Count Széchenyi, an Officer of Hussars, a traveller, a Reformer. —Improvement in the Breed of Horses. — Races. — Magyar Language.—Széchenyi's Writings—the " Credit "—his Judgment on England—Character of his Writings.—Establishment of Casino.—Bridge over the Danube.—Nobles taxed.—Steam Navigation.—Political Career.—Prudence.—M. Tasner.

COUNT SZECHENYI ISTVÁN35 is the third son of the founder and benefactor of the Museum of Pest, a scion of the same house which produced two of the most distinguished archbishops of Hungary. For seventeen years Széchenyi served in the Austrian army ; and it was not till the peace had rendered it an idle life, and removed all chance of distinction, that he determined to quit it. Perhaps, disgusted with the system of favouritism or the personal enmity which had kept him down to the rank of captain ; perhaps moved by that spirit of regeneration, which from the mountains of Transylvania spread over the plains of Hungary, and was felt even at the gates

35In Hungarian, the Christian-name is placed after the surname, as in Natural History the name of the species follows that of the genus.
[205] TRAVELS AND PLAN OF REFORM. of Vienna itself ; or, it may be, warned that the freedom with which he had dared, under the influence of this spirit, in his place as an Hungarian magnate, to address the upper chamber, was inconsistent with the uniform he wore ;—such have been suggested as among the causes which may have driven him from the army, and which soon placed him in the foremost rank of Hungarian patriots.

The leisure which he now enjoyed was occupied in foreign travel. England particularly fixed his notice. Our manners, our institutions, our commerce were objects of his study, and offered him useful hints for the improvement of his native land. The causes which impeded the introduction of commerce in Hungary, and the great developement of her natural resources which must result from their removal, first occupied his attention. At home, he found a government and people mutually distrustful. The Hungarians complained to him that foreign—so they called Austrian—jealousy and oppression were the sole causes of all their misfortunes ; while, beyond the Carpathians, he heard his countrymen described as a tyrannical, ignorant, and turbulent nobility, the oppressors of a poor, idle, and slavish peasantry ;—the one class who would not, the other who could not effect anything for the common advantage of their country. On all sides, a reform in Hungary was declared impossible.

Széchenyi was not to be turned from his object. His plan was cautiously laid down, and has been so [206] IMPROVEMENT OF HORSES. far steadily followed up,—to labour incessantly at improvements, and to pursue such only as the strength of his means gave him a reasonable hope that with unwearied perseverance he might carry through. In common with others, he has always striven for the great objects of reform in the laws and institutions of the country, an extension of the rights of the lower classes, and a more equitable and just government; but his great and peculiar glory is in the path which he has marked out alone, and which, in spite of all obstacles, lie still follows, with the greatest success,—namely, the improvement of the material condition of Hungary.

One of the first objects to which Széchenyi drew the attention of his countrymen was the improvement of the breed of horses ; a subject particularly suited to their taste, and likely to attract their notice. A large stud, often from one to two hundred horses, forms almost a necessary part of a nobleman's establishment ; and yet they rarely bred anything but a cross of the common country horse with the large, slow, high-actioned Spanish horse, a race of little use but for the pomp of ceremony. Széchenyi introduced the English race-horse and hunter, and, to show their superiority, he instituted races and kept a pack of hounds; in short, he succeeded in making English horses a fashion, which is now generally followed.

The races take place twice a year,—at Pest about the end of May, and in autumn at Parendorf near [207] RACES. Presburg—and are so well attended, that it is evident they suit the taste of the people, and it is highly probable that they will one day form a part of the national amusements.

An improvement in the breed of horses was an object well worthy Széchenyi's attention, and nothing was more likely to promote it than the establishment of races at the capital ; but some have thought that objects of a deeper interest than the encouragement of thorough-breds might have been dreamed of in their institution. The Diet ought by law to sit every three years; but, when the government is strong, it sometimes dispenses with its services, as it did during and after the last war for twenty-five years ; and then the nobles have no object of common interest to bring them together. When minds clash not with minds, they are apt to grow rusty and lose somewhat of their sharpness and polish ; a thousand useful ideas and beneficial projects, a thousand high resolves and patriotic schemes, expire untried, unheard of, from want of opportunity to communicate them to others. This opportunity to meet and communicate the races afford, without a pretext for interference or interruption. Many come they know not why ; the master-minds command, and they obey.

