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Plato and Aristotle assert that Lycurgus taught the Spartans the horrid policy of thinning their slave population by massacre. Mock declarations of war were made against those wretched and defenceless beings, ambuscades were laid for them, and even the infernal expedient was adopted of inveigling them to hospitality under the promise of giving them freedom, crowning them with flowers, and amidst the festival stabbing them to the heart at the foot of the Lacedæmonian household gods. Two thousand victims were thus disposed of in one day, by the hands of those "gentlemen in every sense of the word." What wise or merry sayings passed at their common-hall supper after such an occasion, probably few would care much to learn.
Such was the male education of this atrocious people. It is not surprising to find, that their women were not famous for purity; and the judgment and penetration which Mr. Mitford ascribes to Lycurgus's views were certainly justified by the effects which his institutions produced on female character. Lycurgus (says Mr. Mitford) directed that the virgins should appear at certain intervals uncovered* (i.e. naked,) dance thus in presence of the young men, and sing, particULARLY ADDRESSING THEMSELVES TO THEM. These particular attentions of the virgins to young men in their uncovered state, Mr. Mitford owns, produced a considerable abundance of bastardy; but he gravely adds that, while it was held shameful to be without children, it was indifferent who was the father, provided the child was a fine one. And Lycurgus, (he adds,) considering jealousy as a passion often mischievous and always useless, contrived to banish it from Sparta, by making it ridiculous. Without for a moment suspecting the historian of Greece of really approving of such a system, I must say that I think he treats its abominations too complacently.
He tells us that women were free and respected in Sparta. Alas! what a mark of respect the laws of Lycurgus paid to women in the first moments after they had borne the pangs of parturition! Visits of persons appointed for the purpose, to examine whether her child was to live or to be exposed to wild beasts on mount Taygetus; and to take children from their mothers when new-born, in whom any defect, either of shape or constitution appeared; the well-formed and vigorous only were preserved. Gracious Nature, what an outrage on thy dictates! Let us conceive the mother parting either willingly or unwillingly from ber babe, and what a choice of horrors! The most natural supposition is, that she would wish to give the innocent the milk of her bosom ; but if the child appeared weakly, it must go, the police was in waiting, and Sparta could only be supported by sturdy children.
If Lycurgus found child-murder and similar barbarities among his countrymen, and if he possessed any influence, it behoved him to have abolished them ;-if he established such practices, he was a greater barbarian than the people themselves, and it is degrading the name of legislator to apply it to him.
If Mr. Mitford had any doubts about the absolute nudity of the women in these exhibitions, (which I own I have myself,) he should have explained himself; but he had just before spoken of the men appearing naked.
HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS.-SECOND SERIES.
Ar length it appears, to the gratification of us Southrons, that all the hopes of this novel-reading age are not bound up within the Scottish Border. At one period it seemed as if the success of the author of Waverley, like the serpent rod of Aaron, would swallow up all lesser adventures of the same species. His sweeping, masterly, and comprehensive outlines; the unrivalled ease and vivacity of his details; and the noble audacity with which he seized the most romantic portions of history and made them contribute to the grandeur and the vividness of his fictions, overcame all competition, and silenced the murmurs faintly raised against the want of proportion, arrangement, and connexion in his works. He seemed likely to rule the domain of modern romance not only without an equal, but without a second, and to make a vast chasm between himself and the scribblers of the Minerva press, whose efforts were still required by gentle loungers at Margate and Brighton, and sentimental milliners all over the world. Miss Austen, whose novels are the most feminine, the most true, and the most intense of all the compositions of her time, was snatched away from the world in the dawning of her honest and genuine fame. Miss Edgeworth, whose brilliant wit, admirable sense, and pointed sarcasm, might have maintained a show of rivalry with the Great Unknown, ceased to write, or directed her rare faculties to the purposes of education and moral guidance. Lady Morgan, too, chose to abandon the exercise of the fancy for the sober task of observation; and instead of veiling the sad realities of life in a drapery of alternately gay and solemn colouring, applied her powers to the detection of the varieties of national character, and the exposure of the hollowness of superstition and tyranny. Thus England and Ireland seemed left without a fair or strenuous asserter of their independent rights, and exposed without protection to the incursions of the great Scottish marauder. In his own country, indeed, a race of imitators started into existence, and acquired some reputation by gleaning in the fields over which he had hurried; but until lately, with the single exception of Maturin, England and Ireland could hardly boast a novelist.
The plan of the First Series of "Highways and Byways" was new, and possessed advantages which could hardly fail to render it popular. Its author assumed the agreeable part of an observant stroller through interesting countries, and professed to give the little histories which he incidentally discovered, with the fidelity of one who receives his intelligence immediately from the actors and sufferers. An air of truth was thus thrown over his narratives, which, to sustain the illusion, are given with the caution and earnestness of a witness. He seems to mingle unobtrusively among the interesting scenes to which his fortune conducts him, qualified to become a spectator and a party by an honest and unpretending sympathy with the joys and sorrows of his fellows. His sketches are obviously taken from life, and have all the vigour and freshness which a pedestrian traveller might be expected to confer on his pictures of objects which came within his personal review. There is no sickly sensibility; no vague indistinct dreaming; no moral paradox; but his characters are of real flesh and blood, and his incidents generally such as might well happen "in the broad highway of the world." Merits like these, set off by considerable elegance of diction,
conferred a speedy popularity on the former series of tales; and will, we think, be found more strikingly developed in that which we have now to introduce to our readers.
