No one but an adventurous traveller can know the luxury of sleep. There is not a greater fallacy in the world than the common creed that sweet sleep is labour’s guerdon. Mere regular, corporeal labour may certainly procure us a good, sound, refreshing slumber, disturbed often by the consciousness of the monotonous duties of the morrow; but how sleep the other great labourers of this laborious world? Where is the sweet sleep of the politician? After hours of fatigue in his office and hours of exhaustion in the House, he gains his pillow; and a brief, feverish night, disturbed by the triumph of a cheer and the horrors of a reply. Where is the sweet sleep of the poet? We all know how harassing are the common dreams which are made up of incoherent images of our daily life, in which the actors are individuals that we know, and whose conduct generally appears to be regulated by principles which we can comprehend. How much more enervating and destroying must be the slumber of that man who dreams of an imaginary world! waking, with a heated and excited spirit, to mourn over some impressive incident of the night, which is nevertheless forgotten, or to collect some inexplicable plot which has been revealed in sleep, and has fled from the memory as the eyelids have opened. Where is the sweet sleep of the artist? of the lawyer? Where, indeed, of any human being to whom to-morrow brings its necessary duties? Sleep is the enemy of Care, and Care is the constant companion of regular labour, mental or bodily.
But your traveller, your adventurous traveller, careless of the future, reckless of the past, with a mind interested by the world, from the immense and various character which that world presents to him, and not by his own stake in any petty or particular contingency; wearied by delightful fatigue, daily occasioned by varying means and from varying causes; with the consciousness that no prudence can regulate the fortunes of the morrow, and with no curiosity to discover what those fortunes may be, from a conviction that it is utterly impossible to ascertain them; perfectly easy whether he lie in a mountain-hut, or a royal palace; and reckless alike of the terrors and chances of storm and bandits, seeing that he has a fair chance of meeting both with security and enjoyment; this is the fellow who, throwing himself upon a down couch or his mule’s pack-saddle, with equal eagerness and equal sangfroid, sinks into a repose, in which he is never reminded by the remembrance of an appointment or an engagement for the next day, a duel, a marriage, or a dinner, the three perils of man, that he has the misfortune of being mortal; and wakes not to combat care, but only to feel that he is fresher and more vigorous than he was the night before; and that, come what come may, he is, at any rate, sure this day of seeing different faces, and of improvising his unpremeditated part upon a different scene.
We have now both philosophically accounted and politely apologised for the loud and unfashionable snore which sounded in the blue chamber about five minutes after Vivian Grey had entered that most comfortable apartment. In about twelve hours’ time he was scolding Essper George for having presumed to wake him so early, quite unconscious that he had enjoyed anything more than a twenty minutes’ doze.
“I should not have come in, sir, only they are all out. They were off by six o’clock this morning, sir; most part at least. The Prince has gone; I do not know whether he went with them, but Master Rodolph has given me — I breakfasted with Master Rodolph. Holy Virgin! what quarters we have got into!”
“To the point; what of the Prince?”
“His Highness has left the castle, and desired Master Rodolph; if your Grace had only seen Master Rodolph tipsy last night; he rolled about like a turbot in a tornado.”
“What of the Prince?”
“The Prince desired this letter to be given to you, sir.”
Vivian read the note, which supposed that, of course, he would not wish to join the chase this morning, and regretted that the writer was obliged to ride out for a few hours to visit a neighbouring nobleman, but requested the pleasure of his guest’s company at a private dinner in the cabinet on his return.
After breakfast Vivian called on Mr. Sievers. He found that gentleman busied in his library.
“You never hunt, I suppose, Mr. Sievers?”
“Never. His Highness, I apprehend, is out this morning; the beautiful weather continues; surely we never had such a season. As for myself, I almost have given up my indoor pursuits. The sun is not the light of study. Let us take our caps and have a stroll.”
The gentlemen accordingly left the library, and proceeding through a different gate to that by which Vivian had entered the castle, they came upon a part of the forest in which the timber and brushwood had been in a great measure cleared away; large clumps of trees being left standing on an artificial lawn, and newly-made roads winding about in pleasing irregularity until they were all finally lost in the encircling woods.
“I think you told me,” said Mr. Sievers, “that you had been long in Germany. What course do you think of taking from here?”
“Straight to Vienna.”
“Ah! a delightful place. If, as I suppose to be the case, you are fond of dissipation and luxury, Vienna is to be preferred to any city with which I am acquainted. And intellectual companions are not wanting there, as some have said. There are one or two houses in which the literary soirées will yield to few in Europe; and I prefer them to most, because there is less pretension and more ease. The Archduke John is a man of considerable talents, and of more considerable acquirements. An excellent geologist! Are you fond of geology?”
“I am not in the least acquainted with the science.”
“Naturally so; at your age, if, in fact, we study at all, we are fond of fancying ourselves moral philosophers, and our study is mankind. Trust me, my dear sir, it is a branch of research soon exhausted; and in a few years you will be very glad, for want of something else to do, to meditate upon stones. See now,” said Mr. Sievers, picking up a stone, “to what associations does this little piece of quartz give rise! I am already an antediluvian, and instead of a stag bounding by that wood I witness the moving mass of a mammoth. I live in other worlds, which, at the same time, I have the advantage of comparing with the present. Geology is indeed a magnificent study! What excites more the imagination? What exercises more the reason? Can you conceive anything sublimer than the gigantic shadows and the grim wreck of an antediluvian world? Can you devise any plan which will more brace our powers, and develop our mental energies, than the formation of a perfect chain of inductive reasoning to account for these phenomena? What is the boasted communion which the vain poet holds with nature compared with conversation which the geologist perpetually carries on with the elemental world? Gazing on the strata of the earth, he reads the fate of his species. In the undulations of the mountains is revealed to him the history of the past; and in the strength of rivers and the powers of the air he discovers the fortunes of the future. To him, indeed, that future, as well as the past and the present, are alike matter for meditation: for the geologist is the most satisfactory of antiquarians, the most interesting of philosophers, and the most inspired of prophets; demonstrating that which has past by discovery, that which is occurring by observation, and that which is to come by induction. When you go to Vienna I will give you a letter to Frederic Schlegel; we were fellow-students, and are friends, though for various reasons we do not at present meet; nevertheless a letter from me will command respect. I will recommend you, however, before you go on to Vienna, to visit Reisenburg.”
“Indeed! from the Prince’s account, I should have thought that there was little to interest me there.”
“His Highness is not an impartial judge. You are probably acquainted with the disagreeable manner in which he is connected with that Court. Far from his opinion being correct, I should say there are few places in Germany more worthy of a visit than the little Court near us; and above all things my advice is that you should not pass it over.”
“I am inclined to follow it. You are right in supposing that I am not ignorant that His Highness has the misfortune of being a mediatised Prince; but what is the exact story about him? I have heard some odd rumours, some — ”
It is a curious story, but I am afraid you will find it rather long. Nevertheless, if you really visit Reisenburg, it may be of use to you to know something of the singular characters you will meet there. In the first place, you say you know that Little Lilliput is a mediatised Prince, and, of course, are precisely aware what that title means. About fifty years ago, the rival of the illustrious family in whose chief castle we are both of us now residing was the Margrave of Reisenburg, another petty Prince with territories not so extensive as those of our friend, and with a population more limited: perhaps fifty thousand souls, half of whom were drunken cousins. The old Margrave of Reisenburg, who then reigned, was a perfect specimen of the old-fashioned German Prince: he did nothing but hunt and drink and think of the quarterings of his immaculate shield, all duly acquired from some Vandal ancestor as barbarous as himself. His little Margraviate was misgoverned enough for a great empire. Half of his nation, who were his real people, were always starving, and were unable to find crown pieces to maintain the extravagant expenditure of the other moiety, the cousins; who, out of gratitude to their fellow-subjects for their generous support, harassed them with every species of excess. Complaints were of course made to the Margrave, and loud cries for justice resounded at the palace gates. This Prince was an impartial chief magistrate; he prided himself upon his “invariable” principles of justice, and he allowed nothing to influence his decisions. His plan for arranging all differences had the merit of being brief; and if brevity be the soul of wit, it certainly was most unreasonable in his subjects to consider his judgments no joke. He always counted the quarterings in the shields of the respective parties, and decided accordingly. Imagine the speedy redress gained by a muddy-veined peasant against one of the cousins; who, of course, had as many quarterings as the Margrave himself. The defendant was regularly acquitted. At length, a man’s house having been burnt down out of mere joke in the night, the owner had the temerity in the morning to accuse one of the privileged, and to produce, at the same tune, a shield, with exactly one more quartering than the reigning shield itself contained. The Margrave was astounded, the people in raptures, and the cousins in despair. The complainant’s shield was examined and counted, and not a flaw discovered. What a dilemma! The chief magistrate consulted with the numerous branches of his family, and the next morning the complainant’s head was struck off for high treason, for daring to have one more quartering than his monarch!
