Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Oriental Memoirs : selected and abridged from a Series of Fa-

miliar Lellers, written during Seventeen Years' Residence in
India ; including Observations on Parts of Africa and
South America, and a Narrative of Occurrences in four India
Voyages. Illustrated by Engravings from Original Draw-
ings. By James Forbes, F.R.S. &c. Four vols. 4to. Lon-

don. 1813.

(This is a very entertaining book, and a late number of the Quarterly Review, con-

tains a very entertaining, but very long and rambling account of it. We have,
therefore, extracted several portions of the Review, which we thought most cho
rious, for curious facts they relate.]

1

[ocr errors]

with agriculture and enlivened by fisheries, green hills bounding
it, and high mountains closing in the scene-he seated himself at
sunrise, when he first beheld this lovely scene, under a mango
tree, and began to sketch the landscape before him. Not having
gone from Bombay before, where the temperature is mitigated by
the sea breezes, and which the hot winds never reach, Mr.
Forbes was yet a stranger to the inclemency of an Indian climate.
In less than an hour, he says, the sky appeared like a glow of fire.
He was now in a country w bere the thermometer standing in the
house was usually at about 80° at sunrise, and often rose to 112°
by noon! when the water at mid-day was more than tepid, and
the black wood furniture became like heated metal. In conse-
quence of the heat the author and his friends generally placed
their beds under a mango grove; till one night the smell of a goat,
which had been recently killed and hung upon a tree, attracted
a tiger. The beast rushed close by Mr. Forbes's bed, who had
just time to get into the house before he saw him return with his
prey. It was well that their visiter, on this occasion, thought
goat's flesh more savoury than man's. Mr. Forbes kept a chame-
lion here for several weeks; its general colour was “a pleasant
green,” spotted with pale blue, and its customary changes were
to a bright yellow, a dark olive, and a dull green. When irrita-
ted, or when a dog approached, in which case fear perhaps pro-
duced the same effect as anger,* the body was considerably in-
flated, and the skin clouded like tortoise shell, in shades of yellow,
orange, green, and black : it was under these passions that it ap-
peared to most advantage. But the animal was affected in the
most extraordinary manner by any thing black; the skirting-board
of the room was painted of that colour, and the creature carefully
avoided it; but if he came near it, or if a black hat were placed
in his way, he shrunk to a skeleton and became black as jet. This
change was manifestly painful, by the care with which the chame.
lion sought to avoid the objects wich produced it; and it may be
remarked that they were objects which could not occur to him
in his natural state: the colour seemed to operate like a poison.
The fact is highly curious, and deserves further investigation. We
know but little of the manner in which animals are affected by co-
lours, and that little is only known popularly. The buffalo and
the bull are enraged by scarlet, which, according to the blind
man's notion, acts upon them like the sound of a trumpet. Is it
because the viper has a like antipathy that the viper catchers pre-
sent a red rag when they provoke it to bite to extract its fangs?
Daffodils, or any bright yellow flowers, will decoy perch into a

* Hasselquist says tbat the chamelion seldom changes colour upless it is angry, and hen from an iron grey to a yellow or greenish hue, evidently occasioned by gall.

[merged small][ocr errors]

drum-net. He who wears a black hat in summer will have tenfold the number of flies upon it, that his companion will have upon a white one. When more observations of this kind have been made and classified, they may lead to some consequences of practical utility. We have observed that dark cloths attract and retain odours more sensibly than light ones ;-is it not possible that they may more readily contract and communicate infection? Speculations of this kind when they occur to us, we scatter like seed by the way side. The old corpuscular philosophy has found an able advocate in Mr. Dalton, and in an age of careful and suspicious experimentalists may produce useful results.

The whip snake is common in the Concan; it conceals itself in the trees, and darts at the cattle grazing below, aiming generally at the eye. A bull, which was thus wounded at Dazagon, tore up the ground furiously, foamed at the mouth, and died in about half an hour. This habit in the reptile is not to be accounted for by any instinct of self-preservation. It is neither the effect of fear, nor of resentment, nor of appetite; but seems, more than any other known fact in natural history, to partake of that frightful and mysterious principle of evil, which tempts our species so often to tyrannize for the mere wantonness of power.

The Abbé Raynal has one of his charcteristic rhapsodies upon Anjengo, as being the birth-place of Eliza Draper, a woman whose name will be preserved in his writings and in Sterne's; for with all the falsetto and the faults of both, they will be found floating upon the stream of time. Mr. Forbes knew this celebrated woman, and mentions her with admiration. Anjengo was also the birthplace of Orme the historian. Most of the inhabitants were of the Romish church, being either of Portuguese descent, or converts from the lower casts. Such converts are found wherever the Portuguese were settled, and this single fact is conclusive against the impudent arguments of those who assert that it is not possible to convert the Hindoos. The purity of the faith of these converts, or of their morals, is of no importance to the question; they have changed one profession of faith for another; and if we, who are blessed with a purer faith, and enjoy a reformed church, the best constituted that the world has ever yet seen, had served our God with half the zeal that the Portugueze have served theirs, the tree of life would long ere this have struck deep roots in Hindostan, and spread wide branches and brought forth fruit.