The system so long and so ably followed up, of Germanizing Hungary, had succeeded to such a degree as to destroy to a considerable extent the feelings of nationality among the higher nobles : [208] THE MAGYAR LANGUAGE. most of them were ignorant of the language ; few of them took any interest in the affairs of Hungarv, except in the preservation of their own privileges ; and some even affected to despise their countrymen, because of a little outward rudeness, of which the absenteeism pursued by the more polished and wealthy was the main cause. Fortunately the well-wishers of Hungary knew how influential a principle the spirit of nationality is in the regeneration of a country ; nor did they forget how strongly the language of one's childhood, with which man's earliest and dearest associations are connected, acts in exciting that spirit.

The restoration of the Hungarian language was therefore the first object. Széchenyi himself, front disuse, was no longer master of it : he made himself so, and became one of the most influential in its diffusion. He was the first in the Chamber of Magnates who spoke in Hungarian ; till then Latin was always used in the debates, as, we have seen, it still is by the Palatine and by the court party. Few thought of reading Hungarian, still fewer, except some poets, of writing in it; Szechenyi published several political works in the language, and Hungarian authorship has become fashionable. Among men it is now the medium of conversation ; at public dinners, toasts and speeches in German would not be listened to ; and at Pest, whatever may be the case at Vienna, Hungarian gentlemen are now ashamed to be thought ignorant of the Hungarian language.


The establishment of a society for the developement of the Hungarian language was proposed by Széchenyi in the Diet, and was as usual met by innumerable objections, of which the want of funds was the most cogent. " I willingly contribute one year's income," (60001l.) said Széchenyi ; " I second it with 4000l." said Count Karolyi György ; the example was catching, and 30,000l. were soon subscribed.

I have some hesitation in speaking of the writings of Count Széchenyi, for I have never been able to master the difficulties of the language ; and we all know that translations, even the best, convey but indifferently the spirit of the original. Many of his works too, have not been translated, and of these I can only give the title-page. It would be, however, too great an omission not to speak of what has produced so great an effect ; and I shall therefore give a short analysis (from the German translation) of his " Hitel," or Credit," the work which has been most extensively read, and which has gained him the most fame.

The " Hitel " is an inquiry into the causes of the want of commercial credit in Hungary, with suggestions for their removal. In the introduction, Count Széchenyi attacks one of the great drawbacks on Hungarian progress,—the want of a common purpose, and a common opinion. " All are anxious to build," he writes, "and every one at the same building; but unfortunately each wishes to lay [210] THE HITEL. his foundation stone in a different spot, and begin his work in a different style. Many would like to commence in the middle, and some seem to think the best plan of building a house is to begin with the roof. Few set themselves to work at the foundation. ` Oh ! if the Ludovica road in Croatia were but toll-free!' says one.—' Give me rather a suspension- bridge between Buda and Pest!' answers another.— ` First of all, let us lay out a promenade along the banks of the Danube, and plant it with trees ; and while they are growing up, we shall have time to—' ` No, no; I say, a Magyar theatre, and the Magyar language, that will keep up our nationality Ah!' says another, `if our rich magnates would only come and live at home, instead of spending all their money in foreign lands, and take a part in our county meetings ! '—` Tut, man !' grumbles a neighbour, ` that 's all nothing ; if they would not bring those nasty foreign fashions into the country,— those shoes and stockings, instead of stout Magyar boots,—and those great hairy—how do they call them? — coliers Grecs, in which they hide their honest Magyar faces The paper money is our ruin, friend ! ' observes one ; "if we could only get hold of Kremnitz ducats and keep Hungarian gold and silver within the boundaries of Hungary ; then—" Nay,' answers a second, ` but the salt-tax ! if the salt-tax was but lower !' and so on to the end of the chapter. Every man believes his own plan so much the best and wisest, that, without [211] THE HITEL. it, no step can be made in the march of Hungarian improvement."

Others, again, he adds, lay all the blame on Government; others lament that Hungary's glory is past and mourn the olden time. To all he answers, "Seek what is practical, depend on yourselves for your reform, and keep well in mind that the star of Hungary's glory has yet to shine."

