« AnteriorContinuar »
dependently of the municipality, to the present day. Van Eyck's noble work has had some hairbreadth escapes-firstly, from the nuns, who set a clumsy painter to work to clothe the nude figures in the foreground; secondly, from the after-process of undraping them, which was carried out later. It has been besmeared, varnished, and evidently done up; after all, remaining, what it must ever be, a fine piece of work, and a delight for ever, and for all beholders, alike the skilled and unskilled. It is divided into eight compartments, the central one occupied by the Awarding Angel, a large figure, clothed in white, stern of aspect, and with scales in his hands, weighing in one the sins, in the other the good deeds, of the newly-arisen awaiting his doom. Above, clad in deep blue, is the figure of Christ, surmounted with angels and the symbols of the Passion, whilst around the Awarding Angel are beautiful crimson-robed figures, cherub and seraph, trumpeting the dead from their graves. On either side of these panels are rows of nobly conceived portraits, with drapery in brilliant blues, red, and brown-portraits we must take them to be, though many represent scriptural personages, such as Lazarus, Abraham, the prophets, and apostles. The Virgin is also there—a sweet and stately figure, full of pity and passionate intercession. Below, on a much smaller scale, in all the nakedness of the grave, are the newly arisen, some just bursting open their graves, others already judged, and betaking themselves, either in despair to the torments of hell, or in joy towards the golden gates of heaven. The colours are superb, the grouping dramatic, and the effect of the whole as a work of art is imposing in the extreme. In the room devoted to this masterpiece are also some curious and beautiful specimens of antique furniture, notably the spinning-wheel of Madame Rollin, co-foundress of the hospital, in dark carved wood-wheel, spindle, and distaff all very elaborate and artistic.
Of quite a different interest is the excursion to the once famous Abbey of Citeaux, now turned into an industrial penitentiary for young criminals. Forming one of the most powerful monastic bodies in the world, the Trappists, in twenty-five years' time from the foundation alone (1098), sent out 60,000 monks to make converts and to cultivate waste lands in all parts of Europe. The Abbey of Citeaux founded 1,300 dependent monasteries and 1,400 nunneries, besides giving four popes to the papal see. During the Great Revolution, the foundation was broken up and the buildings destroyed. Under Louis Philippe, it was occupied by a body of Fouriérists, and a few years later was purchased by the brothers of the Order of St. Joseph, and by them converted into its present use. This brotherhood is of recent origin, dating from forty years back only, and consisting at the present day of less than a hundred members of both sexes, who are dispersed in their three establishments, of which Citeaux is the most important.
Three-quarters of an hour by railway brings the traveller to the prettily situated little town of Nuits, where a carriage is to be had
for Citeaux, the drive occupying a little more than an hour. On this mellow October afternoon nothing could be pleasanter than the drive through the vineyards and fine forest formerly comprised in the Citeaux domains. The vintage has begun here at last, but what a vintage compared with that of more favoured years! Here and there you meet a dejected-looking peasant, bearing on his head a basket of the ripest bunches he has been able to find; these, instead of the large, luscious, purple clusters of former years, being mottled with green, hard, and almost worthless bunches. Rich wine-growers can afford to jest over the very word 'vintage.' 'Il faut bien s'y résigner,' they say, and take the year's calamity with accustomed French lightheartedness. But the small wine-grower, although of the thriftiest, and having other crops to depend on, cannot afford to smile, and this disastrous year will tax his resources to the utmost. Our approach to the colony, as the penitentiary of Citeaux is called, is indicated by the appearance of groups of boys with the brethren in charge, all wearing the blue blouse, symbol of labour in France. I am received at the door by one of the brothers, who, with great urbanity, offers to show me what is most interesting in the establishment. As I had before inspected the celebrated industrial penitentiary of Mettray, founded by a lay philanthropist-the late M. de Mettray—I was anxious to compare the two, which are conducted on different principles. Religious instruction is given at Mettray, but it is a lay establishment; whilst Citeaux, belonging solely to the order of St. Joseph, is entirely under the management of the brotherhood, the handicrafts, and even the husbandry, being taught by the brothers.
