Page images
PDF
EPUB

the pit ; but save this temporary drawback, the motion was rather agreeable, and wet and weary as I was, I should have preferred ascending thus halt a dozen times, to braving the fatigue of the ladders.

* The men who regulated the wheel by which the chain was worked, and who had been warned to be peculiarly careful on account of my probable ascent, had, it appeared, been so perfectly satisfied that a sight of the shaft would deter me from ascending it, that when I rose through the upper doors, and the trap fell under me, they uttered one simultaneous cry; and left me for a moment unassisted, in the extremity of their astonishment.'—Ib. pp. 179—199.

From the mines we pass on to the Diet, which Miss Pardoe was fortunate enough to find sitting on her return to Presburgh. This assembly is divided into two chambers, and consists of the prelates, temporal barons and magnates, knights, and deputies from the royal cities. As in other countries nearer home, the great mass of the people is unrepresented in this professedly national assembly. In Hungary, as in England, it is held to be a sufficient privilege for the many to contribute to the public taxes. The business of legislation is left to the wisdom of their superiors. The Diet, however, is not an unpatriotic assembly. Though based, like our own parliament, on a principle of partial representation, it has nobly struggled in behalf of the national independence and honor, and is consequently described by our author as an oasis of liberty amid a desert of despotism. At Vienna the Diet is represented as a meeting of turbulent

orators whose words are loud and whose labor is but loss of 'time. A gathering together of factious semi-barbarians crav‘ing they know not what; clamoring for an independence of " action which they would obtain only to misuse.! Such calumnies, however, are triumphantly repelled by the humane and enlightened reforms which have recently been projected, and which promise in their ultimate results to achieve for the Hungarian peasants a complete emancipation from their present degraded vassalage. Like most other European countries, Hungary is evidently in a state of transition. The people have outgrown their institutions, and are beginning to be sensible of wants of which their fathers never dreamed. The cause of the serfs is at length finding advocates amongst the most noble and talented members of the Diet, and cannot fail to force its way to ultimate triumph. The final issue of the contest in which the Hungarian patriots are engaged is not doubtful, but the rate of its progress must be greatly affected by the general course of European politics. Miss Pardoe furnishes a series of personal sketches of the most distinguished members of the Hungarian assembly, but our readers probably will be too slightly interested in such particulars to allow any transfer of them to our pages. The following description of the general appearance and order of the lower chamber is more to our purpose.

It were difficult, if not impossible, to define the feeling with which I found myself looking upon the scene presented by the Lower Hall of the Landhaus. It was on the occasion of a Circular Meeting ; and the first circumstance that struck me was the extreme order, and business-like appearance of the whole assembly. No listless loungers, occupying a couple of chairs with their elaborate idleness ; no boots, looking as though they had collected all the dust or mud of a great thoroughfare ; no members sitting with their hats on, as if tacitly to express their contempt both for their occupation and their colleagues, were to be seen even in the unformal and undress meeting of the Hungarian Deputies. The tables were covered with papers, folio volumes containing the national laws, and the caps and gloves of the members; and the gallery was crowded with ladies, among whom I recognized the wives and daughters of some of the first nobles in the land; from whom I always experienced an amiable courtesy so general, and so much a mere matter of course with the high-bred women of Hungary, that its failure would have been to me a subject of surprise had it ever occurred.

• The crowd who thronged the lower end of the hall, and extended for some distance between the tables, were orderly and attentive ; and the regularity with which the proceedings progressed was admirable ; and, after all that I had been told on the subject of the semi-barbarous legislators' of the country, surprised me no little.