Széchenyi next tries to persuade them that inquiry into their state will show them that their country is capable of much more than is at present supposed ; enlisting even the laziest in his cause by the lightness and familiarity of his illustrations. He then begins the more formal part of his work, by proving that the Hungarian landowner is poorer than he ought to be, from the quantity and quality of his possessions ; and that he does not possess those comforts which his circumstances ought to afford him. He next shows that the Hungarian proprietor cannot, at the present moment, cultivate his land to the greatest advantage, because there is no mutual understanding among Hungarians, no commercial credit ; while the common holdings of land, the monopolies, and limitation of prices, the loss occasioned by compulsory labour, and the collection of rent in the form of tithe, all tend to impede improvements in agriculture.

From this Széchenyi goes to the subject of commerce, and the causes assigned for its low state in Hungary are examined : the geographical [212] THE HITEL. position of the country, the want of capital, the inability to compete with other countries, and the amount and uncertainty of duties on exportation, —and, he might have added with more force, on importation,—are illustrated with a facility peculiar to our author. The immediate causes of the want of commercial credit he considers to be the excess of regulations, the deficiency of productions, the defective state of communication, the expense and uncertainty of the existing means of transport, and the absence of that strict commercial probity without which an extensive traffic can scarcely exist.

The means by which this credit is to be obtained Széchenyi points out; and contends especially for the establishment of laws for the more certain and easy recovery of debts, and enforcement of contracts : and he combats most forcibly the arguments brought against this on the score of the dangers of extensive commercial speculations, the unconstitutional spirit of laws delivering over the noble into the power of his creditor, the ruin and downfal of old families, which it is thought must be the consequence of them, and such other reasons as an Englishman may hear any clay from a certain quarter of the House of Lords in a debate on the usury laws. Here, as well indeed as throughout the whole work, the prejudices and follies, the ignorance and false pride of the Hungarians, Széchenyi has most severely lashed.

The example of England is frequently held up [213] THE HITEL. for imitation, and to the common objections cast against it Széchenyi gives an answer which shows how well he appreciates and understands the best part of our institutions.

"It is impossible," he observes, "to have visited England, and to have seen the vast progress which free institutions have enabled her to make, whether in material improvements, or in protecting the holiest rights of humanity, and not pity those miserable creatures who traduce so great a nation. England has faults as well as virtues; for, earnestly as men may strive after perfection, and far as they may advance in its path, they are not doomed to reach the goal. But there are men who have no soul for what is good, and great, and beautiful; they ever seek, and find nothing but the filthy and the bad; they are the unclean birds of society, and rejoice only in its carrion. Of such are the slanderers of Britain. They seek only the dark side, and they find it dark enough no doubt; but from the light they turn away. There is much that is bad in England, from which God defend us! Above all, her ° intolerance' is always the first charge of her enemies: and that reproach we may make against her with a clear conscience; for among ourselves, thank God! no trace of it exists.—Then, ` the misery of her manufacturers' is brought forward; and it means that they cannot, perhaps, every day eat beef and drink beer, to which they are accustomed, and which, if deprived of, they grumble at. With us, [214] THE HITEL. more men live without meat than with it ; many Wallacks never taste even a bit of good bread their lives long: and in the neighbourhood of D___ there are hundreds who live through the summer on nothing better than water-melons. But, perhaps, you exclaim, How happy they are never to have known anything better!— enviable fellows, certainly !—' Then Ireland !36 What do you say to Ireland?' Alas ! it is too true ; and we may well wonder how the English can be guilty of depriving so large a portion of their fellow-countrymen of their common rights : indeed, it is almost as bad as if in any other country they were to impose on the poor peasant all the burthens of the state without allowing him any share in ruling it, while a few thousand families enjoyed all the privileges and all the wealth, and lived like lazy drones on the fat of the land. Nothing could be worse than that ! The National Debt!' There, indeed, we are more fortunate : of national debt— not very oppressive to individuals after all—we have none ; but we have a precious quantity of personal debts, and by these we are crushed to the very earth. But are not such objections absurd? Is it not, fairly considered, seeing the mote in our neighbour's eyes, and passing over the beam in our own?"

