« PreviousContinue »
have been sup
the shortest road, and to have him conveyed back to Europe accompanied by a chasseur.” “England and Russia," Professor Hansteen remarks on this, "rivals in commerce and in politics, watch one another with mistrust, more especially in all that concerns the north-west coast of America, China, India, and Persia. The blind tourist was probably taken for the secret agent of some English company.” It appears absurd to expel a blind man from a country as a spy: but when we consider how these things are managed in Russia, it will be felt that the cecity of the agent was just the circumstance to arouse suspicion, as it may posed that a blind agent was selected to throw Russian watchfulness off its guard. It is thus that too much cunning often defeats itself; and if utter innocence and simplicity are generally the best safeguards against such machinations and intrigues, still they cannot always, as in the extreme case of Lieutenant Holman, save an individual from persecution.
On the 23rd of May, Hansteen took boat upon the Jenisei, accompanied by a goodly party of friends and assistants. Even Jews and bearded merchants had slipped unperceived into the boat in order to obtain a free passage down the river. The navigation of this great stream proved monotonous enough, owing to the uniform level low banks, rarely enlivened by the presence of towns, villages, or even jurtes, or encampments of Buretes. There are, however, some rapids called porogs, and at such points the country is more picturesque. Nor is the descent at these points unaccompanied by danger. One of the most considerable of these porogs, called that of Schamanskoi
, was still encumbered with masses of ice. The descent of this porog Hansteen describes as being, however, a party of pleasure, for it was not attended with danger. “As far as the eye could reach, we saw before us, in a straight line, the cataract stretching along ten versts, one continuous succession of waves with white summits, hemmed in on both sides by dark perpendicular rocks, with a line of blue sky for a vault, a scene which reminded me of Krogkleven.” “I am surprised," the professor adds, "that English tourists have not yet been tempted to make excursions on the Angara (Upper Jenisei). It is truly a marvellous slide (glissoire)—that of Tivoli at Copenhagen is mere child's play by the side of it; it appears as if one was drawn into a tunnel, and, when we think how often Switzerland has been explored, that Mont Blanc has been so frequently ascended, that the cataracts of Rjukan and of Voring have been so often visited, and that salmon has been so frequently fished for at the fall of Leeren, it would seem that the epoch cannot be far removed when some wealthy Briton, weary of his foggy England, will take the road of the porogs of the Angara." Not, we suspect, whilst without a reason or a proof, or even search for one, a tourist is exposed to be treated as Lieutenant Holman was. The picturesque has also some drawbacks. It is not an uncommon thing for the crew, whose only garment, like the Buretes, is often a dirty sheepskin, to be covered with vermin, and the tourist has perforce to protect his face from mosquitoes by masks of black horsehair. "Never was crinoline so really useful; no one can live or sleep in summer-time on the Angara or Jenisei without such a protection. The resources of the country, in a dietetic point of view, are also very spare; they consist mainly of salt ox-tongue and black bread, to which may be added now and then fish out of the river, butter, eggs, or milk from the villages of Burete Mongols, and the produce of the chase.
Jeniseisk, although a town of some pretensions, is very imperfectly Oct.–VOL. CXI. NO. CCCCXLII.
deseribed by the professor, who seems to have been most struck at meeting there with some exiled grandees in miserable guise, and invaded by vermin. Such are the ever-recurring seenes in Siberia, and they are truly painful for any man of feeling to read of. From Jeniseisk to Tumchansk, a distance of 921 versts, or 138 geographical miles, there are only five villages with churches (selo), ten without (derevna), and twenty-nine groups of winter houses (simovie). Here, as throughout the Russian dominions, a post is raised in front of every village indicating the number of houses and of souls. By souls they mean men; women do not reckon as such. In winter-time the journey is accomplished by sledges, with horses to Selo Dubtschekoie, and beyond that with dogs; in summertime it is naturally performed by lodka, or boat. At the time of the year (June 26) when Hansteen made his descent, the heat in the daytime was oppressive, “étouffante," he says, and there was no sleeping by night for mosquitoes. They met with troops of Ostiaks coming from Jeniseisk, where they had been to pay their annual tax in skins of sable, squirrels, blue foxes, and others, and were returning to their quarters on the Symm, & tributary to the Jenisei. They were armed with bows and arrows; which they sometimes use against the Russians, for, to prevent the miserable exiles attempting to escape, the authorities have empowered the Ostiaks to shoot any unknown person, who, not belonging to their race, they may meet with on their territory. So much for the pleasures of travelling among the Ostiaks!
Professor Hansteen met with a sect upon the Jenisei called Upadaiustschi, among whom brothers and sisters intermarried. He makes upon this subject some eurious remarks, as coming from a Norwegian philosopher:
The less a people are enlightened the most readily do they become sectarian. It is sufficient that a man, having the gift of the gab, should present himself with an interpretation, however absurd, of some verse in the Bible, that he should find followers, especially if the new dogma should in any way flatter the passions of the multitude. It is in vain that the fallacy is exposed. The answer is, “The mysteries of religion are impenetrable. Reason must be subjugated and supplanted by faith.” There are no limits to the follies that may arise from such maxims. Sects have for the most part their origin from such, and they obtain a footing among the ignorant classes ; thus have we seen, in Russia, the Upadaiustschi and the Starieveri ; in France, Socialists and Fourierists; in England, Puritans and Quakers ; in Sweden, Readers (Läsare); in America, Mormons; in Norway, a more respectable sect, the Haugianer, followers of Hauge ; and in latter times, among the Laps, some fanatics, who preach arson and murder, and have their followers.
The professor's philosophy was doomed to be sorely tried by the mosquitoes. It was all very well to sit in gloves and mask, but he had observations to make and to place them on record, and he justly remarks that it was very trying to hold an instrument in one hand and a chronometer in the other, and, so long as the observation lasted, to let myriads of these tiny persecutors bite away their fill undisturbed! The professor wore shoes of red morocco leather, with silk ties, and feeling an insufferable itching, he examined them, and found that they had become the nestling places of myriads of fies, who sent their proboscis right through into his flesh. A little relief was obtained at Turuchansk, but it was only partial, for the professor complains bitterly of interruptions from vermin and functionaries, for he classes the two together, but he dwells
most upon the latter. He wished to prolong his journey hence to the mouth of the river and the icy ocean, but he was dissuaded from the undertaking, it being rendered utterly impossible by the vast multitudes of mosquitoes, and the consequent absence of all human beings. Turuchansk would be a puzzler for a sanitary commission. Even in the prin. cipal streets the wayfarer has to walk on half rotten planks. I be takes a false step down he goes, up to the knees in sewerage. The surface in summer-time is covered with repulsive slime, and the most abominable vapours are exhaled from below. The reason of this is, that the earth never thaws to a greater depth than two or three feet, and hence no portion of the sewerage of the town is carried off by the soil. It is needless to say that the town is as unhealthy as can be imagined under weh eireumstances. It suffices to reside there a few years to be killed or lose one's health for ever. Our professor remained only just the time sufficient to effect his observations at such an unpleasant spot, rendered, if possible, still more disagreeable by the swarms of mosquitoes; and he retraced his way up the river, the boat being dragged alternately by men, dogs, and horses. The descent oceupied ten days, the return was accomplished in sixteen, the stay at Turuchansk having been of only five days' duration. Restlessness, fatigue, and suffering, had worn the professor down to a state of siekness and despondency, from which, however, he was soon relieved by onee more mingling with society at Jeniseisk.
Returning from this latter town to Krasnojarsk, the professor took a more southerly direction baek, passing from Tomsk to Barnaul and Smeinogorsk, to the so-called Kolyvan mines, and thence along the line of the Kirghese forts to Orenburg. Travelling along these lines of outposts was sufficiently absurd. In Russia every one enjoys a position in the military seale—a professor is equal to a colonel, whilst a commandant of an outpost is only a subaltern; hence, when our professor arrived at one of these posts to spend the night there, the commandant received him with military honours, and after giving in his report, handed over the command for the time being to the philosopher. The professor says that many of these forts are in a very neglected condition, and, in fact, going to rack and ruin. From the town of Semipalatinsk, the most southerly which they visited on the line of the Irtisch, an important commerce, the professor tells us, has been opened within the last few years with the people who inhabit the regions between Taschkent and Thibet, and “we were assured the way lay open to us from thence, not only to the latter country, but to the East Indies, had we chosen to go."
At the little town and citadel of Buchtarminsk, on the Chinese frontier, near the Irtisch, the frontier is guarded on the one side by Russians, on the other by Chinese. The relations of the parties are of so pacific a character, thats
, when autumn arrives, the Chinese leave their arms with the Russians, and take themselves off to more temperate regions. They retum with spring, when their arms are restored to them by the Muscovites. We must consider this simply as another illustration of the fact, that it is not the Chinese people, but the Chinese, or rather Tartar, government which is so exclusive, and that only for its own selfish ends.
On arriving at the citadel of Troisk, the commandant informed them that merchants of Bokhara had brought the cholera to Orenburg (it appears that they consider, cholera to be contagious in Central Asia, however much opinions may differ in this country), and that the city was
surrounded by a military cordon. They accordingly changed their direction, proceeding to Slatoust, situated close to the culminating point of the Ural, and the manufactory of arms for the whole Russian armythe artisans being, it is to be remarked, German. Hearing, however, that the pestilence had diminished in intensity, they turned back upon Orenburg, which they found surrounded by military, whilst great fires had been lighted up at intervals to purify the air, near to each of which was a cross painted black, and processions of priests and monks, all in black, were carrying crosses and images of saints about the town. The fair at Orenburg, Professor Hansteen says, is not only frequented by Kirghiz, Bokharians, Khivians, and Tashkends, but also by East Indians. There is a mosque in the city, as well as nine Greek churches. The Governor of Orenburg was a very different character to the intelligent officer at Krasnoiarsk; he despised all branches of science alike, from terrestrial magnetism to natural history, and he even treated the renowned Humboldt with the same indifference as he manifested towards Hansteen and his pursuits. “I cannot understand,” he is reported to have said of the former, “ how the King of Prussia could give rank to a man who interests himself with such futile things.”
The course of the Ural is erroneously marked on most maps as being from north-east to south-west ; it is from north-west to south-east, leaving to the south-west the great, fiat, saline, and arid expanse of steppe which extends between the rivers Ural and Volga to the Caspian. Orenburg is, hence, on this European steppe of the Kirghiz, whereas the maps make it appear as if physically and politically in Asia. The journey across this great steppe of the Kirghiz was accomplished on camels, and the party were entertained, after visiting the renowned sturgeon-fisheries of the Ural, by the sultans Tanke and Tschuke, and the Khan Dschanger (Janghir), and on the Volga by the Kalmuck Knas, or prince, Tiumen. Professor Parrot was at the very same time engaged in determining barometrically the difference of level between the Sea of Aral and the Caspian, and which has since been ascertained by geometric data to be ninety-three and seven-eighths English feet in favour of the Sea of Aral.
The city of Astrakhan presented as great a contrast and as marked a relief to the journey over the steppes of the Kirghiz, as Tomsk or Irkutsk did to the wilds of Siberia. The approach of winter, and the reports that were rife of cholera raging in Georgia, prevented our travellers from extending their explorations into the trans-Caucasian provinces, and induced them to make the best of their way, by the German and French colonies on the Volga, to Moscow, and thence to St. Petersburg. On arriving at the latter city, the party were favoured with an interview by the Emperor Nicholas. Professor Hansteen took the opportunity of pointing out some geographical errors that existed in the maps of Northern Siberia, more especially in regard to the course of its great rivers, but all the answer vouchsafed by the ambitious monarch was, “ We have countries to the southward which possess a much greater interest in our eyes, and they must be the first to be studied.” No wonder! Which can be of most interest to the power ruling over nearly half of Europe and Asia, the fertile upland valleys of the Jihum (Oxus), the Sihum (Jaxartes), and the Kashgar, with their commercial emporia of Tashkend, Kokand, Bokhara, Samarkand, Balkh, Kunduz, Kashgar, and Yarkand, or the frozen plains of the Jenisei and the Lena ?
SINCE the French language has become so universally read and spoken amongst us, and that foreign literature, whether in its original or translated form, exercises such an increasing influence over the intellectual masses of this country, it may be worth while to consider how far the prejudice existing against French novels (as they now are written, for their style has varied scarcely less than ours, during the last twenty years) is founded in truth and justice. For this purpose we propose to consider two recently-published novels, which have already been widely circulated, and (for certain reasons which we shall touch upon) have met with a larger share than usual of public praise and censure.
"La Daniella,” by Madame George Sand, has been laid under the ban of the Church, and in Italy is strictly interdicted, while the leading journals of France did not think it beneath them to discuss “ Madame Bovary," after it had gained the action brought against its author on the ground of immorality. One wonders at first what can be the nature of the objectionable matter, which has caused two books to meet with reprobation from the Church and from the press, in a country where the prurient fictions of Paul de Kock and a host of similar authors are tolerated, and even read by the female portion of the community. In the case of Madame Sand, the answer is simple. The whole animus of her book is against the Church of Rome, its priests, and institutions ; and the picture it presents of religion in Italy is sufficiently true to render it obnoxious to the ecclesiastical authorities of that country, and dangerous to the interests of the Romish Church all over the world. As an instance of what we mean, there is the hideous anomaly of a peasant obtaining absolution for a sin before its commission ; preparing by three days mortification for the indulgence of vice on the fourth. The moral or immoral atmosphere of the book goes for nothing in the verdict that has been pronounced against it. Not so with “Madame Bovary.” On the ground of the coarseness of certain passages, the Revue de Paris, in which the story first appeared in parts, was suspended for one month. The author belongs to what is denominated the realistic school;” that is to say, painting nature (and it is nature undraped) with the careful finish of a pre-Raphaelite, and uniting, as it were, the qualities of Rubens and Van Eyck. How far such delineation of the truth, and the whole truth,” unveiled in all its deformity, is to be permitted, is a question the French journalists of the present day discuss with a warmth and ability which would have made the periwigs of Messires Racine, Boileau, and all the worthies of that classic period, to stand on end. Perrot was of opinion that certain animals, such as hogs, bulls, &c., ought on no account to be mentioned in poetry, and he lays profane hands on Homer for his transgressions in this line. From which we see how little true and hearty
• La Daniella. Par G. Sand.
Madame Bovary. Par G. Flaubert.