Visit to Iceland

Author: Ida Pfeiffer


{2} Madame Pfeiffer’s first journey was to the Holy Land in 1842; and on her return from Iceland she started in 1846 on a "Journey round the World," from which she returned in the end of 1848. This adventurous lady is now (1853) travelling among the islands of the Eastern Archipelago.—ED.

{3} A florin is worth about 2s. 1d.; sixty kreutzers go to a florin.

{4} At Kuttenberg the first silver groschens were coined, in the year 1300. The silver mines are now exhausted, though other mines, of copper, zinc, &c. are wrought in the neighbourhood. The population is only half of what it once was.—ED.

{5} The expression of Madame Pfeiffer’s about Frederick "paying his score to the Austrians," is somewhat vague. The facts are these. In 1757 Frederick the Great of Prussia invaded Bohemia, and laid siege to Prague. Before this city an Austrian army lay, who were attacked with great impetuosity by Frederick, and completely defeated. But the town was defended with great valour; and during the time thus gained the Austrian general Daun raised fresh troops, with which he took the field at Collin. Here he was attacked by Frederick, who was routed, and all his baggage and cannon captured. This loss was "paying his score;" and the defeat was so complete, that the great monarch sat down by the side of a fountain, and tracing figures in the sand, was lost for a long time in meditation on the means to be adopted to retrieve his fortune.—ED.

{6} I mention this little incident to warn the traveller against parting with his effects.

{7} The true version of this affair is as follows. John of Nepomuk was a priest serving under the Archbishop of Prague. The king, Wenceslaus, was a hasty, cruel tyrant, who was detested by all his subjects, and hated by the rest of Germany. Two priests were guilty of some crime, and one of the court chamberlains, acting under royal orders, caused the priests to be put to death. The archbishop, indignant at this, placed the chamberlain under an interdict. This so roused the king that he attempted to seize the archbishop, who took refuge in flight. John of Nepomuk, however, and another priest, were seized and put to the torture to confess what were the designs of the archbishop. The king seems to have suspected that the queen was in some way connected with the line of conduct pursued by the archbishop. John of Nepomuk, however, refused, even though the King with his own hand burned him with a torch. Irritated by his obstinate silence, the king caused the poor monk to be cast over the bridge into the Moldau. This monk was afterwards canonised, and made the patron saint of bridges.—ED.

{8} Albert von Wallenstein (or Waldstein), the famous Duke of Friedland, is celebrated as one of the ablest commanders of the imperial forces during the protracted religious contest known in German history as the "Thirty Years’ War." During its earlier period Wallenstein greatly distinguished himself, and was created by the Emperor Ferdinand Duke of Friedland and generalissimo of the imperial forces. In the course of a few months Wallenstein raised an army of forty thousand men in the Emperor’s service. The strictest discipline was preserved WITHIN his camp, but his troops supported themselves by a system of rapine and plunder unprecedented even in those days of military license. Merit was rewarded with princely munificence, and the highest offices were within the reach of every common soldier who distinguished himself;—trivial breaches of discipline were punished with death. The dark and ambitious spirit of Wallenstein would not allow him to rest satisfied with the rewards and dignities heaped upon him by his imperial master. He temporised and entered into negotiations with the enemy; and during an interview with a Swedish general (Arnheim), is even said to have proposed an alliance to "hunt the Emperor to the devil." It is supposed that he aspired to the sovereignty of Bohemia. Ferdinand was informed of the ambitious designs of his general, and at length determined that Wallenstein should die. He despatched one of his generals, Gallas, to the commander-in-chief, with a mandate depriving him of his dignity of generalissimo, and nominating Gallas as his successor. Surprised before his plans were ripe, and deserted by many on whose support he had relied, Wallenstein retired hastily upon Egra. During a banquet in the castle, three of his generals who remained faithful to their leader were murdered in the dead of night. Roused by the noise, Wallenstein leapt from his bed, and encountered three soldiers who had been hired to despatch him. Speechless with astonishment and indignation, he stretched forth his arms, and receiving in his breast the stroke of a halbert, fell dead without a groan, in the fifty-first year of his age.