“In this way they passed their time about fifty years since in Reisenburg; occasionally, for the sake of variety, declaring war against the inhabitants of Little Lilliput, who, to say the truth, in their habits and pursuits did not materially differ from their neighbours. The Margrave had one son, the present Grand Duke. A due reverence of the great family shield, and a full acquaintance with the invariable principles of justice, were early instilled into him; and the royal stripling made such rapid progress, under the tuition of his amiable parent, that he soon became highly popular with all his relations. At length his popularity became troublesome to his father; and so the old Margrave sent for his son one morning and informed him that he had dreamed the preceding night that the air of Reisenburg was peculiarly unwholesome for young persons, and therefore he begged him to get out of his dominions as soon as possible. The young Prince had no objection to see something of the world. He flew to a relative whom he had never before visited. This nobleman was one of those individuals who anticipate their age, which, by-the-bye, Mr. Grey, none but noblemen should do; for he who anticipates his century is generally persecuted when living, and is always pilfered when dead. Howbeit, this relation was a philosopher; all about him thought him mad; he, in return, thought all about him fools. He sent the Prince to an University, and gave him for a tutor a young man about ten years older than his pupil. This person’s name was Beckendorff. You will hear more of him.
“About three years after the sudden departure of the young Prince, the old Margrave his father and the then reigning Prince of Little Lilliput shot each other through the head in a drunken brawl, after a dinner given in honour of a proclamation of peace between the two countries. The cousins were not much grieved, as they anticipated a fit successor in their former favourite. Splendid preparations were made for the reception of the inheritor of the family shield, and all Reisenburg was poured out to witness the triumphant entrance of their future monarch. At last two horsemen in plain dresses, and on indifferent steeds, rode up to the palace gates, dismounted, and without making any enquiry ordered the attendance of some of the chief nobility in the presence chamber. One of them, a young man, without any preparatory explanation, introduced the Reisenburg chieftains to his companion as his Prime Minister, and commanded them immediately to deliver up their portefeuilles and golden keys to Mr. Beckendorff. The nobles were in dismay, and so astounded that they made no resistance, though the next morning they started in their beds when they remembered that they had delivered their insignia of office to a man without a von before his name. They were soon, however, roused from their sorrow and their stupor, by receiving a peremptory order to quit the palace: and as they retired from the walls which they had long considered as their own, they had the mortification of meeting crowds of the common people, their slaves and their victims, hurrying with joyful countenances and triumphant looks to the palace of their Prince, in consequence of an energetic proclamation for the redress of grievances, and an earnest promise to decide cases in future without examining the quarterings of the parties, in a week’s time the cousins were all adrift. At length they conspired, but the conspiracy was tardy, they found their former servants armed, and they joined in an unequal struggle; for their opponents were alike animated with hopes of the future and with revenge for the past. The cousins got well beat, and this was not the worst; for Beckendorff took advantage of this unsuccessful treason, which he had himself fomented, and forfeited all their estates; destroying in one hour the system which had palsied, for so many years, the energies of his master’s subjects. In time many of the chief nobility were restored to their honours and estates; but the power with which they were again invested was greatly modified, and the privileges of the Commons greatly increased. At this moment the French Revolution broke out. The French crossed the Rhine and carried all before them; and the Prince of Little Lilliput, among other true Germans, made a bold but fruitless resistance. The Margrave of Reisenburg, on the contrary, received the enemy with open arms; he raised a larger body of troops than his due contingent, and exerted himself in every manner to second the views of the Great Nation. In return for his services he was presented with the conquered principality of Little Lilliput and some other adjoining lands; and the Margraviate of Reisenburg, with an increased territory and population, and governed with consummate wisdom, began to be considered the most flourishing of the petty states in the quarter of the empire to which it belonged. On the contrary, our princely and patriotic friend, mortified by the degenerate condition of his country and the prosperity of his rival house, quitted Little Lilliput, and became one of those emigrant princes who abounded during the first years of the Revolution in the northern courts of Europe Napoleon soon appeared upon the stage; and vanquished Austria, with the French