Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

It is not unnatural to suppose, that in the midst of a Swedish winter an Italian would run the risk of perishing through cold; but this is by no means the case. I was at Stockholm all the winter of 1779, when the cold was at or below twenty-five degrees of the thermometer of Celsius; and I can declare with perfect truth, that I suffered much less from the severity of the weather than I have sometimes done in Italy. If the cold in those climates be great, the means of warding off its effects are proportionably great. The stoves in Sweden are the most ingeniously contrived for heating a chamber, and keeping it warm with a very small quantity of fuel, of any in Europe. They are rather dangerous, it is true, if entrusted to strangers, who do not know how to manage them, and who, by shutting up the vent at an improper time, may occasion too great an expenditure of vital air. But the Swedes know so exactly the moment when it is fit to close the air-hole, that there is searcely an instance of any accident happening from the use of stoves in Sweden. They are in general so constructed, as to correspond in their appearance with the furniture and style of the apartment in which they are placed. A great number of pipes proceed from the stove, which do not merely serve to conduct the smoke, but their chief use is to circulate the heated air that is combined with the smoke throughout the apartment. It is true that, in order to resist the power of winter at Stockholm, you must, when you go out, carry about with you a whole wardrobe of clothes; this inconvenience, however, is little thought of, when custom has rendered it familiar. I have often been greatly diverted at seeing a Swede, before he came into a room, divesting himself of his pellice, great coat, and upper shoes, and leaving them in the anti-chamber. The vestments or ezutiæ of ten persons are sufficient to load a large table. I knew a gentleman, who disliked pellices, and substituted common great coats, of which he wore two at a time. These, with two pair of gloves, his galoches, and his stick, make altogether ten different articles for the anti-chamber, viz. two great coats, two galoches, four gloves, one stick, and one bat. A good memory is requisite not to forget any of those articles on

taking your leave. When a gentleman has occasion in winter to go any where on foot, or to walk ever so short a distance from his carriage, he wears great jack-boots, lined with fur or flannel, and under them shoes and white stockings; the boots be pulls off in the anti-chamber. With such boots and a good pellice, a man may set the utmost severity of cold at defiance. Of the winter amusements of Stockholm, I do not feel

any great inclination to be particular, nor do I apprehend that information of this kind is generally interesting. Theatrical entertainments, which among nations that have arrived at a high degree of civilization and refinement, are considered as a great source of pleasure, are not so much sought after by the inhabitants of Sweden.

• The ladies of Sweden are, generally speaking, very handsome. Their countenances bear the characteristic of northern physiognomy, which is an expression of the most perfect tranquillity and composure of mind, indicating nothing of that passion and fire which, to every discerning observer, is visible in the features of the French and Italian ladies. As there is but little gallantry or attention shewn them by the men, and as they pass a great part of their time either alone or amongst themselves, their conversation, though they are well educated, possesses but a small share either of variety or interest; and of that happy art of supporting conversation with vivacity, which so eminently distinguishes our Italian ladies, they are wholly destitute. The principal object that employs their time and attention is dress; and this anxiety is rather the effect of an ambition to outshine their rivals in elegance and splendour, than the result of an eagerness to please the men and make conquests. They are, however, not free from the imputation of coquetry, because they are certainly fond of admiration and praise: they would like to see every man at their feet, and would wish to be called the belles of the north : but their predominant passion is a desire of public notice and distinction. There is not an individual for whom they feel, in their heart, such strong and violent sentiments of friendship, tenderness, and love, as are found in those who live in warmer climates. Vol. IV. ----(74)

2 s

• The same constitution which produces distance and reserve in one class of women, is the cause of excessive licentiousness in the inferior orders. The prodigality of their kindness is in proportion to the coldness of their temperament. They seem to think they can never give enough, because they feel little even in bestowing the greatest favours. There are not in Stockholm, as in other places, any women of the town: instead of these-individuals have mistresses, who maintain a rank in society much above their condition in life. They are pretty much in the style of some distinguished individuals of that description in England. They require to be courted in a formal manner; nor are their good graces, such as they are, to be obtained by any one without some previous introduction ; a custom which I think I am far from discommending, but which, on the contrary, I think is entitled to some credit, even though they are not contented with one lover at a time. But the honorary premium usually given them is very small, and they must have at least seven or eight lovers to support the style of dress they aspire to, which is the only object of their care day and night. They exact from their friend and favourites a degree of attention and respect even in public, that appears extraordinary to a foreigner. They would immediately dismiss a lover that would hesitate to bow to them in public places, or even to kiss their hands, as is the custom in Sweden for gentlemen to perform, in token of respect to ladies of rank and character. From the facility of keeping mistresses by a species of partnership, it happens that the men in Sweden, especially in the capital, feel no jealousy; they "enjoy love," as Helvetius expresses it, “but do not sigh.”

The Swedes, like the English, are taken up with their business in the day time, and spend their evenings at cards, or sometimes, though very rarely, in the company of the ladies. A Swedish petit maitre is an animal that holds a middle station between beings of that kind in Germany and those in France. He is a fool, as in all countries. He spends the whole day in changing his clothes, wears large whiskers reaching down the length of his chin, and paints his face. If, added to these decorations, he can but scrape a little on the

fiddle, he is the darling of all the ladies who play, in their feeble way on the harpsichord. A taste for music in Swedish societies, is by no means the predominant passion. It is as yet so little formed, and the judgment of the audience so wavering and uncertain, that after hearing any thing played, they will consider with themselves what opinion it may

be proper to give; and watch the countenance of any foreigner that may happen to be present in order to regulate their sentiments, and decide concerning their own impressions.

• The Swedish dinner parties are expensive arrangements of shew and formality. It will often happen that out of forty or fifty people, who appear in consequence of an invitation sent with all possible ceremony, and perhaps a week or a fortnight before the appointed day, scarcely three or four know one another sufficiently to make the meeting agreeable. A foreigner may still fare worse, and have the misfortune of being seated near a person totally unacquainted with any language but his own. Before the company sit down to dinner, they first pay their respects to a side table, laden with bread, butter, cheese, pickled salmon, and liqueur, or brandy; and by the tasting of these previous to their repast, endeavour to give an edge to their appetite, and to stimulate the stomach to perform its office. After this prelude, the guests arrange themselves about the dinner table, where every one finds at his place three kinds of bread, fat and coarse rye bread, white bread, and brown bread. The first sort of bread is what the peasants eat; it is crisp and dry: the second sort is common bread; but the brown, last mentioned, has a sweet taste, being made with the water with which the vessels in the sugar-houses are washed, and is the nastiest thing possible. All the dishes are at once put upon the table, but no one is allowed to ask for what he likes best, the dishes being handed round in regular succession ; and an Englishman has often occasion for all his patience to wait till the one is put in motion on which he has fixed his choice. The Swedes are more knowing in this respect, and, like the French, eat of every thing that comes before them: and although the different dishes do not harmonize together, yet such is the force of habit, that the guests

apparently find no inconvenience from the most opposite mixtures. Anchovies, herrings, onions, eggs, pastry, often meet together on the same plate and are swallowed promiscuously. The sweet is associated with the sour, mustard with sugar, confectionaries with salt meat or salt fish; in short eatables are intermingled with a poetical licence, that sets the precept of Horace at defiance

Sed non ut placidis coeant immitia.

An Italian is not very much at a loss at these feasts; but an Englishman finds himself quite uncomfortable and out of his element: he sees no wine drank either with the ladies or the gentlemen during dinner ; but must take it himself in a solitary manner: he is often obliged to wait for hours before he can help himself to what he prefers to eat, and when the meat arrives, he generally thinks it not dressed plain enough, but disagreeable from the quantity of spices with which it is seasoned. After dinner the ladies do not leave him to his bottle ; he is expected to adjourn immediately with them to the draw. ing-room, where the company, after thanking the master and mistress of the house with a polite or rather ceremonious bow for their good cheer, are regaled with tea and coffee.'

Our intelligent author next proceeds to describe the manners of the court, and the ridiculous attention paid to etiquette. He next gives a description of the scientific establishments in Stockholm, and of their influence on public opinion. In conclusion he offers some interesting observations on the general state of knowledge in this country. “There is, perhaps,' says he, no country in Europe where instruction is so universally diffused among the very lowest of the people as in Sweden, except Iceland, Scotland, and the late small republic of Geneva. All the people in towns, villages, and hamlets, without exception, are taught to read. It was not without reason, therefore, that Gustavus III. who kept a watchful eye on every event that might influence the state of society, interdicted all mention in the Swedish journals of a French revolution, either good or bad. He wished the people not only to be prevented from

« ForrigeFortsæt »