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LEAVES FROM A JOURNAL.
In December, 1822, I visited the Baron Denon; he appeared not above seventy years of age, though, in reality, at least fifteen years older : alert, lively, and good humoured, he exhibited no symptoms of the decay of nature. He was incessantly haunted by myriads of loungers, from all countries; more especially by the bold Britons, who penetrate every where, and often, no doubt, were his good nature and politeness brought to the test. For my own part, I was indebted to my partial introducer for a degree of notice and attention flattering to my self love, and which, consequently, made my interview very agreeable; but I believe that few have conversed with this celebrated man, without receiving a pleasing impression of his urbanity. Wearisome as one might suppose the task would have become, from constant repetition, he seemed even eager to display and explain his various exotic treasures, and did it with almost youthful simplicity and vivacity.
The gratitude of this venerable servant to his benefactor, Buonaparte, was evident, in the multiplication of his bust and figure in each of the apartments; it would seem that the philosopher loved his master as himself, for the fac simili of the one, in painting and sculpture, were only rivalled, either in number or variety, by those of the other.
In addition to his favourite Egyptian antiquities, he possessed a vast store of ancient relics and curiosities from all parts of the world, and of all periods ; his mummies, of different ages and qualities, were innumerable. He observed to me, in the neck ornaments of an infant mummy which had been preserved and adorned with great care, some artificial pearls ; a singular fact to be ascertained of such remote days, and of a country, where it is likely that real ones must have been vulgar and common—the product of its own seas and of its near neighbour, the Persian Gulph. He pointed out the position of a female mummy, which was, as he remarked, precisely that of the Venus de Medici, “l'attitude de la pudeur.” He told me he would introduce me to Confucius, a most hideous specimen of Chinese sculpture, carved in wood, the figure was disgustingly corpulent; and the face, which was frightful enough of itself, was distorted by laughter, which Denon explained to me was held by the Chinese an evidence of purity of soul : on the forehead of the Chinese sage was a large excrescence, or wen, a deformity which it seems was regarded by this people a visible sign of intellect; in corroboration of which, Mons. Denon brought forth another Chinese philosopher, whose brow bore the same enviable indication. Is not this some testimony in favour of the system of Messrs. Gall and Spurzheim?
I espied a pen and ink on the table, and hinted a desire to possess the baron's autograph :“I have confessed to you," said I, “a passion for history, and the things thereto appertaining; the same inclination that incited you to form this collection, makes me desire to possess your hand-writing:”-A Frenchman, philosopher or not, loves a compliment; and if a few words of harmless courtesy can bestow momentary pleasure, it were
mere churlishness to withhold them ;-his eyes sparkled, “ Mais Mademoiselle-Moi. Je n'appartiens pas a l'histoire !” He wrote his name, and presented it with a grace that would not have misbecome the best society of the best times of France.
We had some conversation on the subject of Bruce, but there he did not shine, being scarcely half willing to do justice to his enterprising and learned precursor ; " Il á dit beaucoup des verités extraordinaires sans doute, mais aussi quelques mensonges.” This, a little, disconcerted me; but when I pressed the matter, and inquired after les mensonges, supposing that unfair accusation was the detected offspring of ignorance and envy, and had been long silenced in confusion, he seemed to confine himself principally to the charge that Bruce had pretended to understand drawing; while, in fact, he employed an artist to execute the drawings, which he imposed on the public as his own. This, however, if proved, seems to resolve itself into a mere question of vanity; a foible which might, alas ! be detected, lurking in one corner or other of the most exalted mind; but no doubt it appeared in double heinousness to Mons. Denon, because I suspect his graphic talents were his real forte. Whether he was the inventor, or only the great improver and encourager of lithography, the arts are on that sole account much indebted to him. It is supposed, that the Baron's personal researches in Egypt were not very extensive or fatiguing, and that he had been fortunate in his choice of agents.
