Much of this extraordinary and woful deficiency, we are persuaded, is owing to the limited range of objects to which the education of the young of the higher classes is so exclusively directed in Oxford and Cambridge. Greek and Latin, Aristotle's logic and classical versification, quadratic equations, conic sections, the differential calculus, are very good things, and we are well aware that it is by excellence in them that the highest honours in these seminaries of learning can alone be attained. They are essential to the fame of a Parr or a Porson, a Herschel or a Whewell. But a very different species of mental training is required for advantageous travelling. Men will soon find that neither Greek prose nor Latin prose, Greek verse nor Latin verse, will avail them when they come to traverse the present states of the world. The most thorough master of the higher mathematics will find his knowledge of scarce any avail in Italy or Egypt, the Alps or the Andes. These acquisitions are doubtless among the greatest triumphs of the human understanding, and they are calculated to raise a few, perhaps one in a hundred, to distinction in classical or scientific pursuits; but upon the minds of the remaining ninety-nine, they produce no sort of impression. Nature simply rejects them; they are not the food which she requires. They do not do much mischief to such persons in themselves; but they are of incalculable detriment by the time and the industry which they absorb to no available purpose. Ten years of youth—the most valuable and important period of life—are wasted in studies which, to nineteen-twentieths of the persons engaged in them, are of no use whatever in future years. Thus our young men, of the highest rank and best connexions, are sent out into the world without any ideas or information which can enable them to visit foreign countries with advantage. Need we wonder that, when they come to write and publish their travels, they produce such a woful brood of ephemeral bantlings?
The reaction against this enormous evil in a different class of society, has produced another set of errors in education—of an opposite description, but perhaps still more fatal to the formation of the mental character, which is essential to the useful or elevating observation of foreign countries. The commercial and middle classes of society, educated at the London university, or any of the numerous academies which have sprung up in all parts of the country, have gone into the other extreme. Struck with the uselessness, to the great bulk of students, of the classical minutiae required at one of the universities, and the mathematical depth deemed indispensable at the other, they have turned education into an entirely different channel. Nothing was deemed worthy of serious attention, except what led to some practical object in life. Education was considered by their founders as merely a step to making money. Science became a trade—a mere handmaid to art. Mammon was all in all. Their instruction was entirely utilitarian. Mechanics and Medicine, Hydraulics and Chemistry, Pneumatics and Hydrostatics, Anatomy and Physiology, constituted the grand staples of their education. What they taught was adapted only for professional students. One would suppose, from examining their course of study, that all men were to be either doctors or surgeons, apothecaries or druggists, mechanics, shipwrights, or civil-engineers. No doubt we must have such persons—no doubt it is indispensable that places of instruction should exist in which they can learn their various and highly important avocations; but is that the school in which the enlarged mind is to be formed, the varied information acquired, the appreciation of the grand and the beautiful imbibed, which are essential to an accomplished and really useful writer of travels? Sulphuric acid and Optics, Anatomy and Mechanics, will do many things; but they will never make an observer of Nature, a friend of Man, a fit commentator on the world of God.
Persons of really cultivated minds and enlarged views will probably find it difficult to determine which of these opposite systems of education is the best calculated to attain what seems the grand object of modern instruction, the cramping and limiting the human mind. But without entering upon this much-disputed point—upon which much is to be said on both sides, and in which each party will perhaps be found to be in the right when they assail their opponents, and in the wrong when they defend themselves—it is more material to our present purpose to observe, that both are equally fatal to the acquisition of the varied information, and the imbibing of the refined and elegant taste, which are essential to an accomplished writer of travels. Only think what mental qualifications are required to form such a character! An eye for the Sublime and the Beautiful, the power of graphically describing natural scenery, a vivid perception of the peculiarities of national manners, habits, and institutions, will at once be acknowledged to be the first requisites. But, in addition to this, how much is necessary to make a work which shall really stand the test of time, in the delineation of the present countries of the world, and the existing state of their inhabitants? How many branches of knowledge are called for, how many sources of information required, how many enthusiastic pursuits necessary, to enable the traveller worthily to discharge his mission? Eyes and no Eyes are nowhere more conspicuous in human affairs; and, unhappily, eyes are never given but to the mind which has already seen and learned much.
An acquaintance with the history of the country and the leading characters in its annals, is indispensable to enable the traveller to appreciate the historical associations connected with the scenes; a certain degree of familiarity with its principal authors, to render him alive to that noblest of interests—that arising from the recollection of Genius and intellectual Achievement. Without an acquaintance with political economy and the science of government, he will be unable to give any useful account of the social state of the country, or furnish the most valuable of all information—that relating to the institutions, the welfare, and the happiness of man. Statistics form almost an indispensable part of every book of travels which professes to communicate information; but mere statistics are little better than unmeaning figures, if the generalizing and philosophical mind is wanting, which, from previous acquaintance with the subjects on which they bear, and the conclusions which it is of importance to deduce from them, knows what is to be selected and what laid aside from the mass. Science, to the highest class of travellers, is an addition of the utmost moment; as it alone can render their observations of use to that most exalted of all objects, an extension of the boundaries of knowledge, and an enlarged acquaintance with the laws of nature. The soul of a poet is indispensable to form the most interesting species of travels—a mind, and still more a heart, capable of appreciating the grand and the beautiful in Art and in Nature. The eye of a painter and the hand of a draughtsman are equally important to enable him to observe with accuracy the really interesting features of external things, and convey, by faithful and graphic description, a correct impression of what he has seen, to the mind of the reader. Such are the qualifications necessary for a really great traveller. It may be too much to hope to find these ever united in one individual; but the combination of the majority of them is indispensable to distinction or lasting fame in this branch of literature.
Compare these necessary and indispensable qualifications for a great traveller, with those which really belong to our young men who are sent forth from our universities or academies into the world, and take upon themselves to communicate what they have seen to others. Does the youth come from Oxford? His head is full of Homer and Virgil, Horace and AEschylus: he could tell you all the amours of Mars and Venus, of Jupiter and Leda; he could rival, Orpheus or Pindar in the melody of his Greek verses, and Cicero or Livy in the correctness of his Latin prose; but as, unfortunately, he has to write neither about gods nor goddesses, but mere mortals, and neither in Greek verse nor Latin verse, but good English prose, he is utterly at a loss alike for thought and expression. He neither knows what to communicate, nor is he master of the language in which it is to be conveyed. Hence his recorded travels dwindle away into a mere scrap-book of classical quotations—a transcript of immaterial Latin inscriptions, destitute of either energy, information, or eloquence. Does he come from Cambridge? He could solve cubic equations as well as Cardan, is a more perfect master of logarithms than Napier, could explain the laws of physical astronomy better than Newton, and rival La Grange in the management of the differential calculus. But as, unluckily, the world which he visits, and in which we live, is neither a geometric world nor an algebraic world, a world of conic sections or fluxions; but a world of plains and mountains, of lakes and rivers, of men and women, flesh and blood—he finds his knowledge of little or no avail. He takes scarce any interest in the sublunary or contemptible objects which engross the herd of ordinary mortals, associates only with the learned and the recluse in a few universities, and of course comes back without having a word to utter, or a sentence to write, which can interest the bulk of readers. Does he come from the London University, or any of the provincial academies? He is thinking only of railroads or mechanics, of chemistry or canals, of medicine or surgery. He could descant without end on sulphuric acid or decrepitating salts, on capacity for caloric or galvanic batteries, on steam-engines and hydraulic machines, on the discoveries of Davy or the conclusions of Berzelius, of the systems of Hutton or Werner, of Liebig or Cuvier. But although an acquaintance with these different branches of practical knowledge is an indispensable preliminary to a traveller in foreign countries making himself acquainted with the improvements they have respectively made in the useful or practical arts, they will never qualify for the composition of a great or lasting book of travels. They would make an admirable course of instruction for the overseer of a manufactory, of a canal or railway company, of an hospital or an infirmary, who was to visit foreign countries in order to pick up the latest improvements in practical mechanics, chemistry, or medicine; but have we really become a race of shopkeepers or doctors, and is Science sunk to be the mere handmaid of Art?
We despair therefore, as long as the present system of education prevails in England, (and Scotland of course follows in the wake of its great neighbour,) of seeing any traveller arise of lasting celebrity, or book of travels written which shall attain to durable fame. The native vigour and courage, indeed, of the Anglo-Saxon race, is perpetually impelling numbers of energetic young men into the most distant parts of the earth, and immense is the addition which they are annually making to the sum-total of geographical knowledge. We have only to look at one of our recent maps, as compared to those which were published fifty years ago, to see how much we owe to the courage and enterprise of Parry and Franklin, Park and Horneman, of Burckhardt and Lander. But giving all due credit—and none give it more sincerely than we do—to the vigour and courage of these very eminent men, it is impossible not to feel that, however well fitted they were to explore unknown and desert regions, and carry the torch of civilization into the wilderness of nature, they had not the mental training, or varied information, or powers of composition, necessary to form a great writer of travels. Clarke and Bishop Heber are most favourable specimens of English travellers, and do honour to the great universities of which they were such distinguished ornaments; but they did not possess the varied accomplishments and information of the continental travellers. Their education, and very eminence in their peculiar and exclusive lines, precluded it. What is wanting in that character above every thing, is an acquaintance with, and interest in, a great many and different branches of knowledge, joined to considerable power of composition, and unconquerable energy of mind; and that is precisely what our present system of education in England renders it almost impossible for any one to acquire. The system pursued in the Scottish universities, undoubtedly, is more likely to form men capable of rising to eminence in this department; and the names of Park and Bruce show what travellers they are capable of sending forth. But the attractions of rank, connexion, and fashion, joined to the advantage of speaking correct English, are fast drawing a greater proportion of the youth of the higher ranks in Scotland to the English universities; and the education pursued at home, therefore, is daily running more and more into merely utilitarian and professional channels. That system is by no means the one calculated to form an accomplished and interesting writer of travels.
