Imágenes de página

suffered to indulge to their fullest wishes. After a very short interval they renewed their calls for more: this was set before them but the division of it had nearly occasioned a very serious quarrel between the lady and her attendant, who started up from table, and with the most savage fury swore, in the language of the country, he would put an end to her existence, for having, as he said, taken to herself a little more than her due share.

“ The effect of the liquor on the two guests was very different ; for while the man became mad and furious, the poor queen dowager appeared silly and childish. She burst into tears, and trembled with fear as her companion grew outrageous and desperate. Just at this time, Pomarre (her husband) came on board. He was touched with compassion for Edeah, his consort; but unwilling personally to interfere, he beckoned me to go down, and endeavour to arrange matters, without his appearing to know any thing of the business.”

Mr. Turnbull's detail of his adventures in Otaheite, his anecdotes of the royal family, and his characteristic sketches of the inhabitants, are very entertaining. We were particularly pleased with the testimony which he bears to the excellent conduct of the missionaries, though we lament that their efforts had not yet so far prevailed as to produce the discontinuance of the horrid practices of infanticide and human sacrifices. It is surprising, however, in the midst of customs so shocking to humanity, that the temper of the Otaheiteans is mild and amiable, and that they are absolutely incapable of malice, though engaged in perpetual wars. There unhappily prevails among them a general depravity of principle, a shameless infidelity to their engagements, and an indolence of disposition which nothing, not even their cupidity, seems capable of removing. Mr. Turnbull's peculiar opportunities gave him an insight into their character which no other European has enjoyed in a greater degree. And it is really mortifying to the humane bosom to reflect upon the solemn and affecting import of one passage in Mr. Turnbull's book, in which he states this melancholy truth

“ That upon a comparison of their present and former situation one inference is clear, that they have reaped no advantage from their intercourse with Europeans: that the greater part of their characteristic simplicity has now vanished, and has given place to selfish cunning and low-minded artifice. Their communication with Botany Bay has been productive of the most baneful effects.”

The zeal of our missionaries are thus counteracted by an impulse derived from the same source,

We instruct them by our vices to offend that great Being whom we have taught them in some measure to know; and thus increase their risk in proportion to their responsibility:

The Sandwich islanders, through their intercourse with the north-west coast of America, have become tolerable proficients in the English tongue. They are extremely assiduous, and practise, or endeavour to imitate, all the callings of the Europeans.. Their canoes are superior to any others that were witnessed by our traveller in any part of the world; and their skill in swimming is so great that we might almost be induced to suppose them an amphibious race. The state of improvement in these islands is, indeed, very considerable, as will appear from the following extract of the missionary journal.

“ SANDWICH ISLANDS. The missionaries at Otaheite were in. formed, by the captain of a vessel which arrived there in August, 1806, that he had lately been at the Sandwich islands; of the prosperity of which he gave a pleasing account. There are two Europeans there, whose names are Davis and Young, who have resided, in these islands for near fifteen years. These men are the king's confidents, and through their ability and fidelity have had the principal direction of his affairs. They have made great advances towards civilization. The king is not at all oppressive, as every man pays a regular tribute or tax out of his produce, &c. to the government; the rest he enjoys without any fear of being plundered by the king or chiefs. The king, it is said, has upwards of two thousand stand: of arms.

He has built several vessels, and one of almost seventy tons. He has a fortification round his house, mounted with ten guns. He has also about two hundred disciplined native soldiers, who do regular duty night and day. He has upwards of one thousand two hundred dollars, and other valuable articles in proportion, deposited in store-houses, which he has collected from ships by regular trade. How happy should we be to add they have also the privilege of hearing and knowing the joyful sound of the gospel!"

Mr. Turnbull is very sanguine in his recommendations to the missionary society to give up the attempt of making converts at Otaheite, and to turn their attention to the Sandwich islanders. He vindicates their character from the cruelty with which the unfortunate end of Captain Cooke had stained it, and adds, that that event is there to this day" deeply and generally deplored.”.

In a conversation with Mr. Young respecting the melancholy fate of Captain Cooke, I asked him how the Sandwich islanders felt after the first transports of anger had abated respecting this great man, His answer was, that as they at first considered him as immortal, according to some of their rude notions of a superior being, they most fully expected that he would, in some shape or other, re-appear amongst them; and that they retained this idea for some years. Afterwards, being given to understand that his sons were chiefs of high power in England, they conceived a great alarm lest one or other of them should return to the Sandwich Islands with a large force, and wreak a merited vengeance on them by some tere rible example.”

We could not read without emotions of pleasure Mr. Turnbull's account of the efforts of these islanders in trade, and the building and management of ships. He pronounces them to be considerably advanced in the useful mechanical arts; and informs us that this rising little community entertait à confident hope of being, in the course of a few years, in a condition to open a trade with China in vessels of their own construction, and navigated by their own people. They are able to furnish fire-arms, gunpowder, hardware, and clothes of different kinds, to other infant nations within their reach; having already accuinulated more of these articles than are consumed or wanted at home, and which articles they have found means to acquire in exchange for labour and refreshments supplied to the ships touching at their coast.

They possess also some articles of high price in the China market; such as pearls and sandal-wood.

Infant murder and other barbarous custonis of the Otaheiteans are unknown among them; from which people they are also most advantageously distinguished by their eager curiosity, and thirst of improvement. And Mr. Turnbull is of opinion that the introduction of the system of Dr. Bell among them would, in all probability, be singularly successful.

The account of Tamahama, the king of the Sandwich Islands, of which Ovrhyhee, the scene of the unhappy fate of the excel lent Captain Cooke, is the principal, is very interesting. His power, after many vicissitudes, seemed to be firnily settled. “ And,” says Mr. Turnbull," he is not only a great warrior and politician, but a very acute trader. He is well acquainted with weights and measures, and the value which all articles ought to bear in exchange with each other. He is inflexible in punishing all offences which seem to counteract his supreme command.” It appears also, from the same authority, that this chieftain has acquired an equal command over himself; for having felt in himself, and made others feel, the ill consequences of his addiction to liquor, he promised his European friends that, in future, he would not exceed a fixed and very moderate quantity; and to this engagement he has inviolably adhered; thus accomplishing that most difficult of all self-victories, the practice of continence, without abstinence. The knowledge of the English language, which has been long in progress in these islands, offers great facilities to European intercourse with them, and great encouragemeat to measures for their moral and civil improves ment.

There is no information given us of the Friendly Islands, other than that which we have before received from earlier travellers. Perhaps Mr. Turnbull's short stay at Goa (for he merely touched there) prevented him from examining more minutely the present condition of the inhabitants. They may be ranked much below the Sandwich, and on a par with the Otaheitean, islanders in point of civilization. In their wars they are extremely cruel, and are reported to give no quarter; a circumstance which may account for the apparent scantiness of the population.

In this short notice of Mr. Turnbull's voyage we have been governed less by the conviction that it was inportant to criticise the author, than to glean information from the plain, unsophisticated statements of the traveller. It is because, in our opinion, the work answers to this description that it is entitled to the public favour. It forms a pleasing contrast to the pompous and suspicious narratives of the French travellers, who have almost monopolized the manufacture of lying wonders : an article, however, in which their fabrics are too coarse to find a ready market out of their own country. To such productions we are glad to oppose the staple of Mr. Turnbull's sober communications, and to give them the patronage of the British Review. We do not mean to credit him for any great skill or vigour in his manner of narrating, or to exempt him from the charge of occasional debility; but we do not hesitate to say that he generally expresses himself with propriety and simplicity; gives his opinions without affectation, and supports them with sense and spirit.

For our parts, we shall be happy if the small meed of approbation which we have thought it our duty to bestow on the work before us may contribute to repay its author in any

degree for his labour and enterprize in collecting his materials, and his cost in preparing them for the public use.

Arr. V.-The World before the Flood, a Poem, in ten Cantos,

with other occasional Pieces. By James Montgomery, Author of the Wanderer of Switzerland, the West Indies, &c, 1813.

When we first saw this volume announced under the title of the “World before the Flood,” we recurred, as our readers probably will, to the only poet who has succeeded in filling up the outline of scripture truth with the shading and colouring of fiction : who has succeeded so gloriously that he has secured for the creations of his fancy a lasting and reverential homage, due to the realities only with which they are almost identified in the minds of his readers. But the success of Milton is of a nature rather to deter from a similar attempt than to encourage emulation. The glorious and solitary eminence on which he stands, but beneath which appears no resting place, warns those of. feeble wing not to dare the hopeless and perilous adventure. We cannot consider the pastoral romance of Gesner ás forming an exception. Of the Messiah of Klopstoch we are not perhaps competent judges: if fervent piety and purity of sentiment could supply the place of imaginative power and fine judgment, then it might stand a comparison with Paradise Lost. Such comparisons, however, are often unjustly drawn; indeed there are many who have no other test of merit than comparison. But we consider it to be no depreciation of Mr. Montgomery's poem to say, that it can only, in strict propriety, be compared with Milton's by way of contradistinction in point of style, fable, and character, a contradistinction, or rather a discriminated likeness more creditable to his genius than a closer resemblance would have been: it is a likeness produced by kindred qualities a contrast created by difference of design. Paradise Lost claims to be received as historic truth,-as the narration of certain facts, blended, but not so as to be confounded, with allegerical fictions. The reader is never suffered to doubt the reality of the poet's representations, or to forget the purpose for which the fable is constructed; this was to vindicate the ways of God to man, and to shew the reasonableness of religion, and the necessity of obedience to the divine law." The World before the Flood is a romance. It was Mr. Montgomery's design in this composition (as he himself states it)," to present a similitude of events that might be imagined to have happened in the first age of the world, in which such scripture characters as are introduced would probably have acted and spoken as they are here made to act and speak. The story is told as a parable only, and its value, in this view, must be determined by its moral, or rather by its religious influence on the mind and on the heart. Fiction though it be, it is the fiction that represents truth, and that is truth-truth in the essence, though not in the name ; truth in the spirit, though not in the letter.”

But Mr. Montgomery anticipates an objection, which in other words has been already urged ayainst his work by a class of readers whose prejudices deserve respect, because they are connected with a commendable reverence for the sacred writings.


« AnteriorContinuar »