Abbildungen der Seite

necessary to their comfort. Our ostentatious dinners and soirées are well calculated to injure society, and, assuredly, have had that effect. The house, plate, and dinner of Mr. Thompson, with two thousand a-year, must vie with that of Mr. Seymour with eight, and Mr. Seymour must emulate those of Lord A., B., or C., who possesses twenty.

This erroneous system induces people to give one expensive dull dinner of pretension, instead of a dozen that would not cost the sum expended on the one; hence ceremony is substituted for ease, begetting coldness and indifference.

21st.-I am as 6 triste as a bonnet de nuit,” to use a French phrase I have often heard employed, though why a night-cap should be triste, does not seem evident. It is one of those phrases received into use without a due examination of its aptitude; for the tristesse of a bonnet de nuit must depend wholly on the head that wears it. We have no phrase that conveys the same signification : we do not consider the hours allotted to repose as being dull; but then, we are a reflecting race, and are not disposed to find fault with aught that tends to make us think, even though it should not make us sleep. The French, au contraire, being constitutionally gay, are prone to regard the hours given to rest as stolen from amusement. Thence the night-cap is viewed as a symbol of dulness, and has given rise to the phrase "s triste comme un bonnet de nuit.I have explained this momentous affair according to national prejudice, which invariably operates more or less in all our views and deductions. It is this national prejudice, which we designate with the high-sounding title of patriotism, that makes me view the gayer and happier temperament of our mercurial neighbours, the French, with a sentiment bordering on pity, as I complacently compared it with our more dignified, but less enviable gravity. Nay, I more than once detected myself defending our climate, on the plea that its variability had something very piquant in it; and for our dense fogs, I urged the palliation of their mysterious sublimity, which left so much to the imagination. A fog arising from the Seine, I admitted to some Parisians might be, and was a detestable thing—a mere Scotch mist, through which objects might be discerned—no mystery-no sublimity! But a London fog! with its mixture of grey, green, and yellow opaque, shutting out everything, and bidding defiance to gas-lamps, was quite autre chose.

Mon Dieu !" replied the French lady, “what droll people you English must be, when you can be proud even of your fogs!”

22nd.—I could not yesterday note down “the secrets of the prison-house” I had seen. My spirits were depressed, and I endeavoured to recruit them by trifling, as children do by playing, when sent to learn a task, leaving the punishment for their idleness to another day. L'Hospice des Insensés," which I went over, was the cause of this depression. Yet the cleanliness and good order that prevailed throughout was consolatory. After passing through a large court, we entered the kitchen, where the repast for the female maniacs was preparing, under the superintendence of four nuns, Sæurs de la Charité, of most prepossessing appearance. The eatables consisted of dressed vegetables and bread : both looked excellent, and the most fastidious person could detect no symptom of want of attention in their preparation. It was edifying, as well as interesting, to observe the cheerfulness and activity of these pious women, wholly engrossed in administering to the wants of the unfortunate patients. The scrupulous cleanliness of their persons, and the mild serenity of their countenances, as their. black veils floated gracefully from their heads, lent an air of dignity even to the menial offices they were performing, that took from them every vestige of the vulgarity generally attending culinary details.

We were conducted by the good father, who acted as our cicerone, to the salle-à-manger, where the male lunatics were partaking their dinner. Here I beheld, for the first time in my life, a vast number of my fellow-creatures suffering under that most dreadful of all maladies--the privation of reason! Here the old, the young, the wild maniac, and the calm idiot, were mingled together in close contact-in soulless companionship. Countenances animated by undue excitement, with eyes glaring with a frenzied light, were contrasted by faces on which the seal of confirmed imbecility was indelibly marked. Some wore the expression of careless, hopeless, despair ; and others were distinguished by a coarse and boisterous jocularity, excited by the follies of their companions, as if they were exempt from the fearful malady, the effects of which furnished their mirth. One fine-looking

young man, with a fearful brilliancy of eyes, approached and paid his compliments to us with a grace and good-breeding that would not have disgraced the Tuileries. He entreated our assistance to free him from his hateful captivity ; declaring, with a vehemence of manner which too well proved the disordered state of his mind, its perfect sanity, and the cruelty and injustice of detaining him in a lunatic asylum. While he was thus addressing us, one of his companions stole gently behind him, listened to what he said, burst into a loud laugh, and assured us that there was not in the hospital so mad a man; and that he was the only person in the house who was not a lunatic. The first speaker cast a look of inexpressible rage on the second, then implored us not to attend to the ravings of a maniac, who wished to prove every one mad but himself, and withdrew to the other side of the hall.

One man, with a grave countenance, approached and asked us, whether we could not find madmen enough in the world, without coming there.

“ The world is only a madhouse on a larger scale," continued he, “ where the lunatics follow their own caprices ; instead of, as in asylums like this, being compelled to follow those of others.”

Having uttered this opinion, from the truth of which I, at least, was not inclined to dissent, he walked away with an air of great self-complacency,

The women are kept in a different quarter of the building. They exhibited all the different degrees of insanity, frorn raving madness down to moping melancholy. Some were young, and possessed good

features ; but wanted the heavenly ray of mind, the lamp that illumes the countenance, the physical regularity only served to make the absence of intellectual beauty more visible. Many were so wholly absorbed by melancholy, as to be wholly unconscious of our presence; while others eagerly addressed us with entreaties for freedom, for money, or for coffee. What an appalling lesson on the infirmity of our natures, and theinstability of our most boasted and glorious attribute -reason, did this scene convey. Yes, that divine gift which elevates us above the brute, which enables us to beautify the earth, and to read the heavens, that places science within our reach, and knowledge at our call, may in a moment be forfeited, and man, proud lordly man, with all his boasted powers, be reduced to the level of the beast of the field! How humiliating are such scenes, yet how salutary are the reflections to which they give birth! The sense of our weakness seems more deeply impressed on our minds; and, bowed down in spirit by this consciousness, we turn to Him who holds life and reason in his hands, and who can at a moment deprive us of both. How fervent is the appeal which the soul lifts to its Creator, when surrounded by hundreds labouring under this fearful affliction; and we almost shudder while asking, what are we, O Lord, that we should be exempt ?

The chapel of the hospital contains some good pictures, among which, two from the pencil of Guido, are the most esteemed ; and two by that most effeminate of all painters, Carlo Dolci, whose warmest admirers are ever to be found among the young and the fair. An ivory crucifix, the work of

« ZurückWeiter »