In this deficiency of materials for the formation of a great body of male travellers, the ladies have kindly stepped in to supply the deficiency; and numerous works have issued from the press, from the pens of the most accomplished and distinguished of our aristocratic beauties. But alas! there is no royal road to literature, any more than geometry. Almack's and the exclusives, the opera and ducal houses, the lordlings and the guards, form an admirable school for manners, and are an indispensable preliminary to success at courts and coronations, in ball-rooms and palaces. But the world is not made up of courts or palaces, of kings or princes, of dukes or marquesses. Men have something more to think of than the reception which the great world of one country gives to the great world of another—of the balls to which they are invited, or the fetes which they grace by their charms—or the privations to which elegant females, nursed in the lap of luxury, are exposed in roughing it amidst the snows of the North or the deserts of the South. We are grateful to the lady travellers for the brilliant and interesting pictures they have given us of capitals and manners, of costume and dress, and of many eminent men and women, whom their rank and sex gave them peculiar opportunities of portraying. But we can scarcely congratulate the country upon having found in them a substitute for learned and accomplished travellers of the other sex; or formed a set-off on the part of Great Britain, to the Humboldts, the Chateaubriands, and Lamartines of continental Europe.
It is impossible to contemplate the works of these great men without arriving at the conclusion, that it is in the varied and discursive education of the Continent, that a foundation has been laid for the extraordinary eminence which its travellers have attained. It is the vast number of subjects with which the young men are in some degree made acquainted at the German universities, which has rendered them so capable in after life of travelling with advantage in any quarter of the globe, and writing their travels with effect. This advantage is in a peculiar manner conspicuous in HUMBOLDT, whose mind, naturally ardent and capacious, had been surprisingly enlarged and extended by early and various study in the most celebrated German universities. He acquired, in consequence, so extraordinary a command of almost every department of physical and political science, that there is hardly any branch of it in which facts of importance may not be found in his travels. He combined, in a degree perhaps never before equalled in one individual, the most opposite and generally deemed irreconcilable mental qualities. To an ardent poetical temperament, and an eye alive to the most vivid impressions of external things, he united a power of eloquence rarely given to the most gifted orators, and the habit of close and accurate reasoning which belongs to the intellectual powers adapted for the highest branches of the exact sciences. An able mathematician, a profound natural philosopher, an exact observer of nature, he was at the same time a learned statistician, an indefatigable social observer, an unwearied philanthropist, and the most powerful describer of nature that perhaps ever undertook to portray her great and glorious features. It is this extraordinary combination of qualities that render his works so surprising and valuable. The intellectual and imaginative powers rarely coexist in remarkable vigour in the same individual; but when they do, they produce the utmost triumphs of the human mind. Leonardo da Vinci, Johnson, Burke, and Humboldt, do not resemble single men, how great soever, but rather clusters of separate persons, each supremely eminent in his peculiar sphere.
Frederick Henry Alexander, Baron of Humboldt, brother of the celebrated Prussian statesman of the same name, was born at Berlin on the 14th September 1769, the same year with Napoleon, Wellington, Goethe, Marshal Ney, and many other illustrious men. He received an excellent and extensive education at the university of Gottingeu, and at an academy at Frankfort on the Oder. His first step into the business of life was as a clerk in the mercantile house of Buch, at Hamburg, where he soon made himself master of accounts and bookkeeping, and acquired that perfect command of arithmetic, and habit of bringing every thing, where it is possible, to the test of figures, by which his political and scientific writings are so pre-eminently distinguished. But his disposition was too strongly bent on scientific and physical pursuits, to admit of his remaining long in the comparatively obscure and uninviting paths of commerce. His thirst for travelling was from his earliest years unbounded, and it erelong received ample gratification. His first considerable journey was with two naturalists of distinction, Messrs Fontu and Genns, with whom he travelled in Germany, Holland, and England, in the course of which his attention was chiefly directed to mineralogical pursuits. The fruit of his observations appeared in a work, the first he ever published, which was printed at Brunswick in 1790, when he was only twenty-one years of age, entitled Observations sur les Basaltes du Rhin.
To extend his information, already very considerable, on mineralogical science, Humboldt in 1791 repaired to Freyburg, to profit by the instructions of the celebrated Werner; and, when there, he devoted himself, with the characteristic ardour of his disposition, to make himself master of geology and botany, and prosecuted in an especial manner the study of the fossil remains of plants in the rocks around that place. In 1792, he published at Berlin a learned treatise, entitled Specimen Florae, Friebergensis Subterraniae; which procured for him such celebrity, that he was soon after appointed director-general of the mines in the principalities of Anspach and Bayreuth, in Franconia. His ardent and philanthropic disposition there exerted itself for several years in promoting, to the utmost of his power, various establishments of public utility; among others, the public school of Streben, from which has already issued many distinguished scholars. Charmed by the recent and brilliant discoveries of M. Galvani in electricity, he next entered with ardour into that new branch of science; and, not content with studying it in the abstract, he made a great variety of curious experiments on the effects of galvanism on his own person, and published the result in two octavos, at Berlin, in 1796, enriched by the notes of the celebrated naturalist Bluemenbach. This work was translated into French by J. F. Jadelot, and published at Paris in 1799. Meanwhile Humboldt, consumed with an insatiable desire for travelling, resumed his wanderings, and roamed over Switzerland and Italy, after which he returned to Paris in 1797, and formed an intimacy with a congenial spirit, M. Aime Bonpland; who afterwards became the companion of his South American travels. At this time he formed the design of joining the expedition of Captain Baudin, who was destined to circumnavigate the globe; but the continuance of hostilities prevented him from carrying that design into effect. Baffled in that project, upon which his heart was much set, Humboldt went to Marseilles with the intention of embarking on board a Swedish frigate for Algiers, from whence he hoped to join Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, and cross from the banks of the Nile to the Persian Gulf and the vast regions of the East. This was the turning point of his destiny. The Swedish frigate never arrived; the English cruisers rendered it impossible to cross the Mediterranean, except in a neutral vessel; and after waiting with impatience for about two months, he set out for Madrid, in the hope of finding means in the Peninsula of passing into Africa from the opposite shores of Andalusia.
Upon his arrival in the Spanish capital, the German philosopher was received with all the distinction which his scientific reputation deserved; and he obtained from the government the extraordinary and unlooked-for boon of a formal leave to travel over the whole South American colonies of the monarchy. This immediately determined Humboldt. He entered with ardour into the new prospects thus opened to him; wrote to his friend Aime Bonpland to propose that he should join him in the contemplated expedition—an offer which was gladly accepted; and soon the visions of Arabia and the Himalaya were supplanted by those of the Pampas of Buenos Ayres and the Cordilleras of Peru. The two friends embarked at Corunna on board a Spanish vessel, and after a prosperous voyage, reached Cumana, in the New World, in July 1799. From that city they made their first expedition in Spanish America, during which they travelled over Spanish Guiana, New Andalusia, and the Missions of the Caribbees, from whence they returned to Cumana in 1800. There they embarked for the Havannah; and the whole of the summer of that year was spent in traversing that great and interesting island, on which he collected much important and valuable information. In September 1801, he set out for Quito, where he arrived in January of the succeeding year, and was received with the most flattering distinction. Having reposed for some months from their fatigues, Humboldt and Bonpland proceeded, in the first instance, to survey the country which had been devastated in 1797 by the dreadful earthquake, so frequent in those regions, and which swallowed up in a minute forty thousand persons. Then he set out, in June 1802, to visit the volcano of Tungaragno and the summit of Chimborazo. They ascended to the height of 19,500 feet on the latter mountain; but were prevented from reaching the top by impassable ravines. Perched on one of the summits, however, of this giant of mountains, amidst ice and snow, far above the abode of any living creature except the condor, they made a great variety of most interesting observations, which have proved of essential service to the cause of science. They were 3485 feet above the most elevated point which the learned Condamine, who had hitherto ascended highest, reached in 1745, but were still 2140 feet below the loftiest summit of the mountain. They determined, by a series of strict trigonometrical observations, the height of the chief peaks of that celebrated ridge—
"Where Andes, giant of the western star, Looks from his throne of clouds o'er half the world."
