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Superstition among the Neapolitans.
(Translated from Le Chrétién Evangélique.) It is really impossible to form a correct idea of the extent of superstition in this country. The longer I live here and the more I mix with the common people and observe their proceedings, the more conscious do I become of its existence. I spent some weeks in Cava during the month of August. On my arrival, taking advantage of the freshness arising from a day of perpetual rain, I clambered up the Hill of the Finestra.
Not far from the foot were some sickly fruit trees, on each of which was placed the plaster image of a Saint. What will this do for the health of the diseased trees? The folks of Cava have no doubt on the subject, nor have I Again, I discovered in this same town of Cava a kind of prayer, which, up to that time, I had never met with-prayers which are eaten. Upon a slip of paper, an inch long and three lines broad, is written in minute characters an invocation to the Virgin. To swallow these fragments of paper is a meritorious work, profitable to the body as well as the soul; and I know more than one person, even of the higher class, who, in case of physical or mental illness, swallows confidently these little scraps. In the village of Agerola, at the foot of Mount St. Michel, a lofty height of the Apennines, from which the eye embraces the grandest view that I have ever seen, there was a great fête in the second week of August. I went to it from Cava. The Madonna of Agerola, it appears, feels the oppressive influence of the sun, like ordinary mortals. She perspires profusely in August, and every one rubs the body of the idol with cloths, which he or she treasures up till the following year. In case of illness they apply them to the affected part of the body, and they are willing to send them to persons outside the valley who have faith in the virtue of this specific. I should add, however, that up to the present time these cloths of Agerola have not been made an article of commerce, while the sale of the water of La Salette is making the fortune of the vicar of one of the principal parishes of Naples.
At Trinita di Cava during my stay, some demoniacs were exorcised. Three women were pronounced to be possessed, and they had prevailed upon the Church to come to their aid. The function, as they call it here, had something strange and repulsive about it. After the women had declared that Satan had taken possession of them, a priest pronounced in a thundering voice, his countenance becoming purple through his vocal effort, the formula of exorcism. The so-called possessed ones twisted themselves about most ridiculously until, at length, one of them uttered a loud cry and announced that the devil had departed, the other two soon following her example. I must add that, although this practice of the Middle Ages had been advertised, there was but a small number of spectators, who appeared more amused than edified.
The other day at Castagneto, near Cava, a friend of mine was robbed of some money, and at once acquainted the master of the house with the fact. The same evening this person came to tell him that he might recover his money. At Sarno, in the neighbourhood, there is a man who knows some
old prayers which he repeats over a vessel full of water, and immediately the form of the robber appears, clear and distinct, upon the surface of the water. It is a priest, a friend of the family, who made known this infallible method of recovering lost money.
Such are some of the doings in the provinces, but do not suppose that at Naples superstition is less strong. It is of a different order, that is all. A proof of this is the incredible success with which a cunning Jesuit, Father Attavilla, has introduced, during these last months, the worship of our Lady of Lourdes. The church of St. Nicholas Tolentino, near the house where I live, has been devoted in a very special manner to this "culte,” the Jesuit has preached and has cleverly made use of his social position to attract the upper classes. Little by little it has become a fashionable place, and now one frequently sees ladies, followed by bedizened lackeys, mounting the steps of the church. It will, doubtless, become a rival to the church of Monte de Dio, which is prospering, thanks to our Lady of La Salette. But, you know, the Jesuits would not shrink from saying, we are the Church ; " and they have no tender regard for such as do not belong to their company.
If superstition hinders this people from making progress, and leads them to cling to the Romish Church, the love of pleasure also contributes greatly to attach the ignorant and vulgar crowd to this same Church. Religious fêtes are little better than an occasion for common and trivial amusements. I hardly ever attend them without getting that impression.
Thus, I visited the village of Materdei, at the gates of Cava, during the eight days that the fête of the Virgin lasted. The church was all ablaze with golden coloured, bright red and sky-blue hangings; the altar was brilliantly lighted, and a Capuchin friar proclaimed every evening, in a loud voice, the virtues of the Queen of Heaven. On the square facing the church some were feasting on melons, some were in booths drinking and watching acrobats, some were listening to fortune-telling gipsy women, while some were amusing themselves with buffoonery and jokes. The dense crowd wandered lazily through the streets of the village. At night the multitude was even greater than in the daytime. Scarcely had the Angelus (evening bell) sounded, when, from the neighbouring hamlets and villages, men, women and children came pouring in with feverish steps along the road that leads to Materdei. All of them passed the night in the open air, and then at dawn those who were compelled to do so returned home.
