« AnteriorContinuar »
Art. I. A Voyage to Cochin China, in the Years 1792 and 1793
containing a general View of the valuable Productions and the political Importance of this flourishing Kingdom; and also of such European Settlements as were visited on the Voyage: with Sketches of the Manners, Character, and Condition of their several Inhabitants. To which is annexed an Account of a Journey, made in the Years 1801 and 1802, to the Residence of the Chief of the Booshuana Nation, being the remotest Point in the Interior of Southern Africa, to which Europeans have hitherto penetrated. The Facts and Descriptions taken from a Manuscript Journal. With a Chart of the Route. By John Barrow, Esą, F.R S., Author of “ Travels in Southern Africa,” and « Travels in China." Illustrated and embellished with several Engravings by Medland, coloured after the original Drawings by Mr. Alexander and Mr. Daniel. 4to. pp. 450 and 21 Plates.
31. 135. 6d Boards. Cadell and Davies. *1866. ONE NE of the most amusing and best informed travellers of
modern times here again presents himself before the public, sure of being favourably received *. That he feels, indeed, very confident of indulgent treatment is fairly to be inferred from the high price that he has fixed on a volume, which is, in fact, the least important and the most made up of his productions: since the chief part of its new and curious matter, viz. that which relates to Cochin China, might all have been comprized within the limits of an octavo.-Concerning the price of the work, however, we mean not to be illiberally churlish. Mr. Barrow is earning a very proper and just reward of his labours, when he lays the rich under contribution; and none but the rich will pay three guineas and a half for a volume that may be read in a few afternoons, and then will repose on the shelf. The learned need it not, for whose sake, because they are rarely affluent, it is principally to be desired that books, should be cheap. Yet a large reading tribe must be excluded from the gratification of perusal; and if there be a hardship in this exclu
For Mr. B.'s Travels in China, see Rev. Vol. xlvii. N. S. P-337For his Travels in Africa, see Vols. xxxv. and xlv. VOL. LII. z
sion, sion, it is like those which they are continually experiencing, in being deprived of luxuries intended for and suited to the wealthy and extravagant. Cheaper productions will in time make their appearance, from authors who have a reputation to establish, or who travel unaccompanied by a draftsman.
If Mr. Barrow's presumption on public favour, then, extended no farther than in requiring a little money from those who are well able to pay it, and who need not pay it if they are unwilling, all would be well; and if as poor critics we envied the wealth flowing in on him, still as just critics we ought not to question the propriety of his conduct :--but this confi. dence in public favour seems to have absolved the author from the trouble of soliciting and the care of preserving it. He writes evidently more at his ease, but not with increased grace. The rapid sale of his works has released him from scrupulous caution against inaccuracy, and, consequently, from the concomitant danger of stiffness and formality: yet this liberation seems not to have endowed his style with flexibility and elegance. In the present work, he does not appear to us as an author possessing the habits of composition. In sentiment, too, he takes what may be called liberties with the reader : but an author ought to be very ceremonious and punctilious ; and he should apologize if he makes an aukward interruption, or an inconvenient digression. When the voyager is proceeding with a fair wind towards the splendid shores of Janeiro or the lofty hills of Teneriffe, he ought not to arrest his course by a philippic in bad taste against the French, against Dr. Darwin, or against Dr. Price ; since the connection of such invectives with Cochin China is neither pleasantly felt nor easily discerned. A great writer, indeed, began with tar-water, and ended with the Trinity: but, though the dexterity and easiness of the transition may be admired, no one, we believe, ever recommended or adopted the plan. The propriety and fitness of certain discussions and sentiments depend very much on the occasion and season of their introduction. Things that are good in the abstract may be ill-timed : declamations against French týranny, finesse, and peculation, were formerly useful, and proofs of the same bad qualities will be always applicable, while we are fighting against them : but, if we have not the proof, the declamation is rather out of season; and it oppresses a subject which is already too much burthened. With regard to Dr. Darwin, he has been exposed to public censure and ri. dicule in a mode much more successful than that of Mr. Barrow; and when we are again disposed to laugh at his extravagant fancies, we shall rather turn to the burlesque pages of the Poetry of the Anti Jacobin, than to solemn refutations in the Travels to Cochin China. Dr. Price was during his
life-time attacked by a celebrated writer, not for his calculations, but for his political preachments. If he be really wrong in his calculations, we should be very glad to know where, and in what degree. Mr. Barrow (p. 11.) says that he is inaccurate in many of his calculations: this may be: but the author should have condescended, in a small note, to have enlightened the public and the gentle reader : he has advanced the accusation and applied the sarcasm ; he ought not to withhold the proof. Writers exist who, on this subject of calculation, are willing and competent to vindicate Dr. Price : able, perhaps, to retaliate and avenge.
We remark now and then among authors a certain careless and dashing style of censure and crimination which is not to be tolerated, and which is indeed not very moral. It is easy to construct acrimonious and contemptuous sentences, but it ought not to be very safe ; and it is not necessary to write a quarto to refute them. Such petty sarcasms and sneers, even though they should be merited by the subject of them, if not called forth by the occasion, ought surely to be omitted : they are neither dignified nor elegant : they gratify malice alone : they add nothing to the reputation of the author ; and though he might be grievously distressed for materials, still a page or two, out of four hundred, could well have been spared.
We have now nearly cleansed our bosom of “ the perilous stuft” of animadversion; and with composure and alacrity we are ready to attend the author on his voyage. As his former Travels in China, in company with the British Embassy, gave no narrative of his route to that Empire, the present volume supplies this defect, and relates the details concerning the subordinate kingdom of Cochin China.