The following anecdote, curiously illustrative of the state of affairs in Wallenstein’s camp, is related by Schiller in his History of the Thirty Years’ War, a work containing a full account of the life and actions of this extraordinary man. "The extortions of Wallenstein’s soldiers from the peasants had at one period reached such a pitch, that severe penalties were denounced against all marauders; and every soldier who should be convicted of theft was threatened with a halter. Shortly afterwards, it chanced that Wallenstein himself met a soldier straying in the field, whom he caused to be seized, as having violated the law, and condemned to the gallows without a trial, by his usual word of doom: "Let the rascal be hung!" The soldier protested, and proved his innocence. "Then let them hang the innocent," cried the inhuman Wallenstein; "and the guilty will tremble the more." The preparations for carrying this sentence into effect had already commenced, when the soldier, who saw himself lost without remedy, formed the desperate resolution that he would not die unrevenged. Rushing furiously upon his leader, he was seized and disarmed by the bystanders before he could carry his intention into effect. "Now let him go," said Wallenstein; "it will excite terror enough.""—ED.

{9} Poniatowski was the commander of the Polish legion in the armies of Napoleon, by whom he was highly respected. At the battle of Leipzig, fought in October 1813, Poniatowski and Marshal MacDonald were appointed to command the rear of Napoleon’s army, which, after two days hard fighting, was compelled to retreat before the Allies. These generals defended the retreat of the army so gallantly, that all the French troops, except those under their immediate command, had evacuated the town. The rear-guard was preparing to follow, when the only bridge over the Elster that remained open to them was destroyed, through some mistake. This effectually barred the escape of the rear of Napoleon’s army. A few, among whom was Marshal MacDonald, succeeded in swimming across; but Poniatowski, after making a brave resistance, and refusing to surrender, was drowned in making the same attempt.—ED.

{10} Leipzig has long been famous as the chief book-mart of Germany. At the great Easter meetings, publishers from all the different states assemble at the "Buchhandler Borse," and a large amount of business is done. The fairs of Leipzig have done much towards establishing the position of this city as one of the first trading towns in Germany. They take place three times annually: at New-year, at Easter, and at Michaelmas; but the Easter fair is by far the most important. These commercial meetings last about three weeks, and during this time the town presents a most animated appearance, as the streets are thronged with the costumes of almost every nation, the smart dress of the Tyrolese contrasting gaily with the sombre garb of the Polish Jews. The amount of business transacted at these fairs is very considerable; on several occasions, above twenty thousand dealers have assembled. The trade is principally in woollen cloths; but lighter wares, and even ornaments of every description, are sold to a large extent. The manner in which every available place is taken advantage of is very curious: archways, cellars, passages, and courtyards are alike filled with merchandise, and the streets are at times so crowded as to be almost impassable. When the three weeks have passed, the wooden booths which have been erected in the market-place and the principal streets are taken down, the buyers and sellers vanish together, and the visitor would scarcely recognise in the quiet streets around him the bustling busy city of a few days ago.—ED.

{11} The fire broke out on 4th May 1842, and raged with the utmost fury for three days. Whole streets were destroyed, and at least 2000 houses burned to the ground. Nearly half a million of money was raised in foreign countries to assist in rebuilding the city, of which about a tenth was contributed by Britain. Such awful fires, fearful though they are at the time, seem absolutely necessary to great towns, as they cause needful improvements to be made, which the indolence or selfishness of the inhabitants would otherwise prevent. There is not a great city that has not at one time or another suffered severely from fire, and has risen out of the ruins greater than before.—ED.

{12} There are no docks at Hamburgh, consequently all the vessels lie in the river Elbe, and both receive and discharge their cargoes there. Madame Pfeiffer, however, is mistaken in supposing that only London could show a picture of so many ships and so much commercial activity surpassing that of Hamburgh. Such a picture, more impressive even than that seen in the Elbe, is exhibited every day in the Mersey or the Hudson.—ED.

{13} Kiel, however, is a place of considerable trade; and doubtless the reason why Madame Pfeiffer saw so few vessels at it was precisely the same reason why she saw so many at Hamburgh. Kiel contains an excellent university.—ED.

{14} At sea I calculate by sea-miles, of which sixty go to a degree.

{15} This great Danish sculptor was born of poor parents at Copenhagen, on the 19th November, 1770; his father was an Icelander, and earned his living by carving figure-heads for ships. Albert, or "Bertel," as he is more generally called, was accustomed during his youth to assist his father in his labours on the wharf. At an early age he visited the Academy at Copenhagen, where his genius soon began to make itself conspicuous. At the age of sixteen he had won a silver, and at twenty a gold medal. Two years later he carried off the "great" gold medal, and was sent to study abroad at the expense of the Academy. In 1797 we find him practising his art at Rome under the eye of Zoega the Dane, who does not, however, seem to have discovered indications of extraordinary genius in the labours of his young countryman. But a work was soon to appear which should set all questions as to Thorwaldsen’s talent for ever at rest. In 1801 he produced his celebrated statue of "Jason," which was at once pronounced by the great Canova to be "a work in a new and a grand style." After this period the path of fame lay open before the young sculptor; his bas-reliefs of "Summer" and "Autumn," the "Dance of the Muses," "Cupid and Psyche," and numerous other works, followed each other in rapid succession; and at length, in 1812, Thorwaldsen produced his extraordinary work, "The Triumph of Alexander." In 1819 Thorwaldsen returned rich and famous to the city he had quitted as a youth twenty-three years before; he was received with great honour, and many feasts and rejoicings were held to celebrate his arrival. After a sojourn of a year Thorwaldsen again visited Rome, where he continued his labours until 1838, when, wealthy and independent, he resolved to rest in his native country. This time his welcome to Copenhagen was even more enthusiastic than in 1819. The whole shore was lined with spectators, and amid thundering acclamations the horses were unharnessed from his carriage, and the sculptor was drawn in triumph by the people to his atelier. During the remainder of his life Thorwaldsen passed much of his time on the island of Nyso, where most of his latest works were executed. On Sunday, March 9th, 1842, he had been conversing with a circle of friends in perfect health. Halm’s tragedy of Griselda was announced for the evening, and Thorwaldsen proceeded to the theatre to witness the performance. During the overture he rose to allow a stranger to pass, then resumed his seat, and a moment afterwards his head sunk on his breast—he was dead!

His funeral was most sumptuous. Rich and poor united to do honour to the memory of the great man, who had endeared himself to them by his virtues as by his genius. The crown-prince followed the coffin, and the people of Copenhagen stood in two long rows, and uncovered their heads as the coffin of the sculptor was carried past. The king himself took part in the solemnity. At the time of his decease Thorwaldsen had completed his seventy-second year.—ED.

{16} Tycho de Brahe was a distinguished astronomer, who lived between 1546 and 1601. He was a native of Denmark. His whole life may be said to have been devoted to astronomy. A small work that he published when a young man brought him under the notice of the King of Denmark, with whose assistance he constructed, on the small island of Hulln, a few miles north of Copenhagen, the celebrated Observatory of Uranienburg. Here, seated in "the ancient chair" referred to in the text, and surrounded by numerous assistants, he directed for seventeen years a series of observations, that have been found extremely accurate and useful. On the death of his patron he retired to Prague in Bohemia, where he was employed by Rodolph II. then Emperor of Germany. Here he was assisted by the great Kepler, who, on Tycho’s death in 1601, succeeded him.—ED.

{17} The fisheries of Iceland have been very valuable, and indeed the chief source of the commerce of the country ever since it was discovered. The fish chiefly caught are cod and the tusk or catfish. They are exported in large quantities, cured in various ways. Since the discovery of Newfoundland, however, the fisheries of Iceland have lost much of their importance. So early as 1415, the English sent fishing vessels to the Icelandic coast, and the sailors who were on board, it would appear, behaved so badly to the natives that Henry V. had to make some compensation to the King of Denmark for their conduct. The greatest number of fishing vessels from England that ever visited Iceland was during the reign of James I., whose marriage with the sister of the Danish king might probably make England at the time the most favoured nation. It was in his time that an English pirate, "Gentleman John," as he was called, committed great ravages in Iceland, for which James had afterwards to make compensation. The chief markets for the fish are in the Catholic countries of Europe. In the seventeenth century, a great traffic in fish was carried on between Iceland and Spain.—ED.

