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Letters on Sweden, Norway, and Denmark by Mary Wollstonecraft

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westward, where they boldly charge for what you never had, and seem
to consider you, as they do a wreck, if not as lawful prey, yet as a
lucky chance, which they ought not to neglect to seize.

The prospect of Elsineur, as we passed the Sound, was pleasant. I
gave three rix-dollars for my boat, including something to drink. I
mention the sum, because they impose on strangers.

Adieu! till I arrive at Copenhagen.


The distance from Elsineur to Copenhagen is twenty-two miles; the
road is very good, over a flat country diversified with wood, mostly
beech, and decent mansions. There appeared to be a great quantity
of corn land, and the soil looked much more fertile than it is in
general so near the sea. The rising grounds, indeed, were very few,
and around Copenhagen it is a perfect plain; of course has nothing
to recommend it but cultivation, not decorations. If I say that the
houses did not disgust me, I tell you all I remember of them, for I
cannot recollect any pleasurable sensations they excited, or that
any object, produced by nature or art, took me out of myself. The
view of the city, as we drew near, was rather grand, but without any
striking feature to interest the imagination, excepting the trees
which shade the footpaths.

Just before I reached Copenhagen I saw a number of tents on a wide
plain, and supposed that the rage for encampments had reached this
city; but I soon discovered that they were the asylum of many of the
poor families who had been driven out of their habitations by the
late fire.

Entering soon after, I passed amongst the dust and rubbish it had
left, affrighted by viewing the extent of the devastation, for at
least a quarter of the city had been destroyed. There was little in
the appearance of fallen bricks and stacks of chimneys to allure the
imagination into soothing melancholy reveries; nothing to attract
the eye of taste, but much to afflict the benevolent heart. The
depredations of time have always something in them to employ the
fancy, or lead to musing on subjects which, withdrawing the mind
from objects of sense, seem to give it new dignity; but here I was
treading on live ashes. The sufferers were still under the pressure
of the misery occasioned by this dreadful conflagration. I could
not take refuge in the thought: they suffered, but they are no
more! a reflection I frequently summon to calm my mind when sympathy
rises to anguish. I therefore desired the driver to hasten to the
hotel recommended to me, that I might avert my eyes and snap the
train of thinking which had sent me into all the corners of the city
in search of houseless heads.

This morning I have been walking round the town, till I am weary of
observing the ravages. I had often heard the Danes, even those who
had seen Paris and London, speak of Copenhagen with rapture.
Certainly I have seen it in a very disadvantageous light, some of
the best streets having been burnt, and the whole place thrown into
confusion. Still the utmost that can, or could ever, I believe,
have been said in its praise, might be comprised in a few words.
The streets are open, and many of the houses large; but I saw
nothing to rouse the idea of elegance or grandeur, if I except the
circus where the king and prince royal reside.

The palace, which was consumed about two years ago, must have been a
handsome, spacious building; the stone-work is still standing, and a
great number of the poor, during the late fire, took refuge in its
ruins till they could find some other abode. Beds were thrown on
the landing-places of the grand staircase, where whole families
crept from the cold, and every little nook is boarded up as a
retreat for some poor creatures deprived of their home. At present
a roof may be sufficient to shelter them from the night air; but as
the season advances, the extent of the calamity will be more
severely felt, I fear, though the exertions on the part of
Government are very considerable. Private charity has also, no
doubt, done much to alleviate the misery which obtrudes itself at
every turn; still, public spirit appears to me to be hardly alive
here. Had it existed, the conflagration might have been smothered
in the beginning, as it was at last, by tearing down several houses
before the flames had reached them. To this the inhabitants would
not consent; and the prince royal not having sufficient energy of
character to know when he ought to be absolute, calmly let them
pursue their own course, till the whole city seemed to be threatened
with destruction. Adhering, with puerile scrupulosity, to the law
which he has imposed on himself, of acting exactly right, he did
wrong by idly lamenting whilst he marked the progress of a mischief
that one decided step would have stopped. He was afterwards obliged
to resort to violent measures; but then, who could blame him? And,
to avoid censure, what sacrifices are not made by weak minds?

A gentleman who was a witness of the scene assured me, likewise,
that if the people of property had taken half as much pains to
extinguish the fire as to preserve their valuables and furniture, it
would soon have been got under. But they who were not immediately
in danger did not exert themselves sufficiently, till fear, like an
electrical shock, roused all the inhabitants to a sense of the
general evil. Even the fire-engines were out of order, though the
burning of the palace ought to have admonished them of the necessity
of keeping them in constant repair. But this kind of indolence
respecting what does not immediately concern them seems to
characterise the Danes. A sluggish concentration in themselves
makes them so careful to preserve their property, that they will not
venture on any enterprise to increase it in which there is a shadow
of hazard.

Considering Copenhagen as the capital of Denmark and Norway, I was
surprised not to see so much industry or taste as in Christiania.
Indeed, from everything I have had an opportunity of observing, the
Danes are the people who have made the fewest sacrifices to the

The men of business are domestic tyrants, coldly immersed in their
own affairs, and so ignorant of the state of other countries, that
they dogmatically assert that Denmark is the happiest country in the
world; the Prince Royal the best of all possible princes; and Count
Bernstorff the wisest of ministers.

As for the women, they are simply notable housewives; without
accomplishments or any of the charms that adorn more advanced social
life. This total ignorance may enable them to save something in
their kitchens, but it is far from rendering them better parents.
On the contrary, the children are spoiled, as they usually are when
left to the care of weak, indulgent mothers, who having no principle
of action to regulate their feelings, become the slaves of infants,
enfeebling both body and mind by false tenderness.

I am, perhaps, a little prejudiced, as I write from the impression
of the moment; for I have been tormented to-day by the presence of
unruly children, and made angry by some invectives thrown out
against the maternal character of the unfortunate Matilda. She was
censured, with the most cruel insinuation, for her management of her
son, though, from what I could gather, she gave proofs of good sense
as well as tenderness in her attention to him. She used to bathe
him herself every morning; insisted on his being loosely clad; and
would not permit his attendants to injure his digestion by humouring
his appetite. She was equally careful to prevent his acquiring
haughty airs, and playing the tyrant in leading-strings. The Queen
Dowager would not permit her to suckle him; but the next child being
a daughter, and not the Heir-Apparent of the Crown, less opposition
was made to her discharging the duty of a mother.

Poor Matilda! thou hast haunted me ever since may arrival; and the
view I have had of the manners of the country, exciting my sympathy,
has increased my respect for thy memory.

