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J. FIEVEE. (E. Review, 1803.)
Of all the species of travels, that which has moral observation for its object is the most liable to error, and has the greatest difficulties to overcome, before it can arrive at excellence. Stones, and roots, and leaves, are subjects which may exercise the understanding without rousing the passions. A mineralogical traveller will hardly fall foul upon the granite and the feldspar of other countries than his own ; a botanist will not conceal its non-descripts; and an agricultural tourist will faithfully detail the average crop per acre; but the
traveller who observes on the manners, habits, and insti
tutions of other countries, must have emancipated his
among them, a familiar acquaintance with their language, and an easy circulation among their various societies. The society into which a transient stranger gains the most easy access in any country, is not often
that which ought to stamp the national character; and no criterion can be more fallible, in a people so reserved
and inaccessible as the British, who (even when they open their doors to letters of introduction) cannot for * overcome the awkward timidity of their nature.
he same expressions are of so different a value in dif. ferent countries, the same actions proceed from such different causes, and produce such different effects, that a judgment of foreign nations, founded on rapid observation, is almost certainly a mere tissue of ludicrous and disgraceful mistakes ; and yet a residence of a month
or two seems to entitle a traveller to present the world 4
with a picture of manners in London, Paris, or Vienna, and even to dogmatise upon the political, religious, and legal institutions, as if it were one and the same thing to speak of abstract effects of such institutions, and of their effects combined with all the peculiar circumstances in which any nation may be placed.
2dly. An affectation of quickness in observation, an intuitive glance that requires only a moment, and a part, to judge of a perpetuity, and a whole. The late Mr. Petion, who was sent over into this country to acquire a knowledge of our criminal law, is said to have declared himself thoroughly informed upon the subject, after remaining precisely two and thirty minutes in the Old Bailey.
3dly. †he tendency to found observation on a system, rather than a system upon observation. The fact is, there are very few original eyes and ears. The great mass see and hear as they are directed by others, and bring back from a residence in foreign countries nothing but the vague and customary notions concerning it, which are carried and brought back for half a century, without verification or change. The most ordinary shape in which this tendency to prejudge makes its appearance among travellers, is by a disposition to exalt,
or, a still more absurd disposition, to depreciate their native country. They are incapable of considering a foreign people but under one single point of view — the relation in which they stand to their own; and the whole narrative is frequently nothing more than a mere triumph of national vanity, or the ostentation of superiority to so common a failing. But we are wasting our time in giving a theory of the faults of travellers, when we have such ample means of exemplifying them all from the publication now before us, in which Mr. Jacob Fievee, with the most Tsurprising talents for doing wrong, has contrived to condense and agglomerate every species of absurdit that has hitherto been made known, and even to o out occasionally into new regions of nonsense, with a boldness which well entitles him to the merit of originality in folly, and discovery in impertinence. We consider Mr. #. book as extremely valuable in one point of view. It affords a sort of limit or mind-mark, beyond which we conceive it to be impossible in future hat pertness and petulance should pass. It is well to be acquainted with the boundaries of our nature on both sides; and to Mr. Fievee we are indebted for this valuable approach to pessimism. ||The height of knowledge no man has yet scanned; but we have now pretty well fathomed the gulf of los We must, however, do justice to Mr. Fievée when he deserves it. He evinces, in his preface, a lurking uneasiness at the apprehension of exciting war between the two countries, from the anger to which his letters will give birth in England. He pretends to deny that they will occasion a war; but it is very easy to see he is not convinced by his own arguments; and we confess ourselves extremely pleased by this amiable solicitude at the probable effusion of human blood. We hope Mr. Fievée is deceived by his philanthropy, and that no such unhappy consequences will ensue, as he really believes, though he affects to deny them. We dare to say the dignity of this country will be satisfied, if the publication in question is disowned by the French government, or, at most, if the author is given up. At all events, we have no scruple to say, that to sacrifice 20,000 lives, and a hundred millions of money, to resent Mr. Z. Fievée's book, would be an unjustifiable waste of blood and treasure; and that to take him off privately by assassination would be an undertaking hardly compatible with the dignity of a great empire. To show, however, the magnitude of the provocation, we shall specify a few of the charges which he makes against the English. — That they do not understand fire-works as well as the French; that they charge a shilling for admission to the exhibition; that they have the misfortune of being incommoded by a certain disgraceful privilege, called the liberty of the press; that the opera band plays out of tune; that the English are so fond of drinking, that they get drunk with a certain air called the gas of Paradise; that the privilege of electing members of Parliament is so burthensome, that cities sometimes petition to be exempted from it; that the great obstacle to a Parliamentary reform is the mob; that women sometimes have titles distinct from those of their husbands, although, in England, any body can sell his wife at market, with a rope about her neck. To these complaints he adds — that the English are so far from enjoying that equality of which their partisans boast, that none but the servants of the higher nobility can carry canes behind a carriage; that the power which the French Kings had of pardoning before trial, is much the same thing as the English mode of pardoning after trial; that he should conceive it to be a good reason for rejecting any measure in France, that it was imitated from the English, who have no family affections, and who love money so much, that their first question, in an inquiry concerning the character o any man, is, as to his degree of fortune. Lastly, Mr. Fievée alleges against the English, that they have great pleasure in contemplating the spectacle of men deprived of their reason. And indeed we must have the candour to allow, that the hospitality which Mr. Fievée
experienced seems to afford some pretext for this assertion.
One of the principal objects of Mr. Fievée's book, is to combat the Anglomania, which has raged so long among his countrymen, and which prevailed at Paris to such an excess, that even Mr. Neckar, a foreigner (incredible as it may seem), after having been twice minister of \ France, retained a considerable share of admiration for. the English government. This is quite inexplicable. But this is nothing to the treason of the Encyclopedists, who, instead of attributing the merit of the experimental philosophy and the reasoning by induction to a Frenchman, have shown themselves so lost to all sense of the duty which they owed their country, that they have attributed it to an Englishman *, of the name of Bacon, and this for no better reason, than that he really was the author of it. The whole of this passage is written so entirely in the genius of Mr. Fievée, and so completely exemplifies that very caricature species of Frenchmen from which our gross and popular notions of the whole people are taken, that we shall give the passage at full length, cautiously abstaining from the sin of translating it.
* Quand je reproche aux philosophes d'avoir vanté l'Angleterre, par haine pour les institutions qui soutenoient la France, / je ne hasarde rien, et je fournirai une nouvelle preuve de cette assertion, en citant les encyclopédistes, chess avoués de la philosophie moderne. - ‘Comment nous ont-ils présenté l'Encyclopédie 2 Comme un monument immortel, comme le dépôt précieux de toutes les connoissances humaines. Sous quel patronage l'ont-ils élevé ce monument immortel ? Est ce sous l'égide des écrivains dont la France shonoroit? Non, ils ont choisi pour maitre et pour idole, un Anglais, Bâcon; ils lui on fait dire tout ce qu'ils ont voulu, parce que cet auteur, extraordinairement volumineux, n’étoit pas connu en France, et ne l'est guère en Angleterre que de quelques hommes studieux; mais les philosophes sen
* “Gaul was conquered by a person of the name of Julius Caesar,' is the first phrase in one of Mr. Newberry's little books.