If the " Hitel" were put into the hands of a mere political economist, he would find it, perhaps,

36"Before this work was finished, Ireland was reinstated in her natural rights."
[215] ITS RECEPTION. diffuse, superficial, and crowded with proofs of what he might imagine no one was ignorant ; but to one acquainted with the country and the people for whom it was written, the book assumes a very different character. He is astonished with how much delicacy the best parts of the Hungarian character are seized and worked upon ; how such prejudices as impede the progress of improvement are ridiculed and exposed ; with what a richness and familiarity of illustration principles are taught, so that persons even to whom such discussions are quite new must still be struck with them; and with how much skill the author has managed, in a treatise on political economy, to throw out hints to his countrymen on almost every subject, moral, economical, and political, which the actual circumstances of the country render important. The great lesson which Széchenyi constantly endeavours to impress upon his readers is, that the reforms necessary in Hungary depend on the will of the Hungarians,—that they have only to bestir themselves to effect a complete change in the moral and material aspect of their country.

The first reception of the " Hitel" was anything but encouraging; the satire was ill relished by those against whom it was directed ; its author was abused, written against, and in one instance the work itself was burnt by the common hangman by order of a county meeting. Such was the state of feeling in 1830. In 1835, Count Széchenyi was receiving addresses of thanks from almost every [216] OTHER WORKS. part of the country; in Transylvania a magnificent gold pen was voted him at a public meeting, as the most useful of Hungarian authors ; and everywhere his name had become a watchword among the well-wishers of Hungary.

Among the later works of Count Széchenyi, are the " Világ" (Light), an answer to a pamphlet published by Count Desewffy against the "Hitel;" and a work on the Practicability, &c. of a permanent Bridge at Pest.37

Of the style, of course, I speak only from hearsay, when I pronounce it among the best in the Magyar language. To the accusation of coining and introducing new words every one must be liable who speaks of ideas new to the people, and uses names foreign to the country. Some persons complained that they had turned over their Magyar dictionaries in vain for the word " Macadamize,"

37 I subjoin a complete list of Count Széchenyi's works, given me by a friend in Hungary :

" Lovakrul" (On Horses), Pest, 1828. This work compares the state of horse-breeding in Hungary and England, and suggests plans for its improvement in the former.—A German translation by Vojdisck was published at Leipzig in 1829; and a second in the same language, by Paziazi, at Pest in 1830. It was also translated into Danish by Collin, and published at Copenhagen in 1835.

"Hitel" (Credit), Pest, 1830.-German translation by Vojdisck, Leipzig, 1831 ; and again by Paziazi, Pest, 1831.

" Világ" (Light), Pest, 1831. This is partly an answer to Count Desewffy's "Taglalat," and partly a more complete illustration of the subjects treated in the " Hitel."—German translation by Paziazi, Pest, 1831.

"Magyar látékszinrul" (On the Hungarian Stage), Pest, 1832.

"Buda-Pesti Allóhid" (on the Buda-Pest permanent bridge), Pest, 1833.-German translation by Paziazi, Presburg, 1833. This pamphlet was published in common with Count Andrásy György, and contains a report of a journey they had made to England to obtain the opinions of our best engineers as to the possibility of a permanent bridge over the Danube ; and is addressed to a company formed to carry this object into execution.

" Stadium," Leipzig, 1833. This work, which contains a fur- ther developement of the principles of the "Hitel" and "Világ," was not published at Pest, from some objections on the part of the Austrian censor.

Several articles on the Danube Steam Navigation, published in 1834, and the following years, in the Hungarian Journal, the " Társalkodo," were afterwards collected and translated by Paziazi, forming one volume, published at Buda, 1836.

[217] THE CASINO. which they very innocently conceived to be a creation of Széchenyi's.

In Hungary, a want of unity between the different ranks of the nobility, an absence of a common feeling, and of something like a general opinion, have been long among the most acknowledged causes of inaction. Every class discusses apart the subjects of immediate interest, forms its own opinion of public events, and its own plans for public reforms : the accordance which gives strength and force to action is wanting. This deficiency was universally acknowledged ; but without a free press, and with a Diet sitting but rarely, and then at a distance from the capital and centre of the country, without reports of the debates, without even a national literature, and in the midst of the bitterest jealousies of caste and class, what remedy could be proposed ? Széchenyi had [218] THE CASINO. seen the clubs in London ; and with that singular talent, which he eminently possesses, of appropriating and adapting whatever he finds good in other countries to the wants and deficiencies of Hungary, he at once perceived how useful their organization might be made, to effect a greater purpose than that of serving as mere pride-protectors for poor gentlemen, or of furnishing the selfish enjoyment of the greatest luxury at the cheapest rate. A club, or—to avoid a name associated on the Continent with certain reminiscences of the French revolution — a Casino, while entirely free from any political scheme, would afford to all the upper classes an opportunity of meeting, and becoming better acquainted with each other's good qualities; it would harmonize and generalize opinions, and improve the manners and the tone of feeling, besides affording opportunities for reading all the journals of Europe, an advantage which few private individuals could command.

