Page images

and created, the scenes, the incidents, and the characters for observation,—were made the subjects of letter-writing, displaying uncommon aptitude and perseverance. And then such are her natural vivacity and smartness,-such the feminine but fresh and vivid touches of her colouring,-that her sketches are as entertaining as they are graphic. Produced by one so frank and intelligent; so polished and susceptible; so competent to do justice to her own feelings; and, if not to calculate or penetrate deeply, at least to catch with rapidity semblances and outward signs,-the book is one of the liveliest and pleasing.

Our hint with regard even to the habit of reflection and the ability to go beyond the surface, may be less than fair; for time was often not at command to take complete soundings; while to the young traveller and quick decipherer any thing that was strikingly odd or new left sudden impressions, and seems instantly to have become the subject of a sketch for the eyes of sympathetic friends in old England. Still, if not a taste and a talent for caricature, the authoress manifests not only youthfulness and haste, but the habit of snatching whatever is racy and that will tell, 1ather than of studying the whole with all its due concomitants and causes. The result is, that while one smiles at her clever pictures and smart hits, he feels that the entire is not before him, that skill in the art of satire has been somewhat mercilessly and unjustly practised.

Illustrations of what we have said, both for and against the letters, readily offer themselves on opening the book; less, however, of course, when the writer describes natural scenes and objects, than manners and character, whether the latter belong to Indian or Anglo-Indian life. In the instances last referred to, she measures her strictures according to an English and home-loving standard; so that, while we have no doubt of her desire to become thoroughly acquainted with the social feelings, the domestic usages, as well as the religious tenets and capabilities of the Indians, we are equally sure that no effort on her part would be wanting to fashion every thing upon her preconceived model, without much regard to consistency, to right or wrong, in the given circumstances.

According to our lady, the Hindoos, if they have associated much with Europeans, are mostly half-heathen, half-deist. Some of the instances of their modes of reasoning certainly put us in mind of the very rational discourse to be gathered from the lips of sceptics nearer home. She thus introduces and characterises her Bramin teacher:

I do not work very hard, and no Moonshee has any idea of teaching, but I just pick his brains a little by way of amusement. He is a Bramin, and, like all of them, very fond of questioning and discoursing. He has now read my prayer-book straight through from beginning to end, and with great admiration; but he says the finest words in the book are, "Maker of all things visible and invisible;" those, he says, are very great words indeed."

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Now he is reading the Bible. He told me that a learned Bramin came to pay him a visit and to look over his new Bible. The Bramin said that all the words against graven images were good and very true words," and that it was certainly a senseless custom" for a man to bow down to a stone; but that still it was necessary to keep images for the Sudras (low-caste people), for fear they should not believe in any God at all. That is their constant argument. They never defend their idols, nor own that they worship them, any more than Roman Catholics will allow that they worship

the saints.

The treatment of the natives by the Anglo-Indians, if fairly indicated, according to its general node, in the following passages, cannot tend to elevate the character of the subservient, or to consolidate and extend the British sway.

We have had a great many visits from natives to welcome A▬▬▬ back again, or, as they say, "to see the light of master's countenance and bless God for the honour!" One-a gentleman, in his black way-called at six in the morning: he left his carriage at the gate, and his slippers under a tree; and then finding we were going out riding, he walked barefoot in the dust by the side of our horses, till "our honours" were pleased to dismiss him. Another met us, got out of his carriage, kicked off his shoes, and stood bowing in the dirt while we passed; then drove on to the house, and waited humbly under the verandah for an hour and a half, till we were pleased to finish our ride.


These natives are a cringing set, and behave to us English as if they were the dirt under our feet; and indeed we give them reason to suppose that we consider them as such. Their servility is disagreeable; but the rudeness and contempt with which the English treat them are quite painful to witness. Civility to servants especially seems a complete characteristic of griffinage. One day I said to my ayah, (a very elegant lady in white muslin,) " Ayah, bring me a glass of toast-and-water, if you please." She crept to the door, and then came back again, looking extremely perplexed, and whined. out, "What mistress tell? I don't know." "I told you to bring me some toast-and-water." "Toast-water I know very well, but mistress tell if you please; I don't know if you please." I believe the phrase had never before been addressed to her.

"These natives are a cringing set," and so forth. But what is to be expected, taking the Asiatic character, according to the native habits of thought and style of expression, even in an unsubdued state, when they are suing at the feet of European masters, and petitioning for posts and favours?

It would appear from the letters that a residence in India not only tends to produce a very striking change on the Anglo-Indians, whichever be the sex, but that there are class-peculiarities among the fair, if those of the civil service be contrasted with the civilian order. But we copy out a sketch that takes a wider range of character and manners, said to be exemplified at Madras, when a grand Anglo-Indian dinner-scene is celebrated.

We have been to one or two large dinner parties; rather grand, dull, and silent. The company are generally tired out with the heat and the officework all day before they assemble at seven o'clock; and the houses are greatly infested by mosquitoes, which are in themselves enough to lower one's spirit and stop conversation. People talk a little in a very low voice to those next to them; but one scarcely ever hears any topic of general interest started, except steam-navigation. To be sure, "few changes can be rung on few bells;" but these good folks do ring on "the changes in the service," till I cannot help sometimes wishing all their appointments were permanent. At an Indian dinner all the guests bring their own servants to wait upon them, so there is a turban'd sultan-like creature behind every chair. A great fan is going over our heads the whole time, and every window and door open; so that, notwithstanding the number of people in the room, it is in reality cooler than an English dining-room. What would grandmamma say to the wastefulness of an Indian dinner? Every body dines at luncheon, or, as it is here called, tiffin-time; so that there is next to nothing eaten, but about four times as much food put upon the table as would serve for an English party. Geese and turkies and joints of mutton for side-dishes, and every thing else in proportion. All the fruit in India is not worth one visit to your strawberry-beds. The ingenious French at Pondicherry have contrived to cultivate vines; but the English say nothing will grow, and they remain content to waste their substance and their stomach-aches on spongy shaddocks and sour oranges, unless they send to Pondicherry for grapes, which the French are so obliging as to sell at a rupee a bunch. After dinner, the company all sit round in the middle of the great gallery-like rooms, talk in whispers, and scratch their mosquito-bites. Sometimes there is a little music, as languid as every thing else. Concerning the company themselves, the ladies are all young and wizen, and the gentlemen are all old and wizen. Somebody says France is the paradise of married women, and England of girls; I am sure India is the paradise of middleaged gentlemen. While they are young they are thought nothing of-just supposed to be making or marring their fortunes, as the case may be; but at about forty, when they are "high in the service," rather yellow, and somewhat grey, they begin to be taken notice of, and called "young men.' These respectable persons do all the flirtation too, in a solemn sort of way, while the young ones sit by, looking on, and listening to the elderly gentlefolks discussing their livers instead of their hearts.

If the reader feels disposed to learn how the fair letter-writer can reduce and disparage, he cannot do better than cast his eye to the passage wiih which we conclude.

The passengers we took in at the Cape were chiefly officers in the Indian army; who went out as cadets, before they had learned much, and since that time had pretty well forgotten the little they knew. They might have been divided into two classes-those who knew their declensions, and those who did not. They were particularly fond of grammatical discussions, and quite eager about them; such as whether any English words were really derived from the Latin; whether regiment is to be considered as a word of three

syllables or two; whether lunatic comes from the French, because "loon" is French for moon, &c. They used also to extend their acquirements by the study of navigation. After breakfast, the captain and officers always took an observation of the sun, technically called "taking a sight." Then the passengers all began doing the same, privately called "taking a look." They were a capital set, poor things, in their attitudes, with their glasses, all peering up into the sky à la chasse for the sun and moon. However, they were all very civil, and inoffensive, and unobjectionable; and I hope they are all as happy on shore as we are.

ART. X.-China, in a Series of Views, displaying the Scenery, Architecture, Social Habits, &c., of this Ancient and Exclusive Empire. Fisher.

