Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/467

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451
NATURE AND LIFE IN LAPLAND.

The distinctive beauty of Stockholm is in its situation. Built partly on islands in Lake Malar, it is intersected in every direction by the waters of the lake and of the Baltic, and, with its busy quays, broad streets, handsome buildings, pleasant gardens, and clear atmosphere, is certainly one of the brightest and most charming capitals in Europe. The streets are still enlivened by the gay costumes of the peasants, especially those of the nearest provinces; it is said, however, that their use is gradually dying out before the advance of railroads and other enemies of the picturesque.

The Swedes are undoubtedly a fine race; many of the men are very tall, and the women are almost universally refined-looking and graceful in their carriage. A crowd of Swedes might at any time be mistaken by an Englishman for a crowd of the better sort in his own country; and in character there is the same resemblance to a high average English standard. The middle and trading classes have great sympathy with the English nation and its institutions, and are ready at all times to express and prove it; the aristocracy and higher ranks of society are more inclined to favor French manners and customs, but this is due to the influence of the court and to the origin of the royal family. Every educated Swede reads and probably speaks English well, and with very slight, if airy, foreign accent. English newspapers and books of all kinds are largely read, and English literature is a prominent branch of study at the high or middle-class schools, of which, as of all other educational institutions, there is an ample supply in Sweden. All along the coast of the gulf of Bothnia, in every little town of a few hundred, or at most of two or three thousand, inhabitants, there is a large school of this description, with a full staff of masters, lektors, and assistants, provided according to a fixed scale, and forming part of the general organization for national instruction. We met several of these teachers, and found them extremely well-informed and intelligent men, speaking English, French, and German, and accepting for the communication of these acquirements salaries which would be deemed totally inadequate in any other and richer country. They were all home-taught, by books and not viva voce, and hence, though well qualified to translate English into Swedish, they found it more difficult to reverse the process and to interpret their thoughts into elegant English. "The weather is deplorable," said one of these gentlemen; "it makes for the melancholy, and influences on the humors."

The fees charged in the schools are moderate, and such as to induce a general acceptance of the educational advantages offered by the class for whom they are intended. Primary education in Sweden is free and compulsory, though it is seldom necessary to recur to the interference of the magistrates. The Swedes cannot be made to understand the beauty of our English system, by which a national service, undertaken on the distinct ground of its importance to the