dictating at the gates of her capital, was no longer in a condition to support the dignity of the Empire. The policy of the Margrave of Reisenburg was as little patriotic and quite as consistent as before. Beckendorff became the constant and favoured counsellor of the French Emperor. It was chiefly by his exertions that the celebrated Confederation of the Rhine was carried into effect. The institution of this body excited among many Germans, at the time, loud expressions of indignation; but I believe few impartial and judicious men now look upon that league as any other than one in the formation of which consummate statesmanship was exhibited. In fact, it prevented the subjugation of Germany to France, and by flattering the pride of Napoleon saved the decomposition of our Empire. But how this might be it is not at present necessary for us to enquire. Certain it was, that the pupil of Beckendorff was amply repaid for the advice and exertions of his master and his Minister; and when Napoleon fell the brows of the former Margrave were encircled with a grand ducal crown, and his duchy, while it contained upwards of a million and a half of inhabitants, numbered in its limits some of the most celebrated cities in Germany and many of Germany’s most flourishing provinces. But Napoleon fell. The Prince of Little Lilliput and his companions in patriotism and misfortune returned from their exile panting with hope and vengeance. A Congress was held to settle the affairs of agitated Germany. Where was the Grand Duke of Reisenburg? His hard-earned crown tottered on his head. Where was his crafty Minister, the supporter of revolutionary France, the friend of its Imperial enslaver, the constant enemy of the House of Austria? At the very Congress which, according to the expectations of the exiled Princes, was to restore them to their own dominions, and to reward their patriotic loyalty with the territories of their revolutionary brethren; yes! at this very Congress was Beckendorff; not as a suppliant, not as a victim, but seated at the right hand of Metternich, and watching, with parental affection, the first interesting and infantile movements of that most prosperous of political bantlings, the Holy Alliance. You may well imagine that the Military Grand Duke had a much better chance in political negotiation than the emigrant Prince. In addition to this, the Grand Duke of Reisenburg had married, during the war, a Princess of a powerful House; and the allied Sovereigns were eager to gain the future aid and constant co-operation of a mind like Beckendorff’s. The Prince of Little Lilliput, the patriot, was rewarded for his conduct by being restored to his forfeited possessions: and the next day he became the subject of his former enemy, the Grand Duke of Reisenburg, the traitor. What think you of Monsieur Beckendorff?”
“One of the most interesting characters I have long heard of. But his pupil appears to be a man of mind.”
“You shall hear. I should, however, first mention that while Beckendorff has not scrupled to resort to any measures or adopt any opinions in order to further the interests of his monarch and his country, he has in every manner shown that personal aggrandisement has never been his object. He lives in retirement, scarcely with an attendant, and his moderate official stipend amply supports his more moderate expenditure. The subjects of the Grand Duke may well be grateful that they have a Minister without relations and without favourites. The Grand Duke is, unquestionably, a man of talents; but at the same time, perhaps, one of the most weak-minded men that ever breathed. He was fortunate in meeting with Beckendorff early in life; and as the influence of the Minister has not for a moment ceased over the mind of the monarch, to the world the Grand Duke of Reisenburg has always appeared to be an individual of a strong mind and consistent conduct. But when you have lived as much and as intimately in his Court as I have done, you will find how easily the world may he deceived. Since the close connection which now exists between Reisenburg and Austria took place, Beckendorff has, in a great degree, revived the ancient privileges of blood and birth. A Minister who has sprung from the people will always conciliate the aristocracy. Having no family influence of his own, he endeavours to gain the influence of others: and it often happens that merit is never less considered than when merit has made the Minister. A curious instance of this occurs in a neighbouring state. There the Premier, decidedly a man of great talents, is of as humble an origin as Beckendorff. With no family to uphold him, he supports himself by a lavish division of all the places and patronage of the State among the nobles. If the younger son or brother of H peer dare to sully his oratorical virginity by a chance observation in the Lower Chamber, the Minister, himself a real orator, immediately rises to congratulate, in pompous phrase, the House and the country on the splendid display which has made this night memorable, and on the decided advantages which must accrue both to their own resolutions and the national interests from the future participation of his noble friend in their deliberations. All about him are young nobles, quite unfit for the discharge of their respective