In the island of Madeira, at which place the squadron first touched, Mr. B. visited a Franciscan convent; in which was a chamber of skulls, arranged along the walls and ceiling:
• The old monk (says Mr. B ) who attended as shew-man was very careful to impress us with the idea that they were all relics of holy men who had died on the island ; but I suspect they must occasionally have robbed the church yard of a few lay-brethren, and perhaps now and then of a heretic, (as strangers are interred in their burying ground.) in order to accumulate such a prodigious number which, on a rough computation, I should suppose to amount to at least three thousand. The skull of one of the holy brotherhood was pointed out as having a lock.jaw, which occasioned his death ; and, from the garrulity of our attendant, I have no doubt we might have heard the history of many more equally important, which, though thrown away upon us who had no taste for craniology, would in all probability have been highly interesting to Doctor Call
, the famous lecturer on skulls in Vienna. On taking Isave we deposited our
mite on the altar, as charity to the convent, which seems to be the principal object in view of collecting and exhibiting this memento mori of the monastic and mendicant order of St. Francis.'
The inhabitants of Madeira are stated to be a meagre, filthy, and itchy race, dressed in gloomy suits of black; and, which must astonish and shock an English observer, the fair daughters of the isle step aside with perfect composure to the creeks and corners of the streets, and, like Madame Rambouillet, “ pluck their roses" in open day, and in full view of every passenger. Against such a custom, every Londoner would cry shame : not adverting to the indelicacy of the same practice with our robusteous males, and to the sight of which his wife and daughters are continually exposed.
Of Mr. Barrow's national coverousness we had received hints before we read his book; and indeed he scarcely meets with a convenient bay, or a pretty island, which he does not long to transfer to the English. From Madeira, we derive every advantage that a commercial nation can wish to obtain. We bring thence its wines, and we carry thither our manufactures ; and, which is the great point, the nation is not burthened with any establishment attached to it : yet the author says, for the mere improvement of the island and the condition of the people, the English ought to be masters.' He then proceeds to survey the landing places and defences; not perhaps entirely without the hope that our government may, in some future period, send out a force for the generous purpose of improving the island and the condition of the people. We cannot but think that this avidity for foreign territory proceeds not from an enlightened and enlarged policy, but from mere commercial selfishness. When great foreign possessions are supported, the merchants are benefited, but the bulk of the people is oppressed with the expence of maintenance. The patriotic traders at Lloyd's care not how many settlements like Buenos Ayres are taken into our possession : Government, that is the people, pays for the expedition and the garrison : but the cent per cent. profits are gathered by a few individuais. We must, indeed, possess some ports and inlets for our commerce, but it is the nation's interest to have few establishments that largely drain us of men and money. Our veteran regiments may be stationed inactive in the southern hemisphere, while France is striking a blow against the very existence of English power.
Before we quit Madeira, we must note a peculiarity which we do not recollect to have before seen remarked ; viz, chat a Portuguese beggar, when about to solicit charity, apparels himself in his best cloaths.
The island of Teneriffe, which is next visited, does not violently excite the author's cupidity: it has, however, some charms; it may be defended by a small but well disciplined garrison ; and in the possible prospect of some future invasion of it, Mr. B. surveys the landing places, &c. and suggests the mode of attack. He rails frequently against the French, and once, if we recollect rightly, against French commercial agents : but, though we readily grant that his views are highly honourable and patriotic, yet, whenever we attended him on his surveys of the bays, landing places, and batteries of neutral powers, we could never divest ourselves of the notion of a commercial agent.-Some pages are devoted to the narration of an unsuccessful attempt to ascend the Peak of Teneriffe: but the travellers were consoled for their disappointment by a ball in the evening.-Mr. Barrow states the population of Teneriffe at about one hundred thousand. We doubt, therefore, whether, a small but well disciplined garrison would be sufficient to keep the place secure, should we be unwise enough to take it.-The air is salubrious, and population is on the increase.
From Teneriffe, the squadron sailed to St. Jago. When the ship arrived within the limits of the Trade Winds, the smoothness of the sea and the equable motion of the vessel tempted the passengers to the pastime of fishing; and they caught sharks and dolphins. The first were taken without piry, since they were considered as the tyrants and tygers of the deep: the latter were booked and hauled on deck, not for the delicacy of their flesh por for their bad qualities, but that the anglers might enjoy the delight of observing the exquisitely beautiful but evanescent tints of colour, that pass in succession over the surface of their bodies, in the agonies of dying.'- Mr. B.'s account of the sword-fish is curious :
• There are instances, still more extraordinary than the salmon-leap of the astonishing power which the muscles of fishes are capable of exerting ; so very extraordinary indeed, that were they not authenticated in such a manner as not to leave the possibility of a doubt, they would certainly be considered as the inventions of voyagers. Ships' sides of thick oak plank have been completely perforated by the snout of the sword.fish, not of the common specics the Xiphias gladius, of which we struck one at the entrance of Porta Praya bay, but another or at least a variety, of greater dimensions, being sometimes from twenty to thirty feet in length, and distinguished by a large spotted back fin, and by the rounded extremity of the snout or boney process. Van Schouten of Horne, in his very entertaining voyage round the world, about the beginning of the seventeenth century, states that “a great fish or a sea monster, having a horn like a common elephant's tooth, not hollow but full, struck the ship with such grcat strength that it entered into three planks of the ship, two of