صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

fected with it, are barbarous, tasteless, and incapable of relishing beauty or harmony. Thus ends my cri ticism.




THE following letter was sent to a young lady, five or six years ago. If it will contribute to entertain the readers of your Magazine, it is much at your service.

"YOUNG as you are, my dear Flora, you cannot but have noticed the eagerness with which questions, relative to civil liberty, have been discussed in every society. To break the shackles of oppression, and assert the native rights of man, is esteemed by many among the noblest efforts of heroic virtue; but vain is the possession of political liberty, if there exists a tyrant of our own creation; who, without law or reason, or even external force, exercises over us the most despotic authority; whose jurisdiction is extended over every part of private and domestic life; controls our pleasures, fashions our garb, cramps our motions, fills our lives with vain cares and restless anxiety. The worst slavery is that which we voluntarily impose upon ourselves; and no chains are so cumbrous and galling as those which we are pleased to wear by way of grace and ornament.-Musing upon this idea, gave rise to the following dream or vision.

"Methought I was in a country of the strangest and most singular appearance I had ever beheld: the rivers were forced into jet d'eaus, and wasted in artificial water-works; the lakes were fashioned by the hand of art; the roads were sanded with spar and gold dust; the trees all bore the marks of the shears, they were bent and twisted into the most whimsical forms, and connected together by festoons of riband and silk fringe; the wild flowers were transplanted into vases

of fine china, and painted with artificial white and red. The disposition of the ground was full of fancy, but grotesque and unnatural in the highest degree; it was all highly cultivated, and bore the marks of wonderful industry; but among its various productions, I could hardly discern one that was of any use. My attention, however, was soon called off from the scenes of inanimate life, by the view of the inhabitants, whose form and appearance was so very preposterous, and, indeed, so unlike any thing human, that I fancied myself transported to the country of the Anthropophagi, and men whose heads

do grow

beneath their shoulders:

for the heads of many of these people were swelled to an astonishing size, and seemed to be placed in the middle of their bodies; of some, the ears were dis tended, till they hung upon the shoulders; and of others, the shoulders were raised, till they met the ears: there was not one free from some deformity, or monstrous swelling, in one part or other-either it was before, or behind, or about the hips, or the arms were puffed up to an unusual thickness, or the throat was increased to the same size with the poor objects lately exhibited under the name of the Monstrous Craws; some had no necks others had necks that reached almost their waists; the bodies of some were bloated up to such a size, that they could scarcely enter a pair of folding doors; and others had suddenly sprouted up to such a disproportionate height, that they could not sit upright in their loftiest carriages. Many shocked me with the appearance of being nearly cut in two, like a wasp; and I was alarmed at the sight of a few, in whose faces, otherwise very fair and healthy, I discovered an eruption of black spots, which I feared was the fatal sign of some pestilential disorder. The sight of these various and uncouth deformities inspired me with much pity; which, however, was soon changed into disgust, when I perceived, with great surprise, that every one of these unfortunate men and women

was exceedingly proud of his own peculiar deformity, and endeavoured to attract my notice to it as much as possible. A lady, in particular, who had a swelling under her throat, larger than any goitre in the Valais, and which, I am sure, by its enormous projection, preyented her from seeing the path she walked in, brushed by me with an air of the greatest self-complacency, and asked me if she was not a charming creature?— But, by this time, I found myself surrounded by an immense crowd, who were all pressing along in one direction; and I perceived that I was drawn along with them, by an irresistible impulse, which grew stronger every moment: I asked, whither we were hurrying, with such eager steps? and was told, that we were going to the court of the queen Fashion, the great Diana, whom all the world worshippeth. I would have retired, but felt myself impelled to go on, though without being sensible of any outward force.-When I came to the royal presence, I was astonished at the magnificence I saw around me! The queen was sitting on a throne, elegantly fashioned, in the form of a shell, and inlaid with gems and mother-of-pearl. It was supported by a camelion, formed of a single emerald. She was dressed in a light robe of changeable silk, which fluttered about her in a profusion of fantastic folds, that imitated the form of clouds, and like them, were continually changing their appearance. In one hand, she held a rouge-box, and in the other, one of those optical glasses, which distort figures in length or in breadth, according to the position in which they are held. At the foot of the throne was displayed a profusion of the richest productions of every quarter of the globe-tributes from land and sea-from every animal and plant -perfumes, sparkling stones, drops of pearl, chains of gold, webs of the finest linen, wreaths of flowers, the produce of art, which vied with the most delicate productions of nature-forests of feathers, waving their brilliant colours in the air, and canopying the throne; -glossy silks, net-work of lace, silvery ermine, soft folds of vegetable wool, rustling paper, and shining

