Page images

government from the shame, of such a state of almost absolute license to rapine and wrong as we have very feebly described.

Meanwhile, men wonder that India has reaped so little benefits from the improvements in the system of her government effected by the last Charter Act; that so few British capitalists have taken advantage of the freedom of access which it accords; that so little of the soil, which promises such a handsome return for an investment, has become the property of Englishmen. The true key to the causes of this disappointment is, that no sufficient progress has as yet been made towards the improvement of the institutions of the country; that whilst great ignorance prevails in England as to the state of British India, much of the little that is known is unfavourable. This state of things is still more injurious to the best interests of the people of India than it is to Great Britain. It is strongly incumbent upon those to whom the government of that magnificent dependency has been delegated, to make the most earnest exertions to effectuate improvement. There is no reason to despair of suc

On the contrary, we are persuaded that those who will examine the broad field of practical improvement which we have imperfectly pointed out in this paper, with the attention which its importance deserves, will find no cause to doubt, that if judgment and boldness be manifested in the application of means, --if, especially, an ill-timed and self-destructive parsimony be not again allowed to interfere—as has too often been the casewith the fairly proportionate application of the resources of British India to the opening and widening of those channels of prosperity which are now choked by the accumulated effects of the political misgovernment and social misery of centuries, the most beneficial results, involving an abundant return for all wise outlay, would be secured. The issue is in the hands of the people of England : benevolence and selfinterest urge them to precisely the same course.

They will share the solid advantages of success with the millions of their Indian fellow-subjects ; but the triumph of a happy result, or the disgrace and mortification of failure, must be theirs alone.


Art. V.-The Courts of Europe at the close of the Last Century.

By the late HENRY SWINBURNE, Esq., Author of Travels in Spain and Italy. Edited by CHARLES White, Esq. Two vols. 8vo. London: 1841.

HESE volumes consist, chiefly, of a series of lively, amusing,

and unpretending letters, written by Mr Swinburne to his brother, his wife, and a few friends, with no view whatever to publication; and therefore transmitting the current pursuits, reports, and opinions of the day, and of the place, without any very critical examination of their precise accuracy. This, though blameable in regular history, conveys an off-hand, sketchy view of manners and society, in the main perhaps as true, and certainly more entertaining than careful writing.

Mr Swinburne was a younger son of Sir John Swinburne of Capheaton, an ancient family in Northumberland, and whose grandfather was blessed with no less than thirty children; but with the usual good-luck of Roman Catholic younger brothers, he not the less inherited a fair collateral estate. He was educated in France, and having made the tour of Europe, returned to Paris, where he met, and subsequently married, notwithstanding the rivalry of the late Duke of Norfolk, Miss Baker-can accomplished, rich, and beautiful woman, who like himself was educated abroad, in Paris. The happy couple returned to enjoy the rural felicities of Northumberland; but all their previous habits and tastes rendered them as unfit for a Northumberland life as Madame de Staël's Corinne. Accordingly they went abroad. Hence these letters, which spread over a space of some thirty years ; the first dating from Paris in 1774, and the last in 1803, from the Island of Trinidad, where Mr Swinburne died. During this time and few times have been more eventful-Mr Swinburne visited France, Spain, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, England, and the West Indies; and from his birth and acquirements, his foreign education and religion, (Roman Catholic,) he was enabled to mix intimately with the Courts and higher society of the Continent, as well as London.

His letters respecting the Court of France, at the different times he visited it, form perhaps the most interesting portion of this publication; and in our account of it, we shall accordingly attend more particularly to the impressions which he received at his several visits ; not, however, altogether overlooking his observations on the other European Courts at which he sojourned. His first visit was on the eve of the death of Louis XV. Subse

quently, he returned to see and partake in all the glitter and prosperity of Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette at Versailles and Fontainbleau; again, when the thunder clouds of the Revolution were mounting and bursting; and finally in 1797, when all was over, and his former gay friends and companionsthe very few who were left-were looking old, and haggard, and grey,

with all they had gone through. He disembarked at Calais in March 1774, and it may console those who are bejolted or besloughed in French roads now, to hear what they were then :

• We took the road to Dieppe, which during this season of the year is scarcely passable; it runs through narrow lanes or hollow passes, in the middle of the boundless corn-fields, worn so deep that the top of the carriage did not appear. We were often obliged to cross ploughed lands and ditches, to escape dangerous holes; and I was sometimes compelled to call in a person to assist me in keeping the coach in its proper equilibrium. In spite of all our care, it was once overturned. The next day we had to ascend a lofty hill, where there did not seem to be any trace of a high-road.'

Soon after his arrival at Paris, he is presented at Versailles

« The Duke of Dorset was the only Englishman presented with me. We met in the Salle des Ambassadeurs, and there made acquaintance. After a little waiting, the ambassador (Lord Stormont) escorted us to the prime minister's levee, (the Duc d'Aiguillon.) If he said any thing to me, it was so little and so low that I do not recollect a word of it. In the antechamber the envoys of Europe were assembled, decorated with ribbons of all colours, and crosses and keys of all metals. About eleven, the introductors gave notice of the King's levee heing ready, and so, in company of a German baron, we trudged up stairs, and surprised bis most Christian Majesty in his waistcoat; for none but the foreign ambassadors may see him in buff.

After staring at us, talking about the Opera with some few of the crowd of courtiers, and saying about one minute's prayer with his cardinal, he drew towards us, who were ranged near the door in rank and file. All he said was, “ Est-il fils du vieux Duc de Dorset, que j'ai connu autrefois ?" and so marched off.'

