« PreviousContinue »
pense. The evidence of these counsels is intuitive'; they need nothing to be said in their support.
The pamphlets which we have placed at the head of this Article, are pretty much of the same character. They see and lament the sufferings of the people; but they have no clear ideas respecting either the source of the misery, or the means of cure. Mr. Preston's pamphlet is the least trustworthy, because it seems to have a very selfish motive. He is personally and individually deeply interested in having corn at a high price. Therefore, according to him, all things will end well, provided only the Legislature take measures to render corn dear. This is a remedy the soundness of which we have already endeavoured to estimate. The effect it is calculated to produce, is an aggra- vation of the evil. Art. II. Travels in Brazil. By Henry Koster, With a Map and Plan,
and eight coloured Engravings. 4to. pp. 500. Price 21. 10s.
Longman and Co. 1816. NARRATIVES of travels in distant parts of the world, come, N in the present times, with a recommendation derived from the state of things nearer home. A reflecting mind is quite sick at the recent history and actual condition of Europe. From ancient times this portion of the globe has been distinguished from the rest, as the peculiar scene of the unfolding and activity of human reason. For the greater part of two thousand years, the Christian Religion, under one mode and another but accompanied with the sacred documents adapted to exclude all. modes but the true — has been generally accepted and prevalent among its nations. During many generations, in the latter part of this long period, there has been a powerful excitement of mental energy in the pursuit of knowledge of all kinds ; a various and wonderful fertility of literary productions; and a grand progress in sciences and arts. In several of the nations, and especially in our own, there has been an earnest speculation, accompanied with a multiplicity of experiments, on every thing relating to the social economy, on the principles of morals, politics, and legislation. And what has been the result of all this, at the close of the eighteenth, and the beginning of the nineteenth century? It has been that, for a space of time nearly approaching the average term of human life, the ambitious and malignant passions have raged with an unparalleled intensity, through the civilized and Christian world, and deluged the wide field of Europe with blood. In contempt of all deprecation, remonstrance, prediction, and experience of suffering, the fury for destruction has driven on, accompanied with, and stimulated by, all kinds of crimes, irreligion, and delusion; and at its suspension at length, by a peace without the spirit or expected benefits of peace, it has left the nations in a state of internal agia
tation, and poverty, and aggravated depravity, which depravity is punished by a continuance of despotism, the establishments of superstition, and the omens of still more miseries to come. From such a state of things it is some little relief to look away to those remote parts of the world, to which the narratives of travellers enable us to carry our imagination.
Not, indeed, that those distant regions present to view scenes of innocence and felicity, on the great scale : travellers no longer venture to offer pictures of society, in exception to the known moral condition of human nature. But we have : the pleasure (for it is itself a pleasure) of going very far off; we are presented with novelties of modification; the evil may in some regions, be in less complicated and systematic forms; it may be less atrocious in the sense that it does not prevail in defiance of direct illuminations from heaven, and by perverting to its aid all the resources of knowledge; and, at any rate, the described aspects of physical Nature delight us by images of novelty, and often of beauty and sublimity. It may be, besides, that the state of the people has an augmented and peculiar interest from their being in such a progress, or crisis, or revolution, as to give cause for large and hopeful speculation, and appear like the commencement of an era in the history of the world.
From the revolutions, counter-revolutions, and present humiliated state of Europe, a large share of inquisitive attention is passing to those parts of America, which are the scene of so much that is strange and stupendous in physical Nature, and of so much that is now beginning to be important in the history of mankind. It is a striking and gratifying spectacle, to see a race, or rather a diversity of races, fantastically mingled and confused, rising from an inveterate state of oppression, degradation, and insignificance, into energy, and invincibly working their way to independence, even though it be through a wide tumult of disorders and calamities--the only course through which it appears to be the destiny of man, in any part of the world, to attain the ultimate state of freedoin and peace. Melancholy as this medium is through which alone we can look forward to the happier con: dition of these awakening tribes; there is the stimulating prospect of many great events in the passage through it, of an advancement and unfolding of mind, of rapid changes, surprising incidents, and signal interpositions of Providence. If it should be. asked_And wherein will this course of calamities, changes,
and wonders, have any such essential difference from the analo'gous trains of events resulting, bitherto, in so little good in our
own part of the world, as to authorize any pleasure in the pros
pect?' --we may at least reply, with no small delight, that there are religious grounds for hoping that the series of errors, crimes, and miseries, will be of much shorter duration in this new region,
Vol. VII, N. S.
than it has been in Europe. We firmly maintain, in spite of the actual state of things, the hope, that the better age, which inspired men have predictively celebrated, is not very far off; and we may well assure ourselves that when it sball arrive to bless one part of the world, the other portions will not be left to work through a long protracted process of failure and misery
We have adverted to the local character of the scenes where the great train of events in question is commencing. Nature has furnished a theatre in superb correspondence and rivalry with whatever there can be of great and magnificent in the human drama. The images of its grand scenery will be in a measure associated with the men and their proceedings, in the minds contemplating their rise to independence and importance; so that a certain adventitious lustre will seem to be reflected on the transactions of a people, vanquishing the tyrants, constituting their politics, extending their plantations, opening their schools of literature and science, and at length dashing to the ground their systems and institutions of superstition, amid the magnificence of the most stupendous mountains, volcanoes, and torrents, and the riches of a mighty fertility of vegetable and vital forms. It must be a spirit. very little imaginative, and very little prone to enthusiastic and poetic feeling, that would not be sensible of a greater captivation in contemplating such a course of events as displayed on such a field, than if the local scene were like the Netherlands, or the Steppes of Tartary. At the same time it is to be acknowledged, that this fine illusion of association will have a greater effect on contemplative minds in Europe, and on cultivated travellers that visit these tracts of the New World, than on the people themselves, the mass of whoin will not, at least for a long time to come, be refined and elated into any ambitious sympathy with the sublimity which predominates over their territory.
