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less I have always felt a predominant desire to visit foreign parts, and chiefly those consecrated by history and civilization; so that it was with a considerable feeling of hope, and even exultation, that I found Providence had so adjusted my affairs in the spring of —, that it seemed not an improper step to gratify this early founded predilection.
Having been alone during the excursion, I employed sometimes the spare evenings in noting down what had struck my fancy in the course of the day, in the stream of novelty which ran continually before the eyes: and found on returning to my native land that I had amassed a moderate cargo of first impressions, which indeed forms the stock of the present sheets. It may be asked, where lies the use of recording those ephemeral images that pass through the mind on the sight of new things; which can contain little else than a false estimate concerning them, to be corrected by a more minute investigation, and steadier inspection: second thoughts are best, we are accustomed to say, and there is danger in trusting to those sudden conclusions, which experience shews to prove on most occasions a fertile source of mistake and mischief. But perhaps it may be justly replied, that the error lies more in giving to first impressions undue weight, while we exercise our judgment upon them, than in originally forming or promulgating them. And in as far as graphical effect is concerned,
one often finds, that if a friend who has been to see something interesting, were just to give an accurate account of the ideas that occurred to him on witnessing the sight, we should possess a far more perfect picture in the mind than what arises from a deferred and cold detail of flat particulars, however correct and elaborate. I have been conversant with nautical men, and have asked many questions on the subject of their profession, but never had any definite idea of what sort a thing a long sea voyage was, till I met with Dr. Pinckard's Notes on the West Indies, whose representation of his passage out, informed me to a considerable extent of what I had desired to know; namely, the first impressions of a landman, throughout his journey across the maze of waters. This author's account of West Indian manners is extremely graphic, but I remember of conversing with a Barbadoes gentleman about the book, who I found regarded it with very little consideration, because every trifle that the Doctor had seen was registered; things which every one who had been in Barbadoes at least, knew sufficiently already, and noné cared any thing about. But after all, it is these very well known trivial matters that forms a principal part of transantlantic and of all other society and scenery ; and such are therefore necessary to be disclosed to a reader, before any satisfactory representation upon the subject can be summoned up in his mind.
With regard to a trip to the Continent, were I to pretend to give advice to a neighbour who intends it, I would urge him to make himself as well acquainted with the history, manners, and customs of the projected scene of survey, as his circumstances will permit: and thanks to the good offices of tourist travellers, there is no want of endeavours towards this kind of information, Indeed much of what we roaming gentry (for I now presume to class myself in this number,) have written, might be as well unsaid. But it is to be noted, that wherever one voyager puts forth an unsuitable remark, there is thereby created, as the intelligent reader will perceive, a necessity for his being corrected by the next rambler who takes up the pen. When this shall have been perfectly attended to, the British nation may be kept in a profitable equilibrium regarding Continental matters; and where a pound of mistatement becomes current in the land, an equal weight of truth will be sure to follow in the circle. But without pressing this point, I proceed to observe, that the attainment of the French language is also obviously a matter of importance, and will enhance both the pleasure and instruction of the journey.
The popular writers of modern French travels are the lamented Mr. Scott, editor of the Champion, and the well-known Lady Morgan. With every respect for these authors, each of whom ranks high in point of capacity,
I must be permitted to say, that both appear to have started from England with an irrevocable determination to make their respective estimate of France bend to their own preconceived views. The former is expert in the art of writing from newspaper practice: and his " Visits” are got up in a shewy, sketchy style; his work, however, is energetic and sagacious, and contains much wise original thought. On the whole, his views are moral, but he seems to be too exclusively severe. Surely the whole French character is not drowned in trifling, guilty amusement. His book may be a good one for the French to read, and amend themselves; though perhaps his miscalculations of French morals may justly exasperate, and indispose their minds to receive the portion of rational advice, which blends itself in his pages. But whatever it may be for our "natural enemies," as the French are called, to study, I cannot but look upon it as a questionable treatise for an Englishman to peruse, with a view to regulate his notions of France: as the natural injustice and ferocity of the English towards their neighbours really stands in no need of being sharpened. It is somewhat mortifying to think that the righting of British views concerning this polished nation, should be left to such authorities as Lady Morgan.With regard to her ladyship, she is of course one of her own heroines of romance, and of a genius more refined than her rival Mr. Scott. Her style is florid, exuberant,
and somewhat the common-place of novels: though in some happy corners we fall upon delineations of scenery and character, in which great beauty of diction is blended with an imposing energy. But her apologies for the French are all in a wrong channel, and are in truth nothing but barefaced excuses for vice itself. No intelligent Frenchman, I will venture to say, would accept such a defence as this infidel lady has set up for his country. I am therefore obliged to affirm that her work is of dangerous tendency, and appears to designate a mind which cannot or will not perceive the boundary which separates right and wrong: and supports opinions which, if put generally into real exercise by any people, would quickly disunite all the moral ties of society. Yet where she deduces the principal part of the blame of French error and crime from the political state of things there previous to the revolution, I hope I shall not be accounted an abettor of radicalism, when I subscribe to many of her remarks upon that subject. I cannot also but think with her, in opposition to Mr. Scott, that French politeness is by no means hollow grimace, but flows from an unfeigned moral principle, which adds immensely to the happiness of human life. But I find that I am forestalling a subject, which shall become a matter of consideration in its proper place: and to have done with preliminary remark, I go on to state, that being well disposed to exchange a Scotch