صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

towards limited monarchy, society is dilated in the same proportion. If we consider freedom of condition in no other light than as it affects society, a monarchy limited by law, like this of ours, is perhaps the freest constitution upon earth; because was it to diverge from the centre on which it now rests, either towards despotism on one hand, or democracy on the other, the restraints


social freedom would operate in the same degree, though not in the same mode; for whether that restraint is produced by the awe of a court, or the promiscuous licentiousness of a rabble, the barrier is in either case broken down; and whether it lets the cobbler or the king's messenger into our company, the tyranny is insupportable, and society is enslaved.

When an Englishman is admitted into what are called the best circles in Paris, he generally finds something captivating in them on a first acquaintance; for without speaking of their internal recommendations, it is apt to flatter a man's vanity to find himself in an exclusive party, and to surmount those difficulties, which others cannot. As soon as he has had time to examine the component parts of this circle into which he so happily stept, he readily discovers that it is a circle, for he goes round and round without one excursion; the whole party follows the same stated revolution, their minds and bodies keep the same orbit, their opinions rise and set with the regularity of planets, and for what is passing without their sphere they know nothing ofit. In this junto it rarely happens but some predomi. nant spirit takes the lead, and if he is ambitious of making a master-stroke indeed, he may go the length to declare, “that he has the honour to profess himself an Atheist.' The creed of this leading spirit is the creed of the junto; there is no fear of controversy; investigation does not reach them, and that

liberality of mind, which a collision of ideas only can produce, does not belong to them ; you must fall in with their sentiments, or keep out of their society; and hence arises that over-ruling self-opinion so peculiar to the French, that assumed superiority so conspicuous in their manners, which destroys the very essence of that politeness which they boast to excel in.

Politeness is nothing more than an eleg ant and concealed species of flattery, tending to put the person to whom it is addressed in good-humour and respect with himself; but if there is a parade and display affected in the exertion of it, if a man seems to say Look how condescending and gracious I am ! --whilst he has only the common offices of civility to perform, such politeness seems founded in mistake, and calculated to recommend the wrong person ; and

this mistake I have observed frequently to occur in French manners.

The national character of the Spaniards is very different from that of the French, and the habits of life in Madrid as opposite as may be from those which obtain at Paris. The Spaniards have been a great and free people, and though that grandeur and that freedom are no more, their traces are yet to be seen amongst the Castilians in particular.

The common people have not yet contracted that obsequiousness and submission, which the rigour of their government, if no revolution occurs to redress it, must in time reduce them to. The condition, which this gallant nation is now found in, between the despotism of the throne and the terrors of the inquisition, cannot be aggravated by description; body and mind are held in such complete slavery by these two gloomy powers, that men are not willing to expose their persons for the sake of their opinions, and society is of course exceedingly circumscribed ; to

[ocr errors]


away time seems all they aspire to; conversation turns upon few topics, and they are such as will not carry a dispute: neither glowing with the zeal of party, nor the cordial interchange of mutuat confidence ; day after day rolls in the same languid round through life; their seminaries of education, especially since the. expulsion of the Jesuits, are grievously in decline; learning is extinct; their faculties are whelmed in superstition, and ignorance covers them with a cloud of darkness, through which the brightest parts cannot find their way.

If this country saw its own interests in their true light, it would conciliate the affections of the Spanish nation, who are naturally disposed towards England; the hostile policy of maintaining a haughty fortress on the extremity of their coast, which is no longer valuable than whilst they continue to attack it, has driven them into a compact with France, odious to all true Spaniards, and which this country has the obvious means of dissolving. It is by an alliance with England that Spain will recover her pristine greatness; France is plunging her into provincial dependency; there is still virtue in the Spanish nation; honesty, simplicity, and sobriety, are still characteristics of the Castilian; he is brave, patient, unrepining; no soldier lives harder, sleeps less, or marches longer ; treat him like a gentleman, and you may work him like a mule; his word is a passport in affairs of honour, and a bond in matters of property. That dignity of nature, which in the highest orders of the state is miserably debased, still keeps its vigour in the bulk of the people, and will assuredly break out into some sudden and general convulsion for their deliverance. If there are virtue and good sense in the administration of this country, we shall seize the opportunity yet open

to us.

It now remains that I should speak of England, and when I turn my thoughts to my native island, and consider it with the impartiality of a citizen of the world, I discern in it all advantages in perfection, which man in social state can enjoy. A constitution of government sufficiently monarchical to preserve order and decorum in society, and popular enough to secure freedom; a climate so happily tempered, that the human genius is neither exhausted by heat, nor cramped and made torpid by cold; a land abounding in all manner of productions, that can encourage industry, invite exercise, and

promote health ; a lot of earth so singularly located, as marks it out by Providence to be the emporium of plenty and the asylum of peace ; a religion, whose establishment leaves all men free, neither endangering their persons, nor enslaving their minds; a. system of enlightened education so general, and a vein of genius so characteristical, that under the banners of a free press must secure to the nation a standing body of learned men, to spread its language to the ends of the world, and its fame to all posterity.

What is it then, which interrupts the enjoyments of social life, and disturbs the harmony of its inhabitants? Why do foreigners complain that time hangs heavy on their hands in England, that private houses are shut against them, and that, were it not for the resource of public places, they would find themselves in a solitude, or (more properly speaking) solitary in a croud ? How comes it to pass that country gentlemen, who occasionally visit town, see themselves neglected and forgotten by those very people, who have been welcomed to their houses and regaled with their hospitality! and men of talents and character, formed to grace and delight our convivial hours, are left to pace the Park and

streets of London by themselves, as if they were the exiles from society?

The fact is, trade occupies one end of the town, and politics engross the other : as for foreigners of distinction, who ought in good policy to be considered as the guests of the state, after they have gone through the dull ceremonial of a drawing-room, the court takes no farther concern about the The crown has no officer charged with their reception, provides no table within or without the palace for their entertainment; parliamentary or official avoca- ! tions are a standing plea for every state minister in his turn to neglect them. The winter climate and coast of England is so deterring to natives of more temperate latitudes, that they commonly pay their visits to the capital in the summer, when it is deserted : so that after billeting themselves in some empty hotel, amidst the fumes of paint and noise of repairs, they wear out a few tedious days, and then take flight, as if they had escaped from a prison. When parliament is sitting and the town is full, a man who does not interest himself in the politics and party of the day, will find the capital an unsocial place; that degree of freedom, which in other respects is the life of society, now becomes its mortal foe: the zeal and even fury, with which the people abet their party, and the latitude they give themselves in opinion and discourse, extinguish every voice that would speak peace and pleasure to the board, and turn good fellowship into loud contention and a strife of tongues.

The right assumed by our newspapers of publishing what they are pleased to call Parliamentary Debates, I must regard as one of the greatest evils of the time, replete with foreign and domestic mischief: our orators speak pamphlets, and the senate is turned into a theatre. The late hours of parliament,

« السابقةمتابعة »