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SHORT REVIEWS OF BOOKS.
Schepeler. Beitrage zur Geschichte Spaniens. Aachen. 1828. The writer of this work, a colonel in the French army, had become acquainted, during the Peninsular war, with the bishop of Cordova, whom he visited again in 1816, on his return from the baths of Alhama to Madrid. The bishop showed him the treasures of his library, among which was a volume of manuscripts, containing a variety of interesting documents concerning the history of Charles V. and Philip II. collected by a Major domus of the Duke of Alba. The colonel copied some of them immediately, and copies of the others were sent to him by P. Jesus Munnoz, bishop of Salamanca, member of the Cortes in 1822. These documents are published here for the first time; they are of great importance, and their authenticity cannot be doubted one moment. They are given in the original language, together with a German translation, which, however, is not very correct, and are fifteen in number. 1. The Challenge of Charles V. to the king of France, (Cartel del Emperador al Rey de Francia), dated Monçon in Aragon, 28th June, 1528. 2. The Artillery and Ammunition which Emperor Charles took to attack Metz in Lorraine. (El artilleria y municiones que S. M. el Emperador Carlos llevó para batir à Metz en Lorena). 3. A letter which Philip II. wrote to the Empress respecting the imprisonment of Don Carlos, 1568. This cold cruel letter of the inhuman tyrannical Philip leaves no doubt on the nature of the Infant's death. 4. A letter of Philip II. to the town of Madrid, on the same subject. 5, 6, 7, 8. Letters of the same to the king of France, the queen mother of France, the Duchess of Savoy, and the Constable of France. 9. Accounts sent by the Duke of Alba to the board of Naples of the expenses for barges and bridges. (Cuentas que dan a la sumaria de Napoles barcas y puentes). 10. Letter of the Confessor of Don Juan on the circumstances before and after his death, 1578. 11. Letter of the king Moluco to Don Sebastian, king of Portugal. 12. Letter of the Duke of Alba to Don Sebastian. We beg our readers to recollect that Don Sebastian, king of Portugal, made an expedition to Africa in behalf of Mulei Mohamid, who had been driven from Fezan and Morocco, by his uncle Abdal Melec, whom the Spanish and Portuguese called Muluco. The latt:r had in vain endeavoured to dissuade Don Sebastian from this expedition. Don Sebastian led, 1578, an army of 20,000 Portuguese to Africa, in which was comprised a great part of the nobility; the king and his army perished in the battle of Alacksar. The Portuguese for a long time believed Don Sebastian would return, as nobody knew what had become of him. The letter of the Duke of Alba has been published before by Spanish historiographers, and it found its place here only, because the editor of these documents thought it would prove acceptable to the German readers, as it refers to the expedition of Don Sebastian, and expresses the opinion of a distinguished warrior. The duke disapproves of the expedition, and advises the king to act with the greatest prudence and foresight.
To English readers, No. 13 is the most important document. It gives an account of the vessels, galleys, marines, infantry, cavalry and artillery, arms, munitions and provisions, which were thought necessary for an expedition against England: it shows how many transport vessels would be wanted, how much they would cost and where they could be got, and what would be the expense of the whole expedition of the fleet and the army for eight months. This project of the Duke of Alba is lengthy, and enters into the smallest details. According to his plan the fleet was to consist of 150 larger vessels,
(nave), 46 galleys, 20 frigates, 40 large transports, 340 smaller men-of-war and transport vessels, in all 596 sail, besides 200 flat boats. The crew were calculated to the number of 9800 rowers, and 23,000 sailors, and the troops on board to 55,000 men, infantry, 3000 pioneers, 334 field artillery people, 1200 horsemen, and 700 muleteers for 1400 mules. The whole number, besides the staff, to be taken on board, amounted, therefore, to 60,234 men, which makes, together with the crew, 94,000 men. The Armada, under the Duke of Medina Sidonia, was on a smaller scale. The expedition of 1820 from Cadiz to Buenos Ayres, with hardly more than 15,000 men on board, cost Spain twenty millions of piasters; how rich must Philip have been ?
