Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

ANASTASIUS. (E. Review, 1821.)

Anastasius; or, Memoirs of a Greek, written in the 18th Century.

London. Murray. 3 vols. 8vo.

ANASTASIUS is a sort of oriental Gil Blas, who is tossed about from one state of life to another, — sometimes a beggar in the streets of Constantinople, and at others, an officer of the highest distinction under an Egyptian Bey, - with that mixture of good and evil, of loose principles and popular qualities, which, against our moral feelings and better judgment, render a novel pleasing, and an hero popular. Anastasius is a greater villain than Gil Blas, merely because he acts in a worse country, and under a worse government. Turkey is a country in the last stage of Castlereagh-ery and Vansittartism; it is in that condition to which we are steadily approaching - a political finish ; the sure result of just and necessary wars, interminable burthens upon affectionate people, green bags, strangled sultanas, and murdered mobs. There are, in the world, all shades and gradations of tyranny. The Turkish, or last, puts the pistol and stiletto in action. Anastasius, therefore, among his other pranks, makes nothing of two or three murders; but they are committed in character, and are suitable enough to the temper and disposition of a lawless Turkish soldier; and this is the justification of the book, which is called wicked, but for no other reason than because it accurately paints the manners of a people become wicked from the long and uncorrected abuses of their Government.

One cardinal fault which pervades this work is, that it is too long ;- in spite of the numerous fine passages with which it abounds, there is too much of it;— and it is a relief, not a disappointment, to get to the end. Mr. Hope, too, should avoid humour, in which he certainly does not excel. His attempts of that nature are among the most serious parts of the book. With all these objections (and we only mention them in case Mr. Hope writes again), there are few books in the English language which contain

passages

of

greater power, feeling, and eloquence, than this novel, - which delineate frailty and vice with more energy and acuteness, or describe historical scenes with such bold imagery, and such glowing language. Mr. Hope will excuse us, -—but we could not help exclaiming, in reading it, Is this Mr: Thomas Hope? - Is this the man of chairs and tables - the gentleman of sphinxes — the Edipus of coalboxes — he who meditated on muffineers and planned pokers ? — Where has he hidden all this eloquence and poetry up to this hour ?-How is it that he has, all of a sudden, burst out into descriptions which would not disgrace the pen of Tacitus — and displayed a depth of feeling and a vigour of imagination which Lord Byron could not excel? We do not shrink from one syllable of this eulogium. The work now before us places him at once in the highest list of eloquent writers, and of superior men.

Anastasius, the hero of the tale, is a native of Chios, the son of the drogueman to the French Consul. The drogueman, instead of bringing him up to make Latin verses, suffered him to run wild about the streets of Chios, where he lives for some time a lubberly boy, and then a profligate youth. His first exploit is to debauch the daughter of his acquaintance, from whom (leaving her in a state of pregnancy) he runs away, and enters as a cabin-boy in a Venetian brig. The brig is taken by Maynote pirates : the pirates by a Turkish frigate, by which he is landed at Nauplia, and marched away to Argos, where the captain, Hassan Pacha, was encamped

with his army.

6

I had never seen an encampment: and the novel and striking sight absorbed all my faculties in astonishment and awe. There seemed to me to be forces sufficient to subdue the whole world; and I knew not which most to admire, the endless clusters of tents, the enormous piles of armour, and the rows of threatening cannon, which I met at every step, or the troops of well mounted spahees, who like dazzling meteors, darted by us on every side, amid clouds of stifling dust. The very dirt with which the nearer horsemen bespattered our humble troop, was, as I thought, imposing; and every thing upon which I cast my eyes gave me a feeling of nothingness, which made me shrink within myself like a snail in its cell. I envied not only those who were destined to share in all the glory and success of the expedition, but even the meanest follower of the camp, as a being of a superior order to myself; and, when suddenly there arose a loud flourish of trumpets, which, ending in a concert of cymbals and other warlike instruments, re-echoed in long peals from all the surrounding mountains, the clang shook every nerve in my body, thrilled me to the very soul, and infused in all my veins a species of martial ardour so resistless, that it made me struggle with my fetters, and try to tear them asunder. Proud as I was by nature, I would have knelt to whoever had offered to liberate my limbs, and to arm my hands with a sword or a battle-axe.'— (I. 36, 37.)

From his captive state he passes into the service of Mavroyeni, Hassan's drogueman, with whom he ingratiates himself

, and becomes a person of consequence. In the service of this person, he receives from old Demo, a brother domestic, the following admirable lecture on masters:

«« Listen, young man,” said he, " whether you like it or not. For my own part, I have always had too much indolence, not to make it my study throughout life rather to secure ease than to labour for distinction. It has therefore been my rule to avoid cherishing in my patron any outrageous admiration of my capacity, which would have increased my dependence while it lasted, and exposed me to persecution on wearing out:- but you, I see, are of a different mettle: I therefore may point out to you the surest way to that more perilous height, short of which your ambition I doubt will not rest satisfied. When

you

have compassed it, you may remember old Demo, if you please.