At Pest, accordingly, a Casino was established on a most magnificent scale, as we shall see hereafter ; and now no less than one hundred exist in different parts of Hungary and Transylvania.

One of Széchenyi's favourite plans is the embellishment and aggrandizement of Pest. For this purpose he has laboured to have the Casino on so handsome a scale ; to build a national Magyar theatre ; and, more than all, to raise a permanent bridge between Pest and Buda. At present there is only a bridge of boats between the [219] BRIDGE OVER THE DANUBE. two towns, which is taken up during six months in the year; and the whole communication during that period is carried on by means of ferry-boats, or over the ice. At certain times, particularly during the freeze and thaw, not to speak of storms and fogs, this produces much inconvenience, and is often attended with great danger.

To remove so great a drawback to the prosperity of the two cities, Széchenyi has proposed to build a bridge across the river, either of stone or iron, as may appear best ; and, as the width is only a quarter of a mile, it would not appear so difficult an undertaking. Of course, it was declared impossible ; one said the Danube was too wide, another found it too deep, and a third declared, if the bridge was all finished, the first winter's ice would carry it away. English as well as German engineers have thought otherwise ; and it is a certain fact, that Trajan's Bridge, three hundred miles lower down, stood firm enough till Hadrian destroyed it.

These, however, were not the greatest impediments to be overcome. Count Széchenyi had a still greater object in view than the improvement of Pest in the building of this bridge ; he proposed to teach the Hungarian nobles the advantage of paying taxes. The bridge was to be built by money raised in shares ; the interest on which was to be paid by tolls, to which every one, noble or ignoble, should contribute. What ! an Hungarian noble pay taxes ? A hornets' nest is a feeble comparison to [220] THE BRIDGE. the buzz these gentlemen raised about Széchenyi's ears. It was no matter : he inveighed against them at the Diet, he wrote at them in the journals, he ridiculed them in private, and in the end he conquered them ; a bill passed both Chambers, by which the legal taxation of the nobles in the form of a bridge-toll was acknowledged.38 The Judex

38I am indebted to the kindness of W. Tierney Clark, Esq. to whom the construction of this great work has been intrusted, as well for the accurate measurements of the bridge, as for a beautiful drawing of it, and the projected improvements on the Buda side of the river.

The piers will be built with granite and marble.

  English Feet.
The distance from centre to centre of the towers 700
Width of the clear water-way 661
Ditto of the side openings 271 each
Total water way at the ordinary level of the water 1203
Width of the road-way 25
Each footpath 6
Height of the underside of the platform above the ordinary level 43
Total length of platform suspended 1227
Ditto height of the tower, above the ordinary level of the water 117
Total width of the river at the ordinary level of the water 1408

Baron Sinna, a wealthy and enterprising banker of Vienna, has undertaken to provide the necessary funds for the bridge estimated at half a million sterling—on condition of enjoying the revenues for ninety-seven years; at the conclusion of which period the bridge is to be given up to the country free of all expense, and, it is said, 100,000l. with it, the interest of which is probably intended to keep it in repair. It will be completed in seven or eight years.

[221] STEAM NAVIGATION. Curie shed tears on the occasion, and declared "he would never pass that ill-fated bridge, from the erection of which he should date the downfal of Hungarian nobility."

Of the petty opposition which Count Széchenyi had to contend with, and of the means by which he overcame it, I cannot speak here. I did not believe that any man possessed the indefatigable energy and perseverance necessary for the task ; it requires a truly patriotic spirit to endure those miserable checks which arise from the selfish and interested meanness of the very persons one is labouring to benefit. The Corporation of Pest did not think they were justified in giving up the tolls which the present wooden bridge brought then in ; the proprietors of land would not sell for such a purpose ; the owners of houses here, feared the new bridge would be there, because they knew it would be better there ; the very toll-keepers had their friends and supporters, whose opposition, at times, made even a Széchenyi doubt of success.

