FROM WATERLOO TO THE PENINSULA.*
Mn. SALA'S special correspondence is amusing, and Mr. Sala's books are amusing, but we prefer to have them separate. When the two are combined their effect is somewhat patchy. The peculiarities which give a spice to a letter in the paper of Monday may safely be repeated by the Friday, and if the memory retains them at all, which is not very likely in the case of memories weakened by the perpetual stream of synonyms poured forth by the Daily Telegraph, it is with a sense of familiarity, not with a sense of weariness. If Mr. Sala followed the example of Mr. Charles Reade, who put for a foot-note to one of his stories, " This story is meant to be read aloud," by warning us that we were not to read more than one chapter at a time, we should respect, though we might not follow, his counsel. But if he means his book to be read through at a sitting he should take some pains with its correction, and should fit it for the more re- sponsible position it is intended to occupy. Could not these letters have awaited his return to his forsaken Bloomsbury? Was it absolutely necessary that he should write his preface in Venice, and Should entrust the revision of his work to a kind friend in England? We are sure that if Mr. Sala himself had seen the proof sheet he would not have garrisoned Berlin with Russian soldiers, nor have talked of Perez de la Frontera, nor lifted up a prayer to Sancta Socrate, nor made the Dutch into Bavarians instead of Batavians. He might also have seen that there was some same- ness in his comparisons of the Hague to Hanover Square with a pond in the middle and canals running along Brook Street, Maddox Street, and New Bond Street; of some of the streets in the Hague to Middle Temple Lane and Pump Court ; and of the Puerta del Sol, at Madrid, to Lansdowne Crescent, Bath, and the Seven Dials. Mr. Sala has told us in a former work that he is • From Waterloo to the Peninsula. Four Months Hard Labour in Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Spain. By George Augustus Sala. 2 vols. London : Tinsley Brothers.
determined to find English likenesses for all foreign places, and perhaps it is only consistent that he should add to the number. But if we had a return of the number of streets which, though unlike each other, are likened for the time to some English original, or if a statistical analysis was made of the quantity of similar comparisons in any one book of Mr. Sala's, we think he would check himself in his career.
We make these remarks without prejudice to Mr. Sala's present work, a good deal of which is interesting enough in itself to deserve reissue. Of the Spanish chapters we cannot speak so highly. Mr.
Sala is frank and open in all he says about Spain, and retracts with a good grace his first favourable verdict. But this, though it testifies to his impartiality, is too significant of his strangeness to the country, and, as we have before remarked, Mr. Sala must know a place well before he can describe it. He is happier in Holland, Belgium and North Germany, where a crowd of writers have preceded him, but have not forestalled his characteristic turn of observation. Perhaps we should except his panegyric on Rubens, which reminds us too much of the far more appreciative
and masterly criticism in Thackeray's Roundabout Journey. And
although Mr. Sala revels in the pomp and prodigality of Rubens, there is a want of discrimination shown in classing all his works
together, as though the astonishing anatomical display of the "Elevation" and the "Scourging" had an affinity with the grandeur and reverence of the " Descent from the Cross." No doubt it is much more natural for Mr. Sala to paint Rubens in the colours Ruben himself would have approved. Readers of special correspondence do not want criticism to be shaded. They like everything to be thorough, and whether art is discussed or high life delineated, they must feel that their informant is a master of colours, or dines tete-a-tete with the Empress. Mr. Sala himself is very much to blame for this state of things. We have little doubt but that before now he has repented of his share in spoiling his own par- ticular public. But it is too late for him to retrace his steps. Where a picture can be described in an anecdote his readers are less exacting, and being freed from all pressure, Mr. Sala springs up to his full height. Thus he says that he sent a photograph of Paul Potter's " Bull" to England, and that a Kentish farmer who saw it said the bull was sadly out of condition. We heard lately of a man who was presented with a similar picture, and who for reasons best known to himself employed a painter to turn the bull into a cow. And apropos of these pictures, Mr. Sala mentions the curious fact that Dr. Waagen gained his extraordinary know- ledge of the surface of works of art when he was a private soldier in the Prussian Army of Occupation in Paris. To this it may be added that the doctor was at his own request posted sentry in the Louvre, and marched up and down before that unrivalled collection of Napoleon's spoils, with his musket on his shoulder and his eyes on the canvas. Whether this fact is conclusive or not of the excellence of the Prussian military system, it is certain that no other critic had as good a chance of comparing the greatest schools of Art. No wonder the French were indignant when they were deprived of that opportunity.
However, it scarcely seems that pictures or picture galleries are Mr. Sala's strong point. He pays scant attention to Dr. Waagen's labours at Berlin, and passes over the collection which gives Spain oue of its chief attractions. It is rather his part to sketch the manners and customs he saw in passing, the out-of-door life of the people in summer, and the indoor life of their hotels in winter. We are greatly edified by his sketch of Frankfort, which he found all clothed in furs, and where one English Member of Parliament was staying to read up back numbers of the Klad- Jeradatsch. But we humbly submit that the custom of placing dishes on the table to show that they are genuine, before carving them on the sideboard for the guests at the table d'hôte, is not con- fined to the Hotel de Russie, but prevails throughout Germany. We totally differ from Mr. Sala about the German stove, which he says is handsome and monumental, but does not warm the room. Some experience of winters in the coldest of German towns, con- trasted with winters in the milder climate of England, leads us to an exactly opposite conclusion. our opinion, the best of all heaters is the half-stove, open in front like a fire-place, so as to give the cheering spectacle of the blaze, while the heat is not wasted on dull iron or sent up the chimney. The closed stove dries the air of the room, though it keeps it at an even temperature. But the dryness may be obviated by having a basin of water on the top of the stove, which will also serve as an antidote to headache. While we are on the subject of Mr. Sala's errors, we must observe that he attributes to Barnum an intention expressed by the American in Albert Smith's Mont Blanc entertainment. He accuses Hamburg of not having built a bridge over the Elbe to Harburg, although
the fault lay purely with Hanover. Perhaps some of the admirers of old Imperial state will complain of the levity with which Mr. Sala alludes to the duties so worthily discharged by Counts and Princes at the King of Prussia's table. He says that some Ambas-
sadors left in anger because the Prince of Putbus, who was Truchsess or High Steward, refused to hand a plate of soup to any
who were not Princes, while another grandee would not whisper, " Champagne or took, Sir ?" in any but Royal ears. Again, the description of the plague of raising hats, though not new, is forci- ble, and will offend German loyalists. On the occasion of his first visit to Berlin, Mr. Sala was taken to task by a police officer because he put on his hat at the close of an operatic performance. The officer declared that the act was an insult to Royalty, not that any of the Royal family were present, but because it was done in view of the Royal box, which was empty. How Royal etiquette is regarded in Spain may be seen from the following story :—
"There is a well authenticated story of a poor woman, not precisely a beggar, but who had a petition to present, the prayer of which was of course a limosna, who pounced upon the Queen just as she was coming out of the garden of the Retiro. Her prayer was very soon heard ; but, unhappily, when her Majesty felt in her pocket she found that sho had no money. Kings, Queens, millionaires, and theatrical managers never have ready money about them enough to pay for a cab or a turnpike.
Come to the palace to-morrow,' said the Queen to the petitioner. Alas !' replied the poor woman, the servants will not let me pass.' Whereupon it is on record that Donna Isabella de Bourbon, stooping down, took of one of her shoes, and gave it to the suppliant as a token and a sign that she might be allowed next day to pass the palace gates and have her claim allowed."
An exact parallel to this is given in the first volume, but one Royal anecdote is enough to quote at a time. Mr. Sala says that Louis Napoleon when a child was tempted by the sight of exces- sive mud, and being asked by the Court lathes what Christ.. mas present he would like, exclaimed, " Laissez-moi jotter data cette belle bone." Certainly, if he had had his wish, he would have deserved the punishment mentioned by Mr. Sala as inflicted by a schoolmistress " down East " on her rebellious pupils. She made them stand on their heads, and poured cold water down the legs of their trousers.
It may be difficult to see what American schoolmistresses have to do with Waterloo and the Peninsula. But it would be unfair to tie Mr. Sala down to his subject, especially as he is never more him- self than when he wanders away from it. He likes to flit from Spain to England, from England to Otaheite, thence back again to Ratcliffe Highway, and thence to the Mountains of the Moon. The scene of the following tale is Sardinia, which does not come within Mr. Sala's route. Yet if the incident had occurred in the South Pacific we should have laughed at it just as much, we should not have blamed Mr. Sala for its introduction, and we should have been equally tempted to transfer it to our pages:— "I shall never forgot a story told me once of an English tourist pedestrianizing in Sardinia, who, halting one sundown at a very primi- tive village inn, thought he might make himself somewhat tidier and more comfortable by a good wash. So, procuring a tub and some hot water, he proceeded as a preliminary measure to wash his feet. It is presumable that the people of the inn had never before seen an English- man, if, indeed, anybody, taking a foot-bath ; at all events, heads were popped in at the door ; curious eyes peeped through the windows ; shrill exclamations, seemingly feminine, of 'Santa Maria purissinta I' were heard. Tho thing got noised abroad. It was spoken of at the fountain. The brigadier of gendarmerie twirled his moustachios, and determined to ask the forestiero for his passport so soon as his feet were dry. But the population were pleased. Merry (froups saluted the Englishman as, washed and combed, he came from his toilette. A song in honour of him was improvized. It was a most glorious sunset. Suddenly there was a cry of Una festaluna festal' Mover was a festival sooner gotten up. Tables and benches wore heaped in a corner, and the population began to dance. I believe they kissed the English- man, and that he stood' penn'orths of wine all round. They brought out the oldest man in the village, set him in an arm-chair, and crowned him with flowers, The cure' came out of his house and blessed them. Somebody bought a squib and let it off. It was fairy land. It was patriarchal. The golden ago had come again."