THE DIET OF 1835.
Ball-room Studies.—Chamber of Deputies.—Deák.—Debate on Wesselényi is Process. —Kossúth.—MS. Journal.—Prorogation. —Tour to the Neusiedler Lake.—Posting.—Bauern Post.— Lake.—Ruszt and its Wine.—Prince Eszterházy's Palaces.— Eisenstadt. — Eszterház. — Haydn. — Wild Boy. — Castle of Forchtenstein.—Eszterházy Jowels.—Watchman at Edenburg.
"WHAT, not yet ready?" said young S___, as he entered our room at Presburg, and found us still occupied with dressing and coffee, operations which our German travels had taught us to unite: "it is ten o'clock, and the lower chamber has been sitting this hour past: you must be quick, for they rarely remain later than one."
The fact was, we had been persuaded the night
before by some of our wilder friends, whose philosophy taught them, that to know all one must see
all,—forgetting that it was still a question whether
all was worth knowing,—to visit one of those balls
in the suburbs of Presburg, where a few kreutzers
give entrance to the gentlemen and the ladies pay
nothing. This fashionable re-union for wicked 'prentices and gallant artillery men—the latter always
Except some variations,—rather marked ones it is true,—in the conventional modes of society, there is little real difference between the drawing-room and the Bechtel; the same flirtations are to be witnessed in the former as in the latter place, and they are scarcely more decent or less interested ; the dresses too are equally low ; the dancing often worse ; and the whole thing, if possible, less rational, because less amusing. The women were pretty, but apparently rather more addicted to flirting than their beaux seemed willing to permit ; and as some of our party were more gallant than wise, I am not sure but we might have had rather a disagreeable proof of Hungarian mettle had we not beaten a timely retreat. And so our philosophical studies at the Hechtel had detained us till late in the evening, and we found ourselves next morning somewhat behind-hand in keeping our appointment to attend a sitting of the Diet.
Making, however, every possible haste to suit the hours of these early legislators, we arrived in pretty good time at the gates of a large plain building, where the meetings of the upper and lower cham- bers of the Hungarian Diet are held. As we ascended the stairs, the hussars—the town police of Presburg—on guard, presented arms to our friend as he wore the national uniform, and gave us admittance to a small gallery which runs half round the building. The lower chamber which we had now entered is a long plain hall, traversed in nearly its whole length by two tables covered with green baize, at which the deputies were seated with pens, ink, and paper before them. At the upper end, there is a raised part occupied by the president, or Personal,6 the vice-president and secretary, and behind these sit the judges of the royal table. The chamber had rather a sombre appearance ; the bare white-washed walls and the black dresses of the members,—they were all in mourning for the Emperor—rendering it much more like our St. Stephens than the brilliant Chambre des Députés of our gayer neighbours.
As we entered the chamber, not a sound was to be heard except the deep impassioned tones of Deák, who was listened to with the greatest attention. Deák is one of the best speakers and has one of the most philosophical heads in the Diet. Heavy and dull in appearance, it is not till he
6Personalis presentim regis, locum tenens.
The subject of debate was a remonstrance proposed to be presented to the Emperor against the illegal proceedings of the Government in the case of Baron „Vesselényi, or rather as to the manner in which such remonstrance should be presented, whether immediately from the Diet, or through the mediation of the Palatine. The prosecution of the Baron had excited throughout the whole country, as well as in the Diet, an intense feeling of indignation, as it was considered the most daring attack Government had ever ventured to make upon the right of liberty of speech enjoyed by the Hungarian nobles, and not even the voice of the most unblushing sycophant of the court was raised in defence of its legality.
Baron 1Vesselényi Miklos is a man of great talent
and energy, and gifted with the most impassioned
Two months after this meeting7 when Wesselényi had taken his seat as a Hungarian magnate, Government commenced an action against him for these words as treasonable, and put him upon trial for his life. From one end of the country to the other a universal cry of shame arose against so unprecedented an injustice. Remonstrances were prepared in every county ; all business was interrupted at the Diet ; Balogh, the member for Bars,
7Wesselényi disputes the right of Government to proceed against him at all, as by law nothing said at a public meeting can be carried before another tribunal unless the president or some member of that meeting objects to the expression and commences a verbal process, as it is called, at the time the words are uttered.
