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of her fascination, we only know we feel it and cannot escape from it. We lay aside thought, care, judgment, reflection, and give ourselves up to a real holiday enjoyment. We are obliged to enjoy volumes so fresh, so genuine, so artless, so running over with kindness and affection, although they tell us little we did not know, or give us of country, person, or event, scarcely a more lively impression than we had before.
A great portion of these volumes are taken up with mere catalogues of artists and works of art, which might have been copied from a Hand Book of Travels. If the ania
. ble writer saw all the works of art she names, she could only have glanced at them. It would require a long lifetime to have studied a tithe of those she names sufficiently to be able to pass a judgment on their merits. No genuine work of art tells you at once all its merits, and any one must be studied long and sympathetically before it can be truly appreciated. The lady has, no doubt, a real fondness for art, but her remarks can have little real value to those who have never seen the works on which she comments. Indeed, we do not quite share her enthusiasm for art, or, as to that matter, her enthusiasm for natural scenery either. We love art, and we love nature, and can feel their beauty, their grandeur, their sublimity, but we cannot very well become ecstatic over them. There has been latterly a great deal said of art and artists which we regard as a sort of cant. Art is not religion or worship, and artists are not much diviner than other men. If artists have done much to refine and ennoble, they have also done much to corrupt and debase human nature. The glory of Italy is not in her art, but that her art has been inspired by religion, and consecrated to its commemoration and service. As far as human genius goes we find the frescoes and bas-reliefs of disinterred Pompeii admirable, but they indicate a people sunk in sensuality, and are such as could serve only to sink them deeper in corruption. Art is worthy of praise, is desirable indeed, not simply as art, but only as it is devoted to high religious and moral purposes. We have had amongst us, perhaps we have yet, a school that confounds art with religion, and the inspiration of the artist with that of the seer or the prophet. It idolizes the productions of human genius, and tends to an idolatry of a lower grade than that of ancient Greece or Rome. Artists even artists of a very high rank, are not always holy men, and personally, even when employed on religious subjects, work for fame rather than for God. Certainly we would not speak slightingly of art, certainly we would not disparage its civilizing services, but we do not wish it to be confounded with religion, or made an idolatry. We would remember that, after all, it is human, and should be consecrated to God, as we consecrate to him or to his service what we have that is best and most precious.
But it was not of art we intended to speak; we only wish Madame LeVert had been more deeply impressed with the fact she observed in all Catholic countries in which she travelled, that what is most precious in art, and most rare and costly in gems and precious stones, is devoted to the churches and the service of religion, proving that with the people in these countries religion has been, if not now, the great purpose of life, and that they have held that what is consecrated to God is safe, and applied to its best possible use. No expense lavished upon churches, or the pomp and splendor of worship, can be too great. Capital so invested is far safer, and will yield a richer return than capital invested in railroad stocks, Atlantic telegraphs or Western lands. When we read Madame Le Vert's glowing descriptions of the churches and their jewels, and precious relics, which even the barbarism of modern times has spared, we cannot help feeling how much wiser, how much more reasonable and just in their ends and aims were our old Catholic ancestors than we, the worshippers of a cold, material utilitarianism. They had noble conceptions, lofty spiritual aims, and lived for an end worthy of man, for they lived for their Maker.
We do not know what Madame Le Vert's religion is, or whether she has any or not ; but this we must say in her honor, that she never speaks disrespectfully of any one's religion, and speaks of Catholics and Catholic things always with respect, and not unfrequently with sympathy. She cannot be a Catholic, otherwise she would not speak of the Romish Church, and commend, as she does, in one instance, suicide, when she speaks of a young lady who killed herself, and put an end at once to her existence and her misery.” She goes to Mass, it is true, is deeply impressed with the deep tones of the organ, and the sub
limity of Catholic worship; but she goes also to the Anglican meeting, and is delighted with the sermon. She seems in fact disposed to accept all religions, and even retains a lingering fondness for the old religion of pagan Greece and Rome. As far as we can judge from her book, it is the poetry, the æsthetic beauty of religion that captivates her; and any religion poetic and beautiful charms her. We should judge her to have more credulity than faith, and more romance than piety. Yet we are grateful to her for not following the example of most Protestant travellers in Catholic countries, and bearing honorable testimony to the moral and religious worth of the Catholic population, in treating their religion with respect, in speaking reverently and affectionately of their clergy, and in neither seeking nor inventing scandals against them. This in these days is much, and we are happy to record it.
