[blocks in formation]

applying hot flannels, and carefully removing the discourse itself to a great distance, the critic was restored to his disconsolate brothers.

The only account he could give of himself was, that he remembers reading on, regularly, till he came to the following pathetic description of a drowned tradesman; beyond which he recollects nothing.

"But to the individual himself, as a man, let us add the interruption to all the temporal business in which his interest was engaged. To him indeed, now apparently lost, the world is as nothing: but it seldom happens, that man can live for himself alone: society parcels out its concerns in various connections; and from one head issue waters which run down in many channels. The spring being suddenly cut off, what confusion must follow in the streams which have flowed from its source? It may be, that all the expectations reasonably raised of approaching prosperity, to those who have embarked in the same occupation, may at once disappear; and the important interchange of commercial faith be broken off, before it could be brought to any advantageous conclusion."

This extract will suffice for the style of the sermon. The charity itself is above all praise.


Of all the species of travels, that which has moral observation for its object is the most liable to error, and has the greatest difficulties to overcome, before it can arrive at excellence. Stones, and roots, and leaves, are subjects which may exercise the understanding without rousing the passions. A mineralogical traveller will hardly fall fouler upon the granite and the feldspar of other countries than his own; a botanist will not conceal its non-descripts; and an agricultural tourist will faithfully detail the average crop per acre; but the traveller who observes on the manners, habits, and institutions of other countries, must have emancipated his mind from the extensive and powerful dominions of association, must have extinguished the agreeable and deceitful feelings of national vanity, and cultivated that patient humility which builds general inferences only upon the repetition of individual facts. Everything

† From a review of "Lettres sur l'Angleterre. Par J. Fievée." Ed. Rov. April, 1803.

[blocks in formation]

he sees shocks some passion or flatters it; and he is perpetually seduced to distort facts, so as to render them agreeable to his system and his feelings! Books of travels are now published in such vast abundance, that it may not be useless, perhaps, to state a few of the reasons why their valne so commonly happens to be in the inverse ratio of their number.

1st. Travels are bad, from a want of opportunity for observation in those who write them. If the sides of a building are to be measured, and the number of its windows to be counted, a very short space of time may suffice for these operations; but to gain such a knowledge of their prevalent opinions and propensities, as will enable a stranger to comprehend (what is commonly called) the genius of people, requires a long residence among them, a familiar acquaintance with their language, and an easy circulation among their various societies. The society into which a transient stranger gains the most easy access in any country, is not often that which ought to stamp the national character; and no criterion can be more fallible, in a people so reserved and inaccessible as the British, who (even when they open their doors to letters of introduction) cannot for years overcome the awkward timidity of their nature. The same expressions are of so different a value in different countries, the same actions proceed from such different causes, and produce such different effects, that a judgment of foreign nations, founded on rapid observation, is almost certainly a mere tissue of ludicrous and disgraceful mistakes; and yet a residence of a month or two seems to entitle a traveller to present the world with a picture of manners in London, Paris, or Vienna, and even to dogmatize upon the political, religious, and legal institutions, as if it were one and the same thing to speak of abstract effects of such institutions, and of their effects combined with all the peculiar circumstances in which any nation may be placed.

2dly. An affectation of quickness in observation, an intuitive glance that requires only a moment, and a part, to judge of a perpetuity, and a whole. The late Mr. Petion, who was sent over into this country to acquire a knowledge of our criminal law, is said to have declared himself thoroughly informed upon the subject after remaining precisely two-and-thirty minutes in the Old Bailey.

3dly. The tendency to found observation on a system, rather



than a system upon observation. The fact is, there are very few original eyes and ears. The great mass see and hear as they are directed by others, and bring back from a residence in foreign countries nothing but the vague and customary notions concerning it, which are carried and brought back for half a century, without verification or change. The most ordinary shape in which this tendency to prejudge makes its appearance among travellers, is by a disposition to exalt, or, a still more absurd disposition to depreciate their native country. They are incapable of considering a foreign people but under one single point of view-the relation in which they stand to their own; and the whole narrative is frequently nothing more than a mere triumph of national vanity, or the ostentation of superiority to so common a failing.


CEYLON is now inhabited by the English; the remains of the Dutch and Portuguese, the Cinglese or natives, subject to the dominion of the Europeans; the Candians, subject to the king of their own name; and the Vaddahs, or wild men, subject to no power. A Ceylonese Dutchman is a coarse, grotesque species of animal, whose native apathy and phlegm is animated only by the insolence of a colonial tyrant: his principal amusement appears to consist in smoking; but his pipe, according to Mr. Percival's account, is so seldom out of his mouth, that his smoking appears to be almost as much a necessary function of animal life as his breathing. His day is eked out with gin, ceremonious visits, and prodigious quantities of gross food, dripping with oil and butter; his mind, just able to reach from one meal to another, is incapable of further exertion; and, after the panting and deglutition of a long-protracted dinner, reposes on the sweet expectation that, in a few hours, the carnivorous toil will be renewed. He lives only to digest, and, while the organs of gluttony perform their office, he has not a wish beyond; and is the happy man which Horace describes :in seipso totus, teres, atque rotundus.

The descendants of the Portuguese differ materially from the * From a review of "An Account of the Island of Ceylon, by Robert Percival." Ed. Rev., April, 1803.

[blocks in formation]

Moors, Malabars, and other Mahometans. Their great object is to show the world they are Europeans and Christians. Unfortunately, their ideas of Christianity are so imperfect, that the only mode they can hit upon of displaying their faith, is by wearing hats and breeches, and by these habiliments they consider themselves as showing a proper degree of contempt, on various parts of the body, toward Mahomet and Buddha. They are lazy, treacherous, effeminate, and passionate to excess; and are, in fact, a locomotive and animated farrago of the bad qualities of all tongues, people, and nations on the face of the earth.

The Malays, whom we forgot before to enumerate, form a very considerable portion of the inhabitants of Ceylon. Their original empire lies in the peninsula of Malacca, from whence they have extended themselves over Java, Sumatra, the Moluccas, and a vast number of other islands in the peninsula of India. It has been many years customary for the Dutch to bring them to Ceylon, for the purpose of carrying on various branches of trade and manufacture, and in order also to employ them as soldiers and servants The Malays are the most vindictive and ferocious of living beings. They set little or no value on their own existence, in the prosecution of their odious passions; and having thus broken the great tie which renders man a being capable of being governed, and fit for society, they are a constant source of terror to all those who have any kind of connection or relation with them. A Malay servant, from the apprehension excited by his vindictive disposition, often becomes the master of his master. It is as dangerous to dismiss him as to punish him; and the rightful despot, in order to avoid assassination, is almost compelled to exchange characters with his slave. It is singular, however, that the Malay, incapable of submission on any other occasion, and ever ready to avenge insult with death, submits to the severest military discipline with the utmost resignation and meekness. The truth is, obedience to his officers forms part of his religious creed; and the same man who would repay the most insignificant insult with death, will submit to be lacerated at the halbert with the patience of a martyr. This is truly a tremendous people! When assassins and blood-hounds will fall into rank and file, and the most furious savages submit (with no diminution of their ferocity) to the science and discipline f war, they only want a Malay Buonaparte to lead them to the

[blocks in formation]

conquest of the world. Our curiosity has always been very highly excited by the accounts of this singular people; and we cannot help thinking that, one day or another, when they are more full of opium than usual, they will run a muck from Cape Comorin to the Caspian.


THIS dismal trash, which has nearly dislocated the jaws of every critic among us with gaping, has so alarmed Buonaparte, that he has seized the whole impression, sent Madame de Staël out of Paris, and, for aught we know, sleeps in a night-cap of steel and dagger-proof blankets. To us it appears rather an attack upon the Ten Commandments than the government of Buonaparte, and calculated not so much to enforce the rights of the Bourbons, as the benefits of adultery, murder, and a great number of other vices, which have been, some how or other, strangely neglected in this country, and too much so (according to the apparent opinion of Madame de Staël) even in France.

It happens, however, fortunately enough, that her book is as dull as it could have been if her intentions had been good; for wit, dexterity, and the pleasant energies of the mind, seldom rank themselves on the side of virtue and social order; while vice is spiritual, eloquent, and alert, ever choice in expression, happy in allusion, and judicious in arrangement.

The story is simply this:-Delphine, a rich young widow, presents her cousin, Matilda de Vernon, with a considerable estate, in order to enable her to marry Leonce Mondeville. To this action she is excited by the arts and the intrigues of Madame de Vernon, a hackneyed Parisian lady, who hopes, by this marriage, to be able to discharge her numerous and pressing debts. Leonce, who, like all other heroes of novels, has fine limbs and fine qualities, comes to Paris-dislikes Matilda-falls in love with Delphine, Delphine with him; and they are upon the eve of jilting poor Matilda, when, from some false reports spread abroad respecting the character of Delphine (which are aggravated by her own imprudences, and by the artifices of Madame de Vernon), Leonce, not in *Delphine. By Madame de Stael Holstein. London, Mawman. 6 vols. 12mo. Ed. Rev., April, 1803.

« ElőzőTovább »