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She was not aware how wide an application her foreign readers would give to the remark. Wellington discovered the ruin of Bonaparte's affairs, by his own probity. He augured ill of the empire, as soon as he saw that it was mendacious, and lived by
If war do not bring in its sequel new trade, better agriculture and manufactures, but only games, fireworks, and spectacles, no prosperity could support it; much less, a nation decimated for conscripts, and out of pocket, like France. So he drudged for years on his military works at Lisbon, and from this base at last extended his gigantic lines to Waterloo, believing in his countrymen and their syllogisms above all the rhodomontade of Europe.
At a St. George's festival, in Montreal, where I happened to be a guest, since my return home, I observed that the chairman complimented his compatriots, by saying, “they confided that wherever they met an Englishman, they found a man who would speak the truth.” And one cannot think this festival fruitless, if, all over the world, on the 23d of April, wherever two or three English are found, they meet to encourage each other in the nationality of veracity.
In the power of saying rude truth, sometimes in the lion's mouth, no men surpass them. On the king's birthday, when each bishop was expected to offer the king a purse of gold, Latimer gave Henry VIII. a copy of the Vulgate, with a mark at the passage, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”; and they so honor stoutness in each other, that the king passed it over. They are tenacious of their belief, and cannot easily change their opinions to suit the hour. They are like ships with too much head on to come quickly about, nor will prosperity or even adversity be allowed to shake their habitual view of conduct. Whilst I was in London, M. Guizot arrived there on his escape from Paris, in February, 1848. Many private friends called on him. His name was immediately proposed as an honorary member to the Athenæum. M. Guizot was blackballed. Certainly, they knew the distinction of his
But the Englishman is not fickle. He had really made
up his mind, now for years as he read his newspaper, to hate and despise M. Guizot; and the altered position of the man as an illustrious exile, and a guest in the country, makes no difference to him, as it would instantly, to an American.
They require the same adherence, thorough conviction and reality in public men. It is the want of character which makes the low reputation of the Irish members.
them,” they said, one hundred and twenty-seven all voting like sheep, never proposing anything, and all but four voting the income tax," — which was an ill-judged concession of the government, relieving Irish property from the burdens charged on English.
They have a horror of adventurers in or out of Parliament. The ruling passion of Englishmen, in these days, is a terror of humbug. In the same proportion, they value honesty, stoutness, and adherence to your own. They like a man committed to his objects. They hate the French, as frivolous ; they hate the Irish, as aimless; they hate the Germans, as professors. In February, 1848, they said, Look, the French king and his party fell for want of a shot; they had not conscience to shoot, so entirely was the pith and heart of monarchy eaten out.
They attack their own politicians every day, on the same grounds, as adventurers. They love stoutness in standing for your right, in declining money or promotion that costs any concession. The barrister refuses the silk gown of Queen's Counsel, if his junior have it one day earlier. Lord Collingwood would not accept his medal for victory on 14th February, 1797, if he did not receive one for victory on 1st June, 1794 ; and the long-withholden medal was accorded. When Castlereagh dissuaded Lord Wellington from going to the king's levee, until the unpopular Cintra business had been explained, he replied : “You furnish me a reason for going. I will go to this, or I will never go to a king's levee.” The radical mob at Oxford cried after the tory Lord Eldon, “ There's old Eldon ; cheer him ; he never ratted.” They have given the parliamentary nickname of Trimmers to the time-servers, whom English character does not love. *
They are very liable in their politics to extraordinary delusions, thus, to believe what stands recorded in the gravest books, that the movement of 10 April, 1848, was urged or assisted by foreigners : which, to be sure, is paralleled by the democratic whimsy in this country, which I have noticed to be shared by men sane on other points, that the English are
* It is an unlucky moment to remember these sparkles of solitary virtue in the face of the honors lately paid in England to the Emperor Louis Napoleon. I am sure that no Englishman whom I had the happiness to know, consented, when the aristocracy and the commons of London cringed like a Neapolitan rabble, before a successful thief. But — how to resist one step, though odious, in a linked series of state necessities? — Governments must always learn too late, that the use of dishonest agents is as runious for nations as for single
at the bottom of the agitation of slavery, in American politics : and then again to the French popular legends on the subject of perfidious Albion. But suspicion will make fools of nations as of citizens.
A slow temperament makes them less rapid and ready than other countrymen, and has given occasion to the observation that English wit comes afterwards, - which the French denote as esprit d'escalier. This dulness makes their attachment to home, and their adherence in all foreign countries to home habits. The Englishman who visits Mount Etna will carry his tea-kettle to the top. The old Italian author of the “Relation of England” (in 1500) says : “I have it on the best information, that, when the war is actually raging most furiously, they will seek for good eating, and all their other comforts, without thinking what harm might befall them.” Then their eyes seem to be set at the bottom of a tunnel, and they affirm the one small fact they know, with the best faith in the world that nothing else exists. And, as their own belief in guineas is perfect, they readily, on all occasions, apply the pecuniary argument as final. Thus when the Rochester rappings began to be heard of in England, a man deposited £ 100 in a sealed box in the Dublin Bank, and then advertised in the newspapers to all somnambulists, mesmerizers, and others, that whoever could tell him the number of his note should have the money. He let it lie there six months, the newspapers now and then, at his instance, stimulating the attention of the adepts; but none could ever tell him; and he said, “ Now let me never be bothered more with this proven lie.” It is told of a good Sir John, that he heard a case stated by counsel, and made up his mind ; then the counsel for the other side taking their turn to speak, he found himself so unsettled and perplexed, that he exclaimed, “So help me God! I will never listen to evidence again.” Any number of delightful examples of this English stolidity are the anecdotes of Europe. I knew a very worthy man, - a magistrate, I believe he was, in the town of Derby, — who went to the opera, to see Malibran. In one scene, the heroine was to rush across a ruined bridge. Mr. B. arose, and mildly yet firmly called the attention of the audience and the performers to the fact that, in his judgment, the bridge was unsafe! This English stolidity contrasts with French wit and tact. The French, it is commonly said, have greatly more influence in Europe than the English. What influence the English have is by brute force of wealth and pow
or; that of the French by affinity and talent. The Italian is subtle, the Spaniard treacherons : tortures, it was said, could never wrest from an Egyptian the confession of a secret. None of these traits belong to the Englishman. His choler and conceit force everything out. Defoe, who knew his countrymen well, says of them :
“In close intrigue, their faculty's but weak,
HE English race are reputed morose. I do not know that
they have sadder brows than their neighbors of northern climates. They are sad by comparison with the singing and dancing nations : not sadder, but slow and staid; as finding their joys at home. They, too, believe that where there is no enjoyment of life, there can be no vigor and art in speech or thought; that your merry heart goes all the way, your sad one tires in a mile. This trait of gloom has been fixed on them by French travellers, who, from Froissart, Voltaire, Le Sage, Mirabeau, down to the lively journalists of the feuilletons, have spent their wit on the solemnity of their neighbors. The French say, gay conversation is unknown in their island : the Englishman finds no relief from reflection except in reflection : when he wishes for amusement, he goes to work : his hilarity is like an attack of fever. Religion, the theatre, and the reading the books of his country, all feed and increase his natural melancholy. The police does not interfere with public diversions. It thinks itself bound in duty to respect the pleasures and rare gayety of this inconsolable nation; and their well-known courage is entirely attributable to their disgust of life. I
suppose their gravity of demeanor and their few words have obtained this reputation. As compared with the Ameri
I think them cheerful and contented. Young people, in this country, are much more prone to melancholy. The English have a mild aspect, and a ringing cheerful voice. They are large-natured, and not so easily amused as the southerners, and are among them as grown people among children, requiring war, or trade, or engineering, or science, instead of frivolous games. They are proud and private, and, even if disposed to recreation, will avoid an open garden. They sported sadly ; ils s'amusaient tristement, selon la coutume de leur pays, said Froissart; and, I suppose, never nation built their party walls so thick, or their garden fences so high. Meat and wine produce no effect on them : they are just as cold, quiet, and composed, at the end, as at the beginning of dinner.
The reputation of taciturnity they have enjoyed for six or seven hundred years; and a kind of pride in bad public speaking is noted in the House of Commons, as if they were willing to show that they did not live by their tongues, or thought they spoke well enough if they had the tone of gentlemen. In mixed company, they shut their mouths. A Yorkshire mill-owner told me, he had ridden more than once all the way from London to Leeds, in the first-class carriage, with the same persons, and no word exchanged. The clubhouses were established to cultivate social habits, and it is rare that more than two eat together, and oftenest one eats alone. Was it then a stroke of humor in the serious Swedenborg, or was it only his pitiless logic, that made him shut up the English souls in a heaven by themselves ?
They are contradictorily described as sour, splenetic, and stubborn, — and as mild, sweet, and sensible. The truth is, they have great range and variety of character. Commerce sends abroad multitudes of different classes. The choleric Welshman, the fervid Scot, the bilious resident in the East or West Indies, are wide of the perfect behavior of the educated and dignified man of family. So is the burly farmer; so is the country ’squire, with his narrow and violent life. In every inn, is the Commercial-Room, in which 'travellers,' or bagmen who carry patterns, and solicit orders, for the manufacturers, are wont to be entertained. It easily happens that this class should characterize England to the foreigner, who meets them on the road, and at every public house, whilst the gentry avoid the taverns, or seclude themselves whilst in them.
But these classes are the right English stock, and may