At three o'clock the hurricane came. The sound was frightful. All the winds of heaven were loose. The stricken sea came over the land in clouds of spindrift, sand, and pebbles, and buried everything within fifty feet of the shore in shingle. The church was unroofed, and part of the Government House destroyed. The hurricane lasted till three o'clock in the morning. The Indien did not return, but sailed away with all my effects on it. There was nothing for me to do but to wait at Bourbon for another, homeward-bound ship; so I resolved to profit by my misfortune, and make an excursion into the island.
This enabled me to gather something of the history of Bourbon. It was first inhabited by a band of pirates, who brought with them some negresses from Madagascar. This happened in 1657. Some time afterwards our Indian company set up a factory in the island, and the governor managed to keep on good terms with his dangerous neighbours. One day the Portuguese viceroy of Goa anchored off the island and came to dine with the governor. He had scarcely landed when a pirate ship of fifty guns entered the harbour and captured the Portuguese vessel. The captain of the pirates then landed, and was also invited to dinner by the governor. The buccaneer sat down at table by the side of the viceroy, and told the Portuguese that he was now a prisoner. When the wine and the good cheer had put the man in a good humour, M. Desforges (that was the name of our governor) asked him at how much he fixed the ransom of the viceroy.
"I want a thousand piastres," said the pirate.
"That's too little," replied M. Desforges, "for a brave man like you and a great lord like him. Ask more than that, or ask nothing."
"Very well," said the generous corsair, "he can go free."
The viceroy at once re-embarked and got under sail, Vastly content at having escaped so cheaply.
The pirate afterwards settled in the island with all his followers, and was hanged after an amnesty had been published in favour of himself and his men. He had forgotten to have his name included in it, and a counsellor who wished to appropriate his spoils profited by the mistake, and had him put to death. The second rogue, however, quickly came to almost as unhappy an end. One of the pirates, who lived to the age of one hundred and four years, died only a little time ago. His companions soon grew more peaceful in their manners on adopting more peaceful occupations, and, though their descendants are still distinguished by a certain spirit of independence and liberty, this is now being softened by the society of a multitude of worthy farmers who have settled at Bourbon.
There are five thousand Europeans on the island and sixty thousand blacks. The land is three times more peopled than that of the Isle of France, and it is very much better cultivated.
The manners of the old settlers of Bourbon were very simple. Most of the houses were never shut, and a lock was an object of curiosity. The people kept their savings in a shell above their door. They went barefooted, and fed on rice and coffee; they imported scarcely anything from Europe, being content to live without luxury provided they lived without trouble. When a stranger landed on the island, they came without knowing him and offered him their houses to live in.
IV.—Visit to the Cape Colony
PORT LOUIS, January 20, 1771. I have landed among the Dutch at the extremity of Africa without money, without linen, and without friends. Learning of my position, M. De Tolback, the governor of Cape Colony, has invited me to dinner; and, happily, the secretary of the council has provided me with money, having allowed me to use his credit in buying whatever I need. The streets of the Cape are well set out; some are watered by canals, and most of them are planted with oak trees. The fronts of the houses are shadowed by their foliage; every door has seats on both sides in brick or turf, on which sit fresh and rosy-faced women. There is no gambling at the Cape, no play-acting or novel reading. The people are content with the domestic happiness that virtue brings in its train. Every day brings the same duties and pleasures. There are no spectacles at the Cape and no one wants any; every man there has in his own home all that he desires. Happy servants, well-bred children, good wives: these are pleasures that fiction does not give.
A quiet life of this sort furnishes little matter for conversation, so the Dutchmen of the Cape do not talk very much. They are a rather melancholic people, and they prefer to feel rather than to argue. So little happens, perhaps, that they have nothing to talk about; but what does it matter if the mind is empty when the heart is full, and when the tender emotions of nature can move it without being excited by artifice or constrained by a false decorum? When the girls of the Cape fall in love, they artlessly avow their feelings, but they insist on choosing their own husbands. The lads show the same frankness. The good faith which the young persons of each sex keep towards each other generally results in a happy marriage. Love with them is combined with esteem, and this nourishes all during life in their constant souls that desire to please which married persons in some other countries only show outside their own home.
It was with much regret that I left these worthy people, but I am not sorry to return to France. I prefer my own country to all others, not because it is more beautiful, but because I was born and bred there. Happy is the man who sees again the field in which he learnt to walk and the orchard which he used to play in! Happier still is he who has never quitted the paternal roof! How many voyagers return and yet find no place of retreat. Of their friends, some are dead, others are gone away; but life is only a brief voyage, and the age of man a rapid day. I wish to forget the storms of it, and remember only in these letters the goodness, the virtue, and the constancy that I have met with. Perhaps this humble work may make your names, O virtuous settlers at the Cape, survive when I am in the grave! For thee, O ill-fated negro! that weepest on the rocks of the Isle of France, if my hand, which cannot wipe away thy tears, can but bring the tyrants to weep in sorrow and repentance, I shall want nothing more from the Indies; I shall have gained there the only fortune I require.
JOHN HANNING SPEKE
Discovery of the Source of the Nile
I.—Beginnings in the Black Man's Land
John Hanning Speke was born on May 14, 1827, near Ilchester, Suffolk, England. He entered the army in 1844, serving in India, but his love of exploration and sport led him to visit the Himalayas and Thibet; leaving India in 1854, he joined Sir Richard Burton on his Somali expedition, where he was wounded and invalided home. After the Crimean War he rejoined Burton in African exploration, pushing forward alone to discover the Victoria N'yanza, which he believed to be the source of the Nile. Speke's work was so much appreciated by the Royal Geographical Society that they sent him out again to verify this, his friend, Captain Grant, accompanying him, and the exciting incidents of this journey are set forth in his "Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile," which he published on his return in 1863. Honours were bestowed on him for having "solved the problem of the ages," though Burton sharply contested his conclusions. An accident while partridge shooting on September 18, 1864, suddenly ended the career of one who had proved himself to be a brave explorer, a good sportsman, and an able botanist and geologist. His "Journal" is an entrancing record of one of the greatest expeditions of modern times, and is told with no small amount of literary skill. The work was followed a year later by "What Led to the Discovery of the Source of the Nile," these two forming, with the exception of a number of magazine articles, Speke's entire literary output.
I started on my third expedition in Africa to prove that the Victoria N'yanza was the source of the Nile, on May 9, 1859, under the direction of the Royal Geographical Society, and Captain Grant, an old friend and brother sportsman in India, asked to accompany me. After touching at the Cape and East London we made our first acquaintance with the Zulu Kaffirs at Delagoa Bay, and on August 15 we reached our destination, Zanzibar. Here I engaged my men, paying a year's wages in advance, and anyone who saw the grateful avidity with which they took the money and pledged themselves to serve me faithfully would think I had a first rate set of followers.
At last we made a start, and reaching Uzaramo, my first occupation was to map the country by timing the rate of march with a watch, taking compass bearings, and ascertaining by boiling a thermometer the altitude above the sea level, and the latitude by the meridian of a star, taken with a sextant, comparing the lunar distances with the nautical almanac. After long marching I made a halt to send back some specimens, my camera, and a few of the sickliest of my men, and then entered Usagara, which includes all the country between Kingani and Mgeta rivers east and Ugogo the first plateau west—a distance of one hundred miles. Here water is obtainable throughout the year, and where slave hunts do not disturb the industry of the people, cultivation thrives, but these troubles constantly occur, and the meagre looking wretches, spiritless and shy, retreat to the hill tops at the sight of a stranger.
At this point Baraka, the head of my Wanguana (emancipated slaves) became discontented; ambition was fast making a fiend of him, and I promoted Frij in his place. Shortly afterwards my Hottentots suffered much from sickness, and Captain Grant was seized with fever. In addition to these difficulties we found that avarice, that fatal enemy to the negro chiefs, made them overreach themselves by exhorbitant demands for taxes, for experience will not teach the negro who thinks only for the moment. The curse of Noah sticks to these his grandchildren by Ham, they require a government like ours in India, and without it the slave trade will wipe them off the face of the earth. We travelled slowly with our sick Hottentot lashed to a donkey; the man died when we halted, and we buried him with Christian honours. As his comrades said, he died because he had determined to die—an instance of that obstinate fatalism in their mulish temperament which no kind words or threats can cure.
After crossing the hilly Usagara range, leaving the great famine lands behind, we camped, on November 24, in the Ugogo country, which has a wild aspect well in keeping with the natives who occupy it, and who carry arms intended for use rather than show. They live in flat-topped square villages, are fond of ornaments, impulsive by nature, and avaricious. They pester travellers, jeering, quizzing, and pointing at them on the road and in camp intrusively forcing their way into the tents.