{18} The dues charged by the Danish Government on all vessels passing through the Sound have been levied since 1348, and therefore enjoy a prescriptive right of more than five hundred years. They bring to the Danish Government a yearly revenue of about a quarter of a million; and, in consideration of the dues, the Government has to support certain lighthouses, and otherwise to render safe and easy the navigation of this great entrance to the Baltic. Sounddues were first paid in the palmy commercial days of the Hanseatic League. That powerful combination of merchants had suffered severely from the ravages of Danish pirates, royal and otherwise; but ultimately they became so powerful that the rich merchant could beat the royal buccaneer, and tame his ferocity so effectually as to induce him to build and maintain those beacon-lights on the shores of the Sound, for whose use they and all nations and merchants after them have agreed to pay certain duties.—ED.

{19} The Feroe Islands consist of a great many islets, some of them mere rocks, lying about halfway between the north coast of Scotland and Iceland. At one time they belonged to Norway, but came into the possession of Denmark at the same time as Iceland. They are exceedingly mountainous, some of the mountains attaining an elevation of about 2800 feet. The largest town or village does not contain more than 1500 or 1600 inhabitants. The population live chiefly on the produce of their large flocks of sheep, and on the down procured, often at great risk to human life, from the eiderduck and other birds by which the island is frequented.—ED.

{20} I should be truly sorry if, in this description of our "life aboard ship," I had said any thing which could give offence to my kind friend Herr Knudson. I have, however, presumed that every one is aware that the mode of life at sea is different to life in families. I have only to add, that Herr Knudson lived most agreeably not only in Copenhagen, but what is far more remarkable, in Iceland also, and was provided with every comfort procurable in the largest European towns.

{21} It is not only at sea that ingenious excuses for drinking are invented. The lovers of good or bad liquor on land find these reasons as "plenty as blackberries," and apply them with a marvellous want of stint or scruple. In warm climates the liquor is drank to keep the drinker cool, in cold to keep him warm; in health to prevent him from being sick, in sickness to bring him back to health. Very seldom is the real reason, "because I like it," given; and all these excuses and reasons must be regarded as implying some lingering sense of shame at the act, and as forming part of "the homage that vice always pays to virtue."—ED.

{22} The sailors call those waves "Spanish" which, coming from the west, distinguish themselves by their size.

{23} These islands form a rocky group, only one of which is inhabited, lying about fifteen miles from the coast. They are said to derive their name from some natives of Ireland, called West-men, who visited Iceland shortly after its discovery by the Norwegians. In this there is nothing improbable, for we know that during the ninth and tenth centuries the Danes and Normans, called Easterlings, made many descents on the Irish coast; and one Norwegian chief is reported to have assumed sovereign power in Ireland about the year 866, though he was afterwards deposed, and flung into a lough, where he was drowned: rather an ignominious death for a "sea-king."—ED.

{24} This work, which Madame Pfeiffer does not praise too highly, was first published in 1810. After passing through two editions, it was reprinted in 1841, at a cheap price, in the valuable people’s editions of standard works, published by Messrs. Chambers of Edinburgh.—ED.

{25} It is related of Ingold that he carried with him on his voyage the door of his former house in Ireland, and that when he approached the coast he cast it into the sea, watching the point of land which it touched; and on that land he fixed his future home. This land is the same on which the town of Reikjavik now stands. These old seakings, like the men of Athens, were "in all things too superstitious."—ED.

{26} These sea-rovers, that were to the nations of Europe during the middle ages what the Danes, Norwegians, and other northmen were at an earlier period, enjoyed at this time the full flow of their lawless prosperity. Their insolence and power were so great that many nations, our own included, were glad to purchase, by a yearly payment, exemption from the attacks of these sea-rovers. The Americans paid this tribute so late as 1815. The unfortunate Icelanders who were carried off in the seventeenth century nearly all died as captives in Algiers. At the end of ten years they were liberated; but of the four hundred only thirty-seven were alive when the joyful intelligence reached the place of their captivity; and of these twenty-four died before rejoining their native land.—ED.