One of the greatest of Széchenyi's achievements is the steam navigation of the Danube. This is his own in idea and in accomplishment. It is now about six years since he first undertook the voyage from Pest to the Black Sea. A comfortable decked boat, a good cook, and a pleasant companion, with the means and appurtenances for shooting, fishing, sketching, and rowing, were not bad preparations against the fatigues and dangers to which [222] STEAM NAVIGATION he expected to be exposed. The comparative ease and safety of the navigation, the magnificence of the scenery, the size and importance of the tributary streams which poured their waters into the Danube, and the richness of the country on its banks, were secrets revealed to a mind which felt their full force, and happily knew how to employ them. Of course, the timid set him down as mad for undertaking such a journey; but when he returned, and ventured to whisper the possibility of steam navigation, even his best friends shook their heads. " Steam in Hungary ! yes, indeed, in another century !" said those who never think the present the time for action. " Steam, indeed, in the shallows and rapids of the Danube ! No ; if we must have steam, why not take the plains? Nature has laid them out for rail-roads," said others, who oppose everything practicable by proposing something impracticable. Széchenyi let the first wait their time : to the second he recommended a speedy commencement of the railroad, that the country might derive advantage from one, if not from both of their schemes.

In pursuance of his own plan, Széchenyi went over again to England ; studied carefully the principles of steam navigation ; brought over English engineers ; and, when at last certain of the practicability of the scheme, formed a company, and purchased a steam-boat. It was in October 1830 that the first steam-boat plied between Semlin and Pest; [223] AS A COMMERCIAL SPECULATION. the communication is now complete from Vienna, and will soon be so from Ratisbon to Smyrna. Thirteen vessels are employed, and a number more are building.

To detail the advantages of this undertaking in extending commerce, in developing the resources of the country, or in opening the road to civilization by the spread of intelligence, were only to narrate what every one knows steam navigation has effected, and will effect, wherever it is introduced ; but in Hungary it has done more, it has engaged one of the proudest and richest aristocracies of Europe in a profitable commercial speculation ! We shall show elsewhere that it is to the exclusive privileges of this aristocracy that Hungary must impute, in a great degree, her want of commerce : how great a point has thus been gained may therefore be easily understood.

At first, some of those whose hearts were better than their heads—and Hungary possesses a great number of that class—would not hear of profitable speculation : " If it would benefit their father-land, no other consideration was required ; it would be degrading so noble an object to mix it up with such tradesman-like calculations." Széchenyi thought otherwise; and he felt assured that a profitable patriotism was the one by far the most likely to endure.

Count Szechenyi's first object was to make the undertaking answer as a commercial speculation. [224] POLITICAL CAREER. This is a favourite theme in his writings, the constant test by which he examines a new scheme,—I mean if of a nature to which it can properly be applied, for no one knows better how to sacrifice all pecuniary interest when necessary. He never recommends a thing till he knows that interest will back him ; and he can then clink his full purse in his opponents' faces, and laugh them out of their prejudices. Of all he has done for Hungary, I know of nothing more useful than these demonstrations of the co-existence and often necessary connection of public and private interest.

During the earlier part of the last Diet, a strong opposition was formed in the Upper Chamber, chiefly under the guidance of Széchenyi, which contained many of the most wealthy and talented of the rising generation. From their moderation, their union, and their knowledge of business, this party, though small in numbers, was acquiring so great an influence that all the power of the Court was employed to break it up. The Transylvanian magnates39 were called away by the opening of their own Diet. Those in Government employ were hastily recalled to their bureaux ; this man received a place or a pension ; another desired a decoration, and hung dishonour at his button-hole; and if a third was too high for such poor bribery, he was recommended to travel, and accepted a passport to convey him from

39A Transylvanian magnate enjoys the rights of an Hungarian also if he holds property in Hungary, which many of them do.
[225] POLITICAL CAREER. the sphere of his duty. Széchenyi, though de- serted, was more difficult to dispose of, but that " every man has his price" is always the belief of an immoral government ; and they found the means of drawing the patriot from the fulfilment of perhaps the higher duty, by offering him a much more arduous one. Széchenyi was made sole commissioner for improving the navigation of the Dower Danube ; and, almost before the ink was well dried on his commission, a thousand men were at work, current- dams were constructed, canals were cut, roads were laid out, rocks were blown up, and the very Iron Gates themselves were threatened with destruction. Széchenyi kept to his maxim—to leave the uncertain and fúllow the sure and practicable ; and I recommend those who so loudly condemn his choice to go to Orsova and see the result.

