« AnteriorContinuar »
tention, and others from a too great fear of imitation, might also be expected. To the first adventurers, the very novelty of the subject would be sufficient to insure success, without much depth of observation or accuracy of description; while later writers, too studious of avoiding repetition, would seek to recommend by paradoxical assertion, and the artificial embellishments of style, that which no longer possessed the grace of novelty. Accordingly, though of late years scarcely any one has ventured upon the task, without first apologizing, like Dean Berkley, for attempting to do what had so often been attempted before, each succeeding tourist seems to have been more disposed to carp at the observations of his predecessors than to turn them to account; while, scared at the bugbear of plagiarism, not a few have occasionally fallen into the most ludicrous inconsistencies.
Hence it sometimes happens that the very multiplicity of works upon a given subject affords a plausible pretext for the addition of another. When once such works become so numerous, that they can neither all be collected without much waste of money, nor all read without much waste of time, nor reconciled with each other when read; then a question arises, whether a condensation of their contents might not be advisable. And, indeed, as regards Italy, any one who should be disposed to abide by the decision of travel-writers themselves would be apt to think the question answered in the affirmative—so frequently have succeeding tourists taken the liberty of depreciating the labours of their predecessors.
Eustace's book, as one of the earliest and most voluminous that has appeared upon the subject during the present century, though applauded at first, has of late years been exposed to a larger share of censure than any other; indeed—notwithstanding its “ cloggy and cumbrous” style, notwithstanding its admitted verbiage- - a larger share than it deserves. In the Notes to the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold, its author has been characterized as “ one of the most inaccurate and unsatisfactory writers that have in our times attained a temporary reputation,” and as
seldom to be trusted, even when he speaks of objects which he must be presumed to have seen. His errors, (continues the writer of the note), from the simple exaggeration to the downright mistatement, are so frequent as to induce a suspicion that he had either never visited the spots described, or had trusted to the fidelity of former writers. Indeed, the Classical Tour has every characteristic of a mere compilation of former notices, strung together upon a very slender thread of personal observation, and swelled out by those decorations which are so easily supplied by a systematic adoption of all the common-places of praise, applied to every thing, and therefore signifying nothing." A subsequent passage of this note, however, which condemns the frequent introduction of “ the same Gallic Helot to reel and bluster before the rising generation, and terrify it into decency by the display of all the excesses of the Revolution,” seems to afford a sufficient clue to the severity of the above critique. They, who can talk with so much complacency of the “hyæna bigots *” of Certaldo, were not likely to shew much lenity towards one who ventured to raise his voice against their brother liberals, the French revolutionists. But the most amusing part of the matter is, that most of those who evince so much tenderness for the French, are themselves to the full as vehement in their invectives against the Austrians; as though, forsooth, they were to enjoy a monopoly of abuse. After all, however, it must be admitted that Eustace would have adopted a wiser course, had he indulged less frequently in his
“ antigallican philippics;" — mindful of the proverb, that it is possible to overcharge with shadow even the portrait of a fiend:
Poi quel proverbio del Diavolo è vero,
No such defects as those above mentioned can be imputed to Forsyth, whose book deservedly passes for the best that has yet appeared on the subject of Italy, whether we take into consideration the depth and originality of the remarks, or the terseness and nervousness of the language. In a more recent work, however, intitled “ Two Hundred and Nine Days; or, the Journal of a Traveller on the Continent,” indited by a Mr. Thomas Jefferson Hogg--a work, to say the least of it, as shallow as it is flippant—we find the following character of Forsyth's performance. “We took Forsyth with us to Pæstum; I was disappointed, when I first read this book, which, like many of the works of his countrymen, has been industriously praised and extolled more than it deserves; and, in looking over it again, I was even less satisfied with it. He certainly has the merit of sometimes thinking and speaking for himself; but the style is clumsy and heavy: it is the book of a schoolmaster, not of a gentleman." Thanks to Mr. Thomas Jefferson Hogg, we now know what the work of a schoolmaster is; but that ingenious personage would have laid us under still greater obligations had he been pleased to indicate the marks by which we might ascertain the work of a gentleman;unless, indeed, we suppose, that, for such marks, it was his intention tacitly to refer us to his own performance.
In the opinion of most of those who have made the tour of Italy, Mathews ranks next to Forsyth. It cannot, certainly, be said of his book, as it has been justly said by himself with regard to Forsyth's, that “it is a mine of original remarks.” It professes to be but the “ Diary of an Invalid;" to give merely a record of first impressions; and so admirably has its author performed his task, that never was the “nihil non tetigit quod non ornavit” more strictly applicable than in his case;—applicable, indeed, to every portion of the book, but most of all to those portions of it which treat of the different works of art; where he rivals, if he does not even surpass, Forsyth himself. And yet it is of this Prince of Journalists, that Mr. Conder, the author of the “ Modern Traveller”—who has recently put forth a compilation on Italy—asserts, that “he is never