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"The windows are all of superb plate-glass, most of them five or six feet high, and about three feet wide. There are four huge panes to each window, made to lift up, each pane being framed by itself, slipping in a groove, and lifting up separately, so as to form a distinct window. They are of the most costly materials. One room on the private staircase has a glass dome or lantern, with ornamented stone-work of the finest texture, resembling fillagree."
"Plate glasses are in every door throughout the building, except in the bed-rooms."
"Some of the doors and double doors have five hinges, of the most expensive kind and exquisite workmanship."
"Two rooms are completely hung, one with dark blue paper, and broad crimson border covered with gold; the other is of a delicate salmon colour."
And "there are three hundred rooms, requiring five hundred servants in constant attendance."
"The finishing will cost at least half a million."
This ungrateful plumber adds, that, in spite of its extensive and costly improvements, his Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence, Heir Presumptive of the Throne, is said to be " by no means partial to Windsor;" and he is of opinion, that "if the late Minister had avoided sending an expedition to Portugal, and expended its cost upon this building, the King might have had a palace worthy of the empire; the nation something to show for its money; and the affairs of Portugal would be only in the same situation they are now in."
That is to say, if Mr Canning had not taken the liberal side of politics with regard to Portugal, as a quarter which he could not omit without detriment to the cause all over the world, princes and paper-hangers might have been now doing what they pleased; and Don Miguel," that unlicked cub," (as a Plymouth friend describes him) might have been rifling the honey of his industrious subjects, without bringing a hive about his ears.
We only hope, for our parts, that the erection of this new edifice will amuse the King, and give him some pleasant hours. We have our opinions respecting the desirableness of such things; but they involve reflections upon a great many other things for which kings are not responsible, and which cannot hinder us from wishing that their latter days may be comforted. Comfort, unluckily, it is not very easy to identify with buildings of this sort. To say nothing of the "bed in a recess," and of panes that open like windows to let in a zephyr at a time, which are matters of private taste, what
sense of privacy can a man have, in a house with three hundred splendid rooms in it, "requiring five hundred servants in constant attendance?" A king can never be comfortable like another man, unless he sets his wits to act as if he were no king, and then his birth and bringing-up would not let him. He and the poorest man in his dominions are just about in as bad a way for the attainment of a tranquil pleasure. His enjoyments must always be at the height, "full measure, pressed down, and running over;" and let them get ever so high, they must be higher, or what do they amount to? The will, the will, is the thing. When this is put into a state of excitement, beyond the level of humanity, there is no end of measuring its wants with its possessions.
Somehow these large houses never do to live in, even for men whose imaginations might be supposed to be equal to them. In the famous account of his house left us by Pliny, to say nothing of the obscurity of it to modern readers, and the strange number of windows he seems to have delighted in, we are teazed with the multitude of rooms, the neighbourhood of servants, and the great pains he is obliged to take, after all, to secure to himself in the midst of all this elegant retirement, a little noiseless room in which he can really retire.
There is another ostentatious account of a house by Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham (the palace still called Buckingham House, in the Park). He tries to make a great case out for himself; talks of rising from a very large bedchamber, entirely quiet, &c. "to walk in the garden," or in "a saloon filled with pictures;" of looking into "the pleasantest park in the world;" of concluding the evening" on a delightful terrace;" and of heaven knows how many rooms, views, paintings, and other luxuries; and yet at the close of his description, he must needs add,-with a sigh,—
"After all this (to a friend I will expose my weakness as an instance of the mind's unquietness under the most pleasing enjoyments) I am oftener missing a pretty gallery in the old house I pulled down, than pleased with a saloon which I built in its stead, though a thousand times better in all manner of respects."
This candour does him honour. He concludes, in a strain which lets us still further into his uneasiness, and which, among other
evidences in his writings, shows him, with all the pride of which he was accused, to have been a good-natured man:—
"And now," says he, “(pour faire bonne bouche, with a grave reflection) it were well for us, if this incapacity of being entirely contented was as sure a proof of our being reserved for happiness in another world, as it is of our frailty and imperfection in this; I confess the divines tell us so; but though I believe in a future state more firmly than a great many of them appear to do, by their inordinate desire of the good things in this; yet I own my faith is founded, not on the fallacious arguments of preachers, but on that adorable conjunction of unbounded power and goodness, which certainly must recompense hereafter so many thousands of innocent wretches created to be so miserable here.”