{27} This town, the capital of Iceland, and the seat of government, is built on an arm of the sea called the Faxefiord, in the southwest part of the island. The resident population does not exceed 500, but this is greatly increased during the annual fairs. It consists mainly of two streets at right angles to each other. It contains a large church built of stone, roofed with tiles; an observatory; the residences of the governor and the bishop, and the prison, which is perhaps the most conspicuous building in the town.- -ED.

{28} As Madame Pfeiffer had thus no opportunity of attending a ball in Iceland, the following description of one given by Sir George Mackenzie may be interesting to the reader.

"We gave a ball to the ladies of Reikjavik and the neighbourhood. The company began to assemble about nine o’clock. We were shewn into a small low-roofed room, in which were a number of men, but to my surprise I saw no females. We soon found them, however, in one adjoining, where it is the custom for them to wait till their partners go to hand them out. On entering this apartment, I felt considerable disappointment at not observing a single woman dressed in the Icelandic costume. The dresses had some resemblance to those of English chambermaids, but were not so smart. An old lady, the wife of the man who kept the tavern, was habited like the pictures of our great-grandmothers. Some time after the dancing commenced, the bishop’s lady, and two others, appeared in the proper dress of the country.

"We found ourselves extremely awkward in dancing what the ladies were pleased to call English country dances. The music, which came from a solitary ill-scraped fiddle, accompanied by the rumbling of the same half-rotten drum that had summoned the high court of justice, and by the jingling of a rusty triangle, was to me utterly unintelligible. The extreme rapidity with which it was necessary to go through many complicated evolutions in proper time, completely bewildered us; and our mistakes, and frequent collisions with our neighbours, afforded much amusement to our fair partners, who found it for a long time impracticable to keep us in the right track. When allowed to breathe a little, we had an opportunity of remarking some singularities in the state of society and manners among the Danes of Reikjavik. While unengaged in the dance, the men drink punch, and walk about with tobacco-pipes in their mouths, spitting plentifully on the floor. The unrestrained evacuation of saliva seems to be a fashion all over Iceland; but whether the natives learned it from the Danes, or the Danes from the natives, we did not ascertain. Several ladies whose virtue could not bear a very strict scrutiny were pointed out to us.

"During the dances, tea and coffee were handed about; and negus and punch were ready for those who chose to partake of them. A cold supper was provided, consisting of hams, beef, cheese, &c., and wine. While at table, several of the ladies sang, and acquitted themselves tolerably well. But I could not enjoy the performance, on account of the incessant talking, which was as fashionable a rudeness in Iceland as it is now in Britain. This, however, was not considered as in the least unpolite. One of the songs was in praise of the donors of the entertainment; and, during the chorus, the ceremony of touching each other’s glasses was performed. After supper, waltzes were danced, in a style that reminded me of soldiers marching in cadence to the dead march in Saul. Though there was no need of artificial light, a number of candles were placed in the rooms. When the company broke up, about three o’clock, the sun was high above the horizon."

{29} A man of eighty years of age is seldom seen on the island.— Kerguelen.

{30} Kerguelen (writing in 1768) says: "They live during the summer principally on cod’s heads. A common family make a meal of three or four cods’ heads boiled in sea-water."—ED.

{31} This bakehouse is the only one in Iceland, and produces as good bread and biscuit as any that can be procured in Denmark. [In Kerguelen’s time (1768) bread was very uncommon in Iceland. It was brought from Copenhagen, and consisted of broad thin cakes, or seabiscuits, made of rye-flour, and extremely black.—ED.]

