« ForrigeFortsæt »
dialect. One of these, with the adjacent domain of arable fields and woods, had the name of a villa or manse. Several manses composed a march; and several marches formed a pagus, or district. From these elements, in the progress of population, arose villages and towns. In France undoubtedly there were always cities of some importance. Country parishes contained several manses or farms of arable land around a common pasture, where every one was bound by custom to feed his cattle.
The condition even of internal trade was hardly preferable to that of agriculture. There is not a vestige, perhaps, to be discovered for several centuries of any considerable manufacture; I mean, of working up articles of common utility to an extent beyond what the necessities of an adjacent district required. Rich men kept domestic artisans among their servants; even kings, in the ninth century, had their clothes made by the women upon their farms; but the peasantry must have been supplied with garments and implements of labour by purchase; and every town, it cannot be doubted, had its weaver, its smith, and its currier. But there were almost insuperable impediments to any extended traffic; the insecurity of moveable wealth, and difficulty of accumulating it; the ignorance of mutual wants; the peril of robbery ín conveying merchandize, and the certainty of extortion. In the domains of every lord a toll was to be paid in passing his bridge, or along his high-way, or at his market. These customs, equitable and necessary in their principle, became in practice oppressive, because they were arbitrary, and renewed in every petty territory, which the road might intersect. Several of Charlemagne's capitularies repeat complaints of these exactions, and endeavour to abolish such tolls as were not founded on prescription. One of them rather amusingly illustrates the modesty and moderation of the landholders. It is enacted that no one shall be compelled to go out of his way in order to pay toll at a particular bridge, when he can cross the river more conveniently at another place. These provisions, like most others of that age, were unlikely to produce much amendment. It was only the milder species, however, of feudal lords who were content with the tribute of merchants. The more ravenous descended from their fortresses to pillage the wealthy traveller, or shared in the spoil of inferior plunderers, whom they both protected and instigated. Proofs occur, even in the latter periods of the Middle Ages, when government
had regained its energy, and civilization had made considerable progress, of public robberies systematically perpetrated by men of noble rank. In the more savage times, before the twelfth century, they were probably too frequent to excite much attention. It was a custom in some places to waylay travellers, and not only to plunder, but to sell them as slaves, or compel them to pay ransom. Harold, son of Godwin, having been wrecked on the coast of Ponthieu, was imprisoned by the lord, says an historian, according to the custom of that territory. Germany appears to have been, upon the whole, the country where downright robbery was most unscrupulously practised by the great. Their castles, erected on almost inaccessible heights among the woods, became the secure receptacle of predatory bands, who spread terror over the country. From these barbarian lords of the dark ages, as from a living model, the romancers are said to have drawn their giants and other disloyal enemies of true chivalry. Robbery, indeed, is the constant theme both of the capitularies and of the Anglo-Saxon laws; one has more reason to wonder at the intrepid thirst of lucre, which induced a very few merchants to exchange the products of different regions, than to ask why no general spirit of commercial activity prevailed.
[HENRY MACKENZIE, the most popular prose writer of Scotland till Walter Scott appeared, was born in Edinburgh, in 1745. He lived till 1831. During this long life he had witnessed as great mutations in literature as in politics. He can scarcely be said to have employed himself as a writer after his fortieth year, previous to which he had published the novels upon which his fame chiefly rests, and the wellknown periodical works The Mirror' and The Lounger.' From 'The Mirror' the following tale is taken. It is a fair specimen of Mackenzie's merits and defects-his elegance, sometimes approaching to feebleness-his tenderness, verging on the borders of a sickly sentimentality.]
If we examine impartially that estimate of pleasure which the higher ranks of society are apt to form, we shall probably be surprised
to find how little there is in it either of natural feeling or real satisfaction. Many a fashionable voluptuary, who has not totally blunted his taste or his judgment, will own, in the intervals of recollection, how often he has suffered from the insipidity or the pain of his enjoyments; and that, if it were not for the fear of being laughed at, it were sometimes worth while, even on the score of pleasure, to be virtuous.
Sir Edward, to whom I had the pleasure of being introduced at Florence, was a character much beyond that which distinguishes the generality of English travellers of fortune. His story was known to some of his countrymen who then resided in Italy; from one of whom, who could now and then talk of something beside pictures and operas, I had a particular recital of it.
He had been first abroad at an early period of life, soon after the death of his father had left him master of a very large estate, which he had the good fortune to inherit, and all the inclination natural to youth to enjoy. Though always sumptuous however, and sometimes profuse, he was observed never to be ridiculous in his expenses; and, though he was now and then talked of as a man of pleasure and dissipation, he always left behind more instances of beneficence than of irregularity. For that respect and esteem in which his character, amidst all his little errors, was generally held, he was supposed a good deal indebted to the society of a gentleman, who had been his companion at the university, and now attended him rather as a friend than a tutor. This gentleman was, unfortunately, seized at Marseilles with a lingering disorder, for which he was under the necessity of taking a sea-voyage, leaving Sir Edward to prosecute the remaining part of his intended tour alone.
