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Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India from Calcutta to Bombay, 1824, 1825 (with Notes upon Ceylon); an Account of a Journey to Madras and the Southern Provinces, 1826; and Letters written in India. By the late Right Reverend REGINALD HEBER, Lord Bishop of Calcutta. Second Edition. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1828.
BISHOP HEBER'S INDIA.
THIS is another book for Englishmen to be proud of — almost as delightful as the Memoirs of Lord Collingwood, and indebted for its attractions mainly to the same cause the singularly amiable and exalted character of the person to whom it relates and that combination of gentleness with heroic ambition, and simplicity with high station, which we would still fondly regard as characteristic of our own nation. To us in Scotland the combination seems, in this instance, even more admirable than in that of the great Admiral. We have no Bishops on our establishment; and have been accustomed to think that we are better without them. But, if we could persuade ourselves that Bishops in general were at all like Bishop Heber, we should tremble for our Presbyterian orthodoxy; and feel not only veneration, but something very like envy, for a communion which could number many such men among its ministers.
The notion entertained of a Bishop, in our antiepiscopal latitudes, is likely enough, we admit, not to be altogether just: — and we are far from upholding it as correct, when we say, that a Bishop, among us, is generally supposed to be a stately and pompous person, clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day somewhat obsequious to persons in power, and somewhat haughty and imperative to those who are beneath him with more authority in his tone and manner, than solidity in his learning; and yet with much more learning than charity or humility - very fond of being called my Lord, and driving about in a coach with mitres on
the panels, but little addicted to visiting the sick and fatherless, or earning for himself the blessing of those who are ready to perish
PRESBYTERIAN NOTIONS OF A BISHOP.
"Familiar with a round
decorous in manners, but no foe to luxurious indulgences-rigid in maintaining discipline among his immediate dependents, and in exacting the homage due to his dignity from the undignified mob of his brethren; but perfectly willing to leave to them the undivided privileges of teaching and of comforting their people, and of soothing the sins and sorrows of their erring flocksscornful, if not openly hostile, upon all occasions, to the claims of the People, from whom he is generally sprung -and presuming every thing in favour of the royal will and prerogative, by which he has been exalted-setting indeed, in all cases, a much higher value on the privileges of the few, than the rights that are common to all, and exerting himself strenuously that the former may ever prevail-caring more, accordingly, for the interests of his order than the general good of the church, and far more for the Church than for the Religion it was established to teach-hating dissenters still more bitterly than infidels-but combating both rather with obloquy and invocation of civil penalties, than with the artillery of a powerful reason, or the reconciling influences of an humble and holy life-uttering now and then haughty professions of humility, and regularly bewailing, at fit seasons, the severity of those Episcopal labours, which sadden, and even threaten to abridge a life, which to all other eyes appears to flow on in almost unbroken leisure and continued indulgence!
This, or something like this, we take to be the notion that most of us Presbyterians have been used to entertain of a modern Bishop: and it is mainly because they believed that the rank and opulence which the station implied, were likely to realise this character in those who should be placed in it, that our ancestors contended so strenuously for the abrogation of the order,
BISHOP HEBER-A BOAST, OR A PATTERN.
and thought their Reformation incomplete till it was finally put down-till all the ministers of the Gospel were truly pastors of souls, and stood in no other relation to each other than as fellow-labourers in the same vineyard.