MR. FISHER has never published a more splendid_work than this, nor one so opportune and anxiously required. It has been remarked with unquestionable justice, that China is the most wonderful country, and the Chinese the most wonderful people in the world. Yet how little has hitherto been accurately ascertained with regard to either! True, amazing stories have long been circulated and monotonously repeated relative to the country, the inhabitants, and the empire. Judging, however, by the lights which have recently burst upon us,-and nowhere in book and picture so luminously as in the publication now before us, a tithe of the marvels have not been told, and far fewer appreciated. Till now, scanty and imperfect in the extreme were the authentic details concerning either the customs, arts, manufactures, religious ceremonies, political institutions, or the dress and outward bearing of the Celestials. Even the scenery of the country was misapprehended to an extent that was exceedingly disparaging. How needed and desirable then must be such a work as the present, which promises, and actually affords, an insight into each and all of the branches mentioned; these being in a pre-eminent degree the objects of generous curiosity and profitable study!

It is not alone that we obtain views-close and lifelike-of an empire extending over ten millions of square miles, which sustains one-third of the whole population on the face of the earth, that "China Illustrated" recommends itself; but that the nation has possessed a perpetuity of political existence for upwards of four thousand years. It is not alone that, owing to a most anomalous mechanism of government, an utter repudiation of intercourse with strangers, and an exclusiveness in every sense, obstinate to a byword, the nation has remained stationary from periods which are lost in antiquity; but the astounding fact is, that it offers the spectacle of the highest attainment in many industrial and social regula

tions, which were as perfect, tens of centuries ago, as they are at this day; and which at this day bear their original stamp, their pristine freshness and coherence. The ingenuity of the people is proved by mighty inventions, among which rank pre-eminently those of printing, gunpowder, and the mariner's compass,-the honour of priority belonging to them. How much is there for unexampled contemplation in this antiquity, in this perpetuity, in this unchangeableness, and in this generative, or originating capacity!

Other considerations need only to be glanced at to guide any mind to the highest climax in relation to things temporal, even in things eternal. Through the instrumentality of England, China has been opened to the mighty influence of commerce with the most enlightened and powerful nations; and unprecedented, in all probability, will be the results, political and social, that are destined to follow the great achievement. But the people of the "flowery kingdom have been, with characteristic obstinacy of adherence, idolaters, or utter strangers to divine truth, from the earliest ages down to the present hour. What a field then is here disclosed for the diffusion and the triumphs of the Gospel! How vast as well as striking is the interest which the word "China" now evokes! How fitted the field for those illustrations which the pen and pencil, when harmoniously wedded, can furnish; and which are so attractive to the prevalent taste of the age! How well and unexpectedly do the portions of the publication before us proclaim and exemplify the rich variety and extraordinary novelty of their limitless subject! The work appears in monthly parts, each containing four remarkable and picturesque views, beautifully executed, after the highlyprized pencil of Mr. Allom. Eight pages of letter-press, from the pen of the Rev. G. N. Wright, give the descriptive notices in elegant and appropriate style. There is nothing tame or commonplace about the work; on the contrary, it satisfies, as far as such a channel can do, the expectation which it excites; proving that more romantic scenes, more delightful contrasts and combinations nowhere abound than in the territory of John Chinaman, varying from the soft to the rugged, the pretty to the magnificent.

Mr. Fisher has been singularly happy in his selection of countries and classes of subjects for the purpose of pictorial illustration and popular description. The very names of the states, islands, shores, rivers, and mountains, which many of his publications embrace and traverse, call up a host of associations towards which the ministry of the artist is extremely fitting and acceptable. The Shores and Islands of the Mediterranean, Italy and Switzerland, Greece, the Rhine, the Himalaya Mountains, the Lake Scenery of Cumberland, &c. &c., are titles which it only requires skill, judgment, and taste to bring before the eye of the untravelled and home-abiding with a fidelity that no history or merely written picturing can ever reach. Much, VOL. II. (1843) no. i.


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »