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Art. V. The City of the Magyar, or Hungary and her Institutions in
1839-40. By Miss Pardoe, author of The City of the Sultan,' &c. In 3 vols. London : Virtue. 1840.
M ISS Pardoe's former works have rendered her name familiar
to the reading public. Though disfigured by some excesses of style and exaggeration of sentiment, they have possessed sufficient inherent vitality to rise above the mass of ephemeral publications, and to secure for themselves a respectable measure of public favor. The volumes now before us will not diminish her reputation, at least in the judgment of those who pass beyond the first volume. The predominance in the earlier part of the work of florid descriptions of natural scenery and feudal ruins, led as to apprehend that we had to wade through three volumes of light and profitless reading; but we were glad to find, as we proceeded, that a far more pleasant and productive labor awaited us. The work is in fact of permanent and sterling value, and may be advantageously consulted by all who are anxious to ascertain the present state of the Hungarian people. Unlike the great mass of summer tourists, Miss Pardoe has not been contented with looking merely on the surface of the society which she undertakes to describe. She has endeavored to trace back the stream to its source, to refer existing institutions and habits to the causes whence they originated, to combine or to analyze, as the case might be, the facts which she has witnessed so as to extract the useful lesson which a sound philosophy teaches. Various opinions will of course be held on some points of the case she has exhibited; but every candid mind will thank her for the information communicated, and readily acknowledge the good sense and right feeling which prevail through the greater part of her discussions.
Hungary possesses great historical interest, and the diversified races of which its population is composed, present some unsolved problems to the political philosopher. Lying on the confines of European Christendom, it was the battle ground on which the opposing forces of the Crescent and the Cross contended for supremacy. Exposed to the frequent incursions of the Turks, it threatened to become an advanced post whence the sultan of Turkey might at his pleasure annoy and overwhelm the other European states. Happily, however, this evil was averted by the course of political events, and the crown ultimately settled, in 1547, in the house of Austria, whose hereditary right to it was solemnly established by an assembly of the states held during that year. The government of Hungary is a limited monarchy, hereditary in the house of Hapsburg; but in case of the failure of the several branches of that family, the crown becomes elective by the diet. On the state of the people we shall have occasion to remark, in connexion with the extracts we propose making from Miss Pardoe's volumes, to which therefore we at once proceed without further preface. Miss Pardoe arrived at Presburg in the autumn of 1839, and was readily admitted to the best society which that city furnishes. The social habits of the Hungarian nobility are greatly preferable in some respects to our own. Our author pronounces them to be the most rational in the world.
mitted at oncept
• No morning visits,' she says, by which the idle and the désoeuvré contrive with us to fritter away the time of their more busy friends, are countenanced among them. No lady receives company before the dinner-hour, which is usually two, or at the latest, three o'clock; and better still, the hostess is punctual, the repast is served at the given moment, and at five the guests are at liberty to take their departure in order to fulfil their evening engagements, leaving the lady of the house to enjoy the same privilege. Then commences the gaiety of an Hungarian day ; visits are paid, new engagements are entered into, the promenades are crowded, and the streets are alive with equipages hastening to the public gardens, the theatres, or the salons de reception.'—Vol. i. pp. 6, 7.
garian nobility to the utmostep has been as s
urdens. Their poline utmost possibleged class, has contriun
Miss Pardoe did not long remain in this city, but hastened to prosecute her journey through the country, along roads which were scarcely passable, and by conveyances which must severely have taxed both her nerves and patience. The Hungarian nobility, like every other privileged class, has contrived to relieve itself to the utmost possible extent from the public burdens. Their policy, however, has been as short-sighted as it is selfish. The repair of the roads and the construction of bridges having been devolved on the peasantry, are in the most wretched state conceivable. The country is thus rendered almost inaccessible to foreigners, whilst all the channels of a profitable commerce are clogged with serious and unnecessary obstacles. The evils resulting from this state of things are just beginning to be apprehended; and patriotic men are not wanting to plead for a more equitable distribution of the charges attendant on such public works. The conveniences of English travelling are of course quite out of the question, and the substitutes provided are miserable in the extreme.
