Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

cold and selfish calculations which consigned Venice to Austria, and Genoa to Sardinia, rejected the appeal, and while affecting to re-establish four out of the number, left even these the mere • sbadows of a mighty name,' holding a precarious existence at the mercy of the stronger powers by whom they are surrounded. A pretty intelligible intimation of the kind of freedom which they are suffered to retain, is suggested by the affair of Colonel Massenbach. He was obnoxious to the Prussian Government, and sought safety in the free and independent city of Frankfort; his asylum was insulted by the demand of the Prussian ambassador, that he should be given up, and the magistrates were under the necessity of compliance. We are equally at a loss to guess the principle on which many of the general divisions and allotments of territory were made. How sagaciously soever they may have been partitioned, and with whatever regard to strength and compactness they may in reality have been assigned to their possessors, they certainly make a very strange and uncouth appearance in the map. Such interlinkings and iosulations of states, such sections and separations of the same country: bere, the king of Bavaria obliged to request permission of his brother, or cousin, of Wirtemburg to cross his kingdom, before he can reach bis duchy of Deuxponts; there, the grand duchy of Hesse flanked and cut in two by the Electorate of the same name; in a third direction, the kingdom of Hanover winding and insinuating a long excresence between two fractions of the duchy of Brunswick. If we add to this strange and whimsical tesselation, the little counties, margraviates, and principalities, with their small patches of country, set in the midst of the larger states, we shall then bave a faint idea of the condition in which Germany was left by those to whom its final settlement was committed.

The volume before us, from which these reminiscences bave detained us a little too long, contains a number of miscellaneous and desultory, but very amusiog sketches of government, society, habits, and scenery, put together, ostensibly, during a tour among some of the Rhenish states. We have not the smallest suspicion that the adventures and associations described by the Writer, really occurred in his personal experience; but we have as little hesitation in ascribing to him a fair portioo of local knowledge, and a considerable acquaintance with the individuals both animate and inanimate who figure in his pages. Altogether, he has produced a very agreeable book, which will afford not only gratification, but considerable information on subjects which are, though much the matter of common conversation, very little familiar to general knowledge.

Mentz, the first important object occurring in these letters, presents a melancholy contrast to its former prosperity under

the ecclesiastical government. When, about thirty years since, Dr. Moore passed through this city, he was gratified by the siglit of trim ecclesiastics with their smart equipages, and their well-drilled, and smooth-shaved soldiery.

• The chapter and the grenadiers have now changed places. You see the meagre occupants of the pillaged stalls skulking to mass in threadbare soutanes, their looks proclaiming them no longer the monopolizers of the old Hock of the neighbourhood; while the Austrian and Prussian soldiers, to the number of 14,000, are rioting in the insolence of lawless superiority. The cafes', the billiardrooms, the promenades are crammed with these smoking and swaggering guests, come to give a sort of unhallowed vivacity to the mouldering haunts of the monks. The university-building is a barrack, and hospitals and guard-rooms strike one at every corner.'

The grand duke of Hesse is a respectable old gentleman, very musically and liberally inclined, but rather averse from trusting his subjects with too much liberty. At Darmstadt, the capital of the duchy, the Writer states himself to have been introduced to the admirable duchess of Saxe Weimar, who has nobly supported her husband in maintaining the high literary credit of the inost enlightened court in Germany. An alınost quaker-like simplicity of attire, a sensible though somewhat homely cast of features, with great ease and dignity of manner, distinguish this excellent woman, who, after the battle of Jena, succeeded, by her firm and prudent conduct, in procuring from Napoleon, an exemption from military visitation for her palace and capital. Some very good and spirited description of the fêtes and amusements of the Hessian court and nobility, occurs in this part of the work. At Frankfort, one of the four cities of Germany entitled free,' there still existed, as in Mentz and many other large towns, a strong sensation of regret for the absence of the French troops. They were civil if treated with civility, and were generally well furnished with money which they spent freely. In this city is held the Diet, composed of seventeen plenipotentiaries in ordinary cases, but as there is a good deal of whimsical complication in the appointment of votes, it sometimes happens that these seventeen deliberators are multiplied into sixty-nine. As yet, this admirable body, has done precisely nothing, and it is not, we imagine, probable that it will ever do any more: it does not seem to be the will of its masters that this mock-senate should exert itself effectually for the benefit of the German people.

