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had much reason to admire his paternal care of the flock committed to his charge. In a population varying from 200 to 210, there are 15 married couples. The annual number of births is 7; of deaths 6 or 7; of marriages not quite so much as 1. The parish is 16 English miles in length, and 10 in breadth; so that the population does not exceed 14 to a square mile.
“We were gratified with the sight of Mr. Hialtalin's parish-register, in which is an entry made annually of the state of each family in the parish. Under the head of each family were entered, in separate columns, the condition of each individual—their age—whether confirmed or not—whether communicants or not—whether able to read -general conduct—abilities, &c.; also a list of the books belonging to each family.”
In every situation, but especially in such a one as Iceland, where the comforts of life are so few, a pastor like Mr. Hialtalin must be of inestimable value. He must appear as a friend and a father ; as an angel sent from heaven, to dispel, by the light of religion and truth, the evils by which his flock is so closely surrounded. He himself, in the midst of continual hardship and Privation, enjoys the great advantage of occupying a place where no distinction is to be obtained but by the faithful discharge of his duty. If the ministers of religion shall ever be arranged according to their real usefulness and importance to the world, how many bishops and cardinals will doff their mitres and their hats before the priest of Suarbar I
The following will give a tolerably good notion of the manner of living of the people of the better sort. Sir George and his friends made a visit at the house of the chief justice Stephenson.
“We were received very cordially, but with a considerable degree of form; and were ushered into the best room by Mr. Stephenson, who met us at the door. Almost immediately after we had seated ourselves, the ladies of the family made their appearance; and we had coffee, wine, biscuit, and English cheese, set before us. This was merely a prelude to a more substantial dinner, or rather supper, which was brought in at eight o'clock. It consisted of boiled salmon, baked mutton, potatoes, (from England) sago and cream, London porter, and excellent port wine. We had no doubt that the ladies, who had prepared and brought in the dishes, would partake of them; and on our declining to take our seats before they had placed themselves at table, we were surprised when told they had already dined. The females of the highest, as well as of the lowest rank, as in former times in our own country, seem to be regarded as mere servants. During the repast, our hostess stood at the door with her arms a-kimbo, looking at us; while her daughter, and another young woman, were actively employed in changing the plates, and running backwards and forwards for whatever was wanted. Occasionally her ladyship assisted in the rites of hospitality; and next day, when restraint was somewhat
VOL. VI-II* R
worn off, she and the young ladies chatted and joked with us, laughing heartily at our broken Icelandic, which was mixed with English and broken Danish, neither of which they understood.”
The husbandry of Iceland consists entirely in the management of stock, as no corn is produced in the island. The crop of grass' seems in many places to be considerable, though not nearly what, by proper attention, it might be rendered. They begin to cut their hay about the end of July ; but Sir George observes, that he did not see any field in which plants either useless, or very little nutritious, were not equal in quantity to those of greater value. All are cut down together by means of a short narrow scythe, with which the Icelanders work expeditiously and neatly. The rest of the process is much the same as with us in Scotland. The hay is kept chiefly for the cows; but, in severe weather, a little is dealt out to the sheep and horses. When the whole is got in, a festival like our harvest-home takes place. Draining seems to be the species of improvement most wanted. . The cattle, in point of size and appearance, are very like the largest of our Highland sorts, except that they have seldom horns. The sheep appear to be nearly the same with the old breed in the Highlands of Scotland, now nearly extinct. The horses are exceeding good. They are accustomed to scramble slowly through the bogs and over the rocks, and to dart rapidly forward whenever they come to dry and even ground. In travelling, each of the party has generally two or three horses with him, and he changes from one to another as they become tired.
The wages given to servants, male and female, are from four to six rixdollars a-year, with food and clothing. The rixdollar, which is paper, is worth 4s. English at par; but the government paper is greatly depreciated, and a guinea of gold passes for fifteen of these dollars. The rulers of Iceland have not, it would seem, discovered the expedient which does so much credit to the wisdom of the British senate, that of preventing the depreciation of the paper by penal statutes. Every thing, such as weaving, spinning, knitting, forging horse-shoes, &c. is done at home, and forms the household work in the long dismal winter of that climate. The extent of this home manufacture is doubtless the reason why clothing is a part of the wages of labour: such articles, in many of the situations in Iceland, cannot be had easily to purchase. While the people are occupied in these different works, one generally reads aloud from their tales and histories. Most families are supplied with such books, which they are careful to exchange with one another.
