SERGEANT TALFOURD'S VACATION RAMBLES.
1st the long vacation of 1841, Sergeant Talfourd, Mrs. Talfourd, Master Talfourd from Eton, with a niece, went to Paris, rid Havre and Rouen ; thence to Geneva, Chamouni, and Interlachen; and returned through Swit- zerland and by the Rhine. In 1842, the Sergeant and his son made another tour to Switzerland, by the ascent of the Rhine; and even got as far into Italy as Lake Como, when time, that waits for neither man nor schoolboy, drove them back. The autumn of 1843 again saw the original party of four on the road to the vale of Chamouni ; the Sergeant bent upon a deed of daring. Nothing less than Mont Blanc would satiate NS ambition : and his example, with that of his son, so stimulated others, that three of the assembled tourists volunteered to join him in the .ascent. The way, however, was too long and weary for three out of the fflve the party reached the Grands Mulets in safety,—ate, and slept ; but the next day, as they were approaching the giant, the Sergeant, who with the skill of a veteran husbanding his strength brought up the rear, ,observed a retreating party—it turned out to be the youthful Talfourd, who, sick and faint, wished to lie down and sleep the sleep that knows no waking. The guides shook their heads, as a signal that the Etonian must abandon the enterprise : paternal anxiety, and a strong misgiving as to
own power of going much further, induced the Sergeant to accompany the retreating party to tile comparative comfort of the Grands Mules; and .there they were quickly joined by another failure.
The attraction of these volumes arises from the character of the au- thor; whose personal traits excite even more interest than his intellectual qualities. The reader is constantly impressed by the idea of companion- ship with an amiable, kindhearted man, whose genial good feeling sym- pathizes with everybody and everything where there is a trace of lama- _fifty or a touch of nature. The reader as a consequence sympathizes in return ; takes an interest, not only in the domestic feelings and overflow- ing tolerance of the Sergeant, but participates in his enjoyment of nature, the little contre-temps on the road, and even in his personal or creature- comforts--the night's rest, the dinner, and the various wines, which, con- tinually enumerated, might be formed into such a goodly list as would terrify a Temperance society, let alone the occasional epilogue of pale brandy.
The intellectual character which has to impart freshness to a route often described, by setting known things in a novel point of view or atriking out thoughts that are " natural but not obvious," appears to us iess attractive than the personal character of the traveller. Sergeant Talfourd's style is always free and elegant ; his descriptions, taken by themselves, are beautiful, but rather for the manner of workmanship and their half-poetical thoughts, than for the distinct impression of the original they convey; his sketches of characters and his account of in- cidents are lively and even graphic ; and he cleverly intermingles critical remarks or aneedotical reminiscences of old times. But his style is too -Bowery for a long-continued subject ; the leading idea is often lost sight of in a maze of words ; the dress overlays the person.
The critical habits of this traveller give him an advantage over com- mon tourists in his power of analyzing his impressions—in telling not only how he feels, but why he feels. Such is this account of what Mr. Talfourd is too polite to the mountains to call his disappointment on their first appearance.
FIRST VIEW OF THE ALPS.
To the left, above a dark hill, rose into the clear blue sky the summit of Mont Blanc, with its subject domes and attendant needles, all robed in dazzling white, except where the steepest precipices were gashed into the snow, and contrasted it with stripes of dark rich brown. This was the first view we had enjoyed of any of the highest Alps, except as a vision in the clouds; and, surprising as it was, I must confess the effect did not equal my expectations. This falling-off might -be partly attributable to the mind being filled and perturbed with the loveliness of the vast sunny vale, of a character so entirely different from those icy pin- nacles which, near to it in reality, were close to it in the picture, and which com- pelled of colours and shapes as unlike those around us as if they be- longed to another world. But there is a reason why alpine ' heights, seen at a distance of froth `welve to twenty miles by persons who are not familiar with their nearer grandeur, must disappoint an enthusiastic expectation: the masses ef snow, almost uniform in colour, do not admit of the sense of distance which the varieties of ordinary scenery convey; and the consequence is, that the eye, not -making the proper allowances, embraces the mighty objects as comparatively small; and the mind, instead of being uplifted into regions of perpetual snows, .brings down the white masses to the level earth, and then regards them rather 'Pith curiosity than admiration. The immediate feeling is a perplexed surprise Oat them -should be just before you heaps of snow, not unsunnecl," but Muni-
nated by a sun which scorches the earth around you;. arid that they should give no sign of melting. On one who has had happy ex-Belie/ice in alpine solitudes, and who therefore can in some faint degree recognize in the glittering heights, the length and breadth and depth which have dwindled into a fairy frost-work to the eye, these forms produce a far nobler impression: but a first sight of the Alps, to produce the thrilling sense of which Rogers speaks, should be obtained from a greater distance, where the intervention of a multitude of other objects gives to the snowy mountains their due proportion, or something approaching to it, in the perspective.
THE 'WELSHMAN ON THE RHINE.
As the outline of the Drachenfells gradually became traceable through the mist, I thought that group of lauded hills—against whose range in " the light of common day I would fearlessly place the line of the hlalverns to any eye un- dazzled by Byron—might better vindicate its poetical glories than when standing out from the serenest evening sky. When we approached them, and the first scenes of the Rhine's glory. a servant of my friend -R---, well cognizant of his native Merionethshire, asked me if this was the Rhine, which he had heard was so beautiful? I told him we were not yet in its most striking gorges, but that this was the first great scene of which so much had been written. " Well, Sir," said the honest Welshman, "I think we can match it between Dolgelly and Bar- mouth." " Indeed you can," Was my reply—and surely the Welshman was right.