In January, after many very trying experiences, we arrived at Unyamuezi—the Country of the Moon—with which the Hindus, before the Christian era, had commercial dealings in ivory and slaves. The natives are wanting in pluck and gallantry, the whole tribe are desperate smokers and greatly given to drink. Here some Arabs came to pay their respects, they told me what I had said about the N'yanza being the source of the Nile would turn out all right, as all the people in the north knew that when the N'yanza rose, the stream rushed with such violence it tore up islands and floated them away. By the end of March we had crossed the forests, forded the Quande nullah and entered the rich flat district of Mininga, where the gingerbread palm grows abundantly.
During my stay with Musa, the king at Kaze, who had shown himself friendly on a previous expedition, I underwent some trying experiences in trying to mediate between two rival rulers, Snay and Manua Sera, between whom there was continual wrangle and conflict. On one occasion Musa, who was suffering from a sharp illness, to prove to me that he was bent on leaving Kaze the same time as myself, began eating what he called his training pills—small dried buds of roses with alternate bits of sugar candy. Ten of these buds, he said, eaten dry, were sufficient, especially after having been boiled in rice water or milk.
Struggling on, faced by the thievish sultans and followed by my train of quarrelling servants, I at last reached Uzinza, which is ruled by a Wahuma chief of Abyssinian stock, and here I found the petty chiefs quite as extortionate in extorting hongo (tax) as others. To add to my troubles a new leader I had previously engaged, called "the Pig," gave me great annoyance, causing a mutiny amongst my men. Some were saying, "They were the flesh and I was the knife; I cut and did with them just what I liked, and they couldn't stand it any longer." However, they had to stand it, and I brought them to reason.
II.—Travel Difficulties and a King's Hospitality
A bad cough began to trouble me so much that whilst mounting a hill I blew and grunted like a broken-winded horse, and during an enforced halt at Lumeresi's village I was in constant pain, so much that lying down became impossible. This chief tried to plunder and detain me, and Baraka, my principal man, began to grow discontented, because in my intention to push on to Karague I was acting against impossibilities. "Impossibilities!" I said. "What is impossible? Could I not go on as a servant with the first caravan, or buy up a whole caravan if I liked? What is impossible? For God's sake don't try any more to frighten my men, for you have nearly killed me already in doing so." My troubles did not end here. A letter came in from Grant, whom I had left behind through sickness, that his caravan had been attacked and wrecked and he was, as Baraka had heard, in sore straits. However, to my inexpressible joy, a short time afterwards Grant appeared and we had a good laugh over our misfortunes.
On our arrival at Usui I was told that Suwarora, its great king, desired to give me an audience, and after days of more impudent thieving on the part of his officers, my man Bombay came with exciting news. I questioned him.
"Will the big king see us?"
"Oh no. By the very best good fortune in the world, on going into the palace, I saw Suwarora, and spoke to him at once, but he was so tremendously drunk he could not understand."
"Well, what was Suwarora like?"
"Oh, he is a very fine man, just as tall and in the face very like Grant, in fact, if Grant were black you would not know the difference."
"Were his officers drunk too? And did you get drunk?"
"Yes," said Bombay, grinning and showing his whole row of sharp, pointed teeth.
November 16 found us rattling on again, as merry as larks, over the red sandstone formation, leaving the intemperate Suwarora behind. We entered a fine forest at a stiff pace until we arrived at the head of a deep valley called Lohugati which was so beautiful we instinctively pulled up to admire it. Deep down its well-wooded side was a stream of most inviting aspect for a trout-fisher, flowing towards the N'yanza. Just beyond it, the valley was clothed with fine trees and luxuriant vegetation of all description, amongst which was conspicuous the pretty pandana palm and rich gardens of plantains, whilst thistles of extraordinary size and wild indigo were the common weeds.
Nothing could be more agreeable than our stay at Karague, our next stopping place, where we found Rumanika, its intelligent king, sitting in a wrapper made of antelope's skin, smiling blandly as we approached him. He talked of the geography of the lake, and by his invitation we crossed the Spur to the Ingezi Kagera side, showing by actual navigation the connection of these highland lakes with the rivers which drain the various spurs of the Mountains of the Moon. Rumanika also told me that in Ruenda there existed pigmies who lived in trees, but occasionally came down at night, and listening at the hut doors of the men, would wait till they heard the name of one of its inmates, when they would call him out, and firing an arrow into his heart, disappear again in the same way as they came. After a long and amusing conversation, I was introduced to his sister-in-law, a wonder of obesity, unable to stand, except on all fours. Meanwhile, the daughter, a lass of sixteen, sat before us sucking at a milk-pot, on which her father kept her at work by holding a rod in his hand, as fattening is the first duty of fashionable female life.
During my stay I had traced Rumanika's descent from King David, whose hair was as straight as my own, and he found in these theological disclosures the greatest delight. He wished to know what difference existed between the Arabs and ourselves, to which Baraka replied, as the best means of making him understand, that whilst the Arabs had only one book, we had two, to which I added, "Yes, that is true in a sense, but the real merits lie in the fact that we have got the better book, as may be inferred by the obvious fact that we are more prosperous and superior in all things."
One day, we heard the familiar sound of the Uganda drum. Maula, a royal officer, with an escort of smartly-dressed men and women and boys, had brought a welcome from the king. One thing only now embarrassed me—Grant was worse, without hope of recovery for some months. This large body of Waganda could not be kept waiting. To get on as fast as possible was the only chance of ever bringing the journey to a successful issue. So, unable to help myself, with great remorse at another separation, on the following day I consigned my companion, with several Wanguana, to the care of my friend Rumanika. When all was completed, I set out on the march, perfectly sure in my mind that before very long I should settle the great Nile problem for ever, and with this consciousness, only hoping that Grant would be able to join me before I should have to return again, for it was never supposed for a moment that it was possible I ever could get north from Uganda.
III.—A Distinguished Guest at the Court of Uganda
As it was my lot to spend a considerable time in Uganda, I formed a theory of its ethnology, founded on the traditions of the several nations and my own observation. In my judgment, they are of the semi-Shem-Hamitic race of Ethiopia, at some early date having, from Abyssinia, invaded the rich pasture lands of Unyoro, and founded the great kingdom of Kittara. Here they lost their religion, forgot their language, and changed their national name to Wahuma, their traditional idea being still of a foreign extraction. We note one very distinguishing mark, the physical appearance of this remarkable race partaking more of the phlegmatic nature of the Shemitic father, than the nervous boisterous temperament of the Hamitic mother, as a certain clue to their Shem-Hamitic origin.
Before, however, I had advanced much farther over the frontiers of this new country, I had a rather spirited scene with my new commander-in-chief (Baraka being left with Grant) on a point of discipline. I ordered him one morning to strike the tent; he made some excuses. "Never mind, obey my orders, and strike the tent."
Bombay refused, and I began to pull it down myself, at which he flew into a passion, and said he would pitch into the men who helped me, as there was gunpowder which might blow us all up. I promptly remonstrated:
"That's no reason why you should abuse my men, who are better than you by obeying my orders. If I choose to blow up my property, that is my look-out; and if you don't do your duty, I will blow you up also."
As Bombay foamed with rage at this, I gave him a dig on the head with my fist, and when he squared up to me, I gave him another, till at last as the claret was flowing, he sulked off. Crowds of Waganda witnessed this comedy, and were all digging at one another's heads, showing off in pantomime the strange ways of the white man.
It was the first and last time I had ever occasion to lose my dignity by striking a blow with my own hands, but I could not help it on this occasion without losing command and respect.
On February 19, Mtesa, the King of Uganda, sent his pages to announce a levee at the palace in my honour. I prepared for my presentation at court in my best, but cut a sorry figure in comparison with the dressy Waganda. The preliminary ceremonies were so dilatory, that I allowed five minutes to the court to give me a proper reception, saying if it were not conceded, I would then walk away. My men feared for me, as they did not know what a "savage" king would do in case I carried out my threat; whilst the Waganda, lost in amazement at what seemed little less than blasphemy, saw me walk away homeward, leaving Bombay to leave the present on the ground and follow.
Mtesa thought of leaving his toilet room to catch me up, but sent Wakungu running after me. Poor creatures! They caught me up, fell upon their knees and implored I would return at once, for the king had not tasted food, and would not till he saw me. I felt grieved, but simply replied by patting my heart and shaking my head, walking, if anything, all the faster. My point gained I cooled myself with coffee and a pipe, and returned, advancing into the hut where sat the king, a good-looking, well-figured young man of twenty-five, with hair cut short, and wearing neat ornaments on his neck, arms, fingers and toes. A white dog, spear, shield, and woman—the Uganda cognizance—were by his side. Not knowing the language, we sat staring at each other for an hour, but in the second interview Maula translated. On that occasion I took a ring from my finger and presented it to the king with the words:
"This is a small token of friendship; please inspect it, it is made after the fashion of a dog collar, and being the king of metals, gold, is in every respect appropriate to your illustrious race."
