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ON SEEING MR. STANFIELD'S PICTURE OF THE BATTLE
IN THE EXHIBITION AT SOMERSET HOUSE, OF THE PRESENT YEAR.
All honour to thee, Stanfield !-thou hast done
And, looking down from his celestial throne,
Let England's sons before this canvas stand
So shall their bosoms glowing at the sight
Here, as before an altar, stand and view
For nought is heard, but when some mast is shred,
Peal follows crash, and crash succeeds each peal,
Such is this picture, an historic page,
The Mascarenhas : a Legend of the Portuguese in India. By the
Author of “ The Prediction,” &c. 3 Vols. Smith, Elder, and
Co., London, The whole history of India is one continued romance ;-a romance tinged with horrors, darkened by superstition, and prodigal of blood. The banner that old Time has ever waved over that country of antiquities has borne upon it the dread symbols of the most revolting superstitions quartered with the blood-red hand of rapine ; and, though a few flowers may be discovered wreathed among the more horrible types, they are not enough to relieve the dire emblazonry of crime mingled with fanatical mystery. Even when the good few, with a truly christian zeal, endeavoured to supplant this terrible banner, by elevating upon its fertile soil the glorious cross, this beautiful sign of glory to God and peace and good-will to men, too soon became a symbol of mad persecution, an apology for licentious barbarity, and an index to point out where stood the walls, and where were sunk the dungeons of an inquisition that has blasphemously arrogated to itself the title of “Holy.”
If ever a country was pre-eminently persecuted and devoured, if ever man in his various tribes had his better energies crushed out by the madness of hostile, God-insulting and man-defacing faiths, that country was, and still is, India ; and it is in its various and beautiful regions, that we find him the most debased by a contemptible notion of his future self, and a childlike subserviency to the jugglery of a false priesthood. It may be thought, that with such materials with which to operate, the engrafting a well-written romance upon the annals of India, is a task boldly to be undertaken and easily to be executed. But never was an idea more fallacious. The very variety of the matter, the richness in incident, and the abundance of startling events, make the amalgamation into a connected story a completion, of the utmost difficulty. The abundance offered to the writer tempts to discursive improvidence, and would insensibly lead on the unskilful to failure. A romance founded on Indian history must be like a tessellated pavement: every stone different in hue and colour from the other, individually brilliant, requires the master hand so to arrange the whole, that out of apparent incongruity harmony may arise, and the mind be satisfied in contemplating the multifarious arrangement, that of the many minute and seemingly opposite elements, a perfect whole is produced.
How far Mrs. Stewart, the author of this singularly well-told tale, has effected this object, we will leave the reader to decide. Should he think that she has not quite reached perfection, that a few of the precious materials that she has placed in juxtaposition do not look well beside each other, and that one, perhaps two, of the stones that she has placed in the tessellated pavement of her story are but pebbles but foreign to their purpose, and ought to have been wholly omitted, we beg to remark, that these discrepancies are less imputable to the authoress than to the taste of the times, and to the very nature of her subject. This will be fully shown as we proceed to give some faint notion of the work.
It is opened by a well-written introduction, fixing the exact epoch of the tale, and giving a rapid but very lucid description of the then state of India. At that time, the Portuguese domination was fast declining, whilst that of England was just beginning to extend itself slowly but surely, and the great, or rather the famous, (for the terms are not synonymous,) Aurungzebe was at the zenith of his power. This emperor was, as everybody knows, a Mahomedan, and he was rather severe upon the great majority of his subjects, the Hindoos. Their interests and their religion was energetically espoused by a Mahrattah chief, Raja Sevagi, who is certainly, whatever the fair writer may have intended, the hero of the romance. He holds a mountain district on the confines of Aurungzebe's dominions, and not only continually annoys him by predatory excursions, but even goes to the length of plotting to dethrone him, and to set up in his place some other emperor, who may be more auspicious to the Hindoos, and more tolerant to the Brahminical code. To carry these views into effect, he does not scruple to league with one Gomez, a lusty, hardfeatured, hard-hearted villain, a pirate by profession, and a very brute in all manner of practice. This Gomez is a Portuguese, whose head quarters are situated at Chittagong, and who is in command of some thousand valiant vagabonds, his countrymen, and of several thousand other vagabonds, Hindoos, not quite so valiant, but equally vicious. Now there is in India, another legitimate power belonging to Portugal, whose principal station is at Goa, plentiful with priests, to make it respectable, and a very goodly inquisition, to make it terrible. The hands of these men are against all, and all against them. The governor of Goa, and consequently of all the Portuguese Indian possessions, is one of the Mascarenhas, a name which gives a title to these volumes. Now this governor had a younger brother, who, in early life, fought against Aurungzebe, and so successfully, that he took him prisoner—the brother, at that time, a very excellent warrior, and a good Catholic His soldierly qualities stuck to him to the end of his
life, but his Catholicism vanished at the sight of a beautiful young lady, about to become a virgin suttee, who was the virgin widow of a very old Raja, and the sister of the Mahrattah Prince Sevagi, above mentioned. This Xavier Mascarenhas rescues the lady from a bed that promised to be so hot for her, and actually turns Turk and marries her. He then assumes the name of Zohac, and gets a very nice slice of Indian territory, and a body of very well disciplined troops. The reader may be sure that Raja Sevagi bears this Portugal Turk no very good will for outraging his religion, and so cavalierly carrying off his sister. We have not space to mention about as many more important characters, who have all their particular histories, and which converge, as it were, to one point, in bringing about the catastrophe. We will now proceed to the opening of this drama. It is with a gorgeous scene in the city of Delhi, on the occasion of a public reception by the emperor Aurungzebe, of a most splendid Persian embassy from Shah Abâs.
This is a long and a very minute account, which fully evinces the great reading and the patient research of the authoress. Everything is described toʻthe life : men of various faiths, and of all professions adhere, even in their modes of speech, to all the niceties of distinction. That the authoress has fully caught the spirit of the phraseology of the east may be seen in the following extract. Korrily wishes, contrary to the custom of the east, to unveil and gaze upon the procession.
“Off to thy distaff, Korrily! cried the man, in the same tone of mirthful raillery ; 'the ware-room of the merchant is not the province of the wife-away! thou art out of custom, Korrily; in thy country such things may be, but here
«• And must we keep to such queer customs ?' said the female, at once softened down to the pathetic; and will you break the faith you swore to, in my own dear land?'
« • Korrily,' interrupted the other, thy Cuttub loves thee as the Pundit water, the Parsee fire! the scent of burned ambergris is not so balmy as thy breath, nor silver cymbal dulcet as thy voice—when modulated, love! but in discord 'tis the Arab's diff,* the peacock's scream!mix more of liquorice than of citron in thy sherbet, Korrily.'”
But who is this Cuttub, and who is this Korrily? They are, perhaps, the pebbles alluded to, in our fanciful tesselated pavement. Korrily is nothing more, or to give her due honour, less, than an Irish lady who formerly condescended, being a good Catholic, to act in a menial capacity in Portugal, in the noble family of the Mascarenhas, but now braves emperors on their thrones, wields, or at least influences the destinies of rajahs, princes, powers, and dominions-goes through all manner of adventures, speaks a mixture of all languages, and finally, as a reward, resolves herself, at the end of three volumes, into the simple abigail in the same noble family. There is too much thrown upon the shoulders of this Korrily, albeit they be broad and Irish, and a most particular favourite of ours. Cuttub, her husband, is a complete Scapin. He is, in morality, one of a class that in religion is every day increasing, an Everything-arian ! and his character, as Mrs. Stewart has drawn it, is in much better keeping than that of his wife. In countries, where the slave of one year may be the ruler of the next, we have no right to be surprised at any vicissitude, provided it be of the sterner sex; but the harem and the sack are impediments to the ladies playing many public fantastic tricks. Led on by incidents too long for us to' abstract, Korrily and Cuttub are found soliciting justice. The following is a description of the great Aurungzebe.
“ A person of diminutive stature, his demeanor unmarked by any at. tribute of kingly dignity, half rose from the regal seat at this intrusion. It was Aurungzebe. To a superficial observer the lineaments of this extraordinary man gave no indication of that sagacious, resolute, yet pliant mind which could at will dissolve into every form, yet lose itself in none, and could veil hatred or displeasure by frankness, and by a show of clemency, where clemency was prudence: he bad won not merely toleration but applause, for the imprisonment of his father and the murder of his
brothers; and now stood forth, audaciously tranquil in his usurped prerogative, to receive the willing homage of potentate and feudatory.
« Aurungzebe gave a few moments to reflection, a few more to quiet inquisition of the countenances in his
immediate vicinity, before he noticed the petition : at length he turned to Seva, a smile of pleasantry gradually brightening his olive complexion, and giving an air of good humour to his half rebuke
“• Redress would not have been solicited so rudely, for other than the wife of the date-merchant, nor would Seva for nobler, or perhaps worthier object have overlooked the ceremonial due to the majesty of Hin. dostan, and to the representative of Abâs !-Retire-to-morrow we will weigh this matter.'
“Great king ! replied the boy, we learn from the precept of Aurungzebe, that his light shall be darkened who defers to the next hour what may be done in this !
"Prayer should be the precursor of every act of that power which awards condemnation or acquittal,' said the monarch, prepare, with Akbar, to attend me to the mosque.'
“• Then will my sister, mighty prince, be torn from her true protector!' cried the boy, spiritedly, yet with reverence.
“If she be the lost ward of the date merchant's wife, I have been taught to consider her as such : within this hour the child hath been recognized and claimed.'”
The reader may now gather an inkling of the mysterious consequence of the date merchant's wife, Korrily; but if the reader supposes that we are going to unravel for him this delicate complexity, he is very pleasantly mistaken. It is our wish to show him or her so much of the excellence of this work, as to make the desire to purchase it almost as strong as a passion.
We will now introduce to the notice of our friends, another exquisitely drawn, and consistently sustained, character. She is an historical personage ; and, after the events that are the basis of this novel had transpired, became celebrated by playing a most conspicuous political part in the arena of India, making even the great Aurungzebe tremble for the stability of his power. She is Cunja, a beautiful gipsy, a woman of fierce passions, and high mental endowments, the concubine of Gomez, the Portuguese leader and pirate. She is required to account for the possession of a beautiful little girl, the heroine of the story, whom she had stolen from the honest Irish Korrily.
“Silence, bold rebel !- advance !
“The first command was obeyed upon the instant; compliance with the second would have involved separation from the child, and was unheeded as if unheard. An authoritative signal passed quickly to the Cutwâl; a pressure was applied to Korrily's wrists which made her fingers nerveless, and her arms were instantly bound with her own girdle.
«• Is this your law !' she cried, “a blessed law! kill first and then condemn! Ye call yourselves believers too! ye, who if a man but cough, cry, 'strangle him!'- A fine shew ye make, my lords; much like the cinnamon tree, your bark far better than your body!
“Stars of the faith! exclaimed Cuttub, touching with his forehead the steps of the divan, 'grief for the child hath filled the crystal goblet of her brain ! she is witless as the bough of the blasted palm is leatless !" -He arose, and gently detaching the little nach-girl from the arms of the Cunja, placed her between the Arab and the Armenian. “Sunbeams of