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several particulars distinct from all, and perfectly unique. A partial subsidence of the cliff qualified it for a small fishing-hamlet. In point of locality it has no other advantage whatever, presenting nothing but a sterile country without trees, and a sea without ships; both equally monotonous and uninteresting. After many centuries of obscurity, the rage for sea-bathing, propinquity to the metropolis, and the fashion consequent upon its becoming the occasional abode of Royalty, suddenly elevated Brighton into a magnificent town, which will now bear competition with any city of the same rank in the empire.
In the total absence of local attraction, there is no instance of any such sudden creation of a large and sumptuous town, or of so rapid, so incredible an advance in the value of land. Trade and commerce, as at Liverpool and other places, have effected nearly similar wonders ; but here there is no port, there are no manufactories; it does not even possess the advantage of the steam-boats, which, daily conveying such innumerable shoals from Wapping and Whitechapel, disembogue them at Margate, Ramsgate, and Broadstairs. Some jealous Brightonians, beholding with envy this money-spending freightage, have sighed for such a reduction in the coach-fares as might enable them to compete with the steam-boats. It was a greedy and unwise wish. During the summer season, indeed, it might bring down an irruption of Goths and Vandals, and other barbarians, from the eastern districts of London, to the immediate profit of certain low publicans; but they would leave a taint of vulgarity behind them, which, offending the permanent inhabitants of the higher class, and alienating the occasional visitants who make any pretensions to gentility, might, at no distant period, tend to depopulate the town. The Isle of Thanet should not be grudged its steam-boat mob during the summer months, for on that very account it has no other description of visitants. Brighton has a sufficient sprinkling of vulgarity to afford variety, amusement, and bustle in the height of its season, as well as to exalt, by contrast, the charms of that later period when it becomes the residence of rank, beauty, and fashion; and the coronetted carriages and distinguished pedestrians upon the Marine Parade, present a display of attractions only to be rivalled in the Park at London.
It is another peculiarity of Brighton that the bathing, which is the primary consideration of most watering-places, is here quite a subordinate object, the beach not being by any means particularly well adapted for the purpose. So much the better. It is not a town to which people come for their health, but for their pleasure; and instead of being revolted, as at Cheltenham, with dyspeptic, yellow-faced dowagers and spinsters, or jaundiced nabobs, who have manifestly turned their livers into gold;- instead of being haunted, as at Bath, with cadaverous, living ghosts, and flannelled Epicurean wrecks, wheeling about in gouty chairs, or groaning upon crutches, one encounters scarcely any but healthy complexions and happy looks. Nothing indeed can be more gay, animated, and vivacious than the perpetually changing panorama of Brighton. In other towns, people congregate that they may make money-a grave and anxious process; they come hither to spend it, to enjoy themselves, to drive away care, to think of nothing but amusement. Vive la Bagatelle is the order of the day; and never was any order more implicitly, more zealously, more inces
santly obeyed. What place can convey to a foreigner a more brilliant and fascinating, and at the same time a more deceptive impression of England, than Brighton ? Arriving, probably, from the miserable town of Dieppe, one of the shabbiest in France, and landing upon the light and elegant Chain Pier, he beholds before him a range of noble buildings, extending for nearly three miles along the coast, and presenting a frontage to the sea which may fairly be termed magnificent. Toward its centre it is broken by the opening of the Steyne; affording a glimpse of the grotesque and Oriental Pavilion, embosomed in trees, beyond which, over the gardens of the intervening enclosures, rises the beautiful new Gothic Church, the noblest ornament of the town. He gets into one of the hired carriages, handsomer than some of those that belong to nobility in his own country ; takes the fashionable ride along the cliffs; sees nothing but splendid equipages and well-dressed people; passes none but spacious and lordly mansions—for all the meaner buildings are carefully placed out of sight; encounters but few common people, this part of the town not being their resort; does not see a single beggar-for the vigilance of the police, if it scare not mendicants from the town altogether, commits them instanter to prison ; gazes at a Brighton stage-coach, mistaking it at first for the equipage of some grandee; beholds nothing but opulence, splendour, and gaiety; and pronounces England to be beyond all comparison the wealthiest and happiest country in the world. A sapplied to the empire at large, no conclusion could well be more erroneous; limited to Brighton, the deduction might be justified by the premises. If any one, even among ourselves, would duly appreciate the superior advantages of residing in an opulent and cheerful place like this, where the great business of the day is amusement, and every day is a holiday, let him betake himself for a month to some manufacturing town; let him do penance for a while amid the penury, squalor, wretchedness, and vice of Manchester; let him even walk for a single morning among the bustling, sallow, haggard mob of London, and he will return with renovated delight to the pure air, well-dressed crowds, happy faces, and unalloyed vivacity of Brighton. Such a change will come like returning health and a draught of sparkling Champagne, after having been drenched with the sickly and nauseous abominations of the apothecary.