At Wilhelmsbad, the Traveller was on the territory of the Electorate of Hesse Cassel, whose ruler seems to consider himself as the absolute proprietor of his subjects, and

is well-known to Englishmen as the contractor for supplying the British government with so many gross of soldiers at so much per head. This

very unamiable

personage is said to be weak, tenacious, and avaricious, far advanced in years, and ornamented with a prodigious excrescence on his neck. It should not, however, be omitted, that with all bis tyranny and singularities, be deals very moderately with his people in the article of taxation.

Čarlsrube, the court residence of the grand duke of Baden, is a handsome town with a new church, which we notice as being the work of Weinbrenner, a living German architect, of high, but, if we may trust our critical Author, rather exaggerated reputation. Of this boasted production the Corinthian columns are described as thick and gouty,' and the pediment of the portico, as 'awkwardly perched in the air.' The interior is decorated with 'gigantic stained columns with gaudy gilt

capitals,' and with finical ornaments superinduced upon a

grand outline.' The reigning duke is a weak and indolent, but well disposed man, who keeps up his army to an oppressive peace establishment of 8000 men, including the enormous and absurd appointment of no less than thirty three general officers ; a proportion of about one general to 250 privates!. He was, unfortunately for bimself and his people, an only son and a spoiled child; bis habits are consequently expensive, and his intentions vacillating. He has not yet given to his subjects the expected constitution, and refers them on this point to the decisions of the Diet. That worthy and valuable body take the bint from their masters, and employ ample time in deliberation on so grave a matter. They may, however, protract as they please; the concession may be somewhat later than is gracious or even prudent; but the public spirit of Germany is roused, and the promised meliorations in the general system of government, cannot, with safety, be much longer withheld. Baden, the capital of the old Margraviate, is well described. Its hot springs and gaming tables seem to constitute its principal attractions as a place of fasbionable resort, but to the lovers of picturesque situation and of secret history, the finely shattered old castle, crowning the woody summit of a rocky height, presents a much more impressive object. Its subterranean passages and dungeons are supposed to bave been the dark and mysterious court of a Vehm Gericht or secret tribunal. Of this dreadful institution, a well-written account is still a desideratum, though the general outline of its history is commonly known, and is given in brief in the present work. A more detailed, though far from sufficient collection of particulars, was published, some years sincé, in a small pamphlet by Mr. Coxe, and some very interesting illustrations will be found in the German romance of Herman of Unna. ' In the fifteenth century, when the power of this fearful tribunal was at its height, it marshalled in its' ranks, 100,000 free judges, bound by a terrible oath, unknown to society at

large, but recognising each other by a secret sign. Its proceedings were summary and sanguinary, and its sentences were entrusted for execution to the daggers of its countless assassins.

