Page images

sidered as its southern extremity) from New Holland. For this discovery we are indebted to Mr. Bass, a surgeon, after whom the straits have been named, and who was led to a suspicion of their existence by a prodigious swell which he observed to set in from the westward, at the mouth of the opening which he had reached on a voyage of discovery prosecuted in a common whale-boat. To verify this suspicion, he proceeded afterwards in a vessel of 25 tons, accompanied by Mr. Flinders, a naval gentleman ; and, entering the straits between the latitudes of 39° and 40° south, actually cir. cumnavigated Van Diemen's Land. Mr. Bass's ideas of the importance of this discovery we shall give from his narrative, as reported by Mr. Collins.

“The most prominent advantage which seemed likely to accrue to the settlement from this discovery was the expediting of the passage from the Cape of Good Hope to Port Jackson : for, although a line drawn from the Cape to 44o of South latitude, and to the longitude of the South Cape of Van Diemen's Land, would not sensibly differ from one drawn to the latitude of 40° to the same longitude; yet it must be allowed that a ship will be four degrees nearer to Port Jackson in the latter situation than it would be in the former. But there is. perhaps, a greater advantage to be gained by making a passage through the strait than the mere saving of four degrees of latitude along the coast. The major part of the ships that have arrived at Port Jackson have met with N.E. wind, on opening the sea round the South Cape and Cape Pillar; and have been so much retarded by them that a fourteen days' passage to the port is reckoned to be a fair one, although the difference of latitude is but ten degrees, and the most prevailing winds at the latter place are from S. E. to S. in summer, and from W.S.W. to S. in winter. If, by going through Bass Strait, these N.E. winds can be avoided, which in many cases would probably be the case, there is no doubt but a week or more would be gained by it ; and the expense, with the wear and tear of a ship for one week, are objects to most owners, more especially when freighted with convicts by the run.

This strait likewise presents another advantage. From the prevalence of the N. E, and easterly winds off the South Cape, many suppose that a passage may be made from thence to the westward, either to the Cape of Good Hope, or to India ; but the fear of the great unknown bight between the South Cape and the S.W. cape of Lewen's Land, lying in about 35° south and 113° east, has hitherto prevented the trial being made. Now, the strait removes a part of this danger by presenting a certain place of retreat, should a gale oppose itself to the ship in the first part of the essay : and should the wind come at S.W. she need not fear making a good stretch to the W.N.W., which course, if made good, is within a few degrees of going clear of all. There is besides, King George the Third's Sound, discovered by Captain Vancouver, situate in the latitude of 35° 30' south, and longitude 118° 12' east; and it is to be hoped that a few years will disclose many others upon the coast, as well as the confirmation or futility of the conjecture that a still larger than Bass Strait dismembers New Holland."-(Pp. 192, 193.)

We learn from a note subjoined to this passage that, in order to verify or refute this conjecture of the existence of other important inlets on the west coast of New Holland, Captain Flinders has sailed with two ships under his command, and is said to be accompanied by several professional men of considerable ability.

Such are the most important contents of Mr. Collins's book, the style of which we very much approve, because it appears to be written by himself; and we must repeat again that nothing can be more injurious to the opinion the public will form of the authenticity of a book of this kind than the suspicion that it has been tricked out and embellished by other hands. Such men, to be sure, have existed as Julius Cæsar; but, in general, a correct and elegant style is hardly obtainable by those who have passed their lives in action : and no one has such a pedantic love of good writing as to prefer mendacious finery to rough and ungrammatical truth. The events which Mr. Collins's book records we have read with great interest. There is a charm in thus seeing villages, and churches, and farms rising from a wilderness where civilised man has never set his foot since the creation of the world, The contrast between fertility and barrenness, population and solitude, activity and indolence fill the mind with the pleasing images of happiness and increase. Man seems to move in his proper sphere while he is thus dedicating

the powers of his mind and body to reap those rewards which the bountiful Author of all thing has assigned to his industry. Neither is it any common enjoyment to turn for awhile from the memory of those distractions which have so recently agitated the Old World ; and to reflect that its very horrors and crimes may have thus prepared a long era of opulence and peace for a people yet involved in the womb of time.