{32} In all high latitudes fat oily substances are consumed to a vast extent by the natives. The desire seems to be instinctive, not acquired. A different mode of living would undoubtedly render them more susceptible to the cold of these inclement regions. Many interesting anecdotes are related of the fondness of these hyperborean races for a kind of food from which we would turn in disgust. Before gas was introduced into Edinburgh, and the city was lighted by oil-lamps, several Russian noblemen visited that metropolis; and it is said that their longing for the luxury of train-oil became one evening so intense, that, unable to procure the delicacy in any other way, they emptied the oil-lamps. Parry relates that when he was wintering in the Arctic regions, one of the seamen, who had been smitten with the charms of an Esquimaux lady, wished to make her a present, and knowing the taste peculiar to those regions, he gave her with all due honours a pound of candles, six to the pound! The present was so acceptable to the lady, that she eagerly devoured the lot in the presence of her wondering admirer.—ED.

{33} An American travelling in Iceland in 1852 thus describes, in a letter to the Boston Post, the mode of travelling:- "All travel is on horseback. Immense numbers of horses are raised in the country, and they are exceedingly cheap. As for travelling on foot, even short journeys, no one ever thinks of it. The roads are so bad for walking, and generally so good for riding that shoe-leather, to say nothing of fatigue, would cost nearly as much as horse-flesh. Their horses are small, compact, hardy little animals, a size larger than Shetland ponies, but rarely exceeding from 12 or 13.5 hands high. A stranger in travelling must always have a ’guide,’ and if he does go equipped for a good journey and intends to make good speed, he wants as many as six horses; one for himself, one for the guide, one for the luggage, and three relay horses. Then when one set of horses are tired the saddles are exchanged to the others. The relay horses are tied together and are either led or driven before the others. A tent is often carried, unless a traveller chooses to chance it for his lodgings. Such an article as an hotel is not kept in Iceland out of the capital. You must also carry your provisions with you, as you will be able to get but little on your route. Plenty of milk can be had, and some fresh-water fish. The luggage is carried in trunks that are hung on each side of the horse, on a rude frame that serves as a pack-saddle. Under this, broad pieces of turf are placed to prevent galling the horse’s back."

{34} The down of the eider-duck forms a most important and valuable article of Icelandic commerce. It is said that the weight of down procurable from each nest is about half a pound, which is reduced one-half by cleansing. The down is sold at about twelve shillings per pound, so that the produce of each nest is about three shillings. The eider-duck is nearly as large as the common goose; and some have been found on the Fern Islands, off the coast of Northumberland.—ED.

{35} The same remark applies with equal force to many people who are not Icelanders. It was once the habit among a portion of the population of Lancashire, on returning from market, to carry their goods in a bag attached to one end of a string slung over their shoulders, which was balanced by a bag containing a stone at the other. Some time ago, it was pointed out to a worthy man thus returning from market, that it would be easier for him to throw away the stone, and make half of his load balance the other half, but the advice was rejected with disdain; the plan he had adopted was that of his forefathers, and he would on no account depart from it.—ED.

{36} The description of the Wolf’s Hollow occurs in the second act of Der Freyschutz, when Rodolph sings:

"How horrid, dark, and wild, and drear, Doth this gaping gulf appear! It seems the hue of hell to wear. The bellowing thunder bursts yon clouds, The moon with blood has stained her light! What forms are those in misty shrouds, That stalk before my sight? And now, hush! hush! The owl is hooting in yon bush; How yonder oak-tree’s blasted arms Upon me seem to frown! My heart recoils, but all alarms Are vain: fate calls, I must down, down."

{37} The reader must bear in mind that, during the season of which I speak, there is no twilight, much less night, in Iceland.

{38} The springs of Carlsbad are said to have been unknown until about five hundred years ago, when a hunting-dog belonging to one of the emperors of Germany fell in, and by his howling attracted the hunters to the spot. The temperature of the chief spring is 165 degrees.—ED.