This remonstrance was the subject of debate during the sitting at which we were present. When Deák finished speaking, arid the cheers had subsided, a tall loud-voiced man arose, who was very differently received : a half laugh, half sneer, and a return to private conversation among the deputies, declared him a person not only unpopular, but unrespected by his opponents. It was the renegade from liberalism, P , who, a few months later, was recalled by his constituents and dismissed from his post for not having expressed their sentiments or obeyed their instructions.
Kossúth, a young man of considerable promise,
spoke next. He was content with two or three
Kossúth has been most usefully employed during the Diet. Government, in spite of the law of Hungary, in spite of the protests of the Diet, forbids the publication of the debates, and maintains here, as elsewhere in the Austrian dominions, a strict censorship. That the represented
8The most distinguished speakers in this Diet were Deák, Nagy, Beöthy, and Kölcsey.
9Since the dissolution of the Diet, I regret to say, that this gentleman has been thrown into prison. It is one of the privileges of the Hungarian noble, that he cannot be imprisoned before trial, except in case of high treason; but, in spite of this, M. Kossúth has been deprived of his liberty. I believe his chief guilt, in the eyes of the Government, was his having circulated in MS. in the same manner as he formerly gave publicity to the transactions of the Diet, reports of the county meetings in various parts of Hungary. The additional strength which this plan would have conferred on the municipal or popular power, by the union and combination it would have produced, is immense, and probably alarmed the higher powers. Kossúth is accused of having reported the proceedings of the meetings incorrectly ; and he answers, that not having been present, he only copied what was reported to him. The whole proceedings in this case are considered as arbitrary and unjust in the highest degree, and have excited the greatest indignation throughout the country. Government wished to make the lawyers employed to defend Kossúth promise not to divulge the circumstances of the trial ; not a single member of the bar could be found so base as to obey their behests. Kossúth has been condemned to four years' imprisonment in addition to two years passed in prison previously to trial ! (1839.)
Unruly as the meetings for the election of members are said to be, nothing can be more orderly than the meetings of the members themselves. Their uniform gives them an air of considerable dignity. Personal altercation is almost unknown ; and although a tribunal exists for settling at once such cases, should they arise, no instance has occurred for more than forty years. I would not have it understood that the debates are not animated ; it would be difficult they should be otherwise with an enthusiastic and warm-blooded people like the Magyars. But if the Diet is not enlivened by those yells, coughs, shufllings, and catcalls, by which certain senators we know of are accustomed to express their dissent to a proposition, or their impa- tience for dinner,—there is still sufficient difference between the reception of a Nagy, or an A to declare to the merest stranger which is the most heeded and respected, although the other is allowed to speak, however little he may be attended to.
I need scarcely say that the question was carried in favour of the liberal party by a triumphant majority. At one F.M. the sitting was closed, and the deputies retired to their lodgings, changed their uniforms for an ordinary civil costume, and half an hour later we met many of them again round the dinner tables of the Goldene Sonne.
On the morrow, we heard that the Diet was not
likely to meet again for some days, or perhaps
weeks ; for the strong opposition which had been
In the mean time, the weather was too fine to be lost; and we, therefore, determined to make some excursions into the country, and see what we could of this part of Hungary before troubling our heads any further with politics.
It was at six o'clock in the morning, that the smart Presburg post-boy sounded his bugle, to express his impatience at the half hour we had already kept him waiting ere we started for the Neusiedler Lake, in the neighbourhood of which we intended to pass a few days. The journey to the end of the lake might be some sixty miles, and we reckoned to accomplish it by post within the day.
Of all the modes of travelling in Hungary, the
post is the most expensive, and to me, at least,
the most disagreeable. The supply of horses is
scanty, and if the traveller happens to arrive before
or after the post wagen, he must generally wait some
time before he can obtain the number he requires.
There is an awkward rule, too, which it is well a
stranger should know. If he arrives at any place
with post, he can oblige the post-master to send
him on with the same number of horses he arrived
with ; but should he, as occurred to us on the pre
It was at Gschies we learned this rule ; for the post-master stoutly refused to send us on with a pair of horses, which was all we had previously required, and declared we should either take four or remain where we were. Entirely ignorant as I then was of any other means of getting forward, I at last consented, and desired hint to give us the four horses. "But I have only three in the stable at present," was his cool reply ; "and you may either take those and pay for four, or you may remain where you are till to-morrow, when the others will come home." Nor is this the only instance of gross imposition I could relate. The worst of it is that there is no redress ; in one case I applied to the judge and notary of the village, and though they had the best will to protect me, all they could do was to give me peasants' horses, and so enable me to avoid the like treatment for the rest of the journey.
For the matter of speed, you get on by post at
about the rate of five miles an hour, with strong
large horses, and post-boys wearing huge cockedhats, each with a plume of feathers worthy a fieldmarshal, and a red coat with purple facings. But
if ever the reader should have occasion to go from
Vienna to Pest, and is an amateur of driving, I
The peasants between the frontiers of Hungary and Pest, on the great high road from Vienna, combined to supply relays of horses at a cheaper rate and better than the royal post ; and though at first opposed by Government, they eventually succeeded so well that at present the whole line is supplied by them almost exclusively. The pace at which these men with their four small horses take on a light Vienna carriage is something wonderful, especially when the length of some of their stages is considered. The last stage cannot be less than forty miles from Pest, and with a short pause of about a quarter of an hour to water, they do it for the most part at full gallop, and with the same horses, in four hours. It is glorious to see the wild looking driver, his long black hair floating the wind as be turns round to ask your admiration when his four little clean-boned nags are rattling over hill and hollow in a style which for the first time since he left home shakes an Englishman's blood into quicker circulation. There is certainly a pleasure in rapid motion which has on some men almost an intoxicating effect.
But to return to our five miles an hour. We
passed through a well cultivated country chiefly
inhabited by Germans, who have crept in upon
this side of Hungary from Presburg, nearly to the
It is supposed to be this lake which the Emperor Galerius drained into the Danube, and which has been allowed to re-form by the destruction of the Roman works. There is little doubt, I believe, as to the practicability of draining the lake again if it were desired; but, as a neighbouring proprietor observed, it would spoil some glorious snipeshooting. The water is said to have a salt taste, though I must confess I could not perceive it, and to contain sulphate, muriate, and carbonate of soda. It is well supplied with fish, chiefly carp and pike. From the Hanság bog a considerable number of leeches10 are obtained which are exported to France.
About midway down the lake, and close upon its shore, is the little royal free town of Ruszt, a
10 Leeches are found in some other parts of Hungary, but the chief supply of the European markets is obtained from Bessarabia, Servia, and Bulgaria. The leeches are collected in the immense bogs of these countries, and from thence sent to fixed stations, where they remain in tanks till the French and German leechmerchants arrive and transport them by post-carriages to Paris and Hamburg.
A little beyond Ruszt is the Margaretha hill, where the stone, so much used in Vienna for building, is quarried. It is a soft new limestone, much like that of the Paris basin, of a good colour, but somewhat loose in texture. In some parts it is quite filled with an Ostrea and Pecten, the latter peculiar to this place, and named from it. It overlies the granite on which the vineyards of Ruszt are formed. The same formation occurs in several parts of the little Carpathians beyond Presburg.
At Eisenstadt, some short distance from the lake,
is a palace of the first of the Hungarian magnates,
Prince Eszterházy. This palace, though not re
The gardens, laid out in the English style, are very fine, and the hot-houses larger than any I remember to have seen ; even Alton must bow to Eisenstadt. They contain no less than seventy thousand exotics, and are particularly rich in New Holland specimens. One can hardly help lamenting that so much luxury and beauty should be wasted ; for except the inhabitants of Eisenstadt, to whom the gardens are always open, it is rarely the palace or its grounds receive a visitor.
Great as is the splendour of some of our English peers, I almost fear the suspicion of using a traveller's licence, when I tell of Eszterhizy's magnificence. Within a few miles of this same spot, he has three other palaces of equal size.
Just at the southern extremity of the lake stands
Eszterház ; a huge building in the most florid Italian
11Prince Eszterházy has still one hundred and fifty guards in his own pay and uniform, who do duty at his different castles and palaces.
Haydn was for more than thirty years maestro di cape/10 to Prince Eszterházy; and, during that period, lived chiefly with the family. His portrait is still preserved, and it is almost the only picture of much interest the palace contains. Haydn was a very poor and obscure person when he was appointed one of the prince's band; so much so, that no one thought even of giving the necessary orders for his being admitted into the palace. The following anecdote of his introduction to the prince is recounted by Carpani :
"The Maestro Friedberg, a friend and admirer of
Haydn, lived with Prince Eszterházy. Regretting
that Haydn should be overlooked, he persuaded him
to compose a symphony worthy of being performed
on the birthday of his highness. Haydn consented ; the day arrived ; the prince, according to custom, took his seat in the midst of his court, and
Friedberg distributed the parts of Haydn's symphony to the performers. Scarcely had the musicians got through the first allegro, when the
prince interrupted them to ask who was the author
of so beautiful a piece. Friedberg dragged the
modest trembling Haydn from a corner of the room
into which he had crept, and presented him as the
fortunate composer. " What," cried the prince, as
The only part of Eszterház at present occupied
The estates of Prince Eszterhazy are said to equal the kingdom of Wurtemberg in size; it is certain they contain one hundred and thirty villages, forty towns, and thirty-four castles ! The annual revenue from such vast possessions is said, however, not to amount to 150,0001. per annum, though it is capable of considerable increase. The encumbrances at the present time are greater than with most other Hungarian magnates, few of whom are indebted to a less amount than half their incomes.
I remember some years since an anecdote going
the round of the papers to the effect, that Prince
Eszterházy bad astonished one of our great agriculturists who bad shown him his flock of two thousand sheep, and asked with some little pride if he
could show as many, by telling him that he had
more shepherds than the other sheep ! By a reckoning made upon the spot, with one well acquainted
with his affairs, we found the saying literally true.
The winter flock of Merinos is maintained at
It is not right to leave Eszterház without mention of Hanystock, or the wild man of the Hanság.
The Hanság is a bog about twenty miles long, on
the borders of which Eszterház is built. About
eighty years since in some part of this bog, an extraordinary creature is said to have been found,
possessing something of the human form, but with
scarcely any other quality which could entitle it to
a place among our species. It was three feet high,
apparently of about the middle age, strongly built,
and said to have had webbed feet and hands. It
was unable to utter any articulate sounds, lived
entirely on fish and frogs, showed no signs of any
passion or feeling, except fear and anger, and was in
every respect in the lowest state of brutality. The
most curious part of its history is, that no one ever
heard of it till accidentally found by a peasant in
the bog, when it was brought to Eszterház ; where,
after remaining fourteen months, it escaped, and
was never heard of again. I believe there is some
reason to suspect an imposition ; for an Italian adventurer appeared and disappeared about the same
time with Hánystock, and though unable to cite
A few miles from Eisenstadt and just on the confines of Austria, is a yet more interesting monument, of what we should call feudal greatness, belonging to the Eszterhazy family. The castle of Forchtenstein, built by a Count Eszterházy, is still in a perfect state of preservation. It is placed on a bold rock, and commands a view of the whole country to the north-east and south. It is now used as a prison for Prince Eszterházy's peasantry, —for he is one of the few who retain the right of life and death, the " jus gladii," on his own estates,—and is consequently guarded by a small detachment of very venerable-looking grenadiers.