I am now fully convinced that she was the victim of the party she
displaced, who would have overlooked or encouraged her attachment,
had not her lover, aiming at being useful, attempted to overturn
some established abuses before the people, ripe for the change, had
sufficient spirit to support him when struggling in their behalf.
Such indeed was the asperity sharpened against her that I have heard
her, even after so many years have elapsed, charged with
licentiousness, not only for endeavouring to render the public
amusements more elegant, but for her very charities, because she
erected, amongst other institutions, a hospital to receive
foundlings. Disgusted with many customs which pass for virtues,
though they are nothing more than observances of forms, often at the
expense of truth, she probably ran into an error common to
innovators, in wishing to do immediately what can only be done by

Many very cogent reasons have been urged by her friends to prove
that her affection for Struensee was never carried to the length
alleged against her by those who feared her influence. Be that as
it may she certainly was no a woman of gallantry, and if she had an
attachment for him it did not disgrace her heart or understanding,
the king being a notorious debauchee and an idiot into the bargain.
As the king's conduct had always been directed by some favourite,
they also endeavoured to govern him, from a principle of self-
preservation as well as a laudable ambition; but, not aware of the
prejudices they had to encounter, the system they adopted displayed
more benevolence of heart than soundness of judgment. As to the
charge, still believed, of their giving the King drugs to injure his
faculties, it is too absurd to be refuted. Their oppressors had
better have accused them of dabbling in the black art, for the
potent spell still keeps his wits in bondage.

I cannot describe to you the effect it had on me to see this puppet
of a monarch moved by the strings which Count Bernstorff holds fast;
sit, with vacant eye, erect, receiving the homage of courtiers who
mock him with a show of respect. He is, in fact, merely a machine
of state, to subscribe the name of a king to the acts of the
Government, which, to avoid danger, have no value unless
countersigned by the Prince Royal; for he is allowed to be
absolutely aim idiot, excepting that now and then an observation or
trick escapes him, which looks more like madness than imbecility.

What a farce is life. This effigy of majesty is allowed to burn
down to the socket, whilst the hapless Matilda was hurried into an
untimely grave.

"As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport."



Business having obliged me to go a few miles out of town this
morning I was surprised at meeting a crowd of people of every
description, and inquiring the cause of a servant, who spoke French,
I was informed that a man had been executed two hours before, and
the body afterwards burnt. I could not help looking with horror
around--the fields lost their verdure--and I turned with disgust
from the well-dressed women who were returning with their children
from this sight. What a spectacle for humanity! The seeing such a
flock of idle gazers plunged me into a train of reflections on the
pernicious effects produced by false notions of justice. And I am
persuaded that till capital punishments are entirely abolished
executions ought to have every appearance of horror given to them,
instead of being, as they are now, a scene of amusement for the
gaping crowd, where sympathy is quickly effaced by curiosity.

I have always been of opinion that the allowing actors to die in the
presence of the audience has an immoral tendency, but trifling when
compared with the ferocity acquired by viewing the reality as a
show; for it seems to me that in all countries the common people go
to executions to see how the poor wretch plays his part, rather than
to commiserate his fate, much less to think of the breach of
morality which has brought him to such a deplorable end.
Consequently executions, far from being useful examples to the
survivors, have, I am persuaded, a quite contrary effect, by
hardening the heart they ought to terrify. Besides the fear of an
ignominious death, I believe, never deferred anyone from the
commission of a crime, because, in committing it, the mind is roused
to activity about present circumstances. It is a game at hazard, at
which all expect the turn of the die in their own favour, never
reflecting on the chance of ruin till it comes. In fact, from what
I saw in the fortresses of Norway, I am more and more convinced that
the same energy of character which renders a man a daring villain
would have rendered him useful to society, had that society been
well organised. When a strong mind is not disciplined by
cultivation it is a sense of injustice that renders it unjust.

Executions, however, occur very rarely at Copenhagen; for timidity,
rather than clemency, palsies all the operations of the present
Government. The malefactor who died this morning would not,
probably, have been punished with death at any other period; but an
incendiary excites universal execration; and as the greater part of
the inhabitants are still distressed by the late conflagration, an
example was thought absolutely necessary; though, from what I can
gather, the fire was accidental.

Not, but that I have very seriously been informed, that combustible
materials were placed at proper distance, by the emissaries of Mr.
Pitt; and, to corroborate the fact, many people insist that the
flames burst out at once in different parts of the city; not
allowing the wind to have any hand in it. So much for the plot.
But the fabricators of plots in all countries build their
conjectures on the "baseless fabric of a vision;" and it seems even
a sort of poetical justice, that whilst this Minister is crushing at
home plots of his own conjuring up, on the Continent, and in the
north, he should, with as little foundation, be accused of wishing
to set the world on fire.

I forgot to mention to you, that I was informed, by a man of
veracity, that two persons came to the stake to drink a glass of the
criminal's blood, as an infallible remedy for the apoplexy. And
when I animadverted in the company, where it was mentioned, on such
a horrible violation of nature, a Danish lady reproved me very
severely, asking how I knew that it was not a cure for the disease?
adding, that every attempt was justifiable in search of health. I
did not, you may imagine, enter into an argument with a person the
slave of such a gross prejudice. And I allude to it not only as a
trait of the ignorance of the people, but to censure the Government
for not preventing scenes that throw an odium on the human race.

Empiricism is not peculiar to Denmark; and I know no way of rooting
it out, though it be a remnant of exploded witchcraft, till the
acquiring a general knowledge of the component parts of the human
frame becomes a part of public education.

Since the fire, the inhabitants have been very assiduously employed
in searching for property secreted during the confusion; and it is
astonishing how many people, formerly termed reputable, had availed
themselves of the common calamity to purloin what the flames spared.
Others, expert at making a distinction without a difference,
concealed what they found, not troubling themselves to inquire for
the owners, though they scrupled to search for plunder anywhere, but
amongst the ruins.

To be honester than the laws require is by most people thought a
work of supererogation; and to slip through the grate of the law has
ever exercised the abilities of adventurers, who wish to get rich
the shortest way. Knavery without personal danger is an art brought
to great perfection by the statesman and swindler; and meaner knaves
are not tardy in following their footsteps.

It moves my gall to discover some of the commercial frauds practised
during the present war. In short, under whatever point of view I
consider society, it appears to me that an adoration of property is
the root of all evil. Here it does not render the people
enterprising, as in America, but thrifty and cautious. I never,
therefore, was in a capital where there was so little appearance of
active industry; and as for gaiety, I looked in vain for the
sprightly gait of the Norwegians, who in every respect appear to me
to have got the start of them. This difference I attribute to their
having more liberty--a liberty which they think their right by
inheritance, whilst the Danes, when they boast of their negative
happiness, always mention it as the boon of the Prince Royal, under
the superintending wisdom of Count Bernstorff. Vassalage is
nevertheless ceasing throughout the kingdom, and with it will pass
away that sordid avarice which every modification of slavery is
calculated to produce.

If the chief use of property be power, in the shape of the respect
it procures, is it not among the inconsistencies of human nature
most incomprehensible, that men should find a pleasure in hoarding
up property which they steal from their necessities, even when they
are convinced that it would be dangerous to display such an enviable
superiority? Is not this the situation of serfs in every country.
Yet a rapacity to accumulate money seems to become stronger in
proportion as it is allowed to be useless.

Wealth does not appear to be sought for amongst the Danes, to obtain
the excellent luxuries of life, for a want of taste is very
conspicuous at Copenhagen; so much so that I am not surprised to
hear that poor Matilda offended the rigid Lutherans by aiming to
refine their pleasures. The elegance which she wished to introduce
was termed lasciviousness; yet I do not find that the absence of
gallantry renders the wives more chaste, or the husbands more
constant. Love here seems to corrupt the morals without polishing
the manners, by banishing confidence and truth, the charm as well as
cement of domestic life. A gentleman, who has resided in this city
some time, assures me that he could not find language to give me an
idea of the gross debaucheries into which the lower order of people
fall; and the promiscuous amours of the men of the middling class
with their female servants debase both beyond measure, weakening
every species of family affection.