{39} History tells of this great Icelandic poet, that owing to his treachery the free island of Iceland came beneath the Norwegian sceptre. For this reason he could never appear in Iceland without a strong guard, and therefore visited the Allthing under the protection of a small army of 600 men. Being at length surprised by his enemies in his house at Reikiadal, he fell beneath their blows, after a short and ineffectual resistance. [Snorri Sturluson, the most distinguished name of which Iceland can boast, was born, in 1178, at Hoam. In his early years he was remarkably fortunate in his worldly affairs. The fortune he derived from his father was small, but by means of a rich marriage, and by inheritance, he soon became proprietor of large estates in Iceland. Some writers say that his guard of 600 men, during his visit to the Allthing, was intended not as a defence, as indicated in Madame Pfeiffer’s note, but for the purposes of display, and to impress the inhabitants with forcible ideas of his influence and power. He was invited to the court of the Norwegian king, and there he either promised or was bribed to bring Iceland under the Norwegian power. For this he has been greatly blamed, and stigmatised as a traitor; though it would appear from some historians that he only undertook to do by peaceable means what otherwise the Norwegian kings would have effected by force, and thus saved his country from a foreign invasion. But be this as it may, it is quite clear that he sunk in the estimation of his countrymen, and the feeling against him became so strong, that he was obliged to fly to Norway. He returned, however, in 1239, and in two years afterwards he was assassinated by his own son-in-law. The work by which he is chiefly known is the Heimskringla, or Chronicle of the Sea-Kings of Norway, one of the most valuable pieces of northern history, which has been admirably translated into English by Mr. Samuel Laing. This curious name of Heimskringla was given to the work because it contains the words with which begins, and means literally the circle of the world.— ED.]

{41} In Iceland, as in Denmark, it is the custom to keep the dead a week above ground. It may be readily imagined that to a non- Icelandic sense of smell, it is an irksome task to be present at a burial from beginning to end, and especially in summer. But I will not deny that the continued sensation may have partly proceeded from imagination.

{42} Every one in Iceland rides.

{43} I cannot forbear mentioning a curious circumstance here. When I was at the foot of Mount Etna in 1842, the fiery element was calmed; some months after my departure it flamed with renewed force. When, on my return from Hecla, I came to Reikjavik, I said jocularly that it would be most strange if this Etna of the north should also have an eruption now. Scarcely had I left Iceland more than five weeks when an eruption, more violent than the former one, really took place. This circumstance is the more remarkable, as it had been in repose for eighty years, and was already looked upon as a burnt-out volcano. If I were to return to Iceland now, I should be looked upon as a prophetess of evil, and my life would scarcely be safe.

{44} Every peasant in tolerably good circumstances carries a little tent with him when he leaves home for a few days. These tents are, at the utmost, three feet high, five or six feet long, and three broad.

{45} "Though their poverty disables them from imitating the hospitality of their ancestors in all respects, yet the desire of doing it still exists: they cheerfully give away the little they have to spare, and express the utmost joy and satisfaction if you are pleased with the gift." Uno von Troil, 1772.—ED.

{46} The presence of American ships in the port of Gottenburg is not to be wondered at, seeing that nearly three-fourths of all the iron exported from Gottenburg is to America.—ED.

{47} "St. Stephen’s steeple" is 450 feet high, being about 40 feet higher than St. Paul’s, and forms part of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, a magnificent Gothic building, that dates as far back as the twelfth century. It has a great bell, that weighs about eighteen tons, being more than double the weight of the bell in St. Peter’s at Rome, and four times the weight of the "Great Tom of Lincoln." The metal used consisted of cannons taken from the Turks during their memorable sieges of Vienna. The cathedral is 350 feet long and 200 wide, being less than St. Paul’s in London, which is 510 feet long and 282 wide.—ED.

{48} The Storthing is the name given to the Norwegian parliament, which assembles once every three years at Christiania. The time and place of meeting are fixed by law, and the king has no power to prevent or postpone its assembly. It consists of about a hundred members, who divide themselves into two houses. The members must not be under thirty years of age, and must have lived for ten years in Norway. The electors are required to be twenty-five years of age, and to be either burgesses of a town, or to possess property of the annual value of 30l. The members must possess the same qualification. The members of the Storthing are usually plainspoken, sensible men, who have no desire to shine as orators, but who despatch with great native sagacity the business brought before them. This Storthing is the most independent legislative assembly in Europe; for not only has the king no power to prevent its meeting at the appointed time, but should he refuse to assent to any laws that are passed, these laws come into force without his assent, provided they are passed by three successive parliaments.—ED.

