The Brazil nuts are brought chiefly from the interior; the greater part from the country around the junction of the Rio Negro and Madeira with the Amazon. The tree takes more than a year to produce and ripen its fruits, which, as large and as heavy as cannon balls, fall with tremendous force from the height of a hundred feet, crashing through the branches and undergrowth, and snapping off large boughs. Persons are sometimes killed by them.
VIII.—Splendid Native Races
Comparing the accounts given by other travellers with my own observations, the Indians of the Amazon valley appear to be much superior, both physically and intellectually, to those of South Brazil and of most other parts of South America. They more closely resemble the intelligent and noble races inhabiting the western prairies of North America.
I do not remember a single circumstance in my travels so striking and so new, or that so well fulfilled all previous expectations, as my first view of the real uncivilised inhabitants of the Uaupes. I felt that I was in the midst of something new and startling, as if I had been instantaneously transported to a distant and unknown country.
The Indians of the Amazon and its tributaries are of a countless variety of tribes and nations; all of whom have peculiar languages and customs, and many of them some distinct characteristics. In many individuals of both sexes the most perfect regularity of features exists, and there are numbers who in colour alone differ from a good-looking European.
Their figures are generally superb; and I have never felt so much pleasure in gazing at the finest statue, as at these living illustrations of the beauty of the human form. The development of the chest is such as I believe never exists in the best-formed European, exhibiting a splendid series of convex undulations, without a hollow in any part of it.
Among the tribes of the Uaupes the men have the hair carefully parted and combed on each side, and tied in a queue behind. In the young men, it hangs in long locks down their necks, and, with the comb, which is invariably carried stuck in the top of the head, gives to them a most feminine appearance. This is increased by the large necklaces and bracelets of beads, and the careful extirpation of every symptom of beard.
Taking these circumstances into consideration, I am strongly of opinion that the story of the Amazons has arisen from these feminine-looking warriors encountered by the early voyagers. I am inclined to this opinion, from the effect they first produced on myself, when it was only by close examination I saw that they were men.
I cannot make out that these Indians of the Amazon have any belief that can be called a religion. They appear to have no definite idea of a God. If asked who made the rivers and the forests and the sky, they will reply that they do not know, or sometimes that they suppose it was "Tupanau," a word that appears to answer to God, but of which they understand nothing. They have much more definite ideas of a bad spirit, "Jurupari," or Devil, whom they fear, and endeavour through their "pages," or sorcerers, to propitiate.
When it thunders, they say that the "Jurupari" is angry, and their idea of natural death is that the "Jurupari" kills them. At an eclipse they believe that this bad spirit is killing the moon, and they make all the noise they can to drive him away. One of the singular facts connected with these Indians of the Amazon valley is the resemblance between some of their customs and those of the nations most remote from them. The gravatana, or blowpipe, reappears in the sumpitan of Borneo; the great houses of the Uaupes closely resemble those of the Dyaks of the same country; while many small baskets and bamboo-boxes from Borneo and New Guinea are so similar in their form and construction to those of the Amazon, that they would be supposed to belong to adjoining tribes.
The main feature in the personal character of the Indians of this part of South America is a degree of diffidence, bashfulness, or coldness, which affects all their actions. It is this that produces their quiet deliberation, their circuitous way of introducing a subject they have come to speak about, talking half an hour on different topics before mentioning it. Owing to this feeling, they will run away if displeased rather than complain, and will never refuse to undertake what is asked them, even when they are unable or do not intend to perform it. They scarcely ever quarrel among themselves, work hard, and submit willingly to authority. They are ingenious and skilful workmen and readily adopt any customs of civilised life introduced among them.
The Crescent and the Cross
Bartholomew Eliot George Warburton, who wrote as Eliot Warburton, was born in 1810 in Tullamore, Ireland, and died in 1852. He graduated at Cambridge, where he was the fellow student and intimate friend of Hallam, Monckton Milnes, and Kinglake (of "Eothen" fame). He studied law and was called to the bar, but instead of practising in the legal profession took to a most adventurous career of travel, and wrote of his experiences in a spirited and romantic style which soon secured him a wide reputation. His eight works include "The Crescent and the Cross," which appeared in 1845, after his wanderings in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Greece; "Memoirs of Prince Rupert," and "Darien, or the Merchant Prince." He was sailing for Panama, as an agent of the Atlantic and Pacific Company, when he was lost in the steamship Amazon, which was burnt off Land's End on January 4, 1852. Warburton was beloved for his generous, amiable, and chivalrous disposition. His peculiar gift for embodying in graphic terms his appreciation of striking scenery and his picturesque delineation of foreign manners and customs give his works a permanent place in the classics of travel.
We took leave of Old England and the Old Year together. On the first of January we left Southampton; on the evening of the 2nd we took leave of England at Falmouth. Towards evening, on the 18th day since leaving England, the low land of Egypt was visible from the mast-head. The only object visible from the decks was a faint speck on the horizon, but that speck was Pompey's Pillar. This is the site Alexander selected from his wide dominions, and which Napoleon pronounced to be unrivalled in importance. Here stood the great library of antiquity, and here the Hebrew Scriptures expanded into Greek under the hands of the Septuagint. Here Cleopatra revelled with her Roman conquerors. Here St. Mark preached the truth on which Origen attempted to refine, and here Athanasius held warlike controversy.
The bay is crowded with merchant vessels of every nation. Men-of-war barges shoot past you with crews dressed in what look like red nightcaps and white petticoats. Here, an "ocean patriarch" (as the Arabs call Noah), with white turban and flowing beard, is steering a little ark filled with unclean-looking animals of every description; and there, a crew of swarthy Egyptians, naked from the waist upwards, are pulling some pale-faced strangers to a vessel with loosed top.
The crumbling quays are piled with bales of eastern merchandise, islanded in a sea of white turbans wreathed over dark, melancholy faces. High above the variegated crowds peer the long necks of hopeless-looking camels. Passing through the Arab city, you emerge into the Frank quarter, a handsome square of tall white houses, over which the flags of every nation in Europe denote the residences of the various consuls. In this square is an endless variety of races and costumes most picturesquely grouped together, and lighted brilliantly by a glowing sun in a cloudless sky. In one place, a procession of women waddles along, wrapped in large shroud-like veils from head to foot. In another, a group of Turks in long flowing drapery are seated in a circle smoking their chiboukes in silence.
"Egypt is the gift of the Nile," said one who was bewildered by its antiquity before our history was born (at least he, Herodotus, was called the father of it). This is an exotic land. That river, winding like a serpent through its paradise, has brought it from far regions. Those quiet plains have tumbled down the cataracts; those demure gardens have flirted with the Isle of Flowers (Elephantina), five hundred miles away; and those very pyramids have floated down the waves of Nile. In short, to speak chemically, that river is a solution of Ethiopia's richest regions, and that vast country is merely a precipitate.
Arrived at Alexandria, the traveller is yet far distant from the Nile. The Canopic mouth is long since closed up by the mud of Ethiopia, and the Arab conquerors of Egypt were obliged to form a canal to connect this seaport with the river. Under the Mamelukes, this canal had also become choked up. When Mehemet Ali rose to power his clear intellect at once comprehended the importance of the ancient emporium. Alexandria was then become a mere harbour for pirates. The desert and the sea were gradually encroaching on its boundaries, but the Pasha ordered the desert to bring forth corn and the sea to retire. Up rose a stately city of 60,000 inhabitants, and as suddenly yawned the canal which was to connect the new city with the Nile.
In the greatness and cruelty of its accomplishment, this Mahmoudie canal may vie with the gigantic labours of the Pharaohs. From the villages of the delta were swept 250,000 men, women, and children, and heaped like a ridge along the banks of the fatal canal. They had only provisions for a month, and famine soon made its appearance. It was a fearful sight to see the multitude convulsively working against time. As a dying horse bites the ground in his agony, they tore up that great grave—25,000 people perished, but the grim contract was completed, and in six weeks the waters of the Nile were led to Alexandria.