To which compliment he replied: "If friendship is your desire, what would you say if I showed you a road by which you might reach your home in a month?"
I knew he referred to the direct line to Zanzibar across the Masai. He afterwards sent a page with this message:
"The king hopes you will not be offended if required to sit on it—a bundle of grass—before him, for no person in Uganda, however high in office, is ever allowed to sit upon anything raised above the ground but the king."
To this I agreed, and afterwards had many interviews with his queen, fair, fat and forty-five, to whom I administered medicine and found her the key to any influence with the king. She often sat chattering, laughing and smoking her pipe in concert with me.
I found that Mtesa was always on the look-out for presents, and set his heart upon having my compass. I told him he might as well put my eyes out and ask me to walk home as take away that little instrument, which could be of no use to him as he could not read or understand it. But this only excited his cupidity. He watched it twirling round and pointing to the north and looked and begged again until tired of his importunities, I told him I must wait until the Usoga Road was open before I could part with it, and then the compass would be nothing to what I would give him. Hearing this, he reared his head proudly, and patting his heart, said:
"That is all on my shoulders, as sure as I live it shall be done. For that country has no king and I have long been desirous of taking it."
I declined, however, to give him the instrument on the security of this promise, and he went to breakfast.
I had a brilliant instance of the capricious restlessness and self-willedness of this despotic monarch Mtesa. He sent word that he had started for N'yanza and wished me to follow. But N'yanza merely means a piece of water, and no one knew where he meant or what project was on foot. I walked rapidly through gardens, over hills and across rushy swamps down the west flank of the Murchison creek, and found the king with his Wakungu in front and women behind like a confused pack of hounds. He had first, it seems, mingled a little business with pleasure, for, finding a woman tied for some offence, he took the executioner's duty, and by firing killed her outright.
It will be kept in view that the hanging about at this court and all the perplexing and irritating negotiations had always one end in view—that of reaching the Nile, where it pours out of the N'yanza as I was long certain that it did.
Without the consent, and even the aid, of this capricious barbarian I was now talking to, such a project was hopeless. I thought that whilst I could be employed in inspecting the river and in feeling the route by water to Gani, Grant could return to Karague by water, bring up our rear traps, and in navigating the lake obtain the information he had been frustrated in getting before.
We resolved to try a new political influence at court. Grant had taken to the court of Karague a jumping-jack to amuse the young princess, but it gave offence here as a breach of etiquette.
Finally we bade Mtesa good-bye. I flattered him with admiration of his shooting, his country, and the possibilities of trade in the future, to which he replied in good taste. We then rose with an English bow, placing the hand on the heart while saying adieu, and there was a complete uniformity in the ceremonial, for whatever I did, Mtesa in an instant mimicked with the instinct of a monkey.
IV.—The Source Confirmed At Last
The final stage of our toilsome travelling was now reached, and we started northward, but as it appeared all-important to communicate quickly with Petherick, who had promised to await us with boats at Gondokoro, and Grant's leg being so weak, I arranged for him to go direct with my property, letters, etc., for dispatch to Petherick. I should meanwhile go up the river to its source or exit from the lake and come down again navigating as far as practicable. Crossing the Luajerri, a huge rush drain three miles broad, which is said to rise in the lake and fall into the Nile, I reached Urondogani.
Here, at last I stood on the brink of the Nile; most beautiful was the scene, nothing could surpass it! It was the very perfection of the kind of effect aimed at in a highly-kept park, with a magnificent stream from 600 to 700 yards wide, dotted with islets and rocks, the former occupied by fishermen's huts, the latter by sterns and crocodiles basking in the sun—flowing between fine high, grassy banks, with rich trees and plaintains in the background, where herds of the nsunnu and hartebeest could be seen grazing, while the hippopotami were snorting in the water and florikan and guinea-fowl rising at our feet.
The expedition had now performed its functions. I saw that old Father Nile, without any doubt, rises in the Victoria N'yanza! I told my men they ought to shave their heads and bathe in the holy river, the cradle of Moses, the waters of which, sweetened with sugar, men carried all the way from Egypt to Mecca and sell to the pilgrims. But Bombay, who is a philosopher of the Epicurean school, said:
"We don't look on those things in the same fanciful manner that you do, we are contented with all the common-places of life and look for nothing beyond the present. If things don't go well, it is God's will; and if they do go well, that is His will also."
I mourned, however, when I thought how much I had lost by the delays in the journey having deprived me of the pleasure of going to look at the north-east corner of the N'yanza to see what connection there was with it and the other lake where the Waganda went to get their salt, and from which another river flowed to the north making "Usoga an island." But I felt I ought to be content with what I had been spared to accomplish.
The most remote waters or tophead of the Nile is the southern end of the lake, situated close on the third degree of south latitude, which gives to the Nile the surprising length in direct measurement, rolling over thirty-four degrees of latitude, of above 2,300 miles or more than one-eleventh the circumference of our globe. I now christened what the natives term "the stones" as Ripon Falls after the nobleman who presided over the Royal Geographical Society when my expedition was got up, and the arm of water from which the Nile issued Napoleon Channel, in token of respect to the French Geographical Society who gave me their gold medal for discovering the Victoria N'yanza.
After a long journey to Gani we reached the habitation of men, knots of native fellows perched like monkeys on the granite blocks awaited us, and finally at Gondokoro we got first news of home and came down by boat to Khartum. Of course, in disbanding my followers, my faithful children, I duly rewarded them, franked them home to Zanzibar, and they all promptly volunteered to go with me again.
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
No literary career has ever been more singular than that of Laurence Sterne. Born in Clonmel Barracks, Ireland, on November 24, 1713, he was forty-six years of age before he discovered his genius. By calling he was a country parson in Yorkshire, yet more unconventional books than "Tristram Shandy" (see FICTION) and "A Sentimental Journey" never appeared. The fame of the former brought Sterne to London, where he became, says Walpole, "topsy-turvey with success." In the intervals of supplying an ever increasing demand with more "Tristrams" he composed and published volumes of sermons. Their popularity proved that he was as eloquent in his pulpit gown as he was diverting without it. The turmoil of eighteenth century social and literary life soon shattered his already failing health, and he died on March 18, 1768, the first two volumes of "A Sentimental Journey" appearing on February 27th. The "Journey" proved equally as fascinating and as popular as "Shandy." Walpole, who described the latter as tiresome, declared the new book to be "very pleasing though too much dilated, and marked by great good nature and strokes of delicacy." Like its predecessor, the "Journey" is intentionally formless—narrative and digression, pathos and wit, sentiment and coarse indelicacy, all commingled freely together.
"They order," said I, "this matter better in France." "You have been in France?" said my gentleman, turning quick upon me with the most civil triumph in the world. Strange! quoth I, debating the matter with myself, that one and twenty miles' sailing, for 'tis absolutely no further from Dover to Calais, should give a man these rights: I'll look into them; so giving up the argument, I went straight to my lodgings, put up half-a-dozen shirts and a black pair of silk breeches,—"the coat I have on," said I, looking at the sleeve, "will do,"—took place in the Dover stage; and, the packet sailing at nine the next morning, by three I had got sat down to my dinner upon a fricasseed chicken—incontestably in France.
When I had finished my dinner, and drank the King of France's health—to satisfy my mind that I bore him no spleen, but, on the contrary, high honour to the humanity of his temper—I rose up an inch taller for the accommodation. "Just God!" said I, kicking my portmanteau aside, "what is there in this world's goods which should sharpen our spirits, and make so many kind-hearted brethren of us fall out so cruelly as we do, by the way?"
I had scarce uttered the words when a poor monk of the order of St. Francis came into the room to beg something for his convent. No man cares to have his virtues the sport of contingencies. The moment I cast my eyes upon him, I was determined not to give him a single sou; and accordingly I put my purse into my pocket—button'd it up—set myself a little more upon my centre, and advanced up gravely to him; there was something, I fear, forbidding in my look: I have his figure this moment before my eyes, and think there was that in it which deserved better.
The monk, as I judged from the break in his tonsure, a few scatter'd white hairs upon his temples being all that remained of it, might be about seventy—he was certainly sixty-five.
It was one of those heads which Guido has often painted—mild, pale, penetrating, free from all commonplace ideas of fat contented ignorance looking downwards upon the earth—it look'd forwards; but look'd as if it look'd at something beyond this world.
When he had entered the room three paces, he stood still; and laying his left hand upon his breast, when I had got close up to him, he introduced himself with the little story of the wants of his convent, and the poverty of his order—and he did it with so simple a grace—I was bewitch'd not to have been struck with it.
A better reason was, I had predetermined not to give him a single sou.
"'Tis very true," said I, "'tis very true—and Heaven be their resource who have no other but the charity of the world, the stock of which, I fear, is no way sufficient for the many great claims which are hourly made upon it."