Mr Swinburne had then time to look about him ; and he describes the Dauphin, Louis XVI., ' as very awkwardly made, and uncouth in his motions, but with

an aspect that bespeaks a good-natured man ;' the second brother (Louis XVIII.) as a pretty figure;' and so also the third (Charles X.) Their courtly minds and manners do not appear to great advantage; indeed we look in vain for that refined and easy manner which the French are pleased to assume as peculiarly their own. Mr Swinburne describes these young princes as having a good deal of restless motion, first upon one leg and then upon another;' and the questions they


[ocr errors]

ask are,' says he, very frivolous and puerile. I believe they find their time hang very heavy on their hands; for they ran with great glee to tickle one of the king's valets-de-chambre as he was carrying out the King's dirty clothes.' And yet they already were all married. Mr Swinburne does not flatter their wives, for he calls the Comtesse de Provence 'a little dumpy

woman, and plain piece of goods; her sister, the Comtesse • d'Artois, is rather prettier, having a fine skin and tolerable

eyes; but her nose is immense, and her toes turned in. Poor thing, she seemed quite frightened, and could hardly speak !

He, and the persons to be presented, are then conducted successively to the levee of each distinct member of the royal family. He is enchanted with the Dauphiness ;- her eyes, shape, mo

tion, her tout ensemble were most charming: Not so the King's ungainly daughters, whom he calls the three not Graces.'

• After all these perambulations, up stairs and down stairs, through the royal family, we climbed up a dark winding staircase, which I should have suspected would have led to an apartment in the Bastile rather than to the temple of love and elegance. In a low entresol we found the favourite Sultana in her morning gown, her capuchin on, and her hair undressed; she was very gracious, and chatted a good deal—as every body else seemed to do at Versailles-about the Opera. She is of a middling age; just plump enough; her face rather upon the yellow leaf; her eyes good, and all her features regular; but I cannot think her a pleasing figure now, whatever she may have been, or may be still, when made up and decked out in her pride.

• Thus ended our business, and then we proceeded to dine at the Duc d'Aiguillon's, where we found all the foreign ministers, and some French. Our dinner was very good; but our amphytrion never spoke one word to us, and did not give us a very famous idea of la politesse Française.

What a Court—what a state of society! The royal mistress en titre, a ci-devant prostitute, receiving ambassadors and holding her levee in the royal palace, amidst the daughters, and grand-children, and the young wives of those grand-children this dishonoured, shameless old profligate, who was then just tottering on the very verge of his grave! We do not know that a greater outrage against the decencies of life was ever committed, than that of Louis XV. placing Marie Antoinette, on the very first day of her reception, as the affianced wife of the Dauphin

of France—an innocent bride of fifteen-at the suppertable at La Muette, amidst the royal family, the court, and this Madame du Barry, who thenceforth became her bitter enemy, because the imperial maiden had the delicacy to recoil from the kept-mistress. Madame du Barry assisted also at the councils of state. But all this was fated suddenly to change; on the very

day after the Duke of Dorset and Mr Swinburne's presentation, Louis XV. took to his bed, and the small-pox rapidly made its appearance. He is said to have caught the infection from one of the wretched inmates of his infamous Parc-aux-Cerfs. During the first days of his illness, Madame du Barry used to attend him at the hour of dinner, that is, as soon as his daughters, Madame Louise, the Carmelite nun, and Madame Adelaide, retired from his chamber. The end was worthy of the course. His death-bed, finally deserted by all, was, in the early stages of his disease, alternately disturbed by the exhortations of the Carmelite-of whom Marie Antoinette said, “C'est la petite Carmelite, la plus intri

guante qui existe dans le royaume'-and by the blandishments of the mistress, and the intrigues of the high church party which she had brought into power. Even the sanctimonious Archbishop of Paris was seen ostensibly urging the King to communicate, and covertly permitting delay; lest his communion should lead to the expulsion of the patron saint of the party, and who, should the king chance to recover, might revenge herself, as Madame de Pompadour had done after the scenes at Metz. Eye-witnesses tell us how easily the Duc de Richelieu persuaded the Archbishop not to trouble the King with a theological question ;' and how the Duc de Fronsac threatened to throw the curé of Versailles out of the window, if he spoke of the viaticum or extreme unction. The Cardinal de Luynes well said of them, Ils agiotaient et trafiquaient, de sang froid, en ce moment, de la conscience et des remords du Roi.'

On the other hand, the Choiseul party and the philosophers joined with Madame Louise in protesting loudly for the royal consolations of that viaticum whose chief merit, perhaps, in their eyes, lay in the hope that it might expel their political opponents. When the case became desperate, the King was permitted to die in all the odour of an edifying confession. The viaticum was carried there with all the pomp imaginable

the canopy borne by the Princes of the blood, and attended by all the principal personages of the court; while it was observed the Dauphin seemed the most affected of any one, and wept profusely.

And so Louis the XV. slept with the hundred kings, his fathers, whose ashes were all shortly to be scattered to the winds; and meanwhile Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette reigned in his stead. Youth, good intentions, innocence, beauty, and grace, succeeded to the deformities and degradations of vice. The moral and political profligacy of the latter part of Louis XV.'s reign, had affected rather the person of the king than the office of monarchy: There was a tide of loyalty and affection waiting to flow and superabound in favour of his successor. The enactment of a

« EelmineJätka »