Page images

every chamber in every palace, they were suspended from the trees on the hills, the kiosks on the bridges. They were shaped like fishes, birds, and beasts, vases, fruits, flowers, and boats of different form and size. Some were made of silk, some of horn, glass, mother-of-pearl, and a thou sand other materials. Some were painted, some embroidered, some so valuable that it seemed as if they could not have been produced under a thousand crowns. On every rivulet, river, and lake floated lan terns made in the form of little boats, each adding something to the fairy-like


At the time when the barbarian army so ruthlessly forced their way into this Chinese paradise it was in the most perfect order a feature by no means common even in the houses of the greatest mandarins.

Forty small palaces, each a marvel of art, occupied beautiful sites within the grounds, and the footpaths leading from one to another were faultlessly neat. The sheets of ornamental water, lakes, and rivers were all clean, and each marble bridge was a separate object of beauty, while from out the dense foliage on the hill, yellow tiled roofs, curled up at the ends, gleamed like gold in the sunlight.

Within the palace were stored such treasures of exquisitely carved jade, splendid old enamels, bronzes, gold and silver, precious jewels of jade and rubies, carved lapis lazuli, priceless furs and richest silks, as could only have been accumulated by a long dynasty of Celestial rulers.

Cruel indeed was the change when a few hours later the allied forces arrived. The English cavalry were the first to reach the ground, but did not enter. The French quickly followed by another ap proach, and at once proceeded to sack the palace; so that when the British were allowed to join in the work of devastation and indiscriminate plunder, all the most obviously valuable treasure had already been removed, while the floors were strewn knee-deep with broken fragments of priceless china, and every sort of beautiful object too cumbersome or too fragile for rough and ready removal, and therefore ruthlessly smashed with the butt ends of muskets, to say nothing of the piles of most gorgeous silks and satins and gold embroideries, which lay unheeded among

the ruins.

Then when the best of the steeds had been stolen, the doors were locked and Indian troops were posted to guard the treasures that remained (no easy task),

till it should be possible to divide them equally between the forces. When this had been done the share apportioned to the British was at once sold by public auction, in order that an immediate distribution of prize money might allay the very natural jealousy which would otherwise have been aroused by the sight of French soldiers laden with the Sycee silver and other treasures which they had appropriated.

But though wagon-loads of what seemed the most precious objects were removed, these were as nothing compared with what was left and destroyed, when the order was given to commence the actual demolition of the principal buildings: a work on which two regiments were employed for two whole days, ere the hand of the destroyer was stayed by a treaty of peace, and so happily a few wonderful and unique buildings still remain as a suggestion of vanished glories.

Of course all this was done with the best possible intentions, by way of punishing the emperor himself and his great nobles for the official deeds of treachery, rather than injure the innocent citizens of Peking. Yet it seems that these would have accepted any amount of personal loss and suffering rather than this barbarous destruction of an imperial gloryan act which has so impressed the whole nation with a conviction that all foreigners are barbarous vandals, that it is generally coupled with their determined pushing of the opium trade. These two crimes form the double-barrelled weapon of reproach wherewith Christian missionaries in all parts of the empire are assailed, and their work grievously hindered.

We devoted about three hours to exploring these beautiful grounds, of which might well be said, "Was never scene so sad so fair!" Even the ornamental timber was cut for firewood by the allied barbarians, though enough remains to beautify the landscape.

The grounds are enclosed by a handsome wall of dark red sandstone with a coping of glazed tiles, and its warm color contrasts pleasantly with the rich greens of the park and the lovely blue lake with its reedy shores, and floating lotus blossoms. One of the most conspicuous objects is a very handsome stone bridge of seventeen arches, graduated from quite small arches on either side to very high ones in the centre. It is commonly called the marble bridge, because of its beautiful white marble balustrade, with about fifty

pillars on either side, on each of which sits a marble lion, and of all these I am told that no two are quite alike. Each end of this bridge is guarded by two large lions, also of marble. This bridge connects the main land with an island about a quarter of a mile in circumference; it is entirely surrounded with a marble balustrade like that of the bridge. In the centre of the isle is an artificial mound, on which, approached by flights of steps, and enclosed by yet another marble balustrade, are the ruins of what must have been a beautiful temple.

Another very striking bridge, which spans a stream flowing into the lake, is called the Camel's Hump, and has only one very steep arch, about forty feet high. What makes this look so very peculiar is the fact that the banks on either side are almost level with the stream, so the elevation is purely fanciful. This bridge also has a beautiful marble balustrade.

A third, very similar to this last, crosses another winding of the stream, where it flows through flooded rice-fields, and so appears like an extension of the lake. Along this stream there is a fine avenue of willow-trees fully a mile in length.

Ascending a wooded hill, which is dotted all over with only partially destroyed buildings, we thence had a most lovely view of all the park, looking down on the blue lake, the winding streams, the various bridges, the blue mountain range, and the distant city of Peking, with a foreground of most picturesque temple buildings and fine Scotch firs, dark rocks, and green creepers.

Though the general feeling is one of desolation (as one climbs stairways, passing between numberless mounds of rubble, entirely composed of beautiful glazed tiles of every color of the rainbow, and all in fragments), there are, nevertheless, some isolated buildings which happily have quite escaped. Among those are several most beautiful seven-storied pagodas. Of one, which is octagonal, the lower story is adorned with finely sculptured Indian gods. Two others are entirely faced and roofed with the loveliest porcelain tiles yellow, gold, bright green, and deep blue. They are exquisitely delicate and are quite intact; even the tremulous bells suspended from the leaves still tinkling with every breath of air.

Another building, which is still almost perfect, is a beautiful little bronze temple, near to which is a fine triple pai-low, or commemorative arch, and there are others of indescribable form, such as a little globe

resting on a great one, and the whole surmounted by a spire representing fourteen canopies. But nothing save colored sketches (of which I secured a few) could really give any idea of this strange place or of these singular buildings.

On the summit of the hill there still stands a very large two-storied brick building, entirely faced with glittering glazed tiles of dazzling yellow, emerald green, and blue, with a double roof of yellow porcelain tiles; among its decorations are a multitude of images of Buddha in brown china. It is approached by a grand triple gateway of white marble and colored tiles, like one we saw at the Confucian temple in the city of Peking.

There are also a great variety of huge stone pillars and tablets, áll highly sculp tured; the dragon and other mythical animals appearing in all directions. There are bronze beasts and marble beasts, but only those of such size and weight as to have baulked all efforts of thieving visitors, whether native or foreign, whose combined efforts have long since removed every portable image and ornament.

To me the most interesting group of ruins is a cluster of very ornamental small temple buildings, some with conical, others with tent-shaped roofs, but all glazed with the most brilliantly green tiles, and all the pillars and other woodwork painted deep red. On either side of the principal building are two very ornamented pagodashaped temples, exactly alike, except that the green roof of one is surmounted by a dark blue china ornament, the other by a similar ornament in bright yellow.

Each is built to contain a large rotary cylinder on the prayer-wheel principle, with niches for a multitude of images. In fact they are small editions of two revolving cylinders with five hundred disciples of Buddha, which attracted me at the great Lama temple as being the first link to Japanese Scripture-wheels or Thibetan prayer-wheels which I have seen in China, and the existence of which has apparently passed unnoticed. It is needless to add that of course every image has been stolen, and only the revolving stands now remain in a most rickety condition.

When we could no longer endure the blazing heat, we descended past what appears to have been the principal temple, of which absolutely nothing remains standing-only a vast mound of brilliant frag. ments of broken tiles lying on a great platform; steep zigzag stairs brought us to the foot of the hill, where great bronze lions still guard the forsaken courts.

Parched with thirst, we returned to the blessed spring of truly living water, and drank and drank again, cup after cup, till the very coolies standing by laughed.

Then once again climbing into the hor. rible vehicle of torture, we retraced our morning route, till we reached a very nice clean restaurant, where we ordered luncheon. We were shown into a pretty little airy room up stairs, commanding a very fine view of the grounds we had just left. After the preliminary tiny cup of pale yellow tea, basins of boiling water were brought in, with a bit of flannel floating in each, that we might wash off the dust in orthodox Chinese fashion. The correct thing is to wring out the flannel, and therewith rub the face and neck with a view to future coolness.

Luncheon (eaten with chopsticks, which I can now manage perfectly) consisted of the usual series of small dishes, little bits of cold chicken with sauce, little bits of hot chicken boiled to rags, morsels of pork with mushrooms, fragments of cold duck with some other sort of fungus, watery soup, scraps of pigs' kidneys with boiled chestnuts, very coarse rice, pickled cucumber, garlic, and cabbage, patty of preserved shrimps, all in infinitesimal portions, so that, but for the plentiful supply of rice, hungry folk would find it hard to appease the inner wolf. Tiny cups of rice wine followed by more tea completed the repast, for which a sum equivalent to sixteen shillings was demanded, and of course refused; nevertheless, necessitating a troublesome argument.

We hurried away as soon as possible, being anxious to visit a very famous Lama temple, the Wang-Tzu, or Yellow Temple. As we drove along I was amazed to notice how singularly numerous magpies are hereabouts. They go about in companies of six or eight, and are so tame and saucy that they scarcely take the trouble to hop aside as we pass.

This is a very large Lama monastery, full of objects of interest, of which the most notable is a very fine white marble monument to a grand Lama who died here. It is of a purely Indian design, and all round it are sculptured scenes in the life and death of Buddha. Of course, having lost so much time, we had very little to spare here, so once more betook us to the cart and jolted back to Peking.

