TnERE is not much of literary expectation now-a-days in a steam voyage to Antwerp and a trip thence to Brussels, even although the Journey was made in dead winter ; neither has a visit to a monastery of Trappists near Westmalle very great promise to assist in eking out a narrative. Antwerp, however, though taking the form of a tour, is not so mach a book of travels as a description of a city, with its manners and society. The author, with two relatives, sojourned at Antwerp during the winter season, and had access to the best society of the place. And his book mainly consists of descriptions of balls, evening parties, clubs and the doings there, with little incidents, and what are called sketches ; all done in good taste, without breach of social propriety, and calculated to place the scene and the customs of the people before the reader. To these things are added notices of more public matters, such as fetes and theatres, open to any tourist, though perhaps observed to more advan- tage in winter than in summer. There is besides, some of the general matter of a common book of travels in sketches of show places, out-of- door views, and anecdotes of the street or the shop, but having the ad- vantage of that greater selection about them which the habitue obtains over the bird of passage.
" Brussels " is a mere sketch of the city as seen in a day or two— though by a person who did not see it for the first time, extended by some reminiscences of a former excursion to Waterloo. " Westmalle," the Trappist monastery, contains the account of a visit of curiosity made as a claimant of the monks' hospitality. Though limited to some four- and-twenty hours, the author made full use of his powers of observation and reflection, and corrected his first impressions by additional infor- mation. The narrative will be found a curious and rather discouraging picture of monastic life in a severe order ; but by one who, while he freely admits the uses of the monastic institution, and the benefits that have flowed from it, has clearly no vocation that way himself.
Such topics as these must greatly depend upon the writer. A travel- lerwho visits a country rarely or never trodden by civilized man, has broad and new information to impart, and a story to tell of personal adventures, which derive interest from their matter and novelty let them be told how they may. The descriptions of buildings, landscapes, sights, and manners which but slightly differ from our own, and only in style, require more accuracy of perception and nicety of delineation. A common draughts- man will suffice for a new or rare animal ; but we require an artist for the ox or the horse, even although it may be French or Flemish. And the author of Antwerp is sufficiently artistical for the end he has in view. His mind is vivacious, his manner brisk and pleasant, his com- position sustained by vigour and smartness ; and though, apparently, ac- customed to the pen, he is not a mere writer, eking out his space by la- boured descriptions or reverie. He also appears a man of society, and what is better, a man of sense, who makes allowances for a difference of forms, and does not set up English, or perhaps his English customs, as universal rules, but is content to take the world as it is and get as much as he can out of it. Hence, Antwerp, though by no means an important or necessary book, accomplishes the end the author had in view ; which was to present a series of city and social sketches, illustrative of Antwerp and its manners.
Balls and evening parties are a pretty frequent topic. For the reader 4 understand an occasional allusion, it is requisite to know that partners are engaged and booked with all the care and precision of a banker's ac-
" As you enter, a servant gives you a card with directions as to the figures of the quadrilles printed on one side, and on the other the order of the dances in general, as galop, contre-danse, valse—contre-danse, plop, and so forth; and also, on the same side, a table for engagements, as 1st, 2d, and 3d contre-dances, &c.; 1st, 2d, and 3d valses, &c.; and your very important business, if you care about dancing is at once to engage partners for the whole length and breadth of the ball, and for the contre-danses, vis-a-vis also. If you do not look particularly sharp after this duty, you are certain to languish all night in ignoble idleness, among respectable fathers of families, and lee taptsseries, as the ladies who im-
moveably line the walls are here called. • • • " One of the programmes distributed at the Union balls is selected for illustra- tion. It is a large paper ticket, with a flowery border in gold, enclosing at top the words ' Cercle de l'Union; and within as follows.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Valdes.
" A lady, young and so forth, is soon engaged for all the dances of the night; and when asked for the honour and pleasure, &e., she will refer to her memoranda of engagements before vouchsafing a reply. Some carry about elegant little books for the purpose, and some use the leaves of their fans. Thus, the proposal as- sumes quite the character of a matter of business—a negotiation. Mademoiselle, may I have the honour of dancing the first valise with you?' I regret, but it is taken.' The second?' No,—stay; I can give you the fourth, or the third galop, if you like,' &c. &c.; and the two quietly book the engagement. It was laughable to see a crowd of expectant youths standing round the entrance-door, and eagerly closing upon each young lady as she entered, just as tame fish dart upon a piece of bread thrown into their glass vase, assailing her, books and pencils in hand, with petitions, making their night up, and taking a note of it."
After this introduction to the essential preliminary to dancing, we will pass on from the Philharmonie ball, a sort of public " assembly" or
club, to a more private affair.
"After dinner to the party, the first fruits of my letter of introduction. " We were set down on, carpeted steps, under a ports-cochlre, and shown into a small room, where ladies' maids and a cheval glass were doing duty, respectively active and passive, and where people deposited hats, cloaks, and swords,--swords, because here all officers, as a general role, appear at all dress parties in uniform. As to hats, many men carry a small chapean bras into the rooms. A servant in- quired our names, and ling us through an ante-room, threw open the folding doors at the further end of it, and announced us at the top of his voice. Jut within we found the host, with his wife and daughter, all radiant with gracious
and welcoming smiles.
"I was handed over to a cousin; who took my arm, and plunged with me into the midst of a crowd of some three hundred people; where, with his help, I made my book' for the night: contre-danses were still to be bad, at a fair price, but
2 3 5 1 2
valses.and galops had been nearly all taken up, and were quite at a premium. A dancing stranger, among so many new faces, called by such strange and unfamiliar names, must use his wits, lest he should forget an engagement, or lose his lady or his vis-a-via—all mortal offences.
"The MOMS had been recently redecorated, and thiaball was, I believe, intended for a sort of house-warming after the process. There were five of them and a hall, on the ground floor, en suite; completing the square of the house, so that you could walk through them as long as on pleased, without turning back. They were elegantly and richly furnished, with silk hangings, turkey carpets, marble, and ormolu chandeliers and candelabra. The principal dancing-room was a large square, the walls hung with crimson silk damask, let into panels, with white and gold wood-work and decorations, large mirrors, and a costly marble chimney-piece. The floor was of elaborate inlaid work, of various light-coloured. woods and ebony, as Sae as the marqneterie of a cabinet, and polished like glass. The lighting, by a profusion of wax candles, was perfect "A crowd of guests, so dense that you could scarcely move, here waited for setnethhig to do, and talked as fast and as much as they could in the mean time. At a given. signal, the curtains of the centre window of three occupying one side of the room, were suddenly drawn back by an invisible hand, and disclosed the orchestra, in a small pavilion, opening by the window into the room, lined with crimson damask, and lighted by a lamp hanging from the centre of the roof: the effect was very theatrical and pretty. -Simultaneously arose the preliminary groans and squeaks of the instruments; and immediately partners were singled out, a ssppaaccee was cleared, and the dancing began. The band-master from time to time ahouted ont.the names of the figures of the coetre-danse, and directions for the different parts of them; and he did it in the oddest way, opening his eyes wide as he called out, so that they seemed to be worked by strings tied to his jaws, and puffing out his cheeks, and finally appearing to make a violent swallow of a very large plum, exactly as if hewent by clock-work,—all the time fiddling away as for dear life.
" One large room was appropriated to card-playing, in which both men and women here indulge most systematically. Ices and other pleasant things were carried about, and we had supper in a suite of rooms on the first floor. It was served out by servants standing behind long tables, as shopmen stand behind counters; and a welcome pair circulated about among the guests, one carrying a supply of champagne, and the other a basketful of long glasses. "It was a well-managed affair, and the company the best of Antwerpian society, —the Governor, the Burgomaster, the two Generals, the Nobles, as they are called here,—that is, the class who with us are titled or untitled people as the case may be, of established family and condition,---the Consuls, leading merchants and bankers, (many of the grandees here are in some way or other engaged in mercantile pursuits,) and a few of the staff and officers of the garrison. Many of the women were strikingly handsome. We were, I think, the only English English there. "It is the established custom for the invited to fee the servants handsomely on leaving the house; and you are sure to find a major-domo at the door, who re- ceives the five-franc pieces quite as a matter of course."
There is some information about dress in Antwerp, with some sensible remarks on class costume; though the suggestions are scarcely practicable in a country where there is no distinctly defined class, and almost every one is striving to pass as member of a grade above his own.
"The most noticeable shops in Antwerp seem to be those of the mercers and lace-venders, the gingerbread and cake shops, the braziers, and the tobacconists. (*each sort there is a great number. The lace-workand allies of Antwerp are cele- brated. I once took particular pains to ascertain the precise form and fashion of that most graceful garment the Spanish mantilla, which, or at any rate a modi- fication of it, is in common wear here; and found it to be a piece of rich, stiff, black silk, some three yards long for a short woman and four for a tall one, cut square at the two ends, and finished there with a black silk fringe: it is just simply, in fact, an ample scarf. They fold it—I had a lesson in the art—in width once, and arrange it over the top of the head, a little shading the face, and then the ends hang down in front, nearly to the feet; or they throw it off the head, letting it fall gracefully pendant from the elbows or shoulders. The best of these mantillas, of a stiff, leathery-richness of silk unknown in England, costs about one hundred francs. Thertris apeouliar cap, too, worn by the women, with large semicircular flaps falling down on each side of the face, very becoming to many. Over this, some wear a sort of straw bonnet, with a high conical-shaped crown, and a mere apology for a brim.
"The WOrlun of the lower enders never wear the thing we call a bonnet—the legitimate, shapeless,, unmeaning, hideous.bennet. They wear either the peculiar straw pot I have just described, or clean lace caps, or handkerchiefs bound round the head, or the mantilla. The latter is very common; you see it to admirable effect on figures moving about and grouping together in the streets, or kneeling on the pavements of the churches. " It has always seemed to me to be regretted that the poorer women of Eng- land should have no costume of their own,—that they should persist in a draggled- tail and vulgar imitation of the dress of those whom by courtesy we will car' the ladies of the land,' (a sailor, in a police court, once described a gentleman as a man who wore a long-tailed coat,) instead of taking to themselves, as in other countries, a certain distinct class costume, which, as it would be worn by the great majority, would be in fact a national costume, and which, from the cheap- ness of its materials, they might always afford to have in clean, seemly, and de- cent condition. It would be a great saving to them, and a real.addition to their comfort. As it is our servant-girls, and the wives of our labourers and mecha- nics, go about so many shabby-genteel reproductions of the costume of her Majesty Queen Victoria:- it is the same bonnet, the same shawl and gown, the same tout ensemble,--only, in greater or less degree, shabbier, coarser, or worse chosen and last on. The real dignity of the poor woman, let it be Observed— and it is of importance that her dignity should be maintained—would be much promoted by her adopting a costume of her own. "Apropos of the dress of womankind in Antwerp, I could fancy that many of the women there retain much of the Spanish blood of the land's former rulers: they are frequently tall and dark, with fine figures, and in their black mantillas lbok as if they had come from Madrid by the last train. Indeed, the Spanish stamp appears indelible here."
We could easily extend our extracts by passages of a similar kind, or by some of a more solid cast in relation to the grades of society, the siege • Antwerp, or the discipline, mode of life, and appearances of feeling among the monks at Westmalle : but the book is not very big, and we have said and quoted. enough, to indicate its character.