It is unphilosophical to say, that the poor are "created to be miserable." We know that they too often are so, and princes and dukes with them; and there is good reason to believe that these notions of destiny, superficially taken, are capital things for keeping them so. The case is, that unhappy paupers and unhappy princes are equally in a condition unbefitting the reasonableness of humanity; and that neither too many rooms, nor too little, are the secret for putting the occupier at ease. Here is a good-natured possessor of a palace, uneasy both with the palace itself, and with the thought that others have got none. If he were not goodnatured, his own ill-disposition would plague him worse. And thus it is that individuals cannot be happy, while the mass are in a preposterous state of inequality. It is a common answer to lamentations respecting poverty, that the rich are in reality not more happy than the poor; that care is equally distributed, if people knew all, &c., and pleasure with it. This, to a certain extent, is true; but it is as foolish an argument as can be conceived for maintaining things as they are: for the great point is, that no class of men should have cares beyond what they need have, whether of poverty or wealth; whereas, granting that care must always exist in a degree, some men are rendered superfluously miserable by an excess of want, while others are made equally so by an unnatural and will-pampering abundance. Another sophistry is, that these superfluities "employ the poor." Employ the poor by all means, and the rich too (especially as they think it such a good thing); but why employ them to any one's disadvantage? Why have uneasy proprietors of a dozen great houses, and people un
easy with being no proprietors at all? Moderate employment is good for everybody, and immoderate possession for nobody.
We may reckon it for certain, that the greatest pleasure which the King has in his new building, is in seeing how it gets on, examining plans, &c., and giving directions for the furniture: that is to say, in occupying himself. All the rest—the grandeur, the effect on strangers, the saying to himself, "How fine this is!" and "How royally I am housed!" comes to nothing, when the occupation is gone, or only serves as a groundwork for some unattainable wish. The top of Babel was found to be no nearer heaven than the bottom.
DOMESTIC NEWS FROM CHINA.
A CURIOSITY has arrived in town, of a nature more interesting to those who consider the world at large, and the prospects of it, than twenty more obvious phenomena. We mean, the first three numbers of an English newspaper, printed in China. It is called the Canton Register; and is to give us as much information as possible relative to the manners and proceedings of that very populous, cunning, twinkle-eyed, tea-drinking, petti-toed, and out-of-theway country; which has so long contrived to keep its monotony to itself.
When an ambassador arrives in China, he is had up to town (as we should say) by the most secret possible conveyance; suffered to look about him as little as may be; and dispatched as fast as he can be turned out, with a toy for his master, and none of his objects gained. Furthermore, Canton is the Yarmouth or Portsmouth of China; and from that quarter an occasional decree has transpired from the Emperor, just as a Chinese might have carried off one of our king's proclamations from a wall at a sea-port. In this manner, all the information hitherto afforded us has been brought away. We know something of the rabble of Canton, and the rabble of the Court; but respecting the great mass of the people, travellers have been able to tell us little or nothing.
We suspect, however, that the world has been enabled to form a better judgment of the Chinese than they fancy. We might
believe the account of the Jesuits, or not, as we pleased; but those reverend gentlemen, besides the history of their own praises and progress, furnished us with some Chinese dramas and novels, which have turned out to be genuine. The number of these has latterly been increased; Sir George Staunton has added a translation of their chief book of the law; and thus, from the evidences afforded by books (books, ever the great enlighteners of the earth!) we have been enabled to form at least some good probable guesses at the state of society and knowledge among all the classes of our little-eyed friends; the upshot of which appears to be this; that they are a people naturally intelligent, humane, and fanciful, who, by reason of an excess of veneration paid to their fathers and forefathers, have been kept for an extraordinary period of time in a state of profound submission to their "paternal government;" and the consequence has been, that their gentleness has been converted into effeminacy, their intelligence into cunning and trickery, and the whole popular mind rendered stationary for centuries. It is impossible not to be sensible of the miniature scale upon which everything proceeds in their novels. They take little sups of wine, little cups of tea; have little feet and eyes; write little
poems, and get on in the world by dint of very little tricks. One cannot but fancy them writing with crow-quills, and speaking at the tip of their voice.
At the same time, there is something not unamiable, nor even undignified or unprofound, in that universal sense of the filial duties, of which the government has taken so much advantage. And this has kept alive certain virtues and humanities among them, which would have gone out under any other despotism. A Chinese is taught to have a sort of worship for the authors of his being, and if we mistake not, for their's; perhaps for two or three generations upward. Wherever subsistence is easy, and the temper not excessively bad, this can hardly fail to produce a corresponding tenderness towards the children, at least a mild and considerate treatment. It is true, instances of the reverse, when they do occur, must be frightful, and give double force to that excess of arrogance and selfish exaction which parents, not overwise, are sometimes guilty of in all countries: for even in China the mistake must be exaspe