Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

It looks like a vast mirror, which reflects on its glassy surface the azure clouds that float above it, lending to them a still deeper tint of blue. This beautiful lake is bounded by verdant lawns, adorned with umbrageous trees and flowering shrubs, and interspersed with picturesque villas, each of which looks the beau idéal of a delicious solitude.

Descending the Jura, the simple, but sweet music, a shepherd's pipe, stole on my ear; and all that I have heard or read of the effect of the Ranz des Vaches seemed realized; such was the melancholy, yet har. monious sounds it breathed, awakening a pensiveness in all who heard it. The very postilions seemed moved, for they slackened the pace of their steeds and ceased to crack their whips; but for me, the notes appeared to touch some chord in my heart that vibrated to its tones. Mysterious power of music! how often have I owned your influence,“ touching the electric chain by which we're darkly bound," and wafting the thoughts far, far away. .

GENEVA, 16th.— I went to sleep last night with the sound of the murmuring Rhône in my ears, and awoke this morning impatient again to view the “ Leman Lake.” How “ brightly, beautifully blue" it is! It looks as if the heavens had bathed in it, and left behind in its limpid waters a portion of their azure loveliness. How many eyes, to whom common vision was granted, have dwelt with pleasure on this beautiful lake! Voltaire, the most brilliant scoffer that ever lifted the veil from the defects of his species, or gloried in exposing them; Rousseau, who

no

avenged himself on mankind by displaying, in his Confessions, how base, how unworthy man could be: he, whose imagination was all warmth and tenderness, and whose heart was cold and hard as the ice of his native mountains - Gibbon, the always patient investigator, but not always impartial narrator, who sneered at, more frequently than he pitied, the errors he related : De Staël, the brilliant, the eloquent De Staël, whose genius caught, as it were, by intuition, the truths that others only discover by a life of laborious study.

Shelley, the passionate, the visionary poet, dreaming away

life in a world of his own creation, and giving us glimpses of its brightness in his poems : and though last, not least, Byron, the child of genius, whose passions are converted into chords, from which he can draw forth music that finds an echo in every heart. Yes, this lake is invested with an interest, more powerful than its beauty could awaken, by its association in the mind with the gifted beings who have lingered on its margin.

Sismondi resides at Geneva, and is universally beloved and respected. He is the only literary man at present here, or, at least, the only one of whom I have heard.

Each change of the atmosphere gives a new physiognomy to this beautiful spot. At one hour the mountains are scarcely visible, enveloped in the dense vapours that surround them; while, at another, their outlines are clearly defined, and they stand so boldly prominent, that they seem to have advanced nearer to the spectator. But it is at evening that Mont

Blanc puts on its most brilliant aspect; when the rays of the setting sun tinge its snow-crowned summits, casting on them a rosy radiance, which they retain for a short period, even after the bright luminary that lent it has disappeared from our sight; like memory, which retains images after the reality has faded away.

Went to Ferney to-day—that Ferney, where Voltaire, constantly occupied by and for the world which he affected to despise, spent so considerable a portion of his time. The salon and chambre à coucher are preserved in the same state as when he inhabited them; except that the curtains of his bed have suffered from the desire visitors have evinced to possess a small portion of them. Hence piece after piece has disappeared, until only a small fragrant of the drapery remains. This desire to possess some memorial of departed genius has been often ridiculed ; yet it is natural, and is one of the modes by which we display our homage to those who have merited celebrity. I confess it gave me pleasure to obtain a few relics at Ferney ; and among the rest, a portion of that curtain, beneath whose shade a head so often reposed, whose cogitations have been disseminated over all Europe. In the centre of the chambre à coucher is a black marble vase, that formerly contained Voltaire's heart, and which bears the following inscription :“ Mon esprit est partout, et mon cour est ici.

Over the vase is inscribed

Mes mânes sont consolés, puisque mon cæur est au milieu de vous.

The sentiment of affectionate retrospection that dictated these inscriptions induces one to pardon the affectation of placing such a monument in a room.

The garden and pleasure-grounds at Ferney have nothing remarkable ; except it be a trellissed walk, planned by Voltaire, with openings like windows in the sides, to admit views of the fine scenery around. This was his favourite promenade, and he sauntered for hours in it, with a note-book, in which he entered his reflections; and thence retired to a rustic building adjacent, where he dictated to his secretary some of those lucubrations that have found even more admirers than censors among their readers. The rustic building is destroyed, but the trees that overshadowed it remain, as also some planted by Voltaire, from which his admirers cut off small branches as mementos. A garrulous old gardener, who acted as our cicerone, had lived with, and professed to remember the philosopher perfectly. He described him as vivacious and irascible to a degree, violent while the irritation continued, but placable and kind when it had subsided. He stated that frequently, when at work in the garden, Voltaire has approached him abruptly, seized him by the ear, which he sharply pinched, and angrily demanding what he was doing, reprehended the operation; but that in a few minutes he returned, and seeing the work in a more forward state, he has good-naturedly exclaimed, “ Eh bien ! mon ami, vous avez raison, cela est bien, fort bien même." The gardener remembered to have one day observed an English traveller approach close to the terrace where Voltaire was standing, and stare at him with an air of intense curiosity. Voltaire turned himself round and round, that the stranger might have a more distinct view of him; then retired, and desired his secretary to demand dix sous from the stranger for having seen the lion.

The impression on entering the hall at Ferney is a painful one, for a picture hangs in it that offers an irrefragable proof of the overweening vanity of Voltaire. It represents him offering the Henriade to Apollo, who has descended to receive it. The Temple of Memory is seen in the distance, with Fame approaching it, and pointing to the Henriade. Voltaire is surrounded by the Muses and Graces. The characters in the Henriade are also presented, and the authors who attacked him are pourtrayed as falling into the gulf which yawns to receive them. Envy and her train are prostrate at the feet of Voltaire; and, to crown all, the family of Calas are drawn into the picture. Vanity of vanities, how pitiable in such a writer !

The portraits of Frederic the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Second of Russia, the Marquise du Châtelet, and Le Kain, hang in the bed-room of Voltaire, with his own portrait in the centre. That of the Marquise du Châtelet has an air of individuality that vouches for its resemblance to the original. The countenance is piquant, lively, and intelligent; and the dress and air denote the united pretensions of a coquette and a bas-bleu. She is represented with a pair of compasses in her hand, and the affected posture of the fingers, with the rings that adorn them, prove that the woman was not forgotten in the mathematician, and that she who commented upon Newton, neglected not the graces.

The attachment of Voltaire and Madame du Châte

« ZurückWeiter »