(E. REVIEW, April, 1803.) Of all the species of travels that which has moral observation for its object is the most liable to error, and has the greatest difficulties to overcome, before it can arrive at excellence. Stones, and roots, and leaves are subjects which may exercise the understanding without rousing the passions. A mineralogical traveller will hardly fall foul upon the granite and the feldspar of other countries than his own ; a botanist will not conceal its nondescripts ; and an agricultural tourist will faithfully detail the average crop per acre; but the traveller who observes on the manners, habits, and institutions of other countries must have emancipated his mind from the extensive and powerful dominion of association, must have extinguished the agreeable and deceitful feelings of national vanity, and cultivated that patient humility which builds general inferences only upon the repetition of individual facts. Everything he sees shocks some passion or flatters it ; and he is perpetually seduced to distort facts, so as to render them agreeable to his system and his feelings. Books of travel are now published in such vast abundance that it may not be useless, perhaps, to state a few of the reasons why the value so commonly happens to be in the inverse ratio of their number.

Ist. Travels are bad, from a want of opportunity for observation in those who write them. If the sides of a building are to be measured, and the number of its windows to be counted, a very short space of time may suffice for these operations; but to gain such a knowledge of their prevalent opinions and propensities as will enable a stranger to comprehend (what is commonly called) the genius of a people requires a long residence among them, a familiar acquaintance with their language, and an easy circulation among their various societies. The society into which a transient stranger gains the most easy access in any country is not often that which ought to stamp the national character; and no criterion can be more fallible in a people so reserved and inaccessible as the British, who (even when they open their doors to letters of introduction) cannot for years overcome the awkward timidity of their nature. The same expressions are of so different a value in different countries, the same actions proceed from such different causes, and produce such different effects that a judgment of foreign nations founded on rapid observation is almost certainly a mere tissue of ludicrous and disgraceful mistakes; and yet a residence of a month or two seems to entitle a traveller to present the world with a picture of manners in London, Paris, or Vienna, and even to dogmatise upon the political, religious, and legal institutions, as if it were one and the same thing to speak of abstract effects of such institutions and of their effects combined with all the peculiar circumstances in which any nation may be placed.

2dly. An affectation of quickness in observation, an intuitive glance that requires only a moment, and a part, to judge of a perpetuity and a whole. The late Mr. Petion, who was sent over into this country to acquire a knowledge of our criminal law, is said to have declared himself thoroughly informed upou

the subject, after remaining precisely two and thirty minutes in the Old Bailey.

3dly. The tendency to found observation on a system, rather than a system upon observation. The fact is, there are very few original eyes and ears. The great mass see and hear as they are directed by others, and bring back from a residence in foreign countries nothing but the vague and customary notions concerning it, which are carried and brought back for half a century, without verification or change. The most ordinary shape in which this tendency to prejudge makes its appearance among travellers is by a disposition to exalt, or, a still more absurd disposition to depreciate their native country. They are incapable of considering a foreign people but under one single point of view—the relation in which they stand to their own ; and the whole narrative is frequently nothing more than a mere triumph of national vanity, or the ostentation of superiority to so common a failing.

But we are wasting our time in giving a theory of the faults of travellers, when we have such ample means of exemplifying them all from the publication now before us, in which Mr. Jacob Fievée, with the most surprising talents for doing wrong, has contrived to condense and agglomerate every species of absurdity that has hitherto been made known, and even to launch out occasionally into new regions of nonsense, with a boldness which well entitles him to the merit of originality in folly, and discovery in impertinence.' We consider Mr. Fievée's book as extremely valuable in one point of view. It affords a sort of limit or mind-mark, beyond which we conceive it to be impossible in future that pertness and petulance should pass. It is well to be acquainted with the boundaries of our nature on both sides; and to Mr. Fievée we are indebted for this valuable approach to pessimism. The height of knowledge no man has yet scanned; but we have now pretty well fathomed the gulf of ignorance.