The attention and interest now attracted, and which will be progressively more attracted, to the southern, and to what was till lately the Spanish part of the northern division of the American Continent, as the scenes of momentous changes in the state of the nations, and of wonderful phenomena in nature, will ensure a favourable receptien to every authentic work which brings from thuse quarters any considerable share of new information, Within the last comparatively few years, a number of traveller have adventured, and have brought us their contributions : far above all others, Humboldt, who has accomplished more, (aided indeed by a very able associate,) than it would be reasonable to expect from any future individual zealot for novelty and knowledge. When we reflect on the extent of the tracts surveyed by him, on their quality, with respect to the difficulty and toil of traversing them, and the diversity of their appearances, and on the various distinct classes of the traveller's observations and researches, it is truly wonderful to behold such an exemplification of what is practicable to a mind shut up in a frame of heavy matter, slow of movement, soon fatigued, and liable to innumerable maladies and mischiefs.
But inferior explorers may be confident of receiving their share of attention, even though they decline all greatness of enterprise, not venturing toward the central depths of the Continent, nor-approaching the summits, nor even bases, of snowy mountains. Brazil, besides, is not as yet within the sweep of that grand political tempest which is at once ravaging, and clearing of foreign tyranny, so wide a portion of that western world. The Author of this present volume went there for the sake of health ; and made his excursions, observations, and notes, without any thought of publication.
Some time after my return to England,' he says, ' I was encouraged to put together the information which I might be able to impart. The reader will be more disposed to excuse what defects he may find, when he is informed that I went out young, that I did not gather any knowledge of the country in a systematic manner with the idea of giving it to the public, and that the idiom of a foreign lan. guage is perhaps more familiar to me than that of my own. But among judicious readers the style of works of this description will be regarded as of little importance. I have had the advantage of Mr. Southey's advice and extensive library., I have to thank Dr. Traill for his aid in preparing the Appendix.
He had a pleasant voyage, of thirty-five days, from Liverpool to Pernambuco, at the latter end of the year 1809; and he has shewn good sense and a good example in telling this in a single sentence. He very properly gives a rather minute description of the singularly formed American port, accompanied with a neat plan, furnished, he says, by an English gentleman resident there, ? who is indefatigable in the search of whatever may contribute to
the increase of knowledge. It seems to be by something very like a caprice, that Nature has left there any harbour at all. At Recife, (for that is the name of the town, Pernambuco being 'properly the name of the captaincy,')the stranger instantly found himself in pleasant society, native and imported, and entered with vivacity into their convivialities. He took a cottage at a beautiful place where the better sort of people go to reside during the summer months, at a short distance in the country. The society he acknowledges was very frivolous, and not always very temperate. At many of the houses of the Portuguese, he found the .. "card-tables occupied at nine o'clock in the morning; when one
person rose another took his place;' and thus excepting an in- ; terval for dinner, the battle would be gallantly fought the livelong day, against the old invading enemy Time. There were
other auxiliary resources, music, dancing, playing at forfeits, dinner parties, and rides to Recife. The habits indeed, he remarks, were very much the same, at this place of summer adjournment, as at the English watering places. In the town, however, which consists of three compartinents, and containg 25,000 inhabitants, the state of society is more reserved and ceremonious. The native Portuguese merchants, especially, maintain a style of stately retireinent, in their mansion's ; into soine of which, nevertheless, our Author made his way; but he will not own that he is much the wiser for the privilege. .
There are a multitude of occasions for observing what a mighty power of ingenuity, or we may say genius, is exercised by the depravity of the human inind. The most striking of the exemplifications is, that Religion, even the Christian Religion, the grand heaven-descended opponent of all evil, can be perverted by this genius, to subserve absolutely every purpose of iniquity and vanity, every passion and taste, from the most frivolous to the most infernal. In the place of our Author's transatlantic sojourn, as indeed in some of the countries of Europe, Religion is one of the most stimulant and favourite diversions. He witnessed all the gaieties, shows,, frolics, and riotous indulgences of The Easter Season ; of which the rest. was heightened by the mummery of a more solemn cast on Good Friday.
On the following day, Good Friday, the decorations of the churches, the dress of the women, and even the manner of both sexes were changed,' (from the flare of gay finery on Holy Thursday ;) all was dismal. In the morning I went to the church of the Sacramento, to witness a representation of our Saviour's descent from the Cross. The church was much crowded. An enormous curtain hung from the ceiling, excluding from sight the whole of the principal chapel. An Italian Missionary Friar of the Penha convent, with a long beard, and dressed in a thick dark brown cloth habit, was in the pulpit, and about to commence an extempore sermon. After an exordium of some length, adapted to the day, he cried out, “ Behold him ;" the curtain immediately dropped, and discovered an enormous cross, with a full-sized wooden image of our Saviour, exceedingly well carved and painted, and around it a number of angels represented by young persons, all finely decked out, and each bearing a large pair of outstretched wings, made of gauze; a man dressed in a bob-wig, and a pea-green robe, as St. John, and a female kneeling at the foot of the Cross, as the Magdalen; whose character, as I was informed, seemingly that nothing might be wanting, was not the most pure. The friar continued with jauch vehemence, and much action, his narrative of the crucifixion; and after some minutes again cried out, “ Behold they take him down;" when four men, habited in imitation of Roman soldiers, stepped forward. The countenances of these persons were in part: concealed by black crape. Two of them ascended ladders placed