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Eldon ; cheer him; he never ratted.” They have given the parliamentary nickname of Trimmers to the timeservers, whom English character does not love.
They are very liable in their politics to extraordinary delusions, thus, to believe what stands recorded in the gravest books, that the movement of 10th April 1848 was urged or assisted by foreigners; which, to be sure, is paralleled by the democratic whimsy in this country, which I have noticed to be shared by men sane on other points, that the English are at the bottom of the agitation of slavery in American politics : and then, again, to the French popular legends on the subject of perfidious Albion. But suspicion will make fools of nations as of citizens.
A slow temperament makes them less rapid and ready than other countrymen, and has given occasion to the observation, that English wit comes afterwards,--which the French denote as esprit d'escalier. This dulness makes their attachment to home, and their adherence in all foreign countries to home habits. The Englishman who visits Mount Etna will carry his tea-kettle to the top. The old Italian author of the “Relation of England” (in 1500), says, “I
1 It is an unlucky moment to remember these sparkles of solitary virtue in the face of the honours lately paid in England to the Emperor Louis Napoleon. I am sure that no Englishman whom I had the happiness to know, consented, when the aristocracy and the commons of London cringed like a Neapolitan rabble before a successful thief. But-how to resist one step, though odious, in a linked series of state necessities ?Governments must always learn too late, that the use of dishonest agents is as ruinous for nations as for single men.
have it on the best information, that, when the war is actually raging most furiously, they will seek for good eating, and all their other comforts, without thinking what harm might befall them.” Then their eyes seem to be set at the bottom of a tunnel, and they affirm the one small fact they know, with the best faith in the world that nothing else exists. And, as their own belief in guineas is perfect, they readily, on all occasions, apply the pecuniary argument as final. Thus, when the Rochester rappings began to be heard of in England, a man deposited £100 in a sealed box in the Dublin Bank, and then advertised in the newspapers to all somnambulists, mesmerisers, and others, that whoever could tell him the number of his note, should have the money. He let it lie there six months, the newspapers now and then, at his instance, stimulating the attention of the adepts; but none could ever tell him ; and he said, “Now let me never be bothered more with this proven lie.” It is told of a good Sir John, that he heard a case stated by counsel, and made up his mind; then the counsel for the other side taking their turn to speak, he found himself so unsettled and perplexed, that he exclaimed, “So help me God! I will never listen to evidence again.” Any number of delightful examples of this English stolidity are the anecdotes of Europe. I knew a very worthy man,-a magistrate, I believe he was, in the town of Derby,-- who went to the opera, to see Malibran. In one scene, the heroine was to rush across a ruined bridge. Mr. B. arose, and mildly yet firmly called the attention of the audience and the performers to the fact, that, in his judgment, the bridge was unsafe! This English stolidity contrasts with French wit and tact. The French, it is commonly said, have greatly more influence in Europe than the English. What influence the English have is by brute force of wealth and power; that of the French by affinity and talent. The Italian is subtle, the Spaniard treacherous ; tortures, it was said, could never wrest from an Egyptian the confession of a secret. None of these traits belong to the Englishman. His choler and conceit force everything out. Defoe, who knew his countrymen well, says of them,
“In close intrigue, their faculty's but weak,
For generally whate'er they know, they speak,
THE English race are reputed morose. I do not know that they have sadder brows than their neighbours of northern climates. They are sad by comparison with the singing and dancing nations: not sadder, but slow and staid, as finding their joys at home. They, too, believe that where there is no enjoyment of life, there can be no vigour and art in speech or thought : that your merry
goes all the way, your sad one tires in a mile. This trait of gloom has been fixed on them by French travellers, who, from Froissart, Voltaire, Le Sage, Mirabeau, down to the lively journalists of the feuilletons, have spent their wit on the solemnity of their neighbours. The French say, gay conversation is unknown in their island. The Englishman finds no relief from reflection, except in reflection. When he wishes for amusement, he goes to work. His hilarity is like an attack of fever. Religion, the theatre, and the reading the books of his country, all feed and increase his natural melancholy. The police does not interfere with public diversions. It thinks itself bound in duty to respect the pleasures and rare gaiety of this inconsolable nation; and their well-known courage is entirely attributable to their disgust of life.
I suppose their gravity of demeanour and their few words have obtained this reputation. As compared with the Americans, I think them cheerful and contented. Young people, in this country, are much more prone to melancholy. The English have a mild aspect, and a ringing cheerful voice. They are largenatured, and not so easily amused as the southerners, and are among them as grown people among children, requiring war, or trade, or engineering, or science, instead of frivolous games. They are proud and private, and, even if disposed to recreation, will avoid an open garden. They sported sadly ; ils s'amusaient tristement, selon la coutume de leur pays, said Froissart ; and, I suppose, never nation built their party-walls so thick, or their garden-fences so high. Meat and wine produce no effect on them : they are just as cold, quiet, and composed, at the end, as at the beginning of dinner.
The reputation of taciturnity they have enjoyed for six or seven hundred years; and a kind of pride in bad public speaking is noted in the House of Commons, as if they were willing to show that they did not live by their tongues, or thought they spoke well enough if they had the tone of gentlemen. In mixed company they shut their mouths. A Yorkshire millowner told me he had ridden more than once all the way from London to Leeds, in the firstclass carriage, with the same persons, and no word