duties. His private secretary is unable to coin a sentence, almost to direct a letter; but he is noble! The secondary officials cannot be trusted even in the least critical conjunctures; but they are noble! And the Prime Minister of a powerful empire is forced to rise early and be up late; not to meditate on the present fortunes or future destinies of his country, but by his personal exertions to compensate for the inefficiency and expiate the blunders of his underlings, whom his unfortunate want of blood has forced him to overwhelm with praises which they do not deserve, and duties which they cannot discharge. I do not wish you to infer that the policy of Beckendorff has been actuated by the feelings which influence the Minister whom I have noticed, from whose conduct in this very respect his own materially differs. On the contrary, his connection with Austria is, in all probability, the primary great cause. However this may be, certain it is that all offices about the Court and connected with the army (and I need not remind you that at a small German Court these situations are often the most important in the State) can only be filled by the nobility; nor can any person who has the misfortune of not inheriting the magical monosyllable von before his name, the shibboleth of nobility and the symbol of territorial pride, violate by their unhallowed presence the sanctity of Court dinners, or the as sacred ceremonies of a noble fête. But while a monopoly of those offices which for their due performance require only a showy exterior or a schooled address is granted to the nobles, all those State charges which require the exercise of intellect are now chiefly filled by the bourgeoisie. At the same time, however, that both our Secretaries of State, many of our Privy Councillors, war Councillors, forest Councillors, and finance Councillors, are to be reckoned among the second class, still not one of these exalted individuals, who from their situations are necessarily in constant personal communication with the Sovereign, ever see that Sovereign except in his Cabinet and his Council–Chamber. Beckendorff himself, the Premier, is the son of a peasant; and of course not noble. Nobility, which has been proffered him, not only by his own monarch, but by most of the sovereigns of Europe, he has invariably refused; and consequently never appears at Court. The truth is, that, from disposition, he is little inclined to mix with men; and he has taken advantage of his want of an escutcheon completely to exempt himself from all those duties of etiquette which his exalted situation would otherwise have imposed upon him. None can complain of the haughtiness of the nobles when, ostensibly, the Minister himself is not exempted from their exclusive regulations. If you go to Reisenburg, you will not therefore see Beckendorff, who lives, as I have mentioned, in solitude, about thirty miles from the capital; communicating only with his Royal master, the foreign Ministers, and one or two official characters of his own country. I was myself an inmate of the Court for upwards of two years. During that time I never saw the Minister; and, with the exception of some members of the royal family and the characters I have mentioned, I never knew one person who had even caught a glimpse of the individual who may indeed be said to be regulating their destinies.
“It is at the Court, then,” continued Mr. Sievers, “when he is no longer under the control of Beckendorff, and in those minor points which are not subjected to the management or influenced by the mind of the Minister, that the true character of the Grand Duke is to be detected. Indeed it may really be said, that the weakness of his mind has been the origin of his fortune. In his early youth his pliant temper adapted itself without a struggle to the barbarous customs and the brutal conduct of his father’s Court; that same pliancy of temper prevented him opposing with bigoted obstinacy the exertions of his relation to educate and civilise him; that same pliancy of temper allowed him to become the ready and the enthusiastic disciple of Beckendorff. Had the pupil, when he ascended the throne, left his master behind him, it is very probable that his natural feelings would have led him to oppose the French; and at this moment, instead of being the first of the second rate powers of Germany, the Grand Duke of Reisenburg might himself have been an mediatised Prince. As it was, the same pliancy of temper which I have noticed enabled him to receive Napoleon, when an Emperor, with outstretched arms; and at this moment does not prevent him from receiving, with equal rapture, the Imperial Archduchess, who will soon be on her road from Vienna to espouse his son; for, to crown his career, Beckendorff has successfully negotiated a marriage between a daughter of the House of Austria and the Crown Prince of Reisenburg. It is generally believed that the next step of the Diet will be to transmute the father’s Grand Ducal coronet into a Regal crown; and perhaps, my good sir, before you reach Vienna, you may have the supreme honour of being presented to his Majesty the King of Reisenburg.”
“But when you talk only of the pupil’s pliancy of temper, am I to suppose that in mentioning his talents you were speaking ironically?”
