Billeder på siden

are, except in ancient Rome.*

We, upon this occasion,

were in an open carriage; and, chiefly (as I imagine) to


*Ancient Rome: Vast, however, as the London is of this day, I am persuaded that it is far below the Rome of the Cæsars. It has long been a settled opinion amongst scholars, that the computations of Lipsius, on this point, were prodigiously overcharged; and formerly I shared in that belief. But a closer study of the question, and a laborious collation of the different data, (for any single record, independently considered, can here establish nothing,) have satisfied me that Lipsius was nearer the truth than his critics; and that the Roman population of every class, slaves, aliens, people of the suburbs, included, lay between five and six millions: in which case the London of 1833, which counts more than a million and a half, but less than two millions, may be taken, xαтα лhαтоs, as lying between one-fourth and one-third of Rome. To discuss this question thoroughly, would require a separate memoir: meantime I will make this remark: - That the ordinary computations of a million, or a million and a quarter, derived from the surviving accounts of the different regions,' with their circumstantial enumerations of the private houses and public edifices, are erroneous in two capital points: first, and chiefly, because these accounts apply to Rome within the Pomarium, and are, therefore, no more valid for the total Rome of Trajan's time, stretching so many miles beyond it, than the bills of mortality for London within the walls,' can serve at this day as a base for estimating the population of that total London which we mean and presume in our daily conversation. Secondly, Even for the Rome within these limits, the computations are not commensurate, by not allowing for the prodigious height of the houses in Rome, which much transcended that of modern cities. On this last point, I shall translate a single and very remarkable sentence from the Greek Rhetorician Aristides; it will he known to a few readers, but to many more it will be new and interesting: 'And, as oftentimes we see that a man who greatly excels others in bulk and strength, is not content with any display, however ostentatious, of his powers, short of that where he is exhibited surmounting himself with a pyramid of other men, one set standing upon the shoulders of another; so also this city, stretching her foundations over areas so vast, is yet not satisfied with those superficial dimensions; that contents her not; but upon one city rearing another of corresponding proportions, and upon that another, pile resting upon pile, houses overlaying houses, in aerial succession; in that way, she achieves a character of architecture justifying, as it were, the very promise of her name; and with reference to that name, and its Grecian meaning, we may say, that here nothing meets our eyes in any direction, but mere Rome! Rome!' (Note this

avoid the dust, we approached London by rural lanes and roads comparatively quiet and shady, collateral to the main ones, where any such could be found. In that mode of approach, we missed some features of the sublimity belonging to any of the common approaches upon a main road; what I mean is, the whirl and uproar, the tumult

word "Pon, on which the rhetorician plays, is the common Greek term for strength) 'And hence I derive the following conclusion: that, if any one, decomposing this series of strata, were disposed to unshell, as it were, this existing Rome, from its present crowdd and towering co-acervations; and thus degrading these aerial Romes, were to plant them on the ground, side by side, in orderly succession; according to all appearance, the whole vacant area of Italy would be filled with these dismantled storeys of Rome, and we should be presented with the spectacle of one continuous city, stretching its labyrinthine pomp to the shores of the Adriatic.' This is so far from being meant as a piece of rhetoric, that on the very contrary, the whole purpose is to substitute for a vague and rhetorical expression of the Roman grandeur, one of a more definite character, by presenting its dimensions in a new form, and supposing the city to be uncrested, as it were, the upper tiers to be what sailors call unshipped, and the dethroned storeys, (or flats as they are called in Scotland,) to be all drawn up in rank and file upon the ground; according to which assumption, he says, that the city would stretch about seventy or seventy-five miles.

The fact is, as Casaubon remarked, upon occasion of a ridiculous blunder in estimating the largesses of a Roman Emperor, the error on most questions of Roman policy or institutions, tends not, as usual, in the direction of excess, but of defect. All things were colossal there; and the probable, as estimated upon our modern scale, is not unfrequently the impossible, as regarded Roman habits. Lipsius certainly erred extravagantly at times, and was a rash speculator on many subjects; witness his book on the Roman amphitheatres; but not on the magnitude of Rome, or the amount of its population. I shall add upon this subject, that the whole political economy of the ancients, if we except Boeckh's accurate investigations, (Die Staatshaushaltung der Athener,) which, properly speaking, are mere political arithmetic or statistics, is a mine into which scarce a single shaft has yet been sunk. Yet I must also add, that everything will depend upon collation of facts, and the bringing of indirect notices into immediate juxtaposition, so as to throw light on each other. Direct and positive information there is little on these topics; and that little has been gleaned.

