« ElőzőTovább »
INDEX TO VOL. XXIII. OF LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.-No. 281.-6 OCTOBER, 1849.
From the North British Review.
:-every creek and cranny has been 1. Narrative of the United States Expedition to the explored ; and we have long ceased to expect the
River Jordan and the Dead Sea. By W. F. accounts of newly-discovered islands and contiLynch, U. S. N., Commander of the Expedi- nents, which ever and anon gladdened the hearts tion. With Maps and numerous Illustrations of our ancestors with something new and marvelLondon, 1849. Lea & Blanchard, Philadel
Even if we had that expectation, it would 2. Narrative of an Expedition to the Dead Sea. cease to be exciting. We should be sure that the
From a Diary, by one John Pasty. Edited unknown would be like something we know. by Edward P. Montague, attached to the There is really nothing new under the sunUnited States Expedition Ship“ Supply.” nothing even in expectation. Even the interior Philadelphia, 1849.
of Africa, still unexplored—and from whose gates So, the disenchantment of the world goes on! Dr. Bialloblotzky now returns bootless home-is The world's gray fathers were content with seven regarded with but languid interest by all but the wonders. Thirty years ago, we might learn by one in ten thousand who has some zeal for geobooks that there were at least a hundred wonders graphical discovery. There is sure to be some of the world ; but where now is there one to be sand. But what do we want to know of more found? No sooner did the phrenologists find out sands, and sand-storms, and camels, and all that the whereabouts of our faculty of “wonder," sort of thing? There is perhaps a lake. Well,
“ marvellousness," than straightway there there is nothing wonderful in that—we know all ceased to be anything in the world to wonder at. about lakes. There are perhaps new tribes of About a hundred years ago, almost everything blacks. Nay, spare us—what do we want of any beyond our own islands, and even much that was more blacks? We know all about them through in them, was wonderful to us. The world was so and through ; and what signifies some trifling adunknown-men and nature were so little under- dition to their variety—a darker or lighter shade stood—that all things beyond the range of every- -a stronger or laxer twist of wool—a somewhat day experience were marvellous; and where so less utterable jargon-a somewhat more hideous much regarded as strange was known to be true, buggaboo ? There is no bracing wonder here. unthought-of and endless wonders were supposed to We do not expect a new animal-scarcely a new lie hid in the unascertained portions of the world. plant: and when lately we were authentically told Hence the imaginary voyages of Robinson Crusoe, of a real wonder, in the shape of a sea-serpent, of Philip Quarll, of Richard Davis, of Peter one half the world arose in its wrath at the attempt Wilkins, and of Captain Lemuel Gulliver, were upon its organ of wonder, and at the assault upon scarcely beyond the bounds of human credulity, its firm purpose not to wonder at anything the and were by not a few received as true accounts world contains ; and the other half turned lazily of true voyages. Indeed, it might have been upon its side, grunting—“Pshaw, what is there thought to require some hardihood to distrust even wonderful in a sea-serpent ? An eel is a sea-serthe immortal Captain, seeing that his “true effi- pent—a conger is a sea-serpent—and one somegies," in a very respectable peruke, were, as we what bigger than a conger-eel is no great matter." happened lately to notice, prefixed to the early Now-a-days, we know the Persians, the Turks, editions of his work. Who shall indeed set bounds the Arabs, the Hindoos, better than our grandto the possibilities of pleasant wonder, when the fathers knew the French, the Italians, the Spanlearned of the land were convinced by the daring iards, or the Germans. The North American impudence of George Psalmanazar, and were eager Indians, the South-Sea Islanders, the Esquimaux, to send missionaries and Bibles to the interesting we know far better than the Russians, Danes, and people to whom he professed to belong, and for Swedes were known a hundred years ago.
Even whom he invented a language, the grammar of the Chinese have ceased to amaze us. Their tails which seems to us the inost daring attempt ever —why, fifty years ago we were ourselves not tailmade to throw dust into learned eyes. But, that less ;-their edible bird-nests turn out, when seen learned eyes are not always the keenest, seems to and explained, to be nothing very strange. Cats be shown by the temporary success of that most may be, after all, not bad eating ;-—and the small astonishing experiment upon human credulity. feet of the ladies may, for aught we know, be a 0! happy people, who lived in days when there salutary domestic institution. was something to wonder at—when the fountains Then, look at the results which the existing faof marvellousness, now, in these latter days, dried cilities of intercourse have produced upon our estiup, played in full stream, and sprinkled some re- mate of places which it was once an untiring freshing excitements over this dreary life. But wonder to talk of, and a life-adventure to visit. what have we now left? All the world has been Rome and Naples are as well known to us as
Paris was some fifty years ago. Constantinople we can account for everything. Gases, vapors, is better known to us than Rome was then ; and and electric fluids are familiar things. We not with Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus, we have now long ago looked upon their spontaneous operations a far better acquaintance than we had twenty in nature with awe and wonder. But by and by years ago with Petersburgh, Lisbon, or Madrid. we grew bold in the presence of those awful powPalestine once afforded rich material for the players. We ventured to lay our hands upon their of the associative faculty upon the organ of won- manes, we vaulted upon their backs, and soon der ; but presently came that great inconoclast, bowed down their terrible strength to our service. Dr. Robinson, of New York, who, by disproving Besides, this in which we have lived has been one thing and doubting another, has left but little in all respects a most extraordinary age. It has even there, in that cherished corner of the world, been full of all kinds of wonders—social, moral, for the wonder of which entire belief is a most historical, physical, scientific—so vast, so prodiessential condition.