“By no means! The Grand Duke is a scholar; a man of refined taste, a patron of the fine arts, a lover of literature, a promoter of science, and what the world would call a philosopher. His judgment is sound, and generally correct, his powers of discrimination acute, and his knowledge of mankind greater than that of most sovereigns; but with all these advantages he is cursed with such a wavering and indecisive temper, that when, which is usually the case, he has come to a right conclusion, he can never prevail upon himself to carry his theory into practice; and with all his acuteness, his discernment, and his knowledge of the world, his mind is always ready to receive any impression from the person who last addresses him, though he himself be fully aware of the inferiority of his adviser’s intellect to his own, or the imperfection of that adviser’s knowledge. Never for a moment out of the sight of Beckendorff, the royal pupil has made an admirable political puppet, since his talents have always enabled him to understand the part which the Minister had forced him to perform. Thus the world has given the Grand Duke credit, not only for the possession of great talents, but almost for as much firmness of mind and decision of character as his Minister. But since his long-agitated career has become calm and tranquil, and Beckendorff, like a guardian spirit, has ceased to be ever at his elbow, the character of the Grand Duke of Reisenburg begins to be understood. His Court has been, and still is, frequented by all the men of genius in Germany, who are admitted without scruple, even if they be not noble. But the astonishing thing is, that the Grand Duke is always surrounded by every species of political and philosophical quack that you can imagine. Discussions on a free press, on the reformation of the criminal code, on the abolition of commercial duties, and such like interminable topics, are perpetually resounding within the palace of this arbitrary Prince; and the people, fired by the representations of the literary and political journals with which Reisenburg abounds, and whose bold speculations on all subjects elude the vigilance of the censor, by being skilfully amalgamated with a lavish praise of the royal character, are perpetually flattered with the speedy hope of becoming freemen. Suddenly, when all are expecting the grant of a charter or the institution of Chambers, Mr. Beckendorff rides up from his retreat to the Residence, and the next day the whole crowd of philosophers are swept from the royal presence, and the censorship of the press becomes so severe, that for a moment you would fancy that Reisenburg, instead of being, as it boasts itself, the modern Athens, had more right to the title of the modern Boeotia. The people, who enjoy an impartial administration of equal laws, who have flourished, and are flourishing, under the wise and moderate rule of their new monarch, have in fact no inclination to exert themselves for the attainment of constitutional liberty in any other way than by their voices. Their barbarous apathy astounds the philosophers; who, in despair, when the people tell them that they are happy and contented, artfully remind them that their happiness depends on the will of a single man; and that, though the present character of the monarch may guarantee present felicity, still they should think of their children, and not less exert themselves for the insurance of the future. These representations, as constantly reiterated as the present system will allow, have at length produced an effect; and political causes of a peculiar nature, combining their influence with these philosophical exertions, have of late frequently frightened the Grand Duke, who, in despair, would perhaps grant a constitution if Beckendorff would allow him. But the Minister is conscious that the people would not be happier, and do not in fact require one: he looks with a jealous and an evil eye on the charlatanism of all kinds which is now so prevalent at Court: he knows, from the characters of many of these philosophers and patriots, that their private interest is generally the secret spring of their public virtue; that if the Grand Duke, moved by their entreaties, or seduced by their flattery, were to yield a little, he would soon be obliged to grant all to their demands and their threats; and finally, Beckendorff has, of late years, so completely interwoven the policy of Reisenburg with that of Austria, that he feels that the rock on which he has determined to found the greatness of his country must be quitted for ever if he yield one jot to the caprice or the weakness of his monarch.”
“But Beckendorff,” said Vivian; “why can he not crush in the bud the noxious plant which he so much dreads? Why does the press speak in the least to the people? Why is the Grand Duke surrounded by any others except pompous Grand Marshals and empty-headed Lord Chamberlains? I am surprised at this indifference, this want of energy!”
“My dear sir, there are reasons for all things. Rest assured that Beckendorff is not a man to act incautiously or weakly. The Grand Duchess, the mother of the Crown Prince, has been long dead. Beckendorff, who, as a man, has the greatest contempt for women; as a statesman, looks to them as the most precious of political instruments; it was his wish to have married the Grand Duke to the young Princess who is now destined for his son, but for once in his life he failed in influencing his pupil. The truth was, and it is to this cause that we must trace the present disorganised state of the Court, and indeed of the Duchy, that the Grand Duke had secretly married a lady to whom he had long been attached. This lady was a Countess, and his subject; and, as it was impossible by the laws of the kingdom that any one but a member of the reigning family could be allowed to share the throne, his Royal Highness had recourse to a plan which is not uncommon in this country, and espoused the lady with his left hand. The ceremony, which we call here a morganatic marriage, you have, probably, heard of before. The favoured female is, to all intents and purposes, the wife of the monarch, and shares everything except his throne. She presides at Court, but neither she nor her children assume the style of majesty, although in some instances the latter have been created princes, and acknowledged as heirs apparent when there has been a default in the lineal royal issue. The lady of whom we are speaking, according to the usual custom, has assumed a name derivative from that of her royal husband; and as the Grand Duke’s name is Charles, she is styled Madame Carolina.”