Know, first, that all masters, even the least lovable, like to be loved. All wish to be served from affection rather than duty. It flatters their pride, and it gratifies their selfishness. They expect from this personal motive a greater devotion to their interest, and a more unlimited obedience to their commands. A master looks upon mere fidelity in his servant as his due, as a thing scarce worth his thanks: but attachment he considers as a compliment to his merit, and, if at all generous, he will reward it with liberality. Mavroyeni is more open than any body to this species of flattery. Spare it not therefore. If he speak to you kindly, let your face brighten up. If he talk to you of his own affairs, though it should only be to dispel the tedium of conveying all day long other men's thoughts, listen with the greatest eagerness. A single yawn, and you are undone! Yet let not curiosity appear your motive, but the delight only of being honoured with his confidence. The more you appear grateful for the least kindness, the oftener you will receive important favours. Our ostentatious drogueman will feel a pleasure in raising your astonishment. His vanity knows no bounds. Give it scope therefore. When he comes home choking with its suppressed ebullitions, be their ready and patient receptacle :- do more; discreetly help him on in venting his conceit; provide him with a cue ; hint what you heard certain people, not knowing you to be so near, say of his capacity, his merit, and his influence. He wishes to persuade the world that he completely rules the Pasha. Tell him not flatly he does, but assume it as a thing of general notoriety. Be neither too candid in your remarks, nor too fulsome in your flattery. Too palpable deviations from fact might appear a satire on your master's understanding. Should some disappointment evidently ruffle his temper, appear not to conceive the possibility of his vanity having received a mortification. Preserve the exact medium between too cold a respect and too presumptuous a forwardness. However much Mavroyeni may caress you in private, never seem quite at ease with him in public. A master still likes to remain master, or, at least, to appear so to others. Should you get into some scrape, wait not to confess your imprudence until concealment becomes impossible; nor try to excuse the offence. Rather than that you should, by so doing, appear to make light of your guilt, exaggerate your self-upbraidings, and throw yourself entirely upon the drogueman's mercy. On all occasions take care how you appear cleverer than your lord, even in the splitting of a pen; or if you cannot avoid excelling him in some trifle, give his own tuition all the credit of your proficiency. Many things he will dislike, only because they come not from himself. Vindicate not your innocence when unjustly rebuked; rather submit for the moment; and trust that, though Mavroyeni never will expressly acknowledge his error, he will in due time pay you for your forbearance.” — (I. 43–45.)

In the course of his service with Mavroyeni, he bears arms against the Arnoots, under the Captain Hassan

-I ex

Pacha; and a very

and a very animated description is given of his first combat.

• I undressed the dead man completely.—When, however, the business which engaged all my attention was entirely achieved, and that human body, of which, in the eagerness for its spoil, I had only thus far noticed the separate limbs one by one, as I stripped them, all at once struck my sight in its full dimensions, as it lay naked before me;- when I contemplated that fine athletic frame, but a moment before full of life and vigour unto its finger's ends, now rendered an insensible corpse by the random shot of a raw youth whom in close combat its little finger might have crushed, I could not help feeling, mixed with my exultation, a sort of shame, as if for a cowardly advantage obtained over a superior being; and, in order to make a kind of atonement to the shade of an Epirote — of a kinsman claimed with outstretched hands,“ Cursed be the paltry dust which turns the warrior's arm into a mere engine, and striking from afar an invisible blow, carries death no one knows whence to no one knows whom; levels the strong with the weak, the brave with the dastardly; and enabling the feeblest hand to wield its fatal lightning, makes the conqueror slay without anger, and the conquered die without glory." --(I. 54, 55.)

The campaign ended, he proceeds to Constantinople with the drogueman, where his many intrigues and debaucheries end with the drogueman's turning him out of doors. He lives for some time at Constantinople in great misery; and is driven, among other expedients, to the trade of quack-doctor.

• One evening, as we were returning from the Blacquernes, an old woman threw herself in our way, and, taking hold of my master's garment, dragged him almost by main force after her into a mean-looking habitation just by, where lay on a couch, apparently at the last gasp, a man of foreign features. "I have brought a physician," said the female to the patient, who, perhaps, may relieve you.' Why will you answered he faintly — "still persist to feed idle hopes ! I have lived an outcast: suffer me at least to die in peace; nor disturb my last moments by vain illusions. My soul pants to rejoin the supreme Spirit; arrest not its flight: it would only be delaying my eternal bliss !”

• As the stranger spoke these words which struck even Yacoob sufficiently to make him suspend his professional grimace

« AnteriorContinua »