During the speeches many of the members took copious notes, from which some few of them afterwards declaimed; but the facility with which the majority deliver themselves in a language, which, although that of their native land, has, until very recently, been almost a dead letter among the upper classes, is surprising. They use little or no action, but speak volubly and energetically; and there are certain individuals in the Chamber who render their speeches ornate by classical allusions and quotations, which, however, produce no effect saye ennui and impatience, as the patriotic Hungarians are anxious to rid themselves altogether of the dead languages in their debates. I could not help smiling, when a member for Croatia rose and addressed the meeting in Latin, at the idea of the confusion which it would have caused in our House of Commons; and at the nervousness of many a worthy squire who had fung down his lexicon to grasp a huntingwhip, if he were called upon to assist in legislating for his country, by listening for three quarters of an hour to a Latin oration which would put both our universities on the qui vive.

'In one respect the Hungarian people have the advantage of our own as regards their representation : no deputy being permitted to vote against the feeling of his constituency. í allude, of course, in making this assertion, only to the members for counties whose votes carry weight; those of the towns merely giving the individuals an opportunity of advancing their personal opinions, without influencing the measures of the House. Thus a deputy is not responsible for his vote, which is regulated by the voice of the county that he represents in the Diet.

• An instance of this popular privilege occurred during one of the first meetings which I attended. The grief before the House was that of Count Ráday, while the Royal Proposition was the levy of soldiers. The liberal party were insisting on holding back the troops until the king withdrew his interference with the national right of freedom of speech in the Chambers ; and the government members were urging that the requisition should be first complied with, and the grievance afterwards discussed; when an eminent speaker in the royalist interest rose and addressed the meeting with great eloquence; expatiated on the impolicy of refusing soldiers to the Empire, who were as necessary to the well being of Hungary herself as to the dignity of the king; urged that the question of Count Ráday should not be suffered for a moment to induce discourtesy from the Chambers towards the sovereign ; and for upwards of half an hour advanced arguments, amidst the cheers of the government party, which proved their satisfaction to be equal to his own zeal; when suddenly he concluded his address by saying :— These are my opinions, my principles, and my views. I cannot look upon the question in any other light. But-I am instructed by the country which I represent, to vote with the opposition; and my vote must be registered accordingly.'

. It was curious to witness the effect of this transition. The acclamations of the liberal party were deafening; and as the orator was the representative of one of the largest and most densely populated counties in Hungary, the loss to the government interest was considerable.'

pp.

241-245. The second volume commences with an account of the terrible inundation of the Danube in 1838, by which the city of Pesth was utterly overwhelmed, and its inhabitants reduced to the utmost destitution and misery. We must pass over the affecting narrative, however, without extract; neither can we stay to record our author's visits to the prisons of Buda. This city is now the capital of Hungary, communicating with Pesth by a bridge of boats across the Danube, and it is affecting to consider that its prisons yet exhibit all the worst features of the old system of such penal establishments. Amidst the many reforms which are needed in Hungary, none are more pressing than this, and we trust that a native Howard may speedily arise to plead the cause of humanity and righteousness.

The age of Robin Hood has long passed away in England, and has left scarcely any other memorial than a few ancient ballads to perpetuate the fame of the generous freebooter. But the case is different in Hungary. Its vast forests were till very recently tenanted by large troops of banditti, nor are these lawless depredators yet wholly extinct. An interesting account of some of their adventures is furnished by Miss Pardoe, from

[ocr errors]

which we extract the following as calling back a period of English history now nearly forgotten. We simply premise that Sobri was the son of a shepherd, and that his character was compounded of much the same qualities as our own Robin Hood's.

. An admirable story is told of Sobri, who on one occasion received information that a Magnate possessing an estate in one of the counties touching on the Bakony was about to celebrate a family festival, and to assemble a host of high-born and high-dowried friends. Sobri at once felt that such an opportunity was not to be neglected, and he commenced operations by furnishing a score of his troop with the local costume of the Comitat in which the chateau stood.

• This done, he introduced them one or two at a time into the village, and thence they wandered to the outskirts of the laron's estate ; a few scaled the walls and busied themselves in the offices : others joined the musicians and dancers; while Sobri, whom constant success had rendered fearless, boldly entered the building, and amid the confusion and hilarity that prevailed,-a confusion and a hilarity augmented in no slight degree hy the crowd of servants, belonging no one knew to whom, and whom it would have been considered uncourteous and inhospitable to catechize, even had there been time to do so,-penetrated even to the dining-room.