and the agitation, which continually thicken and thicken throughout the last eight or ten miles before you reach the suburbs. Already at three stages' distance upon some of the greatest roads, the dim presentiment of some vast capital reaches you obscurely, and like a misgiving. This blind sympathy with a mighty but unseen object in your neighborhood, continues to increase, you know not how. Arrived at the last station for changing horses, Barnet suppose, on one of the north roads, or Hounslow on the western, you no longer think (as in all other places) of naming the next stage; nobody says, on pulling up, 'Horses on to London'- that would sound ludicrous; one mighty idea broods over all minds, making it impossible to suppose any other destination. Launched upon this final stage, you soon begin to feel yourself entering the stream as it were of a Norwegian maelstrom; and the stream at length becomes a rush. What is meant by the Latin word trepidatio? Not anything peculiarly connected with panic; it belongs as much to the hurrying to and fro of a coming battle, as of a coming flight; agitation is the nearest English word. This trepidation increases both audibly and visibly at every half mile, pretty much as one may suppose the roar of Niagara and the vibration of the ground to grow upon the ear in the last ten miles of approach, with the wind in its favor, until at length it would absorb and extinguish all other sounds whatsoever. Finally, for miles before you reach a suburb of London, such as Islington for instance, a last great sign and augury of the immensity which belongs to the coming metropolis, forces itself upon the dullest observer, in the growing sense of his own utter insignificance. Everywhere else in England, you yourself, horses, carriage, attendants (if you travel with any) are regarded with attention, perhaps even curiosity at all events you are seen. But after passing

the final post-house on every avenue to London, for the latter ten or twelve miles, you become aware that you are no longer noticed: nobody sees you; nobody hears you; nobody regards you; you do not even regard yourself. In fact, how should you, at the moment of first ascertaining your own total unimportance in the sum of things—a poor shivering unit in the aggregate of human life? Now, for the first time, whatever manner of man you were or seemed to be at starting, squire or ‘squireen,' lord or lordling, and however related to that city, hamlet, or solitary house, from which yesterday or to-day you slipt your cable,- beyond disguise you find yourself but one wave in a total Atlantic, one plant, (and a parasitical plant besides, needing alien props,) in a forest of America.

These are feelings which do not belong by preference to thoughtful people far less to people merely sentimental. No man ever was left to himself for the first time in the streets, as yet unknown, of London, but he must have been saddened and mortified, perhaps terrified, by the sense of desertion and utter loneliness which belong to his situation. No loneliness can be like that which weighs upon the heart in the centre of faces neverending, without voice or utterance for him; eyes innumerable, that have no speculation' in their orbs which he can understand; and hurrying figures of men and women weaving to and fro, with no apparent purposes intelligible to a stranger, seeming like a masque of maniacs, or a pageant of shadowy illusions. The great length of the streets, in many quarters of London, the continual opening of transient glimpses into other vistas equally far-stretching, going off at angles to the one which you are traversing, and the murky atmosphere which, settling upon the remoter end of every long avenue, wraps its termination in gloom and uncertainty —

all these are circumstances aiding that sense of vastness and illimitable proportions, which for ever brood over the aspect of London in its interior. Much of the feeling which belongs to the outside of London, in its approaches for the last few miles, I had lost, in consequence of the stealthy route of bye-roads through which we crept into the suburbs. But for that reason, the more abrupt and startling had been the effect of emerging somewhere into the Edgeware road, and soon afterwards into the very streets of London itself; though what streets, or even what quarter of London, is now totally obliterated from my mind, having perhaps never been comprehended. All that I remember is, one monotonous awe and blind sense of mysterious grandeur and Babylonian confusion, which seemed to pursue and to invest the whole equipage of human life, as we moved for nearly two hours, through streets; sometimes brought to anchor for ten minutes or more, by what is technically called a 'lock,' that is, a line of carriages of every description inextricably massed, and obstructing each other, far as the eye could stretch; and then, as if under an enchanter's rod, the lock seemed to thaw, motion spread with the fluent race of light or sound, through the whole ice-bound mass, until the subtle influence reached us also; who were again absorbed into the great rush of flying carriages; or at times we turned off into some less tumultuous street, but of the same mile-long character; and, finally, drew up about noon, and alighted at some place which is as little within my distinct remembrances as the route by which we reached it.


For what had we come? To see London. And what were the limits within which we proposed to crowd that little feat? At five o'clock we were to dine at P—, a seat of Lord W. -'s grandfather; and, from the dis

« ForrigeFortsæt »