Since this time, though very far from having neglected his political duties, Count Széchenyi has taken a less active part in politics than was expected of him. Perhaps disgusted and alarmed at the violence of the less prudent ; perhaps fearing that an active personal opposition, while it effected nothing, might impede much material good ; perhaps confiding in the good intentions of Government, or, it may be, reposing merely till a more favourable opportunity arises of urging on the Diet measures of justice to the peasant, and of encouragement to commerce, it is certain, from whatever [226] SZÉCHENYI'S PRUDENCE cause, that he has withdrawn himself in some degree from active opposition.

Looking at the whole tenor of Count Széchenyi's public life, we feel convinced that he has not acted without reflection, and probably not without good reason, in withdrawing from the political arena for a time ; but lie must not forget how much Hungary, how much Europe expects of him. When a man has once embarked on the stream of public life, he has no longer a right to disappoint the just expectations of the world. When such a man fails, the honest confidence, the high resolves, the purest aspirations of millions are sacrificed. One feels a sickening at the heart, a contempt for virtue, a hatred of one's kind, when the man we have worshipped as the idol of our hopes deceives us in the expectations we have formed of him.

The Hungarians, however, need not entertain such fears : whatever may be the difference in opinion as to the means, no one can doubt the rectitude of Széchcnyi's object. It cannot be denied that the support of high moral principles, the unflinching advocacy of just rights, and the unyielding defence of the injured and oppressed, are yet more important to the well-being of mankind than the mere improvement of their material existence ; but few in the Hungarian Diet have fulfilled these duties better than Széchenyi, while the other objects at which he has so industriously laboured, the detractors of his fame have entirely neglected.


Those who read Széchenyi's works, and know the reception which they met with,—who are acquainted with the excessive national susceptibility of the Hungarians, and who recollect how just, and therefore how bitter, was the satire he directed against them, — will not suspect him of seeking popularity, except so far as it is necessary to the furtherance of his objects.

That Széchenyi has not attempted what he could not do, and what others have failed in doing, when they did attempt, is, both at home and abroad, no uncommon subject of complaint against him. To me it appears one of his greatest merits. To have known his own powers, to have calculated accurately how far his means would enable him to go, to have reflected deeply on the practicability as well as utility of a scheme before he proposed it for adoption, would seem just those qualities which best entitle a man to the confidence of a nation ; and which, when united to high talents, necessarily make him the leader of a party. But Széchenyi's objects and hopes are best described by himself in concluding the " Hitel."

" The contents of my work will prove to all that I hate all extreme measures, all excesses ; that I am a friend of moderation and harmony. Gladly would I see parties unite ; and much more willingly would I attain, by a middle path, the possible good, than vainly strive after that imaginary bliss, which we may probably never know but in a better world. [228] MR. TASNER. I cannot, like many of my countrymen, please myself with contemplating what is past ; I must look forward. It troubles me but little to know what we once were; but it is of vital interest to me to know what with time we might, and what we probably shall become. The past is beyond our control ; the future is still within our grasp. Away, then, with fruitless reminiscences ! it is time that we bestir ourselves, and open a more glorious future to our father-land. Many contend that Hungary has been ; I love to think she yet will be."

It would be difficult, as it would be unjust, to conclude this notice of Count Széchenyi, without mentioning Mr. Tasner. This gentleman, educated for the bar, has accepted the office of assistant and secretary to Count Széchenyi ; and the Count only does him due credit when he calls him his right hand. There are few strangers who visit Hungary, who are not indebted to Mr. Tasner for many polite services, who are not aware of the extent and accuracy of his information, and of the kindness with which he imparts it. It is no niggard praise to say that Mr. Tasner, in the less ambitious sphere he occupies, is not less unwearied in application, not less zealous in his exertions, not less devoted to the cause which he believes most certain to work out the good of Hungary, than Count Széchenyi himself.

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents