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and selfish passions, of this light, which extends our views beyond the bounds of a transitory world, has produced upon this unhappy country. More of this, however, hereafter. My first letter is addressed to you, my dear sister, and must therefore be personal.
Even your partiality would be little interested in my journey through England, or the circumstances attending my embarkation. And of my passage, it is enough to say, that sea-sick I was even unto the uttermost. All your fifteen infallible recipes proved unavailing. I could not brook the sight of lavender-drops; gingerbread nuts were detestable to my eyes, and are so to my recollection even at this moment. I could as soon have swallowed the horns of the Arch-fiend himself as the dose of hartshorn; and for the great goblet of sea-water, "too much of water had I, poor Ophelia." In short, he that would see as much misery, and as much selfishness, as can well be concentrated, without any permanent evil being either done or suffered, I invite him to hire a berth aboard a packet. Delicacy is lost; sympathy is no more; the bands of love and friendship are broken; one class of passengers eat and drink joyously, though intermingled with another who are expressing their inward grievances in a manner, which, in any other situation, seldom fails to excite irresistible sympathy. The captain and the mate, comforters by profession, indeed exhort you, from time to time, to be of good cheer, and recommend a glass of grog, or possibly a pipe of tobacco, or it may be a morsel of fat bacon, to allay the internal commotion; but it is unnecessary to say how ill the remedies apply to the disorder. In short, if you are sick, sick you must be; and can have little better comfort than in reflecting that the evil must be of short duration, though, were you to judge from your immediate feelings, you might conceive your life was likely to end first. As I neither met with a storm nor sea-fight, I do not know what effect they might produce upon a sea-sick patient; but such is the complete annihilation of energy; such the headach, the nausea, and depression of spirits, that I think any stimulus, short of the risk of being shot or drowned, would fail of rousing him to any exertion. The best is, that arrival on the land proves a certain remedy for the sorrows of the sea; and I do not think that even your materia medica could supply any other.
Suppose your brother then landed among the mynheers and yafrows of Holland and Belgium, as it is now the fashion to call what, before our portentous times, was usually named Flanders. Strange sights meet his eyes; strange voices sound in his ears; and yet, by a number of whimsical associations, he is eternally brought back to the land of his nativity. The Flemings, in particular, resemble the Scotch in the cast of their features, the sound of their language, and, apparently, in their habits of living, and of patient industry. They are, to be sure, a century at least
behind in costume and manners; but the old chateau, consisting of two or three narrow houses, joined together by the gables, with a slender round turret ascending in the centre of the building, for the purpose of containing the staircase, is completely in the old style of Scottish dwellinghouses. Then the avenue, and the acre or two of ground, planted with fruit-trees in straight lines; the garden, with high hedges, clipped by the gardener's art into verdant walls; the intermixture of statues and vases; the fountains and artificial pieces of water, may still be seen in some of our ancient mansions; and, to my indifferent taste, are no unnatural decorations in the immediate vicinity of a dwelling-place, and infinitely superior to the meagreness of bare turf and gravel. At least they seem peculiarly appropriate to so flat a country as Belgium, which, boasting no objects of natural beauty or grandeur, and being deprived, in a great measure, even of the grace of living streams of water, must necessarily supply these deficiencies by the exertions of art. Nor does their taste appear to have changed since the days of William III. There seem to be few new houses built; and the old chateaux, and grounds around them, are maintained in the original style in which they were constructed. Indeed, an appearance of antiquity is one of the most distinguishing features which strike the traveller in the Low Countries. Dates, as far back as the fifteenth and even fourteenth centuries, are inscribed upon the fronts of many of the houses, both in the country and in the towns and villages. And although I offended your national pride, my dear sister, when I happened to observe, that the Scotch, who are supposed to boast more than other nations of their ancient descent, in reality know less of their early history than any other people in Europe, yet, I think, you will allow, that our borough towns afford few visible monuments of the high claims we set up to early civilisation.
Our neighbours, the English, are not much more fortunate in this respect, unless we take into the account the fortresses built for the purpose of defence on the frontiers of Wales and Scotland, or their ancient and beautiful churches. But we look in vain for antiquity in the houses of the middling rank; for the mansions of the country gentlemen, and the opulent burghers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, have, generally speaking, long since given place to the architecture of the earlier part of the last age, or the more fantastic structures of our own day. It is in the streets of Antwerp and Brussels, that the eye still rests upon the forms of architecture which appear in the pictures of the Flemish school; those fronts, richly decorated with various ornaments, and terminating in roofs, the slope of which is concealed from the eye by windows and gables still more highly ornamented; the whole comprising a general effect, which, from its grandeur and intricacy, amuses at once and delights the spectator. In
fact, this rich intermixture of towers, and battlements, and projecting windows, highly sculptured, joined to the height of the houses, and the variety of ornament upon their fronts, produces an effect as superior to those of the tame uniformity of a modern street, as the casque of the warrior exhibits over the slouched broad-brimmed beaver of a Quaker. I insist the more on this, for the benefit of those of the fireside at who are accustomed to take their ideas of a fine street from Portland Place, or from the George Street of Edinburgh, where a long and uniform breadth of causeway extends between two rows of ordinary houses of three stories, whose appearance is rendered mean, by the disproportioned space which divides them, and tame, from their unadorned uniformity.