I have everywhere been struck by one characteristic difference in
the conduct of the two sexes; women, in general, are seduced by
their superiors, and men jilted by their inferiors: rank and
manners awe the one, and cunning and wantonness subjugate the other;
ambition creeping into the woman's passion, and tyranny giving force
to the man's, for most men treat their mistresses as kings do their
favourites: ergo is not man then the tyrant of the creation?

Still harping on the same subject, you will exclaim--How can I avoid
it, when most of the struggles of an eventful life have been
occasioned by the oppressed state of my sex? We reason deeply when
we feel forcibly.

But to return to the straight road of observation. The sensuality
so prevalent appears to me to arise rather from indolence of mind
and dull senses, than from an exuberance of life, which often
fructifies the whole character when the vivacity of youthful spirits
begins to subside into strength of mind.

I have before mentioned that the men are domestic tyrants,
considering them as fathers, brothers, or husbands; but there is a
kind of interregnum between the reign of the father and husband
which is the only period of freedom and pleasure that the women
enjoy. Young people who are attached to each other, with the
consent of their friends, exchange rings, and are permitted to enjoy
a degree of liberty together which 1 have never noticed in any other
country. The days of courtship are, therefore, prolonged till it be
perfectly convenient to marry: the intimacy often becomes very
tender; and if the lover obtain the privilege of a husband, it can
only be termed half by stealth, because the family is wilfully
blind. It happens very rarely that these honorary engagements are
dissolved or disregarded, a stigma being attached to a breach of
faith which is thought more disgraceful, if not so criminal, as the
violation of the marriage-vow.

Do not forget that, in my general observations, I do not pretend to
sketch a national character, but merely to note the present state of
morals and manners as I trace the progress of the world's
improvement. Because, during my residence in different countries,
my principal object has been to take such a dispassionate view of
men as will lead me to form a just idea of the nature of man. And,
to deal ingenuously with you, I believe I should have been less
severe in the remarks I have made on the vanity and depravity of the
French, had I travelled towards the north before I visited France.

The interesting picture frequently drawn of the virtues of a rising
people has, I fear, been fallacious, excepting the accounts of the
enthusiasm which various public struggles have produced. We talk of
the depravity of the French, and lay a stress on the old age of the
nation; yet where has more virtuous enthusiasm been displayed than
during the two last years by the common people of France, and in
their armies? I am obliged sometimes to recollect the numberless
instances which I have either witnessed, or heard well
authenticated, to balance the account of horrors, alas! but too
true. I am, therefore, inclined to believe that the gross vices
which I have always seem allied with simplicity of manners, are the
concomitants of ignorance.

What, for example, has piety, under the heathen or Christian system,
been, but a blind faith in things contrary to the principles of
reason? And could poor reason make considerable advances when it
was reckoned the highest degree of virtue to do violence to its
dictates? Lutherans, preaching reformation, have built a reputation
for sanctity on the same foundation as the Catholics; yet I do not
perceive that a regular attendance on public worship, and their
other observances, make them a whit more true in their affections,
or honest in their private transactions. It seems, indeed, quite as
easy to prevaricate with religious injunctions as human laws, when
the exercise of their reason does not lead people to acquire
principles for themselves to be the criterion of all those they
receive from others.

If travelling, as the completion of a liberal education, were to be
adopted on rational grounds, the northern states ought to be visited
before the more polished parts of Europe, to serve as the elements
even of the knowledge of manners, only to be acquired by tracing the
various shades in different countries. But, when visiting distant
climes, a momentary social sympathy should not be allowed to
influence the conclusions of the understanding, for hospitality too
frequently leads travellers, especially those who travel in search
of pleasure, to make a false estimate of the virtues of a nation,
which, I am now convinced, bear an exact proportion to their
scientific improvements.



I have formerly censured the French for their extreme attachment to
theatrical exhibitions, because I thought that they tended to render
them vain and unnatural characters; but I must acknowledge,
especially as women of the town never appear in the Parisian as at
our theatres, that the little saving of the week is more usefully
expended there every Sunday than in porter or brandy, to intoxicate
or stupify the mind. The common people of France have a great
superiority over that class in every other country on this very
score. It is merely the sobriety of the Parisians which renders
their fetes more interesting, their gaiety never becoming disgusting
or dangerous, as is always the case when liquor circulates.
Intoxication is the pleasure of savages, and of all those whose
employments rather exhaust their animal spirits than exercise their
faculties. Is not this, in fact, the vice, both in England and the
northern states of Europe, which appears to be the greatest
impediment to general improvement? Drinking is here the principal
relaxation of the men, including smoking, but the women are very
abstemious, though they have no public amusements as a substitute.
I ought to except one theatre, which appears more than is necessary;
for when I was there it was not half full, and neither the ladies
nor actresses displayed much fancy in their dress.

The play was founded on the story of the "Mock Doctor;" and, from
the gestures of the servants, who were the best actors, I should
imagine contained some humour. The farce, termed ballet, was a kind
of pantomime, the childish incidents of which were sufficient to
show the state of the dramatic art in Denmark, and the gross taste
of the audience. A magician, in the disguise of a tinker, enters a
cottage where the women are all busy ironing, and rubs a dirty
frying-pan against the linen. The women raise a hue-and-cry, and
dance after him, rousing their husbands, who join in the dance, but
get the start of them in the pursuit. The tinker, with the frying-
pan for a shield, renders them immovable, and blacks their cheeks.
Each laughs at the other, unconscious of his own appearance;
meanwhile the women enter to enjoy the sport, "the rare fun," with
other incidents of the same species.

The singing was much on a par with the dancing, the one as destitute
of grace as the other of expression; but the orchestra was well
filled, the instrumental being far superior to the vocal music.

I have likewise visited the public library and museum, as well as
the palace of Rosembourg. This palace, now deserted, displays a
gloomy kind of grandeur throughout, for the silence of spacious
apartments always makes itself to be felt; I at least feel it, and I
listen for the sound of my footsteps as I have done at midnight to
the ticking of the death-watch, encouraging a kind of fanciful
superstition. Every object carried me back to past times, and
impressed the manners of the age forcibly on my mind. In this point
of view the preservation of old palaces and their tarnished
furniture is useful, for they may be considered as historical

The vacuum left by departed greatness was everywhere observable,
whilst the battles and processions portrayed on the walls told you
who had here excited revelry after retiring from slaughter, or
dismissed pageantry in search of pleasure. It seemed a vast tomb
full of the shadowy phantoms of those who had played or toiled their
hour out and sunk behind the tapestry which celebrated the conquests
of love or war. Could they be no more--to whom my imagination thus
gave life? Could the thoughts, of which there remained so many
vestiges, have vanished quite away? And these beings, composed of
such noble materials of thinking and feeling, have they only melted
into the elements to keep in motion the grand mass of life? It
cannot be!--as easily could I believe that the large silver lions at
the top of the banqueting room thought and reasoned. But avaunt! ye
waking dreams! yet I cannot describe the curiosities to you.