Their commercial character has stamped upon Englishmen an universal ambition to make a good bargain ; a profound horror of being taken in; a resolute determination to have the most for their money; all of which feelings are conspicuous in their manner of securing lodgings upon their arrival at Brighton. John Bull has no idea, not he, of coming so far, and putting himself to such an expense, without having the sea after all; and so, if he cannot throw a bit of orange-peel into it from the window of his room-if he cannot half blind himself by staring upon its sunny surface, about as pleasant and profitable an object to pore upon as an enormous burning-glass,—he will have nothing to do with the house, shrewdly observing that he might as well be in London if he is not to have a peep at the water.
It was for this that he came, and no one shall chouse him out of it. Nay, there is such a manifest apprehension on the part of many that the Atlantic Ocean may play them false, give them the slip, letant, and abscond before they have had their money's worth out of it, that they will sit for whole mornings
on the Chain Pier, or upon the shingles, watching it, and taking the air, as if there were a tide in that element, as well as in the waves, which prevented its extending beyond high-water mark. There you see them, hour after hour, patient as anglers, and all chuckling at the idea that they have got better places, and are swallowing more health and vitality than those who are a few yards behind them, walking on the Steyne or the Parade. Because it is actually built in the sea, the Albion Hotel has obtained a preference over all its competitors. People are content to be kept sleepless from the dissonant braying of the waves during the night, provided they may enjoy the luxuries of being dazzled with their glare, and soaked with their spray in the daytime. Surely the ocean, as an object, has been prodigiously overrated, and Leigh Hunt was well justified in calling it a great monotonous idea ; for after the first surprise of its novelty what remains ? The visible horizon, to one standing on the shore, is of very limited extent, when compared with a land view from any eminence; and as to the immensity beyond that line, one can imagine it just as well with one's back to the waves, and not be half-blinded in the process of conjuring up a vague idea. The chief beauty and interest of the sea are derived from its concomitants, from association, from the cliffs and headlands that bound it, or from the vessels and human beings sailing on its surface. In a calm, it presents a drowsy unvaried spectacle; and though it may assume a terrible grandeur wben it becomes instinct and alive with the storm, its images, and all the thoughts they suggest, are painful and revolting. A classic poet has extolled the delight of hearing the merciless wind raging at sea while you are lying safe in bed upon the shore ; but such consolation is cowardly, selfish, and unfeeling. People who find a pleasure in attending executions may be gratified by the howling of the tempest, and the signal-gun of distress,
booming slow with solemn roar” over the sepulchral waters, at that moment perhaps about to entomb their victims; but such feelings, or such apathy, are neither amiable nor enviable. Were there no other objection than the wind, I would not, especially during the winter months, stand a siege upon the Marine Parade against the Southwestern gales; which, not content with now and then smashing in your windows, or bringing a stack of chimneys to clatter about your ears, will sometimes burglariously force open your hall-door, which is hardly to be shut again without summoning the whole posse comitatus. To give some idea of the forces brought up to the assault of your dwelling upon these occasions, it may be recorded, that by experiments made with Lind's anemometer during the storm of November 1824, the impetus of the wind at the embouchures of streets opening to the sea, exceeded twenty-five pounds upon a square foot ; so that, in these situations, a moderate-sized bouse, sixty feet long and forty high, would have to sustain an adventitious force of above seventy thousand pounds. How people can be found to expose themselres to the perils and pelting of such a stunning wind-battery, without the prospect of pay, or even the hope of glory, is a paradox only to be explained by the trite adage of " de Gustibus nil disputandum,” a quotation which I make in all innocence of a pun.