• There are four distinct methods of progress through the country, but even here the traveller is not free to make his own selection, and cannot consequently form any preliminary arrangements tending to dimi. nish his difficulties. There is the regular government (Austrian) post, to be found only on the direct high-roads ; the Bauern, or peasants’post, running between Pesth and Vienna, and not to be procured in any other part of Hungary ; the press-post, or Vorspann, which com. pels the peasant to furnish horses to the Hungarian nobles, and by their order to strangers who have sufficient interest to obtain the 'assignation, as it is termed, on sight of which the richter, or chief constable of each village, is bound to forward the traveller to the next station, on payment of a certain sum to the peasant; and the light wicker waggon, looking like a huge basket mounted on wheels, in which the peasantry themselves travel, built up with hay, and totally without protection against the vicissitudes of the weather. This last is, however, as will at once be apparent, the dernier resort of the tourist, who can be compelled to it only by utter want either of money, or other means of transport.
• The inconvenience of the regular post consists principally in its partial action, which, to render it available, limits the wanderings of the traveller to the direct roads from city to city ; for the fact of its frequently requiring the delay of upwards of an hour merely to change horses, is such a comparatively trifling annoyance that it is scarce wor. thy of mention. The Bauern, as I have already shown, is nul, save on one line of route ; and with the Vorspann, privilege as it is, bad horses, filthy drivers, and stoppages beyond all possible calculation must be submitted to with philosophy, for there is no remedy ; threats, bribes, and entreaties, being all equally unavailing.'-Ib. pp. 60–62.
We pass over our author's description of the picturesque scenery of the valley of the Waag, and of the castellated ruins which loom out' (to use a favorite expression of Miss Pardoe) from prominent points of the mountainous regions; but must detain our readers a moment at the hamlet of Oszlan, where our author witnessed a scene strikingly illustrative of the social habits of the mountain peasants.
* From the faubourg of Previtz we commenced ascending the moun. tain side; the road was rough and steep, and for awhile we walked, thinking that every mile must produce a change for the better; but at length we resigned ourselves to our fate, and were jolted, shaken, and rattled into the little mountain-village of Oszlan, at the foot of the pass.
‘Nothing could be prettier than its site; wooded heights, stretching away on either hand, far as the eye could reach, were the background; the valley which we had left in the morning lay far beneath us in front; and we stood upon a rude wooden bridge, under which a wild torrent, the original engineer of the road we were to travel, tossed, and tumbled, as it plunged headlong down into the lower lands, all foam and fury.
• Beside us, right and left along the lip of the precipice, clustered the huts of the peasantry; and from the largest of these, which proved to be the modest hostelry of the village, came the sounds of mirth and music, for here too the festival was kept. I will not mention the name of the saint, but it was precisely she whose skeleton I had seen in duplicate ; and we were obliged to her for crossing our path so oppor. tunely, as the good mountaineers told us frankly on our first apparition, that there was not a horse in the village, and that we could not stir thence under a couple of hours.
The carriage was duly examined by a committee of serfs, and we were threatened with oxen to drag us up the mountain ; but as we satisfied them that we carried no luggage, it was at length conceded that we might venture with six horses. Unluckily these horses would not come at a wish, and therefore we had no remedy but patience; and having eaten some of the black bread encrusted with carrawayseeds, and goats'-milk cheese, and drunk a few drops of the sour wine of the hamlet, with as few grimaces as possible, we walked towards the little gasthaus to 'assist' at the village ball.
• It was a curious scene, and we saw it distinctly through the grated and unglazed window which opened on the narrow street. A large room, reeking with the smoke of many pipes mingled with a strong savour of garlic, was tenanted by about forty peasants; the women and girls were seated on benches along one side of the apartment; another was occupied by four musicians who were mounted upon a table, and the centre of the floor was alive with the dancers; the men wearing their large hats, and their heavy leather boots reaching to the knee; and the women, generally speaking, barefooted, and clad in their thin linen jackets, and petticoats of dark chintz.