There were cabinets full of baubles and gems, and swords which must
have been wielded by giant's hand. The coronation ornaments wait
quietly here till wanted, and the wardrobe exhibits the vestments
which formerly graced these shows. It is a pity they do not lend
them to the actors, instead of allowing them to perish ingloriously.

I have not visited any other palace, excepting Hirsholm, the gardens
of which are laid out with taste, and command the finest views the
country affords. As they are in the modern and English style, I
thought I was following the footsteps of Matilda, who wished to
multiply around her the images of her beloved country. I was also
gratified by the sight of a Norwegian landscape in miniature, which
with great propriety makes a part of the Danish King's garden. The
cottage is well imitated, and the whole has a pleasing effect,
particularly so to me who love Norway--its peaceful farms and
spacious wilds.

The public library consists of a collection much larger than I
expected to see; and it is well arranged. Of the value of the
Icelandic manuscripts I could not form a judgment, though the
alphabet of some of them amused me, by showing what immense labour
men will submit to, in order to transmit their ideas to posterity.
I have sometimes thought it a great misfortune for individuals to
acquire a certain delicacy of sentiment, which often makes them
weary of the common occurrences of life; yet it is this very
delicacy of feeling and thinking which probably has produced most of
the performances that have benefited mankind. It might with
propriety, perhaps, be termed the malady of genius; the cause of
that characteristic melancholy which "grows with its growth, and
strengthens with its strength."

There are some good pictures in the royal museum. Do not start, I
am not going to trouble you with a dull catalogue, or stupid
criticisms on masters to whom time has assigned their just niche in
the temple of fame; had there been any by living artists of this
country, I should have noticed them, as making a part of the
sketches I am drawing of the present state of the place. The good
pictures were mixed indiscriminately with the bad ones, in order to
assort the frames. The same fault is conspicuous in the new
splendid gallery forming at Paris; though it seems an obvious
thought that a school for artists ought to be arranged in such a
manner, as to show the progressive discoveries and improvements in
the art.

A collection of the dresses, arms, and implements of the Laplanders
attracted my attention, displaying that first species of ingenuity
which is rather a proof of patient perseverance, than comprehension
of mind. The specimens of natural history, and curiosities of art,
were likewise huddled together without that scientific order which
alone renders them useful; but this may partly have been occasioned
by the hasty manner in which they were removed from the palace when
in flames.

There are some respectable men of science here, but few literary
characters, and fewer artists. They want encouragement, and will
continue, I fear, from the present appearance of things, to languish
unnoticed a long time; for neither the vanity of wealth, nor the
enterprising spirit of commerce, has yet thrown a glance that way.

Besides, the Prince Royal, determined to be economical, almost
descends to parsimony; and perhaps depresses his subjects, by
labouring not to oppress them; for his intentions always seem to be
good--yet nothing can give a more forcible idea of the dulness which
eats away all activity of mind, than the insipid routine of a court,
without magnificence or elegance.

The Prince, from what I can now collect, has very moderate
abilities; yet is so well disposed, that Count Bernstorff finds him
as tractable as he could wish; for I consider the Count as the real
sovereign, scarcely behind the curtain; the Prince having none of
that obstinate self-sufficiency of youth, so often the forerunner of
decision of character. He and the Princess his wife, dine every day
with the King, to save the expense of two tables. What a mummery it
must be to treat as a king a being who has lost the majesty of man!
But even Count Bernstorff's morality submits to this standing
imposition; and he avails himself of it sometimes, to soften a
refusal of his own, by saying it is the WILL of the King, my master,
when everybody knows that he has neither will nor memory. Much the
same use is made of him as, I have observed, some termagant wives
make of their husbands; they would dwell on the necessity of obeying
their husbands, poor passive souls, who never were allowed TO WILL,
when they wanted to conceal their own tyranny.

A story is told here of the King's formerly making a dog counsellor
of state, because when the dog, accustomed to eat at the royal
table, snatched a piece of meat off an old officer's plate, he
reproved him jocosely, saying that he, monsieur le chien, had not
the privilege of dining with his majesty, a privilege annexed to
this distinction.

The burning of the palace was, in fact, a fortunate circumstance, as
it afforded a pretext for reducing the establishment of the
household, which was far too great for the revenue of the Crown.
The Prince Royal, at present, runs into the opposite extreme; and
the formality, if not the parsimony, of the court, seems to extend
to all the other branches of society, which I had an opportunity of
observing; though hospitality still characterises their intercourse
with strangers.

But let me now stop; I may be a little partial, and view everything
with the jaundiced eye of melancholy--for I am sad--and have cause.

God bless you!


I have seen Count Bernstorff; and his conversation confirms me in
the opinion I had previously formed of him; I mean, since my arrival
at Copenhagen. He is a worthy man, a little vain of his virtue a la
Necker; and more anxious not to do wrong, that is to avoid blame,
than desirous of doing good; especially if any particular good
demands a change. Prudence, in short, seems to be the basis of his
character; and, from the tenor of the Government, I should think
inclining to that cautious circumspection which treads on the heels
of timidity. He has considerable information, and some finesse; or
he could not be a Minister. Determined not to risk his popularity,
for he is tenderly careful of his reputation, he will never
gloriously fail like Struensee, or disturb, with the energy of
genius, the stagnant state of the public mind.

I suppose that Lavater, whom he invited to visit him two years ago--
some say to fix the principles of the Christian religion firmly in
the Prince Royal's mind, found lines in his face to prove him a
statesman of the first order; because he has a knack at seeing a
great character in the countenances of men in exalted stations, who
have noticed him or his works. Besides, the Count's sentiments
relative to the French Revolution, agreeing with Lavater's, must
have ensured his applause.

The Danes, in general, seem extremely averse to innovation, and if
happiness only consist in opinion, they are the happiest people in
the world; for I never saw any so well satisfied with their own
situation. Yet the climate appears to be very disagreeable, the
weather being dry and sultry, or moist and cold; the atmosphere
never having that sharp, bracing purity, which in Norway prepares
you to brave its rigours. I do not hear the inhabitants of this
place talk with delight of the winter, which is the constant theme
of the Norwegians; on the contrary, they seem to dread its
comfortless inclemency.

The ramparts are pleasant, and must have been much more so before
the fire, the walkers not being annoyed by the clouds of dust which,
at present, the slightest wind wafts from the ruins. The windmills,
and the comfortable houses contiguous, belonging to the millers, as
well as the appearance of the spacious barracks for the soldiers and
sailors, tend to render this walk more agreeable. The view of the
country has not much to recommend it to notice but its extent and
cultivation: yet as the eye always delights to dwell on verdant
plains, especially when we are resident in a great city, these shady
walks should be reckoned amongst the advantages procured by the
Government for the inhabitants. I like them better than the Royal
Gardens, also open to the public, because the latter seem sunk in
the heart of the city, to concentrate its fogs.

