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ART. XV.--Tratels in Sweden, during the Autumn of 1812.
By Thomas Thomson, M.D.F.R.S. London and Edinburgh, F.L.S. Member of the Geological Society, and of the Impe rial Chirurgo-medical Academy at Petersburg. Illustrated by Maps and other Plates. 4to. London. 1813.
Few countries ever presented a more extended or interesting field of research to the labours either of the political or natural historian than Sweden at the present epoch affords.
The deposition of a king without bloodshed; the ancient constitution of a kingdom revolutionized without confusion; the vassal of a powerful tyrant raised by unknown intrigues to the soyeTeignty of a foreign state, spurning the stepping stone to his acquired dignity, and pursuing measures ably designed for the good of his subjects; and the solemn abdication and retirement of a sovereign of an ancient and distinguished dynasty, after swaying for seventeen years the paternal sceptre, are all phenomena in the history of mankind well calculated to excite attention. Under such circumstances, and with the promise of such details, Travels in Sweden in the Autumn of 1812 have a very prepossessing sound in the spring of 1813. But, when to the accounts of the political state and resources of the country, so peculiarly interesting at the present moment, geognostic and mineralogical details are added, of a country, too, of most singular structure, and to which the attention of the naturalist has been most forcibly drawn by late discoveries of many important productions, we must own the prospectus of such a work raised in us a very high degree of curiosity; and from the bare perusal of his advertisements we could almost have ventured to promise Dr. Thomson that his quarto volume, illustrated by maps, portraits, and other plates, would captivate the public. Had we not, in the progress of the work, seen evident traces of dexterous manipulation in the mystery of book-making, we should have been disposed to put a liberal construction on the word “profit,” as it is used in the following annunciation of the writer's object in view.
“ Having finished my History of the Royal Society, and being accidentally detained at Edinburgh without any specific employment, it occurred to me that I might occupy the summer with considerable profit to myself, and obtain a great deal of amusement, if I were to take advantage of the peace lately concluded between Great Britain and Sweden, and traverse part of that vast and interesting country.”
To the above oblique advertisement of a work just finished, we “ I have seen,” says
are somewhat surprised that Dr. Thomson has not added the information of his having begun his Annals of Philosophy.
We will now embark with our author in this promising voyage, and in our progress with him hope to produce some not uninteresting details for the amusement of our readers. Congratulating ourselves in the mean time that, our embarkation being only figurative, we are exempt from the solid inconveniences which beset the author, and which he has described with great professional particularity, proposing a remedy to all future sufferers on the like occasion. The sea ran very high, the vessel rolled about at a great rate, and the Doctor was very sick. he, “ many things tried to stop this disagreeable malady, but the most successful is brisk bottled porter. A few glasses of this, taken after the sickness has continued a day or so, I have never seen fail to produce almost immediate relief.” The chemical explanation of this remedy is, it appears, very much embarrassed by the circumstance that ale, although equally brisk, does not produce the same effect. However, as the fact stands, we think it at least a monument of the goodness of the Doctor's stomach, though we are sensible that ourselves and our readers have a greater interest in it's having left his head clear. These preliminaries being adjusted, we are informed that the wind settled in south by west by the compass, and the not unnatural consequence was that the vessel proceeded eastwards. As this was to be a voyage of discovery, it was necessary, we presume, to make something like a remark by the way; and accordingly our author discovered that the colour of the water near the shore was green, but that as it deepened it grew darker.' This colour very fortunately reminded him of the blue cakes used by laundresses for bluing their linens, which he takes this opportunity of telling us that he has no doubt consist of cobalt blue mixed up with starch.
Safe arrived at the destined port of Gottenbury, having eşa caped from the exactions of the custom-house officers, and overcome the difficulties which a want of inns would naturally throw in the way of a traveller unacquainted with the customs and language of the country, we find him at last seriously addressing himself to the labours of a travelling philosopher. The history of the town itself, statistical, political, and geographical, we must beg the Doctor's pardon for passing by rather unceremoniously, and for proceeding to some details which are designed, we presume, to afford instructiye information respecting the customs of the country. The Swedish meals differ, we are told, very much from the dinner fashions in Great Britain, The hour of dinner with the Swedes is two o'clock, and the company bęing'assembled, each person takes a dram of brandy and a morsel of bread and cheese and butter, by way of exciting the appetite. The principal point in which the Swedish custom differs from our own appears to be, in handing round the dishes separately to the guests at table: but our author has not thought it sufficient to satisfy himself with this remark, but introduces seriatim every dish in its proper order; and we are assured that the vegetables, .consisting of potatoes, carrots, turnips, cauliflowers, greens, &c. are handed about in the same way. “ The Swedes, moreover," continues he, “ employ the same articles for seasoning their food as we do; salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar, &c. I was struck with one peculiarity which I had never seen before, (credat Judæus!) they always mix together sugar and mustard !!!” When we are told that the Calmucs feed on raw horse-flesh, and will ride on their carrion dinners for a saddle, or that the Abyssinians çut slices of flesh from their living oxen, we are satisfied at once of the barbarity of the people: we can infer the effeminate luxury of a degenerate age from the poet's description
-posito pavone velis quin
Rara avis, et picta pandat spectacula cauda.” But that individuals eat mustard with sugar, is a peculiarity from which only the mind of a philosopher could infer any thing of importance. But let us return to the dinner, and see what fresh topics for contemplative wisdom may be afforded by the extraordinary practices of this wonderful people. The dinner usually lasts about two hours. On a signal given, the company all rise together and bow with much solemnity towards the table. Fearful that this act of reverence to an inanimate object might bring a charge of idolatry on the Swedes, our author supposes it possible that this bow might be towards each other; and after these profound investigations, we are conducted to the drawing-room to relax with the ladies.
" It is but doing the Swedes justice to say, that their coffee is ex. -cellent, greatly preferable to what is usually drank in England. This is the more remarkable because the Swedes import all their coffee from Britain.” (But alas! for the imperfections of human nature!) “ Swedish tea is just as bad as their coffee is good. If an epicure could transport himself in a moment from one place to another," (a new idea) “ he would always drink his coffee in Sweden and his tea in England. The Swedish tea is so weak, that, happening one even, ing to sit by a lady who was pouring it out, it struck me that she had accidentally forgot to put in any tea, and was pouring out nothing þut hot water. I took the liberty to notice this mistake, in order,
as I thought, to prevent the lady, when the tea should be hånded round, from being put out of countenance by the detection of the oversight. My blunder occasioned much mirth, and the company, no doubt, set me down as a person very little acquainted with tea.
It is not the quality of the tea that is bad, but the quantity employed is so small that you do not perceive the taste of it in the water; so that, in fact,” (gentle reader, what do you suppose the fact is? Why that) “ you are drinking in reality hot water, sugar, and cream. The Swedish cream, to do them justice, is excellent.”
Our readers, no doubt, by this time will agree with us in considering that our author's notice that he was the person who wrote the history of the Royal Society was not altogether without its use. We might otherwise have quite forgotten that we were reading the travels of one of the principal chemists of the age. So far, it must be owned, Dr. Thomson has been pouring out remarks with as little strength in them as the tea of the Swedish lady, but without either cream or sugar to make us amends.
In examining the more significant parts of the work, our observations naturally divide themselves into two distinct heads. We will first consider the political and economical, and secondly the geognostic and mineralogical details of the country. This division will be found to be the more appropriate, as it not only prevents the confusion naturally arising from the mingling together of so many heterogeneous subjects, but will, we think, be found to be the natural distinction between what Dr. Thomson was competent and what he was wholly incompetent to describe.
As there are no stage coaches in Sweden, (a plan to establish which is, however, given in detail,) it is necessary for every traveller to be provided with a carriage of his own. This matter being arranged, we are informed, as a guide to the distances of the places afterwards mentioned, that the Swedish mile is almost exactly equal to six English miles and two-thirds: but lest this descriptive combination of words should be liable to be misunderstood, at the end of every day's journey the distances of the different stages are given both in Swedish and English miles, · prettily disposed in tables, and helping to apologize for the size of the volume. In all these, by the by, we observe that the Swedish mile is made quite exactly equal to six and two-thirds English.
Whilst cursorily speaking of the arrangement of the matter, · which, we presume, was left to the publisher to set off to advantage, we cannot help adverting to the heads of the chapters as
being most technically disposed for catching the eye. The custom of extracting all the leading features of a chapter, and placing them in short, pithy sentences at the top of every page, at best anticipates the interest: but in the work before us it is productive only of disappointment. Thus, when in turning over the leaves, we saw "conduct of the Crown Prince," "objects which he ought to pursue," pompously displayed at the head of the page, we addressed ourselves with great eagerness to the perusal of its contents, which are of the following character:
“ The Crown Prince of Sweden has an opportunity at present of making a figure not inferior to that of Gustavus Adolphus, a situation in which it has been the lot of few men to be placed. By taking an active part in the next campaign, he may contribute essentially to drive the French beyond the Rhine, and thus not only cover his adopted country with glory, but secure the liberty of Europe, and put an end to the dreadful evils which have flowed from Buonaparte's unprincipled ambition."
No less seductive in appearance, at the present day, is the proud title of “ East India monopoly.” Which of our readers would not have expected from such a promise some new light to have been thrown upon the important question which lately agitated the public mind? We are informed that there is a company established at Gottenburg who have no vessels which go to the East Indies, but who are the purchasers of East India commodities that are brought into Sweden by foreigners, and retail them to the Swedes at their own price. Might it not have been better to have adopted the method of an ancient writer, and have contented himself with announcing, that chapter the tenth treațs of what shall be seen in the sequel.
“ The appearance of the Swedish peasantry is very striking, to a native of Great Britain, who is accustomed to so great a diversity in the features of the people with whom he associates. The Swedes have all light flaxy hair, and a ruddy complexion.' I would say that a certain degree of Alabbiness is visible in their complexions. There is nothing to be seen which indicates the existence of the stronger passions, but every one expresses a docility and good-humour in his face, which I believe all possess almost to a man. I have often gone into a cottage in the middle of the night, where the whole family, to the number of six or eight, were asleep in different beds; awakened the whole family; and sent the hollenkam to ramble through the woods in the dark, to a distance of three or four miles, in quest of horses. The family were made to get up, and kept out of bed, perhaps, for two or three hours. All the while they preserved the most perfect good-humour ; never attempted to make you stay all night, nor seemed to feel the inconyenience to which they were put.
The scarcity of copper coin on the road was so great, that it was sometimes impossible to give the postboy the sum which he considered as with the most in