Having returned, after this fatiguing and dangerous mountain expedition, to Lima, Humboldt remained several months enjoying the hospitality of its kind-hearted inhabitants, whose warm feelings and excellent qualities excited in him the warmest admiration. In the neighbouring harbour of Callao, he was fortunate enough to see the passage of the planet Mercury over the disk of the sun, of which transit he made very important observations; and from thence passed into the province of New Spain, where he remained an entire year, sedulously engaged in agricultural, political, and statistical, as well as physical enquiries, the fruits of which added much to the value of his published travels. In April 1803, he proceeded to Mexico, where he was so fortunate as to discover the only specimen known to exist of the tree called Cheirostomon Platanoides, of the highest antiquity and gigantic dimensions. During the remainder of that year, he made several excursions over the mountains and valleys of Mexico, inferior to none in the world in interest and beauty; and in autumn 1804, embarked for the Havannah, from whence he passed into Philadelphia, and traversed a considerable part of the United States. At length, in 1805, he returned to Europe, and arrived safe at Paris in November of that year, bringing with him, in addition to the observations he had made, and recollections with which his mind was fraught, the most extensive and varied collection of specimens of plants and minerals that ever was brought from the New World. His herbarium consisted of four thousand different plants, many of them of extreme rarity even in South America, and great part of which were previously unknown in Europe. His mineralogical collection was of equal extent and value. But by far the most important additions he has made to the cause of science, consist in the vast series of observations he has made in the New World, which have set at rest a great many disputed points in geography, mineralogy, and zoology, concerning that interesting and, in a great degree, unknown part of the world, and extended in a proportional degree the boundaries of knowledge regarding it. Nor have his labours been less important in collecting the most valuable statistical information regarding the Spanish provinces of those vast regions, especially the condition of the Indian, negro, and mulatto race which exist within them, and the amount of the precious metals annually raised from their mines; subjects of vast importance to Great Britain, and especially its colonial and commercial interests, but which have hitherto been in an unaccountable manner neglected, even by those whose interests and fortunes were entirely wound up in the changes connected with these vital subjects.
The remainder of Baron Humboldt's life has been chiefly devoted to the various and important publications, in which he has embodied the fruit of his vast and extensive researches in the New World. In many of these he has been assisted by M. Aime Bonpland, who, his companion in literary labour as in the danger and fatigues of travelling, has, with the generosity of a really great mind, been content to diminish, perhaps destroy, his prospect of individual celebrity, by associating himself with the labours Of his illustrious friend. Pursued even in mature years by the desire of fame, the thirst for still greater achievements, which belongs to minds of the heroic cast, whether in war or science, he conceived, at a subsequent period, the design of visiting the upper provinces of India and the Himalaya range. After having ascended higher than man had yet done on the elevated ridges of the New World, he was consumed with a thirst to surmount the still more lofty summits of the Old, which have remained in solitary and unapproachable grandeur since the waves of the Deluge first receded from their sides. But the East India Company, within whose dominions, or at least beneath whose influence, the highest ridges of the Himalaya are situated, gave no countenance to the design, and even, it is said, refused liberty to the immortal Naturalist to visit their extensive territories. Whatever opinion we may form on the liberality or wisdom of this resolution, considered with reference to the interests, physical, moral, and political, of British India, it is not to be regretted, for the cause of science and literature over the world, that the great traveller has been prevented from setting out late in life to a fresh region of discovery. It has left the remainder of his life, and his yet undiminished powers, to illustrate and explain what he has already seen. To do that, was enough for the ordinary span of human life.
Humboldt's works relating to the New World are very numerous. I. He first published, in 1805, at Paris, in four volumes quarto, the Personal Narrative of his travels from 1799 to 1804. Of this splendid and interesting work, several editions have since been published in French, in twelve volumes octavo. It is upon it that his fame with the generality of readers mainly rests. II. Vues des Cordilleras et Monumens des Peuples Indigenes de l'Amerique—two volumes folio: Paris, 1811. This magnificent work, the cost of which is now L130, contains by far the finest views of the Andes in existence. Its great price renders it very scarce, and not more than a few copies are to be met with in Great Britain; but a cheap edition, without the great plates, was published at Paris in 1817. III. Recueil d'Observations Astronomiques, et de Mesures executees dans le Nouveau Continent: two volumes quarto. This learned work contains the result of Humboldt's astronomical and trigonometrical observations on the lunar distances, the eclipses of the satellites of Jupiter, the transit of Mercury, and upwards of five hundred elevated points in the New World, taken from barometrical observations, with all the requisite allowances and calculations carefully made. IV. Essai sur la Geographie des Plantes, ou Tableau Physique des Regions Equinoxiales: in quarto, with a great map. V. Plantes Equinoxiales recueillies au Mexique, dans l'Ile de Cuba, dans les Provinces de Caraccas, &c.: two volumes folio. A splendid and very costly work. VI. Monographie des Melastomes: two volumes folio. A most curious and interesting work on a most interesting subject. VII. Nova Genera et Species Plantarum: three volumes folio. Containing an account of the botanical treasures collected by him in the New World, and brought home in his magnificent herbarium. VIII. Recueil des Observations de Zoologie et d'Anatomie comparee faites dans un Voyage aux Tropiques: two volumes quarto. IX. Essai Politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne. 1811: two volumes quarto. Of this admirable work a subsequent edition has been published in 1822, in four volumes octavo. It contains an astonishing collection of important statistical facts, arranged and digested with the utmost ability, and interspersed with political and philosophical reflections on the state of the human race, and the relation of society in the New World. X. Ansichten der Natur. Tubingen, 1808: in octavo. It is remarkable that this is the only one of the learned author's works on Spanish America which originally appeared in his own language; but it was soon translated into French under the title of Tableaux de la Nature. Paris: 1808. It contains a series of descriptions of the different styles of scenery and remarkable objects in the vast regions he had visited, portrayed with all the vigour and accuracy for which the author is distinguished. XI. De Distributione Geographica Plantarum secundum Coeli Temperiem et Altitudinem Montium, Prolegomena. In octavo. Paris: 1817. The title of this work explains its object and its importance, in describing a portion of the globe consisting of such lofty and successive ridges and table-lands as rise from the level of the sea to the summits of the Cordilleras of Mexico and Peru. XII. Sur l'Elevation des Montagnes de l'Inde. Octavo. Paris: 1818. A work prepared when the author was contemplating a journey to the Himalaya and mountains of Thibet. XIII. Carte du Fleuve Orenoque. Presented to the Academy of Sciences in 1817. M. Humboldt has there demonstrated the singular fact of the junction of the great rivers Orinoco and of the Amazon by the intermediate waters of the Rio Negro; a fact which the sagacity of D'Anville had long ago led him to suspect, but which the travels of the indefatigable German has established beyond a doubt. XIV. Examen Critique de l'Histoire de la Geographie du Nouveau Continent, et du Progres de l'Astronomie Nautique aux 15me et 16me siecles. Paris: 1837. XV. "Cosmos:" in German—a "Scheme of a Physical Description of the Universe." This last work embraces a much wider sphere of learning and speculation than any of the preceding, and is more characteristic of the vast erudition and ardent genius of the author.
From the brief account which has now been given of the published works of this indefatigable traveller and author, the reader will be able to appreciate the extent and variety of his scientific and political attainments. We shall now present him under a different aspect, as an eloquent and almost unrivalled describer of nature. It need hardly be said that it is on these splendid pictures, more even than the numerous and valuable additions he has made to the treasures of science, that his reputation with the world in general is founded.
The rapids of the Orinoco—one of the most striking scenes in America—are thus described by our author:—
"When we arrived at the top of the Cliff of Marimi, the first object which caught our eye was a sheet of foam, above a mile in length and half a mile in breadth. Enormous masses of black rock, of an iron hue, started up here and there out of its snowy surface. Some resembled huge basaltic cliffs resting on each other; many, castles in ruins, with detached towers and fortalices, guarding their approach from a distance. Their sombre colour formed a contrast with the dazzling whiteness of the foam. Every rock, every island, was covered with flourishing trees, the foliage of which is often united above the foaming gulf by creepers hanging in festoons from their opposite branches. The base of the rocks and islands, as far as the eye can reach, is lost in the volumes of white smoke, which boil above the surface of the river; but above these snowy clouds, noble palms, from eighty to an hundred feet high, rise aloft, stretching their summits of dazzling green towards the clear azure of heaven. With the changes of the day these rocks and palm-trees are alternately illuminated by the brightest sunshine, or projected in deep shadow on the surrounding surge. Never does a breath of wind agitate the foliage, never a cloud obscure the vault of heaven. A dazzling light is ever shed through the air, over the earth enameled with the loveliest flowers, over the foaming stream stretching as far as the eye can reach; the spray, glittering in the sunbeams, forms a thousand rainbows, ever changing, yet ever bright, beneath whose arches, islands of flowers, rivalling the very hues of heaven, flourish in perpetual bloom. There is nothing austere or sombre, as in northern climates, even in this scene of elemental strife; tranquillity and repose seem to sleep on the very edge of the abyss of waters. Neither time, nor the sight of the Cordilleras, nor a long abode in the charming valleys of Mexico, have been able to efface from my recollection the impression made by these cataracts. When I read the description of similar scenes in the East, my mind sees again in clear vision the sea of foam, the islands of flowers, the palm-trees surmounting the snowy vapours. Such recollections, like the memory of the sublimest works of poetry and the arts, leave an impression which is never to be effaced, and which, through the whole of life, is associated with every sentiment of the grand and the beautiful."—(Vol. vii. 171-172.)
