Зображення сторінки

his crown.

among the nobles a conspiracy which would probably end in the loss of

It is the power of an illiberal aristocracy that prevents Russia from rising to the elevation she would otherwise attain.'

* The Emperor, or “ Autocrat of all the Russias," is as absolute as a monarch can be. He has no hereditary advisers and no chosen counsellors. The prime minister of the empire is styled the chancellor. Each of the departments has likewise its peculiar minister, all of whom are ex-officio members of a council consisting of thirty-five, who superintend the public offices. Imperial ukases are issued through a body, called a senate, who are employed as a mechanical instrument, and have no deliberate power, except when they sit as a judicial court of appeal from inferior tribunals. Governors are deputed to the provinces of this extensive empire, who carry on the duties of their governments by means of subordinate employés and a host of gens-d'armes, who correspond to the Omlah, with which a civil functionary is surrounded in India. But with the number and duties of these, all resemblance ceases. The talent, patient investigation, laborious assiduity, and undeviating integrity, which characterize British civilians in the east, are for the most part wanting in the Russian governor. Money is the sole passport to justice. To obtain money is the main object of almost every judicial officer. This evil will never be remedied so long as the present inadequate stipends are continued to public servants, whose salary seldom amounts to a quarter, and often not to a tenth, of what they are expected and obliged to spend. In some offices it remains nearly the same as it was a century ago, notwithstanding great changes in the relative value of money and in the habits of the people. The whole system of government is bad.

• At the present time the Russians are in a state to feel most keenly the effects of an absolute monarchy, a cruel aristocracy, and the want of a middle class. They are too civilized not to be conscious that they are slaves. They are too little advanced in civilization to exercise any

check on the autocrat and nobles through the medium of public opinion. Government, conscious that knowledge must burst the chains which now gall the people, has imposed a strict censorship on the press. A miserable unmanly policy is pursued to prevent men from speaking what they think, or knowing what others think. Every foreign newspaper is held back if it contain an account of a mutiny or a sentiment favourable to liberty. In short, mind and body are alike enslaved in Russia, and despotism is complete.

I have made the courts a subject of particular enquiry, and, strange to say, I have not been able to meet with an individual who could inform me of the legal mode of recovering a debt, or prosecuting a criminal. The only answer I have obtained is unsatisfactory indeed. Il n'y a point de loi, il n'y a que des ordonnances. (Ukases).” Nor is this an exaggerated

A gentleman who has shown ine much kindness is now poor, because there is no legal mode by which he may recover large debts due to him from Russian nobles. This deficiency in the system of jurisprudence cannot fail to influence commerce prejudicially. Here a man's word is worth nothing without a bond ; a bond is useless without law; and since there is no law, there is neither bond nor faith, neither credit nor enterprise. The whole external commerce of Russia is conducted by foreigners. Ships are commanded by Germans, insured and freighted by English, and often manned by Swedés or Fins. To remedy this state of things, the emperor


has ordered a digest to be arranged of the ukases of his predecessors, and laws to be framed in accordance with them : but the nobility retard, as much as possible, this desirable work, because its completion will involve a restriction of their power.'-pp. 391-395.

As we deem it unnecessary to follow Mr. Elliott in his visit to Moscow and other parts of Russia, we shall here take leave of him, thanking him for the pleasure which his work has afforded us. His descriptions of Norwegian scenery are excellent, and his remarks upon the manners of the different communities which he visited, appear to have been guided by a conscientious adherence to truth. His notions upon points of policy are crude, in consequence, perhaps, of his Indian education, which could not have been of a very liberal character. He is given too much to religious cant. He never meets with a Bible or a Psalter, but he offers up a prayer of thanksgiving for his good fortune. This is superfluous, to say the least of it, particularly in Norway and Sweden, where, owing to the exertions of our Bible Societies, religious books are found in greater abundance almost than in any other country, England excepted; and where, at the same time, less of religion is visible in the principles and conduct of the great mass of the people, than in any other part of Europe.

ART. IV.-Traditions of Lancashire, Second Series. By J. Roby,

M.R.S.L. 2 vols. London : Longman and Co. 1831. In reviewing the first series of the Traditions of Lancashire,' we alluded to the great disadvantage under which Mr. Roby had laboured, in consequence of the meagre and inefficient nature of the materials upon which he had set himself to work. We perceive, from the volumes before us, that he has had again to encounter the same source of embarrassment; but still, we are happy to add, as in the former case, the impediment comes only to stimulate him to make fresh demonstrations of his ability to conquer it.