The canals which intersect the streets are equally convenient and
wholesome; but the view of the sea commanded by the town had little
to interest me whilst the remembrance of the various bold and
picturesque shores I had seen was fresh in my memory. Still the
opulent inhabitants, who seldom go abroad, must find the spots were
they fix their country seats much pleasanter on account of the
vicinity of the ocean.

One of the best streets in Copenhagen is almost filled with
hospitals, erected by the Government, and, I am assured, as well
regulated as institutions of this kind are in any country; but
whether hospitals or workhouses are anywhere superintended with
sufficient humanity I have frequently had reason to doubt.

The autumn is so uncommonly fine that I am unwilling to put off my
journey to Hamburg much longer, lest the weather should alter
suddenly, and the chilly harbingers of winter catch me here, where I
have nothing now to detain me but the hospitality of the families to
whom I had recommendatory letters. I lodged at an hotel situated in
a large open square, where the troops exercise and the market is
kept. My apartments were very good; and on account of the fire I
was told that I should be charged very high; yet, paying my bill
just now, I find the demands much lower in proportion than in
Norway, though my dinners were in every respect better.

I have remained more at home since I arrived at Copenhagen than I
ought to have done in a strange place, but the mind is not always
equally active in search of information, and my oppressed heart too
often sighs out -

"How dull, flat, and unprofitable
Are to me all the usages of this world:
That it should come to this!"

Farewell! Fare thee well, I say; if thou canst, repeat the adieu in
a different tone.


I arrived at Corsoer the night after I quitted Copenhagen, purposing
to take my passage across the Great Belt the next morning, though
the weather was rather boisterous. It is about four-and-twenty
miles but as both I and my little girl are never attacked by sea-
sickness--though who can avoid ennui?--I enter a boat with the same
indifference as I change horses; and as for danger, come when it
may, I dread it not sufficiently to have any anticipating fears.

The road from Copenhagen was very good, through an open, flat
country that had little to recommend it to notice excepting the
cultivation, which gratified my heart more than my eye.

I took a barge with a German baron who was hastening back from a
tour into Denmark, alarmed by the intelligence of the French having
passed the Rhine. His conversation beguiled the time, and gave a
sort of stimulus to my spirits, which had been growing more and more
languid ever since my return to Gothenburg; you know why. I had
often endeavoured to rouse myself to observation by reflecting that
I was passing through scenes which I should probably never see
again, and consequently ought not to omit observing. Still I fell
into reveries, thinking, by way of excuse, that enlargement of mind
and refined feelings are of little use but to barb the arrows of
sorrow which waylay us everywhere, eluding the sagacity of wisdom
and rendering principles unavailing, if considered as a breastwork
to secure our own hearts.

Though we had not a direct wind, we were not detained more than
three hours and a half on the water, just long enough to give us an
appetite for our dinner.

We travelled the remainder of the day and the following night in
company with the same party, the German gentleman whom I have
mentioned, his friend, and servant. The meetings at the post-houses
were pleasant to me, who usually heard nothing but strange tongues
around me. Marguerite and the child often fell asleep, and when
they were awake I might still reckon myself alone, as our train of
thoughts had nothing in common. Marguerite, it is true, was much
amused by the costume of the women, particularly by the pannier
which adorned both their heads and tails, and with great glee
recounted to me the stories she had treasured up for her family when
once more within the barriers of dear Paris, not forgetting, with
that arch, agreeable vanity peculiar to the French, which they
exhibit whilst half ridiculing it, to remind me of the importance
she should assume when she informed her friends of all her journeys
by sea and land, showing the pieces of money she had collected, and
stammering out a few foreign phrases, which she repeated in a true
Parisian accent. Happy thoughtlessness! ay, and enviable harmless
vanity, which thus produced a gaite du coeur worth all my

The man I had hired at Copenhagen advised me to go round about
twenty miles to avoid passing the Little Belt excepting by a ferry,
as the wind was contrary. But the gentlemen overruled his
arguments, which we were all very sorry for afterwards, when we
found ourselves becalmed on the Little Belt ten hours, tacking about
without ceasing, to gain the shore.

An oversight likewise made the passage appear much more tedious,
nay, almost insupportable. When I went on board at the Great Belt,
I had provided refreshments in case of detention, which remaining
untouched I thought not then any such precaution necessary for the
second passage, misled by the epithet of "little," though I have
since been informed that it is frequently the longest. This mistake
occasioned much vexation; for the child, at last, began to cry so
bitterly for bread, that fancy conjured up before me the wretched
Ugolino, with his famished children; and I, literally speaking,
enveloped myself in sympathetic horrors, augmented by every fear my
babe shed, from which I could not escape till we landed, and a
luncheon of bread and basin of milk routed the spectres of fancy.

I then supped with my companions, with whom I was soon after to part
for ever--always a most melancholy death-like idea--a sort of
separation of soul; for all the regret which follows those from whom
fate separates us seems to be something torn from ourselves. These
were strangers I remember; yet when there is any originality in a
countenance, it takes its place in our memory, and we are sorry to
lose an acquaintance the moment he begins to interest us, through
picked up on the highway. There was, in fact, a degree of
intelligence, and still more sensibility, in the features and
conversation of one of the gentlemen, that made me regret the loss
of his society during the rest of the journey; for he was compelled
to travel post, by his desire to reach his estate before the arrival
of the French.

This was a comfortable inn, as were several others I stopped at; but
the heavy sandy roads were very fatiguing, after the fine ones we
had lately skimmed over both in Sweden and Denmark. The country
resembled the most open part of England--laid out for corn rather
than grazing. It was pleasant, yet there was little in the
prospects to awaken curiosity, by displaying the peculiar
characteristics of a new country, which had so frequently stole me
from myself in Norway. We often passed over large unenclosed
tracts, not graced with trees, or at least very sparingly enlivened
by them, and the half-formed roads seemed to demand the landmarks,
set up in the waste, to prevent the traveller from straying far out
of his way, and plodding through the wearisome sand.

The heaths were dreary, and had none of the wild charms of those of
Sweden and Norway to cheat time; neither the terrific rocks, nor
smiling herbage grateful to the sight and scented from afar, made us
forget their length. Still the country appeared much more populous,
and the towns, if not the farmhouses, were superior to those of
Norway. I even thought that the inhabitants of the former had more
intelligence--at least, I am sure they had more vivacity in their
countenances than I had seen during my northern tour: their senses
seemed awake to business and pleasure. I was therefore gratified by
hearing once more the busy hum of industrious men in the day, and
the exhilarating sounds of joy in the evening; for, as the weather
was still fine, the women and children were amusing themselves at
their doors, or walking under the trees, which in many places were
planted in the streets; and as most of the towns of any note were
situated on little bays or branches of the Baltic, their appearance
as we approached was often very picturesque, and, when we entered,
displayed the comfort and cleanliness of easy, if not the elegance
of opulent, circumstances. But the cheerfulness of the people in
the streets was particularly grateful to me, after having been
depressed by the deathlike silence of those of Denmark, where every
house made me think of a tomb. The dress of the peasantry is suited
to the climate; in short, none of that poverty and dirt appeared, at
the sight of which the heart sickens.