If you talk, indeed, of comforts, I have no doubt that the internal arrangement of the last-named ranges of dwellings is infinitely superior to those of the ancient Flemings, where the windows are frequently high, narrow, and dark; where the rooms open into each other in such a manner as seems to render privacy impossible; where you sometimes pass into magnificent saloons, through the meanest and darkest of all possible entrances; and where a splendid corridor conducts you, upon other occasions, to a room scarce worthy of being occupied as a pigsty, by such pigs, at least, whose limbs are bred in England. It is for the exterior alone that I claim the praise of dignity and romantic character; and I cannot but think, that, without in the least neglecting the interior division necessary for domestic comfort, some of these beauties might, with great advantage, be adopted from the earlier school of architecture. That of the present day seems to me too much to resemble the pinched and pared foot of the ambitious Princess, who submitted to such severe discipline, in order to force her toes into the memorable glass slipper.
These marks of ancient wealth, and burgher-like opulence, do indeed greatly excel what could be expected from the architecture of Scotland at the same period. But yet, to return to the point from which I set out, there is something in the height of the houses, and the mode of turning their gables toward the street, which involuntarily reminds me of what the principal street of our northern capital was when I first recollect it.
If you enter one of these mansions, the likeness is far from disappearing. The owner, if a man of family, will meet you with his scraggy neck rising in shrivelled longitude out of the folds of a thinlyplaited stock. The cut of his coat, of his waistcoat, his well-preserved cocked-hat, his periwig, and camblet riding-coat, his mode of salutation, the kiss bestowed on each side of the face, all remind you of the dress and manners of the old Scotch laird. The women are not, I think, so handsome as my fair country women, or my walks and visits were
unfortunate in the specimens they presented of female beauty; but, then, you have the old dress, with the screen, or mantle, hanging over the head and falling down upon each shoulder, which was formerly peculiar to Scotland. The colour of this mantle is indeed different in Scotland it was usually tartan, and in Flanders it is uniformly black. The inhabitants say they derive the use of it from the Spaniards, of whose dominions their country was so long a principal part. The dress and features of the lower class bear also a close resemblance to those of Scotland, and favour the idea held by most antiquaries, that the Lowlanders, at least, are a kindred tribe. The constant intercourse our ancestors maintained with Flanders, from which, according to contemporary accounts, they derived almost every article which required the least skill in manufacture, must have added greatly to those points of original similarity.
The Flemings are said to be inferior to their neighbours of Holland in the article of scrupulous attention to cleanliness. But their coltages are neat and comfortable, compared to those of our country: and the garden and orchard, which usually surround them, give them an air of ease and snugness, far preferable to the raw and uninviting appearance of a Scotch cottage, with its fractured windows stuffed with old hats and pieces of tattered garments, and its door beset on one side by a dunghill, on the other by a heap of coals, or peats.
These statistics, my dear Margaret, rather fall in the Laird's province than yours. But your departments border closely upon each other; for those facts, in which he is interested as a Seigneur de Village, affect you as a Lady Bountiful, and so the state of the cottages is a common topic, upon which either may be addressed with propriety.
Adieu! I say nothing of the pad nag and poor old Shock, because I am certain that whatever belongs peculiarly to Paul will be the object of special care during his absence. But I recommend to you to take some of the good advice which you lavish upon others; to remember that there are damps in Scotland as well as in Holland, and that colds and slow fevers may be caught by late evening walks in our own favoured climate, as well as in France or Belgium. Paul ever remains your affectionate Brother.
PAUL TO HIS COUSIN THE MAJOR.
Bergen-op-Zoom-British Attack-General Skerret-Night Scene.
AFTER all the high ideas, my dear Major, which your frequent and minute and reiterated details had given me, concerning the celebrated fortress of Bergen-op-Zoom, in former years the scene of your martial exploits, I must own its exterior has sadly disappointed me. I am well enough accustomed, as you know, to read the terms of modern fortification in the Gazette, and to hear them in the interesting narratives of your military experience; and I must own, that bastions and ravelins, half-moons, curtains, and palisades, have hitherto sounded in my ears every whit as grand and poetical as donjons and barbicans and portcullises, and other terms of ancient warfare. But I question much if I shall hereafter be able to think of them with exactly the same degree of respect.
A short reflection upon the principles of modern defence, and upon the means which it employs, might no doubt have saved me from the disappointment which I experienced. But I was not, as it happened, prepared to expect, that the strongest fortress in the Netherlands, or, for aught I know, in the world, the masterpiece of Cohorn, that prince of engineers, should, upon the first approach of a stranger, prove so utterly devoid of any thing striking or imposing in its aspect. Campbell is, I think, the only English poet who has ventured upon the appropriate terms of modern fortification, and you will not be surprised that I recollect the lines of a favourite author,—
That, like a giant standard-bearer, frown'd
But, in order to give dignity to his arrowy frize and ravelin, the Bard has placed his works on the edge of a steepy ascent. Bergen-op-Zoom is nothing less. Through a country as level as the surface of a lake, you jolt onward in your cabriolet, passing along a paved causeway, which, as if an inundation were apprehended, is raised upon a mound
* [ Gertrude of Wyoming.]