We must, however, do justice to Mr. Fievée when he deserves it. He evinces, in his preface, a lurking uneasiness at the apprehension of exciting war between the two countries, from the anger to which his letters will give birth in England. He pretends to deny that they will occasion a war; but it is very easy to see he is not convinced by his own arguments; and we confess ourselves extremely pleased by this amiable solicitude at the probable effusion of human blood. We hope Mr. Fievée is deceived by his philanthropy, and that no such unhappy consequences will ensue as he really believes, though he affects to deny them. We dare to say the dignity of this country will be satisfied, if the publication in question is disowned by the French government, or, at most, if the author is given up. At all events, we have no scruple to say, that to sacrifice 20,000 lives, and a hundred millions of money to resent Mr. Fievée's book would be an unjustifiable waste of blood and treasure; and that to take him off privately by assassination would be an undertaking hardly compatible with the dignity of a great empire.

To show, however, the magnitude of the provocation, we shall specify a few of the charges which he makes against the English.—That they do not understand fireworks as well as the French; that they charge a shilling for admission to the exhibition; that they have the misfortune of being income moded by a certain disgraceful privilege called the liberty of the press; that the opera band plays out of tune; that the English are so fond of drinking that they get drunk" with a certain air called the gas of Paradise ; that the privilege of electing members of Parliament is so burthensome, that cities sometimes petition to be exempted from it; that the great obstacle to a Par. liamentary reform is the mob; that women sometimes have titles distinct from those of their husbands, although, in England any body can sell his wife at

market, with a rope about her neck. To these complaints he adds—that the English are so far from enjoying that equality of which their partisans boast that none but the servants of the higher nobility can carry canes behind a carriage; that the power which the French kings had of pardoning before trial, is much the same thing as the English mode of pardoning after trial ; that he should conceive it to be a good reason for rejecting any measure in France that it was imitated from the English, who have no family affections, and who love money so much that their first question, in an inquiry concerning the character of any man, is es to his degree of fortune. Lastly, Mr. Fieree alleges against the English, that they have great pleasure in contem. plating the spectacle of men deprived of their reason. And, indeed, we must have the candour to allow that the hospitality which Mr. Fievée experienced seems to afford some pretext for this assertion.

One of the principal objects of Jr. Fievée's book is to combat the Anglomania which has raged so long among his countrymen, and which prevailed at Paris to such an excess that even Mr. Necker, a foreigner (incredible as it may seem), after having been treice minister of France retained a considerable share of admiration for the English government. This is quite inexplicable. But this is nothing to the treason of the Encyclopedists, who, instead of attri. buting the merit of the experimental philosophy and the reasoning by induction to a Frenchman, have shown themselves so lost to all sense of the duty which they owed their country that they have attributed it to an Englishman, * of the name of Bacon, and this for no better reason than that he really was the author of it. The whole of this passage is written so entirely in the genius of Mr. Fievée, and so completely exemplifies that very caricature species of Frenchmen from which our gross and popular notions of the whole people are taken, that we shall give the passage at full length, cautiously abstaining from the sin of translating it.

« Quand je reproche aux philosophes d'avoir vanté l'Angleterre, par haine pour les institutions qui soutenoient la France, je ne hasarde rien, et je fournirai une nouvelle preuve de cette assertion en citant les encyclopédistes, chefs avoués de la philosophie moderne.