LITERATURE OF THE MONTH.
The Ord VOLUME.* Now, when the falling leaves and the lengthening nights whisper us to be looking about for such light intellectual provant as may sweeten and lend wings to the sombre hours of evening, we wonder if Washington Irving has any intention of treating us with a third volume of his Sketch Book, if Galt has another series of Mr. Duffle's Voyages and Travels in hand, or if Horace Smith has any intention of opening for Christmas exbibition, a new collection of Gaieties and Gravities? The question being put to ourselves, no answer can reasonably be expected; but, whatever may be in preparation here, we have something already in possession; and, whether followed by such successors or not, will make good its title to the appellation of " The Odd Volume.”
The first oddity in limine is, that it is something odd, in an age when oddities are so rife, that a volume, which has no oddities about it at all, should haye taken a fancy to have itself christened the odd volume--but so it stands on the title-page. In a book of some 350 pages, and containing some sixteen or eighteen tales, English, Scotch, German, and Italian, it would be something odd if we could not squeeze out some entertainment; and still more odd, if having done so, we were afraid to tell the public as much.
In looking over the stories, so considerable a variety of style and execution is apparent, as to lead at once to the supposition that more pens than one
* Edinburgh, Lizars. Glasgow, Ogilvie. London, Whittaker, pp. 375.
have contributed; and report bears us out in this idea. That the authors are of the gentler sex, is also very apparent, from the tone of sentiment and feeling with which the different subjects are handled. This is most prominent in the three tales; “Emily Butler,” which is a narrative of deep and unfortunate love, managed with considerable delicacy and pathos; “ The Outpost,” founded on an anecdote, bearing the stamp of truth, and intended to illustrate at once the barbarous situation of Hibernian manners, and the feudal bonds which still subsist between lord and vassal; and, « The Widow's Nuptials,” a somewhat harrowing recital of the operation of unhallowed passion, meeting with virtuous resistance, long sustained, till borne down by the force of maternal affection; though ending at length in joyless decay, and an unhallowed death.
The translations from the German, which, allowing for the exaggerated state of northern continental feeling, possess very considerable interest—and the three stories, the “ Miller of Doune," " Mynheer Dodimus Doolittle," and “ Beware of what you say before Children,” bear the impress of a more masculine intellect, and appear to have proceeded from the same pen; though, strange to say, the best story in the work, “ Mynheer Dodimus," and the worst, “ Beware of what you say before Children," are of the trio.
The fair writer will doubtless be a little surprised at the decision on the tale which winds up the volume; as, from its station there, and some passages of the writing, she certainly must have reckoned it one of the most forcible and effective. The incident on which the story hinges, is unquestionably horrible and striking; and, brought in episodically, must have passed with eclat in this age of strong emotion ; but the circumstances, added to give effect, only operate as water, in diluting the strong essence of the anecdote; and throw over it an air of ridicule, conjoined with a feeling quite unpleasant and disagreeable. If French critics stigmatise Shakspeare for the barbarity of smothering Desdemona on the stage, what can be said, even by a rougher British critic, in defence of a minute and particular account of the atrocities committed at the incremation of an insane woman, whose broken thigh-bone rattles on each step of the prison stair as she is dragged down, and who is at last mercifully rendered senseless among the excruciating ftames, by receiving on her head an immense stone, thrown by a horrified byestander.
We have said enough, and perhaps more than enough in censure; but, had the stories been more full of blemishes, one to pounce on, would not have ap"peared so prominent. We would fain give an extract from the “ Miller of Doune," throughout which the olden Doric dialect of Scotland is admirably sustained; but find we cannot detach a passage with effect, without entering into the minutiæ of the story, the agreeable task of which we would rather leave to our readers, assuring them of very considerable amusement. • Of the other tales, which make up the volume, several of which contain considerable interest and entertainment, our limits preclude us from making particular mention; indeed they will be more or less relished, according to the taste of the reader. To conclude, we wish the fair writers every success in the walk of literature they have chosen. As to their elegant accomplishinents, the translations from the German and Italian, and more especially the original music to which several lyrics in the book are set, allow only of one opinion being formed; though we admit they might have selected some more noted poets to illustrate, than Costello, or T. C. Smith, neither of whom are likely to be very familiar to the public.
