription has disappeared. For thus it is that the wonderful churches of the middle ages have been dealt with for two hundred years past: mutilation attacks them in every direction, from within as well as from without; the priest smears them over-the architect scrapes them—then come the people and demolish them. Thus, excepting only the frail memory here preserved of it by the author of this book, nothing now remains of the mysterious word engraven in the gloomy tower of Notre-Damenothing of the unknown destiny which it so mournfully enfolded. The man who wrote that word upon that wall, passed away several centuries ago from among men—the word, in its turn, has passed away from the walls of the church--the church itself will soon, perhaps, pass away from the face of the earth. Upon that word it is that this book has been written.
We must be content with this short summary, as, to give the plot such as it is, and many specimens of the scenes, would require that this article should be considerably protracted. It is, however, an exceedingly amusing work, and ‘is a record of some of the old ridiculous customs which used to take place in former times in Paris. Scattered here and there, throughout the work, may be found materials, which, in combination, would form a very good description of that city, in antient times. An outline of this condition is given in the first volume; and, as it is at once a very fair sample of the author, and of the judicious and intelligent translator, we shall present it to the reader.
And if you would receive from the old city an impression which the modern one is quite incapable of giving you, ascend, on the morning of some great holiday, at sunrise, on Easter or Whit-Sunday, to some elevated point from which your eye can command the whole capital, and attend the awakening of the chimes. Behold, at a signal from heaven-for it is the sun that gives it—those thousand churches starting from their sleep. At first you hear only scattered tinklings, going from church to church, as when musicians are giving one another notice to begin. Then, all on a sudden, behold-for, there are moments when the ear itself seems to see-behold, ascending at the same moment, from every steeple, a column of sound as it were, a cloud of harmony! At first the vibration of each bell mounts up direct, clear, and, as it were, isolated from the rest, into the splendid morning sky: then, by degrees, as they expand, they mingle, unite, are lost in each other, and confounded in one magnificent concert, Then it is all one mass of sonorous vibrations, incessantly sent forth from the innumerable steeples-floating, undulating, bounding, and eddying, over the town, and extending far beyond the horizon the deafening circle of its oscillations. Yet that sea of harmony is not a chaos. Wide and deep as it is, it has not lost its transparency : you perceive the winding of each group of notes that
from the several rings: you can follow the dialogue, by turns grave and clamorous, of the crecelle and the bourdon: you perceive the octaves leaping from one steeple to another ; you observe them springing aloft, winged, light, and whistling, from the bell of silver; falling broken and limping from the bell of wood. You admire among them the rich gamut incessantly descending and reascending the seven bells of St. Eustache ; and you see clear and rapid notes, running across, as it were, in three or four luminous zigzags, and vanishing like flashes of lightning. Down there you see Saint Martin's Abbey, a shrill and broken-voiced songstress : here is the sinister and sullen yoice of the Bastille : and at the other end is the great tower of the Louyre, with its counter-tenor. The royal chime of the Palais unceasingly casts on every side resplendent trillings, upon which fall, at regular intervals, the heavy strokes from the great bell of Notre-Dame, which strike sparkles from them like the hammer upon the anvil. At intervals, you perceive sounds pass by, of every form, from the triple peal of Saint Germain-desPrès. Then, again, from time to time, that mass of sublime sounds half
opens, and gives passage to the stretto of the Ave-Maria, which glitters like an aigrette of stars. Below, in the deepest of the concert, you distinguish confusedly the internal music of the churches, exhaled through the vibrating pores of their vaulted roofs. Here, certainly, is an opera worth hearing. Ordinarily, the murmur that escapes from Paris in the day-time, is the city talking ; in the night, it is the city breathing; but here, it is the city singing. Listen, then, to this tutti of the steeplesdiffuse over the whole the murmur of half a million of people—the everlasting plaint of the river-the boundless breathings of the wind-the grave and far quartet of the four forests placed upon the hills, in the distance, like so many vast organs,—immersing in them, as in a demitint, all in the central concert that would otherwise be too rugged or too sharp ;-and then say whether you know of anything in the world more rich, more joyous, more golden, more dazzling, than this tumult of bells and chimes—this furnace of music—these thousand voices of brass, all singing together in flutes of stone three hundred feet highấthis city which is all one orchestra-this symphony as loud as a tempest.'--Vol. i. pp. 307–310.
We strongly recommend this clever work as a very interesting treat.
ART, X.-Domestic Manners and Social Condition of the White,
Coloured, and Negro Population of the West Indies. By Mrs. CARMICHAEL, five Years a Resident in St. Vincent and
Trinidad. In 2 vols. 8vo. London: Whittaker & Co. 1833. These volumes are the result of five years' experience, on the part of a very clever lady, in the islands of St. Vincent and Trinidad ; and although the principal portion of the work may be regarded as locally connected with these places, yet it is, from the peculiar identity with one another which prevails in the West India colonies, as strictly applicable to any of the islands as it is to the two just mentioned.
Mrs. Carmichael sets out with a sketch of the white population, and takes an early occasion to commence a most vigorous defence of that much-abused, but, in her estimation, purely innocent character—the West India planter. The planters, she declares, from her own experience, are hard-working men; up before sunrise, and often the first in the field of a morning, and generally the last there at night. Many of them, in these hard times, keep no manager, and they have only two overseers to assist in the regulation of the estate, and these must be white men. With hardly an exception, she says, drinking to excess is unknown among planters, -or indeed luxury of any description : destitute of those common comforts which every British farmer enjoys, but which no money can purchase in a tropical country, they are also without those luxuries which are to be found in the East Indies. Some few indeed have good houses ; but the majority are contented with a very humble dwelling, furnished too in the simplest style imaginable.
Again, planters are miserably off with respect of servants : between the negligence, and theft, and ignorance of this class, the domestic life of a planter is rendered an annoyance. But he does not bear the burden alone; for, if there be any truth in the representation given by the authoress of the duties of a planter's wite, the career of a galley-slave must be a paradise to it. In most of the colonies, but she can answer positively for St. Vincent, there are few children who remain in the island after having attained ten or twelve years of age; and why?--because--she says, there is no possibility of procuring either public or private teachers, beyond merely in reading and writing, and those of very ordinary attainments; and it is needless to say, that, even were a mother sufficiently well informed, and calculated, from her natural talents and temper, to educate her daughters at home, her other domestic duties are of so arduous a nature as totally to preclude her doing so. Some few families have tried a governess, but it has been found not to answer; for, they almost invariably marry soon after coming out; so that at present there is really no alternative, excepting that of sending children to Europe, or leaving them to grow up totally ignorant. As for boys, there is no possibility of educating them in the West Indies. It is obvious how such a practice as this must subvert every principle of domestic relationship. The parents, from the moment of the birth of a child, look upon him as being devoted to a premature separation with them; they fondle and spoil him-he is sent away for his education-and, in nine cases out of ten, never comes back at all. The girls, who are treated in the same way, come back, it is true, but they seldom remain long at home before they get husbands. Another influence operating on these children, is the necessary associations which they must, in early life, cultivate with the negroes. Mrs. Carmichael appears very anxious, in this place, to refute the imputation that the young Creoles are not only permitted, but absolutely encouraged, to use the negroes, both old and young, tyrannically. She denies that such a system exists; and, although she admits that the children would act oppressively against the negroes, still it is only the same treatment as they adopt towards every body else. The children of colonists in general, says Mrs. Carmichael, from being neglected in their early education, and left without steady or systematic control from either parent, do conduct themselves, with few exceptions, in a manner regardless of the feelings of those around them; but that they do this to all who come in their way, and to their parents generally more determinedly than to any others.
Pursuing the description of the white population, the authoress treats us with a detailed account of West India dinner; but there appears to be nothing strikingly novel in it. To be sure, it was, like all such entertainments in the same quarter, a load of substantials; but there was also a negligence and ignorance displayed by the servants in putting down the dishes, which seems to have disappointed the lady very poignantly. Many of the guests brought their servants with them, and there was therefore an immense concourse of them, of all descriptions; some with livery, and some without; some with shoes, but generally without; some wore white jackets, others were of coloured striped jean; some were young, some old; some were coloured, and others negro men; there was no arrangement, co-operation, or agreement among the servants, save only in one thing—and that was iņ stealing; for, a bottle of wine was hardly opened, until some clever hand whipped it away, and, without any apparent fear of detection or sense of shame, openly handed it out of the window to those in waiting to receive it. In short, the servants' mouths were stuffed full the whole time; and so occupied were they all in making the most of a good opportunity, that the ladies' plates would never have been changed, had it not been for the repeated and loud reproof of the gentlemen.
A very poor account is given in this work of the religious condition of the whites, particularly in respect of the instruction of the negroes. She does not hesitate to say that, as far as she could find out, religion occupied very little the attention of the great majority of society; and still there was very little opposition to it. With many families, there was the strictest decorum on this subject, as far as this could be proved by regularly attending church ; but, in general, they acted as if the Sabbath day ended when the bell tolled for the conclusion of the morning service. During her residence in St. Vincent, there was no evening service, And she adds, I would say generally, however, that satisfied with a certain form of religion and morality, I seldom or ever met with any one who seemed ever to think seriously upon the subject of religion. I saw' no one read religious books, nor did there seem any desire to peruse works of this description.
It is remarkable that fish should form the principal fond of all classes of white people. The common family dinner of a West India planter is much inferior, both in quantity and quality, to that of people in the very middling ranks of life at home, so high is the price of all necessaries of life in these colonies. Many and many a respectable family, she tells us, have for dinner every day nothing more than the jack-fish, a roasted plantain or yam, with occasionally, as a treat, å bit of salt pork. Those who are settled in the island a long time, are so habituated to this style of living, that their usual mode of inviting a friend is— Come and eat fish with us.' A chapter on the coloured population succeeds: it is unfavourable to them, but contains nothing which particularly deserves to be dwelt upon. In speaking of the negro population, Mrs. Carmichael commences by meeting the oft-repeated charge
vol. IV. (1833) NO. I.