As we crossed the dreary expanse of dusty plain, a sharp wind sprang up, and we had a moderate taste of the horrors of

a dust-storm, and devoutly hope never to be subjected to a real one.

The dread of being locked out is by no means unfounded. Punctually at a quar ter to six, one of the soldiers on guard strikes an iron gong which hangs at the door, and continues doing so for five min utes with slow, regular strokes. Then a quickened beat gives notice that only ten minutes' grace remains, then more and more rapidly fall the strokes, and the accustomed ear distinguishes five varieties of beat, by which it is easy to calculate how many minutes remain. From the first stroke every one outside the gates hurries towards them, and carts, foot passengers, and riders stream into the city with much noise and turmoil. At six o'clock precisely the guard unite in a prolonged unearthly shout, announcing that time is up. Then the ponderous gates are closed, and in another moment the rusty lock creaks, and the city is secure for the night.

Then follows the frightful and unfragrant process of street watering, of which we had full benefit, as our tired mule slowly dragged us back to our haven of rest under the hospitable roof of the Lon don Missionary Society.



Though the drive seemed very long, still we never suspected anything amiss till suddenly we found ourselves near the gates of the city; when we discovered that our worthy carter, assuming that he knew MOST people are more or less vaguely the time better than we did, and that we aware that there existed in England, toshould be locked out of the city at sunset, wards the end of the last century, a school had deliberately taken a wrong road, and of poets, or poetasters, called Della Crusaltogether avoided the Yellow Temple. can; and Mrs. Oliphant not long ago sugReluctantly yielding to British determina-gested, in her "Literary History," that a tion, he sorrowfully turned, and we had to endure a long extra course of bumpings ere we reached the temple, which is glazed with yellow tiles (an imperial privilege which is conceded to Lamas).

sketch of their eccentricities might not be unamusing. I propose, accordingly, for the edification of the curious, to recount a few particulars of the Della Cruscan writers, in the days of their prosperity

and the days of their collapse. They her journals some of the compliments were, let it at once be admitted, a feeble paid her by her fellow-members of the and a frivolous folk: yet I think that a "Oziosi." They used to address her in moral may suggest itself when their story this style: has been told.

In the year 1784 Mr. Robert Merry, a bachelor of thirty, had been for some years domiciled at Florence. That his position and prospects were not of a very definite order was owing to no defect of nurture or opportunity. He had been educated at Harrow, at the same time as Sheridan, and afterwards at Christ's Col lege, Cambridge, and was originally intended for the bar. To Lincoln's Inn he accordingly made a pretence of belonging till the death of his father, who was a governor of the Hudson Bay Company; the family connection with the north seas being still perpetuated in the name of Merry's Island. Robert Merry at once took advantage of the independence

which came to him on his father's death to abandon the bar and buy himself a commission in the Guards. His liking for high play and high society kept him, for a short time, amused in his new position. He grew, however, once more restless; wandered on the Continent; and became, in the phraseology of the day, a man of letters and of leisure. His love of letters he gratified, at Florence, by becoming a member of the Italian Academy, the Accademia della Crusca, and his love of letters and leisure combined by joining himself to an English society who called themselves the Oziosi, and, no doubt, took good care to merit that designation.

E'en so when Parsons pours his lay,
Correctly wild, or sweetly strong,
Or Greathead charms the listening day,
With English or Italian song,
Or when with trembling wing I try,

Like some poor wounded bird, to fly,
Your fostering smiles you ne'er refuse,
But are the Pallas and the Muse!

The Parsons and Greathead of this all-round panegyric of Merry's were two members of the Oziosi clique: Parsons, trifle with Italian dames," as Mrs. Piozzi a bachelor with a tendency to flirt, to poetically put it; Greathead, the newly married husband of a beautiful wife. Both Parsons and Greathead were voluminous

[ocr errors]

contributors to the society's album, which


assumed formidable dimensions.
The staple of the contents consisted of
high-flown compliments in verse.
sons, for instance, would write to Great-
head's wife:

O blest with taste, with Genius blest,
Sole mistress of thy Bertie's breast,
Who to his love-enraptured arms art given
The rich reward his virtues claim from Heaven.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

And Bertie, as in duty bound, would reply in kind, bidding the sallow Arno pause and listen to the lays of Parsons. As an alternative to these panegyrics, they wrote 'Dithyrambics to Bacchus," Odes to the Siroc," or lines on that latest novelty, Montgolfier's air-balloon. Mrs. Greathead was, in fact, as Parsons informs us, the only member of the society who con tributed nothing but the inspiration of her