It was midnight when we arrived at Atfeh, the point of junction with the Nile. We are now on the sacred river. In some hours we emerged from the Rosetta branch and the prospect began to improve. Villages sheltered by graceful groups of palm-trees, mosques, green plains, and at length the desert—the most imposing sight in the world, except the sea. We felt we were actually in Egypt and our spirits rose. By the time the evening and the mist had rendered the country invisible, we had persuaded ourselves that Egypt was indeed the lovely land that Moore has so delightfully imagined in the pages of the "Epicurean."
III—Cairo and Heliopolis
Morning found us anchored off Boulak, the port of Cairo. Toward the river it is faced by factories and storehouses; within, you find yourself in a labyrinth of brown, narrow streets, that resemble rather rifts in some mud mountain, than anything with which architecture has had to do. Yet here and there the blankness of the walls is relieved and broken by richly worked lattices, and specimens of arabesque masonry.
Gaudy bazaars strike the eye, and the picturesque population that swarms everywhere keeps the interest awake. On emerging from the lanes of Boulak, Cairo, Grand Cairo! opens on the view; and never did fancy flash upon the poet's eye a more superb illusion of power and beauty than the "city of Victory" presents from a distance. ("El Kahira," the Arabic epithet of this city, means "the Victorious.") The bold range of the Mokattam mountains is purpled by the rising sun, its craggy summits are clearly cut against the glowing sky, it runs like a promontory into a sea of verdure, here wavy with a breezy plantation of olives, there darkened with accacia groves.
Just where the mountain sinks upon the plain, the citadel stands upon its last eminence, and widely spread beneath it lies the city, a forest of minarets with palm-trees intermingled, and the domes of innumerable mosques rising, like enormous bubbles, over the sea of houses. Here and there, richly green gardens are islanded within that sea, and the whole is girt round with picturesque towers and ramparts, occasionally revealed through vistas of the wood of sycamores and fig-trees that surround it. It has been said that "God the first garden made, and the first city Cain," but here they seem commingled with the happiest effect.
The objects of interest in the neighbourhood of Cairo are very numerous. Let us first canter off to Heliopolis, the On of Scripture. It is only five miles of a pathway, shaded by sycamore and plane-trees, from which we emerge occasionally into green savannahs or luxuriant cornfields, over which the beautiful white ibis are hovering in flocks.
In Heliopolis, the Oxford of Old Egypt, stood the great Temple of the Sun. Here the beautiful and the wise studied love and logic 4,000 years ago. Here Joseph was married to the fair Asenath. Here Plato and Herodotus studied and here the darkness which veiled the Great Sacrifice was observed by a heathen astronomer, Dionysius the Areopagite. We found nothing, however, on the site of this ancient city, except a small garden of orange-trees, with a magnificent obelisk in the centre.
IV.—The Market of Sorrow
One day while in Cairo I went to visit the slave-markets, one of which is held without the city, in the courtyard of a deserted mosque. I was received by a mild-looking Nubian, who led me in silence to inspect his stock. I found about thirty girls scattered in groups about an inner court. The gate was open, but there seemed no thought of escape. Where could they go, poor things? Some were grinding millet between two stones; some were kneading flour into bread; some were chatting in the sunshine; some sleeping in the shade.
One or two looked sad and lonely enough, until their gloomy countenances were lit up with hope—the hope of being bought! Their faces for the most part were woefully blank, and many wore an awfully animal expression. Yet there were several figures of exquisite symmetry among them, which, had they been indeed the bronze statues they resembled, would have attracted the admiration of thousands, and would have been valued at twenty times the price that was set on these immortal beings. Their proprietor showed them off as a horse-dealer does his cattle, examining their teeth, removing their body-clothes, and exhibiting their paces.
It is like the change from night to morning, to pass from these dingy crowds to the white slaves from Georgia and Circassia. The commodities of this department of the human bazaars are only purchased by wealthy and powerful Moslems; and, when purchased, are destined to form part of the female aristocracy of Cairo. These fetch from one, two, three, or even five hundred pounds, and being so much more valuable than the Africans, are much more carefully tended. Some were smoking; some chatting merrily together; some sitting in dreamy languor. All their attitudes were very graceful.
They were for the most part exquisitely fair; but I was disappointed in their beauty. The sunny hair and heaven-blue eyes, that in England produce such an angel-like and intellectual effect, seemed to me here mere flax and beads; and I left them to the "turbaned Turk" without a sigh.
Difficult a study as woman presents in all countries, that difficulty deepens almost into impossibility in a land where even to look upon her is a matter of danger or of death. The seclusion of the hareem is preserved in the very streets by means of an impenetrable veil; the well-bred Egyptian averts his eyes as she passes by; she is ever to remain an object of mystery; and the most intimate acquaintance never inquires after the wife of his friend, or affects to know of her existence.
An English lady, visiting an Odalisque, inquired what pleasure her profusion of rich ornaments could afford, as no person except her husband was ever to behold them. "And for whom do you adorn yourself? Is it for other men?" replied the fair barbarian.
I have conversed with several European ladies who had visited hareems, and they have all confessed their inability to convince the Eastern wives of the unhappiness or hardship of their state. It is true that the inmate of the hareem knows nothing of the wild liberty (as it seems to her) that the European woman enjoys. She has never witnessed the domestic happiness that crowns a fashionable life, or the peace of mind and purity of heart that reward the labours of a London season. And what can she know of the disinterested affection and changeless constancy of ball-room belles, in the land where woman is all free?
Let them laugh on in their happy ignorance of a better lot, while round them is gathered all that their lord can command of luxury and pleasantness. His wealth is hoarded for them alone; he permits himself no ostentation, except the respectable one of arms and horses; and the time is weary that he passes apart from his home and hareem. The sternest tyrants are gentle there; Mehemet Ali never refused a woman's prayer; and even Ali Pasha was partly humanized by his love for Emineh. In the time of the Mamelukes, criminals were always led to execution blindfolded, as, if they had met a woman and could touch her garment, they were saved, whatever was their crime.
Thus idolized, watched, and guarded, the Egyptian woman's life is, nevertheless, entirely in the power of her lord, and her death is the inevitable penalty of his dishonour. Poor Fatima! shrined as she was in the palace of a tyrant, the fame of her beauty stole abroad through Cairo. She was one among a hundred in the hareem of Abbas Pasha, a man stained with every foul and loathsome vice; and who can wonder, though many may condemn, if she listened to a daring young Albanian, who risked his life to obtain but a sight of her. Whether she did listen or not, none can ever know, but the eunuchs saw the glitter of the Arnaut's arms, as he leaped from her terrace into the Nile and vanished into the darkness.
The following night a merry English party dined together on board Lord E——'s boat, as it lay moored off the Isle of Rhoda; conversation had sunk into silence as the calm night came on; a faint breeze floated perfumes from the gardens over the star-lit Nile; a dreamy languor seemed to pervade all nature, and even the city lay hushed in deep repose, when suddenly a boat, crowded with dark figures, among which arms gleamed, shot out from one of the arches of the palace.
It paused under the opposite bank, where the water rushed deep and gloomily along, and for a moment a white figure glimmered among that boat's dark crew; there was a slight movement and a faint splash, and then the river flowed on as merrily as if poor Fatima still sang her Georgian song to the murmur of its waters.
I was riding one evening along the water-side. There was no sound except the ripple of the waves and the heavy flapping of a pelican's wing. As I paused to contemplate the scene an Egyptian passed me hurriedly, with a bloody knife in his hand. His dress was mean and ragged, but his countenance was one that the father of Don Carlos might have worn. He never raised his eyes as he passed by; and my groom, who just then came up, told me he had slain his wife, and was going to her father's village to denounce her.