{49} The present king of Sweden and Norway is Oscar, one of the few fortunate scions of those lowly families that were raised to royal power and dignity by Napoleon. His father, Bernadotte, was the son of an advocate, and entered the French army as a common soldier; in that service he rose to the rank of marshal, and then became crownprince, and ultimately king of Sweden. He died in 1844. The mother of Oscar was Desiree Clary, a sister of Julie Clary, wife of Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoleon. This lady was asked in marriage by Napoleon himself, but her father refused his assent; and instead of becoming an unfortunate empress of France, she became a fortunate queen of Sweden and Norway. Oscar was born at Paris in 1799, and received his education chiefly in Hanover. He accompanied his father to Sweden in 1810, and ascended the throne on his father’s death in 1844. In 1824 he married Josephine Beauharnois, daughter of Prince Eugene, and granddaughter of the brilliant and fascinating Josephine, the first and best wife of Napoleon. Oscar is much beloved by his subjects; his administration is mild, just, and equable; and his personal abilities and acquirements are far beyond the average of crowned heads.—ED.

{50} Bergen is a town of about twenty-five thousand inhabitants, situated near the Kons Fiord, on the west coast of Norway, and distant about 350 miles from Christiania. It is the seat of a bishopric, and a place of very considerable trade, its exports being chiefly fish. It has given its name to a county and a township in the state of New Jersey. There are three other Bergens,—one in the island of Rugen, one in the Netherlands, and another in the electorate of Hesse.—ED.

{51} Kulle is the Swedish for hill.

{52} Delekarlien is a Swedish province, situated ninety or one hundred miles north of Stockholm.

{53} The family of Sturre was one of the most distinguished in Sweden. Sten Sturre introduced printing into Sweden, founded the University of Upsala, and induced many learned men to come over. He was mortally wounded in a battle against the Danes, and died in 1520.

His successors as governors, Suante, Nilson Sturre, and his son, Sten Sturre the younger, still live in the memory of the Swedish nation, and are honoured for their patriotism and valour.

{54} The University of Upsala is the most celebrated in the north. It owes its origin to Sten Sturre, the regent of the kingdom, by whom it was founded in 1476, on the same plan as the University of Paris. Through the influence of the Jesuits, who wished to establish a new academy in Stockholm, it was dissolved in 1583, but re-established in 1598. Gustavus Vasa, who was educated at Upsala, gave it many privileges, and much encouragement; and Gustavus Adolphus reconstituted it, and give it very liberal endowments. There are twenty-four professors, and the number of students is between four and five hundred.—ED.

{55} See novel of Ivar, the Skjuts Boy, by Miss Emilie Carlen.

{56} At Calmar was concluded, in 1397, the famous treaty which bears its name, by which Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were united under one crown, that crown placed nominally on the head of Eric Duke of Pomerania, but virtually on that of his aunt Margaret, who has received the name of "the Semiramis of the North."—ED.

{57} There is now a railway direct from Hamburgh to Berlin.—ED.

{58} A florin is about two shillings sterling.—ED.

{59} Herr T. Scheffer of Modling, near Vienna, gives the following characteristic of this new dipteral animal, which belongs to the family muscidae, and resembles the species borborus:

Antennae deflexae, breves, triarticulatae, articulo ultimo phoereco; seda nuda.

Hypoctoma subprominulum, fronte lata, setosa. Oculi rotundi, remoti. Abdomen quinque annulatum, dorso nudo. Tarsi simplices. Alae incumbentes, abdomine longiores, nervo primo simplici.

Niger, abdomine nitido, antennis pedibusque rufopiceis.


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Chicago: Ida Pfeiffer, "Footnotes:," Visit to Iceland, ed. Conway, Moncure Daniel, 1832-1907 in Visit to Iceland Original Sources, accessed July 12, 2024,

MLA: Pfeiffer, Ida. "Footnotes:." Visit to Iceland, edited by Conway, Moncure Daniel, 1832-1907, in Visit to Iceland, Original Sources. 12 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Pfeiffer, I, 'Footnotes:' in Visit to Iceland, ed. . cited in , Visit to Iceland. Original Sources, retrieved 12 July 2024, from