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period, and was perhaps in all respects finer than Chinese; while in the days of Queen Anne and the first Georges china vases, dishes, and hideous monsters, were to be seen in all the houses of the rich in old England.
As I grew older, however, I learnt another lesson; and although I fully admit the rare beauty of many of the productions of China and Japan, both modern and ancient, and am aware that fine specimens still command high prices, I confess that European specimens are far more agreeable to my . taste; and I fancy the Oriental china now in the market, which if gathered together would more than fill the Crystal Palace, or two Crystal Palaces, is no longer valued as it was wont to be. There was, indeed, a period when the china termed "crackles" was highly appreciated, and when specimens of that ware sold for more than their weight in silver. But now even the finest specimens appear to be of no great value; so capricious is taste, or fashion, or whatever you like to call that inconstant deity whose wand rules the desires of the world. It is not long since I acquired a practical knowledge of this fact. Happening to have in my possession two small crackle vases, one green, the other yellow, and wishing to get rid of them, I took them to a dealer, expecting a large price for them. Judge my surprise when he offered me two pounds for my treasures, with the assurance that his profit .would not be ten shillings; and I have had from subsequent experience no just reason ta doubt him.
Indeed, a gallant friend of mine, who had been present at that which may be fairly termed the ransacking of the Palace of Pekin, informed me only recently that he had brought home some fine specimens of Japan and Oriental china, most of which he had sold in London for at least a third less than he could have obtained from the natives ere he left; and he added, "If all the specimens, good, bad, and indifferent, which now overburden the English market were returned from whence they came, they would sell for double the price to be obtained either in London or in any other of the European capitals. In fact, the natives are highly indignant that so much which is precious to them should leave the country." Some of our largest collectors or dealers may act on this hint, if so minded. I place the suggestion unreservedly at their service.
Although it is my intention to dwell more largely on the subject of china—which is my peculiar taste —in subsequent pages, other articles of the fine arts, carved ivory, Venetian and Bohemian glass, enamels, wood-carvings, arms, and ancient jewelry, may all come fairly under the denomination of bric-a-brac.
MARSEILLES AND MESSINA.
/^~\NE ounce of practice is worth ten of theory, —at least so said some practical philosopher of olden time, and I fully agree with him.
We are at Marseilles. The getting there in the merry month of May, when vineyards and mulberry-trees put forth their early leaves, and almond-trees are in full bloom, is a pleasant and unfatiguing journey. Few, if any, are the railways in Europe by which one travels so smoothly or arrives with such punctuality as on the line between Paris and Marseilles. We leave the former city at 8 p.m., generally arriving at the latter on the following day at noon; so that little delay is allowed for gastronomy en route. A cup of cafeaihlait at that city of democracy, Lyons—where the waiters go round the table for payment ere you have swallowed the first spoonful of your beverage—is all that you can expect till the journey ends; unless, indeed, you snatch up a slice of truffled pie during your three minutes' halt at Avignon,—a halt just long enough to make you regret that you cannot linger for a late breakfast at that unrivalled buffet, where the civility of the proprietor is only surpassed by the excellency of his supplies. The buffet of Avignon during the Crimean war was a buffet par excellence, and is so, I have reason to believe, in 1874, both going to and coming from Marseilles; but the Marseilles of to-day is no more the Marseilles of our grandfathers, nor indeed of our fathers, than is the Paris of The President the Paris of Napoleon III. Nevertheless there are few cities in Europe which, at all times and under all circumstances, present more stirring life. In this southern port men of all tongues and all nations throng together in commercial enterprise. The traveller is almost bewildered by the clamour of strange sounds; while dark and swarthy Saracenic countenances remind him that he is approaching Oriental Europe. The heights that rise above the city are clad