These volumes contain ample evidence, nay a direct confession, that the author is an Irishman residing in France. His continental associations give a flavour and delicacy to his Hibernian enthusiasm without reducing its strength. The gaiety, the innocent joyousness, and the blameless vanities of the French peasantry, have extended the sphere of his pleasurable sympathies, yet have not weakened his sad recollections of home. There are many Irishisms in his works; but they are chiefly those of feeling rather than of taste: for, excepting an occasional rotundity and plethoric fulness of style, there is scarcely any thing overstrained or extravagant in expression, through the whole series. He somewhat resembles the great novelist of Scotland in the healthful feeling which breathes through his delineations, in the vigour of his allusions to natural scenery, and in the absence of cant and exclusive prejudice. Both, whatever may be their political creed, are right Catholic of imagination, and free of every society where manly spirit, heroic self-devotion, and gentlemanly bearing, are permitted to flourish. Our author does not attempt to compass and to master so great and unwieldy portions of human affairs, nor has the same majesty of outline or breadth of colouring; but he fills up more completely the circle in which he is contented to move, and traces more continuously the inward workings of the soul and the gradual developement of character in action. There is an occasional lightness and airiness of touch, a vivacity in the relief given to his scenes, which is evidently inspired by "the vine-coloured hills and blue mountains of France." We have sometimes, in reading his works, fancied that they bear the same relation to the best productions of Sir Walter, which light Bordeaux wine does to strong Scotch ale; and who would quarrel with the first because it is not the very best thing in the world?
The first of these tales-Caribert the Bear-hunter-is perhaps the most perfect of the series. The scene is laid in the central Pyrenees, and the peasants of that magnificent and secluded region are its actors. Its plot is very simple, and, in part, can scarcely be considered as new. A young girl, whose exquisite sensibility gives to her a charm "than beauty dearer," is timidly wooed by a gentle mountain swain, whom she is beginning to esteem, when a daring untractable lad, the hero of the story, comes, looks, is smitten, and conquers. As the connexion is known to be hostile to the views of the old smuggler, whom the fair Aline honours with the name of father, it is prosecuted in secret, at all manner of risks, and at sad cost of honesty and honour. This is common enough; but the picturesque delineation of Caribert the false friend and too faithful lover, and the way in which he falls off from all which gave him distinction, till his very courage fails, or only breaks out in desperation and madness, are exceedingly affecting and real. Noble by nature, generous, and sincere, he is drawn by his fatal passion to dissemble with his friend, to affect love to that friend's sister (a very piquant little coquette), and, when poor Claude detects him at the pine-grove where he meets his mistress, breaks out into
rage, and slanders the girl he had cheated! What follows seems to us very finely conceived, and executed with great power. During this moral and intellectual estrangement, poor Caribert, once the most fearless of hunters," has foregone all custom of exercises," and gradually, by disappointing, has enraged his father, whose every existence depended on his skill and strength in the chace. The day before the nocturnal encounter in which he is discovered to be treacherous and provoked to be unjust, he has suffered bitterly from the reproaches of the old man, who had been wounded in a solitary attempt to kill a bear in his den, and has promised the next day to accompany him as of yore, and give him vengeance over the tyrant of the wilds. He comes in fevered, aguish, with incipient madness obscuring his mind, and, after a night of terrible fancies, goes out clad in his hunting-dress, flushed with the excitement of disease, which the fond father mistakes for the glow of valour, and which the fonder mother trembles as she looks upon. The rest of this day's adventure must be told in the author's own words-for none other can do the least justice to his daring conception.