Such is a specimen of the descriptive powers of the great German natural philosopher, geographer, botanist, and traveller. When our senior wranglers from Cambridge, our high-honoured men from Oxford, or lady travellers from London, produce a parallel to it, we shall hope that England is about to compete with the continental nations in the race of illustrious travellers—but not till then.
As a contrast to this, we cannot resist the pleasure of laying before our readers the following striking description of night on the Orinoco, in the placid part of its course, amidst the vast forests of the tropical regions:—
"The night was calm and serene, and a beautiful moon shed a radiance over the scene. The crocodiles lay extended on the sand; placed in such a manner that they could watch our fire, from which they never turned aside their eyes. Its dazzling evidently attracted them, as it does fish, crabs, and the other inhabitants of the waters. The Indians pointed out to us in the sand the recent marks of the feet of three tigers, a mother and two young, which had crossed the open space between the forest and the water. Finding no tree upon the shore, we sank the end of our oars into the sand, in order to form poles for our tents. Every thing remained quiet till eleven at night, when suddenly there arose, in the neighbouring forest, a noise so frightful that it became impossible to shut our eyes. Amidst the voice of so many savage animals, which all roared or cried at once, our Indians could only distinguish the howling of the jaguar, the yell of the tiger, the roar of the cougar, or American lion, and the screams of some birds of prey. When the jaguars approached near to the edge of the forest, our dogs, which to that moment had never ceased to bark, suddenly housed; and, crouching, sought refuge under the shelter of our hammocks. Sometimes, after an interval of silence, the growl of the tiger was heard from the top of the trees, followed immediately by the cries of the monkey tenants of their branches, which fled the danger by which they were menaced.
"I have painted, feature by feature, these nocturnal scenes on the Orinoco, because, having but lately embarked on it, we were as yet unaccustomed to their wildness. They were repeated for months together, every night that the forest approached the edge of the river. Despite the evident danger by which one is surrounded, the security which the Indian feels comes to communicate itself to your mind; you become persuaded with him, that all the tigers fear the light of fire, and will not attack a man when lying in his hammock. In truth, the instances of attacks on persons in hammocks are extremely rare; and during a long residence in South America, I can only call to mind one instance of a Llanero, who was found torn in pieces in his hammock opposite the island of Uhagua.
"When one asks the Indians what is the cause of this tremendous noise, which at a certain hour of the night the animals of the forest make, they answer gaily, 'They are saluting the full moon.' I suspect the cause in general is some quarrel or combat which has arisen in the interior of the forest. The jaguars, for example, pursue the pecaris and tapirs, which, having no means of defence but their numbers, fly in dense bodies, and press, in all the agony of terror, through the thickets which lie in their way. Terrified at this strife, and the crashing of boughs or rustling of thickets which they hear beneath them, the monkeys on the highest branches set up discordant cries of terror on every side. The din soon wakens the parrots and other birds which fill the woods, they instantly scream in the most violent way, and erelong the whole forest is in an uproar. We soon found that it is not so much during a full moon, as on the approach of a whirlwind or a storm, that this frightful concert arises among the wild beasts. 'May heaven give us a peaceable night and rest, like other mortals!' was the exclamation of the monk who had accompanied us from the Rio Negro, as he lay down to repose in our bivouac. It is a singular circumstance to be reduced to such a petition in the midst of the solitude of the woods. In the hotels of Spain, the traveller fears the sound of the guitar from the neighbouring apartment: in the bivouacs of the Orinoco, which are spread on the open sand, or under the shade of a single tree, what you have to dread is, the infernal cries which issue from the adjoining forest."—(Vol. vi., 222-3.)
One of the most remarkable of the many remarkable features of Nature in South America, is the prodigious plains which, under the name of Llanos and Pampas, stretch from the shores of the Atlantic to the foot of the Andes, over a space from fifteen hundred to two thousand miles in breadth. Humboldt traversed them more than once in their full extent, and has given the following striking description of their remarkable peculiarities.
"In many geographical works, the savannahs of South America are termed prairies. That word, however, seems not properly applicable to plains of pasturage, often exclusively dry, though covered with grass four or five feet high. The Llanos and Pampas of South America are true steppes: they present a rich covering of verdure during the rainy season; but in the months of drought, the earth assumes the appearance of a desert. The turf is then reduced to powder, the earth gapes in huge cracks; the crocodiles and great serpents lie in a dormant state in the dried mud, till the return of rains, and the rise of the waters in the great rivers, which flood the vast expanse of level surface, awaken them from their long slumber. These appearances are often exhibited over an arid surface of fifty or sixty leagues square—every where, in short, where the savannah is not traversed by any of the great rivers. On the borders, on the other hand, of the streams, and around the lakes, which in the dry season retain a little brackish water, the traveller meets from time to time, even in the most extreme drought, groves of Mauritia, a species of palm, the leaves of which, spreading out like a fan, preserve amidst the surrounding sterility a brilliant verdure.
"The steppes of Asia are all out of the region of the tropics, and form in general the summit of very elevated plateaux. America also presents, on the reverse of the mountains of Mexico, of Peru, and of Quito, steppes of considerable extent. But the greatest steppes, the Llanos of Cumana, of Caraccas, and of Meta, all belong to the equinoctial zone, and are very little elevated above the level of the ocean. It is this which gives them their peculiar characters. They do not contain, like the steppes of Southern Asia, and the deserts of Persia, those lakes without issue, or rivers which lose themselves in the sand or in subterraneous filtrations. The Llanos of South America incline towards the east and the south; their waters are tributary to the Orinoco, the Amazon, or the Rio de la Plata.
"What most strongly characterizes the savannahs or steppes of South America, is the entire absence of hills, or inequalities of any kind. The soil, for hundreds of miles together, is perfectly flat, without even a hillock. For this reason, the Castilian conquerors, who penetrated first from Coro to the banks of the Apure, named the regions to which they came, neither deserts, nor savannahs, nor meadows, but plains—los Llanos. Over an extent of thirty leagues square, you will often not meet with an eminence a foot high. The resemblance to the sea which these immense plains bear, strikes the imagination the more forcibly in those places, often as extensive as half of France, where the surface is absolutely destitute of palms, or any species of trees, and where the distance is so great from the mountains, or the forests on the shores of the Orinoco, as to render neither visible. The uniform appearance which the Llanos exhibit, the extreme rarity of any habitations, the fatigues of a journey under a burning sun, and in an atmosphere perpetually clouded with dust, the prospect of a round girdle of an horizon, which appears constantly to recede before the traveller, the isolated stems of the palm-tree, all precisely of the same form, and which he despairs to reach, because he confounds them with other seemingly identical trunks which appear in the distant parts of the horizon: all these causes combine to make these steppes appear even more vast than they really are.
"Yet are their actual dimensions so prodigious, that it is hard to outstrip them, even by the wildest flights of the imagination. The colonists, who inhabit the slopes of the mountains which form their extreme boundary on the west and north, see the steppes stretch away to the south and east, as far as the eye can reach, an interminable ocean of verdure. Well may they deem it boundless! They know that from the Delta of the Orinoco, crossing the province of Vannos, and from thence by the shores of the Meta, the Guaviare, and the Caguan, you may advance in the plains, at first from east to west, then from north-east, to south-east, three hundred and eighty leagues—a distance as great as from Tombuctoo to the northern coast of Africa. They know, by the report of travellers, that the Pampas of Buenos Ayres—which are also Llanos, destitute of trees, covered with rich grass, filled with cattle and wild horses—are equally extensive. They imagine, according to the greater part of maps, that this huge continent has but one chain of mountains, the Andes, which forms its western boundary; and they form a vague idea of the boundless sea of verdure, stretching the whole way from the foot of this gigantic wall of rock, from the Orinoco and the Apure, to the Rio de la Plata and the Straits of Magellan. Imagination itself can hardly form an idea of the extent of these plains. The Llanos, from the Caqueta to the Apure, and from thence to the Delta of the Orinoco, contain 17,000 square marine leagues—a space nearly equal to the area of France; that which stretches to the north and south is of nearly double the extent, or considerably larger than the surface of Germany; and the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, which extend from thence towards Cape Horn, are of such extent, that while one end is shaded by the palm-trees of the tropics, the other, equally flat, is charged with the snows of the antarctic circle."—(Vol. vi. 52, 67.)
These prodigious plains have been overspread with the horses and cattle of the Old World, which, originally introduced by the Spanish settlers, have strayed from the enclosures of their masters, and multiplied without end in the vast savannahs which nature had spread out for their reception.
"It is impossible," says Humboldt, "to form an exact enumeration of the cattle in the Pampas, or even to give an approximation to it, so immensely have they augmented during the three centuries which have elapsed since they were first introduced; but some idea of their number may be formed from the following facts in regard to such portions of these vast herds as are capable of being counted. It is calculated that in the plains from the mouths of the Orinoco to the lake Maracaybo, there are 1,200,000 head of cattle, 180,000 horses, and 90,000 mules, which belong to individual proprietors. In the Pampas of Buenos Ayres there are 12,000,000 cows and 3,000,000 horses belonging to private persons, besides the far greater multitude which are wild, and wander altogether beyond the reach of man. Considerable revenues are realized from the sale of the skins of these animals, for they are so common that the carcasses are of scarcely any value. They are at the pains only to look after the young of their herds, which are marked once a-year with the initial letter of the owner. Fourteen or fifteen thousand are marked by the greater proprietors every year, of which five or six thousand are annually sold."—(Vol. vi. 97.)
The enormous number of beasts of prey which multiply with this vast accumulation of animals to be devoured, as well those introduced by man as those furnished by the hand of nature, renders the life of many of the inhabitants of these regions little else than a constant struggle with wild animals. Many hairbreadth escapes and heroic adventures are recounted by the natives, which would pass for fabulous if not stated on such unquestionable authority as that of M. Humboldt, and supported by the concurring testimony of other travellers. The number of alligators, in particular, on the Orinoco, the Rio Apure, and their tributary streams, is prodigious; and contests with them constitute a large portion of the legendary tales of the Indian and European settlers in the forest.
"The numerous wild animals," says Humboldt, "which inhabit the forests on the shores of the Orinoco, have made apertures for themselves in the wall of vegetation and foliage by which the woods are bounded, out of which they come forth to drink in the river. Tigers, tapirs, jaguars, boars, besides numberless lesser quadrupeds, issue out of these dark arches in the green wilderness, and cross the strip of sand which generally lies between it and the edge of the water, formed by the large space which is annually devastated and covered with shingle or mud, during the rise of the water in the rainy season. These singular scenes have always possessed a great attraction for me. The pleasure experienced was not merely that of a naturalist in the objects of his study; it belongs to all men who have been educated in the habits of civilization. You find yourself in contact with a new world, with savage and unconquered Nature. Sometimes it is the jaguar, the beautiful panther of America, which issues from its dark retreat; at others the hosco, with its dark plumes and curved head, which traverses the sauso, as the band of yellow sand is called. Animals of the most various kinds and opposite descriptions succeed each other without intermission. 'Es como en el Paraiso,' (It is as in Paradise,) said our pilot, an old Indian of the Missions. In truth, every thing here recalls that primitive world of which the traditions of all nations have preserved the recollection, the innocence, and happiness; but on observing the habits of the animals towards each other, it is evident that the age of gold has ceased to them as well as to the human race; they mutually fear and avoid each other, and in the lonely American forests, as elsewhere, long experience has taught all living beings that gentleness is rarely united to force."
* * * * *
"When the sands on the river side are of considerable breadth, the sauso often stretches to a considerable distance from the water's edge. It is on this intermediate space that you see the crocodiles, often to the number of eight or ten, stretched on the sand. Motionless, their huge jaws opened at right angles, they lie without giving any of those marks of affection which are observable in other animals which live in society. The troop separate when they leave the coast; they are probably composed of several females and one male. The former are much more numerous than the latter, from the number of males which are killed in fighting during the time of their amours. These monstrous reptiles have multiplied to such a degree, that there was hardly an instant during our voyage along the whole course of the river that we had not five or six in view. We measured one dead which was lying on the sand; it was sixteen feet nine inches long. Soon after, Mr Bonpland found a dead male on the shore, measuring twenty-two feet three inches. Under every zone—in America as in Egypt—this animal attains the same dimensions. The Indians told us, that at San Fernando scarce a year passes without two or three grown up persons, usually women, who are drawing from the river, being devoured by these carnivorous lizards.
"They related to us an interesting story of a young daughter of Urituen, who, by extraordinary intrepidity and presence of mind, succeeded in extricating herself from the very jaws of a crocodile. When she felt herself seized by the voracious animal in the water, she felt for its eyes, and thrust her fingers into them with such violence that she forced the animal to let go, but not before he had torn off the lower part of her left arm. The Indian girl, notwithstanding the enormous quantity of blood which she lost, succeeded in swimming to shore with the hand which was left, and escaped without further injury. In those desert regions, where man is constantly in strife with animated or inanimated nature, they daily speak of similar or corresponding means by which it is possible to escape from a tiger, a great boa, or a crocodile. Every one prepares himself against a danger which may any day befall him, 'I knew,' said the young girl calmly, when praised for her presence of mind, 'that the crocodile lets go his hold when you plunge your fingers in his eyes.' Long after my return to Europe, I learned that the negroes in the interior of Africa make use of the same method to escape from the alligators in the Niger. Who does not recollect with warm interest, that Isaaco the guide, in his last journey of the unfortunate Mungo Park, was seized twice near Boulinkombro, and that he escaped from the throat of the monster solely by thrusting his fingers into his two eyes? The African Isaaco and the young American girl owed their safety to the same presence of mind, and the same combination of ideas."—(Vol. vi. 203, 205.)
If there is any one fact more than another demonstrated by the concurring testimony of travellers, historians, and statistical observers, in all ages and quarters of the world, it is, that the possession of property in land is the first step in social improvement, and the only effectual humanizer of Savage Man. Rousseau's famous paradox, "The first Man who enclosed a field, and called it mine, is the author of all the social ills which followed," is not only false but decidedly the reverse of the truth. He was the first and greatest benefactor of his species. Subsequent ills have arisen, not from following but forgetting his example; and preferring to the simplicity of country life the seductions and vices of urban society. Humboldt adds his important testimony to the noble army of witnesses in all ages, and from all parts of the world, on this all important subject.
"The Guamos are a race of Indians whom it is extremely difficult to fix down to the soil. Like other wandering savages, they are distinguished by their dirt, revengeful spirit, and fondness for wandering. The greater part of them live by fishing and the chase, in the plains often flooded by the Apure, the Meta, and the Guaviare. The nature of those regions, their vast extent, and entire want of any limit or distinguishing mark, seems to invite their inhabitants to a wandering life. On entering, again, the mountains which adjoin the cataracts of the Orinoco, you find among the Piroas, the Macos, and the Macquiritares, milder manners, a love of agriculture, and remarkable cleanliness in the interior of their cabins. On the ridges of mountains, amidst impenetrable forests, man is forced to fix himself, to clear and cultivate a corner of the earth. That culture demands little care, and is richly rewarded: while the life of a hunter is painful and difficult. The Guamos of the Mission of Santa Barbara are kind and hospitable; whenever we entered their cottages, they offered us dried fish and water."—(Vol. vi. 219.)
No spectacle in nature can exceed, few equal, the sublimity and magnificence of the scenery presented by the vast chain of mountains which, under the name of Cordilleras, Andes, and Rocky Mountains, traverses the whole continent of America, both north and south, in the neighbourhood of the Pacific Ocean. Of this prodigious pile of rocks and precipices, Humboldt, in another of his works, has given the following admirable account:—
"The immense chain of the Andes, traversing its whole extent near the Pacific Ocean, has stamped a character upon South American nature which belongs to no other country. The peculiarity which distinguishes the regions which belong to this immense chain, are the successive plateaux, like so many huge natural terraces, which rise one above another, before arriving at the great central chain, where the highest summits are to be found. Such is the elevation of some of these plains that they often exceed eight and nine, and sometimes reach that of twelve thousand feet above the level of the sea. The lowest of these plateaux is higher than the summit of the Pass of the Great St Bernard, the highest inhabited ground in Europe, which is 7545 feet above the level of the sea. But such is the benignity of the climate, that at these prodigious elevations, which even in the south of Europe are above the line of perpetual snow, are to be found cities and towns, corn-fields and orchards, and all the symptoms of rural felicity. The town of Quito itself, the capital of a province of the same name, is situated on a plateau, or elevated valley, in the centre of the Andes, nearly 9000 feet above the level of the sea. Yet there are found concentrated a numerous population, and it contains cities with thirty, forty, and even fifty thousand inhabitants. After living some months on this elevated ground, you experience an extraordinary illusion. Finding yourself surrounded with pasture and corn-fields, flocks and herds, smiling orchards and golden harvests, the sheep and the lama, the fruits of Europe and those of America, you forget that you are as it were suspended between heaven and earth, and elevated to a height exceeding that by which the European traveller makes his way from France into Italy, and double that of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain.
"The different gradations of vegetation, as might be expected in a country where the earth rises from the torrid zone by a few steep ascents to the regions of eternal congelation, exhibit one of the most remarkable features in this land of wonders. From the borders of the sea to the height of two thousand feet, are to be seen the magnificent palm-tree, the musa, the heleconia, the balms of Tolu, the large flowering jasmin, the date-tree, and all the productions of tropical climates. On the arid and burning shores of the ocean, flourish, in addition to these, the cotton-tree, the magnolias, the cactus, the sugar-cane, and all the luscious fruits which ripen under the genial sun, and amidst the balmy breezes of the West India Islands. One only of these tropical children of nature, the Carosylou Andicola, is met with far in advance of the rest of its tribe, tossed by the winds at the height of seven and eight thousand feet above the sea, on the middle ridges of the Cordillera range. In this lower region, as nature exhibits the riches, so she has spread the pestilence, of tropical climates. The humidity of the atmosphere, and the damp heats which are nourished amidst its intricate thickets, produce violent fevers, which often prove extremely destructive, especially to European constitutions. But if the patient survives the first attack, the remedy is at hand; a journey to the temperate climate of the elevated plateau soon restores health; and the sufferer is as much revived by the gales of the Andes, as the Indian valetudinarian is by a return to Europe.