Madame Le Vert evidently has a romantic turn of mind, and makes the most of every romantic incident that falls in her way. She has a ready sympathy with all lovers, whether they love wisely and well or not. Where she finds true lovers she espouses their cause, whether their love was virtuous or criminal. This is the worst feature of her book, and almost the only thing in it to censure under a moral point of view. The chaste matron, travelling with her husband and daughter, and writing to her "darling mamma,” should have distinguished between lawful and unlawful love, and not shown too ready a sympathy with the latter, whenever it chanced to have a spice of romance in it. Love, in its true sense, is a rational affection, and amenable to the laws of morals ; love, as a passion, is no more respectable than anger, revenge, or any other passion of human nature, and is perhaps the source of more crime, more evil, more misery to the individual and to society than any other that can be named ; and no one who honors her sex should ever chant its praises or consent to its apotheosis. On the part of Madame Le Vert, it is idle romance, or sheer thoughtlessness. We know,—no man knows better than we,—the attractiveness of this kind of romance, but age and experience have taught us its dangers, and we set our face sternly against it.
Madame Le Vert's own sunshiny nature,—the warmth of her affections, and the glowing enthusiasm of her imagination, have almost won our love for England and the English. She is unbounded in her admiration of Queen Victoria, who is, we dare say, a very good wife and mother; she is enraptured with the noble families she visited, and from whom she received a cordial welcome. We have no doubt, the English nobility are very agreeable people, well bred, and therefore simple and natural in their manners; but we know not why an American lady should be ecstatic in her admiration of them. They are the first class of their own country, but persons of the first class of one country are of equal rank with the first class of another, and entitled to associate with them on equal terms. The titles of the English nobility are for their own country, not for ours; they place them on a par with the American gentleman or the American lady, but give them with us no superiority. To suppose otherwise, is to retain the spirit of provincials, and to forget that we are an independent nation, standing on an equal footing in social point of view with Great Britain, and socially our first class are the peers of her first class, although hers bear titles and ours do not. The American Mister is the equal of the English My Lord, providing it covers equal breeding and accomplishments, which it often does. We like the specimens we have seen of the English nobility ; indeed, we like, wherever we meet him, the well-bred Englishman, as we do the well-bred gentleman of any country. We have a natural sympathy with the English, for the basis of our own American character is English ; but we regard the title, only as it marks the Englishman's rank in his own country. We neither envy it nor contemn it; we do not care for it; we see the man under it, if there be a man under it, neither enlarged nor lessened by bearing it. We sympathize neither with the English radical, who would abolish all titles of nobility, nor with the American snob or flunky, who bows to them, worships them, and is dying to have them recognized by his own country, and bestowed on him and his. We see no disparity of rank between Mrs. Le Vert and the Duchess of Sutherland, or why there should be any more condescension on the part of the English lady in extending hospitality to the American, than on the part of the American lady in extending hospitality to the English lady; or why a mutual exchange of civilities and kind attentions between them should be regarded as a
matter to be recorded and printed and published to the world. Is it any thing remarkable, that an American lady, moving in the first circles in her own country, should move and find herself at home in the first circles of other countries, which she chooses to visit ?
Madame Le Vert is in London, in her hotel, looking out of the windows to the street, where she sees what she had never seen in her own country.
“In front of me, at the crossing of the street, stands an old woman, with snow white hair; in her hands she has an ancientlooking broom, with which she sweeps the crossing,' and puts forth her hand for charity. No one gives her any-yes! one person has dropped a copper in her hand. There seems a spell about some objects; for, though my eyes are enchanted by the gay and gorgeous scene, they irresistibly wander back to the old woman. It is another revelation of London life. Wealth and luxury dash proudly by, while poverty holds out its hands for the charity which does not
A sad, sad feeling stole over me, and involuntarily I exclaimed, “Thank God, have never seen this in my own country !
Surely the excellent lady could never have lived in New York, where the thing which struck her fancy so powerfully, may be seen almost any day in the year, or hour of the day. It is not necessary to cross the Atlantic to find the contrasts of wealth and poverty, or to see “wealth and luxury roll by, and poverty hold out its hands for the charity which does not come. It is impossible that the contrasts should anywhere be greater than in our large commercial and trading cities. We have known not a few instances of death from actual starvation. Madame Le Vert may have known nothing of the sort; for she probably has never visited much among the poor people of her own country, and she belongs to the South, where the system of slave labor obtains, and the poor whites are not recognized. America has noble institutions, noble traits, and in many things may claim superiority over the nations of the Old World ; but it is a blind patriotism that asserts that, save in politics, the inequalities of the European nations do not obtain here, or that we have with us po beggars, no poverty, no squalid wretchedness. There is frightful poverty with us, and no little of that most frightful of all poverty, the poverty that seeks to conceal itself, and put on the appearance of competence. No country in the world, considering our advantages, has more of it, and we