As I pronounced the words great claims, he gave a single glance with his eye downwards upon the sleeve of his tunic—I felt the full force of the appeal. "I acknowledge it," said I, "a coarse habit, and that but once in three years, with meagre diet—are no great matters; and the true point of pity is, as they can be earn'd in the world with so little industry, that your order should wish to procure them by pressing upon a fund which is the property of the lame, the blind, the aged, and the infirm; and had you been of the order of mercy, instead of the order of St. Francis, poor as I am," continued I, pointing at my portmanteau, "full cheerfully should it have been open'd to you, for the ransom of the unfortunate"—the monk made me a bow—"but of all others," resumed I, "the unfortunate of our own country, surely, have the first rights; and I have left thousands in distress upon our own shore." The monk gave a cordial wave with his head, as much as to say, "No doubt, there is misery enough in every corner of the world, as well as within our convent." "But we distinguish," said I, laying my hand upon the sleeve of his tunic, "we distinguish, my good father! betwixt those who wish only to eat the bread of their own labour—and those who eat the bread of other people's, and have no other plan in life, but to get through it in sloth and ignorance, for the love of God."
The poor Franciscan made no reply: a hectic of a moment pass'd across his cheeks, but could not tarry. Nature seemed to have done with her resentments in him; he showed none, but press'd both his hands with resignation upon his breast and retired.
My heart smote me the moment he shut the door. "Psha!" said I, with an air of carelessness, but it would not do: every ungracious syllable I had utter'd crowded back into my imagination. I reflected, I had no right over the poor Franciscan, but to deny him; I consider'd his grey hairs—his courteous figure seem'd to re-enter and gently ask me what injury he had done me? And why I could use him thus? I would have given twenty livres for an advocate—I have behaved very ill, said I, within myself; but I have only just set out upon my travels, and shall learn better manners as I get along.
III.—The Remise Door—Calais
Now, there being no travelling through France and Italy without a chaise—and Nature generally prompting us to the thing we are fittest for, I walk'd out into the coach yard to buy or hire something of that kind to my purpose. Mons. Dessein, the master of the hotel, having just returned from vespers, we walk'd together towards his remise, to take a view of his magazine of chaises. Suddenly I had turned upon a lady who had just arrived at the inn and had followed us unperceived, and whom I had already seen in conference with the Franciscan.
Monsieur Dessein had diabled the key above fifty times before he found out that he had come with a wrong one in his hand: we were as impatient as himself to have it open'd, when he left us together, with our faces towards the door, and said he would be back in five minutes. "This, certainly, fair lady!" said I, "must be one of Fortune's whimsical doings; to take two utter strangers by their hands, and in one moment place them together in such a cordial situation as Friendship herself could scarce have achieved for them." Then I set myself to consider how I should undo the ill impressions which the poor monk's story, in case he had told it to her, must have planted in her breast against me.
The good old monk was within six paces from us, as the idea of him cross'd my mind; and was advancing towards us a little out of the line, as if uncertain whether he should break in upon us or no. He stopp'd, however, as soon as he came up to us, with a world of frankness: and having a horn snuff-box in his hand, he presented it open to me. "You shall taste mine," said I, pulling out my box (which was a small tortoise one), and putting it into his hand. "'Tis most excellent," said the monk. "Then do me the favour," I replied, "to accept of the box and all, and, when you take a pinch out of it, sometimes recollect it was the peace-offering of a man who once used you unkindly, but not from his heart."
The poor monk blush'd as red as scarlet. "Mon Dieu," said he, pressing his hands together, "You never used me unkindly." "I should think," said the lady, "he is not likely." I blush'd in my turn. "Excuse me, Madam," replied I, "I treated him most unkindly; and from no provocations." "'Tis impossible," said the lady. "My God!" cried the monk, with a warmth of asseveration which seem'd not to belong to him, "The fault was in me, and in the indiscretion of my zeal." The lady opposed it, and I joined with her in maintaining it was impossible, that a spirit so regulated as his could give offence to any.
Whilst this contention lasted the monk rubb'd his horn box upon the sleeve of his tunic; and as soon as it had acquired a little air of brightness by the friction, he made a low bow, and said 'twas too late to say whether it was the weakness or goodness of our tempers which had involved us in this contest. But be it as it would, he begg'd we might exchange boxes. In saying this, he presented his to me with one hand, as he took mine from me in the other; and having kissed it, he put it into his bosom and took his leave.
I guard this box, as I would the instrumental parts of my religion, to help mind on to something better; truth, I seldom go abroad without it: and oft and many a time have I called up by it the courteous spirit of its owner to regulate my own, in the justlings of the world; they had full employment for his, as I learnt from his story, till about the forty-fifth year of his age, when upon some military services ill requited, and meeting at the same time with a disappointment in the tenderness of passions, he abandoned the sword and the sex together, and took sanctuary, not so much in his convent as in himself.
I felt a damp upon my spirits, that in my last return through Calais, upon inquiring after Father Lorengo, I heard he had been dead near three months, and was buried not in his convent, but, according to his desire, in a little cemetery belonging to it, about two leagues off; I had a strong desire to see where they had laid him—when upon pulling out his little horn box, as I sat by his grave, and plucking up a nettle or two at the head of it, which had no business to grow there, they all struck together so forcibly upon my affections, that I burst into a flood of tears—but I am as weak as a woman; and I beg the world not to smile but to pity me.
I had once lost my portmanteau from behind my chaise, and twice got out in the rain, and one of the times up to the knees in dirt, to help the postillion to tie it on, without being able to find out what was wanting. Nor was it till I got to Montreuil, upon the landlord's asking me if I wanted not a servant, that it occurred to me, that that was the very thing.
"A servant! That I do most sadly!" quoth I. "Because, Monsieur," said the landlord, "there is a clever young fellow, who would be very proud of the honour to serve an Englishman." "But, why an English one more than any other?" "They are so generous," said the landlord. I'll be shot if this is not a livre out of my pocket, quoth I to myself, this very night. "But they have wherewithal to be so, Monsieur," added he. Set down one livre more for that, quoth I.
The landlord then called in La Fleur, which was the name of the young man he had spoke of—saying only first, that as for his talents, he would presume to say nothing—Monsieur was the best judge what would suit him; but for the fidelity of La Fleur, he would stand responsible in all he was worth.
The landlord deliver'd this in a manner which instantly set my mind to the business I was upon—and La Fleur, who stood waiting without, in that breathless expectation which every son of nature of us has felt in our turns, came in.
I am apt to be taken with all kinds of people at first sight; but never more so, than when a poor devil comes to offer his services to so poor a devil as myself.
When La Fleur entered the room, the genuine look and air of the fellow determined the matter at once in his favour; so I hired him first—and then began to enquire what he could do. But I shall find out his talents, quoth I, as I want them. Besides, a Frenchman can do everything.
Now poor La Fleur could do nothing in the world but beat a drum, and play a march or two upon the pipe. I was determined to make his talents do: and can't say my weakness was ever so insulted by my wisdom, as in the attempt.
La Fleur had set out early in life, as gallantly as most Frenchmen do, with serving for a few years: at the end of which, having satisfied the sentiment, and found moreover, that the honour of beating a drum was likely to be its own reward, as it open'd no further track of glory to him—he retired a ses terres, and lived comme il plaisait a Dieu—that is to say, upon nothing.
"But you can do something else, La Fleur?" said I. O yes, he could make spatterdashes (leather riding gaiters), and play a little upon the fiddle. "Why, I play bass myself," said I; "we shall do very well. You can shave and dress a wig a little, La Fleur?" He had all the disposition in the world. "It is enough for Heaven!" said I, interrupting him, "and ought to be enough for me!" So supper coming in, and having a frisky English spaniel on one side of my chair, and a French valet with as much hilarity in his countenance as ever Nature painted in one, on the other, I was satisfied to my heart's content with my empire; and if monarchs knew what they would be at, they might be satisfied as I was.
As La Fleur went the whole tour of France and Italy with me, I must interest the reader in his behalf, by saying that I had never less reason to repent of the impulses which generally do determine me, than in regard to this fellow. He was a faithful, affectionate, simple soul as ever trudged after the heels of a philosopher; and notwithstanding his talents of drum-beating and spatterdash making, which, though very good in themselves, happened to be of no great service to me, yet was I hourly recompensed by the festivity of his temper—it supplied all defects. I had a constant resource in his looks, in all difficulties and distresses of my own—I was going to have added, of his too; but La Fleur was out of the reach of everything; for whether it was hunger or thirst, or cold or nakedness, or watchings, or whatever stripes of ill luck La Fleur met with in our journeyings, there was no index in his physiognomy to point them out by—he was eternally the same; so that if I am a piece of a philosopher, which Satan now and then puts it into my head I am—it always mortifies the pride of the conceit, by reflecting how much I owe to the complexional philosophy of this poor fellow for shaming me into one of a better kind.
