Page images
PDF
EPUB

come dashing over, white-winged gulls dip into the waves, porpoises leap about, dolphins gambol_all is life and joy! The sun shines on the two shores of Europe and Asia. They seem to laugh one to the other, and to say, like the poet Tyanites, in his “Bosphoromachia”—“If, after all, thou art the most beautiful, the advantage is mine, because it is I who contemplate thee!”

The Imperial caique lies at the shore empty. The Sultan is in the mosque, which is a small one, with its mişaret hidden amongst the trees. We land, and place ourselves on the shore, at the entrance of the mosque. A military officer points out a place to us very politely, and keeps back the people who press too close to the steps. Guards are stationed between them and the shore.

A stout lady, in a European dress and straw hat, will not, however, be kept back by any one. She is well dressed in halfmourning, and she holds a little boy and girl by either hand. She places herself close to the steps of the mosque, nor will she be thrust aside by the guards, who wish her to take a lower place; and they at length leave her where she is. Who is she? The wife, we are informed, of one of the directors of the Sultan's chapel. “He was an Italian,"continued our informant, "who, having made a present to one of the ladies of the Sultan's harem, has not since been seen in the palace. Two weeks are now past, during which his wife has inquired after him everywhere, had him advertised in the daily paper, and is now here to ask the Sultan to what place her husband has been removed.” She is not handsome, and very corpulent; but her pale countenance, her children, and her story, give her an interest.

We have stood waiting outside for about three-quarters of an hour, listening to the murmuring, half-singing voices within, when we perceive indications that the Sultan is about to leave the mosque. Military officers of high rank range themselves on the steps; the guards draw up closely on both sides of the short distance between the mosque and the shore. It is evident, from the expression of all their countenances, that they are standing ready to bow their heads before their ruler. Every one is silent and hushed, in expectation of his approach. Even I myself wait with excited attention. Sultan Abdul Medjid's sympathies go with the culture of the West, -for instance, his gift of estates in Syria to the French poet Lamartine ; his behaviour in the last war with Russia; and his present position as the representative, perhaps the last, of the sinking power of the Byzantine empire. Son of the seraglio--that deceitful Delilah which lulls her lord to sleep and hinders all his endeavours after a new life-Sultan Abdul Medjid is to me a very interesting person, not for his individuality, but as a curiosity.

And now all the glances of the noble gentlemen on the steps are raised, and their heads bow down. A little man in a dark coat, a dark red cap with a long black tassel on his head, and a pale, unpleasing countenance, comes down the steps, with as little dignity as a shopman. Can that really be the Sultan ? Yes, it must be the Sultan, because the elderly military personages by his side reply with an expression of deep reverence to some remarks of the little man, and the stout lady with the children steps hastily forward into his path, as if she would stop his farther advance. He starts, makes a half step backward, and contracts his eyebrows most threateningly. Yet he listens to what she has to say, but listens with a gloomy expression, and then casts an inquiring glance on his brother-in-law, the high admiral. He utters a few words of explanation, shrugging his shoulders, and then another word or two, which seem to say“What do I know about your husband ?"-motions the stout lady out of the way, and walks on to the shore, talking gaily with the gentlemen who attend him. He steps into the caique, from which the canopy has been removed ; puts on his gloves, distorts his face in looking up at the sun, and so doing exhibits his tobacco-stained teeth ; while his plain, uninteresting countenance assumes a most disagreeable expression. This, then, is the man who is called * God's Shadow on the Earth,” and who rules with absolute sway over the lives and happiness of thirty-five millions of human beings.

I have seen many crowned heads; but none who seem to me so devoid of dignity, so devoid of anything remarkable as this “ Shadow of God on Earth.” Nevertheless, the throne must produce an effect either for good or for evil. Travellers who see Abdul Medjid only at public audiences, usually observe merely the lifeless, automatic character of his exterior. I now saw him under other circumstances. He was lively, and his countenance, although pale, indicated more youthful strength and health than I had been led to expect.

" That is," I was told, “because within the last few years he has drank something stronger than champagne, and this has given him strength. Besides, he was to-day in a good humour. But he generally looks very gloomy!”

