Page images

" It is common," says Mr. Miers, " to see the proprietor of a large vineyard, garden, and pasture ground, a poor and miserable being; his wants are few, and these the climate suppries, and renders little clothing necessary; bis habitation consists of a miserable hovel without doors or windows; a raised mud bench, covered with a carpet, for his bed, or more generally he sleeps in the open air upon a bare hide, stretched upon the ground within his enclosure. A rough table, two or three chairs, a black bottle or two and a glass, constitute all his furniture ; a few earthen dishes and pots comprise all his table and cookery service ; his meals are served up in an earthen bowl, out of which all his family eat in common with himself, with their unwashed fingers, and sip broth with the same horn spoon, which is handed from one to the other. A cotton shirt or two, a jacket and short trousers of coarse blue flannel, constitute the whole of his wardrobe ; his wife and children live huddled together more like pigs tban civilized human beings, and yet this misery is common amidst the utmost abundance that man could desire. Around the miserable hovel is a fine vineyard, abundance of trees which produce olives, figs, peaches, apples, &c. in great profusion, and delightful pasture of rich lucerne grass. His land is stocked with fine horses, cattle, and sheep, all in excellent condition ; though but little attended to by him, nature has poured all these gifts upon him, and irrigation performs the rest."

Travellers, of course, cannot expect to procure better accommodation than is enjoyed by the inhabitants themselves, and therefore, the following description of a lodging-house for travellers, within a few miles of Buenos Ayres, will not surprise :

“ There was neither chair, table, nor bed, in this house of accommodation; these things, or any of them, are rarely to be found in the post houses ; the only means of keeping off the bare ground, is a kind of bedstead of four short stakes driven into the ground, and four cross sticks lashed with strips of hide as a frame, from which a bullock's hide is stretched. Very few of these places possess a door, but a hide is provided to keep out the weather. Another hut made in the same manner, often not plastered with mud, a mere wattled shed, is commonly attached to these residences, and is used for cooking. I need hardly say, these huts have no windows. Scarcely any are plastered or smoothed at all, but are in the rough state which dabbing on the mud with the hands gives them.”

But even these miserable hovels cannot be enjoyed in quietness, for we learn that

“ The greatest objection to them, at least to Europeans, is the incredible number of fleas, bugs, and still more disgusting vermin. The Heas breed in the very earth; this is no exaggeration; for however many years one of these places may have been unoccupied, there does not appear the least diminution of these vermin. There is no exception; every hut is alike, whether it be inhabited or not: they are never swept out, nor is any Alth removed; the ashes from occasional fires made in them, remain from year to year.'

But these are not the only tormentors in these happy lands; we learn in another place

“ The people here slept in the open air, in preference to the half covered hut; done of them, not even the postmaster, had a bed; no one cast off his clothes ; but each stretched out a dried hide upon the bare ground, and laid upon it; a number of saddle cloths were spread thereupon, and they covered themselves with their ponchas. The women slept in the same manner inside the hut, but it is usual for females to sleep in the open air. The wind blew boisterously, so much so, that before we retired to sleep, we could not keep a candle a light in the coach. These huts, like all those in these parts of the country, have no doors. I was for some time at a loss to understand, why these people should thus prefer sleeping exposed to boisterous winds, in the open air, in preference to the sheiter of a roof; but on a better acquaintance with the country, the cause became evident. It is owing to the dread of the benchuca, a winged variety of the cimer; it is in shape and form like the common bug, but of the size of our cockchafer. This insect conceals itself by day in the thatch and cane roofing of the houses, and sallies forth by night in quest of food; the people, therefore, place their beds at some distance from the hut, and always to windward, to avoid their attacks. They annoy mankind after the manner of our common bugs, but from their size, are terrific enemies; they are thin and fiat like the common bug, but after satiating themselves with the blood of man, they become quite round; they take from him as much blood as the ordinary medicinal leach. Cleanliness and care is not of the same avail against the benchuca, as against the common bug, since being winged, it can transport itself from one place to another. It is common over the districts of Mendoza, San Juan, and the inore northern provinces. In the town of Mendoza, this insect is very numerous, and one of the reasons why all the roofs are covered over with a plastering of mud, is to prevent a harbour for this enemy to mankind; in Mendoza, the inhabitants, both men and women, generally prefer sleeping in the court yards of their houses, but when they do sleep in doors, it is an undeviating custom before retiring to rest, to examine the walls carefully, as the benchucas generally crawl out of their hiding places in the canes of the roof after dusk.”

Even here the catalogue of the miseries of this devoted country does not end. They are tormented by locusts; and Mr. Miers thus describes the effects of one of their visitations:

“ From Canada de Lucas to Cerillo, a distance of more than 200 miles, the locusts actually covered the ground, and it is utterly impossible to conceive the numbers of these rapacious insects; the country, but for them, would have been covered with tall thick grass, but it was now only in isolated patches, almost the whole extent of pasture ground for many hundred of square leagues had been entirely devoured to the very roots, and the bare ground only was visible. All the gardens, consisting of extensive plantations of maize pumpkins, melons and water-melons, beans, and other vegetables, had been completely swept off the surface of the earth, not a vestige of them remained; the hard pith of the maize stalks, like so many bare sticks, only pointed out where extensive gardens had existed; the fruit trees equally fell a prey to the voracity of the insect; not only the fruit was devoured, peaches, apples, plums, oranges, &c. not only was every leaf devoured, but the very bark, more especially of the younger shoots, was completely eaten off. In a morning, when the heavy dews of the night yet remain upon its wings, the locust is unable to fly more than a few yards at a time, and then the ground is covered with them. As we gallop along, we see them hopping aside by thousands to avoid being crushed by the horses' feet; but, by the time the sun has attained its meridian height, we find them incessantly on the wing, and in riding along nothing can be conceived more annoying than the manner in which they fly against the face of the traveller. which they strike is considerable, and unless constantly on the guard to close the eyes, the violence of the blow might produce serious consequences to that delicate organ. I rode one afternoon thirteen leagues, between the Arroyo de San Jose and the Esquina de Medrano, through one uninterrupted flight of locusts; they were flying at a good pace before the wind in a contrary direction to our course, which we rode at the rate of twelve miles an hour. They flew in a thick uninterrupted crowd about twenty feet over our heads, the air appearing as if filled with large Aakes of falling snow, but the distance of the level pampas seemed shut in all round with a thick haze which actually darkened the horizon. The myriads and myriads of insects we must have passed on that afternoon are far beyond all calculation. Next morning the ground was covered with them, as before stated, and the day was followed up by an interminable flight of these insects. The town of Cordova was beset with them, the gardens wholly destroyed, and the white-washed walls were hidden by the swarms that covered them. They entered the houses devouring food of all kinds—nothing was free from their voracity. Curtains, clothes, and furniture, were more or less attacked; slaves were employed to sweep them off the walls of the rooms, and frighten them away as much as possible. These insects became so voracious for want of food, before they left the place, that they began devouring each other, and millions were left dead upon the ground."

To these destroyers may be added “the hot hurricanes.”

“ Whenever these winds blow in Mendoza, every body is seen running into their homes, the doors and windows of every habitation are closely shut, and the inmates light candles as if the night was come. The wind is a perfect hurricane, often doing much mischief to the chacras and orchards, the atmosphere is clouded, with dust and sand raised by the wind; the air feels hot and scorching, like a violent blast from a furnace; in the course of a few minutes, the thermometer has been known to rise twenty degrees ; the heat indeed is insufferable, and brings pestilence with it."

The force with


2 K

We will now turn to the inhabitants of this highly favored country---this El Dorado of our Stock-Exchange schemers.

" Such are the filthy habits of these people, that none of them ever think of washing their faces, and very few ever wash or repair their garments; once put on, they remain in wear day and night until they rot. The poncho is the only article of dress which is ever removed; those who have one, sometimes take it off to cover themselves at night when stretched on the bedstead before described, or on what is by far more common, a hide spread on the ground.”

Again we find :

“ The least bodily exertion, except riding on horseback, is avoided as much as pos. sible by the people of this country; they will sit the whole day basking in the sun, or enjoying their favorite amusement, to which the women are particularly partial, that of picking the vermin out of each other's hair. The whole people are, notwithstanding, healthy, robust, muscular, and athletic."

As we proceed we learn :-

“ I could discover no regular employment that any of the people here followed; true it is, this was Sunday; but from all I could see, and all I could learn, there was no sort of regular employment. I could not make out from them how they contrived to live. During, by far, the greatest part of the day, the women were basking iu the sun, and conferring on each other the mutual favor (for it is their great delight) of picking the vermin from their hair. They were shamefully dirty. Their dress (and the dress of all the women in the country is much the same) consisted of a dark blue coarse baize petticoat of native manufacture, and a sort of shift made of white cotton, which is seldom or never off their backs until it rots off; dirt and grease had made them the color of the ground on which they reposed."

Of the morality of these people, the following is a specimen :-

" It is the custom, throughout South America, and more especially in these united provinces, for every baciendado (land-owner) to build upon some central part of his estate, a pulperia (liquor shop) and a chapel close together; the latter as the means of drawing custom to the former, which forms no trifling branch of profit. On a feast day, the people within a certain distance repair to the pulperia, which is generally provided with two rooms, one for the mere gauchos, the other for their betters. Drinking and gaming is carried on without intermission, until the bell announces that the elevation of the host is at hand; in an instant they all rush out of the pulperia, leaving the stakes, which are sometimes considerable, on the table, and, with demure faces, kneel before the host, the elevation of which is about to save their souls from damnation ; they groan and cry aloud to the Virgin to protect them, and, in their momentary devotion, might be taken by a bye-stander for penitent and sincere Christians. But the moment the service is concluded, they rush out again, and those who have left their stakes undecided, flock back with precipitation to protect their property; in a moment all their religion is forgotten, all are occupied in betting and drunken revelry, in which the friar, who has been the organ in effecting the momentary penitence and sorrow, and has saved their souls from perdition, stands foremost in the general debauch, which is continued till late at night. On these occasions the pulpero, or keeper of the pulperia, is generally the banker of the gaming tables, in virtue of which privilege he is sure to come off winner if he be ordinarily prudent; and the quantity of liquor drank by the gauchos, both inside and outside, affords him a considerable profit.”

The following is a curious and characteristic sketch :

“ We stepped into a room filled with people ; many were seated round four tables, and those again were surrounded by groupes of bye-standers, who all seemed to take an equal interest

the game. The presence of two foreigners excited no attention, for every one was too deeply occupied in gambling to take notice of any thing else. The presence of an English lady, the third who had ever visited Mendoza, might, it would have been suppose have called forth some display of curiosity or remark, but it did not; this is characteristic of the people, but with few exceptions, all over South America. This was on a Sunday night, the game was one of hazard called Monté, a favorite play in all Spanish societies; there were assembled round the four tables about fifty persons, and


though at each table only one person seemed to play the cards, all around were betting what they pleased upon the cards, as they were turned up by the dealer or banker, who always manages the numerous stakes and bets against the whole company. Each table was covered with heaps of money, many piles of gold onzas (each worth three guineas), numerous others of dollars, and several of smaller money. I was astonished to observe the high bets, and the great quantity of money upon the table; no less than the quick succession of the hazards and the eagerness, as well as quietness, with which all pursued the game. While engaged in contemplating this novel scene, I was surprised to observe, on a sudden, a general and rapid movement of the whole company toward the door, and in an instant to see every individual upon his knees beating his heart and muttering a prayer; we alone remaining behind, lost in amazement at the cause of this mysterious

After a short and silent pause, the whole company returned with great precipitancy, each scrambling to resume his former place, and to engage himself once more in the amusement that seemed to interest him so deeply. On inquiry, I found this general movement was caused by a temblor, a slight shock of an earthquake, to which, as strangers, we were yet insensible, for neither of us experienced the least sensation."

We will sum up the description of these half-civilized Christians in the words of Mr. Miers, and are sure nothing can more forcibly deter men from entering into speculations connected with the new states in South America, than a little knowledge of the true character of the inhabitants. We might multiply amusing extracts, but space will not permit us to add any thing to the following:

" The moral debasement of the population is great beyond belief; it is produced in no small measure by the intolerant system under which they are bred, and is increased by the terror excited by the priests and the tyrannic sway exercised over their understandings: they are taught implicit obedience, intolerable deception, and absurd fanaticism ; every good and moral feeling is stified in the bud; human industry and ingenuity are destroyed, by the belief that a confidence in the Virgin is of more effect in assisting the progress of nature, or in averting the evils and miseries attendant upon our earthly career, than a more rational and manly reliance upon our own muscular and mental exertions over the elements of the material world which has been placed under our immediate control.

“ The Chilenos, though they may be said to possess in no degree a single virtue, have the credit of possessing fewer vices than other Creoles ; there is a passiveness, an evenness, about them approaching to the Chinese, whom they strongly resemble in many respects: even in their physiognomy they have the broad low forehead and contracted eyes; they have the same cunning, the same egotism, and the same disposition to petty theft. They are remarkable, too, for extreme patience and endurance under privations; they can seldom be moved to passion, and are most provokingly unfeeling. A foreigner may use towards a Chileno the most opprobrious epithets, may convict him of falsehood and deception, may fly into a passion about his conduct, but he cannot be moved from his sang froid, he will bear all patiently, even blows, and look at a stranger with a sneer : his patience is not unlike that of the sheep, the camel, or the lama and alpaca.

“ In respect to man and wife, there is a considerable degree of attention displayed by the woman towards her husband : the husband never is known to raise his hand against his wife, it would be an eternal disgrace to him; there is the same evenness of conduct observed between them, but we perceive none of that apparent ardour of affection, that domestic union between the sexes, which is seen in other places. For such a country, they may be considered as tolerably faithful to each other, though this is far from pure constancy. The laws place them so perfectly independent of each other, that they can separate at their pleasure, each upon their own property; or the wife may whenever she pleases retire from her husband, obliging him to give her the moiety of the increase upon their fortunes since their marriage. Among the better classes this is a common case, both enjoying their paramours, or following the course of life best suited to their tastes: this is generally the case in default of children ; where there is a large family, they quietly overlook each other's failings. Among the peasantry the same kind of relation exists between man and wife ; and though we never see any remarkable affection for their children, there is always a steady care shown towards them, especially towards the females. The mother watches her daughters with an anxious eye, evidently aware of their frailty : no attempt is made to inculcate any strong principle of virtue in them, or to conceal from them the knowledge of any thing which has a tendency to looseness; and this tends to make them faithless wives. This character is general in all classes of society. I have noticed, among the poorer class, the attention shown by children to their aged parents, who, when unable longer to provide for themselves, are supported with much care and attention. This, however, may proceed as much from obligation as from a sense of real affection, as a law is still in force, by which a young man is obliged to give the half of his earnings to his parents until the period of his marriage, when he becomes released from this obligation : if a peon do not marry till a late period of life, his father is entitled to enforce from his son the moiety of his earnings: yet I have known instances of young men, who, from this cause alone, have left their homes for some distant province, that they might enjoy unmolested the fruits of their labor. Mendicants are very seldom met with in the country. There exists among the peasants toward each other a degree of hospitality that is truly admirable. These may be said to be the only amiable feelings possessed by the common people in Chile.

“ The wants of the peasants are very few, and those few are soon and easily satisfied; when they can procure bread, they will almost subsist upon it ; when they have it not, they are contented : the same may be said with respect to meat; and, when they have neither bread nor meat, they will as happily enjoy a hodgepodge of beans boiled till they form a thick soup, swimming with tallow, a greasy mess of which they are peculiarly fond of when flavored to their pålate with a due admixture of red pepper, garlic, and onions. At their meals they never sit down to table: some few of the better order of peasants it is true use a table, but it is one about eighteen inches diameter and a foot high, just large enough to support the earthen bowl in which their mess is served: round this the whole family squat themselves, some on the stool, some on a saddle cloth rolled up, some on a block of wood, and others with their knees to their chins : a few horn spoons and a single knife are the only implements made use of; forks are not known among them; the same spoon is passed from one person to another in turn; they never sit on chairs, nor do they use plates; all eat out of the same dish without any nicety. Their drink is water, or a little chica when it is procurable; chica is a half fermented wine made of grapes or berries; it is handed round in a horn cup, and is supplied from a store preserved in the skin of a goat or lama."

Memoirs of the Public and Private Life of Napoleon Buonaparte,

with copious Historical Illustrations, and Original Anecdotes, Translated from the French by W. Hamilton Reid. London.

1826. 8vo.

Tuis volume forms an excellent avant-courier to the expected life of Buonaparte by“ the author of Waverley." There is in it sufficient to rouse the curiosity, but not one tenth part enough to satisfy it. The greatest fault of the book is the want of private personal information, and a good summing up, as it were, of his whole character. Like all great men, there were many contradictions in the conduct of Napoleon, and no one, who is not extremely skilful, can satisfactorily compress the whole information we are possessed of relative to him.

Those parts of the work which are to be referred to Mr. Reid, deserve great praise for fidelity and perspicuity, but we are not inclined to give much credit to the French originals. The flippancy and emptiness which distinguish French literature, are pre-eminently conspicuous in the works of Messrs. Pancoucke and Segur. Mr. Reid' has always done best when he relied upon himself. The plates to the volume are not good, but it merits perusal, and, we have no doubt, will be useful.

« PreviousContinue »