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on the excellencies of the
ART. I.-Travels in Europe and Africa, comprising a Journey through France, Spain, and Portugal, to Morocco, with a particular Account of that Empire. Also a second Tour through France in 1814. By Colonel KEATINGE. 2 vols. 4to. Colburn, 1816. Pp. 346 and 274.
We have here two volumes in quarto, comprehending together only 620 pages of text, with 34 mezzotinto designs, many of them ill-selected, and most of them indifferently executed, charged at four guineas. Such a price for such a work, implies a confident persuasion of the degradation of the judgment of the public, that we do not at all think justified by the fact, and we were anxious to inquire by whom this unfavourable prepossession was indulged. We are to presume that it is not to be ascribed to the author, as he 66 puts profit in the publishing quite out of the question;" but to whomsoever it is to be attributed, it is our duty as critics in such matters, to be "the guardians of the public purse," and to take care that this merciless appetite for gain, and this presumptuous adoption of the means of acquiring it, should be disappointed.
The bare inspection of the introductory part was sufficient to satisfy us of the general character of the work. It is true there is no dedication, but the preface is so abundantly stored with self-panegyric, that if a portion of eulogy be necessary to give currency to the sentiments of a writer, assuredly that stamp is impressed upon them. What the author professes to perform may be collected from the following paragraph, which will also supply a gratifying foretaste of the entertainment the reader is to expect:
"In regard to the efforts at scientific elucidation, in the present work, the author will certainly attempt no apology :-he would have toiled to very little purpose indeed had he totally neglected them. Perhaps the article Geology may fill some pages; he is not inclined to throw doubts thereupon, it being a subject so agreeable to his mind. The outlines of this grand science are the delight of reflec
CRIT. REV. VOL. IV. July, 1816.
tion they are the link which unite earth to heaven, as etymologies are those which connect man to man, however remotely dispersed over our planet. Here be it observed, the great objects of nature, the awful considerations which impress the mind from their contemplation, will, as they expand thought, if the inconvenience be not vigilantly guarded against, inflate expression; for who is made of such stuff as to be able to view all nature through a sheet of ice?”
A natural objection to this work is, that so much of it consists of the recollection of early travels (in 1785), instead of being the transcript of thoughts now gathered fresh from the place of their growth. However the writer endeavours to countervail this circumstance, and tells us that the whole is new, not merely as to the reflections, but with regard to the subject, and that he has avoided retracing the steps trodden by others, not only before but since his excursion.
"The author can safely pledge himself, that in the present compilation of his notes, and the reflections on them, which a considerable period of later life has afforded, he has studiously avoided any subject which he has been able to trace as having previous communication from any other quarter; from such as travelled subsequently to, but commenced authorship before him.”
With such bold pretensions as to the magnificence of his project in the former passage, and the novelty of its execution in the present, we invite our readers to accompany Mr. Keatinge in a part of his travels, with the promise that they shall before long be relieved from this society, as far as we may be concerned in their detention.
In the commencement of our career, we discover very little of this alleged novelty; and after a short interval we arrive at the Pyrenees, of which we have not much more information than would be imparted in the following lines :
"I'd call these mountains, but can't call them so,
But we are presently brought before Montserrat, of which there are seven distinct views from the pencil of the artist, and the following, among many others equally sublime, from the pen of our author, who, in his fondness for the grand and majestic, never neglects the familiar and homely :
"One comparison," says he, " in addition to the forego
ing as completely in the ordinary course of life as any the snug parlour affords may be added-the close resemblance the mountain bears to a Christmas pasty;" and he proceeds, pursuing his simile as far as it will go, "an inroad may be so happily imagined into the latter as to render the resemblance perfect."
Who would travel to Monserrat when they can have so "perfect" a counterpart by demolishing the "turriti scopuli" of a Christmas pye, and enjoying its rich seasoning, instead of encountering a very different seasoning on the bleak heights of Catalonia?
The writer soon forsakes this natural scenery, and arrives at the capital of a country which he, from some fancy or love of variety, christens Madrit, as we have seen changed Ralph to Ralpho, and Crambe to Crambo, as convenience dictates. Here, after apprizing the uninformed, that "fuel and water are rather necessary ingredients in human œconomics," he amuses us with some notice of the stream in the neighbourhood from which the city is sparingly supplied.
"A handsome bridge should indicate a river; but it requires some activity of investigation, even with this clue, to discover it. Its dimensions to one of thick sight are invisible.' A wit (for these pests of society exist every where) has told us, in epigram, that one day missing the Manzanares, on casting his eyes up its bed, he found an ass had drunk it dry!"
Before we quit this entertaining paragraph, we will afford the author consolation with reference to the querulous portion of it. We can assure him, from our own observation, that there are some exceptions as to the ubiquity of these "pests of society," for after the most diligent search, we have been wholly unsuccessful in our endeavours to discover a single specimen through the entire range of his own travels. But if the biped is no where, his quadruped is every where.
As the author journeys onward, in the month of January he descends upon Aranjuez; and notwithstanding the rigour of the season, borne on the feathery pinions of thought, more rapid than the leaden wings of time, he tells us that "the native of Europe is here gratified with some of his rustic scenery, the hay-making process." This is but an indifferent" agricultural speculation" in a country where animals are unused to dry food of that description. But he proceeds from these pitiful localities to more comprehensive
ideas affecting, not a cottage, but a kingdom. "It becomes," says he, " obvious now by contrast, a powerful mode of demonstration, how much Spain could be a gainer by a judicious system of agriculture;" and then he breaks forth, overpowered by the torrent of his feeling, "What a magical revolution it alone would make in her statistical modification!"
This is what has been called by one of those "pests of society," a wit, " taking things in the lump, without stopping at minute considerations." The author seems to suppose, that it is much more convenient to state simply a general conclusion, than to detail the arguments that lead to it; since, by the mere exposition of the former, the reader is made acquainted with all the writer knows, and any comparison of the premises with the inference, might unneces sarily disturb his conviction.
By the few examples we have already supplied from the work, the sort of style of composition to which Mr. Keatinge is attached must have been ascertained. We have seen him "from vulgar rules with brave disorder part," but under this deviation, it is difficult sometimes to know to what higher direction he has submitted. It cannot have escaped the notice of the reader, that the class to which our author belongs is of the lengthy or sesquipedalian; and as his words are protracted, so a sort of happy coincidence is maintained in the remoteness of his ideas. The Colonel is not a convert to the opinion, that in orthoepy there is no difference between a word of six syllables and six monosyllables, the latter being so intimately blended that the ear cannot, like the eye, distinguish their separation; and such is his regard for fine words, that he does not lose time in examining either into the purity of the grammar, or the applicability of the meaning, despising concord in either, and every where preferring, like the adepts in the science of music, sound to sense.
With such peculiarities in regard to the English, we may expect some in the Spanish tongue. A luminous passage regarding the accommodations on the road is as follows:
"The inns, so far, from Madrit, are on the magnificent establishment. It is presumable, here is an intended classification of them by especial denominations. Posada we know means no more than a lodging-place. Venta boasts (fallacious hope too often!) a step of elevation, and tells us supplies are there to be had for money. Fonda (Arabicè Fondagh) is a remnant of Moorish days, in equal use with the rest, but less definite. Uostalris is a place of general