For the rest, Abdul Medjid has the Turkish family features, the oval countenance with somewhat prominent cheekbones; the nose broad at the nostrils and arched, the dark-brown well cut, but not large eyes, and the finely-pencilled eyebrows. They struck me as finest when contracted with their threatening expression, and the countenance then appeared most significant. If they could contract with a grave earnestness, Abdul Medjid would be a man of high character. Naturally mild of disposition, a good son, good brother, unwilling, although a despot, to sign a death-warrant, Abdul Medjid 18 not wanting in the softer feelings.* That which he wants is real

• Nevertheless, that these softer feelings in Abdul Medjid's nature are not strong enough to overcome barbarism is proved by the fact, that although he is the first Sultan in Turkey who has permitted his brother not merely to live, but to be at liberty-and this brother of Abdul Medjid is more richly endowed, both in body and soul, than himself-still he has continued the ancient monstrous custom of strangling, or otherwise destroying, every male child born to the sisters or daughters of the Sultan-The Sultan's brother has never married-immediately after its

VOL. IIL

earnestness, real strength. So, at least, it seems to me. He does not throw himself seriously into anything, but lets all go as it may and will. “ Allah Kerim !” God is great, and does that which He will. Let us enjoy the day and the hour. And enjoyments for the day and the hour are not yet wanting to the Sultan:

In his gilded caique, attended by the white flotilla, the Sultan crosses to the opposite shore of the Bosphorus, where a little stream forms a valley, called by the Europeans the Sweet Waters of Asia. Here are the “ Champs Elysées” of Constantinople, more especially of the Turkish Constantinople, where its great world promenades every festival day; and now, on the shores of the Bosphorus, has Abdul Medjid built himself an elegant kiosk, where he is accus. tomed to spend hours with his Sultanas, and thither he is taking his way.

Our little caique follows him across the Bosphorus, then enters a little river between verdant banks, and lies to at a bridge, where hundreds of caiques are also lying. From this point we advance along the margin of the river, amongst wooded hills and vallies, to a verdant little plain, which lies embosomed in the hills. Here the gay Turkish world is all in movement, the higher class in carriages, the lower on foot, much as the world of Stockholm in its Park, only within much more circumscribed bounds. First we come upon the cooking section of the place. And here, in the open air, small pieces of meat, liver, and tongue, are roasting upon spits, and anybody who likes can have a warm morsel, greatly beloved by Turkish palates. Bread, cakes, and all kinds of fruits, Turkish confectionery, and such like, are here displayed for sale. This is the introduction to the plain, upon which move, step by step, araba after araba—the Turkish carriages—in an elliptic circle. The greater number have merely one horse, and the coachman walks by its side. In these sit old and young, the latter wearing flowers and golden ornaments in their hair, and sometimes also jewels. Over these is thrown the white muslin veil, concealing the forehead to the eyebrows, whilst a lappet, called a “jackmack," of the same material, covers the lower part of the face to the nostrils. This veil is, however, frequently very transparent. The dark eyes only look forth freely from the chrysalis, but seldom with a sparkling or animated expression. Differently, the counten. ances of the children are unveiled, and often very pretty, although it may be asked whether the roses on their cheeks are artificial, like those in their hair.

Some of the carriages are very remarkable in form and style of ornament-two or three are drawn by white oxen, from the heads of which rise aloft steel springs, which bend backwards over the backs of the animal, with long, depending, swinging red tassels. These carriages are a sort of caravan, splendidly ornamented with

birth. The only sister of Abdul Medjid married the High Admiral Mahomed Ali Pascha, and gave birth to a son, and so earnestly besought for its life that the executioner was touched, and the child lived for two years, but then the mother fonnd her child strangled in the cradle. She became idiotic, and died of grief.

a cover of silk or velvet, fringed with gold. They look like huge baskets of flowers, their gay and crowded occupants being adorned with gandy blossoms, white veils, and many-coloured silk mantles. It is the Turkish araba of the old style. On the other side of the plain are the carriages containing gentlemen, and the gentlemen gaze at the ladies. Some gentlemen on horseback do the same. Dark eyes and fiery glances are not seldom encountered. But after a short time all this seems dull, insipid, and lifeless uniformity. People wander and wander about in the same spot, in the same circle, in the same way. The groups which are seated on mats by the little stream, on the grass, are much more interesting. Here, at least, we can see women eating and drinking, and enjoying life with their children; but happy, fresh countenances I miss even here; and beautiful ones are nowhere to be found. The greater number are very pale.

