« EelmineJätka »
“ All this, however, may be considered as childish. I. grant it. But what can reasonably be considered as more mean and puerile than the conceits of heathen authors ? and what should be the object of a well-directed education, but to keep out of sight all childish fancies, and supply the mind with proper materials for meditation? I must be permitted to remark in this place, that where no counteracting means are used to rectify the disorders of a puerile imagination, the evil must necessarily increase with increasing years. A wicked child may be sometimes quieted with toys and sugar-plums; but the restless imagination of an unsanctified young person cannot be so easily satisfied. The study of the Book of God is the appointed means for correcting and purifying our thoughts, and few were ever persuaded to adopt this custom without finding the divine blessing.
“I have probably now said enough to lead you to conjecture that, as I advanced in years, my progress was rather from worse to worse than from better to better : and from this time till I reached my eighteenth year, though I grew in stature, and acquired some degree of important information, I deviated further and further from that straight and narrow way which leadeth unto life.
“ About this time, it was necessary for my father (I do not precisely recollect on what occasion) to pay a visit to the court of our sovereign prince, the Duke of Baden, who was at that time at his palace at Swetzinghen. As certain princesses were also then residing at the palace, ladies to whom my mother was not only well known but distantly related, and as it was a season of public festivity in the court of Baden, my father was pleased to make my mother and myself the companions of his journey. This was a gratifying incident, and I proposed to myself great pleasure in being introduced to such scenes of princely grandeur and festivity as the occasion promised.
“Were it to my present purpose, I could say much about the satisfactions I enjoyed in this journey from my father's house on the Schwartzwald towards the higher provinces of the grand duke's dominions. We arrived at Swetzinghen on the third day from our leaving home; where my father having provided his family with the
best apartments which so small a town could afford, he hastened to pay his duty to his sovereign, and was honoured with an invitation for my mother and myself to a gala to be celebrated that very evening at the palace.
“ It was with no small delight that I saw myself arrayed in a magnificent dress for this my first appearance in a royal circle; and the sight of my own person in a large mirror, (for there are few houses of any respectability on the Continent which cannot boast a piece of furniture of this description,) blazing in the family jewels, and sweeping behind me a train of the richest silk, very powerfully assisted my imagination in anticipating the pleasures which I expected.
“ It was after sunset, in a glorious evening in the early part of autumn, when we were conveyed to court in my father's coach, attended by such a train as the pomp of the occasion was thought by my mother to require: for the nobles of the German empire affect extraordinary appearances of pomp, though they are great contemners of what in England we call consistency. On reaching the palace, we were set down in a large court encompassed on three sides by buildings whose extensive and heavy architecture was any thing, as I thought, but magnificent; though their defects were in some degree shrouded by the dubious light. However, let the building be what it might, it was a palace, and the dwelling of a crowned head, and as such I entered it with trepidation, although it was far inferior in point of beauty to my father's habitation.
“I scarcely recollect the various halls and antechambers through which we passed before our introduction into the presence of his serene highness, who received us in an apartment blazing with all the circumstances of royal magnificence; neither shall I trouble you with the various ceremonies of presentation and introduction which took place before I found myself standing with a group of young ladies of my own rank, in one of the many apartments of the suite which communicated with the presence-chamber, and where I was associated on a footing of equality and apparent intimacy with some of the fairest and most noble of the principality.
o. It is not in human nature to stand in a group of
strangers, and to see for the first time a number of faces, without feeling a predilection for some and a distaste for others. There are persons, who, having had much experience of life, and possessing, moreover, a natural insight into character, are enabled at once to form a shrewd and almost an accurate idea of the state of mind and habits of all who come under their inspection. But it is seldom that young persons form a right judgment of others on a first appearance: while there are many, (and at that time I was one of these unfortunate individuals,) who really have not a correct idea of what is valuable in any character, and who possess neither taste nor principle sufficient to admire that which is excellent where it really exists. It cannot, therefore, be matter of wonder, if, amidst the splendid groups which surrounded me, I, who was, as I have before said, totally unsettled with regard to principle, should select from amid the specious crowd a companion who was perhaps the most unfit of the whole party to enjoy my confidence. This young lady was the daughter of a man of very high rank in Baden, and one who had often been employed as an ambassador in foreign courts. He was lately returned from France, where his daughter had been educated ; and it was probably that easy and unblushing air, together with that caressing style of manners so usual among
those with whom she had associated from infancy, which completed the fascination her countenance had begun. Her title was the Countess of Rheinswald; and she had an only brother, whom she introduced to me before our friendship had subsisted the short space of an hour.