"Above the region of the palms commences the temperate zone. It is there that vegetation appears in its most delightful form, luxuriant without being rank, majestic yet not impervious; it combines all that nature has given of the grand, with all that the poets have figured of the beautiful. The bark-tree, which she has provided as the only effectual febrifuge in the deadly heats of the inferior region; the cyprus and melastoma, with their superb violet blossoms; gigantic fuchsias of every possible variety, and evergreen trees of lofty stature, covered with flowers, adorn that delightful zone. The turf is enamelled by never-fading flowers; mosses of dazzling beauty, fed by the frequent rains attracted by the mountains, cover the rocks; and the trembling branches of the mimosa, and others of the sensitive tribe, hang in graceful pendants over every declivity. Almost all the flowering shrubs which adorn our conservatories, are to be found there in primeval beauty, and what to Europeans appears a gigantic scale; magnificent arums of many different kinds spread their ample snowy petals above the surrounding thickets; and innumerable creepers, adorned by splendid blossoms, mount even to the summit of the highest trees, and diffuse a perennial fragrance around.
"The oaks and trees of Europe are not found in those parts of the Andes which lie in the torrid zone, till you arrive at the height of five thousand feet above the sea. It is there you first begin to see the leaves fall in winter, and bud in spring, as in European climates: below that level the foliage is perpetual. Nowhere are the trees so large as in this region: not unfrequently they are found of the height of a hundred and eighty or two hundred feet; their stems are from eight to fifteen feet across at their base, and sometimes rise a hundred feet without a single cross branch. When so great an elevation as the plains of Quito, however, which is 9515 above the sea, is reached, they become less considerable, and not larger than those usually found in the forests of Europe. If the traveller ascends two thousand feet higher, to an elevation of eleven or twelve thousand feet, trees almost entirely disappear; but the frequent humidity nourishes a thick covering of arbutus and other evergreens, shrubs three or four feet high, covered with flowers generally of a bright yellow, which form a striking contrast to the dark evergreen foliage with which they are surrounded. Still higher, at the height of thirteen thousand feet, near the summit of the lower ranges of the Cordilleras, almost constant rains overspread the earth with a verdant and slippery coating of moss; amidst which a few stunted specimens of the melastoma still exhibit their purple blossoms. A broad zone succeeds, covered entirely with Alpine plants, which, as in the mountains of Switzerland, nestle in the crevices of rocks, or push their flowers, generally of yellow or dark blue, through the now frequent snow. Higher still, grass alone is to be met with, mixed with the grey moss which conducts the wearied traveller to the region of perpetual snow, which in those warm latitudes is general only at an elevation of fifteen thousand feet. Above that level no animated being is found, except the huge condor, the largest bird that exists, which there, amidst ice and clouds, has fixed its gloomy abode."—(Tableau de la Nature dans les Regions Equatoriales, 59, 140-144.)
In the rhythm of prose these are the colours of poetry; but it is of poetry chastened and directed by the observation of reality, and possessing the inimitable charm of being drawn from real life, and sharing the freshness and variety which characterize the works of nature, and distinguish them from the brightest conceptions of human fancy. As we have set out in this article with placing Humboldt at the head of modern travellers, and much above any that Great Britain has produced, and assigned as the main reason of this superiority the exclusive and limited range of objects on which the attention of our youth is fixed at our great universities, we shall, in justice to Oxford and Cambridge, present the reader with a specimen of the finest passages from Clarke and Bishop Heber, that he may judge for himself on their merit, great as it often is, when compared with that of the ardent and yet learned German.
Clarke, on leaving Greece, gives the following brilliant summary of the leading features of that classic land:—
"The last moments of this day were employed in taking once more a view of the superb scenery exhibited by the mountains Olympus and Ossa. They appeared upon this occasion in more than usual splendour; like one of those imaginary Alpine regions suggested by viewing a boundary of clouds when they terminate the horizon in a still evening, and are gathered into heaps, with many a towering top shining in fleecy whiteness. The great Olympian chain forms a line which is exactly opposite to Salonica; and even the chasm between Olympus and Ossa, constituting the defile of Tempe, is here visible. Directing the eye towards that chain, there is comprehended in one view the whole of Pieria and Bottiaea; and with the vivid impressions which remain after leaving the country, memory easily recalled into one mental picture the whole of Greece. Every reader may not duly comprehend what is meant by this: but every traveller who has beheld the scenes to which allusion is made, will readily admit its truth; he will be aware that, whenever his thoughts were directed to that country, the whole of it recurred to his imagination, as if he were actually indulged with a view of it.
"In such an imaginary flight he enters, for example, the defile of Tempe; and as the gorge opens to the south, he beholds all the Larissian plain. This conducts him to the fields of Pharsalia, whence he ascends the mountains south of Pharsalus; then, crossing the bleak and still more elevated region extending from these mountains towards Lamia, he views Mount Pindus far before him, and descending into the plain of the Sperchius, passes the straits of Thermopylae. Afterwards, ascending, Mount Oeta, he beholds opposite to him the snowy point of Lycorea, with the rest of Parnassus, and the villages and towns lying at its base: the whole plain of Elataia lying at his feet, with the course of the Cephissus to the sea. Passing to the summit of Parnassus, he looks down upon all the other mountains, plains, islands, and gulfs of Greece; but especially surveys the broad bosom of Cithaeron, Helicon, and Hymettus. Thence, roaming into the depths and over all the heights of Euboea and Peloponnesus, he has their inmost recesses again submitted to his contemplation. Next, resting upon Hymettus, he examines, even in the minutest detail, the whole of Attica, to the Sunian promontory; for he sees it all—and all the shores of Argos, Sicyon, Corinth, Megara, Eleusis, and Athens. Thus, although not in all the freshness of its living colours, yet in all its grandeur, doth GREECE actually present itself to the mind's eye—and may the impression never be obliterated! In the eve of bidding it farewell for ever, as the hope of visiting this delightful country constituted the earliest and warmest wish of his youth, the author found it to be some alleviation of his regret excited by a consciousness of never returning, that he could thus summon to his recollection the scenes over which he had passed."—(Clarke's Travels, Vol. vii. pp. 476-478.)
So far Clarke—the accomplished and famed traveller of Cambridge. We now give a favourable specimen of Bishop Heber—his companion in traversing Russia—the celebrated author, in early life at Oxford, of Palestine, the amiable and upright Bishop of Calcutta, whose life, if ever that could be said of mortal, was literally spent in doing good. This accomplished and excellent prelate thus describes the first view of the Himalaya range and the summits of Nundidevi, the highest mountain in the world, neatly 5000 feet above the loftiest peak of Chimborazo.
"After coasting the lake for a mile, we ascended for thirteen more by a most steep and rugged road over the neck of Mount Gaughur, through a succession of glens, forests, and views of the most sublime and beautiful description. I never saw such prospects before, and had formed no adequate idea of such. My attention was completely strained, and my eyes filled with tears; every thing around was so wild and magnificent that man appeared as nothing, and I felt myself as if climbing the steps of the altar of the great temple of God. The trees, as we advanced, were in a large proportion fir and cedar; but many were ilex, and to my surprise I still saw, even in these wild Alpine tracts, many venerable Peepul trees, on which the white monkeys were playing their gambols. Tigers used to be very common and mischievous; but since the English have begun to frequent the country, they have become very scarce. There are many wolves and bears, and some chamois, two of which passed near us. After wending up
'A wild romantic chasm, that slanted Down the steep hill athwart a cedar cover— A savage place, as holy and enchanted As e'er beneath the waning moon was haunted By woman's wailing for her demon lover,'
we arrived at the gorge of the Pass, in an indent between the two principal summits of Mount Gaughur, near 8600 feet above the sea. And now the snowy mountains, which had been so long eclipsed, opened upon us in full magnificence. To describe a view of this kind is only lost labour: and I found it nearly as impossible to make a sketch of it. Nundidevi was immediately opposite, Kedar Nath was not visible, but Marvo was visible as a distant peak. The eastern mountains, for whom I could procure no name, rose into great consequence, and were very glorious objects as we wound down the hill on the other side. The guides could only tell us they were a great way off, and on the borders of the Chinese empire. Nundidevi, the highest peak in the world, is 25,689 feet above the sea, 4000 higher than Chimborazo. Bhadinath and Kedernath, which are merely summits of it, are 22,300 feet high. They are all in the British dominions."—(Heber's India, Vol. ii. pp. 193-194, 209.)
On comparing the descriptions of the most interesting objects in Europe and Asia—Greece and the Himalaya range—by these two distinguished British travellers, with the pictures given by Humboldt of the Andes, the falls of the Orinoco, the forests of the same river, and the expanse of the Pampas in South America, every one must admit the great superiority of the German's powers of painting Nature. Neither Clarke nor Heber appear to attempt it. They tell you, indeed, that certain scenes were grand and beautiful, certain rocks wild, certain glens steep; but they make no attempt to portray their features, or convey to the reader's mind the pictures which they tell you are for ever engraven on their own. This is a very great defect, so great indeed that it will probably prevent their works, how valuable soever as books of authority or reference, from ever acquiring lasting fame. It is a total mistake to say that it is in vain to attempt describing such scenes; that is the same mistake as was formerly committed by pacific academical historians, who said it was useless to attempt painting a battle, for they were all like each other. How like they really are to each other, has been shown by Colonel Napier and many other modern historians. We question if even the sight of the rapids of the Orinoco would make so vivid an impression on the imagination, as Humboldt's inimitable description; or a journey over the Pampas or the Andes, convey a clearer or more distinct idea of their opposite features than what has been derived from his brilliant pencil. It is the same with all the other scenes in nature. Description, if done by a masterly hand, can, to an intelligent mind, convey as vivid an idea as reality. What is wanting is the enthusiasm which warms at the perception of the sublime and the beautiful, the poetic mind which seizes as by inspiration its characteristic features, and the pictorial eye which discerns the appearances they exhibit, and by referring to images known to all, succeeds in causing them to be generally felt by the readers.