If this notion be utterly erroneous, the picture which Bishop Heber has here drawn of himself, must tend powerfully to correct it. If, on the other hand, it be in any respect just, he must be allowed, at all events, to have been a splendid exception. We are willing to take it either way. Though we must say that we incline rather to the latter alternative-since it is difficult to suppose, with all due allowance for prejudices, that our abstract idea of a Bishop should be in such flagrant contradiction to the truth, that one who was merely a fair specimen of the order, should be most accurately characterised by precisely reversing every thing that entered into that idea. Yet this is manifestly the case with Bishop Heber-of whom we do not know at this moment how we could give a better description, than by merely reading backwards all we have now ventured to set down as characteristic of his right reverend brethren. Learned, polished, and dignified, he was undoubtedly; yet far more conspicuously kind, humble, tolerant, and laborious-zealous for his church too, and not forgetful of his station; but remembering it more for the duties than for the honours that were attached to it, and infinitely more zealous for the religious improvement, and for the happiness, and spiritual and worldly good of his fellow-creatures, of every tongue, faith, and complexion: indulgent to all errors and infirmities--liberal, in the best and truest sense of the word-humble and conscientiously diffident of his own excellent judgment and never-failing charity-looking on all men as the children of one God, on all Christians as the redeemed of one Saviour, and on all Christian teachers as fellow-labourers, bound to help and encourage each other in their arduous and anxious task. His portion of the work, accordingly, he wrought faithfully, zealously, and well; and, devoting himself to his duty
HIS BOOK OF GREAT VALUE.
with a truly apostolical fervour, made no scruple to forego, for its sake, not merely his personal ease and comfort, but those domestic affections which were ever so much more valuable in his eyes, and in the end, we fear, consummating the sacrifice with his life! If such a character be common among the dignitaries of the English Church, we sincerely congratulate them on the fact, and bow our heads in homage and veneration before them. If it be rare, as we fear it must be in any church, we trust we do no unworthy service in pointing it out for honour and imitation to all; and in praying that the example, in all its parts, may promote the growth of similar virtues among all denominations of Christians, in every region of the world.
But though the great charm of the book be derived from the character of its lamented author, we are not sure that this is by any means what will give it its great or most permanent value. Independently of its moral attraction, we are inclined to think it, on the whole, the most instructive and important publication that has ever been given to the world, on the actual state and condition of our Indian Empire: Not only exhibiting a more clear, graphic, and intelligible account of the country, and the various races by which it is peopled, but presenting us with more candid, judicious and reasonable views of all the great questions relating to its destiny, and our interests and duties with regard to it, than are any where else to be met with. It is the result, no doubt, of a hasty and somewhat superficial survey. But it embraces a very wide and various ra range, and thus affords the means of correcting errors, which are almost inseparable from a narrower observation; and has, above all, the inestimable advantage of being given while the freshness of the first impression was undiminished, and the fairness of the first judgment unperverted by the gradual accumulation of interests, prejudices, and deference to partial authorities; and given by a man not only free from all previous bias, but of such singular candour, calmness, and deliberation of judgment, that we would, in almost any case, take his testi
440 FORMER ACCOUNTS OF INDIA, WHY SO IMPERFECT,
mony, even on a superficial view, against that of a much cleverer person, who, with ampler opportunities, had surveyed or reported with the feelings consciously or unconsciously cherished, of an advocate, a theorist, a bigot, or a partizan.
Unhappily, almost all who have hitherto had the means of knowing much about India, have been, in a greater or less degree, subject to these influences; and the consequence has been, that though that great country is truly a portion of our own-and though we may find, in every large town, whole clubs of intelligent men, returned after twenty or thirty years' residence in it in high situations, it is nearly impossible to get any distinct notion of its general condition, or to obtain such information as to its institutions and capacities as may be furnished by an ordinary book of travels, as to countries infinitely less important or easy of access. Various causes, besides the repulsions of a hostile and jealous religion, have conspired so produce this effect. In the first place, the greater part of our revenans have been too long in the other world, to be able to describe it in such a way as to be either interesting or intelligible to the inhabitants of this. They have been too long familiar with its aspects to know how they would strike a stranger; and have confounded, in their passive and incurious impressions, the most trivial and insignificant usages, with practices and principles that are in the highest degree curious, and of the deepest moral concernment. In the next place, by far the greater part of these experienced and authoritative residents have seen but a very small portion of the mighty regions with which they are too hastily presumed to be generally acquainted; and have for the most part seen even those, only in the course of some limited professional or official occupation, and only with the eyes of their peculiar craft or profession. They have been traders, or soldiers, or tax-gatherers with here and there a diplomatic agent, an engineer, or a naturalist-all, too busy, and too much engrossed with the special object of their several missions, to have time to look to the general condition