When I got home to my hotel, La Fleur told me I had been enquired after by the lieutenant of police. "The deuce take it," said I, "I know the reason."
I had left London with so much precipitation that it never enter'd my mind that we were at war with France; and had reached Dover, and looked through my glass at the hills beyond Boulogne, before the idea presented itself; and with this in its train, that there was no getting there without a passport. Go but to the end of a street, I have a mortal aversion for returning back no wiser than I set out; and as this was one of the greatest efforts I had ever made for knowledge, I could less bear the thoughts of it; so hearing the Count de —— had buried the packet, I begged he would take me in his suite. The count had some little knowledge of me, so made little or no difficulty—only said his inclination to serve me could reach no further than Calais, as he was to return by way of Brussels to Paris; however, when I had once passed there I might get to Paris without interruption; but that in Paris I must make friends and shift for myself. "Let me get to Paris, Monsieur le Comte," said I, "and I shall do very well." So I embark'd, and never thought more of the matter.
When La Fleur told me the lieutenant of police had been enquiring after me—the thing instantly recurred—and by the time La Fleur had well told me, the master of the hotel came into my room to tell me the same thing with this addition to it, that my passport had been particularly asked after. The master of the hotel concluded with saying he hoped I had one. "Not I, faith!" said I.
The master of the hotel retired three steps from me, as from an infected person, as I declared this, and poor La Fleur advanced three steps towards me, and with that sort of movement which a good soul makes to succour a distress'd one—the fellow won my heart by it; and from that single trait I knew his character as perfectly, and could rely upon it as firmly, as if he had served me with fidelity for seven years.
"Mon Seigneur!" cried the master of the hotel—but recollecting himself as he made the exclamation, he instantly changed the tone of it—"If Monsieur," said he, "has not a passport, in all likelihood he has friends in Paris who can procure him one."
"Not that I know of," quoth I, with an air of indifference.
"Then, certes," replied he, "you'll be sent to the Bastille or the Chatelet, au moins."
"Pooh!" said I, "the King of France is a good-natur'd soul—he'll hurt nobody."
"Cela n'empeche pas," said he—"You will certainly be sent to the Bastille to-morrow morning."
"But I've taken your lodgings for a month," answered I, "and I'll not quit them a day before the time for all the kings of France in the world." La Fleur whispered in my ear, that nobody could oppose the King of France.
"Pardi!" said my host, "ces Messieurs Anglais sont des gens tres extraordinaires"—And having said and sworn it he went out.
As I am at Versailles, thought I, why should I not go to the Count de B——, and tell him my story? So seeing a man standing with a basket on the other side of the street, as if he had something to sell, I bid La Fleur go up to him and enquire for the count's hotel.
La Fleur returned a little pale; and told me it was a Chevalier de St. Louis selling pates. He had seen the croix set in gold, with its red ribband, he said, tied to his button-hole—and had looked into the basket and seen the pates which the chevalier was selling.
Such a reverse in man's life awakens a better principle than curiosity—I got out of the carriage and went towards him. He was begirt with a clean linen apron, which fell below his knees, and with a sort of bib that went half way-up his breast; upon the top of this hung his croix. His basket of little pates was covered over with a white damask napkin; and there was a look of proprete and neatness throughout, that one might have bought his pates of him, as much from appetite as sentiment.
He was about 48—of a sedate look, something approaching to gravity. I did not wonder—I went up rather to the basket than him, and having lifted up the napkin, and taken one of his pates into my hand I begged he would explain the appearance which affected me.
He told me in a few words, that the best part of his life had pass'd in the service, in which he had obtained a company and the croix with it; but that, at the conclusion of the last peace, his regiment being re-formed and the whole corps left without any provision, he found himself in a wide world without friends, without a livre—"And indeed," said he, "without anything but this" (pointing, as he said it, to his croix). The king could neither relieve nor reward everyone, and it was only his misfortune to be amongst the number. He had a little wife, he said, whom he loved, who did the patisserie; and added, he felt no dishonour in defending her and himself from want in this way—unless Providence had offer'd him a better.
It would be wicked to pass over what happen'd to this poor Chevalier of St. Louis about nine months after.
It seems his story reach'd at last the king's ear—who, hearing the chevalier had been a gallant officer, broke up his little trade by a pension of 1,500 livres a year.
Letters on the English
Voltaire (see HISTORY) reached England in 1726. He had quarrelled with a great noble, and the great noble's lackeys had roundly thrashed him. Voltaire accordingly issued a challenge to a duel; his adversary's reply was to get him sent to prison, from which he was released on condition that he leave immediately for England. He remained there until 1729, and these three years may fairly be said to have been the making of Voltaire. He went with a reputation as an elegant young poet and dramatist—he was then thirty-two; and this reputation brought him into the society of the most famous political and literary personages of the day. He became a disciple of Newton, and gained a broad, if not a deep, knowledge of philosophy. He left in 1729 fully equipped for his later and greater career as philosopher, historian, and satirist. The "Philosophic Letters on the English" were definitely published, after various difficulties, in 1734; an English translation, however, appeared in 1733. The difficulties did not cease with publication, for the French authorities were grievously displeased with Voltaire's acid comparisons between the political and intellectual liberty enjoyed by Englishmen with the bondage of his own countrymen. The "Philosophic Letters" purported to be addressed to the author's friend Theriot; but they would seem to be essays in an epistolary form rather than actual correspondence. Of England and its people, Voltaire was both an observant and an appreciative critic; hosts and guest alike had reason to be pleased with his long and profitable visit.
My curiosity having been aroused regarding the doctrines and history of these singular people, I sought to satisfy it by a visit to one of the most celebrated of English Quakers. He was a well-preserved old man, who had never known illness, because he had never yielded to passion or intemperance; not in all my life have I seen a man of an aspect at once so noble and so engaging. He received me with his hat on his head, and advanced towards me without the slightest bow; but there was far more courtesy in the open kindliness of his countenance than is to be seen in the custom of dragging one leg behind the other, or of holding in the hand that which was meant to cover the head.
"Sir," I said, bowing low, and gliding one foot towards him, after our manner, "I flatter myself that my honest curiosity will not displease you, and that you will be willing to do me the honour of instructing me as to your religion."
"The folk of thy country," he replied, "are too prone to paying compliments and making reverences; but I have never seen one of them who had the same curiosity as thou. Enter, and let us dine together."
After a healthy and frugal meal, I set myself to questioning him. I opened with the old enquiry of good Catholics to Huguenots. "My dear sir," I said to him, "have you been baptised?"
"No," answered the Quaker, "neither I nor my brethren."
"Morbleu!" I replied, "then you are not Christians?"
"Swear not, my son," he said gently; "we try to be good Christians; but we believe not that Christianity consists in throwing cold water on the head, with a little salt."
"Ventrebleu!" I retorted, "have you forgotten that Jesus Christ was baptised by John?"
"Once more, my friend, no swearing," replied the mild Quaker. "Christ was baptised by John, but himself baptised no one. We are disciples of Christ, not of John."
He proceeded to give me briefly the reasons for some peculiarities which expose this sect to the sneers of others. "Confess," he said, "that thou hast had much ado not to smile at my accepting thy courtesies with my hat on my head, and at my calling thee 'thou.' Yet thou must surely know that at the time of Christ no nation was so foolish as to substitute the plural for the singular. It was not until long afterwards that men began to call each other 'you' instead of 'thou,' as if they were double, and to usurp the impudent titles of Majesty, Eminence, Holiness, that some worms of the earth bestow on other worms. It is the better to guard ourselves against this unworthy interchange of lies and flatteries that we address kings and cobblers in the same terms, and offer salutations to nobody; since for men we have nothing but charity, and respect only for the laws.
"We don a costume differing a little from that of other men as a constant reminder that we are unlike them. Others wear the tokens of their dignities; we wear those of Christian humility. We never take an oath, not even in a court of justice; for we think that the name of the Almighty should not be prostituted in the miserable wranglings of men. We never go to war—not because we fear death; on the contrary, we bless the moment that unites us with the Being of Beings; but because we are not wolves, nor tigers, nor bulldogs, but Christian men, whom God has commanded to love our enemies and suffer without murmuring. When London is illuminated after a victory, when the air is filled with the pealing of bells and the roar of cannon, we mourn in silence over the murders that have stirred the people to rejoice."
II.—Anglicans and Presbyterians
This is the land of sects. An Englishman is a free man, and goes to Heaven by any road he pleases.
But although anybody may serve God after his own fashion, their true religion, the one in which fortunes are made, is the Episcopal sect, called the Anglican Church, or, simply and pre-eminently, the Church. No office can be held in England or Ireland except by faithful Anglicans; a circumstance which has led to the conversion of many Noncomformists.