If we were to treat the narratives contained in this new series, merely as a set of pleasant tales contrived for the innocent recreation of the intelligent classes ; destined, perhaps, for no more permanent use than to vary the festivities of an approaching Christmas, we should be obliged, in candour, to abstain from affording to them any extraordinary commendation. But it so happens, that they possess much higher claims to our attention, than any which could be conferred upon them by their own intrinsic value. They form a portion of the authentic records of an interesting and ancient county of England. They are not drawn indeed from the parchment scrolls or the ponderous folios of the learned; neither were they composed at the beck of a tyrant, nor modified to the taste of a faction; nor yet have they been interpolated or partially defaced. Such annals as these, written upon the durable tablets of a people's memory, are cherished with sacred respect by each succeeding ge

neration, and are delivered, like domestic heir-looms, from sire to son, under the safest of all guarantees for their preservation. This is the process to which the term tradition is applied. Mr. Roby, with great justice, complains of the little consideration which has ever been paid in this country to the authority of tradition. He ridicules that spirit of pride and dogmatism, which, amongst our literati especially, would consign to oblivion, as unworthy of attention, all accounts of facts which purport to have had an existence prior to the invention of books. This gentleman, however, does not seem to be aware, that there are peculiar causes in our national condition for that undoubted disposition, so peculiar to English writers, to reject tradition. Is it not plain to his understanding, that if we placed any reliance upon it--if we admitted its authenticity to be even on an equality with that which we so readily concede to written documents, then upon what pretence could we have renounced a religion almost wholly resting on such a foundation ? Our pride, our sense of consistency, impel us to a uniform preference of written testimony; and so deeply has this feeling been implanted into the national character, that traces of it may be distinctly observed in every departnient of our letters.

It is of great importance to know, that from the course which men's minds are now selecting for their inquiries, we may, in no little time, expect to see the claims of tradition fully acknowledged. Every day produces a fresh example of the fidelity of that authority. The test of experience sooner or later will prevail over all theory. For further and very striking views on this great subject, we must refer the reader to Mr. Roby's excellent Introduction prefixed to these volumes.

The number of legends or traditions which the author furnishes for our present entertainment, prose and verse, amounts to eleven. They are of very unequal merit, save as to execution, which appears to be pretty uniform throughout these pages. It is quite evident that Mr. Roby is minutely acquainted with every rood of the soil of Lancashire, including of course "all that thereon doth dwell;” its hills and its vallies, the streams that fertilize its plains, the numerous ivied towers and castles that lie scattered within its precincts, and that recal the days of feudal sway, beneath wbich its inhabitants groaned ; these, no doubt, formed the chief objects of Mr. Roby's youthful dreams, and still are remembered by him in association with the happiest era of his life. To this intimate knowledge of the scenes amidst which the events and incidents of his stories take place, are we indebted for those vivid and accurate descriptions of beautiful sites, which so frequently attract our attention in perusing these volumes. Mr. Roby may indeed be charged with a very unseasonable ambition after what is called fine writing, considering the simplicity, and, not unfrequently, the great homeliness of his subjects.' We can, however, say, that whatever may have been his aim, that which he has attained is a lucid and

vigorous style, always careful, and adequate to express his thoughts, and often animated by a bold, but still a disciplined, fancy His skill in the management of dialogue is truly dramatic; and he seems to have prepared himself for all the details of his interesting pictures, by thoroughly studying the manners, the mode of life, and costume, of the people belonging to the particular periods to wbich his legends refer.