One curious feature of Citeaux, found also at Mettray, is the reception of incorrigible youths of the better ranks of society. There are 900 boys here, and about 100 are not street vagabonds or young criminals condemned to terms of imprisonment, but boys with whom their parents can do nothing; in fact, the bad boys of French families, up till the age of twenty-one, can be placed here for shorter or longer periods, according to the desire of their parents. At Mettray, young gentlemen of a refractory kind are treated like prisoners, but are kept apart from the rest of the boys, and fare differently with regard to accommodation and the tasks allotted to them. At Citeaux, on the contrary, a boy of the better classes, for whom his parents pay the modest sum of twenty pounds a year for board and lodging, is put precisely on the same footing as the rest, except that he is not set to field work; but it will be seen that, even with such reservations, the probation is a hard one in the extreme. My driver, who is in the habit of conducting numerous visitors to Citeaux, informed me that he had lately taken thither a widow lady, with her son, a youth of seventeen; also another widowed mother, with an unpromising lad a little younger. These boys, having proved quite incorrigible and unmanageable at home, were taken to Citeaux as a last resource, there to remain till they showed proofs of amendment. The mother of the first-named lad, indeed, declared it her intention to keep him
there till he should be of age, unless he turned over quite a new leaf! This young gentleman, reared in luxury and ease, and doubtless a spoiled darling, was placed in the printing press, and my conductor had seen him since, looking, he informed me, wretched enough. My own notion is that a very short term of imprisonment would be a more merciful way of dealing with young criminals of this or any class, the discipline of Citeaux being rigid in the extreme, and very little instruction being given, except as regards manual labour.
The most rudimentary instruction only is afforded, namely, in reading, writing and arithmetic, so that a boy advanced in his studies would here stand still during his stay. Beyond very brief lessons of this rudimentary kind no instruction is given whatever, neither lectures, nor demonstrations, nor any kind of supplementary education. This seems to me a great defect in the system practised at Citeaux.
There is no corporal punishment permitted, but how many things are far more endurable to a lad than a sound flogging? It is the monotony, the rigid routine, the automatic laboriousness of Citeaux which seem exaggerated, especially when we consider that many of the lads are here for years, and some till their twentieth year, not because they have committed any criminal act whatever, but because they belong to the unfortunate class of children of the State.' Again, a large proportion of boys have been convicted for very trifling offences, and it would seem desirable that the remainder -in other words, the worst class-should be kept apart, instead of the 900 boys belonging to each category being massed indiscriminately together.
The work to which the lads are put fails under two heads-agriculture and trade; the former comprehending all the usual branches of agriculture, the latter, brushmaking, printing, bookbinding, carpentry, upholstery, tailoring, shoemaking, and the like. The working day is enormously long, beginning at four o'clock both in winter and summer, and not ending till half-past nine, the instruction being given in the evening. I inquired particularly-Was this enormously long day of toil broken by no playhours even for the best behaved? Well, yes, there was recreation: music and drill on weekdays and a country walk on Sundays. Were no amusing and instructive books lent out on weekdays and Sundays as rewards of good conduct? There was no time for reading, replied my informant blandly and briefly. Were no other kinds of recreation afforded beyond those mentioned? Yes, there were gymnastics, and that certainly had a cheerful sound. Yet it seemed to me that as Citeaux is as much of a refuge for destitute boys as it is a penitentiary, and considering that we have here young human beings to deal with, out of the reach of any other influences whatever, we ask ourselves whether some deviation from this Spartan régime would do any harm. Again, might not some more home-like element be made to enter into the lives of these poor lads? At Mettray the admirable system of families prevails, each boy forming a member of a group or family, with
admirable results. Here nothing of the kind is found: the boys are put to work according to their sizes, and are but an unit of the busy hive to which they belong. They are permitted to choose the trade they prefer, and can also earn money rewards enabling the best behaved, if he remain till his twentieth year, to amass the sum of a hundred francs-exactly four pounds. All this is good as far as it goes, and too much cannot be said in behalf of the devotion of the brethren who share the laboriousness and privations of their charges. The vast congeries of buildings is never warmed even in the coldest weather, and the suffering from cold, especially among the younger boys, must be intense. I was taken into a workroom of these latter, under the charge of the sisters, where were some score and odd of little fellows sitting cross-legged, busy as bees, at tailoring. They did not look exactly unhappy, but overworked and automatic. There can indeed be no doubt whatever that in spite of the many admirable features in Citeaux, it should be subject to Government inspection, and the hours of youthful labour curtailed here as in manufacturing towns. Manufacturers can no longer abuse children's labour in France with impunity. Why, then, should a large industrial institution like that of Citeaux be exempt from the restrictions imposed elsewhere? The Government, moreover, pays sixpence a day for each boy it sends thither, so that the institution does not entirely depend on the children's labour for maintenance. In fact, judging from the quantity of work done, the shoes, the brushes, the carpentry, the bookbinding, got through by these lads over and above the needs of the establishment, it must bring in large profits to the brotherhood.
I could describe many other interesting excursions to be made from Dijon, did space permit, for after a sojourn of many weeks my friends still found much to show me. One day we visited the pretty, ancient little village of Bèze, the Château of Lux, and the Forest of Velours, abounding in deer, wild boar, and wild cats. On another, we drove to the base of Mont Afrique, the highest point in the Côte-d'Or, whence we got a superb view of the surrounding country, and far away the Jura and Swiss mountains. Every Sunday evening there were as usual large gatherings in country houses, where the pleasant tutoiement of French kinsfolk reminded one that all present belonged to the same clan. These large family groups more than anything else distinguish French from English home-life. Without doubt our own is much more varied, has wider interests, and is more open to the reception of new ideas and cosmopolitan sympathies. But the French plan has many counterbalancing points in its favour, such as habits of amiability, freedom from conventionalism and affectation in any shape; last, but not least, economy, and the upholding of family interests.
THE SUGAR QUESTION.
UBLIC opinion will now be called upon to decide on this question of the Sugar Refiner's grievance. Mr. Ritchie's committee has been busy with the final task of preparing its report, which will probably be before the public as soon as these remarks. The proximate negotiations for commercial treaties with several continental states are largely influenced by the Sugar Bounties' question. Moreover, correct knowledge concerning the supply of raw sugar is a matter of the first importance, not only to sugar planters in our colonies but also to the British agriculturist, who, in the face of bad seasons and over-sea competition, is contemplating his future with such reasonable anxiety and apprehension.
There has been a strange ignoring of recorded facts in the public discussion of this question. Even the distinct evidence, published last summer by Mr. Ritchie's committee, has suffered a long winter of foolish neglect. There has been a strong tendency to follow the precedent of the Royal Society in its reported discussion of the King's question as to why a bowl of water weighed more when the fish in it was dead than when the fish was alive. There has been but little effort to solve the preliminary but none the less necessary problem as to whether these things are so. There have been but feeble attempts to marshal the facts of the case for public inspection.
There has been, indeed, considerable and hearty agitation carried on for some time by those most directly concerned with the sugar trade. But this agitation seems to have been inspired, no doubt most honestly and most unconsciously, by the innate human aspiration for protection' at the expense of one's fellows-an aspiration which, in this case, has been generated and fostered by the severe influence of continued commercial depression and fall of prices during the last few years.
More lately those connected with the trade have issued an official manifesto which sums up their grievance in the statement"The foreign export bounties on sugar have been successful in paralyzing an important British industry; and in causing much loss, injury, and suffering to the sugar-producing colonies of the empire.' This indictment has been variously elaborated and frequently put forward. Recently Messrs. Hill and Ohlson, on behalf of the West India Committee, wrote to the Times to the effect that 'Statistics of production prove that protected sugar industries have made rapid strides, while those which are subjected to unfair competition have gone backward.'
1 Vide P.S. to this article.