With all Humboldt's great and transcendent merits, he is a child of Adam, and therefore not without his faults. The principal of these is the want of arrangement. His travels are put together without any proper method; there is a great want of indexes and tables of contents; it is scarcely possible, except by looking over the whole, to find any passage you want. This is a fault which, in a person of his accurate and scientific mind, is very surprising, and the more inexcusable that it could so easily be remedied by mechanical industry, or the aid of compilers and index-makers. But akin to this, is another fault of a more irremediable kind, as it originates in the varied excellences of the author, and the vast store of information on many different subjects which he brings to bear on the subject of his travels. He has so many topics of which he is master himself, that he forgets with how few, comparatively, his readers are familiar; he sees so many objects of enquiry—physical, moral, and political—in the countries which he visits, that he becomes insensible to the fact, that though each probably possesses a certain degree of interest to each reader, yet it is scarcely possible to find one to whom, as to himself, they are all alike the object of eager solicitude and anxious investigation. Hence, notwithstanding his attempt to detail his personal narrative from the learned works which contain the result of his scientific researches, he has by no means succeeded in effecting their separation. The ordinary reader, who has been fascinated by his glowing description of tropical scenery, or his graphic picture of savage manners, is, a few pages on, chilled by disquisitions on the height of the barometer, the disk of the sun, or the electricity of the atmosphere; while the scientific student, who turns to his works for information on his favourite objects of study, deems them strangely interspersed with rhapsodies on glowing sunsets, silent forests, and sounding cataracts. It is scarcely possible to find a reader to whom all these objects are equally interesting; and therefore it is scarcely to be expected that his travels, unrivalled as their genius and learning are, will ever be the object of general popularity.
In truth, here, as in all the other branches of human thought, it will be found that the rules of composition are the same, and that a certain unity of design is essential to general success or durable fame. If an author has many different and opposite subjects of interest in his head, which is not unfrequently the case with persons of the higher order of intellect, and he can discant on all with equal facility, or investigate all with equal eagerness, he will do well to recollect that the minds of his readers are not likely to be equally discursive, and that he is apt to destroy the influence, or mar the effect of each, if he blends them together; separation of works is the one thing needful there. A mathematical proposition, a passage of poetry, a page of history, are all admirable things in their way, and each may be part of a work destined to durable celebrity; but what should we say to a composition which should present us, page about, with a theorem of Euclid, a scene from Shakspeare, and a section from Gibbon? Unity of effect, identity of train of thought, similarity of ideas, are as necessary in a book of travels as in an epic poem, a tragedy, or a painting. There is no such thing as one set of rules for the fine arts, and another for works of thought or reflection. The Iliad is constructed on the same principles as the Principia of Newton, or the history of Thucydides.
What makes ordinary books of travels so uninteresting, and, in general, so shortlived, is the want of any idea of composition, or unity of effect, in the minds of their authors. Men and women seem to think that there is nothing more to do to make a book of travels, than to give a transcript of their journals, in which every thing is put down of whatever importance, provided only it really occurred. Scenes and adventures, broken wheels and rugged rocks, cataracts and omelets, lakes and damp beds, thunderstorms and waiters, are huddled together, without any other thread of connexion than the accidental and fortuitous one of their having successively come under the notice of the traveller. What should we say to any other work composed on the same principle? What if Milton, after the speech of Satan in Paradise Lost, were to treat us to an account of his last dinner; or Shakspeare, after the scene of the bones in Juliet, were to tell us of the damp sheets in which he slept last night; or Gibbon, after working up the enthusiasm of his readers by the account of the storming of Constantinople by the Crusaders, was to favour us with a digression on the insolence of the postilions in Roumelia? All the world would see the folly of this: and yet this is precisely what is constantly done by travellers, and tolerated by the public, because it is founded on nature. Founded on nature! Is every thing that is actually true, or real, fit to be recorded, or worthy of being recounted? Sketches from nature are admirable things, and are the only foundation for correct and lasting pictures; but no man would think of interposing a gallery of paintings with chalk drawings or studies of trees. Correctness, fidelity, truth, are the only secure bases of eminence in all the arts of imitation; but the light of genius, the skilful arrangement, the principles of composition, the selection of topics, are as necessary in the writer of travels, as in the landscape painter, the historian, or the epic poet.
 We lately heard of a young man, who had gone through the examination at Cambridge with distinction, enquiring, "whether the Greek church were Christians?" What sort of a traveller would he make in the East or Russia?
 Lady Londonderry's description of Moscow is the best in the English language.
 We have translated all the passages ourselves. A very good translation of Humboldt's Personal Narrative was published many years ago, by Miss H. Williams; but we could not resist the pleasure of trying to transfer to English such noble specimens of descriptive eloquence.
 Park's Last Mission to Africa, 1815, p. 89.
HAKEM THE SLAVE.
A TALE EXTRACTED FROM THE HISTORY OF POLAND.
Albert Glinksi, the powerful, ostentatious, and intriguing Duke of Lithuania, was passing, distinguished by his glancing plume and gorgeous mantle, through one of the more retired streets of the city of Cracow, at this time (A.D. 1530) the capital of Poland, when a domestic wearing the livery of the palace deferentially accosted him.
"Her Majesty," he said, "commands me to deliver these tablets into your hands; you dropped them in the palace."
"I dropped no tablets," replied the duke; but instantly added, "Yes, they are mine—Give them me."
He took from the hands of the domestic certain tablets of ivory, which folded into a case of gold exquisitely wrought by one of the most skilful artists of Italy, and dismissed the bearer with a liberal gratuity for his services.
"Ha! my excellent Bona! youthful bride of our too aged monarch Sigismund!" said the duke to himself when he was left alone. "Each day some new device. What have we in these tablets? Here, in the corner of each leaf, I see a solitary figure finely pencilled in, which to any other eye than mine would mean nothing, but which tells me that at eight o'clock this evening you will receive your favoured duke. So, so! But, charming Bona! it is not love—loveable as you are—it is not love—it is ambition gives its zest, and must bring the recompense to this perilous intrigue. The Duke of Lithuania is no hot-brained youth to be entangled and destroyed by a woman's smiles. To have a month's happiness, as men phrase it, and then the midnight dagger of a jealous monarch—I seek no such adventures. It is the crown of Poland—yes, the crown—that you must help me to, fair lady."
As he stood reflecting on his ambitious schemes, his rival in the state, Count Laski, minister and chancellor of the king, passed by him on his way to the palace. The duke, assuming a frank and cordial manner, called to him. Laski paused. "What would the Duke of Lithuania?" he asked in his usual calm and reserved manner.
"Peace!" replied the duke—"amicable terms. Political opponents it seems we are destined to be. The world gives us out as the selected champions of two hostile factions. You affect the commons, I side with the nobility. Be it so. But there exists between us, I hope, a mutual respect; and it would be my greatest boast if, in spite of this political antagonism, I might reckon Count Laski amongst my personal friends."
A derisive smile played upon the countenance of the chancellor as he replied—"Such friendship, my lord, as is consistent with perpetual strife—open and concealed—shall, if it please you, subsist between us. Pardon me, but we prate a silly jargon when we talk of private friendship and public hostility."
"At all events," rejoined the duke, "political rivalry does not exclude the practice of the courtesies of life. It has been reported to me that you admire the marble statue of a nymph which an Italian sculptor has lately wrought for me. I, on my part, have envied you the possession of a certain Arab slave, a living statue, a moving bronze, that you have amongst your retainers. Let us, like Homeric heroes, make an exchange. Give me your statue-man, your swart Apollo, and accept from me what many have been pleased to call the living statue."
Glinski had a secret motive for the acquisition of this slave: his known fidelity, his surprising address and power, had protected the life of the minister against more than one scheme of assassination.
"The exchange," replied Laski, "is too much in my favour. Your Italian marble would purchase a hundred slaves. It would be a present in disguise; and you know my rule—even from his Majesty himself I never receive."
"Yes, we know your tyrannous munificence; but this," said the duke with a smile, "shall be pure barter."
"What say you, then," said the count, "to those golden tablets which you hold in your hand? Give me leave to look at them. They might suit my pedantic way of life. But," added he, as he examined their delicate workmanship, "came you honestly by this toy, my lord? What fair frailty have you cheated of this knack, that never, I will be sworn, was a man's marketing?"
"I am glad to hear so grave a gentleman indulge so pleasant a view," said the duke.
As Count Laski was handling the tablets, he touched, whether by accident or design, a spring that had not been observed by him to whom the present had been sent. The outer case flew back, and disclosed a miniature of the queen!