spangles; the whole intermixed with pendants and streamers, of the gayest tinctured riband. All these, together, made so brilliant an appearance, that my eyes were at first dazzled; and it was some time before I recovered myself enough to observe the ceremonial of the court. Near the throne, and its chief supports, stood the queen's two prime ministers, Caprice on the one side, and Vanity on the other. Two officers seemed chiefly busy among the attendants. One of them was a man, with a pair of shears in his hand, and a goose by his side, a mysterious emblem, of which I could not fathom the meaning: he sat cross-legged, like the great Lama of the Tartars;-he was busily employed in cutting out coats and garments, not, however, like Dorcas, for the poor-nor, indeed, did they seem intended for any mortal whatever, so ill were they adapted to the shape of the human body; some of the garments were extravagantly large, others as preposterously small; of others, it was difficult to guess to what part of the person they were meant to be applied. Here were coverings, which did not cover--ornaments, which disfigured--and defences against the weather, more slight and delicate than what they were meant to defend; but all were eagerly caught up, without distinction, by the crowd of votaries who were waiting to receive them. The other officer was dressed in a white succinct linen garment, like a priest of the lower order. He moved in a cloud of incense, more highly scented than the breezes of Arabia; he carried a tuft of the whitest down of the swan in one hand, and in the other a small iron instrument, heated red-hot, which he brandished in the air. It was with infinite concern I beheld the Graces bound at the foot of the throne, and obliged to officiate, as handmaids, under the direction of these two officers. I now began to inquire by what laws this queen governed her subjects, but soon found her administration was that of the most arbitrary tyrant ever known. Her laws are exactly the reverse of those of the Medes and Persians; for they are changed every day, and every hour; and what makes the matter still more perplexing, they are

in no written code, nor even made public by proclamation; they are only promulgated by whispers, an obscure sign, or turn of the eye, which those only who have the happiness to stand near the queen can catch with any degree of precision; yet the smallest transgression of the laws is severely punished, not indeed by fines or imprisonment, but by a sort of interdict similar to that which, in superstitious times, was laid by the Pope on disobedient princes, and which operated in such a manner, that no one would eat, drink, or associate with the forlorn culprit; and he was almost deprived of the use of fire and water. This difficulty of discovering the will of the goddess occasioned so much crowding to be near the throne, such jostling and elbowing one another, that I was glad to retire, and observe what I could among the scattered crowd: and the first thing I took notice of, was various instruments of torture which every where met my eyes. Torture has, in most other governments of Europe, been abolished by the mild spirit of the times; but it reigns here in full force and terror. I saw officers of this cruel court employed in boring holes, with red-hot wires, in the ears, nose, and various parts of the body, and then distend-ing them with the weight of metal chains, or stones, cut into a variety of shapes; some had invented a contrivance for cramping the feet in such a manner, that many are lamed by it for their whole lives. Others I saw, slender and delicate in their form, and naturally nimble as the young antelope, who were obliged to carry constantly about with them a cumbrous unwieldy machine, of a pyramidal form, several ells in circumference. But the most common, and one of the worst instruments of torture, was a small machine, armed with fish-bone and ribs of steel, wide at top, but extremely small at bottom. In this detestable invention, the queen orders the bodies of her female subjects to be inclosed it is then, by means of silk cords, drawn closer and closer, at intervals, till the unhappy victim can scarcely breathe; and they have found the exact point that can be borne without fainting, which, how

« السابقةمتابعة »