Mr. Forbes's abode was a cottage thatched with palmyra leaves, so small that a sofa, which he had carried from Bombay, could not enter the door, and therefore he remained in a viranda the whole time of his banishment, as he calls it. It was 50 near the beach, that, during the monsoon, the gauze curtains of his bed were constantly wet with a salt moisture; the glasses and pictures ran down with the same briny fluid, and the vegetables in the garden

were incrusted with salt. During this season, the bar of Anjengo river presented an extraordinary sight: the floods, pouring down from the mountains, come with such force that they sweep the fish with them; and the larger shoals of the ocean, who know their appointed time, are ready at the mouth of the river to receive and devour them. Terrified by the breakers, and unable to turn back against the stream which has borne them down, they leap over the bar and become the prey of the expectant enemy. Alligators are sometimes wbirled down in this manner and lost in the ocean. The manner in which Mr. Forbes bas observed all natural ap pearances as a painter, has enabled him, not unfrequently, to de scribe them with the characteristic vividness of a poet.

[ocr errors]

“From May to October, upon this shore, the tempestuous ocean rolls from a black horizon, literally of darkness visible, and the noise of the billows equals that of the loudest cannon. They seem as if they would overwhelm the settlement.” “ Often,” says he, “ have I stood upon the trembling sand-bank to contemplate the solemn scene, and derive a comfort from that sublime and Omnipotent decree, “hitherto shalt thou come and no farther-and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” ?

The parrots upon this coast are as much dreaded at the time of harvest, as a Mahratta army, or a flight of locusts; they darken the air by their numbers, and alighting in a rice field, in a few hours carry off every grain. There is a curious black serpent here, called, from the shape of its head, the crescent snake, though the author

says

he should rather class it with the polypus. This work would have been often benefited if some able naturalist had revised it as it passed through the press. It is described as having teeth on the outer line of the crescent, small enough to require a microscope to discern them. The bite is said to be mortal; and it is added that the slime, with which the creature is covered, and which, like the snail, it leaves along its track, is poisonous, but this Mr. Forbes seems to repeat with some doubts of its truth. He could not discover any eyes. On cutting off the head," the other end,” he says, “immediately supplied the loss; it moves in a retrogade manner, and lives after the amputation.” The cause of this retrograde motion, after decapitation, is manifestly that the reptile must then be guided in its movement by the sense of touch, which it cannot exercise by the wounded surface. But it is possible that in many creatures of this class, feeling occasionally supplies the place of sight, as by cruel experiment it has been found to do in the bat. The amphisbæna (a species of which is found at Anjengo) has been supposed to have two heads, merely

because, like a worm, it moves with equal facility in either direction, and apparently with little choice.

Having been absent from this place for a few weeks, Mr. Forbes returned to it at evening, and found every thing, upon a cursory view, apparently as he had left it. But in a room which had been locked up, and where in consequence the furniture could not be dusted, he observed upon a nearer inspection, that the glasses over the pictures appeared remarkably dull, and the frames covered with dust. On attempting to wipe off the dust, he found the glasses no longer in frames, as he had left them, but fixed to the wall by an incrustation made by the termites, who had devoured the frames and back boards, and the greater part of the paper, and left the glasses upheld by the covered-ways which they had formed for their operations. Some of the low casts in Mysore and the Carnatic are in the useful habit of eating these de. structive insects. The tamandua of South America, which is a perfectly harmless creature, should be domesticated in all countries that are infested with them. The common bear, Mr. Forbes informs us, is also an ant-eater, demolishing the whole burrow wherever he finds one, and, like the temandua, lying with his tongue out to entrap his prey.

Mr. Forbes, acted in the double capacity of chaplain to the British troops and secretary to the commander in chief, in the midst of a Mahratta army. The men wore no regular uniforin, were under little discipline, and, provided each had a sword, were left to arm themselves according to their own humour ; some with matchlocks or muskets, some with bows and arrows, and some with spears. Chain armour was worn by some, the hood of the helmet falling on the shoulders. This inode of defence is found efficacious against the sword, the weapon which is most used among them: they prefer the straight two-edged blade to the scimitar of the Turks and Persians; and give large prices for those which they call Alleman or German, though formerly brought from Damascus. Mr. Forbes does not mention the length of the blade; the short, straight two-edged sword was the Roman weapon, which they borrowed from the Spaniards. The feudal system existed in the army in all its force, and all its insubordination. Every chieftain had his own banner; red was the prevailing colour, but they were seldom decorated with any thing like armorial bearings. Mr. Forbes should have mentioned how they were distinguished. That of Ragonath himself was small and swallow-tailed, of crimson and gold tissue, with gold fringes and tassels. Some of the flags were larger than a ship’s ensign, and mounted on very high poles. The most powerful chiefs had separate encampments, with their own bazars, where they collected duties, and made such regulations as they thought proper, without

« AnteriorContinuar »