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Mr. Grattan; both great orators, and one a writer not surpassed in any age or in any country: both however are dreadfully dangerous models; both endowed with taste not quite in proportion to their other extraordinary gifts, and both continually treading upon the utmost bounds of eloquence, upon those "flammantia mænia,' where that which is best touches close upon that which is worst, where the most perfect success is reared upon the very brink of the most deplorable failure; both, in short, guilty of occasional faults, which could only be atoned for by the overpowering force, and the dazzling splendour of the whole composition. To the imitation of these distinguished persons must, ive believe, in some measure be ascribed, that excessive passion for epigram, and point, and metaphor, and learned allusions, which is characteristic of the Irish writers of the present day. They cannot be content with telling a common thing, orexpressing a common sentiment in a common way, but they must needs try to give it an interest, which after all can never belong to it, by some forced turn, some novel or obscure phrase, or some antithesis introduced merely for its supposed brilliancy, and without any foundation of real contrast. The Irish are rich beyond most other nations in natural endowments, and they are daily advancing in education and knowledge. Their great defect is bad taste. This is the rock upon which the best talents among them are wrecked; and this will continue to be the case, as long as they insist upon decoration and sublimity in works which properly belong to the "middle style. As a first step towards improvement, we would humbly recommend them to chuse some safer and less brilliant object of imitation. If they seek it among their own countrymen, the name of Swift will at once occur; and in more recent times, they will find in the prose of Goldsmith, as perfect a model as any that exists in our language, of purity, facility, and grace, of clear, lively narration, of the most exhilarating-gaiety, of the most touching pathos, in short, of almost every merit that style can possess, except in those comparatively few instances, in which the subject calls for a display of higher and impassioned eloquence.
Of almost all those faults which we have noticed as characteristic of the Irish mode of writing, Mr. Hardy has his share. He prefers long unusual words to those that are short and common. His reflections are generally distinguished for their candour audgood sense, but we are often at a loss to recognise their true character, in the strange affected metaphysical garb in which he is at such infinite pains to disguise them. Indeed if it were not an ungracious task, we could extract some sentences which are almost unintelligible to ourselves, and which, we believe, would be equally so to our readers. But these blemishes, though striking, are by no means sufficient to outweigh the meritswhich we have already pointed out; and we mention
them chiefly for the sake of protesting against what appears to us, a growing evil among the writers of a country from which we expect great contributions towards the literary glory of the empire. The work contains strong internal evidence, of having proceeded from the pen of a gentleman and a scholar, and does honour to his feelings and principles, as well as to his talents and industry. If we were to fix on any quality which gives a tameness and insipidity to the composition, it would be the laudatory strain employed in describing the principal characters of the story. Every nobleman is either generous, or accomplished, or upright, or munificent. We are always presented with some favourable feature, even of those personages who are incidentally mentioned, while every thing faulty and disagreeable is studiously kept out of sight. Perhaps, however, the author is not to blame for this. It is an imperfection inseparable alınost from the nature of his undertaking. To speak of living characters exactly as they deserve, is often literally impossible; and even where it might be done with safety, there is something offensive to the best feelings of our nature in being the herald of disgrace, and something near akin to arrogance in assuming the office of censor on the lives and conduct of our coutemporaries. The writer of memoirs, therefore, is placed in a very perplexing dilemma. If he writes altogether for posterity, he must incur the displeasure of many of his own time; if he wishes to avoid offence, he must, in proportion as he gives way to this feeling, surrender something of the severer virtues which can alone entitle his work to immortality. We cannot in our hearts condemn Mr. Hardy for making choice of the latter part of the alternative, but he must be content to purchase this exemption from private animosity, by some loss of fame and credit as an historian.
Art. IX. Notices respecting Jamaica, in 1808, 1809, 1810.
By Gilbert Mathison, Esq. 8vo. pp. 117. London. Stock
dale. 1811. W HILST the press is constantly teeming with accounts of
voyages and travels in almost every direction, it is remarkable that the distant provinces of our own empire appear to have been excluded, by a very general, though silent consent amongst the sons of curiosity, from their regular list of visits. It is true that about twenty thousand persons, who are annually passing to and from the West Indian islands for commercial purposes, would, if questioned on the subject, be ready to testify that the said islands continue to exist within the same boundaries of latitude and longiK2
tude which they have always occupied; but these mercantile travellers are usually distinguished by qualities which form a striking contrast with the character of their literary brethren: they are proverbially incurious and taciturn; and though sometimes compelled to 'speak' some brother itinerant during their voyage, they carefully abstain from all superfluous questions, and take care to record these rare and anomalous deviations from their habitual silence in language which evinces their abhorrence of useless and wanton loquacity.
We therefore seized with avidity this little volume which a solitary observer has thought fit to afford us, and which is, as the author tells us in his advertisement, 'addressed to all descriptions of persons who may, in any way, be interested in the island of Jamaica, as well as others who, from curiosity, or humanity, or duty, wish to investigate the affairs of that island.' We thought ourselves most specially included in this rather general description, because it is the first duty' of reviewers to examine and report upon every appeal to ' humanity;' besides which our “ curiosity' also was excited; because we consider the prosperity or decline of our remote colonies as affording no inaccurate criterion of the wisdom or weakness of the British government, and even as furnishing no bad test of the improvement or degradation of the British character. That country must be lost indeed in which a deficiency of health and vigour is perceptible in the vicinity of the metropolis: it is at the extremities that debility and stagnation first become apparent; aud it is there that regular pulsations and increasing warmth most immediately denote the returning strength of the vital system.
Mr. Mathison is himself a planter, who, after an absence of thirteen years, was induced to revisit the island of Jamaica by his anxiety to contemplate, on the spot, the effects of the abolition of the slave trade; and we were sincerely rejoiced to find him avowing, almost at the outset of his work, his conviction of the wisdom of that measure, and his admiration of the patience, talents, and virtue with which its original advocates carried it forward to its final completion. But we had not proceeded far before we found sufficient reason, if not to question the sincerity of Mr. Mathison's professions, at least to deduct very largely from his own apparent estimate of the value of his opinions. Of these we will, in the first instance, submit to our readers a few specimens.
• The improved condition of the plantation negroes is obvious to the most ordinary observer. No man who has resided many years in Jamaica can fail to see it; nor is any man hardy enough to deny that the previous discussions in Parliament, and the final abolition of the slave trade by law, have actually accomplished, to a certain extent, one of the
importants important objects intended by the first movers of that question.'(p. 10.)
Certainly, under present circumstances, the humane interference of Parliament, in putting a stop to the atrocious methods of obtaining negroes on the coast of Africa, has undesignedly served, in a partial manner, to accumulate new miseries on large bodies of the same description of people, who may have been long established comfortably in our West India islands.'-(p. 16.)
• One immediate effect of the abolition of the slave trade has been a most astonishing diminution of the number of slaves throughout the island. By returns to the Colonial Assembly in October last, it appears that the number of negroes charged with poll-tax in the year 1809 was 323,714 ; and in the year 1810, 313,683 ; leaving a deficit of no less than 10,031! a most frightful instance of depopulation, which will probably be handled by the assembly as a proof of the impolicy and injustice of the law for abolishing the slave trade, while by the advocates of that measure it will be considered as affording a clear demonstration of gross mismanagement on the part of the planters; and of the wisdom, as well as moral necessity, of completely subverting a system under which the propagation of the human race bad been most curiously kept out of its natural and regular course.:-(p. 18.) · It would be easy, by multiplying our extracts, to show that Mr. Mathison, whilst he declares bimself convinced of the wisdom and necessity of the abolition law, retains a firm belief in the validity of all the objections to the measure which were urged against it by its opponents during a very long parliamentary discussion. But the last of the passages just quoted is amply sufficient for our purpose. · The papers presented to the Privy Council and the House of Commons had shewn that the annual waste of negroes, which the slave trade annually repaired, was usually, in the island of Jamaica, about two per cent. on the whole Black population. This, at least, was the proportion on a medium of two years to 1805, at which time the whole number of negroes on the island was 280,000. But, during the short space of four years ending in 1809, no less than 43,000 negroes were imported and retained; and it appears from the document quoted by our author, that the mortality immediately increased from two to three per cent. on this unusual augmented population. Such is, simply, the fact on which Mr. Mathison has grounded his inferences.
Now this increased mortality, however“ frightful,' was certainly not' astonishing ;' it was the natural and necessary result of that increased activity with which the slave trade was carried on antecedently to its final termination; it was precisely the evil of which the abolition law was intended to prevent the recurrence, and of which, according to Mr. Mathison's own testimony, the mere prospect and anticipation of that law was calculated to mitigate X 3
the intensity. A much more frightful waste of life had taken place, on many former occasions, when mercantile speculations in the mother country, or projects of extravagant cultivation in the colonies, had encouraged an excessive importation of negroes: consequently the deficit of 1810 could not possibly furnish, either to a colonial assembly, or to the advocates of the abolition, any excuse for the very absurd reasonings which Mr. Mathison has prophetically ascribed to both. Whilst the slave trade was tolerated, the annual mortality in the islands, being covered by the annual supply from Africa, could not appear on the register of the poll-tax, in which, since the cessation of import, it must necessarily be recorded; its existence, however, and its amount were always regularly ascertained ; and yet we are gravely told that the mortality is
an immediate effect of the abolition.' To the same cause, and with equal reason, is attributed the 'nete misery' inflicted on negroes distrained for debt; as if planters had never been improvident, nor creditors importunate, during the existence of the slavetrade.
Whilst the arguments of this author are thus at variance with his declared opinion, his assertions are no less inconsistent with each other. We have seen him affirming generally the improved condition of the plantation negroes,' and describing, as comfortably established' even those whose masters, sinking under a load of debt, are least able to provide for their support: but when he descends into particulars, he delineates a picture which, if it were possible to confide in his accuracy, every reader must contemplate with horror. He says, for instance there are few, I may almost say no plantations where separate apartments are provided for lying-in women. The doctor is never expected to attend, nor in point of fact does he ever attend this description of patients. (p. 28.) If it should happen that, through idleness, or sickness, or old age, or in consequence of a too numerous family of children, the provision ground of a negro should be neglected or become unproductive, he is not allowed to expect, nor in point of fact does he obtain assistance from the stores of the plantation.—1 state it broadly, that such is the general practice from one end of the island to the other.' (pp. 30, 31.)– I feel very contident in stating an opinion, that famine is a prevailing cause of the balance decrease of negroes in Jamaica. -(p. 33.)
It is now time to furnish our readers with the only clue by which . we are able to unravel this tissue of iuconsistency. Mr. Mathison it seems had drawn up, during his thirteen years' residence in England, or during his short stay in Jamaica, a series of rules for the management of his own plantation; and having done so, was unwilling to forfeit that public applause which he naturally anticipated