"The dance was intricate enough. It was a species of waltz, where the man suddenly whirled his partner round and round with a velocity and force that almost took away the breath, and then as suddenly loosed her, and whirling away in his turn left her to overtake him in the crowd. When they met, their pace became almost funereal, and they merely set to each other, inclining first to the one side, and then to the other, until the fit returned, when away they bounded again, forming circles which the eye could scarcely follow. Sometimes the girl wearied, and when her partner flung her off, seated herself on the nearest bench, when one of her companions instantly stood up, and the dance went on as before.
* At times the men gave out a shrill cry or yell, similar to that of Highlanders dancing the • Aling ;' and at others they sang, merely balancing their partners from side to side ; reminding me of the Bayadères, or the dancing-boys in Turkey ; in short, although I wished to give an idea of this mountain-ball, I find it utterly impossible.
We made them very happy, nevertheless, by paying liberally for our initiation into its mysteries; and they volunteered to vary the entertainment by singing a national glee, which was as wild as their own mountain-fastness. Half a dozen young men ranged themselves in front of the musicians, each with a glass in his hand, and sang alternate stanzas, relieved by one general chorus, of which the effect was thrill. ing; and then, at a given signal, up sprang their partners again, the music burst into a more rapid measure, and the floor was once more covered with dancers.
• I am compelled, however, in some degree to injure the effect of my village ball, by confessing that among the whole of the women there was not even one who was tolerably good-looking ; but I have frequently remarked, that beauty is very rare in mountainous regions. The men are tall, robust, handsome, and athletic; but the women are universally coarse, heavily-limbed, and ungaiply ; and thus it was at the hamlet of Oszlan ; but despite this drawback, they danced away with light hearts ; lighter perhaps than that of many a belle whose attractions have been the boast of half London and the glory of Almacks—for a night !'-Ib. pp. 138—142.
Hungary has long been famed for its mineral productions. Several extensive mines are in active operation. About twothirds of these belong to the government, and are worked on an expensive system by about 45,000 men. Others are in the hands of public companies, who pay a duty to the government on all the metals which they extract. On gold, silver, and mercury, this duty amounts to one tenth part, and on copper and antimony one seventeenth. The following is Miss Pardoe's account of the annual production of these mines :
The average production of the Hungarian mines annually is 2,280 marks of gold-63,905 marks of silver-33,590 cwts. of copper 16,892 cwts. silver of lead —2,560 cwts. saleable lead—6,921 cwts. oxide of lead—295 cwts. zinc—4,671 cwts. antimony_4,000 cwts. kobald-35 cwts. auripigment — 205,697 cwts. crude iron-27,544 cwts. cast iron—1,390 cwts. iron vitriol-12,600 cwts. alumine-6,455 cwts. sulphur-392,912 cwts. coal. In value about 4,969,964 florins, at 2s, the forin.'—Ib. p. 157.
Miss Pardoe descended into one of these mines, and the account which she gives of her subterranean visit, though somewhat exceeding our limits, is too interesting to be omitted. A less adventurous traveller would have hesitated to encounter the dangers which she braved, but the enterprising spirit which had animated her researches at Constantinople did not fail her amidst the mines of Hungary. We give her narrative with slight omissions.
Our first object was, of course, a descent into the subterranean wonders of which M. de Svaiczer was the guardian ; and the entrance nearest to the city being by the mouth of the extensive mine called Bacherstollen, it was at once decided that we should visit it on the morrow; and meanwhile, we learnt that there existed a communication throughout the whole chain, extending for nearly fifty English miles; the mine of Bacherstollen alone occupying a surface of about one thousand square fathoms ; its depth being two hundred, and the average number of miners employed in it from three hundred and fifty to four hundred.