The leading spirit of this coterie was no less a personage than Mrs. Piozzi, happily married at last, and safely escaped from the malice of her cold-blooded daughters, and from the virulence with which the English journals had inveighed Some of these poems were printed in against her choice of a second husband. an "Arno Miscellany," of which only a It Even now the memory of her domestic few copies were privately circulated. troubles tended to inspire her with a was a subsequent and larger collection, dejection which the masterpieces of Flor- published in 1785, under the name of entine sculpture were, oddly enough, pow-made its way to England, and drew the "The Florence Miscellany," which first

erless to remove. As she herself described it, in lines at which one cannot help smiling, sincere as they perhaps


attention of the English public to the rising school of versifiers. Horace Walpole characterized their productions as "mere imitations of our best poets," that

The slave and the wrestlers, what are they to is to say, of Milton, Gray, and Collins.


From plots and contention removed?
And Job with still less satisfaction I see,
When I think on the pains I have proved.

The homage of her countrymen, however, did much to enliven her despondency; and she complacently records in

How justly, may be inferred from the
opening stanza of Merry's "Ode on a dis-
tant prospect of Rome:

When Rome of old, terrific queen,
High-placed on Victory's sounding car,
With arm sublime and martial mien,
Brandished the flaming lance of war,


And silken Ásia sank, and barbarous Britain


Low crouched in dust lay Afric's swarthy | porary satirist, writing under the mod. est pseudonym of Horace Juvenal," describes how the young lady of 1787 — Reluctant opes her eyes, 'twixt twelve and one, To skim the World, or criticise the Sun, And when she sees her darling friend abused, Is half enraged, yet more than half amused. And another poet portrays two unlucky baronets, Sir Gregory Turner and Sir John Miller husband of Lady Miller of Bath Easton vase celebrity - lamenting the ridicule with which the same newspaper had overwhelmed them:

The imitations of Milton and Collins are of a like description. Such as it was, the book was a success, and samples of its contents were reproduced, after the fashion of the day, in the newspapers and magazines the Gentleman's, the European, the Universal Magazine, and so forth. Of the quality of the poems, critically considered, and of the Della Cruscan poetry generally, I shall have something to say farther on. In the mean time, it may, perhaps, be worth while to disinter a ludicrous passage in one of Merry's contributions to "The Florence Miscellany." The Oziosi had one-day agreed that each of them should produce by the evening a story or poem which should "excite borror by description." Mrs. Piozzi's production will be found in her" Autobiography," and is by no means devoid of merit. Merry brought a poem ("a very fine one," says Mrs. Piozzi), in which he introduced the following remarkable ghost, which I commend to the attention of the new Psychical Society:

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

But I must not linger over "The Florence Miscellany," which was but the prelude to those melodious bursts which filled the spacious times of George III. with the music of Della Crusca and Anna Matilda. A year or two after its publication the Florence coterie broke up, and returned to England.

The first note of the concert was struck by Robert Merry, who, in June, 1787, sent to the World a poem entitled "The Adieu and Recall to Love," subscribing himself Della Crusca, a nickname which had been given to him at Florence, on account of his connection, already mentioned, with the Italian Academy. The World was a daily morning paper, price threepence, which in more than one respect resembled its modern namesake. A contem

Woe wait the week, Sir John, and cursed the

When harmless gentlemen felt satire's power,
When, raised from insignificance and sloth,
The World began to ridicule us both.


"In this paper," says Gifford, were dacious attacks on all private character, given the earliest specimens of those auwhich the town first smiled at for their quaintness, then tolerated for their absurdity; and now that other papers, equally wicked and more intelligible, have ventured to imitate it, will have to lament to the last hour of British liberty." That literary history is self-repeating, and that prophecies are mostly mistaken, are not new reflections; yet it is difficult to avoid making them when we compare those days with these.

But beyond its function as a purveyor of social gossip, no newspaper was then considered complete without a poet's cor ner, consecrated to sentimental effusions and labored impromptus" Complimen tary verses to the brilliancy of the Hon. Mrs. Nh's Eyes," or "Lines on Lady T-e-l's Ring." In publishing his poem in the World, Della Crusca did but select the natural and recognized arena of the eighteenth-century poet. It may be as well to quote the greater part of "The Adieu and Recall to Love," in order to give some notion of the calibre of the verses which were to found a school:

Go, idle Boy, I quit thy bower,
The couch of many a thorn and flower;
Thy twanging bow, thine arrow keen,
Deceitful Beauty's timid mien;
The feigned surprise, the roguish leer,
The tender smile, the thrilling tear,
Have now no pangs, no joys for me,
So fare thee well, for I am free!
Then flutter hence on wanton wing,
Or lave thee in yon lucid spring,
Or take thy beverage from the rose,
Or on Louisa's breast repose;
I wish thee well for pleasures past,
Yet bless the hour I'm free at last.

« PreviousContinue »