After an hour we leave this narrow circumscribed Elysium, and betake ourselves again to the Bosphorus. Below the imperial kiosk is a larger, more open plain, running along the shore of the Bosphorus, and here there is also a large assembly of people, principally ladies, whose mantles shine out in all the colours of the rainbow, but much more brilliant. A great number of them have very plain countenances, although they wear the Turkish dress and veil. They belong to the Greek and Armenian population of the Bosphorus and Constantinople. They are sitting in groups along the latticed galleries of the kiosk, or upon the steps of the large fountain under the plane-trees--the largest and most beautiful trees of this region. The sight is really happy and splendid, principally from the bril. liant colouring of the beautiful silk mantles-rose-red, yellow, green, and blue. I observe some very beautiful young Turkish ladies here, with the most transparent jackmacks. But still there is the same expression of the countenance-lifeless, soulless. It is that of imprisoned souls.

Up above, in the kiosk, the windows are open; but no faces are looking out. Below, dervishes go among the crowd and beg—the sellers of ices and lemonade cry aloud their wares--a circle is formed among the people--a kind of palazzo opens the space with stick and tongue-and then persons come forward upon the theatre thus formed. They entertain the public by acrobatic evolutions and tumblers' tricks, with a joke on every word and action, which seem to me in the highest degree monotonous and coarse, though the Turks laugh heartily at the whole.

Glad to escape from these uninteresting scenes, we again find ourselves on the waters of the Bosphorus, and are borne swiftly down the stream to the Golden Horn, the harbour of Pera.

“ Leander's Tower” stands upon a rock in the middle of the mouth of the Bosphorus, calling to mind the bold but unfortunate swimmer. How beautifully the Seraglio Point shines out in the sunshine, with its white mosques and minarets rising up in the midst of wood, and with the glittering water dancing around. (To be continued.)

VII.

FINANCIAL REFORM. 1. Report on Taxation, direct and indirect, adopted by the Financial

Reform Association of Lirerpcol. (Read at the Bradford Social

Science Meeting.) 2. Speech of John Bright, Esq., M.P., at the Great Financial Reform

Meeting in Liverpool, on 1st December, 1859. The question of Financial Reform has made a great step in advance. To the Liverpool Association belongs the merit of having, for many years, continued to agitate in favour of what appeared to be a hopeless cause. Their first step to obtain a sound footing for their principles on the platform of practical statesmanship, was by bringing their able “Report” (the title of which we have prefixed to this article) before the Association for the Promotion of Social Science at Bradford, under the distinguished presidency of Lord Brougham, where the subject was thoroughly explainedand enforced in the course of the interesting discussion which took place. It was afterwards brought still more prominently before the public in the statement made to the General Meeting of the Association by Lord Brougham, in bringing up a report from the section in which it had been discussed, and by giving the benefit of his support to the principles advocated, although only to a modified extent, by supporting the abolition of the Customs duties on 439 articles, which produced only three-quarters of a million of revenue. The next step, and by far the most important, which the Financial Reform Association had ever made, was that of securing the advocacy of Mr. Bright at their great meeting, held on the first of December last. That gentleman grappled with the principles and details of the measure of Finance Reform in a way which had never been attempted before, so as to exhibit them in a practical shape, fit for immediate legislation. In place of advocating, as Lord Brougham had done, the abolition of duties to the extent of three-quarters of a million, Mr. Bright boldly avowed that he was prepared, immediately, to abolish all the more vexatious and oppressive duties in our financial code, including customs, excise and assessed taxes, to the extent of twenty-seven millions, and to make up the deficiency by means of a wealth tax, to be imposed on all realised property and funds, of whatever kind, to the same amount. No account of the property and capital of the nation has ever been published, on which much dependence could be placed, but Mr. Bright appears to have gone into the question with care, founding his calculations on certain Parliamentary returns; and he estimated the total amount at £6,700,000,000-rejecting what appeared to him to be the exaggeratedamount, suggested in one of the publications of the Liverpool Association, £10,000,000,000. The property and capital of those who were not worth 2100 in all, including all their possessions in lands, houses, goods; money, furniture, stock-in-trade, and property of every

« PreviousContinue »