"I have been indiscreet," said the count, and immediately folded up and returned the tablets. "This is perilous ware to deal in, Duke of Lithuania. Have you aught else in the way of honest barter to propose?"
"What you may infer," said the duke, reddening with anger, and grievously embarrassed at his discovery—"What you may infer from this silly bauble I shall not be at the pains to enquire. I addressed you, my lord, in courteous and amicable terms; you have ill responded to them; our conversation had better close here."
"As you will," said the chancellor, bowing; and he continued his way towards the palace, with the same deliberate step with which he was proceeding when accosted by the duke.
"He is master of our secret," muttered the duke. "He or I"——
In an apartment of the palace fitted up with every luxury her native Italy could supply, sat Bona, the young and beautiful queen of Poland. She is known to have transplanted into that northern clime, not only the arts and civilization of her own genial soil, but also the intrigue and voluptuousness, and the still darker crimes for which it was celebrated. Daughter of the crafty Sforza, Duke of Milan, educated in a city and at a court where pleasure reigned predominant, married out of policy to a monarch many years older than her own father, it was almost to be expected that she should seek, in the society of some gay cavalier, a compensation for this banishment to a northern country, and a sexagenarian spouse. Nor had she hesitated long in her choice. Albert Glinski, Duke of Lithuania, who, though he was the father of a son ripening into manhood, was still in the vigour of life, and surpassed all his younger rivals in grace of manner and charm of conversation, had soon fixed her regard, and won whatever of affection or love the luxurious princess had to bestow.
She now sat waiting his arrival. Punctually at the hour of eight he entered. If any observer could have watched the duke as he traversed the corridor which led to the queen's apartment, he would have had great difficulty in believing that it was a favoured lover that was passing before him; so serious a brow did he wear, and so deep an air of abstraction was there on his countenance. No sooner, however, did he enter that apartment, than, by a sudden effort, his countenance lit up; his manner grew free and unrestrained, and he assumed that mingled tone of gaiety and pathos so effective with the fair sex. Never had the queen felt more entirely convinced of the merits of her cavalier; never had she more thoroughly approved of the choice she had made.
When this favourable disposition was at its height, the duke, adopting gradually a more serious tone of conversation, said—
"Has it never occurred to you, charming Bona, that the most exalted of your sex share with the humblest this one privilege—love alone must be the motive which brings a suitor to their feet. That passion must be genuine, must be fever-high, which makes a subject quite forget his Queen in the lovely woman before him, and tempts him to dare the vengeance of a Monarch, as well as of a husband."
"True, there is danger—perhaps to both of us," she replied, "but it daunts us not."
"No;—but it is at hand."
"What mean you, Glinski?"
"We are betrayed."
"How, or by whom, it matters little; but that subtle demon, Count Laski, knows that which in his hands is a warrant for our destruction."
"What is to be done? We will bribe him. All my jewels, all my hoards shall go to purchase his silence."
"Bribe Laski! bribe the north wind! bribe destiny itself, whose nature it is to distribute good and ill, but to feel neither. No, but I would have a dagger in his throat before the night were passed, but that his short light slumbers are guarded by a slave of singular power, whom the villains fear to attack. I had meant to beg or buy of him this same fierce automaton, but something broke off the treaty."
"We will poison the mind of the king against him: he shall be dismissed from all his offices."
"That poison is too slow. Besides, if he once communicate his suspicions to the king—which at this very moment he may be doing—see you not, that it is no longer the minister, but the jealous monarch that we have to guard against. Hear me, Bona, one of two fates must now be mine. Death—or thy hand, and with it the crown of Poland. Do not start. There is for me no middle station. You may be safe. A few tears, a few smiles, and the old king will lapse into his dotage."
"You speak in riddles, Glinski; I comprehend nothing of all this."
"Yet it is clear enough. Thus it stands: the Duke of Lithuania loved the wife of Sigismund, king of Poland. Love!—I call to witness all the saints in heaven!—love alone prompted his daring suit. But now that fortune has first favoured and then betrayed him, where think you does his safety lie? Where, but in the bold enterprises of ambition? His only place of refuge is a throne. He who has won a queen must protect her with a sceptre. You must be mine—my very queen—you must extend your hand and raise me to the royalty of Poland, or see my blood flow ignominiously upon the scaffold."
"I extend my hand!" exclaimed the agitated queen, "how can a feeble woman give or take away the crown of Poland?"
"Him who wears the crown—she can take away."
"Murder the king!" shrieked Bona.
"Or sentence me," replied the duke.
It was no affected horror that the queen here displayed. Though at a subsequent period of her life, if history speaks true, her imagination had grown familiar with deeds of this very nature, and she had become skilful in the art of poisoning, she was at this time young, and unpractised in crime, and received its first suggestions with the horror which it naturally inspires. She had sought for pleasure only in the society of Glinski; it was a cruel disappointment, it was a frightful surprise, to find herself thrust suddenly, with unsandaled feet, on the thorny path of ambition. She sank back on the couch where they had both been sitting, and, hiding her face in both her hands, remained in that position while the duke continued to unfold his schemes at greater length.
He represented to her that the possession of the duchy of Lithuania, the inhabitants of which were distinguished by their bravery and their turbulence, would enable him—should the king opportunely die—to seize upon the vacant throne of Poland;—that he had numerous and powerful friends among the nobility;—that he had already drawn together his Lithuanians, under pretence of protecting the frontier from the incursion of predatory bands;—that he intended immediately to place himself at their head, and march towards Cracow. Now, if at this moment the throne should suddenly become vacant, what power on earth could prevent him from ascending it, and claiming the hand of his then veritable queen? And then he expatiated on the happiness they should enjoy, when they should live in fearless union,
"Like gods together, careless of mankind."
"What is this," exclaimed Bona, suddenly starting up—"what is this you would tempt me to? You dare not even name the horrid deed you would have me commit. Avaunt! you are a devil, Albert Glinski!—you would drag me to perdition." Then, falling in tears upon his neck, she implored him not to tempt her further. "Oh, Albert! Albert!" she cried, "I beseech you, plunge me not into this pit of guilt. You can! I feel you can. Have mercy! I implore you, I charge you on your soul, convert me not into this demon. Spare me this crime!"
"Is it I alone," said the duke, who strove the while by his caresses to soothe and pacify her—"Is it I alone who have brought down upon us this distressful alternative? Neither of us, while love decoyed us on step by step, dreamed of the terrible necessity towards which it was hourly conducting us. But here we are—half-way up, and the precipice below. We must rush still upwards. There is safety only on the summit. Pause, and we fall. Oh, did you think that you, a queen, could play as securely as some burgher's wife the pleasant comedy of an amorous intrigue? No, no; you must queen it even in crime. High station and bold deed become each other. We are committed, Bona. It is choice of life or death. His death or ours. For—scarcely dare I breathe the thought—the sudden revenge of your monarch husband, whose jealousy at least, age has not tamed, may execute its purpose before his dotage has had time to return."
"Where do you lead me? What shall I become?" cried the bewildered queen. "I have loved thee, Albert, but I hate not him."
"I ask thee not to hate"——
"They married me to Sigismund out of state policy. You I have chosen for the partner of my heart, and I will protect you to the uttermost. Let things rest there—'tis well enough."
"We will consult further of our plans, sweet Bona," said the duke, and, circling her with his arm, he led the weeping queen into an adjoining room.
The victory, he felt, was his.
The scene changes to an apartment of a very different style. We enter the house of the chancellor; but it is not the chancellor himself who is first presented to our view. In an antique Gothic chamber, in the decoration and structure of which the most costly material had been studiously united with the severest simplicity of taste, sat Maria, the only daughter and child of Count Laski. She sat at her embroidery. The embroidery, however, had fallen upon her lap; she leaned back, resigned to her meditations, in a massive arm-chair covered with purple velvet, which it is impossible not to think must have felt something like pride and pleasure as her slight and lovely form sank into it. It was a long reverie.
In an angle of this lofty room, at some distance, but not out of the range of clear vision, stood, motionless as a statue, the slave Hakem. His arms were folded on his breast, his eye rested, without, as it seemed, a power to withdraw it, on the beautiful figure of the young girl before him. It was one of those long intense looks which show that the person on whom it is fixed is still more the object of meditation than of vision—where it is the soul that looks. Hakem gazed like a devotee upon the sacred image of his saint.
Maria, quite unconscious of this gaze, pursued her meditations. Her eye caught the hour-glass that stood on a small table beside her. "Sand after sand," said she, musing to herself—"Sand after sand, thought after thought. The same sand ever trickling there; the same thought ever coursing through my mind. Oh, love! love! They say it enlarges the heart; I think it contracts it to a single point."
"Hakem," she said, after a pause, and turning towards the slave, "you are true to my father, will you be true also to me?"
"To her father!" he murmured to himself, "as if"——And then, checking himself and speaking aloud, he answered—"The Christians are not so true to your sweet namesake, the Holy Virgin, whom they adore, as I will be to you."
"A simple promise will suffice," said Maria. "You have, Hakem—let me say it without offence—a style of language—Eastern, I suppose—hyperbolical—which either I must learn to pardon, or you must labour to reform. It does not suit our northern clime."