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five miles. The wooded banks, contracting much, bring closer at intervals the luxuriant verdure; for leaf trees—as the Swedes emphatically term all trees that are not fir or pine-are here abundant, and dreary is the scene where they mingle not in the unchanging fir forests. Here their lighter green is mixed with the giant firs and rocks, which, opening at short intervals, disclose a pretty, snug-looking, red wooden house, with white or green painted windows, looking warm and comfortable and picturesque among green pastures and dark fir trees. And then come nice villas, wooden ones, of all colours and shades; then a handsome house or two, which are not wooden ; and then rise up towers and spires, and a great massive building, and they cry out “The Palace !" THE BUILDING of Stockholm. And so, seated on her seven islands, instead of seven hills, appears the Venice of the North, which its inhabitants prefer, as if in burlesque, to call the 66 Paris of the North."
No! to Venice, naturally, some resemblance may be made out; to Paris, artificially, none.
Yet the natural resemblance to the former is but a faint one; it consists chiefly in both being the children of water. But Stockholm wants the charming uniqueness of the true Venice, the only Venice; which, unlike any city of the earth, springs forth from the sea, without apparently a foot of land to rest upon. Stockholm, on the contrary, chiefly built on islands as it is, is clearly seen, even at a distance, to be partly elevated on a high rocky site, partly to descend even to the water's edge. The water here is bordered with trees, rocks, hills, and turf banks, covered with flowers. Venice rises from her bed of waters, undistinguished by a tree, a rock, a glimpse of solid land. But if it were not for this peculiarity of Venice, the water-approach to the northern capital might well compete the palm of beauty with the now mournful widow of the Adriatic.
Now, that most disagreeable practice, still maintained here, takes place; the startling gun rings sharply out to tell all Stockholm we are coming—the firing from boats never ceases in summer; when it does stop, you may know the water is closed.
Now, in the midsummer-tide, we land in the brightness of evening; the many-windowed, large, and very long white houses are flashing in radiancy almost incredible; the spire on the top of Riddarholmen Church is only seen to upraise on
its summit a cross of blazing gold; for its light form is indistinguishable in the radiancy: the whole town is sun-illuminated; up from the water's edge, up to the scattered, rising, and unequally placed houses on Söder heights. Stockholm, rising from the wooded lake at one side, and the green-waved Baltic at the other, should be first seen, as it is now, when the declining sun is flashing back from houses, churches, and towers, its gloriously-burnished rays on the dazzled spectator; presenting, from its watery and wooded position, a sight almost unequalled for beauty, and an air of splendour which is lent to it for the moment.
And thus did I land at Stockholm, so long, so very long ago! Four years ago !
Let me return, let me leave the midsummer tide; I am now in the autumn of 1851.
Ack! say the Swedes, when anything goes wrong; and so I say when I attempt to show the miserable reverse of my sun-illumined picture. But, pray, do not believe, or be influenced by the accounts which any traveller may give of a place he sees in rain, cold, wet, dreariness, and after spending some days with little he could eat, and three nights without a bed to sleep on.
To confess the truth-if it be whispered only -I thought the famous Gottenburg Canal the most wearisome mode of travelling that ever was invented; and I thought Stockholm a dirty, disagreeable, uncomfortable place, when I travelled by the one in company with many natives thronging to winter quarters, and landed at the other in the rainy, stormy, and cold autumn of 1851.
Now I must tell you that I had sustained my courage by the thought that all my miseries would end by the touching of our crowded little boat at the pier of Stockholm; that there I should see a face looking out for me, that there I should hear a word of welcome, and there I should meet that grand indemnity for out-of-doors discomforts—the comfort of finding “all ready" for you within them.
The reason of my indulging in such a delusion I set before you by transcribing a note, which was, indeed, a chief cause of bringing me back to Sweden. You will see how easily I am beguiled by the voice of the charmers of this world.
Thus wrote a learned Swede:-"Nothing can be more agreeable to me than to read a true
description" (i.e. a good one) “of my country; as it has been to the English either a terra incognita, or represented in a light in which the bad part only has been made visible.
“I shall therefore be very glad to receive you here, when you, as you have promised, come to make acquaintance with our social life; with * The H. Family,' The President's Daughters, &c., &c., and then to portray it all with the style of your literary relative, as you have begun to do already.
“Let me know when you intend to come, and I shall fulfil my promise, to give you the best advice as to your journey, and to prepare for you here."
Now, having written to say I was very near at hand, and should soon come to make acquaintance with the social life of Sweden, I naturally expected to find it presented to me in the best light on my arrival; that so, as I am a firm believer in the truth of first impressions, I might be able to represent it in such a way as that the bad part only should be invisible. But alas ! if the learned Swede's country had been hitherto a terra incognita to the ignorant world, so did I think it was likely to remain to me, when * * * * * I leave the asterisks to tell the rest.