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Pulszky's Tales and Traditions of Hungary.
is shown, and it is held that, if cause and effect had been really at work, the calamity which has happened is the very one that was most fully guarded against. Thus, on the occasion of a late fatal colliery explosion, so perfect it was said was the system of ventilation in the mine, that, had the calamity not occurred, a model of the works was to have been sent to the Great Exhibition ! Meantime, scientific inspection has done much to clear away this false mist; and though the interested parties fight against cause and effect to the last, science always triumphs.
There is one consolation on looking back to the series of defects to which we have thought it necessary to draw a desultory attention;- it is, that we are on the way forward. A time, not quite forgotten, existed, when, for the continuance of slavery and the slave-trade, it was considered a sufficient argument in this country, as it still is in some others,— that on these conditions only could sugar, tobacco, and cotton be produced at an eminently remunerating price, — that this could not be accomplished with free labour; in short, that the practice
paid.' To risk the lives and limbs of human beings for profitable or economically conducted operations, is but a modification of the same principle - a modification which, thanks to our ever-advancing civilieation, is fast dwindling away. The more scrupulously we abstain from tampering with Freedom of Trade, properly understood, the more fully are we entitled to insist on the observance of every condition necessary to the protection of the life or health or morality of the public. If these conditions cannot be complied with, without enlarging the law of criminal omissions and enforcing a severer superintendence over rash and negligent offences in the performance of otherwise lawful acts, there can be no question of the course, which a good citizen and a public-spirited legislature should pursue: Odor lucri ex re quabibet non est bonus.
ART. V. – Tales and Traditions of Hungary. By FRANCIS
and THERESA Pulszky. Three volumes. London : 1851. W e are disposed, on many accounts, to pay more attention to
these · Tales and Traditions of Hungary 'than we generally bestow upon the annual harvest of foreign or domestic fiction. They are the productions of a land still very imperfectly known even to travelled Englishmen, and they exhibit national and social features of much interest, ere the latter were dimmed and disordered by revolutionary convulsions. The Tales themselves are remarkably well written, and evince á command over our language, not always found even in novelists • to the manner born and bred.' They add something also to our legendary lore; but they are even more attractive as proofs - and they are not the only proofs afforded by their accomplished authors — of the resolute heart and purpose with which the Hungarian exiles in this country are striving, we trust successfully, to soothe their sorrows and alleviate their privations.
Our sentiments upon the causes and the issues of the late Hungarian Revolution were unreservedly expressed at the time: and we now allude to them, only for the sake of briefly re-affirming them. In the subsequent policy of Austria towards the kingdom, so unfortunately for itself, leagued with the im. perial crown, we have seen nothing to commend, nor any reason to hope, that for the future Vienna will learn wisdom, or Hungary subservience from the struggle. On the contrary, instead of two crowns federally connected, we have now before us the melancholy spectacle of one nation suppressed by violence, and of another degraded by breach of faith, and sinking into an abyss of debt, which must sooner or later end in irretrievable insolvency. Hungary may be, like Poland, effaced from the list of independent kingdoms; but Austria is no less blotted out from her place among the independent nations of Europe. For a while enormous armies may sustain her, as the legions of Rome sustained the decaying Empire. For a while loans, monopolies, and commercial restrictions, may film over the yawning gulf in her exchequer. But, virtually, the imperial eagle has become a 'tame villatic fowl,' and must stoop to the lure of the Russian fowler, whenever his policy or his pleasure prompt him to reclaim her.
Our business, however, is with the past rather than the present. In one respect, these volumes have disappointed us. We had expected more legendary and mythical treasures from the border-land of Eastern Europe. Limitary districts, from Teviotdale to Rajahstan the seat of lingering wars and mingled races, have generally been the favourite haunts of popular tradition. But either the Hungarian mind is not actively creative or susceptive, or the great waves of legend had passed into Central Europe ere the Magyars established themselves on the plains of the Theiss and the Danube: for the most stirring and picturesque of the traditions selected by Mr. Pulszky are not of home-growth, but are either modified or imported from other lands. Thus we have tales of German, Jewish, and Slovak origin; we have a Magyar version, and not an improved one, of Cinderella ; and in Jack the Horse-dealer' we 1851.
Hungary, a Borderland of mixed Races.
ter an old spirit andere for their explained
unexpectedly encounter an old and valued acquaintance from North Britain. The general spirit and gracefulness of these stories indeed compensate, in some measure, for their want of originality; and the admixture of foreign elements is explained by the fact, that Hungary, like the Dorian States in Greece, was a congeries of many races under the supremacy of a single clan.
The Magyar element, indeed, predominant as it was in the camp and the council-chamber, was at no period the most potent or popular ingredient of the national mind. Song, myth, and local superstitions have been, in all ages and countries, quite as much the property of the subject, as of the dominant race. Not Dorians, but Acheans, furnished the staple of the Greek Epos and Drama; the conquered British race consoled itself with the lays of the Round Table; and the Saxon, when, in his turn, he was oppressed by the Norman, soothed his griefs by chaunting the exploits of Hereward and Robin Hood. Spain, indeed, which, in other respects, has so often run contrary to the European current of civilisation, presents a contrast in its ballads also. They were the songs of the victors, and breathe all the fierce bigotry of religious triumph. Yet, even in Spain, the bards of Valladolid borrowed much of their minstrelsy from the infidel poets of Granada, and the lays of the champions of the cross were often merely echoes of Moslem inspiration.