Such are religious festivals, so-called, in the Neapolitan district. I have seen many of them, and they all resemble each other by a total absence of seriousness, and by rude gaiety and deafening noise.
(Extracted from a letter by M. Peter, Pastor of the French Church in Naples.)
R. S. ASHTON,
IMAGINATION.—It is the divine attribute of the imagination, that it is irrepressible, unconfinable; that when the real world is shut out, it can create a world for itself, and with a necromantic power can conjure up glorious shapes and forms, and brilliant visions, to make solitude populous, and irradiate the gloom of the dungeon,
The Eastern Outlook. The brilliant stroke of policy by which Mr. Disraeli acquired for England a considerable share in the Suez Canal, was hailed at the moment with universal acclamation; and even the most jealous continental nations had 2 word of hearty admiration for so bold, so sudden, and so successful a move in what is rapidly becoming a critical political game. We call the stroke brilliant, for that quality certainly attaches to it; whether further examination and growing experience of all that the possession involves will confirm the suspicion which is beginning to find expression, that the advantage is rather showy than solid, the debates in Parliament, when the policy of the Gurernment will be fully discussed, will better enable us to foretell. But the news which was one morning flashed through England, and indeed through Europe, took the world completely by surprise. In England it was a pleased surprise, and that on grounds which had little to do with an intelligent estimate of the nature of the obligation which we had undertaken and its probable results. Englishmen were heartily glad that for once their Government had done a bold and brilliant thing in the sphere of their Foreign affairs, in which they have long felt themselves compelled by the necessity of their position to play a tame and uninteresting part. There was no help for it. While the most tremendous struggles of modern times were filling both hemispheres with their clamour, we were bound by the most sacred considerations to the maintenance of a strict neutrality; and both in the American, the Austro-Prussian and the Franco-German wars, we had to endure the sneers of both parties at our stolid indifference, as they were pleased to regard it, to the great issues which were being submitted to the dread arbitrament of war. The truth is that our transactions are now so worldvide in their range, we have so much vital interest at stake in all quarters and corners of the earth-in India, Africa, China, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vancouver's Island, Canada and the Mediterranean—that our European interests are dwarfed in comparison, and we can no longer afford that intimate occupation with Continental politics, which is natural to nations shut up to the European sphere. Foreigners resent this indifference of England to all but the most vital European questions, and sneer at it as mercenary and pasillanimous; and Englishmen are constantly stung by contemptuous allusions, in which the foreign press loves to indulge, to the selfish and lowspirited isolation of England ; for our race has always held its head high among the nations, and has furnished through ages the strongest soldiers and the most daring adventurers of the world. So when Englishmen heard that a bold, strong thing had been done by the English Government in
а foreign politics," a sigh of relief and satisfaction was the first tribute which was offered ; the boldness and the cleverness pleased them before they began to study the question as to how the stroke would work.
Count Beust, when he heard some expressions of surprise at the activity and energy of the Government in the matter, is said to have remarked, “ Ah! Great Britain is a bull which thinks itself an ox.” It shows a keen and just insight into the national temperament and character. It means that there
is a great deal of daring strength latent in Englishmen, which is hidden under a quiet, sober, steady devotion to practical affairs. But it is there, and may be aroused in a moment; therefore, let all who reckon on the passivity of England beware. Count Beust is right, and foreigners have a very shrewd opinion that he is right, and do not trust themselves to rely on the indifference of England too far. They have their sneer and are welcome to it. But in the Franco-Prussian war, when we covered Belgium with our shield—a bold, strong measure, of which the Gladstone Government deserve the full credit—it was perfectly well understood by the strongest European nations, that Belgium was as safe under our shield through that tremendous struggle as the Isle of Wight. And now it is understood perfectly well, that though we have bought less than half of the shares in the Canal, and cannot compel the policy of the shareholders, we have pledged ourselves by the purchase to keep the Canal open for the commerce of the world, whatever may betide in the impending collapse of the Ottoman Empire ; and that to that object we should hold with the bull-dog tenacity for which we are famous, till we had spent our last coin, our last ship, and our last man.
And the knowledge of that certainty will save us from the necessity of arming to defend our purchase. It is wonderful how, since the purchase was completed, it is becoming recognized as an axiom in foreign diplomacy, that England must, of course, have her highway to the East made sure. The bold stroke of our Premier, whose genius comes out in such transactions as these, has produced an impression which we believe will greatly assist the pacific solution of the Eastern question when it is ripe for settlement-and it is ripening fast. The bold policy will, in this case, probably be found to be the safe policy ; and we shall find ourselves occupying a position which none will care to dispute.
There are signs abroad that the Liberal party will pass the purchase through a crucible of keen criticism, when the Parliament meets. And that is much to be desired. The measure is so novel, so surprising, and touches on so many delicate and difficult questions that it demands thorough and skilled examination. Lord Derby studiously makes light of it and of the obligations which it involves. This is sound policy, for the obligations can only become onerous in the event of any interference with the freedom of the Canal, and that there is no reason to anticipate. It is sound policy to take it for granted that no one is likely to trouble us in the use of the Canal ; and in that case the obligations will sit lightly. Mr. Disraeli has made a good bargain commercially, if the interest is paid. We shall take our dividends, and rest and be thankful. But Mr. Disraeli and Lord Derby know in their hearts perfectly well that the acquisition of so large a share in the Canal on the part of England is a very significant warning to all concerned not to trouble us; it is a notification that we intend to keep our highway to the East open; and the power of England is a very important factor among the influences which will tend keep the Canal free to the commerce of the world. We believe that it will be found that a wise and far-sighted course of action has been entered upon by the British Government; and that we have taken a first and most important step towards a pacific settlement of the rich but wasted inheritance which the sick man must leave at last.
The real anxiety connected with the purchase arises out of the condition of Egypt, and the more than doubtful financial position of its ruler. This is the point on which criticism will be keenest, and from which the policy of the Government may be most successfully assailed. The finances of Egypt are in deplorable confusion, and while the Khedive is on the whole an honest ruler, and desires to develop the resources of the State, he has in excess the Oriental fondness for magnificent enterprises, and the Oriental impatience of the curb of necessity, or even the silken rein of wise and friendly advice. Having bought a property of which he guarantees for some years the revenue, and of which he is the responsible guardian, we may find ourselves inixed up with Egyptian politics and finance to an extent which may become embarrassing, and may drag us, in spite of ourselves, into war. No doubt there is this dauger, and we must keep our eyes open to it, and avoid it to the best of our power. But the critics must remember that, whether we will or no, a crisis in the East is rapidly approaching. There is no escape for us from a certain and a serious anxiety about Eastern affairs. Trouble will come inevitably, grave trouble ; and the real question is, how can we make it as light as possible ? How can we place ourselves in the position to act pacifically with the best advantage when the East falls into confusion, and the scramble for the inheritance of the Turk begins ? And it probably will be proved that we have adopted a measure of wise political foresight in giving ourselves a locus standi as it were in that part of the Empire, which is of most vital importance to us. If we should have to defend the Canal it certainly will not weaken our position, that we shall be seen to be defending that which in a commercial sense is already in large part our own.
We speak of the impending collapse of the Ottoman Empire. May we not hope that the day of judgment of that senseless and brutal tyranny has dawned at last. We have persistently for some time past kept our eyes wide open to the virtues of the Turk, and half shut to the terrible suffering of the Christian populations under his rule. Were one tithe of the horrors with which those acquainted practically with the condition of the Christian peoples of the East are familiar, made popularly known through Europe, it would be hard to restrain the West from a New Crusade. Every form of cruel wrong and brutal outrage is exhausted by the Turkish soldiery, police, and “publicans,” in their treatment of populations, whom the Turk never ceases to regard and treat as slaves under his conquering heel. The day has come when the tyranny can be endured no longer, and when the “successor" of the Prophet must return to the great Asian continent, which is the native home of despotism, and leave Europe to be the free theatre of the Christian civilisation, which is destined in the end to fold Asia also in its embrace.
Englishmen in these days will hardly sympathise with Lord Stratford's plea for the maintenance of the form of Turkish sovereignty under the tutelage of the European Powers. It is the last echo of the diplomacy of the last generation, and is palpably inapplicable to the new state of things which has arisen since Lord Palmerston's days. It would be a mere expedient for the moment, and a futile one ; the Eastern question demands now