I observed some French children—the very small ones, fantastically dressed up as playthings, seemed petted, caressed, and spoiled; but the elder ones, from ten to sixteen, looking careworn conceited, independent, and miserable. Everything is gay in Paris but childhood. Old age is gay—pleasantly so even when fantasti- cally so; and death itself is tricked out in garlands, and , turned to favour and to prettiness." Why then are the children so joyless ? It cannot be that they are too harshly restrained, or ruled by fear; for a cruel discipline is no part of the French character, or the French educational practice: on the contrary, a French boy soon becomes his own master, and studies or lounges as he pleases. Is it not that there are no firesides—no homes It seems a fine independent thing for a Parisian shopkeeper to dispense with the plague of domestic servants—take every day, with his wife, the freedom of the restaurant and the café; and when he shuts up his shop, leave it to take care of itself, while he lounges, or dances, or smokes, or reads a journal, or does all these in some public garden—or, better than all, goes to the play. But the pleasures and comforts of children are of home growth, and require a home shelter. They are here only sad, wearied, wondering spectators of the gayeties of their parents, which are all associated with coquetry, gallantry, and feelings akin to these, in which they do not, partici- pate; and though some amends is made by an early initiation into their essences and an earlier emulation of their symbols, still children as children, have no food for their affections in the whirling kaleidoscope wluich dazzles them. In Prussia, children are happier, because they are under a stricter discipline; but England, with all its imputed sins of fagging and flogging and excess of Latin versifica- tion, is the place where childhood is most happy as childhood; happy in restraint; happy in indulgence; happy in the habits of obedience, and respect, and filial love! You would not find such a set of careworn, pale, unhappy faces in any charity-school in England, as you may mark in a throng of wandering, dissipated boys in the gardens of the Tuileries.
During the last tour, our travellers visited Waterloo ; and it a one of the few places which draws clown a sharp remark from the good-nature of Mr. Talfourd. An idea of the great battle-field may not be without its use to those who want to go and cannot, or who are doubting whether they shall go there or elsewhere.
The next lay u-e spent in exploring the field of Waterloo; which I heartily wish we had left unvisited. Never, surely, was the scene of any great action so far despoiled of interest by petty, harassing, vexatious details, as this. We could not, indeed, expect much of striking memorial in a mere battle-field. vastness and silence—the faithful preservation of such vestiges as are most closely associated with the master-minds that here played out the game of death—are all that could be wished for: but these, as far as possible, have been confused or destroyed. As if the level plain, beneath which so many brave soldiers are reposing, were not as appropriate a monument as a mound of the same earth, the inclination of the ground which the British forces occupied has been violated, in order to scoop out materials for an ugly mass of dirt, surmounted by a frightful lion—oh, how unlike the monumental lion of Lucerne ! The scene of carnage is changed for one of civil spoliation: for every step is infested with lazy, urgent guides, or beggars; some thrusting their physical infirmities, some their false relics, in your face; and some putting forward nothing but their sturdy prayers, ready to be turned into curses; all around you is pettiness pretence, and plunder. A kindred spirit of mean ex- action pervades the miserable hotels, at one of which you are obliged to stop; the host charging you the price of chambertin for vin ordiiiaire you cannot drink; and the waiter is astonished if you do not pay him handsomely for bringing it into the room, as if Ile had some hand in winning the battle; while the low, white-washed walls, and pot-house chairs, and flaring-coloured prints, complete the sense of dis- comfort. Then' in order to substitute the idea of carnage in its shocking realities— too recent to be blended with events which are removed by time beyond a relation to surviving sorrows—for the greater feelings the scene should suggest, as the mighty witness to the adamantine part of British nature and the catastrophe of Napoleon's career, you are beset with such relics as the skull of a soldier, with teeth of horrid whiteness, to indicate that he M1 in the bloom of life. The day was in- tensely hot; the read dusty, flinty, arid; so that the shade of the dullest fir-grove I ever traversed was a welcome solace; and the voitmier deaf to all our entreaties that he would move faster than at a foot's pace, who thus gave to our misery a ludicrous completeness.
The delay and inconvenience at our English customhouses is another theme that ruffles the Sergeant, notwithstanding his experience of foreign annoyance by the passport system, on which he writes a whole disquisition. Surely, a department which draws some nineteen or twenty millions a year from the public, and costs something like a million itself, might arrange its business with some little regard to the public convenience. Or do the officials reserve annoyance for those who may perhaps smug- gle retail, and only accommodate the -wholesale ddrauders of the re- venue?
"After dinner, we enjoyed a fine sunset from the shelving bank of Ostend; am barked at nine o'clock on board the steamer; and, after a calm night's passage, reached our customhouse early on the following day. What we there suffered and saw before we were finally dismissed, is not now Worth relating or recollecting; for I have faith in the old maxim, That when things have come to the worst they must mend,' and therefore I feel assured that an amendment in the processes of this scene of English discredit and of all mankind's diXemnfort, if not already accomplished, must be at hand.'
The Vacation Rambles, as we have intimated, are varied by thoughts and reminiscences suggested by the occasion. An attendance at the opera of Otello induces a long criticism of a rather dilettante kind upon Shakspere ; Lausanne gives rise to some remarks upon Gibbon, and some glowing recollections of John Kemble ; and any thing of a similar cha- racter occasions a good story or an elegant disquisition.