Poor, however, comparatively as Hungary seems to be in indigenous legends, it is, or at least it has been, until very lately, singularly rich in many of the elements which render chronicles picturesque and romance instructive. To the artist, whether he employs the pen or the pencil, permanence is dearer than progression. The broad daylight of our rapidly moving age is less grateful to his eye than the shadows of inore stationary and more tranquil eras. Goethe pronounced a cotton mill in full work the greatest poem he had ever seen; yet his Faust was constructed, not out of the suggestions or accompaniments of spinning-jennies, but out of the most august and widely-diffused myth of the Middle Ages. Hungary, eager as it long has been for progress, has been also remarkably faithful to the past in its social aspect. Although in the heart of a continent, its intellectual position, since the days of the good Matthias Corvinus, has been almost insular; and in its deep seclusion the land of the Magyars has cherished the fashions of the age of Wallenstein. On the very brink of the late revolution her national character and relations resembled those of England in 1640 more than any of the social phases of Western Europe in 1848. At the beginning
VOL. XCIV. NO. CXCI.
of the present century few European travellers had penetrated into Hungary further than Pesth; and the educated Hungarian rarely travelled at all, except as a soldier, or secretary of legation. The language of the Magyars, which is completely Asiatic in its structure, has been a further cause of their isolation from the rest of Europe. A portion of the class of Magnates, indeed, since the period when Maria Theresa drew their ancestors to her court by the double magnet of wealthy Austrian heiresses, and honorary Austrian decorations, has resided almost entirely at Vienna, and affected to deride the barbarous manners of their countrymen. But the nation itself was little influenced by the example of a few courtiers; and to be termed an Austrian was deemed a pointed insult to a Hungarian gentleman. Nor were even the great towns and provincial capitals favourite residences of the native aristocracy. From their Asiatic ancestors, as well as from the semi-feudal pomp which surrounded them in their castles and manors, they had imbibed an earnest passion for country life. They were active magistrates, agriculturists, and sportsmen. They dwelt in the midst of their tenantry. They were splendid and ceremonious in their retinues and their banquets. A marriage, or a funeral, would at times collect a small army of mounted and gaily-clad retainers. They were supreme judges in the county-courts, and general arbiters in all local controversies. They were as jealous of crown lawyers, as the early Christians of pagan tribunals; and they disdained the courtiers much as our Jacobite squires used to disdain St. James's and the partisans of the House of Hanover. Manners and opinions descended, with little change, from sire to son; and in the remoter districts old fashions were mingled with the oriental and patriarchal habits of the original followers of Duke Arpad.
Accordingly Hungary retained, long after the western provinces of Europe had lost them, many of the social characteristics which poets and artists delight in representing. Of these different pictorial elements, as well as of the many sublime and pastoral features which his native land presents, Mr. Pulszky has fully availed himself in his · Tales and Traditions ;' and his sketches of manners which are gradually becoming obsolete in Hungary, invest his narratives with a charm, which many readers will accept as an equivalent for a more indigenous and poetic originality. They reflect in lively colours the lineaments of the various races which compose the kingdom of Hungary; and they have afforded us in reading them a pleasure similar to that, with which we study a picture by Vandyke or
• The Jacobins in Hungary.'
an episode in Clarendon. The English country gentleman, whom the civil war in 1642 drove first into camps, and afterwards into exile, is no distant type of the Hungarian noble whom the revolution of 1848 hurried from his broad domains, and has since consigned to banishment on the banks of the Thames or the Potomac. The resemblance between the men who sacrificed themselves for Charles Stuart, and the men who responded to the appeals of Kossuth, can scarcely fail to have its due effect with the English reader in rendering Mr. Pulszky's volumes popular.
In collecting and arranging his Tales and Traditions,' Mr. Pulszky has had especial reference to the eras and peculiarities of Hungarian society. The first three stories are intended to delineate three distinct phases of national life. In the · Baron's • Daughter' we have the contrast between the nobleman attached to the court, and the proud allodial proprietor who disdains to hold his property as a fief from the king. The legal antiquary will recall in this story the recurring feud, both in Frankish and Saxon annals, between the territorial noble and the noble by office and creation. The second story turns upon the opposition between the burghers and the manorial lords ; and in the proposed mésalliance between a landed spendthrift and the buxom heiress of a fashionable and wealthy tailor, it exemplifies the changes which trade was gradually introducing into society. In the third story, the Slovak Legend of Yanoshik,' the common robber appears as the avenger of social injustice; and, after the approved morality of Robin Hood and Rob Roy, levies black mail on the wealthy, in order to relieve the wants of the poor. The following tales in the first of the three volumes are less systematically connected with one another, or with the aspects of national life. Many of them are meant to illustrate the poetical and traditional feelings of the different races in Hungary; and some of the legends scarcely belong to Hungary at all, but have been admitted into the collection merely on account of their popularity at home or their intrinsic merit.
The traditions of Hungary are, however, confined to the first of the three volumes; the second and third are devoted to a tale of modern date. The alleged conspiracy for which Martinovitch, abbot of Sasvár, and his friends suffered death upon the scaffold in 1794 is the groundwork of Mr. Pulszky's story, • The Jacobins in Hungary.' It is not difficult to discover that portions of this tale are records of the Austrian system of governing by division and espionage at the present hour; and that the fate of Bathyani and the other illustrious victims of °49 is described and deplored under the mask of grief and in