As I only stopped to change horses, take refreshment, and sleep, I
had not an opportunity of knowing more of the country than
conclusions which the information gathered by my eyes enabled me to
draw, and that was sufficient to convince me that I should much
rather have lived in some of the towns I now pass through than in
any I had seen in Sweden or Denmark. The people struck me as having
arrived at that period when the faculties will unfold themselves; in
short; they look alive to improvement, neither congealed by
indolence, nor bent down by wretchedness to servility.

From the previous impression--I scarcely can trace whence I received
it--I was agreeably surprised to perceive such an appearance of
comfort in this part of Germany. I had formed a conception of the
tyranny of the petty potentates that had thrown a gloomy veil over
the face of the whole country in my imagination, that cleared away
like the darkness of night before the sun as I saw the reality. I
should probably have discovered much lurking misery, the consequence
of ignorant oppression, no doubt, had I had time to inquire into
particulars; but it did not stalk abroad and infect the surface over
which my eye glanced. Yes, I am persuaded that a considerable
degree of general knowledge pervades this country, for it is only
from the exercise of the mind that the body acquires the activity
from which I drew these inferences. Indeed, the King of Denmark's
German dominions--Holstein--appeared to me far superior to any other
part of his kingdom which had fallen under my view; and the robust
rustics to have their muscles braced, instead of the, as it were,
lounge of the Danish peasantry.

Arriving at Sleswick, the residence of Prince Charles of Hesse-
Cassel, the sight of the soldiers recalled all the unpleasing ideas
of German despotism, which imperceptibly vanished as I advanced into
the country. I viewed, with a mixture of pity and horror, these
beings training to be sold to slaughter, or be slaughtered, and fell
into reflections on an old opinion of mine, that it is the
preservation of the species, not of individuals, which appears to be
the design of the Deity throughout the whole of Nature. Blossoms
come forth only to be blighted; fish lay their spawn where it will
be devoured; and what a large portion of the human race are born
merely to be swept prematurely away! Does not this waste of budding
life emphatically assert that it is not men, but Man, whose
preservation is so necessary to the completion of the grand plan of
the universe? Children peep into existence, suffer, and die; men
play like moths about a candle, and sink into the flame; war, and
"the thousand ills which flesh is heir to," mow them down in shoals;
whilst the more cruel prejudices of society palsy existence,
introducing not less sure though slower decay.

The castle was heavy and gloomy, yet the grounds about it were laid
out with some taste; a walk, winding under the shade of lofty trees,
led to a regularly built and animated town.

I crossed the drawbridge, and entered to see this shell of a court
in miniature, mounting ponderous stairs--it would be a solecism to
say a flight--up which a regiment of men might have marched,
shouldering their firelocks to exercise in vast galleries, where all
the generations of the Princes of Hesse-Cassel might have been
mustered rank and file, though not the phantoms of all the wretched
they had bartered to support their state, unless these airy
substances could shrink and expand, like Milton's devils, to suit
the occasion.

The sight of the presence-chamber, and of the canopy to shade the
fauteuil which aped a throne, made me smile. All the world is a
stage, thought I; and few are there in it who do not play the part
they have learnt by rote; and those who do not, seem marks set up to
be pelted at by fortune, or rather as sign-posts which point out the
road to others, whilst forced to stand still themselves amidst the
mud and dust.

Waiting for our horses, we were amused by observing the dress of the
women, which was very grotesque and unwieldy. The false notion of
beauty which prevails here as well as in Denmark, I should think
very inconvenient in summer, as it consists in giving a rotundity to
a certain part of the body, not the most slim, when Nature has done
her part. This Dutch prejudice often leads them to toil under the
weight of some ten or a dozen petticoats, which, with an enormous
basket, literally speaking, as a bonnet, or a straw hat of
dimensions equally gigantic, almost completely conceal the human
form as well as face divine, often worth showing; still they looked
clean, and tripped along, as it were, before the wind, with a weight
of tackle that I could scarcely have lifted. Many of the country
girls I met appeared to me pretty--that is, to have fine
complexions, sparkling eyes, and a kind of arch, hoyden playfulness
which distinguishes the village coquette. The swains, in their
Sunday trim, attended some of these fair ones in a more slouching
pace, though their dress was not so cumbersome. The women seem to
take the lead in polishing the manners everywhere, this being the
only way to better their condition.

From what I have seen throughout my journey, I do not think the
situation of the poor in England is much, if at all, superior to
that of the same class in different parts of the world; and in
Ireland I am sure it is much inferior. I allude to the former state
of England; for at present the accumulation of national wealth only
increases the cares of the poor, and hardens the hearts of the rich,
in spite of the highly extolled rage for almsgiving.

You know that I have always been an enemy to what is termed charity,
because timid bigots, endeavouring thus to cover their sins, do
violence to justice, till, acting the demigod, they forget that they
are men. And there are others who do not even think of laying up a
treasure in heaven, whose benevolence is merely tyranny in disguise;
they assist the most worthless, because the most servile, and term
them helpless only in proportion to their fawning.

After leaving Sleswick, we passed through several pretty towns;
Itzchol particularly pleased me; and the country, still wearing the
same aspect, was improved by the appearance of more trees and
enclosures. But what gratified me most was the population. I was
weary of travelling four or five hours, never meeting a carriage,
and scarcely a peasant; and then to stop at such wretched huts as I
had seen in Sweden was surely sufficient to chill any heart awake to
sympathy, and throw a gloom over my favourite subject of
contemplation, the future improvement of the world.

The farmhouses, likewise, with the huge stables, into which we drove
whilst the horses were putting to or baiting, were very clean and
commodious. The rooms, with a door into this hall-like stable and
storehouse in one, were decent; and there was a compactness in the
appearance of the whole family lying thus snugly together under the
same roof that carried my fancy back to the primitive times, which
probably never existed with such a golden lustre as the animated
imagination lends when only able to seize the prominent features.

At one of them, a pretty young woman, with languishing eyes of
celestial blue, conducted us into a very neat parlour, and observing
how loosely and lightly my little girl was clad, began to pity her
in the sweetest accents, regardless of the rosy down of health on
her cheeks. This same damsel was dressed--it was Sunday--with taste
and even coquetry, in a cotton jacket, ornamented with knots of blue
ribbon, fancifully disposed to give life to her fine complexion. I
loitered a little to admire her, for every gesture was graceful;
and, amidst the other villagers, she looked like a garden lily
suddenly rearing its head amongst grain and corn-flowers. As the
house was small, I gave her a piece of money rather larger than it
was my custom to give to the female waiters--for I could not prevail
on her to sit down--which she received with a smile; yet took care
to give it, in my presence, to a girl who had brought the child a
slice of bread; by which I perceived that she was the mistress or
daughter of the house, and without doubt the belle of the village.
There was, in short, an appearance of cheerful industry, and of that
degree of comfort which shut out misery, in all the little hamlets
as I approached Hamburg, which agreeably surprised me.

The short jackets which the women wear here, as well as in France,
are not only more becoming to the person, but much better calculated
for women who have rustic or household employments than the long
gowns worn in England, dangling in the dirt.