The Anglican clergy have retained many Catholic ceremonies, above all that of receiving tithes with a most scrupulous attention. They have also a pious ambition for religious ascendancy, and do what they can to foment a holy zeal against Nonconformists. But a Whig ministry is just now in power, and the Whigs are hostile to Episcopacy. They have prohibited the lower clergy from meeting in convocation, a sort of clerical house of commons; and the clergy are limited to the obscurity of their parishes, and to the melancholy task of praying God for a government that they would be only too happy to disturb. The bishops, however, sit in the House of Lords in spite of the Whigs, because the old abuse continues of counting them as barons.
As regards morals, the Anglican clergy are better regulated than those of France, for these reasons:—they are all educated at Oxford or Cambridge, far from the corruption of the capital; and they are only called to high church office late in life, at an age when men have lost every passion but avarice. They do not make bishops or colonels here of young men fresh from college. Moreover, the clergy are nearly all married, and the ill manners contracted at the universities, and the slightness of the intercourse between men and women, oblige a bishop as a rule to be content with his own wife. Priests sometimes frequent inns, for custom permits it; and if they get drunk, they do so discreetly and without scandal.
When English clergymen hear that in France young men, famous for their dissipations, and elevated to bishoprics by the intrigues of women, make love publicly, amuse themselves by writing amorous ballads, give elaborate suppers every day, and, in addition, pray for the light of the Holy Spirit, and boldly call themselves the successors of the Apostles; the Englishmen thank God that they are Protestants. But they are vile heretics, to be burnt by all the devils, as Rabelais puts it; which is the reason why I have nothing to do with them.
The Anglican religion only embraces England and Ireland. Presbyterianism, which is Calvanism pure and simple, is the dominant religion in Scotland. Its ministers affect a sober gait and an air of displeasure, wear enormous hats, and long cloaks over short coats, preach through their noses, and give the name of "Scarlet Woman" to all churches who have ecclesiastics fortunate enough to draw fifty thousand livres of income, and laymen good-natured enough to stand it.
Although the Episcopal and Presbyterian sects are the two prevailing ones in Great Britain, all others are welcome, and all live fairly well together; although most of their preachers detest each other with all the heartiness of a Jansenist damning a Jesuit.
Were there but one religion in England, there would be a danger of despotism; were there but two, they would cut each other's throats. But there are thirty, and accordingly they dwell together in peace and happiness.
The members of the English Parliament are fond of comparing themselves with the ancient Romans; but except that there are some senators in London who are suspected, wrongly, no doubt, of selling their votes, I can see nothing in common between Rome and England. The two nations, for good or ill, are entirely different.
The horrible folly of religious wars was unknown among the Romans; this abomination has been reserved for the devotees of a faith of humility and patience. But a more essential difference between Rome and England, and one in which the latter has all the advantage, is that the fruit of the Roman civil wars was slavery, while that of the English civil wars has been liberty. The English nation is the only one on earth that has succeeded in tempering the power of kings by resisting them. By effort upon effort it has succeeded in establishing a wise government in which the Prince, all-powerful for the doing of good, has his hands tied for the doing of evil; where the nobles are great without insolence and without vassals; and where the people, without confusion, take their due share in the control of national affairs.
The Houses of Lords and Commons are the arbiters of the nation, the King is the over-arbiter. This balance was lacking among the Romans; nobles and people were always at issue, and there was no intermediary power to reconcile them.
It has cost a great deal, no doubt, to establish liberty in England; the idol of despotic power has been drowned in seas of blood. But the English do not think they have bought their freedom at too high a price. Other nations have not had fewer troubles, have not shed less blood; but the blood they have shed in the cause of their liberty has but cemented their servitude.
This happy concert of King, Lords, and Commons in the government of England has not always existed. England was for ages a country sorely oppressed. But in the clashes of kings and nobles, it fortunately happens that the bonds of the peoples are more or less relaxed. English liberty was born of the quarrels of tyrants. The chief object of the famous Magna Charta, let it be admitted, was to place the kings in dependence upon the barons; but the rest of the nation was favoured also in some degree in order that it might range itself on the side of its professed protectors. The power of the nobility was undermined by Henry VII., and the later kings have been wont to create new peers from time to time with the idea of preserving the order of the peerage which they formerly feared so profoundly, and counterbalancing the steadily-growing strength of the Commons.
A man is not, in this country, exempt from certain taxes because he is a noble or a priest; all taxation is controlled by the House of Commons, which, although second in rank, is first in power.
The House of Lords may reject the bill of the Commons for taxation; but it may not amend it; the Lords must either reject it or accept it entire. When the bill is confirmed by the Lords and approved by the King, then everybody pays—not according to his quality (which is absurd), but according to his revenue. There are no poll-taxes or other arbitrary levies, but a land tax, which remains the same, even although the revenues from lands increase, so that nobody suffers extortion, and nobody complains. The peasant's feet are not tortured by sabots; he eats white bread; he dresses well; he need not hesitate to increase his stock or tile his roof, for fear that next year he will have to submit to new exactions by the tax-gatherer.
Commerce, which has enriched the citizens in England, has contributed to make them free, and freedom has in its turn extended commerce. Thereby has been erected the greatness of the State. It is commerce which has gradually established the naval forces through which the English are masters of the sea.
An English merchant is quite justly proud of himself and his occupation; he likes to compare himself, not without some warrant, with a Roman citizen. The younger sons of noblemen do not despise a business career. Lord Townsend, a Minister of State, has a brother who is content to be a city merchant. When Lord Oxford governed England, his younger son was a commercial agent at Aleppo, whence he refused to return, and where some years ago he died.
This custom, which is unfortunately dying out, would seem monstrous to German grandees with quarterings on the brain. In Germany they are all princes; they cannot conceive that the son of a Peer of England would lower himself to be a rich and powerful citizen. There have been in Germany nearly thirty highnesses of the same name, not one of them with a scrap of property beyond his coat of arms and his pride.
In France, anybody who likes may be a marquis, and whosoever arrives from the corner of some province, with money to spend and a name ending with Ac or Ille, may say, "a man such as I, a man of my quality," and may show sovereign contempt for a mere merchant. The merchant so often hears his occupation spoken of with disdain that he is fool enough to blush for it. Yet I cannot tell which is the more valuable to the State—a well-powdered lordling, who knows precisely at what hour the king rises, and at what hour he goes to bed, and who assumes airs of loftiness when playing the slave in a minister's ante-chamber; or a merchant who enriches his country, issues from his office orders to Surat and Cairo, and contributes to the happiness of the world.
V.—Tragedy and Comedy
The drama of England, like that of Spain, was fully grown when the French drama was in a state of childishness. Shakespeare, who is accounted to be the English Corneille, flourished at about the same time as Lope de Vega; and it was Shakespeare who created the English drama. He possessed a fertile and powerful genius, that had within its scope both the normal and the sublime; but he ignored rules entirely, and had not the smallest spark of good taste. It is a risky thing to say, but true nevertheless—this author has ruined the English drama. In these monstrous farces of his, called tragedies, there are scenes so beautiful, fragments so impressive and terrible, that the pieces have always been played with immense success. Time, which alone makes the reputation of men, ultimately condones their defects. Most of the fantastic and colossal creations of this author have with the lapse of two centuries established a claim to be considered sublime; most of the modern authors have copied him; but where Shakespeare is applauded, they are hissed, and you can believe that the veneration in which the old author is held increases proportionately to the contempt for the new ones. It is not considered that he should not be copied; the failure of his imitators only leads to his being thought inimitable. You are aware that in the tragedy of the Moor of Venice, a very touching piece, a husband smothers his wife on the stage, and that when the poor woman is being smothered, she cries out that she is unjustly slain. You know that in "Hamlet" the grave-diggers drink, and sing catches while digging a grave, and joke about the skulls they come across in a manner suited to the class of men who do such work. But it will surprise you to learn that these vulgarities were imitated during the reign of Charles II.—the heyday of polite manners, the golden age of the fine arts.
The first Englishman to write a really sane tragic piece, elegant from beginning to end, was the illustrious Mr. Addison. His "Cato in Utica" is a masterpiece in diction and in beauty of verse. Cato himself seems to me the finest character in any drama; but the others are far inferior to him, and the piece is disfigured by a most unconvincing love-intrigue which inflicts a weariness that kills the play. The custom of dragging in a superfluous love-affair came from Paris to London, along with our ribbons and our wigs, about 1660. The ladies who adorn the theatres with their presence insist upon hearing of nothing but love. The wise Addison was weak enough to bend the severity of his nature in compliance with the manners of his time; he spoilt a masterpiece through simple desire to please.
Since "Cato," dramas have become more regular, audiences more exacting, authors more correct and less daring. I have seen some new plays that are judicious, but uninspiring. It would seem that the English, so far, have only been meant to produce irregular beauties. The brilliant monstrosities of Shakespeare please a thousand times more than discreet modern productions. The poetic genius of the English, up to now, resembles a gnarled tree planted by nature, casting out branches right and left, growing unequally and forcefully; seek to shape it into the trim likeness of the trees of the garden at Marly, and it perishes.