« The officers of the tribunal stole the night to a Castle or a town, and affixed, on the gates, a judicial summons to this Prince or that citizen to appear at the Frei Stuhl, at a given time and place, to be examined on a given matter. If the summons was repeated three times, without effect, the accused was condemned, par contumace, once more summoped—and if that proved fruitless, outlawed and hanged by the road-side whenever caught. If he resisted he was bored through the body, bound to the tree, and left with the executioner's knife sticking by him, to show that he was not murdered, but a convict of the Frei Gericht. The tribunal used to assemble at midnight, in the church-yard of the place where they intended to hold a sitting. At break of day, the ringing of the bells announced to the inhabitants the presence of these formidable visitors. All were obliged to assemble in an open field, sitting down in a circle, in the middle of which sat the President and Judges of the Tribunal—the insignia of a sword and rope before them. When any one of bad reputation appeared in the circle, one of the Judges would step up to him, and touching him with his white staff, say to him-“ Friend, there is as good bread to be eaten elsewhere as here.If the conscience of the person was so clear that he did not choose to take the hint and go away, he might sit still and run the chance of accusation ; but it was generally more prudent to decamp. When the Judge touched any one, three times, with the formidable white wand, it was a signal that he was a hapless convict already secretly accused and convicted ; and no time was lost in hanging him at the next tree or beam which presented itself. This was the invariable punishment of criminals of all ranks; although now it is out of use in Germany, and the meanest criminals have the honour of decapitation. The youngest Judge generally performed the office, which was managed with so much secrecy that the hangman was rarely known. The crimes taken cognizance of by the Vehm Gericht, were chiefly heresy, infidelity, sacrilege, high treason, murder, incendiarism, rapes, robbery, and contumacy to the Tribunal, iis Judges and Messengers.' p. 221–222.

At length, however, the iniquities and oppressions of this tribunal became intolerable: the sovereigns of Germany united their efforts to suppress it, and at the close of the sixteenth century, it was extinct.

Wirtemberg, the next in this wilderness of sovereignties, is a compact territory. The King is an active man of talent, courage, and firmness, of a small but important figure, reserved and little polite, possessing more intellect than feeling, but considered warm and hearty in his attachments.!. H as been at variance with the states of his kingdom, on the subject of the new constitution; and if the matter be correctly stated by the present Writer, he seems to bave offered fair and reasonable concessions, while the states appear to have insisted upon points

the cession of which would have left him more at their percy than a German, necessarily a military potentate, could, with prudencé, voluntarily allow. Some interesting particulars of the life and habits of the old monarch, well known some years since to the small wits of England, as the gross and unwieldy suitor to our Princess Royal, are introduced in this part of the volume. He was a coarse but strong minded man, an acknowJedged coward, violent and tyrannical. There were, however, some good points in his character. His taste was cultivated, his manners dignified and gentlemanly; he was ready and skilful in conversation, and to crown all, Napoleon is affirmed to bave repeatedly described him as the only sovereign in Germany capable of reigning. But the finest trait in his history is furnished by bis strong and un varying attachment to bis friend aud minister Count Zeppelin, who retained through life the confidence of the monarch and the attachment of the people. A monumental temple was erected by the king to the memory of his favourite, with the simple but impressive dedication : To the friend gone before. The Queen dowager, after fulfilling in an exemplary manner, the duties of a wife, maintains in retirement, a most respectable character, and is frequently visited by the reigning monarch, who treats her with courtesy and deference. Danneker, the statuary, is a native of Stutgard. His works are mentioned with the highest admiration, but we feel no dispositiun to give the Writer much credit for skill or science in the arts.

The morals of Germany, if we may judge from the incidental illustrations afforded by this work, are by no means of a bigh standard. The licence of the drama, and the countenance given to many little and some gross irregularities of conduct, are strong intimations of a lamentable state of things; but a more distinct evidence of the lax morals which prevail, is presented in the facility and frequency of divorce. The numerous universities of Germany are very fallacious indications of a wide diffusion of the higher descriptions of knowledge: the term of instruction is too brief, and the motives to extensive acquisition are too few, to tempt the turbulent and unmanageable stndents beyond a certain limit.

The scenery of the Rbine has been too often described, and too recently specifically noticed by us, to require much detail bere. It seems to be characterised by a peculiar and piquant variety throughout its streain. It flows during its early course, among the bleak and sterile mountains in the very heart of Switzerland, and after expanding into the Lake of Constance, winds round the extremity of the mountains of the Black Forest, clothed with firs, whose ricb, tufted, funereal appearance, gives a gloomy grandeur to the heights they shade. Between Heidelberg and Darmstadt lies the beautiful Bergstrasse, or

« НазадПродовжити »