No. 14 contains a letter of condolence of P. Luis de Granda to the Duchess of Alba, on the death of the Duke her husband. This letter is written with great elegance of style. “Your Excellence," says the writer, “must know that you married a mortal, not an immortal man, and that of two married people the one must necessarily see the end of the other; that the rejoicings of the wedding-day are balanced by the affliction of the day of death, and that in heaven alone is joy without sorrow, but that in this life the one is blended with the other. Often the end of a pleasure is the beginning of a pain, as your excellency must often have experienced," &c. (bien sabe, que casó con hombre mortal y no immortal, y que la ley de los casados es que necesariamente el uno haya de ver el fin del otro, y que se recompense el alegria del dia del casamiento con la tristeza del dia del acabamiento; pues en solo el cielo hay alegria sin tristeza, mas en esta vida anda manchado lo uno con lo otro. Antes muchas veces el fin de un placer es principio de un peas, como V. Exc. lo habrá experimentado.) Pr. Luis assures the Duchess that the Duke of Alba never felt the least remorse of conscience for having spilt the blood of heretics and rebels in Flanders—“ que no le remordia la conciencia de haber en toda su vida derramada una sola gota de sangre contra su conciencia, e que quantos degolló en Flander era por ser hereges y rebeldes."
No. 15 gives a summary account of the vessels of the expedition of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, Lisbon, 14 May, 1588, and contains, together with No. 13, valuable materials for the history of Queen Elizabeth.
The introductory part of the work presents us with some interesting notices on the history of painting in Spain, together with general reflexions on the fine arts. We wish the author had omitted the angry allusions to the disappointment he experienced in wishing to sell his collection of Spanish paintings to the Prussian government, and had not intermingled his lively prose with lumbering verses. Upon the whole we are sure the book will be read with considerable interest.
Ivan Vuizhigin ili Ruskii Gil Blas. Ivan Vuizhigin, or the Russian
Gil Blas. The name of Le Sage's agreeable, but not very conscientious, hero has become the generic appellation of a certain class of works, which in imitation of their admirable prototype, sketch the manners and follies of various ranks of society, while relating the vicissitudes of an adventurer by profession. The plan, so skilfully employed by the French novelists for presenting us with an entire gallery of portraits and scenes of which his principal personage is the connecting link, is one that, while it amuses the reader by a succession of continually shifting pictures, saves the author all trouble of arrangement and connexion; for, provided he has the talent of de icting with a lively pencil what he beholds around him, we do not demand from him either unity of subject, or regularity of design. Had the ancients produced a similar work, what a light would have been thrown on their private life, and
what what graphic portraitures would have been presented to us of their domestic habits, their manners, and the state of society! That which we are now obliged to learn piecemeal and imperfectly, we should then have beheld delineated with all that fullness of detail, that richness of character, that fidelity of costume, and those numerous accessories that reflect as in a mirror the original objects. Now, on the contrary, we view the state of society both in ancient Greece and ancient Rome through a very obscure and fallacious medium, and must for ever remain unacquainted with the tone of conversation and the more familiar traits that characterized it. A Grecian Hogarth or Wilkie would be more valuable to us than all the works of Apelles.
Almost every country possesses its Gil Blas, although not one has rivalled the founder of the family. Among his numerous descendants we may fairly reckon our Persian friend, Hajji Baba, who is certainly not the least entertaining of the race. Of the stranger, Ivan, we do not know enough to afford any decided opinion of his character, the author having, as yet, given only a few chapters to the public by way of specimen. Judging, however, from these, and from various other sketches of manners which we have seen from the same pen, we have no doubt but that M. Bulgarin,—who, by the bye, is one of the best and most entertaining writers of this class in Russia, would produce, if not exactly a masterpiece, a very amusing work, and one that would give us greater insight into the state of society in that country, than any that has hitherto appeared. At present, this department of Russian literature is very barren, and we therefore regret the more that our wishes do not appear likely to be gratified. In his prefatory remarks, M. Bulgarin assigns as the cause of their poverty in this respect, the restraints under which writers are placed in Russia, and their apprehensions lest any of their imaginary characters should be considered portraits; or lest they should incautiously utter aught that might offend any class of society. Thus, what is considered in England one of the greatest recommendations to a novel, viz. personality, is, in Russia, considered as quite contrary to bienséance. What with the readers of · Almack's,' and other compositions of that class, is a striking recommendation, would be received very differently at St. Petersburg. We hope we do not undervalue morality, if we say, that a little satire gives it a stimulating flavour. When more enlightened, the Russians may think so too, but they must first emancipate themselves from the trammels of their literary nurses (the censors of the press), who would persuade them that pap and spoon-meat is more relishing than that haut-gout in which John Bull luxuriates.