The more interesting portion of the narratives contained in these volumes, relates to characters which have flourished in British history. The 'Grey Man of the Wood,' the second of the series, consists of a very interesting account of the concealment and final arrest of Henry VI., at Waddington Hall, whither he had retired after the defeat at Hexham. The outline of this event which the common histories afford, is amply filled up in the tradition to which we allude; and Mr. Roby has not forgotten to do justice to the obstinate propensity of the weak and unfortunate Henry, to the mystic study of alchemy. Memorials of the royal fugitive are stiļl exhibited in the neighbourhood, in the shape of gloves, boots, and a spoon; and a well, where he was wont to bathe, and which still bears his name, is even to this time in great repute amongst the peasantry for its healing virtues. The Peel of Fouldrey' is the title of a tradition, which lets us into the details of the unsuccessful attempt of an impostor, named Lambert Simnel, to recover the crown of England, which had been but recently so valorously won by Henry VII. This pretender gave out that he was the real Earl of Warwick, nephew to Richard III., and that he had but just escaped from the Tower, where he had been immured by the new government. In a succeeding tale, entitled • Windleshaw Abbey,' a passage from one of the most critical periods of the famous Prince Rupert's life, forms the groundwork of a very interesting legend.

The greater part of the traditions now before us, derive a considerable share of the interest and value they possess, from the cir-' cumstance of their furnishing an adequate explanation of the origin and history of many curious relics of antiquity, which are familiar to the eyes of most of the inhabitants of Lancashire. A terrific, and, we can truly add, a very amusing specimen of this class of legends, is the ' Dule upo' Dun. This phrase is the brief description of a design painted on a sign, which at the present moment, we believe, waves over the door of a public-house in a small village not far from Clitheroe. In this rude work of art is represented the sable King of Terrors himself, mounted on a scraggy dun horse, without saddle, bridle, or stirrup, whilst in the distance a figure, which all the world would forth with recognise to be a tailor, is seen in the attitude expressive of the must unbounded joy, evidently at the rapid fight in which his Satanic majesty seems to be reluctantly engaged. Tradition assigns the first idea of this curious group to the history of a real tailor of the village, who, being impressed from practical experience with a knowledge of the miseries of wanting

money, and indulging in the most exaggerated visions of the bliss of possessing it in abundance, had, in an evil hour, the hardihood to sell himself, body and soul, to the arch enemy of mankind, for a valuable consideration. When the appointed time for fulfilling his part of the contract was approaching, the tailor naturally became more alive to all the horrors of his fate. In the midst of his despair, he had recourse to the councils of a holy man, who dwelt in a neighbouring solitude. This wise advocate, having heard the whole details of the transaction, bade the trembling defendant to keep up his spirits ; and being profoundly skilled in all the intricacies of ecclesiastical law, he gave such instructions to his client, as enabled the latter, at the critical moment, completely to baffle the Dule, and ultimately to send him out of court, in the rapid and compulsory style which we see so graphically recorded on the signpost. The ludicrous catastrophe is so well described, that we cannot withhold it from the reader.

"The time now drew near. The very week—the day—the hour, was come; and when the sun should have climbed to the meridian, Michael knew that he would have to face the cunning foe who had beguiled him. His wife would have tarried; but he peremptorily forbade. He would not be disturbed in his intercessions. All that morning, without intermission, he supplicated for wisdom and strength in the ensuing conflict. He had retired to a little chamber at one end of the house, and here he secured himself to prevent intrusion.

• Noon was scarcely come, when, true to the engagement, a loud thunder-clap announced the approach and presence of this terrific being.

• “I am glad to find,” said he, " that thou art ready." "“ I am not ready," replied the trembling victim.

• 6. How !" roared the sable chief, with a voice that shook the whole house, like the passage of an earthquake; “ dost thou deny the pledge ? darest thou gainsay this bond ?”

““ True enough," replied the debtor, “ I signed that contract; but it was won from me by fraud and dishonest pretences."

Base, equivocating slave ! how darest thou mock me thus? Thou hadst thy wishes ;—the conditions have been fulfilled—ay, even to the letter.”

"" I fear me," again said the victim, who felt his courage wonderfully supported : “ that thou knewest I should never be a pin the richer or better of thy gifts; and thine aim was but to flatter and to cheat. It is not in thy power, I do verily believe, to grant me riches, or any great thing that I might wish; so thou didst prompt, and in a wicked manner, force me to those vain wishes, unthinkingly, by which I have been beguiled.”

“ Dost thou doubt, then, my ability in this matter? Know, that thy most unbounded wishes would have been accomplished, else I release thee from this bond."

"“ I say and will vouch for't, that all thy promises are lying cheats; and that thou could'st not give me a beggarly bodle, if thou wert to Jay down thy two horns for it; so I demnand my bond, according to thy pledge.”

• " To shew thee that I can keep this bond, even conformable to the

« НазадПродовжити »