VI.—Djouni and Lady Hester Stanhope
One morning we were already in motion as the sun rose over Lebanon. We passed for some miles through mulberry gardens, and over a dangerous rocky pass, where Antiochus the Great defeated the Egyptians, in 218 B.C. This pass would have required the best exertions and courage of a European horse, yet a file of camels was ascending it with the same patient look that they wear in their native deserts. Though forced frequently to traverse mountains in a country whose commerce is conducted by their means, these animals are only at their ease upon the sandy plain. The Arabs say, that if you were to ask a camel which he preferred—travelling up or down hill, his answer would be, "May the curse of Allah light on both!"
The road was only a steep and rocky path, which, in England, a goat would be considered active if he could traverse. Our horses, nevertheless, went along it at a canter, though the precipice sometimes yawned beneath our outside stirrup, while the inner one knocked fire out of the rocky cliff. Rocks, tumbled from the mountain, lay strewn about and nearly choked up the narrow river bed; over these we scrambled, climbed, and leaped in a manner that only Arab horses would attempt or could accomplish.
It was late when we came in sight of two conical hills, on one of which stands the village of Djouni, on the other a circular wall over which dark trees were waving, and this was the place in which Lady Hester Stanhope had finished her strange and eventful career. It had been formerly a convent, but the Pasha of Acre had given it to the "Prophet Lady," and she had converted its naked walls into palaces, its wilderness into gardens. The sun was setting as we entered the enclosure. The buildings that constituted the palace were of a very scattered and complicated description, covering a wide space, but only one storey in height; courts and gardens, stables and sleeping-rooms, halls of audience and ladies' bowers, were strangely intermingled.
Here fountains once played in marble basins, and choice flowers bloomed; but now it presented a scene of melancholy desolation. Our dinner was spread on the floor in Lady Hester's favourite apartment; her deathbed was our sideboard, her furniture our fuel; her name our conversation. Lady Hester Stanhope was niece to Mr. Pitt, and seems to have possessed or acquired something of his indomitable energy and proud self-reliance during the time that she presided over his household. Soon after his death she left England. For some time she was at Constantinople, where her magnificence and near alliance to the great minister gained her considerable influence. Afterwards she passed into Syria.
Many of the people of that country, excited by the achievements of Sir Sidney Smith, looked on her as a princess who had come to prepare the way for the expected conquest of their land by the English. Her influence increased through the prestige created by her wealth and magnificence, as well as by her imperious character and dauntless bravery. She believed in magic, astrology, and, incredible as it may appear, in her own divine mission.
She had two mares which were held sacred by herself and her attendants. One was singularly marked by a natural saddle. The animal was never mounted, but reserved for some divinity whom she was to accompany on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The other was retained for her own "mount" on the same remarkable occasion.
It is said that she was crowned Queen of the East by 50,000 Arabs, at Palmyra. Lady Hester certainly exercised despotic power in her neighbourhood on the mountain. Mehemet Ali could make nothing of her. She annihilated a village for disobedience, and burned a mountain chalet, with all its inhabitants, on account of the murder of two Frenchmen who were travelling under the protection of her firman.
One morning, before daylight, I set out for the summit of Hermon, called in Arabic, Djebel Sheikh, the "Chief of the Mountains." This is the highest point of Syria, the last of the Anti-Lebanon range. We rode through some rugged valleys and tracts of vineyards, and, leaving our horses at one of the sheds in the latter, began the steep and laborious ascent. I have climbed Snowdon, Vesuvius, Epomeo, and many others, but this was the heaviest work of all. After six hours of toil we stood on the summit, and perhaps the world does not afford a more magnificent view than we then beheld.
We looked down from the ancient Hill of Hermon over the land of Israel. There gleamed the bright blue Sea of Galilee, and nearer was Lake Hooly, with Banias, the ancient Dan, on its banks. The vast and varied plain, on which lay mapped a thousand places familiar to the memory, was bounded on the right by the Mediterranean, whose purple waters whitened round Sidon, Tyre, and the distant Promontorium Album, over which just appeared the summit of Mount Carmel. On the left of the plain a range of hills divided the Hauran from Samaria. Further on, towards the Eastern horizon, spread the plain of Damascus, and the desert towards Palmyra.
To the north, the wide and fertile valley of Bekaa lay between the two great chains of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon; the latter of whose varied hills and glens, speckled with forests and villages, lay beneath my feet. Nothing but lakes were wanting to the valleys, nothing but heather to the mountains. We caught some goats after a hard chase, and, milking them on the snow, drank eagerly from this novel dairy.
Soon afterwards we discovered a little fountain gushing from a snowy hill, and only those who have climbed a mountain 9,000 feet high, under a Syrian sun, can appreciate the luxury of such a draught as that cool, bubbling rill afforded.
VIII.—Damascus: The World's Oldest City
Emerging from the savage gorges of Anti-Lebanon, we entered a wide, disheartening plain, bounded by an amphitheatre of dreary mountains. Our horses had had no water for twenty-four hours, and we had had no refreshment of any kind for twenty. After two hours of more hard riding I came to another range of mountains, from beyond which opened the view of Damascus, from which the Prophet abstained as too delicious for a believer's gaze. It is said that after many days of toilsome travel, when he beheld this city thus lying at his feet, he exclaimed, "But one paradise is allowed to man; I will not take mine in this world;" and so he turned his horse's head from Damascus and pitched his tent in the desert.
For miles around us lay the dead desert, whose sands seemed to quiver under the shower of sunbeams; far away to the south and east it spread like a boundless ocean; but there, beneath our feet, lay such an island of verdure as nowhere else perhaps exists. Mass upon mass of dark, delicious foliage rolled like waves among garden tracts of brilliant emerald green. Here and there the clustering blossoms of the orange or the nectarine lay like foam upon that verdant sea. Minarets, white as ivory, shot up their fairy towers among the groves; and purple mosque-domes, tipped with the golden crescent, gave the only sign that a city lay bowered beneath those rich plantations.
One hour's gallop brought me to the suburban gates of Mezze, and thenceforth I rode on through streets, or rather lanes, of pleasant shadow. For many an hour we had seen no water; now it gushed and gleamed and sparkled all around us; from aqueduct above, and rivulet below, and marble fountain in the walls—everywhere it poured forth its rich abundance; and my horse and I soon quenched our burning thirst in Abana and Pharphar.
On we went, among gardens, fountains, odours, and cool shade, absorbed in sensations of delight. Fruits of every delicate shape and hue bent the boughs hospitably over our heads; flowers hung in canopy upon the trees and lay in variegated carpet on the ground; the lanes through which we went were long arcades of arching boughs; the walls were composed of large square blocks of dried mud, which, in that bright, dazzling light somewhat resembled Cyclopean architecture, and gave, I know not what, of simplicity and primitiveness to the scene.
At length I entered the city, and thenceforth lost the sun while I remained there. The luxurious people of Damascus exclude all sunshine from their bazaars by awnings of thick mat, whenever vine-trellises or vaulted roofs do not render this precaution unnecessary. The effects of this pleasant gloom, the cool currents of air created by the narrow streets, the vividness of the bazaars, the variety and beauty of the Oriental dress, the fragrant smell of the spice-shops, the tinkle of the brass cups of the sherbet seller—all this affords a pleasant but bewildering change from the silent desert and the glare of sunshine.
And then the glimpse of places strange to your eye, yet familiar to your imagination, that you catch as you pass along. Here is the portal of a large khan, with a fountain and cistern in the midst. Camels and bales of merchandise and turbaned negroes are scattered over its wide quadrangle, and an arcade of shops or offices surrounds it, above and below, like the streets of Chester. Another portal opens into a public bath, with its fountains, its reservoirs, its gay carpets, and its luxurious inmates clad in white linen and reclining on cushions as they smoke their chibouques.