"Soon after Caribert and his father had quitted their home, the morning, which had only just broke, began to be more than commonly overcast. A snow shower, mixed with rain, assailed them ere they reached the Pic du Midi; and the piercing cold of the air, added to the sleet beating cuttingly into his face, brought on, with Caribert, repeated attacks of violent and alternate fever and shivering. When they arrived at the den of the bear, which was formed of a cavity in the western side of the mountain, close to that terrific precipice which I have already endeavoured to describe, they were both benumbed, and scarcely capable of exertion; but the old man, rousing up all his wrath and courage for the onset, approached the cave, and with loud shouts of defiance, endeavoured to stir up the savage animal's rage. The summons was no sooner heard than answered. A horrible growl sent out from the recess, was followed by the appearance of the bear, which rushed forth as if in conscious recollection of yesterday's triumph. At the appalling sound and sight, Pero, the faithful and courageous dog, unsupported by his former ally, and having his share of brute remembrance too of the late rencontre, hung down his head, dropped his tail, and tied yelping down the mountain. Old Larcole grasped his pike firmly, and advanced. The hideous monster reared itself up on its hind legs, stretched out its fore paws, and as, with its jaws yawning wide, its fearful tusks displayed, and growling with horrid energy, it was in the very act of springing forward, the veteran hunter stepped close up, and aimed a thrust, with no flinching strength, right at his enemy's heart. He was not far wide of that vital spot. His pike pierced the left breast, and went out clearly at the shoulder. Rendered frantic by the pain, the bear bounded up, flung itself full upon its undaunted assailant, and fell upon him to the earth. The old man, burying his head under the body of his foe, received on the back and shoulders of his doublet its unavailing efforts to penetrate the thick folds of armour with tusks and nails. He tugged at the pike to extricate it from the body, but his position was such that he could not succeed, and every new effort only tended to give issue to the thick stream of blood which flowed from the wound. During this frightful struggle, the yells of the bear were mixed with and smothered by the loud execrations of the old man. The latter, at length, gave up the hope of recovering his pike, but strove fairly next to get rid of his terrific burden. He succeeded so far as to get one leg clear, and with his nervous grasp, entwined round the body of the brute; he was rising on his knee, and called out, 'Now, Caribert, now! To his heart to his heart the death-blow, now! strike, strike!'-but Caribert struck not! He stood gazing on the scene-panic struck-fixed to the spot with emotions not fathomable to man, a terrible but not solitary instance of the perilous risks run by mental courage, as well as by human virtue. I do not inquire into the mystery-but there he stood, its horrible and shuddering illustration!
“The old man was now getting clear, but the bear had his hold in turn. His huge paws were fastened with a dreadful force round one of his victim's thighs ; and recovering from his sprawling posture, he began to draw him backwards, evidently in the design of regaining his den. The old man's courage rose with his danger, for he alertly drew his knife from his belt, opened the blade, and plunged it repeatedly into the body of the bear. The latter leaped and bounded with agony; and Larcole recovering his feet once more, succeeded in grasping the savage in his arms. But the trial could not be longed. He was drooping under the dreadful gripe. Breathless and faint, he could only utter some terrific curses against the recreant who had abandoned him; and while Caribert gazed, his brain on fire, his hands outstretched, his tongue cleaving to his mouth, but his limbs trembling, his heart sunk, and his feet rooted to the earth, he saw the white locks of his aged father floating over the neck of his destroyer; while the dying animal, in his blindness, not knowing what he did, had retreated to the very edge of the precipice, slipping at every backward plunge in the slough formed by the snow and his own heart's blood, by which it was dissolved. The old man, seeing his terrible fate, seemed to acquire for an instant the gigantic energy of despair. Throwing one glance across the horrid space on the border of which he stood, he screamed in a voice of thunder, 'Caribert! Caribert!' The terrible expression conveyed in this hoarse scream, struck on the mind of his son with an electrical shock. Suddenly roused from his stupor, he recovered for an instant all his recollection and his courage. He uttered a cry of corresponding fierceness,-swung his brandished pikerushed forwards with open arms to seize his father, and snatch him from his destiny,--but it was too late! The monster touched on the extreme edge-lost his footing-plunged instinctively forward-took another backward step, and just as Caribert believed he had grasped his father in his outstretched arms, both man and bear were lost to his sight, and their groans came mingling in the air, as they went crashing down below.”
Caribert, of course, becomes insane after this terrible catastrophe, and is watched with unwearied tenderness by Aline. But we will not further spoil the pleasure of our readers by disclosing the author's secrets. There are two comic parts in the tale, one of which is capital, and the other a blemish. The first is a young mountaineer, whom the writer drags out of his cave at night by the heels, and who, with a noble instinct amidst his stupidity, quaffs off a whole glass of brandy, and goes reeling and laughing about the mountain; the second an English dandy, with effeminate manners and a generous heart-a union which rather comes within Mr. Puff's favourite range of combinations-"which, though not met with every day, might, by possibility, happen." This fantastical gentleman, too, is out of place among the grandeurs of Nature, and breaks in on the deep and powerful feeling which the serious incidents are calculated to awaken.
The second and longest tale, entitled "The Priest and the Garde du Corps," is a history of an Irish Catholic Priest and a young Irish soldier; one enrolled among the French clergy, the other enlisted in the Royal Guards, during the early periods of the French Revolution. Our author's sympathy with the Royalist party, in their struggles and sufferings, was manifest in his former publication, and is here the vital principle of his narrative. But it cannot be regarded as a servile feeling, even by those who do not share it. Though its regrets chiefly follow the misfortunes of greatness, it is an independent and manly impulse, which does not induce its possessor to palliate the crimes of prosperous tyranny, or even to pass them over in prudent silence. He who enthusiastically admires the Queen of France, and extends his pity to her vacillating husband, execrates the invasion of Spain as a freeman ought, and parcels out to the meanest of his villains a shameful death