* Sobri, had he been born a century or two sooner, and of gentle blood, would have been a preux chevalier of the first order : but alas ! he had only come into the world in the nineteenth century as the son of a poor shepherd, and although certainly sans peur, he was very far from being sans reproche.

• Time wore on; the peasants who had been dancing in the hall slowly dispersed, and returned to the village. Such of the musicians as had not partaken too freely of the baron’s vintage followed them, while the remainder rolled themselves in their bundas, and slept as though there was to be no morrow to their night of revelry. The firmest footed serving-man began to fail, borne down by good wine and over zeal; and the loud mirth of the ruder guests was hushed ; while the more chastened enjoyment of the fair women and brave men ’ in the baron's banquet-hall was at its height, when Sobri gave the signal which was to rally his band about him; and approaching the lady of the house made a profound inclination as he announced himself, drew a pistol from his bosom, pointed to a score of his followers who blocked up the doorway, and requested the guests not to disturb themselves as no violence was meditated.

He then proceeded to clear the table of all the plate which was scattered over it, while the guests sat by quite unable to interfere ; he relieved the ladies of their diamonds, and the gentlemen of their gold neck-chains; and having satisfied himself that there remained nothing more in the dining saloon which he could conveniently carry off, he left a sufficient guard to prevent any of the company from attempting to give an alarm ; and proceeded with a few of his followers to ransack the house.

VOL. IX.

• The booty thus obtained was so satisfactory that Sobri felt that as a man of gallantry he could not depart for the forest without paying his compliments to the host, and offering his adieus to the guests; and accordingly he returned to the dining-room were the company were still seated, awaiting with considerable anxiety the termination of the adventure.

• Withdrawing his hat with great deference on the threshold of the apartment, he advanced towards the table, and took his leave, apologizing for having in some degree disturbed the progress of the feast, and wishing the company a renewal of appetite to conclude it.

• The thing was altogether so tragic-comic, that a fair young countess who had probably not been a very severe loser by the incursion of the brigands, yielding to the feeling of amusement which the romance of the adventure had afforded to her, replied to his address with a smile ; • We thank you for your good wishes, Mr. Sobri ; but

you
have

yourself prevented their accomplishment, for not a soul at table, I believe, has ever tried to eat with his fingers, and you have left us no other alternative.'

"Your ladyship has reason,' said the bandit, “and sooner than permit so fair and so courteous a lady as yourself to suffer inconvenience, I will intrude my presence on the company for five minutes longer :and turning to one of his followers, who was laden with the plate which had been removed from the dinner-table, he began systematically to replace all the articles, until each guest was provided with the necessary means of continuing his meal; when once more bowing politely to the assembled company, and begging permission to kiss the hand of the lively young countess, he withdrew, followed by his men, carefully making fast every door through which they passed, in order to retard the pursuit which they had every reason to apprehend.'

-Vol. ii. pp. 242—247. The Hungarian nobility is represented by Miss Pardoe as the poorest in Europe. “From the gorgeous and princely Esterhazy

with his debt of two millions sterling, to the minor magnate who rattles over the pavement of Pesth behind his four ill

groomed horses, there are not twenty nobles in the country who 'are not de facto bankrupts.' Sacrificing everything to show and ostentation, they are compelled to sell the produce of their estates to a swarm of Jewish traders at a ruinous price. It would be well if the evils of such a state of things were confined to the nobles themselves, but the country at large painfully suffers from the depression and poverty of the higher class.

* There is no country under heaven where nobility is at so low a par; or rather perhaps I should say, on so unequal a basis ; and I was so much amused by the classification lately bestowed on it by a humorous friend of mine, to whom I had frankly declared my inability to disentangle its mazes, that I will give it in his own words.

"The nobility of Hungary are of three orders—the mighty, the

« PreviousContinue »