All the inns on the road were better than I expected, though the
softness of the beds still harassed me, and prevented my finding the
rest I was frequently in want of, to enable me to bear the fatigue
of the next day. The charges were moderate, and the people very
civil, with a certain honest hilarity and independent spirit in
their manner, which almost made me forget that they were innkeepers,
a set of men--waiters, hostesses, chambermaids, &c., down to the
ostler, whose cunning servility in England I think particularly

The prospect of Hamburg at a distance, as well as the fine road
shaded with trees, led me to expect to see a much pleasanter city
than I found.

I was aware of the difficulty of obtaining lodgings, even at the
inns, on account of the concourse of strangers at present resorting
to such a centrical situation, and determined to go to Altona the
next day to seek for an abode, wanting now only rest. But even for
a single night we were sent from house to house, and found at last a
vacant room to sleep in, which I should have turned from with
disgust had there been a choice.

I scarcely know anything that produces more disagreeable sensations,
I mean to speak of the passing cares, the recollection of which
afterwards enlivens our enjoyments, than those excited by little
disasters of this kind. After a long journey, with our eyes
directed to some particular spot, to arrive and find nothing as it
should be is vexatious, and sinks the agitated spirits. But I, who
received the cruellest of disappointments last spring in returning
to my home, term such as these emphatically passing cares. Know you
of what materials some hearts are made? I play the child, and weep
at the recollection--for the grief is still fresh that stunned as
well as wounded me--yet never did drops of anguish like these bedew
the cheeks of infantine innocence--and why should they mine, that
never was stained by a blush of guilt? Innocent and credulous as a
child, why have I not the same happy thoughtlessness? Adieu!


I might have spared myself the disagreeable feelings I experienced
the first night of my arrival at Hamburg, leaving the open air to be
shut up in noise and dirt, had I gone immediately to Altona, where a
lodging had been prepared for me by a gentleman from whom I received
many civilities during my journey. I wished to have travelled in
company with him from Copenhagen, because I found him intelligent
and friendly, but business obliged him to hurry forward, and I wrote
to him on the subject of accommodations as soon as I was informed of
the difficulties I might have to encounter to house myself and brat.

It is but a short and pleasant walk from Hamburg to Altona, under
the shade of several rows of trees, and this walk is the more
agreeable after quitting the rough pavement of either place.

Hamburg is an ill, close-built town, swarming with inhabitants, and,
from what I could learn, like all the other free towns, governed in
a manner which bears hard on the poor, whilst narrowing the minds of
the rich; the character of the man is lost in the Hamburger. Always
afraid of the encroachments of their Danish neighbours, that is,
anxiously apprehensive of their sharing the golden harvest of
commerce with them, or taking a little of the trade off their hands-
-though they have more than they know what to do with--they are ever
on the watch, till their very eyes lose all expression, excepting
the prying glance of suspicion.

The gates of Hamburg are shut at seven in the winter and nine in the
summer, lest some strangers, who come to traffic in Hamburg, should
prefer living, and consequently--so exactly do they calculate--spend
their money out of the walls of the Hamburger's world. Immense
fortunes have been acquired by the per-cents. arising from
commissions nominally only two and a half, but mounted to eight or
ten at least by the secret manoeuvres of trade, not to include the
advantage of purchasing goods wholesale in common with contractors,
and that of having so much money left in their hands, not to play
with, I can assure you. Mushroom fortunes have started up during
the war; the men, indeed, seem of the species of the fungus, and the
insolent vulgarity which a sudden influx of wealth usually produces
in common minds is here very conspicuous, which contrasts with the
distresses of many of the emigrants, "fallen, fallen from their high
estate," such are the ups and downs of fortune's wheel. Many
emigrants have met, with fortitude, such a total change of
circumstances as scarcely can be paralleled, retiring from a palace
to an obscure lodging with dignity; but the greater number glide
about, the ghosts of greatness, with the Croix de St. Louis
ostentatiously displayed, determined to hope, "though heaven and
earth their wishes crossed." Still good breeding points out the
gentleman, and sentiments of honour and delicacy appear the
offspring of greatness of soul when compared with the grovelling
views of the sordid accumulators of cent. per cent.

Situation seems to be the mould in which men's characters are
formed: so much so, inferring from what I have lately seen, that I
mean not to be severe when I add--previously asking why priests are
in general cunning and statesmen false?--that men entirely devoted
to commerce never acquire or lose all taste and greatness of mind.
An ostentatious display of wealth without elegance, and a greedy
enjoyment of pleasure without sentiment, embrutes them till they
term all virtue of an heroic cast, romantic attempts at something
above our nature, and anxiety about the welfare of others, a search
after misery in which we have no concern. But you will say that I
am growing bitter, perhaps personal. Ah! shall I whisper to you,
that you yourself are strangely altered since you have entered
deeply into commerce--more than you are aware of; never allowing
yourself to reflect, and keeping your mind, or rather passions, in a
continual state of agitation? Nature has given you talents which
lie dormant, or are wasted in ignoble pursuits. You will rouse
yourself and shake off the vile dust that obscures you, or my
understanding, as well as my heart, deceives me egregiously--only
tell me when. But to go farther afield.

Madame la Fayette left Altona the day I arrived, to endeavour, at
Vienna, to obtain the enlargement of her husband, or permission to
share his prison. She lived in a lodging up two pairs of stairs,
without a servant, her two daughters cheerfully assisting; choosing,
as well as herself, to descend to anything before unnecessary
obligations. During her prosperity, and consequent idleness, she
did not, I am told, enjoy a good state of health, having a train of
nervous complaints, which, though they have not a name, unless the
significant word ennui be borrowed, had an existence in the higher
French circles; but adversity and virtuous exertions put these ills
to flight, and dispossessed her of a devil who deserves the
appellation of legion.

Madame Genus also resided at Altona some time, under an assumed
name, with many other sufferers of less note though higher rank. It
is, in fact, scarcely possible to stir out without meeting
interesting countenances, every lineament of which tells you that
they have seen better days.

At Hamburg, I was informed, a duke had entered into partnership with
his cook, who becoming a traiteur, they were both comfortably
supported by the profit arising from his industry. Many noble
instances of the attachment of servants to their unfortunate masters
have come to my knowledge, both here and in France, and touched my
heart, the greatest delight of which is to discover human virtue.

At Altona, a president of one of the ci-devant parliaments keeps an
ordinary, in the French style; and his wife with cheerful dignity
submits to her fate, though she is arrived at an age when people
seldom relinquish their prejudices. A girl who waits there brought
a dozen double louis d'or concealed in her clothes, at the risk of
her life, from France, which she preserves lest sickness or any
other distress should overtake her mistress, "who," she observed,
"was not accustomed to hardships." This house was particularly
recommended to me by an acquaintance of yours, the author of the
"American Farmer's Letters." I generally dine in company with him:
and the gentleman whom I have already mentioned is often diverted by
our declamations against commerce, when we compare notes respecting
the characteristics of the Hamburgers. "Why, madam," said he to me
one day, "you will not meet with a man who has any calf to his leg;
body and soul, muscles and heart, are equally shrivelled up by a
thirst of gain. There is nothing generous even in their youthful
passions; profit is their only stimulus, and calculations the sole
employment of their faculties, unless we except some gross animal
gratifications which, snatched at spare moments, tend still more to
debase the character, because, though touched by his tricking wand,
they have all the arts, without the wit, of the wing-footed god."