The man who has carried farthest the glory of the English comic stage is Mr. Congreve. He has written few pieces, but all excellent of their kind. The rules are carefully observed, and the plays are full of characters shaded with extreme delicacy. Mr. Congreve was infirm and almost dying when I met him. He had one fault—that of looking down upon the profession which had brought him fame and fortune. He spoke of his works to me as trifles beneath his notice, and asked me to regard him simply as a private gentleman who lived very plainly. I replied that if he had had the misfortune to be merely a private gentleman like anybody else, I should never have gone to see him. His ill-placed vanity disgusted me.
His comedies, however, are the neatest and choicest on the English stage; Vanbrugh's are the liveliest, and Wycherley's the most vigorous.
Do not ask me to give details of these English comedies that I admire so keenly; laughter cannot be communicated in a translation. If you wish to know English comedy, there is nothing for it but to go to London for three years, learn English thoroughly, and see a comedy every day.
It is otherwise with tragedy; tragedy is concerned with great passions and heroic follies consecrated by ancient errors in fable and history. Electra belongs to the Spaniards, to the English, and to ourselves as much as to the Greeks; but comedy is the living portraiture of a nation's absurdities, and unless you know the nation through and through, it is not for you to judge the portraits.
ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE
Travels on the Amazon
Alfred Russel Wallace, eminent as traveller, author, and naturalist, was born January 8, 1822, at Usk, in Wales. Till 1845 he followed as an architect and land-surveyor the profession for which he had been trained, but after that time he engaged assiduously in natural history researches. With Mr. Bates, the noted traveller and explorer and writer, he spent four years in the romantic regions of the Amazon basin, and next went to the Malay Islands, where he remained for eight years, making collections of geological specimens. It is one of the most remarkable coincidences in human experience that Wallace and Darwin simultaneously and without mutual understanding of any kind achieved the discovery of the law of natural selection and the evolution hypothesis by which biological science has been completely revolutionized. This absolutely independent accomplishment by two scientists amazed them as well as the whole scientific world. The voluminous works of this author, besides the record of his Amazon expedition, include his "Malay Archipelago," "Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection," "Miracles and Spiritualism," "The Geographical Distribution of Animals," "Tropical Nature," "Australasia," "Island Life," "Land Nationalisation," "Darwinism," and "Man's Place in the Universe."
It was on the morning of the 26th of May, 1848, that after a short passage of twenty-nine days from Liverpool, we came to anchor opposite the southern entrance to the River Amazon, and obtained a first view of South America. In the afternoon the pilot came on board, and the next morning we sailed with a fair wind up the river, which for fifty miles could only be distinguished from the ocean by its calmness and discoloured water, the northern shore being invisible, and the southern at a distance of ten or twelve miles.
Early on the morning of the 28th we again anchored; and when the sun arose in a cloudless sky, the city of Para, surrounded by a dense forest, and overtopped by palms and plantains, greeted our sight, appearing doubly beautiful from the presence of those luxuriant tropical productions in a state of nature, which we had so often admired in the conservatories of Kew and Chatsworth.
The canoes passing with their motley crews of Negroes and Indians, the vultures soaring overhead or walking lazily on the beach, and the crowds of swallows on the churches and housetops, all served to occupy our attention till the custom-house officers visited us, and we were allowed to go on shore. Para contains about 15,000 inhabitants and does not occupy a great extent of ground; yet it is the largest city on the greatest river in the world, the Amazon, and is the capital of a province equal in extent to all western Europe. We proceeded to the house of the consignee of our vessel, Mr. Miller, by whom we were most kindly received and accommodated in his "rosinha," or suburban villa.
We hired an old Negro man named Isidora for a cook, and regularly commenced housekeeping, learning Portuguese, and investigating the natural productions of the country. Having arrived at Para at the end of the wet season, we did not at first see all the glories of the vegetation. The beauty of the palm-trees can scarcely be too highly drawn. In the forest a few miles out of the town trees of enormous height, of various species, rise on every side. Climbing and parasitic plants, with large shining leaves, run up the trunks, while others, with fantastic stems, hang like ropes and cables from their summits.
Most striking of all are the passion-flowers, purple, scarlet, or pale pink; the purple ones have an exquisite perfume, and they all produce an agreeable fruit, the grenadilla of the West Indies. The immense number of orange-trees about the city is an interesting feature, and renders that delicious fruit always abundant and cheap. The mango is also abundant, and on every roadside the coffee-tree is seen growing, generally with flower or fruit, often with both.
Turning our attention to the world of animal life, the lizards first attract notice, for they abound everywhere, running along walls and palings, sunning themselves on logs of wood, or creeping up the eaves of the lower houses. The ants cannot fail to be noticed. At meals they make themselves at home on the tablecloth, in your plate, and in the sugar-basin.
At first we employed ourselves principally in collecting insects, and in about three weeks I and Mr. B. had captured upwards of 150 species of butterflies. The species seemed inexhaustible, and the exquisite colouring and variety of marking is wonderful.
II.—The Wonderful Forest
On the morning of June 23rd we started early to walk to the rice-mills and wood-yard at Magoary, which we had been invited to visit by the proprietor, Mr. Upton, and the manager, Mr. Leavens, both American gentlemen. At about two miles from the city we entered the virgin forest, where we saw giant trees covered to the summit with parasites upon parasites. The herbage consisted for the most part of ferns. At the wood-mills we saw the different kinds of timber used, both in logs and boards.
What most interested us were large logs of the Masseranduba, or milk-tree. On our way through the forest we had seen some trunks much notched by persons who had been extracting the milk. It is one of the noblest trees of the forest, rising with a straight stem to an enormous height. The timber is very hard, durable, and valuable; the fruit is very good and full of rich pulp; but strangest of all is the vegetable milk which exudes in abundance when the bark is cut. It is like thick cream, scarcely to be distinguished in flavour from the product of the cow. Next morning some of it was given to us in our tea at breakfast by Mr. Leavens. The milk is also used for making excellent glue.
During our stay at the mills for several days to me the greatest treat was making my first acquaintance with the monkeys. One morning, when walking alone in the forest, I heard a rustling of the leaves and branches. Looking up, I saw a large monkey staring down at me, and seeming as much astonished as I was myself. He speedily retreated. The next day, being out with Mr. Leavens, near the same place, we heard a similar sound, and it soon became evident that a whole troop of monkeys was approaching.
We hid ourselves under some trees and with guns cocked awaited their coming. Presently we caught sight of them skipping from tree to tree with the greatest ease, and at last one approached too near for its safety, for Mr. Leavens fired and it fell. Having often heard how good monkey was, I took it home and had it cut up and fried for breakfast. There was about as much of it as a fowl, and the meat something resembled rabbit, without any peculiar or unpleasant flavour.
On August 3rd we received a fresh inmate into our veranda in the person of a fine young boa constrictor. A man who had caught it in the forest left it for our inspection. It was about ten feet long, and very large, being as thick as a man's thigh. Here it lay writhing about for two or three days, dragging its clog along with it, sometimes stretching its mouth open with a most suspicious yawn, and twisting up the end of its tail into a very tight curl. We purchased it of its captor for 4s. 6d. and got him to put it into a cage which we constructed. It immediately began to make up for lost time by breathing most violently, the expirations sounding like high-pressure steam escaping from a Great Western locomotive. This it continued for some hours and then settled down into silence which it maintained unless when disturbed or irritated. Though it was without food for more than a week, the birds we gave it were refused, even when alive. Rats are said to be their favourite food, but these we could not procure.
Another interesting little animal was a young sloth, which Antonio, an Indian boy, brought alive from the forest. It could scarcely crawl along the ground, but appeared quite at home on a chair, hanging on the back, legs, or rail.
III.—On the Para Tributary
On the afternoon of August 26th we left Para for the Tocantins. Mr. Leavens had undertaken to arrange all the details of the voyage. He had hired one of the roughly made but convenient country canoes, having a tolda, or palm-thatched roof, like a gipsy's tent, over the stern, which formed our cabin. The canoe had two masts and fore and aft sails, and was about 24 feet long and eight wide.
Besides our guns, ammunition and boxes for our collections, we had a stock of provisions for three months. Our crew consisted of old Isidora, as cook; Alexander, an Indian from the mills, who was named Captain; Domingo, who had been up the river, and was therefore to be our pilot; and Antonio, the boy before mentioned.
Soon after leaving the city night came on, and the tide running against us, we had to anchor. We were up at five the next morning, and found that we were in the Moju, up which our way lay, and which enters the Para river from the south. We breakfasted on board, and about two in the afternoon reached Jighery, a very pretty spot, with steep grassy banks, cocoa and other palms, and oranges in profusion. Here we stayed for the tide, and I and Mr. B. went in search of insects, which we found to be rather abundant, and immediately took two species of butterflies we had never seen at Para.
Our men had caught a sloth in the morning, as it was swimming across the river, which was about half a mile wide. It was different from the species we had alive at Para, having a patch of short yellow and black fur on the back. The Indians stewed it for their dinner, and as they consider the meat a great delicacy, I tasted it, and found it tender and very palatable. In the evening the scene was lovely. The groups of elegant palms, the large cotton-trees, relieved against the golden sky, the Negro houses surrounded with orange and mango trees, the grassy bank, the noble river, and the background of eternal forest, all softened by the mellowed light of the magical half-hour after sunset formed a picture indescribably beautiful.
Returning to Para we remained there till November 3rd, when we left for the island of Mexiana, situated in the main stream of the Amazon, between the great island of Marajo, and the northern shore. We had to go down the Para river, and round the eastern point of Marajo, where we were quite exposed to the ocean; and, though most of the time in fresh water, I was very seasick all the voyage, which lasted four days.
The island of Mexiana is about 25 miles long by 12 broad, of a regular oval shape, and is situated exactly on the equator. It is celebrated for its birds, alligators, and oncas, and is used as a cattle estate by the proprietor. The alligators abound in a lake in the centre of the island, where they are killed in great numbers for their fat, which is made into oil.
On inquiring about the best localities for insects, birds, and plants, we were rather alarmed by being told that oncas were very numerous, even near the house, and that it was dangerous to walk out alone or unarmed. We soon found, however, that no one had been actually attacked by them; though they, poor animals, are by no means unmolested, as numerous handsome skins drying in the sun, and teeth and skulls lying about, sufficiently proved.
Light-coloured, long-tailed cuckoos were continually flying about. Equally abundant are the hornbill cuckoos, and on almost every tree may be seen sitting a hawk or a buzzard. Pretty parroquets, with white and orange bands on their wings, were very plentiful. Then among the bushes there were flocks of the red-breasted oriole. The common black vulture is generally to be seen sailing overhead, the great Muscovy ducks fly past with a rushing sound, offering a striking contrast to the great wood-ibis, which sails along with noiseless wings in flocks of ten or a dozen.
We now prepared for our voyage up the Amazon; and, from information we obtained of the country, determined first to go as far as Santarem, a town about 500 miles up the river, and the seat of considerable trade. We sailed up a fine stream till we entered among islands, and soon got into the narrow channel which forms the communication between the Para and Amazon rivers.
We proceeded for several days in those narrow channels, which form a network of water, a labyrinth quite unknown, except to the inhabitants of the district. It was about ten days after we left Para that the stream began to widen out and the tide to flow into the Amazon instead of into the Para river, giving us the longer ebb to make way with. In about two days more we were in the Amazon itself, and it was with emotions of admiration and awe that we gazed upon the stream of this mighty and far-famed river. What a grand idea it was to think that we now saw the accumulated waters of a course of 3,000 miles. Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil, six mighty states, spreading over a country far larger than Europe, had each contributed to form the flood which bore us so peacefully on its bosom.
The most striking features of the Amazon are its vast expanse of smooth water, generally from three to six miles wide; its pale, yellowish-olive colour; the great beds of aquatic grass which line its shores, large masses of which are often detached and form floating islands; the quantity of fruits and leaves and great trunks of trees which it carries down, and its level banks clad with lofty unbroken forest.
There is much animation, too, on this giant stream. Numerous flocks of parrots, and the great red and yellow macaws, fly across every morning and evening, uttering their hoarse cries. Many kinds of herons and rails frequent the marshes on its banks; but perhaps the most characteristic birds of the Amazon are the gulls and terns, which are in great abundance. Besides these there are divers and darters in immense numbers. Porpoises are constantly blowing in every direction, and alligators are often seen slowly swimming across the river.
At length, after a prolonged voyage of 28 days, we reached Santarem, at the mouth of the river Tapajoz, whose blue, transparent waters formed a most pleasing contrast to the turbid stream of the Amazon. We stayed at Santarem during September, October, and November, working hard till three in the afternoon each day, generally collecting some new and interesting insects in the forest. Here was the haunt of the beautiful "Callithea sapphirs," one of the most lovely of butterflies, and of numerous brilliant little "Erycinidae."
The constant exercise, pure air, and good living, notwithstanding the intense heat, kept us in the most perfect health, and I have never altogether enjoyed myself so much.
V.—The City of Barra
On December 31, 1849, we arrived at the city of Barra on the Rio Negro. It is situated on the east bank of that tributary, about twelve miles above its junction with the Amazon. The trade is chiefly in Brazil nuts, sarsaparilla, and fish. The distance up the Amazon from Para to Barra is about 1,000 miles. The voyage often occupies from two to three months. The more civilized inhabitants of the city are all engaged in trade, and have literally no amusements whatever, unless drinking and gambling on a small scale can be so considered: most of them never open a book, or have any mental occupation.
The Rio Negro well deserves its name—"inky black." For its waters, where deep, are of dense blackness. There are striking differences between this river and the Amazon. Here are no islands of floating grass, no logs and uprooted trees, with their cargoes of gulls, scarcely any stream, and few signs of life in the black and sluggish waters. Yet when there is a storm, there are greater and more dangerous waves than on the Amazon. At Barra the Rio Negro is a mile and a half wide. A few miles up it widens considerably, in many places forming deep bays eight or ten miles across.
In this region are found the umbrella birds. One evening a specimen was brought me by a hunter. This singular bird is about the size of a raven. On its head it bears a crest, different from that of any other bird. It can be laid back so as to be hardly visible, or can be erected and spread out on every side, forming a hemispherical dome, completely covering the head. In a month I obtained 25 specimens of the umbrella bird.
The river Uaupes is a tributary of the Upper Rio Negro, and a voyage up this stream brought us into singular regions. Our canoe was worked by Indians. In one of the Indian villages we witnessed a grand snake dance. The dancers were entirely unclad, but were painted in all kinds of curious designs, and the male performers wear on the top of the head a fine broad plume of the tail-coverts of the white egret. The Indians keep these noble birds in great open houses or cages; but as the birds are rare, and the young with difficulty secured, the ornament is one that few possess. Cords of monkeys' hair, decorated with small feathers, hang down the back, and in the ears are the little downy plumes, forming altogether a most imposing and elegant headdress.
The paint with which both men and women decorate their bodies has a very neat effect, and gives them almost the aspect of being dressed, and as such they seem to regard it. The dancers had made two huge artificial snakes of twigs and branches bound together, from thirty to forty feet long and a foot in diameter, painted a bright red colour. This made altogether a very formidable looking animal. They divided themselves into two parties of about a dozen each and, lifting the snake on their shoulders, began dancing.
In the dance they imitated the undulations of the serpent, raising the head and twisting the tail. In the manoeuvres which followed, the two great snakes seemed to fight, till the dance, which had greatly pleased all the spectators, was concluded.
In another village I first saw and heard the "Juripari", or devil-music of the Indians. One evening there was a drinking-feast; and a little before dusk a sound as of trombones and bassoons was heard coming on the river towards the village, and presently appeared eight Indians, each playing on a great bassoon-looking instrument, made of bark spirally twisted, and with a mouthpiece of leaves. The sound produced is wild and pleasing.
The players waved their instruments about in a singular manner, accompanied by corresponding contortions of the body. From the moment the music was first heard, not a female, old or young, was to be seen; for it is one of the strangest superstitions of the Uaupes Indians, that they consider it so dangerous for a woman ever to see one of these instruments, that, having done so, she is punished with death, generally by poison.
Even should the view be perfectly accidental, or should there be only a suspicion that the proscribed articles have been seen, no mercy is shown; and it is said that fathers have been the executioners of their own daughters, and husbands of their wives, when such has been the case.
VII.—The World's Greatest River Basin
The basin of the Amazon surpasses in dimensions that of any other river in the world. It is entirely situated in the tropics, on both sides of the equator, and receives over its whole extent the most abundant rains. The body of fresh water emptied by it into the ocean is, therefore, far greater than that of any other river. For richness of vegetable productions and universal fertility of soil it is unequalled on the globe.
The whole area of this wonderful region is 2,330,000 square miles. This is more than a third of all South America, and equal to two-thirds of all Europe. All western Europe could be placed within its basin, without touching its boundaries, and it would even contain our whole Indian empire.
Perhaps no country in the world contains such an amount of vegetable matter on its surface as the valley of the Amazon. Its entire extent, with the exception of some very small portions, is covered with one dense and lofty primeval forest, the most extensive and unbroken which exists on the earth. It is the great feature of the country—that which at once stamps it as a unique and peculiar region. Here we may travel for weeks and months in any direction, and scarcely find an acre of ground unoccupied by trees. The forests of the Amazon are distinguished from those of most other countries by the great variety of species of trees composing them. Instead of extensive tracts covered with pines, or oaks, or beeches, we scarcely ever see two individuals of the same species together.