“ I had been introduced to this young lady in common with many others, shortly after my
admission into the palace, and had endeavoured to improve my acquaintance by putting one or two questions to her on imlifferent subjects.
You are a stranger to us all, then,' she said, in answer to my last question; and yet we all know you well, at least by report; and I can assure you that the rumour of your arrival excited no small sensation in the noble society here present.'
My arrival?' I replied; how can it be possible that the expectation of seeing a person of so little im
portance as myself should have affected a single individual in this company?'
««• It affected all and every one,' she answered, ‘at least among our younger people; for some desired, and others feared to see you: though I doubt not but that the hopes and fears of all have fallen infinitely short of the reality.' "You use enigmas,' I replied.
Perhaps I may,' she said ; ‘yet not of so dark a nature, but that you might readily understand them, did you only know your own advantages.'
My wit was not so blunt, but that I then began to comprehend her meaning; and was no doubt better pleased with the compliments she paid me than if they had been expressed in less ambiguous terms.
“Her next manæuvre was to take me apart to a sofa at one end of the room, from whence we could see much of what was passing in the next apartment, where the duke himself was engaged with such of his visitors as were most distinguished either for their age, their weight in public affairs, or the rank they held in the principa
«« Come,' said she, sit by me; and as you know few persons here, I will be
nomenclator.' “ I accepted her invitation, and, seated by her, was much amused, for the space of half an hour, with the lively pictures she drew of every individual then within her view. In every description she conveyed something of satire, but it was with a delicate and courtly touch; and every little piece of raillery seemed to escape her as it were without her own knowledge. Some, indeed, of the figures which swam before us, (for it must be recollected that all this passed in the presence of a crowned head, though not on an occasion of ceremony,) were laughable enough, and might have excited mirthful ideas in wiser heads than ours; for the countess was apparently little older than myself.
“ The style of dress at that period was extremely ridiculous; the heads of the ladies being branched forth with an exuberance of powdered curls, feathers, and flowers, while the lower parts of their costume not a little resembled the decorations of a maypole. Mingled with these figures, which were by far the most numerous,
were some who retained the fashions of former dayscertain old dowagers, and venerable heads of ancient families, who counted any deviation from the long waist, the stomachers, the mantuas, the doubled and trebled ruffles, the toupets, and lappets, of ancient days, as great an offence against propriety, and as decided a proof of the degeneracy of the age, as could be evidenced by fallen man.
“ It must not, however, be supposed that we yielded to any visible expressions of merriment on this occasion. Had I been so disposed, I should have been warned to use a contrary behaviour by the guarded manner of my companion, who had been too much used to scenes of this kind to discover any departure from the most correct manners.
" While this conversation was passing, and while every moment increased my confidence in'my new associate, a young gentleman entered the room, whom, from the strong resemblance, I instantly discovered to be the brother of my new friend, though he was undoubtedly much handsomer, and possessed a certain expression of countenance, which, when once seen, could not easily be forgotten; nevertheless, as I was then no deep physiognomist, I could not exactly ascertain what this expression signified. The young man was, however, the accomplished gentleman in his manner and deportment: and he had not been many minutes in the room,
before my friend pointed him out to me, hoping, as she added, to have a speedy opportunity of introducing him to me, informing me, at the same time, that he had been educated in France, and had served in the army. Indeed, this last piece of information was unnecessary, since he actually wore a superb uniform, while his step and air were decidedly military.
“ The young man had taken his station at the upper end of the room, among a group of young ladies, with whom he seemed to be perfectly familiar; but, on observing his sister, he advanced towards us: when having
ne through the form of a regular introduction, he took a seat by me, and attached himself to me for the rest of the evening. While we remained in this situation, collect little that he said, which, on reflection, could either greatly please or displease. He spoke like a