The article on the education and literature of the Icelanders is by Dr. Holland ; and will be considered as singularly interesting by all who love to see the desire of knowledge, the great characteristic of man, going with him, to console and elevate his mind in the most remote and forlorn situations. A preliminary dissertation, by the same gentleman, on the ancient history of Iceland, displays great ingenuity and research ; and we regret that we have not been able, for want of room, to make our readers acquainted with it. “At the present time,' Dr. Holland remarks, “there are many individuals living on this remote spot, and from their situation exposed to innumerable privations, whose tolents and acquirements would grace the most refined circles of civilized society. The business of education is sytematically carried on among all ranks of the inhabitants ; and the degree of information existing, even among the lower classes, is probably greater than in almost any part of Continental Europe.” At present, the school at Bessasted is the only regular establishment in Iceland, for what may be accounted academical education. It consists of three masters, and twenty-four scholars; and the head master, or Lector Theologiae, has an annual salary of 600 rixdollars. At this time, the person who held that situation was Steingrim Jonson, a man of ability and learning. The school is furnished with a library of twelve to fourteen hundred volumes, containing some good editions of the classics ; and, beside books in Icelandic and Danish, a considerable number in German, and some in English and French. Of the students educated here, a few are sent to prosecute their studies at the University of Copenhagen: the rest are probably mostly settled in Iceland, as Danish priests. Even in this profound solitude, and entire seclusion from all literary society, frequent instances occur, of men who retain their ardour for study, and pursue it successfully through life. This so often happens, Dr. Holland says, that it may be regarded as a phenomenon requiring a particular explanation. The leisure afforded by the long winter of Iceland, he suggests as one of the most obvious causes that, by affording an opportunity, may produce a taste, for mental improvement. We must be permitted to remark, however, that without a strong predisposition to such exertions, the opportunity which retirement affords will be found of little avail. Even in academical institutions kindly intended to remove every cause of distraction, anxiety or care, that could turn away the mind from the steady pursuit of science or literature, how rarely is an effort produced that corresponds to the benevolent intentions of the founder! If amidst the cold and the damp, the darkness and the tempests of the polar circle, such effects more frequently arise, it must proceed from some favourable structure of the mind, or some happy combination of external causes, with which we are not sufficiently acquainted.
Concerning the diffusion of knowledge among the lower ranks, Dr. Holland observes, that it is a very rare thing to meet with an Icelander who is unable to read and write, or who does not possess considerable intelligence on all subjects which he has any access to examine. “The instruction of his children,” he adds, * forms one of his stated occupations; and while the little earthen hut which he inhabits is almost buried in the snow, and while darkness and desolation are spread universally around, the light of an oil lamp illumines the page from which he reads to his family the lessons of knowledge, religion, and virtue.” The imo that is attached to knowledge by all ranks, is attested >y a very singular article in the ecclesiastical code of this country, which grants to the bishops, or even the inferior clergy, the power of preventing any marriage where the woman is unable to read.
The books in the possession of the lower classes are chiefly of a religious nature. In many parishes, there is a small library belonging to the church, from which, under the superintendance of the priest, every family in the district may derive some little addition to its means of instruction and improvement. How wonderful is all this in a country, where nature, aided by the utmost efforts of human industry, seems barely adequate to provide for the articles of first necessity —Is it because intellectual enjoyment is the only luxury that the place affords :
The attainments of the Icelanders, with respect to languages, are very wonderful, and are among the circumstances that most forcibly attract the attention of a stranger. “He sees men whose habitations bespeak a condition little removed from the savage state; men who are deprived of almost every comfort, and who, amid the storms of the surrounding ocean, seek in their little boats the scanty provision on which their families depend— among these very men he finds an acquaintance with the classical writings of antiquity, a taste formed on the models of Greece and Rome, and a susceptibility to all the beauties which these models disclose. While traversing the country, he is often attended by guides who can communicate with him in Latin; and, arriving at his place of rest for the night, he not unfrequently draws forth from his little smithy a man who addresses him in Latin, with great fluency and elegance. The Icelanders abound in poetical compositions; history is also a favourite study with them ; but it is remarkable, that in science and philosophy, they are not at all distinguished.” Dr. Holland accounts for this last circumstance, by supposing that the confusion in which the natural history of the country appears, manifesting the action of so many unknown and astonishing powers, the operation of which seems so little subjected to rule, and so little guided by analogy, has overwhelmed their understandings, and disappointed all attempts at generalization. It is certain, that the Icelanders are very superstitious, which is no doubt the consequence of living in the midst of a terrible and disorderly scene, where the facts cannot be reconciled with one another. We shall conclude this head with Dr. Holland's remark, ‘that this disparity of physical and moral circumstances is an interesting fact, not only in the history of Iceland, but in that of the human species. While the calamities of internal warfare, and the oppression of tyrannical governments have clouded with ignorance and barbarity countries on which the sun of nature sheds his brightest beams, the possession of Peace, of Political Liberty, and well ordered Laws, has given both intellectual and moral exaltation to a community which has its abode on the very confines of the habitable globe.” The natural history of Iceland contains a great number of rare and interesting objects. Among these we may reckon the Sulphur mountains; one of which, on the south side of the Guldbringé district, is described by Sir George Mackenzie. At the foot of the mountain there was a bank composed of clay and sulphur, with steam issuing from all parts of it. . From a ridge immediately above it, under which was a deep hollow, a profusion of vapour arose, and a confused noise was heard, of boiling and splashing, joined to the roaring of steam escaping from crevices in the rock. The opposite side of the mountain was covered with sulphur, and clay of a white or yellowish colour. From whatever spot the sulphur was removed, steam instantly escaped : and, in many places, the sulphur was so hot that they could scarcely touch it. From the smell it appeared that the steam was mixed with a small quantity of sulphurated hydrogene gasWhen the thermometer was sunk a few inches into the clay, it rose almost to the boiling point. At the bottom of the hollow, they found a caldron of mud and water boiling with great vehemence. The mud was in constant agitation, and often thrown up to the height of 6 or 8 feet. In some places the quantity of sulphur was very great, and formed a smooth crust, beautifully crystallized, and from a quarter of an inch to several inches in thickness. The violence with which the steam issues through the crevices of the rock is in some places so great, that the noise may be heard at the distance of several miles. The visit to this place was not without danger. The sensation, says Sir George, of a person standing on a support which feebly sustains him over an abyss where fire and brimstone are in dreadful and incessant action;—having before him tremendous proofs of what is going on beneath;—enveloped in thick vapours, and stunned with thundering noises;—are hardly to be conceived by one who has not experienced them.