Page images
PDF
EPUB

devotion to superstitious views, all which are considered necessary to secure obedience to the government, and the payment of contributions to the ecclesiastics. It is not inconsistent with this view, that pride and vanity and sensuality be indulged in to their utmost extent. Nay, the confessions which follow the commission of an indiscreet or vicious action, rather tend to bind the tie stronger between the laity and the clergy. Pure morals, enlarged views of human nature, a correct acquaintance with modern improvements in science and the arts, arc 'even thought unnecessary and prejudicial. The cultivation of their native idiom is scarcely enforced upon the Spanish youth; but in the place of it a scholastic and useless application to Latin seems sufficient in the eyes of these legislators of youth, to impart all knowledge, and unfold every faculty of the mind. Hence, the Latin grammar of Nebrija, the philosophy of Aristotle, the institutes of Justinian, and the apostolical writings of the Romish fathers, consume the seven and eight years devoted to education, and generally in after-life unfit the learner for any useful employment or honorable career. Even in the study of medicine, there are distinctions and limitations to the cultivation of certain branches, a familiarity with which might prove dangerous to the interests of the state and church. Anatomy, more especially, is very imperfectly taught on this account, as conclusions most unholy have been drawn from a minute investigation of the strueture and the functions of the human body. I doubt if a dissection has ever taken place in the school of medicine. In order to supply this deficiency, the ancient writers in medicine are studied with a minuteness of attention, and a devotional regard, that would astonish one of our medical students at home. Galen and Celsus, and Hippocrates are learnt by rote, and long discussions, chiefly drawn from these authorities, and on the remotest points in the science, engross nearly the whole attention of the youth devoted to the pursuit of this arduous profession. It is ridiculous to see the effect of this system on the minds of practitioners. On entering into consultation, they do not advance an opinion or cite a fact, but they forthwith advance in its support a score of sentences from some antiquated author; and on this they çyidently lay far greater stress than on their own observations and experience. The effects of this absurd system are, however, more widely felt. Aristocratical and false notious of importance are attached to a life of monastic or scholastic ease; and mechanical and agricultural pursuits are not only neglected, but actually condemned as debasing and disgraceful. Even surgery is despised as below the ambition of a gentleman, and Vol. 1. No. IV.

39

[ocr errors]

to barbers and ignorant apothecaries is transferred the task of saving life by means far above their capacities and reach. Hence there is not a native surgeon in the province. To this deplorable state of things there will now be a speedy end, if I am not much mistaken in the views entertained by the new administration. Many obstacles are already removed by the awakened energies of the people, and it is only requisite that moderation be observed in the introduction of a gradual reform, and this people will at no very distant period present an entirely new aspect, in their moral and intellectual condition. Talents the native Creoles are abundantly endowed with; and when these are once called into exercise and properly directed to their development, they will yield a wide and splendid harvest. The greatest obstacle, by far, to an effectual improvement of the system of education, is the blind devotion, still entertained, to an exclusive religious establishment. As long as state policies are, in any way, affianced with the views of churchmen, it is impossible that the intellect or moral faculty of those who are subjected to their joint sway should ever be allowed the free exercise of their powers. Personal interest is ever at variance with public; and in the alliance of church and state, there can be little doubt in the mind of any one acquainted with history, that the latter is always sacrificed to the former.

Before I quit the subject of education, I must not omit to notice an institution, which does honour to the religious feelings of the females of Caraccas. There is a nunnery composed altogether of the most respectable ladies in the province, who devote their attention exclusively to the instruction of young girls, in all the necessary and ornamental branches of education. This establishment has been productive of the greatest benefits to society, and to it the females of Caraccas are indebted for that intelligence, mental sprightliness and refined sensibility which so peculiarly characterizes them. In the possession of these inestimable qualities, they far surpass the other sex, whose education has been hitherto far inferior, and little calculated to develope other feelings, save those of pride and superstition.

The Theatre. The first evening after my arrival in Caraccas, I accompanied some friends to see a drania represented, in the Spanish language, which, I understood, was very popular. On my entering the house, I was astonished to find the mean appearance it presented in every part. The stage was not better than the paltry ones erected during the summer in our petty gardens. The scenery and dresses were vile, the actors re

minded me of a set of country school-boys, dashing away at Syphax and Juba, or Brutus and Cassius. The only circumstance that had an appearance of splendour about this building, was the * roof, which was no other than the concave firmament of heaven, studded with bright stars : but even this had its inconvenience ; it was liable to be intercepted from the view by certain intrusive bodies of cloud and mist, from the neighbouring mountains, which would occasionally be so mischievous, as to drop down particles of a fluid ycleped rain, which did not prove over and above serviceable to a straw bonnet, or to a ten dollar hat from the United States. This inconvenience was, unfortunately, or rather the contrary, felt this evening, at my first appearance in this renowned theatre, and that before the first act was over: so that I was fain'to depart, and never more did that theatre, with its splendid roof, of clouded orunclouded sky, see me more.