“And what kind of lady is Madame Carolina?” asked Vivian.
Philosophical! piquant! Parisian! a genius, according to her friends; who, as in fact she is a Queen, are of course the whole world. Though a German by family, she is a Frenchwoman by birth. Educated in the spiritual saloons of the French metropolis, she has early imbibed superb ideas of the perfectibility of man, and of the “science” of conversation, on both which subjects you will not be long at Court ere you hear her descant; demonstrating by the brilliancy of her ideas the possibility of the one, and by the fluency of her language her acquaintance with the other. She is much younger than her husband, and, though not exactly a model for Phidias, a fascinating woman. Variety is the talisman by which she commands all hearts and gained her monarch’s. She is only consistent in being delightful; but, though changeable, she is not capricious. Each day displays a new accomplishment as regularly as it does a new costume; but as the acquirement seems only valued by its possessor as it may delight others, so the dress seems worn, not so much to gratify her own vanity as to please her friends’ tastes. Genius is her idol; and with her genius is found in everything. She speaks in equal ruptures of an opera dancer and an epic poet. Her ambition is to converse on all subjects; and by a judicious management of a great mass of miscellaneous reading, and by indefatigable exertions to render herself mistress of the prominent points of the topics of the day, she appears to converse on all subjects with ability. She takes the liveliest interest in the progress of mind, in all quarters of the globe; and imagines that she should, at the same time, immortalise herself and benefit her species, could she only establish a Quarterly Review in Ashantee and a scientific Gazette at Timbuctoo. Notwithstanding her sudden elevation, no one has ever accused her of arrogance, or pride, or ostentation. Her liberal principles and her enlightened views are acknowledged by all. She advocates equality in her circle of privileged nobles, and is enthusiastic on the rights of man in a country where justice is a favour. Her boast is to be surrounded by men of genius, and her delight to correspond with the most celebrated persons of all countries. She is herself a literary character of no mean celebrity. Few months have elapsed since enraptured Reisenburg hailed from her glowing pen two neat octavos, bearing the title of ‘Memoirs of the Court of Charlemagne,’ which give an interesting and accurate picture of the age, and delight the modern public with vivid descriptions of the cookery, costume, and conversation of the eighth century. You smile, my friend, at Madame Carolina’s production. Do not you agree with me that it requires no mean talent to convey a picture of the bustle of a levée during the middle ages? Conceive Sir Oliver looking in at his club! and fancy the small talk of Roland during a morning visit! Yet even the fame of this work is to be eclipsed by Madame’s forthcoming quarto of ‘Haroun al Raschid and his Times.’ This, it is whispered, is to be a chef-d’oeuvre, enriched by a chronological arrangement, by a celebrated oriental scholar, of all the anecdotes in the Arabian Nights relating to the Caliph. It is, of course, the sun of Madame’s patronage that has hatched into noxious life the swarm of sciolists who now infest the Court, and who are sapping the husband’s political power while they are establishing the wife’s literary reputation. So much for Madame Carolina! I need hardly add that during your short stay at Court you will be delighted with her. If ever you know her as well as I do, you will find her vain, superficial, heartless; her sentiment a system, her enthusiasm exaggeration, and her genius merely a clever adoption of the profundity of others.”
“And Beckendorff and the lady are not friendly?” asked Vivian, who was delighted with his communicative companion.