We regret that M. Bulgarin should, in consequence of this extreme sensitiveness, have been obliged to curb his pen; neither do we think that such an excess of delicacy argues much in favour of the state of society, as it proves that from no class of persons can a vicious or ridiculous character be drawn, without every individual appropriating it to himself. Nor do we see wherefore the Russians themselves should be so afraid of seeing delineated in a book, the same follies and characters which they laugh at when represented on the stage; where their dramatists at least have been by no means timid or sparing in holding up to ridicule the foibles of their countrymen.
For the amusement of our readers, who will, we presume, not be displeased at having an opportunity of contemplating an original sketch by a native,-we select the following scene of a dinner-party at the house of a wealthy merchant. For the better understanding this fragment of the history, it may be necessary to premise, that Ivan Vuizhigin, the hero of the novel, after having been leagued some time with a sharper and gambler, on the departure of the latter from St. Petersburgh, finds himself overwhelmed with debts. At length, in order to extricate himself from his difficulties, and likewise to furnish himself with the means of indulging in his expensive habits, he determines upon marrying some wealthy heiress; but in Russia, as everywhere else, heiresses are not to be met with every day, nor to be had, exactly by the mere asking for. Ivan, however, is not particularly fastidious; provided the lady has but a handsome fortune, he is ready to overlook a plebeian origin. He accordingly gets himself introduced to Merkulovich Moshinin, an exceedingly wealthy merchant, who has two marriageable daughters.
On the following morning, my door was hesieged, as usual, by creditors; for these exceedingly officious gentry would not suffer a single day to pass without paying me their respects. On this occasion, I ordered that every one in his turn should be admitted into my cabinet, and informed him that I was on the point of marrying a rich heiress, requesting him to wait with a little patience, and, above all, not to mention the circumstance to any one. Nothing could exceed the delight the worthy creatures testified on this occasion: not even my dearest friends—not my own blood and kin, could have been more overjoyed at this prospect of my future prosperity! They prayed that heaven would favour my undertaking, and even urged me to lose no time in making sure of my good fortune. Worthy people!-there might, perhaps, be some little self-interestedness in your anxiety for my success; yet I am not the less grateful for it. Neither was their regard to my interest confined solely to words; for that very day my tailor sent me home two handsome suits for myself, and new liveries for my servants, which, in spite of all my entreaties and continual orders, he could never, till then, find leisure to finish. A handsome new equipage too, with four noble horses, were furnished me forthwith by the man who superintended this part of my establishment. I spent the whole morning in reviewing my past errors of conduct, and promising to reform for the future; resolving as soon as I should be married, to give up my idle habits and expensive acquaintance; to invest my capital in trade, and to live in the unpretending style of a merchant. “My wife," continued I to myself, “ having been educated in that sphere, will have neither any idea of, or desire for, those fashionable refinements and extravagancies that, amidst all their wealth, render the higher classes the slaves of forms, while at the same time they impoverish them and surround them with duns. She will have no wish beyond that of fulfilling her maternal duties towards her offspring, and endeavouring to become the solace and helpmate of her husband. Yes; I am persuaded that after all, it is in the middle sphere of life that I shall find repose and contentment- that by bounding my desires, I shall extend my happiness. Yes, my determination is fixed :-I shall, perhaps, have to incur some ridicule-what then ?-I will fix my residence elsewhere-perhaps at Astrakhan. First of all, however, I must marry, and secure my bride's portion of 200,000 rubles."
