Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

and well deserving of remembrance. Mrs. Grote's life of her husband is a remarkably interesting book. It tells much of the literary and social life in England in the Victorian era.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

“EoTHEN,” by Alexander William Kinglake, first appeared in 1844, and its original title was “Eothen, or Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East.” In his preface the author expressed the hope that the name “Eothen” would be the only hard word found in the book. It is Greek, signifying “from the early dawn,” “from the east.” A more delightful book was never written, and, while it is nominally a book of travel, it is rather the record of the impressions of the author than of outward facts. By its style and method it is more like Sterne’s “Sentimental Journey,” without its coarseness, than any ordinary book of travel. One edition of the volume has an introduction by James Bryce, the wellknown author of “The American Commonwealth,” who says that Kinglake “is as distinctly Montaigne is in the front rank among essayists, or Boswell among biographers, or Gibbon among historians, or Adam Smith among economists, or Darwin among naturalists.”

in the front rank of authors of his own kind as

Certainly no one will take up this splendid and original book to read and lightly lay it down. From the first page to the last it is a fascinating narrative, in a style untrammeled, versatile, and singularly effective. The journey was made in 1834 and 1835, when Kinglake was a young man, but recently out of Cambridge, where he had been the contemporary and friend of Thackeray, Tennyson, and Monckton Milnes. The Turkish boundary had not then been pushed behind the Balkans, but included Bosnia, Servia, and Bulgaria, and the unspeakable Turk was yet a power in eastern Europe. Belgrade on the Danube was an Ottoman fortress, and could still defy “an Austrian army awfully arrayed.”

The narrative begins at Semlin, the last frontier town of Hungary, and opens with this striking passage:

At Semlin I still was encompassed by the scenes and the sounds of familiar life; the din of the busy world still vexed and cheered me ; the unveiled faces of women still shone in the light of day. Yet whenever I chose to look southward I saw the Ottoman's fortress—austere, and darkly impending high over the vale of the Danube—historic Belgrade. I had come, as it were, to the end of this wheel-going Europe, and now my eyes would see the splendor and havoc of the east.

“The splendor and havoc of the east !” This is the object of the journey, and we see it all through Mr. Kinglake's eyes, as the panorama is gradually unrolled before us. Kinglake's college friend, Lord Pollington, the Methley of the book, was his companion, and with their servants they crossed the Save “ and there was an end to Christendom for many a day to come.” In the streets of Belgrade nothing was familiar—everything was strange.

Again and again you meet turbans and faces of men, but they have nothing for you—no welcome, no wonder, no wrath, no scorn; they look upon you as we do upon a December's fall of snow—as a seasonable unaccountable, uncomfortable work of God, that may have been sent for some good purpose, to be revealed hereafter.

From Belgrade the travelers pushed southward to Constantinople, a journey of fifteen days, not without mild adventures, the worst mishap being that Methley was taken ill. In that plague-ridden country every illness was taken for the plague, and this made it very difficult to obtain assistance

—but at last Constantinople was reached, and it soon turned out that the party were not plaguestricken. There is a humorous description of an Ottoman lady in the chapter on Constantinople, and a still more graphic account of the manner of buying and selling in the Turkish bazaars, which is the best of comedy. From Constantinople the travelers pass through the Troad and visit the scenes made immortal in the Iliad, and enjoy their Homer together on the site of the ancient Grecian camp. Thence to Smyrna, “Infidel Smyrna,” which furnishes a fine chapter. Kinglake calls it “the chief town and capital of that Grecian race against which you will be cautioned so carefully as soon as you touch the Levant.” They are a race of superstitious rascals, but the women are beautiful. They have innumerable saints' days, and “as you move through the narrow streets of the city, at these times of festival, the transomshaped windows suspended over your head on either side are filled with the beautiful descendants of the old Ionian race; all (even yonder empress throned at the window of the humblest mud cottage) are attired with seeming magnificence. Their classic heads are crowned with scarlet and laden with jewels or coins of gold—the whole wealth of their wearers; their features are touched

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »