an old man, in order to be able to read at least the titles

Among other kind letters of recommendation, I had received one addressed to Herr von H-, the "Stiftsamtmann" of Iceland. On my arrival at Copenhagen, I heard that Herr von H- happened to be there. I therefore betook myself to his residence, and was shewn into a room where I found two young ladies and three children. I delivered my letter, and remained quietly standing for some time. Finding at length that no one invited me to be seated, I sat down unasked on the nearest chair, never supposing for an instant that the lady of the house could be present, and neglect the commonest forms of politeness which should be observed towards every stranger. After I had waited for some time, Herr von H- graciously made his appearance, and expressed his regret that he should have very little time to spare for me, as he intended setting sail for Iceland with his family in a short time, and in the interim had a number of weighty affairs to settle at Copenhagen; in conclusion, he gave me the friendly advice to abandon my intention of visiting Iceland, as the fatigues of travelling in that country were very great; finding, however, that I persevered in my intention, he promised, in case I set sail for Reikjavik earlier than himself, to give me a letter of recommendation. All this was concluded in great haste, and we stood during the interview. I took my leave, and at first determined not to call again for the letter. On reflection, however, I changed my mind, ascribed my unfriendly reception to important and perhaps disagreeable business, and called again two days afterwards. Then the letter was handed to me by a servant; the high people, whom I could hear conversing in the adjoining apartment, probably considered it too much trouble to deliver it to me personally.

an old man, in order to be able to read at least the titles

On paying my respects to this amiable family in Reikjavik, I was not a little surprised to recognise in Frau von H- one of those ladies who in Copenhagen had not had the civility to ask me to be seated. Five or six days afterwards, Herr von H- returned my call, and invited me to an excursion to Vatne. I accepted the invitation with much pleasure, and mentally asked pardon of him for having formed too hasty an opinion. Frau von H-, however, did not find her way to me until the fourth week of my stay in Reikjavik; she did not even invite me to visit her again, so of course I did not go, and our acquaintance terminated there. As in duty bound, the remaining dignitaries of this little town took their tone from their chief. My visits were unreturned, and I received no invitations, though I heard much during my stay of parties of pleasure, dinners, and evening parties. Had I not fortunately been able to employ myself, I should have been very badly off. Not one of the ladies had kindness and delicacy enough to consider that I was alone here, and that the society of educated people might be necessary for my comfort. I was less annoyed at the want of politeness in the gentlemen; for I am no longer young, and that accounts for every thing. When the women were wanting in kindliness, I had no right to expect consideration from the gentlemen.

an old man, in order to be able to read at least the titles

I tried to discover the reason of this treatment, and soon found that it lay in a national characteristic of these people--their selfishness.

an old man, in order to be able to read at least the titles

It appears I had scarcely arrived at Reikjavik before diligent inquiries were set on foot as to whether I was RICH, and should see much company at my house, and, in fact, whether much could be got out of me.

To be well received here it is necessary either to be rich, or else to travel as a naturalist. Persons of the latter class are generally sent by the European courts to investigate the remarkable productions of the country. They make large collections of minerals, birds, &c.; they bring with them numerous presents, sometimes of considerable value, which they distribute among the dignitaries; they are, moreover, the projectors of many an entertainment, and even of many a little ball, &c.; they buy up every thing they can procure for their cabinets, and they always travel in company; they have much baggage with them, and consequently require many horses, which cannot be hired in Iceland, but must be bought. On such occasions every one here is a dealer: offers of horses and cabinets pour in on all sides.

The most welcome arrival of all is that of the French frigate, which visits Iceland every year; for sometimes there are dejeuners a la fourchette on board, sometimes little evening parties and balls. There is at least something to be got besides the rich presents; the "Stiftsamtmann" even receives 600 florins per annum from the French government to defray the expense of a few return balls which he gives to the naval officers.

With me this was not the case: I gave no parties--I brought no presents--they had nothing to expect from me; and therefore they left me to myself. { 28}

For this reason I affirm that he only can judge of the character of a people who comes among them without claim to their attention, and from whom they have nothing to expect. To such a person only do they appear in their true colours, because they do not find it worth while to dissemble and wear a mask in his presence. In these cases the traveller is certainly apt to make painful discoveries; but when, on the other hand, he meets with good people, he may be certain of their sincerity; and so I must beg my honoured readers to bear with me, when I mention the names of all those who heartily welcomed the undistinguished foreigner; it is the only way in which I can express my gratitude towards them.



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