I lodged at the Franciscan Convent, of which the terrace commands the best view, perhaps, of the city. The young Christian women of Damascus come hither in numbers to confess, which, if their tongues be as candid as their eloquent eyes, must be rather a protracted business. They are passing fair; but the Jewess, with her aristocratic mien, her proud, yet airy step, and her eagle eye, throws all others into the shade, and vindicates her lineal descent from Eve, in this, Eve's native land.
I thought Damascus was a great improvement on Cairo in every respect. It is much more thoroughly Oriental in appearance, in its mysteries, in the look and character of its inhabitants. The spirit of the Arabian Nights is quite alive in these, its native streets; and not only do you hear their fantastic tales repeated to rapt audiences in the coffee-houses, but you see them hourly exemplified in living scenes. This is probably the most ancient city in the world. Eleazar, the trusty steward of Abraham, was a citizen of it nearly 4,000 years ago, and the Arabs maintain that Adam was created here out of the red clay that is now fashioned by the potter into other forms.
The Christians for the most part belong to the Latin Church. There are some Greeks, and a few Armenians. The Christians are as fanatical and grossly ignorant as the Moslems; at least, those few, even of the wealthier class, with whom I had the opportunity of conversing.
Wanderings in South America
Charles Waterton, who was born on June 3, 1782, and who died on May 27, 1865, was a native of Yorkshire, England. Brought up in a family loving country life and field sports, he early learned to cultivate the study of natural history. Speaking of himself in after life he said, "I cannot boast of any great strength of arm, but my legs, probably by much walking, and by frequently ascending trees, have acquired vast muscular power; so that, on taking a view of me from top to toe, you would say that the 'upper part of Tithonus has been placed on the lower part of Ajax.'" Educated at Tudhoe Catholic School, Waterton became a sound Latin scholar. He proceeded to the Jesuit College at Stonyhurst, where his tutors as far as possible encouraged his love for natural history, at the same time stimulating his taste for literature. Fox-hunting was his delight and he became a famous rider. His parents wished him to see the world, and his travels began with a tour in Spain, visiting London on the way back to Yorkshire and there making the acquaintance of Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society and scientific Maecenas of his age. In 1804 he sailed for Demerara, there to administer the estates of his paternal uncle, and, liking the country, managed that business till 1812, coming home at intervals. Subsequently, Waterton undertook arduous and adventurous journeys in Guiana, simply as a naturalist. His accounts of his experiences made him famous. He also travelled in the United States and the Antilles, then in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, and Sicily. Besides his "Wanderings in South America" he wrote an attractive volume entitled "Natural History: Essays."
In the month of April, 1812, I left the town of Stabroek, to travel through the wilds of Demerara and Essequibo, a part of ci-devant Dutch Guiana, in South America. The chief objects in view were to collect a quantity of the strongest Wourali poison, and to reach the inland frontier fort of Portuguese Guiana.
It would be a tedious journey for him who wishes to proceed through those wilds, to set out from Stabroek on foot. The sun would exhaust him in his attempts to wade through the swamps, and the mosquitoes at night would deprive him of every hour of sleep. The road for horses runs parallel to the river, but it extends a very little way, and even ends before the cultivation of the plantation ceases.
The only mode then that remains is to travel by water; and when you come to the high lands, you make your way through the forest on foot, or continue your route on the river. After passing the third island in the river Demerara, there are few plantations to be seen, and those are not joining on to one another, but separated by large tracts of wood. The first rocks of any considerable size are at a place called Saba, from the Indian word which means a stone. Near the top of Saba stands the house of the postholder, appointed by government to report to the protector of the Indians, of what is going on among them; and to prevent suspicious people from passing up the river.
When the Indians assemble here, the stranger may have an opportunity of seeing the aborigines, dancing to the sound of their country music, and painted in their native style. They will shoot their arrows for him with unerring aim and send the poisoned dart, from the blowpipe, true to its destination.
This is the native country of the sloth. His looks, his gestures, his cries, all conspire to entreat you to take pity on him. These are the only weapons of defence nature has given him. It is said his piteous moans make the tiger cat relent and turn out of his way. Do not then level your gun at him, or pierce him with a poisoned arrow;—he has never hurt one living creature. A few leaves, and those of the commonest and coarsest kind, are all he asks for his support.
Demerara yields to no country in the world in her wonderful and beautiful productions of the feathered race. The scarlet curlew breeds in innumerable quantities in the muddy islands on the coasts of Pomauron; the egrets in the same place. They resort to the mudflats in ebbing water, while thousands of sandpipers and plovers, with here and there a spoonbill and flamingo, are seen among them. The pelicans go farther out to sea, but return at sundown to the courada-trees.
You never fail to see the common vulture where there is carrion. At the close of day the vampires leave the hollow trees, whither they had fled at morning's dawn, and scour along the river's banks in quest of prey. On waking from sleep, the astonished traveller finds his hammock all stained with blood. It is the vampire that has sucked him.
What an immense range of forest is there from the rock Saba to the great fall, and what an uninterrupted extent from it to the banks of the Essequibo! It will be two days and a half from the time of entering the path on the western bank of the Demerara till all be ready, and the canoe fairly afloat on the Essequibo. The new rigging in it, and putting everything to rights and in its proper place, cannot well be done in less than a day.
After being night and day in the forest impervious to the sun and moon's rays, the sudden transition to light has a fine heart-cheering effect. In coming out of the woods you see the western bank of the Essequibo before you, low and flat. Proceeding onwards past many islands which enliven the scene, you get to the falls and rapids. When the river is swollen, as it was in May, 1812, it is a dangerous task to pass them.
A little before you pass the last of the rapids two immense rocks appear, which look like two ancient stately towers of some Gothic potentate, rearing their heads above the surrounding trees. From their situation and their shape, they strike the beholder with an idea of antiquated grandeur, which he will never forget. He may travel far and wide and see nothing like them. The Indians have it that they are the abode of an evil genius, and they pass in the river below, with a reverential awe.
In about seven hours, from these stupendous sons of the hill you leave the Essequibo and enter the river Apoura-poura, which falls into it from the south. Two days afterwards you are within the borders of Macoushia, inhabited by the Macoushi Indians, who are uncommonly dexterous in the use of the blowpipe and famous for their skill in preparing the deadly vegetable poison called Wourali, to which I alluded at the outset of this narration.
From this country are procured those beautiful paroquets named Kessikessi. Here too is found the india-rubber tree. The elegant crested bird called Cock of the Rock is a native of the wooded mountains of Macoushia. The Indians in this district seem to depend more on the Wourali poison for killing their game than on anything else. They had only one gun, and it appeared rusty and neglected; but their poisoned weapons were in fine order. Their blowpipes hung from the roof of the hut, carefully suspended by a silk grass cord. The quivers were close by them, with the jawbone of the fish Pirai tied by a string to their brim, and a small wicker-basket of wild cotton, which hung down the centre; they were nearly full of poisoned arrows.
On the fifth day our canoe reached the fort on the Portuguese inland frontier. I had by this time contracted a feverish attack. The Portuguese commandant, who came to greet us, discovered that I was sick. "I am sorry, sir," said he, "to see that the fever has taken such hold of you. You shall go with me to the fort; and though we have no doctor there, I trust we shall soon bring you about again. The orders I have received, forbidding the admission of strangers, were never intended to be put in force against a sick English gentleman."
Good nourishment and rest, and the unwearied attention and kindness of the Portuguese commander, stopped the progress of the fever, and enabled me to walk about in six days. Having reached this frontier, and collected a sufficient quantity of the Wourali poison, nothing remains but to give a brief account of its composition, its effects, its uses, and its supposed antidotes.
Much has been said concerning this fatal and extraordinary poison. Wishful to obtain the best information, I determined to penetrate into the country where the poisonous ingredients grow. Success attended the adventure, and this made amends for the 120 days passed in the solitudes of Guiana. It is certain that if a sufficient quantity of the poison enters the blood, death is the result; but there is no alteration in the colour of the blood, and both the blood and the flesh may be eaten with safety.