gious, as to render familiar to us, as matters of Wonder belongs to a time of ignorance, and we present interest and daily thought, results and say that the days of ignorance have passed. What facts, greater, intrinsically more strange, than
any is there to wonder at? We know everything ; that past ages, or any that distant countries offer and that which we understand ceases to be won- to our notice. This has tamed down the sense of derful. Look at the map of the world. There wonder. We can wonder at nothing ; for nothis not a spot on which we can lay the finger whose ing is so wonderful as the things that have become inhabitants are not well known to us. They are our daily food. Even history is disenchanted. The differenced by small matters—dress, habits of life, strangest things have become comprehensible, posshades of color, climatic influences. Strip them sible, commonplace. The great conquerors of anof these, and we come by a swift process to our cient days have in our own times been surpassed. brothers—the sons of a common father-like our. The revolutions—the changes of past
times-each selves in all that is essentially the man ; moved one of which was a subject of curious speculation, by the same impulses, subject to the same pains have been exceeded in our own days. Subverand the same pleasures, subdued by the same sions, any one of which was erewhile good talk dreads, and nourished by the same hopes. The for a century, have been crowded upon us by the psychologist who dissects their souls finds them dozen within the space of a few weeks. If the all as like to one another, and all as like to us, sense of wonder in civilized man has not been as does the anatomist who explores their bodily wholly destroyed, we cannot doubt that this age frame. So with animals. All the most remark- in which we live will be looked back upon by our able creatures of the world have been brought to children's children as more replete with wonders us from the uttermost parts of the earth ; and than any which the world's history has hitherto existences which to our grandfathers were all recorded. but fabulous, we now regard as familiar things. But what has all this to do with the Dead Sea ? Our zoological gardens and menageries; our it may be asked.
Much every way.
Amid the Penny Magazines ” and “ Museums of Animat- general diswonderment of the world, we could feel ed Nature,” have quite disenchanted this branch that at least the Dead Sea, with all its mysteries, of the world's life. Its strangest things have its horrors and marvels, was left to us. It bepassed from the realm of wonder ; and the dis- came a sort of safety-valve for the fine old faculty covery of a really new beast, or bird, or reptile, -the source of so much innocent excitement, would now awaken out a languid interest in the which was smothered everywhere else under general mind. So of plants. Where are their heavy masses of dull facts and circumstances. wonders now? Within thirty years, thousands But gradually, and with aching hearts, we have of plants from all parts of the globe, most of which seen this retreat cut off from us. One traveller had not even been heard of, and many of which after another has stripped off some one of the horwere examined with wonder, have become the rors which overhung its deeps, or rested on its well-known inmates of our stoves, our green-shores ; and now at last it stands naked before us houses, and even our gardens. A morning's walk, -a monument, indeed, of God's wrath against or a short ride, will take any inhabitant of London the sins of man, but invested with none of the and other large towns among the most remarkable supernatural horrors ascribed to it, or exhibiting forms of transmarine vegetation. Here are the any of the features which are not the natural and palms and bananas of tropical climes, breathing an inevitable effect of the peculiar condition into atmosphere by which you are almost suffocated ; which it has been brought. there a thousand whimsical shapes of the cacti and As the books now before us bring all the quesof the unearthly orchids meet the view; and here tions with respect to this lake into their final the singular pitcher-plants distil their waters. De-condition, they afford us a favorable opportunity part now, wonder-proof! Travel where you will, of stating the question as regards the past hisyou will see, you can see, nothing to astonish- tory of the Dead Sea horrors, and of showing nothing more wonderful than that which you have what has been really done by the expedition in seen with your own eyes at home.
advancement of our knowledge. In this we must And even in the phenomena of nature, the age rely chiefly upon our own resources; for the comof wonder has passed. We know everything ; mander of the expedition helps us very little