'I was so engaged in this agreeable castle-building, that I was not aware how late it was getting, till the hand of the dial reminded me that I must lose no time in dressing. My toilet being finished,-on which, to say the truth, I had bestowed no little pains, to set off my person in the most captivating manner, I drove to take up my friend the secretary, who was to introduce me to the family of my intended father-in-law. Hardly had we entered the merchant's drawing-room when I fancied myself at one of our trading fairs : there were officers, both military and civil, nierchants, brokers, and captains of ships, of almost every nation, and in every variety of costume. Nor was the female portion of the company less diversified, there being ladies attired in the latest Parisian fashions, and others in caftans, with silk handkerchiefs round their heads : in short, the whole was a medley of tongues, and a masquerade of dresses. Glancing at the crowd which filled the apartment, I
perceived that there was not a single face which I knew ; this gave me some confidence, for I must confess that, notwithstanding my philosophy, I was not a little apprehensive, lest I should discover any of my gaming-table acquaintances.
My friend, the secretary, having inquired of one of the attendants where his master and mistress were, he conducted us into a spacious dining-room. Here I found my worthy host, and future father, along with his better half, both toiling in the sweat of their brow, to arrange everything for the entertainment. Servants were bringing in baskets filled with bottles, while his vintner was explaining to Merkulovich the qualities of the various wines, who marshalled them accordingly on the table, taking care that the choicest sorts should be placed near the posts to be occupied by the most distinguished guests; the Madeira and Port, of true native manufacture, being destined for those of less consequence.
My mamma by anticipation, was a short plump dame, of some fifty years of age, dressed in the old German fashion, but with a handkerchief round her head, à la Russe. Merkulovich was a tall portly man, of a florid countenance, with a long white beard. They both made abundant excuses for being thus surprised in the midst of their preparatory arrangements, and requested that I would, on my part, lay aside all ceremony, and consider myself quite at home.
After a few minutes talk with the good people, we returned to the drawingroom, where the secretary undertook to introduce me to the younger branches of the family. The two elder sons, who, both in their dress and manners, affected to be quite fine gentlemen, addressed me in French, and gave themselves the air of being well acquainted with people of ton. It was evident, almost at the very first glance, that they wished to be considered dashing men of fashion, on an intimate footing with the higher circles, although, from their conversation, I soon perceived that their acquaintance with fashionable life extended no further than the theatres, the Summer Garden, excursions in the environs of the capital, and, in short, all those places and amusements where a well-furnished purse is the only recommendation required. Wishing, however, to ingratiate myself with them as much as possible, I carefully concealed my opinion, and requested that they would do me the favour to introduce me to the young ladies, their sisters. Flattered, probably, by the notice of one who had so much the air of a man of fashion, they instantly took me into another drawing room, where I found a number of young ladies, some of whom were sitting on sofas or chairs, and others either standing in groups by the windows, or promenading up and down the room. The two sparks led me up to their sisters, who were, fortunately, all sitting together. The two elder ones answered perfectly to the description that had been given me of them by the old match-maker who had undertaken to provide for me a suitable spouse, and had pointed out Moshinin's daughters as the very girls proper to repair the fortune of a bankrupt man of gallantry. They were dressed in a very expensive and fashionable style ; but the youngest, who was simply attired in a white frock, appeared to me by far the most engaging of the two. They received my salutations with a modish simper, exclaiming, “ Charmées de faire votre connaissance;" for they were too well bred to use any other language than French.
* The eldest of the sisters might certainly have passed for a beauty at Pekin, where corpulence and paleness are considered charming. With respect to feet, however, she would hardly have suited the taste of the Chinese, as her's would not be reckoned small even in Russia, where a slender foot is by no means a general characteristic of the fair sex. From the blush and evident embarrassment she betrayed, in spite of her endeavour to appear fashionably