Imágenes de páginas

She seems to have liked not a little to divert herself with the odd and the ludicrous, and shows herself in the earlier letters passionately fond of balls and races and London company; this was natural enough at eighteen. Perhaps you may not so easily pardon her for having early settled her mind, as she evidently had, not to marry except for an establishment. This seems to show a want of some of those fine feelings that one expects in youth: but when it is considered that she was the daughter of a country gentleman with a large family, and no fortune to expect, and her connexions all in high life, one is disposed to pardon her, especially as I dare say she would never have married a fool or a profligate. I heard her say, what I suppose very few can say, that she never was in love in her life. Many of the letters are in fact essays; and I think had she turned her thoughts to write in that way, she would have excelled Johnson.'

Further on, in a letter to Mrs. Fletcher, dated Sept. 1813, this subject is again alluded to:

[ocr errors]

I am now reading the third and fourth volumes of Mrs. Montague's Letters. To me, who have lived through all the time she writes of, they are interesting, independent of the wit and talent,

as recalling a number of persons and events once present to my mind: they are also, I think, very entertaining, though, as letters, somewhat studied. With all her advantages she seems not to have been happy. She married not Mr. Montague from affection. It is evident she looked upon him as a wise and kind friend, but nothing more;-a little too wise sometimes, when he kept her in the country longer than she liked. To a person so married, nothing will fill the mind and give a permanent interest to life, but children. She lost her child; and notwithstanding all that nature and all that fortune had given, and high cultivation, and chosen society, and public esteem, she speaks of life as a thing to be got through, rather than to be enjoyed.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Want of space compels us to pass over many interesting notices of then important events, chiefly of a literary nature. Her opinion of Charles Lamb's specimens of old plays is expressed in brief but favorable terms. A caution to Mrs. Taylor, against allowing mind to wear out body, or, as Leigh Hunt phrases it, not "seeing fair play between them," is so lively, and, at the same time, so just, that we must give it for the benefit of any sedentary liver who may happen to open our Review:

• Mind is often very hard upon his humble yoke-fellow, sometimes speaking contemptuously of her, as being of a low, mean family, in comparison with himself; often abridging her food or natural rest for his whims. Many a head-ache has he given her when, but for him, she would be quietly resting in her bed. Sometimes he fancies that she hangs as a dead weight upon him, and impedes all his motions; yet it is well known, that


though he gives himself such airs of superiority, he can in fact do nothing without her; and since, however they came together, they are united for better for worse, it is for his interest as well hers, that she should be nursed and cherished, and taken care of.'

As a more continuous specimen of Mrs. B.'s epistolary style than any we have yet selected, we quote the following, dated Stoke Newington, Dec. 1813:



ask what I am doing nothing. Pope, I think, somewhere says, "The last years of life, like tickets left in the wheel, rise in value." The thought is beautiful, but false; they are of very little value, they are generally past either in struggling with pains and infirmities, or in a dreamy kind of existence: no new veins of thought are opened; no young affections springing up; the ship has taken in its lading, whatever it may be, whether precious stones or lumber, and lies idly flapping its sails and waiting for the wind that must drive it upon the wide ocean. Have you seen Lord Byron's new poem, The Bride of Abydos? and have you read Madame de Stael's Germany? You will find in the latter many fine ideas, beautiful sentiments, and entertaining remarks on manners and countries: but in her account of Kant and the other German philosophers, she has got, I fancy, a little out of her depth. She herself is, or affects to be, very devotional; but her religion seems to be almost wholly a matter of imagination, the beau ideal impressed upon us at our birth, along with a taste for beauty, for music, &c. As far as I understand her account of the German school, there seems to be in many of them a design to reinstate the doctrine of innate ideas, which the cold philosophy, as they would call it, of Locke discarded. They would like Beattie and Hutcheson better than Paley or Priestley. I do not like Lord Byron's poem quite so well as his last; and I cannot see any advantage in calling a nightingale bulbul, or a rose gul, except to disconcert plain English readers.'

[ocr errors]

We should be happy to enrich our excerpta from these interesting volumes, with Mrs. B.'s remarks on Goldoni's plays, p. 153., and on Ramsay's History of the American Revolution, p. 157., but that we feel the necessity of omitting these in order to make room for her testimony on a much disputed, and not unimportant, matter, the character of Dr. Johnson.

[ocr errors]

We are reading in idle moments, or rather dipping into, a very different work, Boswell's long-expected Life of Johnson. It is like going to Ranelagh; you meet all your acquaintance: but it is a base and a mean thing to bring thus every idle word into judgement - the judgement of the public. Johnson, I think, was far from a great character: he was continually sinning against his conscience, and then afraid of going to hell for it. A Christian and a man of the town, a philosopher and a bigot, acknowledging life to be miserable, and making it more miserable through fear of death; professing great distaste to the coun

Y 2


try, and neglecting the urbanity of towns; a Jacobite, and pensioned; acknowledged to be a giant in literature, and yet we do not trace him, as we do Locke, or Rousseau, or Voltaire, in his influence on the opinions of the times. We cannot say Johnson first opened this vein of thought, led the way to this discovery or this turn of thinking. In his style he is original, and there we can track his imitators. In short, he seems to me to be one of those who have shone in the belles lettres, rather than, what he is held out by many to be, an original and deep genius in investigation.'

We gather from the above what Mrs. Barbauld must have thought of Capt. Medwin's Conversations of Byron; and in a letter to Mrs. Estlin, from Stoke-Newington, dated Nov. 23. 1824, we have her opinion of the noble bard himself: after mentioning some little Greek boys, who, she says, are protected by Mr. Bowring, she asks, By the way, are you not sorry Lord Byron is dead, just when he was going to be a hero? He has filled a leaf in the book of fame, but it is a very blotted leaf'


In some of her latter epistles, Mrs. Barbauld speaks with much unaffected pathos of her own perception of the failing state of her bodily and mental powers. To us she appears to have been intellectually young and healthy to the last, "Age could not wither, nor custom stale her infinite variety." She lived on, making glorious but bloodless conquests, and, much as she had written, she had the proud and repaying consciousness, that there was not

"One line which, dying, she could wish to blot."

To be the affectionate, faithful, and impartial biographer of such a being was a task reserved for the kindred spirit of Lucy Aikin, and she has performed it as only herself could have done, and as even Mrs. Barbauld might have wished.

ART. VIII. Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan in the Years 1821 and 1822. Including some Account of the Countries to the North-east of Persia; with Remarks upon the National Character, Government, and Resources of that Kingdom. By James B. Fraser, Author of a Tour in the Himālā Mountains. 4to. Longman and Co. 1825.

FEW Ew of the persons by whom information has been communicated concerning Persia can strictly be said to have travelled in that country: they were either passengers through it, whose range of inquiry was confined to the line of their route; or they were attached to embassies, and resident chiefly at the capital. As every stranger who visits that



kingdom is considered to be the guest of its sovereign, and journeying under his protection, the mere passenger, even if free from that impatience of delay which torments most travellers, would have no opportunities for observation or intercourse but such as were permitted; while the diplomatic agent, even if his view extended beyond the sphere of an ostentatious court, would be restrained by a sense of duty from publishing any unfavorable representations concerning a state in amity with his own government. In Mr. Fraser we recognize a traveller of another stamp: he entered Persia with all the advantages which a British subject could reasonably desire, yet exempt from the restraints which a British functionary must impose upon himself.

His narrative may be regarded as consisting of two parts: the one including his voyage from Bombay to the Persian gulf, and his journey from the port of Bushire to Tehran; the other describing his excursion into Khorasan as far eastward as Mushed its capital, and thence to Astrabad on the shore of the Caspian sea. The first division deviates very little from the route of former travellers, but it is not for that reason less interesting, since Mr. Fraser has treated it with reference to their labors, avoiding the subjects on which they have furnished abundant information, and directing his attention to others in relation to which certain peculiar advantages enabled him to supply what they had omitted. He sailed from Bombay on the 14th of May, 1821, in company with Dr. Andrew Jukes, who had been very deservedly appointed envoy from the government of that presidency to the court of Persia. After visiting Muscat and Ormuz, they reached Bushire on the 4th of August, and remained there about three weeks, principally occupied in preparations for their journey to the capital. About the end of that period the epidemic began its ravages, and extended into the interior of the province, to the great alarm of the people. On the 14th of September the mission left Bushire, but its progress being retarded by the distressed state of the country, Mr. Fraser went forward to Sheerauz where he had the pleasure of finding a party of his countrymen, among whom was Mr. Rich, late British resident at Bagdad. They were in great consternation at the spread of the epidemic. It had already numbered among its victims the mother of the Prince-Governor, Hoossain Allee Meerza, who, shocked at this catastrophe, had hastily fled from his palace, followed by the ministers and chiefs. Mr. Rich was seized with the disorder one day after dinner, and expired before ten the next morning, to the great grief of the Y S



friends around him. On the day of his funeral Dr. Jukes arrived; and the mission renewed its progress on the 26th of October. A week afterwards, on the approach to Ispahan, Dr. Jukes was taken ill, and on the 10th of November he died of the cholera in that city. Mr. Fraser in consequence assumed the functions of envoy, until his arrival at Tehrān on the 29th of November, when he transferred them into the hands of Mr. Willock, the chargé d'affaires of his Britannic Majesty.

During his residence at Tehran, Mr. Fraser was introduced to some of the principal personages of the court. The friends whom he consulted on his intended journey into Khorasan, strongly advised him not to mention it to the King, who was extremely jealous of permitting any European to explore the country eastward of the usual line of route, from Sheerauz to Tehran. Fortunately for Mr. Fraser's purpose, an event occurred which freed him from the embarrassing honor of an audience. On the day after his arrival, the court received intelligence of the death of Mahomed Allee Meerza, Governor of Kermanshah; and to deplore the loss of this his worthiest son, the King passed ten days in seclusion, after which he quitted the capital on a hunting expedition. Having thus been spared the necessity of soliciting a permission which if granted might have been incumbered with troublesome conditions, Mr. Fraser lost no time in maturing his plans. He was provided with credentials from the British chargé d'affaires to be exhibited, in case of emergency, to the public functionaries; and with introductory letters from Futteh Allee Khan, the poet-laureate, to his son-in-law, Meerza Moossa, wuzzeer to the Prince-Governor of Khorasan, at Mushed. He assumed the Persian dress, and made purchases of merchandize and medicines to enable him to personate either a merchant or a physician, as convenience or policy might require.

Attended by a young Persian of good family as travelling companion, and by a retinue of five servants, he quitted Tehran on the 19th of December, and entered on his journey to Mushed, by the route of Semnoon, Damghan, Shahrood, Meyomeid, Mehr, and Nishapore. It proved to be a journey of great hardship and anxiety, occasionally cheered by genuine hospitality, but often saddened by the delusive semblance of that virtue, and rendered irksome by the mistrust and suspicion which the disguise of the traveller was intended to obviate. The state of the province fully accounted for the King's unwillingness that it should be seen by a stranger. Semnoon, formerly a considerable town, was languishing



« AnteriorContinuar »