Perhaps you may also think us too severe; but I must add that the
more I saw of the manners of Hamburg, the more was I confirmed in my
opinion relative to the baleful effect of extensive speculations on
the moral character. Men are strange machines; and their whole
system of morality is in general held together by one grand
principle which loses its force the moment they allow themselves to
break with impunity over the bounds which secured their self-
respect. A man ceases to love humanity, and then individuals, as he
advances in the chase after wealth; as one clashes with his
interest, the other with his pleasures: to business, as it is
termed, everything must give way; nay, is sacrificed, and all the
endearing charities of citizen, husband, father, brother, become
empty names. But--but what? Why, to snap the chain of thought, I
must say farewell. Cassandra was not the only prophetess whose
warning voice has been disregarded. How much easier it is to meet
with love in the world than affection!

Yours sincerely.


My lodgings at Altona are tolerably comfortable, though not in any
proportion to the price I pay; but, owing to the present
circumstances, all the necessaries of life are here extravagantly
dear. Considering it as a temporary residence, the chief
inconvenience of which I am inclined to complain is the rough
streets that must be passed before Marguerite and the child can
reach a level road.

The views of the Elbe in the vicinity of the town are pleasant,
particularly as the prospects here afford so little variety. I
attempted to descend, and walk close to the water's edge; but there
was no path; and the smell of glue, hanging to dry, an extensive
manufactory of which is carried on close to the beach, I found
extremely disagreeable. But to commerce everything must give way;
profit and profit are the only speculations--"double--double, toil
and trouble." I have seldom entered a shady walk without being soon
obliged to turn aside to make room for the rope-makers; and the only
tree I have seen, that appeared to be planted by the hand of taste,
is in the churchyard, to shade the tomb of the poet Klopstock's

Most of the merchants have country houses to retire to during the
summer; and many of them are situated on the banks of the Elbe,
where they have the pleasure of seeing the packet-boats arrive--the
periods of most consequence to divide their week.

The moving picture, consisting of large vessels and small craft,
which are continually changing their position with the tide, renders
this noble river, the vital stream of Hamburg, very interesting; and
the windings have sometimes a very fine effect, two or three turns
being visible at once, intersecting the flat meadows; a sudden bend
often increasing the magnitude of the river; and the silvery
expanse, scarcely gliding, though bearing on its bosom so much
treasure, looks for a moment like a tranquil lake.

Nothing can be stronger than the contrast which this flat country
and strand afford, compared with the mountains and rocky coast I
have lately dwelt so much among. In fancy I return to a favourite
spot, where I seemed to have retired from man and wretchedness; but
the din of trade drags me back to all the care I left behind, when
lost in sublime emotions. Rocks aspiring towards the heavens, and,
as it were, shutting out sorrow, surrounded me, whilst peace
appeared to steal along the lake to calm my bosom, modulating the
wind that agitated the neighbouring poplars. Now I hear only an
account of the tricks of trade, or listen to the distressful tale of
some victim of ambition.

The hospitality of Hamburg is confined to Sunday invitations to the
country houses I have mentioned, when dish after dish smokes upon
the board, and the conversation ever flowing in the muddy channel of
business, it is not easy to obtain any appropriate information. Had
I intended to remain here some time, or had my mind been more alive
to general inquiries, I should have endeavoured to have been
introduced to some characters not so entirely immersed in commercial
affairs, though in this whirlpool of gain it is not very easy to
find any but the wretched or supercilious emigrants, who are not
engaged in pursuits which, in my eyes, appear as dishonourable as
gambling. The interests of nations are bartered by speculating
merchants. My God! with what sang froid artful trains of corruption
bring lucrative commissions into particular hands, disregarding the
relative situation of different countries, and can much common
honesty be expected in the discharge of trusts obtained by fraud?
But this entre nous.

During my present journey, and whilst residing in France, I have had
an opportunity of peeping behind the scenes of what are vulgarly
termed great affairs, only to discover the mean machinery which has
directed many transactions of moment. The sword has been merciful,
compared with the depredations made on human life by contractors and
by the swarm of locusts who have battened on the pestilence they
spread abroad. These men, like the owners of negro ships, never
smell on their money the blood by which it has been gained, but
sleep quietly in their beds, terming such occupations lawful
callings; yet the lightning marks not their roofs to thunder
conviction on them "and to justify the ways of God to man."

Why should I weep for myself? "Take, O world! thy much indebted
tear!" Adieu!


There is a pretty little French theatre at Altona, and the actors
are much superior to those I saw at Copenhagen. The theatres at
Hamburg are not open yet, but will very shortly, when the shutting
of the gates at seven o'clock forces the citizens to quit their
country houses. But, respecting Hamburg, I shall not be able to
obtain much more information, as I have determined to sail with the
first fair wind for England.

The presence of the French army would have rendered my intended tour
through Germany, in my way to Switzerland, almost impracticable, had
not the advancing season obliged me to alter my plan. Besides,
though Switzerland is the country which for several years I have
been particularly desirous to visit, I do not feel inclined to
ramble any farther this year; nay, I am weary of changing the scene,
and quitting people and places the moment they begin to interest me.
This also is vanity!


I left this letter unfinished, as I was hurried on board, and now I
have only to tell you that, at the sight of Dover cliffs, I wondered
how anybody could term them grand; they appear so insignificant to
me, after those I had seen in Sweden and Norway.

Adieu! My spirit of observation seems to be fled, and I have been
wandering round this dirty place, literally speaking, to kill time,
though the thoughts I would fain fly from lie too close to my heart
to be easily shook off, or even beguiled, by any employment, except
that of preparing for my journey to London.

God bless you!



Private business and cares have frequently so absorbed me as to
prevent my obtaining all the information during this journey which
the novelty of the scenes would have afforded, had my attention been
continually awake to inquiry. This insensibility to present objects
I have often had occasion to lament since I have been preparing
these letters for the press; but, as a person of any thought
naturally considers the history of a strange country to contrast the
former with the present state of its manners, a conviction of the
increasing knowledge and happiness of the kingdoms I passed through
was perpetually the result of my comparative reflections.

The poverty of the poor in Sweden renders the civilisation very
partial, and slavery has retarded the improvement of every class in
Denmark, yet both are advancing; and the gigantic evils of despotism
and anarchy have in a great measure vanished before the meliorating
manners of Europe. Innumerable evils still remain, it is true, to
afflict the humane investigator, and hurry the benevolent reformer
into a labyrinth of error, who aims at destroying prejudices quickly
which only time can root out, as the public opinion becomes subject
to reason.

An ardent affection for the human race makes enthusiastic characters
eager to produce alteration in laws and governments prematurely. To
render them useful and permanent, they must be the growth of each
particular soil, and the gradual fruit of the ripening understanding
of the nation, matured by time, not forced by an unnatural
fermentation. And, to convince me that such a change is gaining
ground with accelerating pace, the view I have had of society during
my northern journey would have been sufficient had I not previously
considered the grand causes which combine to carry mankind forward
and diminish the sum of human misery.

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