Descending into one of the valleys of Piedmont, where, notwithstanding the ruggedness of the road, Sir Edward, with a prejudice natural to his country, preferred the conveyance of an English hunter to that of an Italian mule, his horse unluckily made a false step, and fell with his rider to the ground, from which Sir Edward was lifted by his servants with scarce any signs of life. They conveyed him on a litter to the nearest house, which happened to be the dwelling of a peasant rather above the common rank, before whose door some of his neighbours were assembled at a scene of rural merriment, when the train of Sir Edward brought up their master in the condition I have described. The compassion natural to his situation was excited in all;
but the owner of the mansion, whose name was Venoni, was particularly moved with it. He applied himself immediately to the care of the stranger, and, with the assistance of his daughter, who had left the dance she was engaged in, with great marks of agitation, soon restored Sir Edward to sense and life. Venoni possessed some little skill in surgery, and his daughter produced a book of receipts in medicine. Sir Edward, after being blooded, was put to bed, and tended with every possible care by his host and his family. A considerable degree of fever was the consequence of his accident: but after some days it abated; and, in little more than a week, he was able to join in the society of Venoni and his daughter,
He could not help expressing some surprise at the appearance of refinement in the conversation of the latter, much beyond what her situation seemed likely to confer. Her father accounted for it. She had received her education in the house of a lady, who happened to pass through the valley, and to take shelter in Venoni's cottage (for his house was but a better sort of cottage) the night of her birth. "When her mother died," said he, the Signora, whose name, at her desire, we had given the child, took her home to her own house; there she was taught many things, of which there is no need here; yet she is not so proud of her learning as to wish to leave her father in his old age; and I hope soon to have her settled near me for life."
But Sir Edward had now an opportunity of knowing Louisa better than from the description of her father. Music and painting, in both of which arts she was a tolerable proficient, Sir Edward had studied with success. Louisa felt a sort of pleasure from her drawings, which they had never given her before, when they were praised by Sir Edward; and the family concerts of Venoni were very different from what they had formerly been, when once his guest was so far recovered as to be able to join in them. The flute of Venoni excelled all the other music of the valley; his daughter's lute was much beyond it; Sir Edward's violin was finer than either. But his conversation with Louisa-it was that of a superior order of beings!-science, taste, sentiment!—it was long since Louisa had heard these sounds; amidst the ignorance of the valley, it was luxury to hear them; from Sir Edward, who was one of the most engaging figures I ever saw, they were doubly delightful. In his countenance, there was always an ex
pression animated and interesting; his sickness had overcome somewhat of the first, but greatly added to the power of the latter.
Louisa's was no less captivating-and Sir Edward had not seen it so long without emotion. During his illness he thought this emotion but gratitude; and, when it first grew warmer, he checked it, from the thought of her situation, and of the debt he owed her. But the strug gle was too ineffectual to overcome; and, of consequence, increased his passion. There was but one way in which the pride of Sir Edward allowed of its being gratified. He sometimes thought of this as a base and unworthy one; but he was the fool of words which he had often despised, the slave of manners he had often condemned. He at last compromised matters with himself; he resolved, if he could, to think no more of Louisa; at any rate, to think no more of the ties of grati tude or the restraints of virtue.
Louisa, who trusted to both, now communicated to Sir Edward an important secret. It was at the close of a piece of music, which they had been playing in the absence of her father. She took up her lute and touched a little wild melancholy air, which she had composed to the memory of her mother. That," said she, " nobody ever heard except my father; I play it sometimes when I am alone, and in low spirits. I don't know how I came to think of it now; yet I have some reason to be sad." Sir Edward pressed to know the cause; after some hesitation she told it all. Her father had fixed on the son of a neighbour, rich in possessions, but rude in manners, for her husband. Against this match she had always protested as strongly as a sense of duty, and the mildness of her nature, would allow but Venoni was obstinately bent on the match, and she was wretched from the thoughts of it. "To marry where one cannot love,-to marry such a man, Sir Edward!" It was an opportunity beyond his power of resistance. Sir Edward pressed her hand; said it would be profanation to consider of such a marriage; praised her beauty, extolled her virtues; and concluded by swearing that he adored her. She heard him with unsuspecting pleasure, which her blushes could ill conceal. Sir Edward improved the favourable moment; talked of the ardency of his passion, the insignificancy of ceremonies and forms, the inefficacy of legal engagements, the eternal duration of those dictated by love; and, in fine, urged her going off with him, to crown both their days