There is one institution in Caraccas, to which I think it would be well if the municipal authorities of our large cities in the Union were to turn their attention. I refer to the slaughtering establishment. Instead of permitting butchers to build their slaughter-houses at pleasure, in the midst of a decent neighbourhood, and in thickly populated streets, as is done in NewYork, they are all collected within a large square, which is walled round, and admirably adapted to conceal the noisome and offensive operations of this business from the eye of the public. This establishment is situated in the south-western extremity of Caraccas. On entering through a massive portal, into the interior of the walled square, you find to the right and to the left, small, but neat houses, appropriated as the dwellings of the butchers. Farther on, are two lofty colonnades of freestone, supported by eleven pillars, with lofty arches between them, under which the bloody execution, necessary to the nourishment of the inhabitants, is conducted. The ground inclines to the right and left, which enables the offals and filth to be collected into a sewer, which carries it all away. This establishment, it will scarcely be denied, is deserving of imitation, by our enterprizing countrymen. It preserves to the city a certain appearance of decency, which cannot be too desirable, particularly to those whose juxtaposition to slaughterhouses renders their situation so disagreeable and uncomfortable. I know it may bé urged that no injurious effects to the health ever arise from this source, but is the comfort of the inhabitants so constantly assailed night and day, by these nuisances not equally worthy some little effort on the part of the

corporation ? While thousands are squandered upon the widening and opening of streets, and upon the levelling of bills, and the filling up of valleys, might not a few more be added to the list of expenditures, with the laudable view of adding doubly to the beauty of the city, by removing a wide-spread defect on the one hand, and on the other, erecting an edifice that may be a real ornament to the city.

A Journal of a Tour in Italy in the year 1821, with a descrip

tion of Gibraltar, accompanied with several engravings., By an American. New York, 1924. pp. 468.

An American tour in Italy is certainly a rarity, and deserves an immediate and respectful share of attention. The English press indeed teems with the lucubrations and discoveries of British tourists in that classic region, under the taking, modest names of " Notes," “ Sketches," " Mementoes," " Letters to a Sister,” &c.--all beautifully got up-large type, and ample margin--price two guineas. But we are but seldom favoured with such exhibitions; and the infrequency of the occurrence would here secure a pardon in favour of the transgressor, who should trouble himself to write at all. Even in England, few good works on Italy have appeared ; the Letters of Gray the poet, and the works of Eustace and Forsyth, are entitled to the greatest commendation. They are classic and original productions, and like the monuments they describe, will long preserve the memory of the enthusiastic feeling, of the energy of sentiment, of the profound learning of their authors. Our list of travels in Italy is not very inconsiderable, all things considered—and we hope we may be allowed, without incurring the charge of disloyalty to our literary republic, to say, that with perhaps two exceptions, our countrymen have written nothing on the subject of Italy, wbich will contribute to our fame as scholars, or our reputation as agreeable and instructive writers. As far as we can now recollect, a book published some five or six years since, under the unassuming title of “ Rambles in Italy,” is beyond all comparison the best. We never had the satisfaction to see its author-he is no more--but he lives in the pages of this little work. The strong perception of character, the political observation, the powerful imagination, the cultivated and original mind, the evidences of which are stamped on every page,-afford a brilliant promise of what he might have achieved, under happier auspices than those of ill-.

1

health, and with that experience which is the safe-guard óf riper years. In point of feeling, he may be compared with Eustace; in strength with Forsyth. His observations on the political situation of the northern part of Italy, are just, striking and original.

It is not to be wondered at, that our countrymen resort to Italy with such deep interest. We have often thought that Americans enjoyed with more intense feeling, those memorials of time long past, around which hang such rich associations, than the Europeans themselves; and for this plain reason--because we have no such objects; and all our thoughts and feelings belong to the present and future; because the contrast is presented in such vivid colours to our imaginations, between a country which seems like Minerva, to have sprung formed into existence, and one whose brightest glories are even now matters of history; because never having had these venerable relics before us, we always bring minds and hearts, fresh and untutored to their contemplation. No country on earth exhibits more delightful features, or holds out more instruction to the traveller, than Italy. Every step you take stimulates reflection, and every remnant of antiquity affords matter for deep meditation. If you go back, what a moral and intellectual interest covers every spot! All the associations which youthful studies have caught from the poet and historian, are again rekindled, and shine not only in a purer but more certain light. The spot which we tread, the broken column, the ruined wall, speak audibly of that Rome, and those republics, from which even we may draw lessons of political wisdom, and devotion to our country. Turn we our eyes upon that Modern Italy, whom Fsilicaja so mournfully apostrophise

O tu cui feo la sorte,
Dono infelice di bellezza, ond'hai,
Funesta dote d'infiniti guai,

Che in fronte scritti per gran doglia porte,
-what plans of improvement may not the statesman suggest-
what hopes may not the patriot entertain, that the day will yet
come, when the Italians shall be regenerated, and free from the
chains of the barbarous Austrian, shall yet accomplish the as-
pirations of Petrarch and Rienzi, and establish one government
which may appeal to their sympathies as men, and their
pride as Italians. A traveller therefore in Italy has a most rich
and ample field before him--and one would think that a very
delightful book might be made from such interesting materials.
But what Milton says of profitable reading, is not inapplicable
to the traveller. He must bring to his task, “ a spirit and judg-

« PreviousContinue »