Page images

had a happy effect; the veffel did not blow up till fhe was too far diftant to involve the others in her difafter.'

The fourth letter prefents us with an account of the Cape of Good Hope, the ouran outang, hippopotamus, and the Cape fheep, with fome fingular cufloms of the Hottentots; after which detail, the author enters upon an ingenious comparison of a flate of civilization with that of nature. In the next letter the fleet, after failing from the Cape, arrives at the ifland of Johanna; the foil, produce, inhabitants, and government of which, the author defcribes, as ufual, in a lively manner; and gives the following inftance of the pious frauds practifed by the mufti in this country:

The fame arts that were formerly practifed in the Roman Catholic church, to keep the people in ignorance, and increase their veneration for the priesthood, are to be feen here in full effect. But the inftruments employed are much more fimple than the relicks, flagellations, and miracles of the Catholic priests; being in fact nothing but a few holy ducks. Thefe birds are fuppofed to be infpired with the knowledge of futurity, and the mufti is the only perfon who has the privilege of confulting them. When the men of the greatest wifdom are at a lofs how to act in the affairs of the state, or are doubtful of the iffue of fome important enterprize, the high priest, in folemn proceffion at the head of his clergy, proceeds from the mofque to the ponds, where thefe facred birds take up their abode, and addreffes to them his moft fervent prayers and fupplications. If the ducks approach their reverend votaries of their own accord, the omen is good; if they keep aloof it is doubtful. In the latter cafe the priests entice them to draw near by offering fuch food as they are fond of, and the mufti having confulted them on the bufinefs in hand, fuch a course of conduct is obferved as they are fuppofed to dictate.?

The civil polity in the ifland of Johanna is more worthy of approbation. The punishments inflicted by the laws are calculated to be at the fame time a correction of the offender and an example to the other inhabitants. When a criminal is convicted of theft, he fuffers the lofs of his hand. This punishment, the author obferves, appears more likely to reftrain men of evil difpofitions then any now ufed in Europe. The death of a malefactor impreffes the minds of the fpectators only at the inftant of the execution, and is foon effaced from their remembrance; but a perfon fo confpicuously mutilated is a conftant example and living monument of the vengeance of the laws wherever he goes. The captain admits it is true that the man so treated is rendered useless and perhaps burthenfome to fociety; but the terror that he ftrikes into thofe who are inclined to fimilar acts of immo


rality, more than compenfates for that inconvenience; and in this we agree with our anthor.

Mr. Le Couteur, though a military gentlemen, reasons with much plaufibility on the cause of the scorbutic and febrile diforders, which feized on the crews of the fhips in their paffage to Johanna. He afcribes the sickness chiefly to a deficiency of fresh water; obferving that a pint of water in the day is infufficient to dilute a quantity of grofs and heavy food, and to repair the waste of fluids which pass off by perspiration in a hot climate. Though we have fome doubts with regard to the pathology advanced by the author, we cannot hesitate a moment to admit the juftnefs of this remark. But why, in fuch an exigence, was recourse not had to the method of freshening fea-water? The water thus produced, we know, is not entirely palatable; but it might be rendered lefs offenfive by the juice of oranges or lemons, or even by a small addition of vinegar, dulcified, if required, with a little fugar.

In the next letter, we find the fhips, after leaving Johanna, obliged, on account of sickness, to put into the bay of Morbet in Arabia. The author obferves that it is difficult to account for the pompous epithet of happy which is given to this part of Arabia, unless indeed we fhould fuppofe it to be ironical; for they could perceive nothing neceffary for the fuftenance of human life for the extent of more than twenty miles of country. The whole coaft offers no other prospect to the eye than a dismal chain of barren and rocky mountains. Our author, however, was afterwards told, though with what truth is uncertain, that in a remote period, the territory of Morbet was fo fruitful, as, not undefervedly, to be called a part of Arabia the Happy; but a deluge, which laid the country under water, fwept away the foil, leaving nothing behind but the naked rock. A vague tradition may not be regarded as fufficient for eftablishing the fact; but that fimilar events have happened in others parts of the globe, appears from history to be unquestionable.

Immediately on the author's arrival at Bengal he enters upon a detail of the military transactions in India, which he relates in a diftinét manner, and, we have no reason to doubt, with fidelity. The narrative of thefe operations, through which we cannot pretend to accompany him, is frequently interfpersed with anecdotes, and a description of the manners of different people. Nor has the author been fparing of his reflections on a variety of occafions. Indeed he appears fometimes fo much difpofed to moralizing, that the narrative of the hiftorian is loft in the speculations of the philofopher. But in all thofe difgreffions, he aims either at being inftructive or entertaining; and where we cannot award him the praise of being profound or convincing,

it muft at least be acknowledged, that he is invariably ingenious and fpirited. Whether his reflections on the conduct of officers be in any degree tinctured with prejudice, we cannot take upon us to determine; but he is very free in his animadverfions not only on general Mathews and admiral Hughes, but other officers in particular circumftances.

The following extract affords a lively defcription of the hardships fustained by the British prisoners at Chittledrough:

Not having been permitted to fhave, our beards foon attain. ed their full growth: this gave us so venerable, and at the fame time fo grotefque an appearance, that we could hardly forbear fmiling at each other. Our flock of linen was reduced to two or three fhirts each; and, to add to our diftrefs, the washer was forbid to attend the prison oftener than once in a month or fix weeks; fo that we were two or three weeks without fhifting. In the mean time our fhirts accquired a brown cruft, which gave them the stiffness of buckram, while legions of fleas, bugs, and lice, those fociable infects that never defert man in his mifery, covered every part of them, or frolicked on our bodies, without allowing us any refpite by night or day. In vain we waged conftant war with thefe pefts; they multiplied fafter than we could defroy them, and revengefully fatiated themselves with our. blood, left us wounded to the very bone. The fcorpions and fnakes alfo were our visitors, and condescended to share with us. the horrors of the prifon.

Rats, which we might have turned to fome account, were not lefs numerous than other vermin; it was not unusual to find two or three of them quietly feated on our faces when we awoke in the morning. Thofe gentlemen, who flept with their mouths open, fometimes fuffered the most disgusting defilement; in fhort they were fo intolerable a nuifance, that we at last determined, whatever trouble it might coft us, to declare open war against, and extirpate them.

One night about twelve o'clock, when these vermin, without fear of traps, cats, or poison, were plundering our provifions, or ftrolling by thousands about the prison, we fprung out of bed arming ourselves with brooms, clubs, and sticks. Some of us were posted in ambuscade to cut off the retreat of the enemy, while others, attacking them in front, put them to rout with great flaughter. The noife of the battle, the cries of the dying, were heard a far; while the walls of the prifon fhook, and the ground resounded under our feet. Our guards, in fpite of all their valour, were panick-ftruck; and confidering this tumult as a dreadful prelude to fome defparate attempt, uttered the most piercing cries of diftrefs.”

In the course of thefe Letters, the author has given, from his own obfervation, a sketch of the manners, cuftoms, and fuperftitions of the Hindoos; which though coinciding in general with more copious accounts, may be juftly regarded as a useful


and pleasing abstract on that interrefting fubject. On the whole thefe Letters afford much entertainment as well as variety of information. The tranflator acknowledges that he has used much freedom with the original, but affures us, at the fame time, that the meaning and spirit of the author have been carefully preferved.

Characters and Anecdotes of the Court of Sweden. 2 Volumes. 800. 125. Boards. Harlow.

WE are informed by an advertisement, that the materials con

tained in these volumes are taken from a manufcript, which came into the poffeffion of a traveller, lately returned from a tour in the northern parts of Europe. The author is suppofed to be a courtier; and his object is to give a circumftantial account of all interesting events, of which he had been an eyewitness, in Sweden, from the year 1770 till the month of June 1789; with the characters of the most remarkable persons of both fexes, and anecdotes relating to their private life, as well as to the part which they have acted in public affairs.

The author is a defultory writer, apparently regardless of chronological order in his narrative; but the facts which he relates appear to be authentic, and the characters, though in general frivolous, feem to be drawn with juftness and difcernment. He gives the following account of the king of Sweden:

• As to the character of the king of Sweden, he is generally allowed to be one of the most amiable and popular princes in Europe. He has a particular gift to gain the heart of every one. His converfation in public is full of wit, politeness, and a kind attention to make every one eafy; in private he (peaks with the cordiality and fimplicity of a friend; he grants favours with apparent fatisfaction to himself, and knows how to refuse without giving uneafinefs. His clemency is founded on his great fenfibility, which could never yet permit him to punish with death or infamy any one perfonally known to him. He has often wifhed that he might never unavoidably be forced to fuch an act of severity, because the remembrance would ever make him unhappy. It may be faid that he inherits his father's heart with the genius of his mother. Had he been a private man, he would have made his fortune either in the line of politics or literature. His knowledge in history and diplomatics is pro digious; his public fpeeches in the diets, and upon other occafons, have an uncommon force and elegance, worthy fuch a fpeaker; and feveral plays he has compofed for the newly con fituted national ftage, are of a richness in their compofition and purity in their morals that befpeak the prince and the legiflator, and notwithstanding all the pains he had taken to prevent

being known as the author, it foon became no fecret that they were from the pen of majesty.'

To what rank his Swedish majefty is entitled in refpect of literary genius, as we do not recollect to have feen any of the royal productions, we cannot determine; but it is a circumftance which ought not to be admitted, that though an avòwed author, he was never known to entertain the smallest jealousy of any candidate for literary fame. A want of fincerity has, it seems, been imputed to his majefty; but the author of the manufcript is at pains to exculpate him from this charge; as he likewife does from a few others, indeed with all the appearance of jus tice.

In fuch a work as the prefent, our readers may expect to meet with an account of the queen of Sweden: the author has not omitted to give fome traits of fo diftinguished a perfonage; but they are so closely connected with a piece of fecret hiftory, that, to exhibit them properly, it is neceffary for us to infert the whole of the following extract:

Next to the king, the queen is a worthy object of our at tention. Among other eminent qualities in that princefs, it is perhaps her firft merit that the meddles not in politics: fhe is the king's wife, and nothing elfe. Sweden has had fufficient experience of the evils arifing from female influence in political matters, and rejoices to fee upon the throne a queen poffeffed of all the charms of fex, and confining her ambition within the practice of its virtues.

"With all her accomplishments, fhe was not fo happy at first as to captivate the inclination and confidence of her spouse, then prince of Sweden. Her countenance and manners, at her first arrival in that country, bore too vifible marks of the constraint and severity of her education under the queen dowager of Denmark, and the reception fhe met with from the queen of Sweden, her mother in law, was not at all encouraging. She had alfo about her perfon fome Danish domeftics, who, to have her entirely in their power, infpired her with continual fear and diffidence, which naturally caufed a referve and coldness in her behaviour and totally removed the prince's affection.


She led a very retired life as princefs, but as foon as her hufband had mounted the throne, and wifhed to fee the court more frequented than it had been during the reign of his father, and had fignified his defire to the queen that the fhould appear oftener in public and receive the nobility into her company The readily obeyed, and appeared as content as the happieft queen in the world. She was the more a fufferer as the really loved the king; but thinking herself flighted, pride would not permit her to betray the fecret of her heart. She bore her difgrace with patience and refignation for feveral years, until an


« PreviousContinue »