The castle is sufficiently modern to have been laid out for the employment of artillery,—as may be seen by the heavy bastions and long curtains ; and is still sufficiently old to bear marks of the Gothic architect about it,—of which the high watch-tower is not the least elegant. The interior has all the inconvenient straitness of a walled-in castle, and the apartments are for the most part small and simple. The most interesting object after the well, which is one hundred and seventy yards deep, and said to have been worked in the solid rock by Turkish prisoners, is the collection of arms. Besides arms sufficient for a regiment of foot and another of horse, which ere this an Eszterházy has equipped and maintained at his own cost ; there is the gala equipment of a troop of cavalry which attended one of the princesses on her wedding-day, thirty pieces of artillery, suits of plain black armour for several hundred men, many curious specimens of early German matchlocks, and a quantity of Turkish arms of almost every description.
One suit of armour is interesting from the tale
of rude courtesy attached to it. It formerly belonged to a Count Eszterházy who fell in a battle
against the old enemies of Hungary, the Turks.
A ball from the Pasha's own pistol had already
pierced the Count's cuirass, but, anxious to make
more certain of his death, the Moslem leapt from
his horse and beat the helmet of the Christian till
he broke open his visor, when he discovered in the
A great number of banners, as well those taken from the enemy, as those under which the followers of Eszterhazy fought, are hung round the walls. It is characteristic of the times that most of the Hungarian flags bear a painting of the Cross, with a figure of Christ as large as life.
In one room we noticed the genealogical tree of all the Eszterh<ízys, in which it is made out, as clearly as possible, that beginning with Adam, who reclines in a very graceful attitude at the bottom of the tree, they pass through every great name, Jewish as well as Heathen, from Moses to Attila, till they find themselves what they now are, magnates of Hungary. What is still more extraordinary, there is a long series of portraits of these worthies, from Attila inclusive, with their wives and families dressed in the most approved fashion, and continued down to the present century.
It is a pity the noble owner of Forchtenstein
does not imbibe a little of that Gothic mania so
often ill-directed in England, and restore this castle
to its former state. As a national monument of
The only purpose for which it is at present used, except as a prison, is to contain the treasures of the Prince. Of these I can only speak from report ; for previously to my visit, I (lid not know that in order to see them it is necessary to have two persons present who live at a distance, each of whom has a key, without which the other is of no use, and therefore had not provided against the difficulty.
The splendour of the Eszterházy jewels is no
secret in England ; and it is in this good castle
those heaps of treasure, which so tempted her
Majesty's fair lieges at her coronation, are commonly preserved. It is said that each Prince is
obliged to add something to these jewels, and that
they can never be sold except to ransom their possessor from captivity among the Turks. When the
French entered Hungary, a small party presented
themselves before Forchtenstein and demanded its
surrender. The grenadiers, however, shut the gates,
cut the bridge, and set them at defiance; and, as
the enemy had no means of enforcing obedience,
Prince Eszterházy saved his jewels. Besides the
How far the privileges of the Eszterházys, as hereditary Lords Lieutenant, may be constitutional, or how far the right of primogeniture—the majorat —has been wisely extended to a subject of such vast wealth, we leave for others to consider ; but it is impossible to be witness of it, and not to regret that duties, however important, should detain one possessed of so much power away from his country. No country has a greater claim to the exclusive right of her children's services than Hungary at the present moment. Just struggling into notice among the states of modern Europe, exerting all her energies to preserve her liberties and nationality, and at the same time labouring to cast off the chains in which the institutions and laws of a more barbarous age have long bound her, she has full need of the moderating influence which a liberal aristocracy might exercise on her councils, and a just demand on all the support which the wealthy and powerful can afford her. At present, too, a strong suspicion pervades the country, that the highest of her nobles are the most indifferent to her welfare ; a suspicion which, whether just or unjust, ought to be removed at any sacrifice, for one more dangerous to the security of a country can scarcely take possession of a people's mind.
In the course of our journey back to Presburg, we passed the little town of Edenburg, where a huge watch-tower, the only remains of its fortifications, is still kept in repair. Owing to the wooden tiles with which the houses are commonly roofed in Hungary, the danger of fire is very great ; and, in almost every town, a watchman is consequently employed to give the alarm, and as a sign of his vigilance he is obliged to blow a shrill whistle every quarter of an hour, day and night.
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