It is not necessary to trace the origin of the association of ideas which led me to think that the stars and gold keys, which surrounded me the evening before, disgraced the wearers as much as the fetters I was viewing--perhaps more. I even began to investigate the reason, which led me to suspect that the former produced the latter.
The Norwegians are extravagantly fond of courtly distinction, and of titles, though they have no immunities annexed to them, and are easily purchased. The proprietors of mines have many privileges: they are almost exempt from taxes, and the peasantry born on their estates, as well as those on the counts', are not born soldiers or sailors.
One distinction, or rather trophy of nobility, which I might have occurred to the Hottentots, amused me; it was a bunch of hog's bristles placed on the horses' heads, surmounting that part of the harness to which a round piece of brass often dangles, fatiguing the eye with its idle motion.
From the fortress I returned to my lodging, and quickly was taken out of town to be shown a pretty villa, and English garden. To a Norwegian both might have been objects of curiosity; and of use, by exciting to the comparison which leads to improvement. But whilst I gazed, I was employed in restoring the place to nature, or taste, by giving it the character of the surrounding scene. Serpentine walks, and flowering-shrubs, looked trifling in a grand recess of the rooks, shaded by towering pines. Groves of smaller trees might have been sheltered under them, which would have melted into the landscape, displaying only the art which ought to point out the vicinity of a human abode, furnished with some elegance. But few people have sufficient taste to discern, that the art of embellishing consists in interesting, not in astonishing.
Christiania is certainly very pleasantly situated, and the environs I passed through, during this ride, afforded many fine and cultivated prospects; but, excepting the first view approaching to it, rarely present any combination of objects so strikingly new, or picturesque, as to command remembrance. Adieu!
Christiania is a clean, neat city; but it has none of the graces of architecture, which ought to keep pace with the refining manners of a people--or the outside of the house will disgrace the inside, giving the beholder an idea of overgrown wealth devoid of taste. Large square wooden houses offend the eye, displaying more than Gothic barbarism. Huge Gothic piles, indeed, exhibit a characteristic sublimity, and a wildness of fancy peculiar to the period when they were erected; but size, without grandeur or elegance, has an emphatical stamp of meanness, of poverty of conception, which only a commercial spirit could give.
The same thought has struck me, when I have entered the meeting- house of my respected friend, Dr. Price. I am surprised that the dissenters, who have not laid aside all the pomps and vanities of life, should imagine a noble pillar, or arch, unhallowed. Whilst men have senses, whatever soothes them lends wings to devotion; else why do the beauties of nature, where all that charm them are spread around with a lavish hand, force even the sorrowing heart to acknowledge that existence is a blessing? and this acknowledgment is the most sublime homage we can pay to the Deity.
The argument of convenience is absurd. Who would labour for wealth, if it were to procure nothing but conveniences. If we wish to render mankind moral from principle, we must, I am persuaded, give a greater scope to the enjoyments of the senses by blending taste with them. This has frequently occurred to me since I have been in the north, and observed that there sanguine characters always take refuge in drunkenness after the fire of youth is spent.