"Comment nous ont-ils présenté l'Encyclopédie ? Comme un monument immortel, comme le dépôt précieux de toutes les connoissances humaines. Sous quel patronage l'ont-ils élevé ce monument immortel? Est-ce sous l'égide des ecrivains dont la France s'honoroit? Non, ils ont choisi pour maître et pour idole, un Anglais, Bâcon : ils lui ont fait dire tout ce qu'ils ont voulu, parce que cet auteur, extraordinairement volumineux, n'étoit pas connu en France, et ne l'est guère en Angleterre que de quelques hommes studieux; mais les philosophes sentoient que leur succès, pour introduire des nouveautés, tenoit à faire croire qu'elles n'étoient pas neuves pour les grands esprits; et comme les grands esprits Français, trop connus, ne se prêtoient pas à un pareil dessein, les philosophes ont eu recours à l'Angleterre. Ainsi, un ouvrage fait en France, et offert à l'admiration de l'Europe comme l'ouvrage par excellence, fut mis par des Français sous la protection du génie Anglais. O honte ! Et les philosophes se sont dit patriotes, et la France, pour prix de sa dégradation, leur a élevé des statues ! Le siècle qui commence, plus juste, parce qu'il a le sentiment de la véritable grandeur, laissera ces statues et l'Encyclopédie s'ensevelir sous la même poussière."

When to this are added the commendations that have been bestowed on Newton, the magnitude and the originality of the discoveries which have been attributed to him, the admiration which the works of Locke have excited, and the homage that has been paid to Milton and Shakspeare, the treason which lurks at the bottom of it all will not escape the penetrating glance of Mr. Fievée; and he will discern that same cause, from which every goor Teenchman knows the defeat of Aboukir and of the first of June to have

the monster Pitt, and his English guineas.

hered by a person of the name of Julius Cæsar," is the first phrase in one tle books.




(E. REVIEW, April, 1803.) An Account of the Island of Ceylon. By Robert PERCIVAL, Esq., of his Majesty's Nine.

teenth Regiment of Foot. London: C. and R. Baldwin. It is now little more than half a century since the English first began to establish themselves in any force upon the peninsula of India ; and we at present possess, in that country, a more extensive territory and a more numerous population than any European power can boast of at home. In no instance has the genius of the English, and their courage, shone forth more conspicuously than in their contest with the French for the empire of India. The numbers on both sides were always inconsiderable ; but the two nations were fairly matched against each other, in the cabinet and the field : the struggle was long and obstinate ; and, at the conclusion, the French remained masters of a dismantled town, and the English of the grandest and most extensive colony that the world has ever seen. To attri. bute this success to the superior genius of Clive is not to diminish the reputation it confers on his country, which reputation must, of course, be elevated by the number of great men to which it gives birth. But the French were by no means deficient in casualties of genius at that period, unless Bussy is to be considered as a man of common stature of mind, or Dupleix to be classed with the vulgar herd of politicians. Neither was Clive (though he clearly stands forward as the most prominent figure in the group) without the aid of some military men of very considerable talents. Clive extended our Indian empire ; but General Lawrence preserved it to be extended ; and the former caught, perhaps, from the latter, that military spirit by which he soon became a greater soldier than him without whom he never would have been a soldier at all.

Gratifying as these reflections upon our prowess in India are to national pride, they bring with them the painful reflection that so considerable a portion of our strength and wealth is vested upon such precarious foundations, and at such an immense distance from the parent country. The glit. tering fragments of the Portuguese empire, scattered up and down the East, should teach us the instability of such dominion. We are (it is true) better capable of preserving what we have obtained than any other nation which has ever colonized in Southern Asia ; but the object of ambition is so tempt. ing, and the perils to which it is exposed so numerous, that no calculating mind can found any durable conclusions upon this branch of our commerce, and this source of our strength.

In the acquisition of Ceylon we have obtained the greatest of all our wants—a good harbour. For it is a very singular fact that, in the whole peninsula of India, Bombay is alone capable of affording a safe retreat to ships during the period of the monsoons.

The geographical figure of our possessions in Ceylon is whimsical enough; we possess the whole of the sea-coast, and enclose in a periphery the unfore tunate King of Candia, whose rugged and mountainous dominions may be compared to a coarse mass of iron, set in a circle of silver. The Popilian ring, in which this votary of Buddha' has been so long held by the Portuguese and Dutch, has infused the most vigilant jealousy into the government, and rendered it as difficult to enter the kingdom of Candia as if it were Paradise or China ; and yet, once there, always there ; for the difficulty of departing is just as great as the difficulty of arriving; and his Candian Excellency, who has used every device in his power to keep them out, is

« PreviousContinue »