Should they again think of presenting themselves at the bar of public favour, we would advise them, as true observers of society and manners, to adhere to their own deductions therefrom; and banish all novel-writing sentimentality from their pages. The late period of the month at which this interesting volume was received, as precluded us from giving some of the many favourable specimens we should otherwise have presented to the notice of our readers; but this omission shall be atoned for in our next publication.
THE MORAL CHARACTER of Lord Byron.* This pamphlet is a metaphysical inquiry into the moral character of Lord Byron, with many of the sentiments of which we entirely disagree. It would be unjust to withhold from the author our praise for the ingenuity of some of his arguments and the vividness of his perception; for he seems to have found morality in productions that could never have been intended to convey moral instruction to mankind. In this liberal spirit, he discovers that in Don Juan there is “ a total freedom from grossness of sentiment and language.” In his anxiety to promote the cause of morality, our author deplores the destruction of Lord Byron's autobiography, and calls poor Mr. Moore all kinds of uncivil names for having given the precious manuscript out of his possession ; accusing him of baseness, treachery, and dishonour, faithlessness and ingratitude; as well as of having acted from paltry temporary considerations, in his concession to the friends of Lord Byron, as it regarded the posthumous production of which he was the depository. So far from sympathising with Mr. Simmons, in his rhapsodical invectives, we are of opinion, that Mr. Moore rendered an acceptable service, not only to Lord Byron's fame, but to society in general, in suppressing the noble poet's account of his own life, filled as it would seem to have been with personalities and indecencies, of the most disgusting description. To speak seriously, Mr. Simmons' pamphlet a very flimsy and absurd attempt to inquire into the merits of a question which has long been decided. The Monody subjoined to the essay, contains some very pleasing lines, but is on the whole extremely rhapsodical and extravagant.
Old English PROVERBS, EXPLAINED AND ILLUSTRATED, BY WILLIAM CARPENTER.T This small, but neatly printed volume, contains a selection of English proverbs, from Ray, Dyke, Bailey, &c., with illustrations of their meaning and applicability. The author of these comments does not however give his readers credit for quite as much intelligence as we conceive to be the average possessed by all decent people at this time of day, for he is sometimes at much pains to explain what needs no explanation at all. The book is, however, on the whole, both useful and pleasant; and is calculated to form an acceptable present to young people. It is a cheap and pretty publication.
The Poor Man's FRIEND. This is a very useful and entertaining little brochure, and forms the best exposition of the almost incredible enormities of William Cobbett, we eyer remember to have met with. There is scarcely an opinion on any subject of importance, in which the turn-coat of the Register has indulged, to which we are not here furnished with a counterpart. " Out of thine own mouth shalt thou be judged,” would have formed an appropriate motto for this pamphlet, the author of which has rendered an acceptable service to the
poor deluded creatures, who have been cajoled by this most inconsistent, shameless, and unprincipled of politicians. Those merchants and manufacturers who are in the habit of employing large numbers of the lower orders, would do well to circulate the “Poor Man's Friend” among their dependants. The exposure of old Cobbett's tricks is so complete, that it can hardly fail of producing a very sensible effect in the minds of his admirers, if any yet remain to him.
* An Inquiry into the Moral Character of Lord Byron. By J. W. Simmons. Cochran, pp. 98. + Old English Proverbs, Explained and Illustrated, by W. Carpenter, 24mo. Booth.
| The Poor Man's Friend; or, the Companion of the Working Classes : being the system of moral and political philosophy, laid down by W. Cobbett. Stedman, pp. 32.