« PreviousContinue »
Wanderings in New South Wales. By G. Bennet, Esq., Fellow of the
Royal College of Surgeons.. 2 vols.
We have received Annuals, Almanacs, Newspapers, and other works, from
The first colony planted in Van Diemen's Land was in 1804. It now contains 32,000 inhabitants, produces a revenue of 90,0001., has a large capital city of. 10,000 people, with numerous public buildings, hotels, taverns, &c.; three commercial banks, a public library and book-society, various private seminaries, and four public schools for poorer children, distillers, brewers, tanners, and timber-mills worked by steam. In 1804, 450 persons were left in this wild and destitute region ; such is the present state in 1834.
The work of Mr. Bennet is such a one as is now required by the public. Statistic details have been furnished in abundance by others, and information useful and necessary to an incipient state of society. Scientific researches into natural history were wanting to the enlarged and improved state of the preseni people, and this has been given by our author. Among the singularities of this vast continent were its animal and vegetable productions, which, like the region in which they live, were found to be the Dec.-YOL. XLII. XO. CLXVIII.
antipodes of our own: bipeds which walked on two legs, and used their tail as a third; moles that were half ducks and half rats, with sundry other extraordinary objects of natural history, required the scientific examination of an intelligent and competent man to inspect their structure, examine their habits, and report the result to the public. This has been amply and successfully done in the volumes before us. Our limited space rarely allows us the pleasure of making extracts; and we therefore refer our readers to • Wanderings in New South Wales' for the fullest and most interesting account of the natural history of this new and noble country that has yet been published.
Among the objects of interest or singularity mentioned, are the Phormium tenax,(New Zealand Hemp,) tea-tree, termite ant, swallows, laughing jack-ass, musk-duck, native women, infanticide, carrying dead children, pressure on head, &c. Nor is the work confined to such subjects. The personal narrative is very entertaining, containing various incidents and adventures, so that the scientific information is not more important than the vehicle through which it is conveyed is amusing.
From Australia our naturalist proceeded to the Eastern Archipelago, and visited China. Perhaps no two portions of the globe are more contrasted; the one starting into notice by emerging, as it were, from the sea, in comparatively modern times, the face of the country covered with barbarism and obscurity, and only holding a scanty civilized population re cently planted on one or two spots: the other, carrying back its annals antecedent to our creation, boasting of arts and sciences long before they appeared in Europe, and every inch of ground covered with swarms of a polished people. We have lately reviewed the work of Mr. Gutzlaff, the first work that has been published of that country, and Mr. Bennet again comes to supply what was left untold by his predecessor. The style is modest and unpretending, detailing curious facts in simple language; and as a work of natural, as well as every other, history, ought to be more anxious for the το οφελιμον than the το τερπνον. .
The work is, in fact, one of exceeding interest even to the general reader, full of curious and indeed entertaining matter; but its chief claims are of a far higher order. It gives us a clear insight into all that is of value and importance in one of the most remarkable of our colonies, where art has not yet triumphed over nature, but which is destined to remain for ages a terra incognita—so vast is its extent, and so numerous are the difficulties that lie in the way of civilization. Mr. Bennet has not laboured only with the energy of an adventurous traveller; he possesses advantages which are enjoyed by few. He is a skilful and experienced naturalist, a practical anatomist, and a man of extensive information on all points essential to the traveller. His book is, therefore, one of rare excellence, and may take its place among the best publications of our time.
Miriam Coffin; or the Whale Fishermen. A Tale. 3 vols. The scene of this work is laid in Nantucket, a little sandy island off the coast of New England ; and the course of the narrative develops various circumstances of the past and present state of the island, and the manners and opinions of its people. The population, it seems, are generally Quakers; and the treatment this blameless, much enduring, and excellent people received from their fellow-emigrants and fellow-sufferers, the Puritans, form a melancholy picture of the human character. Those who clamour most loudly for liberty of conscience, and complain most bitterly of persecution, are themselves the first to practise it, when in power, against all who presume to differ from their own speculative opinions. The bitter suffering of the Protestants, when they attempted to emancipate themselves from the superstitions of the Church of Rome, seemed only to afford them afterwards an example to imitate, Every sect, into which
the Reformation split the Christian world, began to persecute every other who did not think as they did; and their common hostility to the Pope of Rome seemed to render every reformer a pope in his own little circle. But the most odious display of this feeling, perhaps, was exhibited in the conduct of the Puritans of the New World to the Quakers. Forgetting their common sufferings, and that they had both sought safety in common exile, the stronger and more daring sect began immediately to trample on their milder and more passive companions. In the introduction to the work before us, we have some edicts that were passed against them; which, in these our happier times of toleration, seem almost incredible :
“No food or lodgings shall be afforded a Quaker, or Adamite, or other heretic; and if any person turn Quaker, he shall be banished, and not suffered to return on pain of death."
That this, and similar edicts, were not allowed to remain dead letters, the writings of Mathers, and others of the time, afford melancholy proof,
It was this godless persecution by the saints, that drove the benevolent friends of William Penn from the Continent of New England. A man of the name of Macey afforded shelter in his barn, for one night, to some forlorn and houseless Quakers; for which kind act he himself was condemned to the punishment of stripes and a whipping-post. To escape this, he seized on a boat, and, with two companions, rowed out to a sand-bank, at some distance from the main. Here he took refuge, and was joined by his persecuted friends and others; and so at length he founded the colony of Nantucket-the scene of Miriam Coffin.
The island is a barren sand, and affords no means of existence in itself; but the inhabitants are supported by the surrounding element. They are the most expert whale-fishers in the world; and the barks built in this sterile, insular spot, pass Cape Horn, visit the regions round the South Pole, and remain absent from home for three years on their enterprising excursions. One of these affords matter for the book.
The following is a picture of an islander, and his employment, after a violent storm had subsided :
“The sun had just risen to dispel the hazy atmosphere, that rested like a thin mist on the surface of the sea, when the indistinct figure of a man was seen moving to and fro on the beach, at the side of the island opposite Thabourne. At times the man stopped, and bent his looks earnestly on the heaving ocean; then slowly resuming his mazy perambulations over the sands—the object of his coming seemed to have been forgotten. In his left hand he carried a short spy-glass, which afterwards, as he looked sea-ward, he applied occasionally to his eye, and carefully swept the whole range of the horizon. His right hand grasped a stout hickory walkingcane, of great length, curiously carved by the jack-knife of some Courburg whale. fisher. The staff was armed at the smaller end with a pointed iron, from the side of which a short grapple turned upwards, in the shape of a well-curved boat-hook. The dress of the lone pedestrian was such as the reader may still occasionally see in the habiliments of an aged Quaker in any part of Europe, or America, or wheresoever else the Society of Friends is still tolerated. Like the last of the cocked hats,' it is fast disappearing ;" (we are sorry for it) “and, in almost every other place in America but Nantucket, it may be pronounced rare and ancient. The steps of the nameless stranger were arrested by the appearance of an ill-defined object, which floated heavily in the water, close to the shore: it came gradually nearer to the land. The man instantly pulled out a small cord from his pocket, and rigged a snip noose at one end. He then cast it over the figure-head of his walkingstick, and threw the line, with the expertness of a sailor, far up the beach. Watching his opportunity, and taking advantage of the receding wave, he dashed into the water, and, in an instant afterwards, the hook of his cane was inserted under the ropes that secured the extreme of the floating package. A moment more sufficed him to regain the shore, with the cord trailing in his hand, as he retired from the water."
The packet was found to be a bale of light fancy goods, wrapped up in a water-proof tarpaulin, which had floated from some wrecked ship. The
islanders go in search of such things at the dawn of day, after any storm; but with a sense of justice different from the wreckers in any other part of the world. They always advertise what they find in the colonial newspapers, and it is only when no owners can be discovered that they appropriate them to their own use. A further instance of integrity is, that he who first finds it, has only to set his mark on it, and pass on; it is respected as his property by every succeeding adventurer who may come upon it. This mark is called a waif, and derives it name and use from the whalefishery.
“ The waif, or target-shaped board, and sometimes a little pennon of bunting, fastened at the end of a slender pole, and stuck into the body of a slain whale at sea, is found among the whale-fishermen of all nations. It happens frequently that the crews of several vessels are at once engaged in a school of whales. When one is struck with the harpoon, and the death-blow is given with the lance, which brings his belly to the sun, the successful crew forth with plant the waif-pole firmly and deeply in his flesh, and thenceforth leave the carcass in pursuit of other animals. When the work of death is ended, the ships and boats shape their course towards the slaughtered whales, and the property of each is made out by the peculiar mark of the waif. All dispute as to the identity of the fish is avoided—the waif settles the question at once and for ever."
The work is more valuable for such local and characteristic notices, than for any interest in the story. The style is too affected, sometimes verbose and dilated, and sometimes vulgar from an attempt at wit and French phraseology. A man finds a cask of sugar, and while he is standing
like a Colossus on the cask, “ a neighbour crept par derrièr, and while Monsieur le Premier was filling his sack from the cask, Monsieur le Second cut a hole therein; and the Waifer was left in a purgatory of astonishment, at finding the cask one-quarter less, and his sack minus of its contents." Another fault is a want of accuracy in quotations. The author gives the music of a serenade, with words from “the pen of Sheridan.” They are the pretty stanzas of " Too late I staid, forgive the Crime!" which were parodied in the Rejected Addresses, as affording the peculiar style of their author, who every one, but Miriam Coffin, knows to have been, not Sheridan, but the Hon. William Spencer.
The Book of Beauty for 1835. Edited by the Countess of Blessington.
There never was a happier title than the one prefixed to this notice“ The Book of Beauty ! Why, no gentleman having the slightest pretension to gallantry could be without such a book; its title-page is a sufficient introduction-a recommendation that few can withstand. Nor indeed need they endeavour to do so; the volume is not only rich in pictorial embellishments, but in that species of literature which, graceful and pleasing, is replete with excellent feeling and good taste.
Landor's “ Imaginary Conversation" is racy and full of point; the picture it presents is inimitable--it is a bit cut from the old masters, without retaining an atom of their grossness. The Sisters," a beautiful portrait, or rather beautiful portraits, is illustrated by a most stirring, graceful, and pathetic dialogue, from the pen of the accomplished editor. How touching from its pure simplicity is the following description! enough is contained in eleven lines to furnish forth a novel in three goodly volumes : « Louisa.
And where was he-
“ Matilda. Fled ! 'twas a summer love; the first wild cloud
And when she greeted him no more with smiles,
She lived-and loved-and died !” This is really a gem, set by the hand of nature, and cold indeed must that heart be, which does not enshrine it in its secret temple !-a thing to love and weep over, when octavos of maudlin sentiment must fail to produce a single tear. It appears to us to be the fashion with a certain set of critics to depreciate " The Book of Beauty" and " The Keepsake," because the contributors have in their estimation the misfortune to be chiefly numbered amid the aristocracy. Literary people are ever complaining that they are neglected by people of rank in England, and there is much truth in the observation ; but the instant " my Lord" or "my Lady" place themselves on a level with the literary portion of society by embarking in the same pursuit, an unworthy jealousy takes possession of our tribe, and they endeavour to lower instead of upholding what is a tacit compliment to themselves. Many of the contributors to this volume have already obtained celebrity, and honestly deserve it. Lady Charlotte Bury is known and respected by all classes, and Lady Blessington herself has contributed largely and in various ways, to the improvement of our taste and information. We have no right to expect what is called “ solid reading" in an Annual—that is left for the perannual species; and if we did meet lectures, sermons, and philosophy in a drawing-room book, we should call them out of place.
The engravings are in various degrees of excellence-from the exquisite “ Fountain Nymph,' where Chalon has excelled himself, to the " Late Duchess of Gordon,” a specimen of Reynolds in his best style.“ Helen," accompanied by some of Barry Cornwall's beautiful poetry, is the least to our taste of any of the series; and we must also confess that we prefer Mr. Willis's lines to Mrs. Leicester Stanhope-not to the subject herself, but to the portrait, which has libelled her loveliness ;-it is too bold and staring, which she certainly is not. Altogether the book is indeed one of beauty, and we congratulate the accomplished lady whose skill and talents have so highly contributed to our enjoyment.
We have, we believe, seen all, or nearly all, the Annuals, and have no hesitation in pronouncing “ The Book of Beauty" the most beautiful, the most entertaining, and the most rational of the whole family. The portraits are, for the most part, lovely to look upon, and as works of art they are of rare excellence; but, as we have already intimated, the book by no means depends solely for success on its pictorial attractions. In addition to those whose contributions we have glanced at, Lady Blessington has obtained the assistance of Thomas Moore, the Authors of “ Vivian Grey”
Rockwood,” Mrs. Shelley, James Smith, Lord Castlereagh (who has written a very admirable tale), the Authors of “ Cecil Hyde” and “ The Heliotrope,” Leitch Ritchie, Edward Fitzgerald, and the Ladies (though last, not least) E. S. Wortley and Isabella St. John ; and among the rest are some lines full of feeling by a niece of the accomplished Editor -Mrs. Fairlie.
Warleigh, or the Fatal Oak. By Mrs. Bray. 3 vols. We know not any living writer whose scenic descriptions are as vivid or as real as those of Mrs. Bray. You see what she describes; you look upon a picture, not upon a page. Woods, rocks, mountains, pass in array before you, and leave an impression upon the mind which remains long after the book is closed. This happy faculty is better developed in "Warleigh" than in any of the accomplished lady's former works; she has succeeded admirably in depicting the beautiful scenery of Devon. There is also another quality which renders Mrs. Bray's works so valuable to the home readers of our country houses and domestic hearths—their purity;