This poison destroys life so gently that the victim seems to be in no pain whatever. The Indian finds in the wilds a vine called Wourali, which furnishes the chief ingredient. He also adds the juices of a bitter root and of two bulbous plants. Next he hunts till he finds two species of ants, one very large, black, and venomous; the other small and red, which stings like a nettle. He adds the pounded fangs of the Labarri and the Counacouchi snakes; and the last ingredient is red pepper.
The mixture is boiled and looks like coffee. It is poured into a calabash. Let us now note how it is used. When the Indian goes in quest of game, he seldom carries his bow and arrows. It is the blowpipe he then uses. This is a most extraordinary instrument of death. The reed must grow to an amazing length, as the part used is ten feet long. This is placed inside a larger tube. The arrow is from nine to ten inches long. It is made out of leaf of a species of palm-tree, and about an inch of the pointed end is poisoned. The other end is fixed into a lump of wild cotton made skilfully to fit the tube.
Chiefly birds are shot with this weapon. The flesh of the game is not in the least injured by the poison. For larger game bows are used with poisoned arrows.
An Arowack Indian said it was but four years ago that he and his companions were ranging in the forest for game. His companion took a poisoned arrow and sent it at a red monkey in a tree above him. It was nearly a perpendicular shot. The arrow missed the monkey, and, in the descent, struck him in the arm. He was convinced it was all over with him. "I shall never bend this bow again," said he. And having said that, he took off his little bamboo poison box, which hung across his shoulder, and putting it with his bow and arrow on the ground, he laid himself close by them, bid his companion farewell, and never spoke more.
Sugar-cane and salt are supposed to be antidotes, but in reality they are of no avail. He who is unfortunate enough to be wounded by a poisoned arrow from Macoushia will find them of no avail. He has got a deadly foe within him which will allow him but very little time. In a few moments he will be numbered with the dead.
In the year 1816, two days before the vernal equinox, I sailed from Liverpool for Pernambuco, in the southern hemisphere, on the coast of Brazil. Arrived there, I embarked on board of a Portuguese brig for Cayenne in Guiana. On the 14th day after leaving Pernambuco, the brig cast anchor off the island of Cayenne. The entrance is beautiful. To windward, not far off, are two bold wooded islands, called Father and Mother; and near them are others, their children, smaller, though beautiful as their parents.
All along the coast are seen innumerable quantities of snow-white egrets, scarlet curlews, spoonbills, and flamingoes. About a day's journey in the interior is the celebrated national plantation called La Gabrielle, with which no other plantation in the western world can vie. In it are 22,000 clove-trees in full bearing. The black pepper, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg are also in great abundance here.
Not far from the banks of the river Oyapoc, to windward of Cayenne, is a mountain which contains an immense cavern. Here the Cock of the Rock is plentiful. He is about the size of a fantail pigeon, his colour a bright orange and his wings and tail appear as though fringed; his head is adorned with a superb double-feathery crest, edged with purple.
Finding that a beat to the Amazons would be long and tedious, and aware that the season for procuring birds in fine plumage had already set in, I left Cayenne for Paramaribo, went through the interior to Coryntin, stopped a few days in New Amsterdam, and proceeded to Demerara.
Though least in size, the glittering mantle of the humming-bird entitles it to the first place in the list of the birds of the New World. See it darting through the air almost as quick as thought. Now it is within a yard of your face, and then is in an instant gone. Now it flutters from flower to flower. Now it is a ruby, now a topaz, now an emerald, now all burnished gold.
Cayenne and Demerara produce the same humming-birds. On entering the forests the blue and green, the smallest brown, no bigger than the humble bee, with two long feathers in the tail, and the little forked-tail purple-throated humming-birds glitter before you in ever-changing attitudes.
There are three species of toucans in Dememara, and three diminutives, which may be called toucanets. The singular form of these birds makes a lasting impression on the memory. Every species of this family of enormous bill lays its eggs in the hollow trees. You will be at a loss to know for what ends nature has overloaded the head of this bird with such an enormous bill. It is impossible to conjecture.
You would not be long in the forests of Demerara without noticing the woodpeckers. The sound which the largest kind makes in hammering against the bark of the tree is so loud that you would never suppose it to proceed from the efforts of a bird. You would take it to be the woodman, with his axe, striking a sturdy blow, oft repeated. There are fourteen species here, all beautiful, and the greater part of them have their heads ornamented with a fine crest, movable at pleasure.
In the rivers, and different creeks, you number six species of the kingfisher. They make their nest in a hole in the sand on the side of the bank. Wherever there is a wild fig-tree ripe, a numerous species of birds, called Tangara, is sure to be on it. There are 18 beautiful species here. Their plumage is very rich and diversified; some of them boast six different colours.
Parrots and paroquets are very numerous here, and of many different kinds. The hia-hia parrot, called in England the parrot of the sun, is very remarkable. He can erect at pleasure a fine radiated circle of tartan feathers quite around the back of his head from jaw to jaw. Superior in size and beauty to every parrot of South America, the ara will force you to take your eyes from the rest of animated nature and gaze at him. His commanding strength, the flaming scarlet of his body, the lovely variety of red, yellow, blue, and green in his wings, the extraordinary length of his blue and scarlet tail, seem all to join and demand for him the title of emperor of all the parrots.
There are nine species of the goatsucker in Demerara, a bird with prettily mottled plumage like that of the owl. Its cry is so remarkable that, once heard it can never be forgotten. When night reigns over these wilds you will hear this goatsucker lamenting like one in deep distress. A stranger would never conceive the cry to be that of a bird. He would say it was the departing voice of a midnight murdered victim, or the last wailing of Niobe for her poor children, before she was turned into stone.
Suppose yourself in hopeless sorrow, begin with a high loud note, and pronounce "ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha," each note lower and lower, till the last is scarcely heard, pausing a moment or two betwixt every note, and you will have some idea of the moaning of the goatsucker of Demerara. You will never persuade the native to let fly his arrow at these birds. They are creatures of omen and of reverential dread. They are the receptacles of departed souls come back to earth, unable to rest for crimes done in their days of nature.
Gentle reader, after staying a few months in England, I strayed across the Alps and the Apennines, and returned home, but could not tarry. Guiana still whispered in my ear, and seemed to invite me once more to wander through her distant forests. In February, 1820, I sailed from the Clyde, on board the Glenbervie, a fine West Indiaman.
Sad and mournful was the story we heard on entering the river Demerara. The yellow fever had swept off numbers of the old inhabitants, and the mortal remains of many a new comer were daily passing down the streets, in slow and mute procession.
I myself was soon attacked severely by the fever, but was fortunate enough to recover after much suffering. Next I was wounded painfully in the foot by treading on a hard stump, while pursuing a red woodpecker in the depths of the forest. The wound healed in about three weeks, and I again joyfully sallied forth.
Let us now turn attention to the sloth, whose haunts have hitherto been so little known. He is a scarce and solitary animal, living in trees, and being good food, is never allowed to escape. He inhabits remote and gloomy forests, where snakes take up their abode, and where cruelly stinging ants and scorpions, and swamps, and innumerable thorny shrubs and bushes obstruct the steps of civilized man. We are now in the sloth's own domain.
Some years ago I kept a sloth in my room for several months. I often took him out of the house and placed him on the ground. If the ground were rough, he would pull himself forward, by means of his forelegs, at a pretty good pace. He invariably shaped his course at once towards the nearest tree. But if I put him on a smooth and well-trodden part of the road, he appeared to be in trouble and distress. His favourite abode was the back of a chair, and after getting all his legs in a line on the topmost part of it, he would hang there for hours together, and often with a low and inward cry, would seem to invite me to take notice of him.
We will now take a view of the vampire. As there was a free entrance and exit to the vampire, in the loft where I slept, I had many fine opportunities of paying attention to this nocturnal surgeon. He does not always live on blood. When the moon shone brightly, and the bananas were ripe, I could see him approach and eat them. The vampire measures about 26 inches from wing to wing extended. He frequents old abandoned houses and hollow trees, and sometimes a cluster of them may be seen in the forest hanging head downward from the branch of a tree.
Some years ago I went to the river Paumaron with a Scotch gentleman, by name Tarbet. Next morning I heard him muttering in his hammock, and now and then letting fall an imprecation or two, just about the time he ought to have been saying his morning prayers. "What is the matter, sir," I said, softly; "is anything amiss?" "What's the matter?" answered he surlily; "why, the vampires have been sucking me to death."
As soon as there was light enough. I went to his hammock, and saw it much stained with blood. "There, see how these infernal imps have been drawing my life's blood," said he, thrusting a foot out of the hammock. The vampire had tapped his great toe; there was a wound somewhat less than that made by a leech; the blood was still oozing from it. I conjectured he might have lost from ten to twelve ounces of blood.
I had often wished to have been once sucked by the vampire, in order that I might have it in my power to say it had really happened to me. There can be no pain in the operation, for the patient is always asleep when the vampire is sucking him; and as for the loss of a few ounces of blood, that would be a trifle in the long run. Many a night have I slept with my foot out of the hammock to tempt this winged surgeon, expecting that he would be there; but it was all in vain; the vampire never sucked me, and I could never account for his not doing so, for we were inhabitants of the same loft for months together.
Let us now forget for awhile the quadrupeds and other animals, and take a glance at the native Indians of these forests. There are five principal tribes in Demerara, commonly known by the name of Warow, Arowack, Acoway, Carib, and Macoushi. They live in small hamlets consisting never of more than twelve huts. These huts are always in the forest near a river. They are open on all sides (except those of the Macoushi) and covered with a species of palm-leaf.
Both men and women are unclothed. They are a very clean people, and wash in the river at least twice a day. They have very few diseases. I never saw an idiot among their number. Their women never perish at childbirth, owing no doubt to their never wearing stays. They are very jealous of their liberty, and much attached to their own mode of living. Some Indians who have accompanied white men to Europe, on returning to their own land, have thrown off their clothes, and gone back into the forests.
Let us now return to natural history. One morning I killed a Coulacanara, a snake 14 feet long, large enough to have crushed any one of us to death. After skinning it I could easily get my head into his mouth, as its jaws admit of wonderful extension. A Dutch friend of mine killed a boa 22 feet long, with a pair of stag's horns in his mouth. He had swallowed the stag but could not get the horns down. In this plight the Dutchman found him as he was going in his canoe up the river, and sent a ball through his head.
One Sunday morning a negro informed me that he had discovered a great snake in a large tree which had been upset by a whirlwind and was lying decaying on the ground. I had been in search of a large serpent for a long time. I told two negroes to follow me while I led the way with a cutlass in my hand. Taking as an additional weapon a long lance, I carried this perpendicularly before me, with the point about a foot from the ground. The snake had not moved, and on getting up to him, I struck him with the lance just behind the neck, and pinned him to the ground. That moment the negro next to me seized the lance and held it fast in its place, while I dashed up to grapple with the serpent, and to get hold of his tail before he could do any mischief.
The snake on being pinned gave a tremendous hiss. We had a sharp fray, rotten sticks flying on all sides, and each party struggling for superiority. I called to the second negro to throw himself on me, as I found I was not heavy enough. He did so and the additional weight was of great service. I had now got firm hold of his tail, and after a violent struggle or two, he gave in. So I contrived to unloose my braces and with them tied up the snake's mouth.
The serpent now tried to better himself and set resolutely to work, but we overpowered him. We contrived to make him twist himself round the shaft of the lance, and then prepared to convey him out of the forest. I stood at his head and held it firm under my arm, one negro supported the belly, and the other the tail. In this order we slowly moved towards home, resting ten times. The snake vainly fought hard for freedom. At my abode I cut his throat. He bled like an ox. By next evening he was completely dissected.
When I had done with the carcase of the great snake it was conveyed into the forest, as I expected it would attract the king of the vultures, as soon as time should have rendered it sufficiently savoury. In a few days it sent forth that odour which a carcase should, and about twenty of the common vultures came and perched on the neighbouring trees. The king of the vultures came too; and I observed that none of the common ones inclined to begin breakfast till his majesty had finished. When he had consumed as much snake as nature informed him would do him good, he retired to the top of a high mora-tree, and then all the common vultures fell to and made a hearty meal.
When canoeing down the noble river Essequibo I had an adventure with a cayman, which we caught with a shark hook baited with the flesh of the acouri. The cayman was ten and a half feet long. He had swallowed the bait in the night and was thus fast to the end of a rope. My people pulled him up from the depths and out he came—"monstrum horrendum, informe." I saw that he was in a state of fear and perturbation. I jumped on his back, immediately seized his forelegs, and by main force twisted them on his back; thus they served for a bridle.
The cayman now seemed to have recovered from his surprise and plunged furiously, and lashed the sand with his long tail. I was out of reach of the strokes of it, by being near his head. He continued to plunge and strike, and made my seat very uncomfortable. It must have been a fine sight for an unoccupied spectator. The people roared in triumph and pulled us above forty yards on the sand. It was the first time I was ever on a cayman's back. Should it be asked how I managed to keep my seat, I would answer that I hunted for some years with Lord Darlington's foxhounds.
After some further struggling the cayman gave in. I now managed to tie up his jaws. He was finally conveyed to the canoe and then to the place where we had suspended our hammocks. There I cut his throat and after breakfast commenced the dissection.
Travels in France
I.—The First Journey, 1787
Arthur Young was born September 11, 1741, at Whitehall; died April 20, 1820. Most of his life was spent on his patrimonial estate at Bradfield Hall, near Bury St. Edmunds, England. He was the son of the Rev. Dr. Arthur Young, rector of Bradfield, Prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral, and Chaplain to Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons. On his father's death he took to farming, but at the same time addicted himself to literature, becoming a parliamentary reporter. Arthur Young was indeed much more successful in literary pursuits than in the practice of husbandry. His book entitled "A Tour Through the Southern Counties of England" achieved great popularity. This he actively followed by writing other works describing agricultural conditions in various parts of England, and in Ireland. His vivid and interesting style secured for his treatises a very wide circulation. In 1784 he commenced the issue of an annual register entitled "The Annals of Agriculture" of which 45 volumes were published. Three years later an invitation from the Comte de la Rochefoucauld induced Young to visit France. He went a second and a third time, and created a sensation by the publication of an account of his experiences during the three consecutive years that immediately preceded the Revolution. Arthur Young travelled on horseback through many districts of France in the midst of the disturbances. So realistic is his account that it is regarded as the most reliable record ever written of the French rural conditions of that period. The French Directory ordered all Young's works to be translated into French, and they are as popular as ever to-day across the Channel.
There are two methods of writing travels; to register the journey itself, or the result of it. In the former case it is a diary; the latter usually falls into the shape of essays on distinct subjects. A journal form has the advantage of carrying with a greater degree of credibility; and, of course, more weight. A traveller who thus registers his observations is detected the moment he writes of things he has not seen. If he sees little, he must register little. The reader is saved from imposition. On the other hand a diary necessarily leads to repetitions on the same subjects and the same ideas.
In favour of composing essays there is the counterbalancing advantage that the matter comes with the full effect of force and completeness from the author. Another admirable circumstance is brevity, by the rejection of all useless details. After weighing the pour and the contre, I think it not impracticable to retain in my case the benefit of both plans.
JOURNAL. May 15. The strait that separates England, fortunately for her, from the rest of the world, must be crossed many times before the traveller ceases to be surprised at the sudden and universal change that surrounds him on landing at Calais. The scene, the people, the language, every object is new. The noble improvement of a salt marsh by Mons. Mourons of this town, occasioned my acquaintance some time ago with that gentleman. I spent an agreeable and instructive evening at his house.
May 17. Nine hours rolling at anchor had so fatigued my mare, that I thought it necessary to rest her one day; but this morning I left Calais. For a few miles the country resembles parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. The aspect is the same on to Boulogne. Towards that town I was pleased to find many seats belonging to people who reside there. How often are false ideas conceived from reading and report. I imagined that nobody but farmers and labourers in France lived in the country; and the first ride I take in that kingdom shows me a score of country seats. The road is excellent.
May 18. Boulogne is not an ugly town, and from the ramparts of the upper part the view is beautiful. Many persons from England reside here, their misfortunes in trade or extravagance in living making their sojourn abroad more agreeable than at home.
The country around improves. It is more inclosed. There are some fine meadows about Bonbrie, and several chateaux. I am not professedly on husbandry in this diary, but must just observe, that it is to the full as bad as the country is good; corn miserable and yellow with weeds, yet all summer fallowed with lost attention.
May 22. Poverty and poor crops at Amiens. Women are now ploughing with a pair of horses to sow barley. The difference of the customs of the two nations is in nothing more striking than in the labours of the sex; in England it is very little they will do in the fields except to glean and make hay; the first is a party of pilfering, and the second of pleasure; in France they plough and fill the dung-cart.
May 25. The environs of Clermont are picturesque. The hills about Liancourt are pretty and spread with a kind of cultivation I have never seen before, a mixture of vineyards (for here the vines first appear), gardens and corn. A piece of wheat, a scrap of lucorne, a patch of clover or vetches, a bit of vine with cherry and other fruit trees scattered among all, and the whole cultivated with the spade; it makes a pretty appearance, but must form a poor system of trifling.
The forest around Chantilly, belonging to the Prince of Conde, is immense, spreading far and wide. They say the capitainerie, or paramountship, is above 100 miles in circumference. That is to say, all the inhabitants for that extent are pestered with game, without permission to destroy it, for one man's diversion. Ought not these capitaineries to be extirpated?
May 27. At Versailles. After breakfasting with Count de la Rochefoucauld at his apartments in the palace, where he is grand master of the wardrobe, was introduced by him to the Duke de la Rochefoucauld. As the duke is going to Luchon in the Pyrenees, I am to have the honour of being one of the party. The ceremony of the day was the king's investing the Duke of Berri with the cordon bleu. The queen's band was in the chapel during the function, but the musical effect was thin and weak. During the service the king was seated between his two brothers, and seemed by his carriage and inattention to wish himself a hunting. The queen is the most beautiful woman I saw to-day.
May 30. At Orleans. The country around is one universal flat, unenclosed, uninteresting, and even tedious, but the prospect from the steeple of the fine cathedral is commanding, extending over an unbounded plain, through which the magnificent Loire bends his stately way, in sight for 14 leagues.
May 31. On leaving Orleans, enter the miserable province of Sologne. The poor people who cultivate the soil here are metayers, that is, men who hire the land without ability to stock it; the proprietor is forced to provide seed and cattle, and he and his tenant divide the produce; a miserable system that perpetuates poverty and prevents instruction. The same wretched country continues to La Loge; the fields are scenes of pitiable management, as the houses are full of misery. Heaven grant me patience while I see a country thus neglected, and forgive me the oaths I swear at the absence and ignorance of the possessors.
June 11. See for the first time the Pyrenees, at the distance of 150 miles. Towards Cahors the country changes and has something of a savage aspect, yet houses are seen everywhere, and one-third of it under vines. The town is bad; its chief trade and resource are wines and brandies.
June 14. Reach Toulouse, which is a very large and very ancient city, but not peopled in proportion to its size. It has had a university since 1215 and has always prided itself on its taste for literature and art. The noble quay is of great length.
June 16. A ridge of hills on the other side of the Garonne, which began at Toulouse, became more and more regular yesterday; and is undoubtedly the most distant ramification of the Pyrenees, reaching into this vast vale quite to Toulouse, but no farther. Approach the mountains; the lower ones are all cultivated, but the higher ones seem covered with wood. Meet many wagons, each loaded with two casks of wine, quite backward in the carriage, and as the hind wheels are much higher than the lower ones, it shows that these mountaineers have more sense than John Bull.
The wheels of these wagons are all shod with wood instead of iron. Here for the first time, see rows of maples, with vines trained in festoons from tree to tree; they are conducted by a rope of bramble, vine cutting, or willow. They give many grapes, but bad wine. Pass St. Martino, and then a large village of well built houses, without a single glass window.
June 17. St. Gaudens is an improving town, with many new houses, something more than comfortable. An uncommon view of St. Bertrand. You break at once upon a vale sunk deep enough beneath the point of view to command every hedge and tree, with that town clustered round its large cathedral, on a rising ground. The mountains rise proudly around, and give their rough frame to this exquisite little picture. Immense quantities of poultry in all this country; most of it the people salt and keep in grease.
Quit the Garonne some leagues before Serpe, where the river Neste falls into it. The road to Bagnere is along this river, in a narrow valley, at one end of which is built the town of Luchon, the termination of our journey; which has to me been one of the most agreeable I ever undertook. Having now crossed the kingdom, and been in many French inns, I shall in general observe, that they are on an average better in two respects, and worse in all the rest, than those in England. We have lived better in point of eating and drinking beyond a question, than we should have done in going from London to the Highlands of Scotland, at double the expense.
The common cookery of the French gives great advantage. It is true they roast everything to a chip if they are not cautioned, but they give such a number and variety of dishes, that if you do not like some, there are others to please your palate. The dessert at a French inn has no rival at an English one. But you have no parlour to eat in; only a room with two, three, or four beds. Apartments badly fitted up; the walls whitewashed; or paper of different sorts in the same room; or tapestry so old as to be a fit nidus for moths and spiders; and the furniture such, that an English innkeeper would light his fire with it.
For a table you have everywhere a board laid on cross bars, which are so conveniently contrived as to leave room for your legs only at the end. Oak chairs with rush bottoms, and the back universally perpendicular, defying all idea of rest after fatigue. Doors give music as well as entrance; the wind whistles through their chinks; and hinges grate discord. Windows admit rain as well as light; when shut they are not easy to open; and when open not easy to shut.
Mops, brooms, and scrubbing brushes are not in the catalogue of the necessaries of a French inn. Bells there are none; the fille must always be bawled for; and when she appears, is neither neat, well dressed, nor handsome. The kitchen is black with smoke; the master commonly the cook, and the less you see of the cooking the more likely you are to have a stomach to your dinner. The mistress rarely classes civility or attention to her guests among the requisites of her trade. We are so unaccustomed in England to live in our bed-chambers that it is at first awkward in France to find that people live nowhere else. Here I find that everybody, let his rank be what it may, lives in his bed-chamber.
II.—Second Journey, 1788
August 27. Cherbourg. Not a place for a residence longer than is necessary. I was here fleeced more infamously than at any other town in France.
Sept. 5. To Montauban. The poor people seem poor indeed; the children terribly ragged, if possible worse clad than if with no clothes at all; as to shoes and stockings, they are luxuries. A beautiful girl of six or seven playing with a stick, and smiling under such a bundle of rags as made my heart ache to see her. One-third of this province seems uncultivated, and nearly all of it in misery. What have kings, and ministers, and parliaments, and states, to answer for their prejudices, seeing millions of hands that would be industrious, idle and starving through the execrable maxims of despotism, or the equally detestable prejudices of a feudal nobility. Sleep at the "Lion d'Or," at Montauban, an abominable hole.
The 8th. Enter Bas Bretagne. One recognises at once another people, meeting numbers who know no French. Enter Guingamp by gateways, towers, and battlements, apparently the oldest military architecture; every part denoting antiquity, and in the best preservation. The habitations of the poor are miserable heaps of dirt; no glass, and scarcely any light; but they have earth chimneys.
Sept. 21. Came to an improvement in the midst of sombre country. Four good houses of stone and slate, and a few acres run to wretched grass, which have been tilled, but all savage, and become almost as rough as the rest. I was afterwards informed that this improvement, as it is called, was wrought by Englishmen, at the expense of a gentleman they ruined as well as themselves. I demanded how it had been done? Pare and burn, and sow wheat, then rye, and then oats. Thus it is for ever and ever! The same follies, blundering, and ignorance; and then all the fools in the country said as they do now, that these wastes are good for nothing. To my amazement I find that they reach within three miles of the great commercial city of Nantes.
The 22nd. At Nantes, a town which has that sign of prosperity of new buildings that never deceives. The quarter of the Comedie is magnificent, all the streets at right angles and of white stone. Messrs. Epivent had the goodness to attend me in a water expedition, to view the establishment of Mr. Wilkinson, for boring cannon, in an island on the Loire, below Nantes. Until that well-known English manufacturer arrived, the French knew nothing of the art of casting cannon solid, and then boring them.
Nantes is as enflamme in the cause of liberty as any town in France can be. The conversations I have witnessed here prove how great a change is effected in the mind of the French, nor do I believe it will be possible for the present government to last half a century longer. The American revolution has laid the foundation of another in France, if government does not take care of itself. On the 23rd one of the twelve prisoners from the Bastille arrived here—he was the most violent of them all—and his imprisonment has not silenced him.
[AUTHOR'S NOTE.—It wanted no great spirit of prophecy to foretell this revolution; but later events have shown that I was very wide of the mark when I talked of fifty years. The twelve gentlemen of Bretagne deputed to Versailles, mentioned above, were sent with a denunciation of the ministers for their suspension of provincial parliaments. They were at once sent to the Bastille. It was this war of the king and the parliaments that brought about the assembly of the States General, the step being decided on by the assembly of Grenoble, July 21, 1788.]
III.—Third Journey, 1789
June 5. Passage to Calais; 14 hours for reflection in a vehicle that does not allow one power to reflect.
The 8th. At Paris, which is at present in such a ferment about the States General, now holding at Versailles, that conversation is absolutely absorbed by them. The nobility and clergy demand one thing, the commons another. The king, court, nobility, clergy, army, and parliament are nearly in the same situation. All these consider, with equal dread, the ideas of liberty, now afloat; except the king, who, for reasons obvious to those who know his character, troubles himself little, even with circumstances that concern his character the most intimately.
The 9th. The business going forward at present in the pamphlet shops of Paris is incredible. Every hour produces something new. This spirit of reading political tracts spreads into the provinces, so that all presses of France are equally employed. Nineteen-twentieths of these productions are in favour of liberty, and commonly violent against the clergy and nobility. Is it not wonderful, that while the press teems with the most levelling and seditious principles, that if put into execution would overturn the monarchy, nothing in reply appears, and not the least step is taken by the court to restrain this extreme licentiousness of publication? It is easy to conceive the spirit that must thus be raised among the people.
The 10th. Everything conspires to render the present period in France critical. The want of bread is terrible, and accounts arrive every moment from the provinces of riots and disturbances, and calling in the military, to preserve the peace of the markets. It appears that there would have been no real scarcity if M. Necker would have let the corn trade alone.
The 15th. This has been a rich day, and such an one as ten years ago none could believe would ever arrive in France. Went to the Hall of States at Versailles, a very important debate being expected on the condition of the nation. M. l'Abbe Sieyes opened it. He is a violent republican, absolutely opposed to the present government, which he thinks too bad to be regulated, and wishes to see overturned. He speaks ungracefully and uneloquently, but logically.
M. le Comte de Mirabeau replied, speaking without notes for near an hour in most eloquent style. He opposed with great force the reasoning of the Abbe, and was loudly applauded.
The 20th. News! News! Everyone stares at what everyone might have expected. A message from the king to the presidents of the three orders, that he should meet them on Monday; and, under pretence of preparing the hall for the occasion, the French guards were placed with bayonets to prevent any of the deputies entering the room. The circumstances of doing this ill-judged act of violence have been as ill-advised as the act itself.
The 24th. The ferment at Paris is beyond conception. All this day 10,000 people have been in the Palais Royal. M. Necker's plans of finance are severely criticised, even by his friends.
The 26th. Every hour that passes seems to give the people fresh spirit. The meetings at the palais are more numerous and more violent. Nothing less than a revolution in the government and a free constitution is talked of by all ranks of people; but the supine stupidity of the court is without example. The king's offers of negotiation have been rejected. He changes his mind from day to day.
The 30th. At Nangis, having come from Paris. Entertained at the chateau of the Marquis de Guerchy. The perruquier in the town that dressed me this morning tells me that everybody is determined to pay no taxes; that the soldiers will never fire on the people; but if they should, it is better to be shot, than starved. He gave me a frightful account of the misery of the people. In the market I saw the wheat sold out under the regulation of the magistrates, that no person should buy more than two bushels of wheat at a market, to prevent monopolising. A party of dragoons had been drawn up before the market-cross to prevent violence.
The 15th. At Nancy. Letters from Paris announce that all is confusion. The ministry has been removed and M. Necker ordered to quit France quietly. All to whom I spoke agreed that it was fatal news and that it would occasion great commotion. I am told on every hand that everything is to be feared from the people, because bread is so dear, they are half starved, and consequently ready for commotion. But they are waiting on Paris, which shows the importance of great cities in the life of a nation. Without Paris, I question whether the present revolution, which is fast working in France, could have had an origin.
The 20th. To Strasburg, through one of the richest scenes of cultivation in France, though Flanders exceeds it. I arrived there at a critical moment, for a detachment of troops had brought interesting news of the revolt in Paris—the Gardes Francoises joining the people; the little dependence on the rest of the troops; the storming of the Bastille; in a word, of the absolute overthrow of the old government.
The 21st. I have been witness to scenes curious to a foreigner, but dreadful to Frenchmen who are considerate. Passing through the square of the Hotel de Ville, the mob was breaking the windows with stones, notwithstanding an officer and detachment of horse were there. Perceiving that the troops would not attack them, except in words and menaces, the rioters grew more violent, broke the windows of the Hotel de Ville with stones, attempted to beat in the door with iron bars, and placed ladders to the windows.
In about a quarter of an hour, which gave time for the assembled magistrates to escape by a back door, they burst all open, and entered like a torrent with a universal shout of spectators. From that minute a shower of casements, sashes, shutters, chairs, tables, sofas, books, papers, pictures, etc., rained incessantly from all the windows of the house, which is eighty feet long, and next followed tiles, skirting boards, banisters, frame-work, and everything that could be detached from the building. The troops, both horse and foot, were quiet spectators.
The 30th. At Dijon. At the inn here is a gentleman, unfortunately a seigneur, with wife, three servants, and infant, who escaped from their flaming chateau half naked in the night; all their property lost except the land itself—and this family, valued and esteemed by the neighbours, with many virtues to command the love of the poor, and no oppressions to provoke their enmity. Such abominable actions must bring the more detestation to the cause from being unnecessary; the kingdom might have been settled in a real system of liberty, without the regeneration of fire and sword, plunder, and bloodshed.
August 19. At Thuytz. At eleven at night, a full hour after I had been asleep, the commander of a file of citizen militia, with their muskets, swords, sabres, and pikes entered my chamber, surrounded my bed, and demanded my passport; I was forced to give it, and also my papers. They told me I was undoubtedly a conspirator with the queen, the Comte d'Artois, and the Comte d'Entragues (who has property here), who had employed me as a surveyor to measure their fields, in order to double their taxes. My papers being in English saved me. But I had a narrow escape. It would have been a delicate situation to have been kept a prisoner probably in some common gaol, while they sent a courier to Paris at my expense.