If the Sea have been overvalued, the Downs, on the other hand, have been unduly depreciated. In the winter they may be bleak and desolate, the storm-battled heights almost unvisitable, and even the
hollows, dotted as they often are with farms, mournful from the single larly wild and moaning sound of the wind amid the fir-trees, frequently planted for the protection of the buildings; but no season can diminish the beauty and majesty of their undulating outlines, sweeping grandly away, as far as the eye can reach, presenting an unpassable barrier to the waves, and acquiring a sublimity from the reflection that their bold primeval summits, unless they may have been partially modified by the flood, retain the unaltered forms into which they were moulded by the hand of the Creator. Gazing upon these apparently interminable heights, and upon the boundless ocean, neither of which have received any visible impress from man, one seems to stand more immediately in the presence of the Deity, and to be exalted by a perception of the extent and immutability of his magnificent works. To one who comes from inland places of favourite resort, where his footsteps and even his view have been cribbed and cabined in by perpetual walls and inclo, sures, confining him to the dusty high-road, there is moreover an indescribable charm in this limitless range of verdant turf, over which he may wander in all directions, free as the birds that are singing above his head, or as the “chartered libertine,” that is wafting invigorating freshness around him. It gives him a sort of property and possession in the landscape ; flatters his sense of power ; makes him feel as if he were indeed a lord of the creation. Nor are the flying shadows of the clouds, plunging into the ravines and gorges, lost for a moment, then seen rushing up the opposite heights, or disappearing over the cliffs, as if they had thrown themselves into the sea, without their attractions for a poetical mind, even in the winter. They supplied Ossian with his favourite images, and will recall many of his most beautiful passages. The Downs, it must be confessed, are forlorn, almost fearful and appalling, when their extended surface lies cold, silent,dead, covered with a ghastly winding-sheet of snow; but this is, fortunately, of very rare occurrence.
That man, however, must be either no admirer of Nature, or a very fastidious one, who in spring, summer, or autumn, can gaze upon the scenery of these sweeping bills, and, without reference to the beauty of their forms, can fail to be smitten with the harmonious blending of their tints, at once rich, cool, and mellow, forming a perfect banquet to the eye, and constituting a natural picture that mocks the skill of the most exquisite colourist. Green of every variety, from the deep shining hue of the mangel-wurzel, to the brightest and tenderest pea-colour, rich uninclosed fields of clover reddening into purple, others of flowering tares or potatoes, corn of all descriptions and in every stage, in some places emblazoned with the golden charlock, the most gorgeous of weeds, which in others is thinly scattered, waving to and fro in the light till the whole resembles a shot silk; the velvet Downs, empurpled with wild thyme and sparkling with daisies, or running into little patches of common, enlivened with the “never bloomless furze," all thrown into relief by the lights and shadows of a perpetually varying surface which blends the whole landscape into the softest and most grateful tone, present a combination that may well compensate for the absence of the wood, as the occasional glimpses of the sea form a noble substitute for lakes or rivers. Towards evening the deep shadows of the abrupt glens and hollows assume the appearance of distant groves, and well supply their place ; and this is decidedly the time when the Downs wear their most picturesque aspect. Sometimes after the
sun has set, some height or slope, radiant with the yellow charlock, contrasting with the sober hues around it, will suggest the idea that a gleam of solar light has been left behind by mistake ; and this is the period when it is delightful to sit and watch the shades gradually deepening, the whole landscape continually changing its tones, and yet never ceasing to harmonize altogether, until every colour is absorbed and melted into darkness. Nor are there wanting pastoral accompaniments to the evening scene. The beautiful South Down sheep are generally to be seen dotted upon the precipitous slopes, transmitting their bleating voices, or the pleasant tinkling of their bells, sounds which come and go upon the breeze together with rich odours wafted from the intervening fields; while innumerable birds are twittering from the air, the ground, or the surrounding bushes. Some of the detached farms and hamlets, pitched in the sheltered hollows, and not unfrequently half hidden by plantations, impart a pleasant diversity to the view. For the epicure, moreover, the Downs are sure to retain one point of attraction, since they are the autumnal haunt of the wheatear, the English ortolan; while to the curious in ornithological facts it may not be uninteresting to observe the habits of the gulls and the rooks, the feathered marines and land forces of these districts, who sometimes pursue their several occupations in perfect harmony, while at others the latter will combine to repel their white visitants as foreigners and invaders.
If they who have never explored the Downs, or who have only cantered over them with the passing observation that they afforded the finest and most healthy rides imaginable, should think their beauties have been exaggerated, the writer can only say, that having been a permanent resident for some years amid the scenes he has been sketching, he does not by any means feel conscious of having drawn them too much en beau ; and that to his eye, thus long accustomed to them, they have lost no tittle of their first attractions. He had intended to offer a few remarks upon the architecture of Brighton, as well as upon its characteristic society and amusements at the different seasons, but his limits warn bim to reserve this communication for a future paper.
IMITATED FROM BERNI.