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in many respects highly beneficial: it enlarges the mind, it increases the dignity of man's nature, and, moreover, the impartial inquirer into the political and religious aspect of contemporary nations, may, by ocular demonstration, set his mind at rest on those points, of which the mere recollections of others would fail to convince him.
Further, it is natural that in the infancy of a nation the wisest and most trustworthy men in it should visit foreign countries, and by studying the laws and customs of other nations be able to construct a form of government, and a system of civilization for their
Thus acted the ancient lawgivers of Greece and Rome. But when a nation had arrived at mature manhood, and equalled, if not surpassed, each contemporary government, this was no longer necessary. “When the channels of science were not freely opened, access was had to the fountain ; but it became unnecessary to repair to the source, when the stream was suffered to diffuse itself.”*
Lastly, it is said that the accurate acquisition of foreign languages can be gained only in the country where they are spoken : this is one of the best reasons that can be offered in favour of the practice of travel. At the same time, I cannot but think that any nicety of pronunciation which may be taught in this way, should hardly be put into the scale against the folly and depravity which a youth, cereus in vitium flecti, infallibly contracts abroad.
* Oxford Prize Essays, Vol. I. p. 5.
Let me not be misunderstood: I am not speaking contemptuously of those who travel for the acquisition of knowledge, and turn that knowledge on their return to the benefit of their country.
None can speak against this and know the names of Pococke and Clarke. But when a serious-minded man, anxious for his country's good and his own, considers the disadvantage of yearly wintering in France, he would be almost tempted to denounce travelling altogether. It is one thing, however, to travel with the intention of seeing the manners and customs of each foreign people, and another to naturalize yourself year
after one particular country, because you prefer it to your own. The former is especially laudable, the other proceeds from a principle utterly wrong-from a hankering after a freer life, and more congenial tastes than can be found at home.
The prospects of France, political and religious, must fill the calm observer with alarm. Were France a remote nation which nobody cared about, in some desert of Africa; or were she bounded by a wall within which none but Frenchmen dwelt, there would be no reasonable hindrance to her cutting the king's throat to-morrow, and establishing again the reign of terrors, and the apotheosis of the Goddess of Reason. Unfortunately her affairs are so interwoven with those of her neighbours, her disturbances embroil so many nations, that, as Napoleon said, “a revolution in France is a revolution in Europe.”
None can contemplate the French Revolution without horror, except Mr. Leigh Hunt, and men of his school ; at least, few English people would wish to have another taste of it in the incendiary fires of Bristol, Nottingham, and Birmingham. After such awful warnings, such bitter experience of the evils of anarchy and atheism, we had hoped for improvement, and national reformation, even there. Notwithstanding, that national frippery, that superficial easiness of character, which marked them then, is still at work, utterly debasing them, and rendering them almost the lowest in the scale of civilized nations.
“ Picta croco et fulgenti murice vestis,
0! verè Phrygiæ, neque enim Phryges.” Alas! there is the same contempt for religion and its ministers, as in the days preceding the Revolution, when kings conspired against the Lord's anointed, and Frederick and Catherine of Prussia applauded the sage of Ferney; when the church of Bossuet and Fenelon, of Pascal and Saurin, was called L’infame ! “Christianity,” says Dr. Wordsworth, in his Diary in France, “ has become obsolete as a safeguard of political institutions; and a religious foundation is no longer necessary to the fabric of government. Certain it is that the throne of France has at present no religious foundation.” Finally, that profession of Christianity which caused the king to be styled Christianissimus, has been discarded, and the words “ Dei gratiá” struck out of his coins. The first public institutions, the University, the College, and the Academy of France, openly professes the doctrines of philosophy,
that is, atheism. The Government is nominally monarchical, but there is no aristocracy of birth or wealth there; no church establishment, no religion, and no morals. This people the English youth are taught, or teach themselves, to honour and patronize.
Now it has been said, that the great defect in the English character is want of polish. So, forsooth, our countrymen must needs cross the straits, to wipe off this national stain! It may be fashionable to complain of English roughness, English bad manners, and so forth ; but as long as Britons have a name to protect, and sacred privileges to watch over, their time will be better employed in that way, than in acquiring a nicety of pronunciation in the language and among the countrymen of lu grande nation, or cultivating the fripperies of ultra-refinement.
It is to France, then, that noble lords and others of our fashionable countrymen point as a model for England, with its easy uninterrupted course of pleasures, its steeple-chasing and theatre-going, uninterrupted by Sunday's rest, and its licentiousness, free from the trammels of English virtue and modesty, unalarmed by that peculiarity of the unpolished nation,--a belief in God, the Avenger, the Judge! And we are recommended to adopt the motherly guidance of France in our manners; we may hence gain liberalism and refinement: and young England may shake off the superstitious barbarisms of the age, and fearlessly approach that point, whither their fathers might have been led-- but for their credulous tenacity of old customs—by Hume and Chesterfield.
I hope that the remarks I have made will affront no one. My object is simply this :-Youth is naturally ductile, apt to engage in pleasures to excess. then, is a nation which has peculiar charms for them. Here they may find brilliant wit and national l'égereté; here they may plunge into public amusements every day, and all day long : and these will soon leave higher considerations far behind them.
I wish then every one to travel, to judge for himself of each foreign nation- but not to live abroad, particularly in France, a nation of anarchists and atheists, who would rejoice to see England enervated by their refined pleasures, and take the opportunity of knocking her on the head.
FROM GEORGE HERBERT.
“ Sweet Day, so cool, &c."
Lux tranquilla, nitens, frigida, nuptias
Tu vitæ brevis occides.
O cui gemmula cernentibus evocat
Tu vitæ brevis occides.