“Beckendorff’s is a mind that such a woman cannot comprehend. He treats her with contempt, and, if possible, views her with hatred, for he considers that she has degraded the character of his pupil; while she, on the contrary, wonders by what magic spell he exercises such influence over the conduct of her husband. At first Beckendorff treated her and her circle of illuminati with contemptuous silence; but in politics nothing is contemptible. The Minister, knowing that the people were prosperous and happy, cared little for projected constitutions, and less for metaphysical abstractions; but some circumstances have lately occurred which, I imagine, have convinced him that for once he has miscalculated. After the arrangement of the German States, when the Princes were first mediatised, an attempt was made, by means of a threatening league, to obtain for these political victims a very ample share of the power and patronage of the new State of Reisenburg. This plan failed from the lukewarmness and indecision of our good friend of Little Lilliput, who, between ourselves, was prevented from joining the alliance by the intrigues of Beckendorff. Beckendorff secretly took measures that the Prince should be promised that, in case of his keeping backward, he should obtain more than would fall to his lot by leading the van. The Prince of Little Lilliput and his peculiar friends accordingly were quiet, and the attempt of the other chieftains failed. It was then that his Highness found that he had been duped. Beckendorff would not acknowledge the authority, and, of course, did not redeem the pledge, of his agent. The effect that this affair produced upon the Prince’s mind you can conceive. Since then he has never frequented Reisenburg, but constantly resided either at his former capital, now a provincial town of the Grand Duchy, or at this castle; viewed, you may suppose, with no very cordial feeling by his companions in misfortune. But the thirst of revenge will inscribe the bitterest enemies in the same muster-roll; and the Princes, incited by the bold carriage of Madame Carolina’s philosophical protégés, and induced to believe that Beckendorff’s power is on the wane, have again made overtures to our friend, without whose powerful assistance they feel that they have but little chance of success. Observe how much more men’s conduct is influenced by circumstances than principles! When these persons leagued together before it was with the avowed intention of obtaining a share of the power and patronage of the State: the great body of the people, of course, did not sympathise in that which, after all, to them was a party quarrel, and by the joint exertions of open force and secret intrigue the Court triumphed. But now these same individuals come forward, not as indignant Princes demanding a share of the envied tyranny, but as ardent patriots advocating a people’s rights. The public, though I believe that in fact they will make no bodily exertion to acquire a constitutional freedom the absence of which they can only abstractedly feel, have no objection to attain that which they are assured will not injure their situation, provided it be by the risk and exertions of others. So far, therefore, as clamour can support the Princes, they have the people on their side; and as upwards of three hundred thousand of the Grand Ducal subjects are still living on their estates, and still consider themselves as their serfs, they trust that some excesses from this great body may incite the rest of the people to similar outrages. The natural disposition of mankind to imitation, particularly when the act to be imitated is popular, deserves attention. The Court is divided; for the exertions of Madame and the bewitching influence of Fashion have turned the heads even of greybeards: and to give you only one instance, his Excellency the Grand Marshal, protégé of the House of Austria, and a favourite of Metternich, the very person to whose interests, and as a reward for whose services, our princely friend was sacrificed by the Minister, has now himself become a pupil in the school of modern philosophy, and drivels out, with equal ignorance and fervour, enlightened notions on the most obscure subjects. In the midst of all this confusion, the Grand Duke is timorous, dubious, and uncertain. Beckendorff has a difficult game to play; he may fall at last. Such, my dear sir, are the tremendous consequences of a weak Prince marrying a blue-stocking!”
“And the Crown Prince, Mr. Sievers, how does he conduct himself at this interesting moment? or is his mind so completely engrossed by the anticipation of his Imperial alliance that he has no thought for anything but his approaching bride.”
“The Crown Prince, my dear sir, is neither thinking of his bride nor of anything else: he is a hunch-backed idiot. Of his deformity I have myself been a witness; and though it is difficult to give an opinion of the intellect of a being with whom you have never interchanged a syllable, nevertheless his countenance does not contradict the common creed. I say the common creed, Mr. Grey, for there are moments when the Crown Prince of Reisenburg is spoken of by his future subjects in a very different manner. Whenever any unpopular act is committed, or any unpopular plan suggested by the Court or the Grand Duke, then whispers are immediately afloat that a future Brutus must be looked for in their Prince; then it is generally understood that his idiocy is only assumed; and what woman does not detect, in the glimmerings of his lack-lustre eye, the vivid sparks of suppressed genius! In a short time the cloud blows over the Court, dissatisfaction disappears, and the moment that the monarch is again popular the unfortunate Crown Prince again becomes the uninfluential object of pity or derision. All immediately forget that his idiocy is only assumed; and what woman ever ceases from deploring the unhappy lot of the future wife of their impuissant Prince! Such, my dear sir, is the way of mankind! At the first glance it would appear, that in this world, monarchs, on the whole, have it pretty well their own way; but reflection will soon enable us not to envy their situations; and speaking as a father, which unfortunately I am not, should I not view with disgust that lot in life which necessarily makes my son my enemy? The Crown Prince of all countries is only a puppet in the hands of the people, to be played against his own father.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53