Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

with respect to events which concerned themselves, other individuals, or the church in general.'

Whatever may be thought of a fact so controverted even among wise and good men, it is impossible not to honour the fortitude of one who, in spite of the intolerant and persecuting spirit of incredulity which prevails at present, dares to avow the probability of it and to support it by an argument at once so rational and so unfashionable. With regard to the argument itself, though it may be easy to deride, it is impossible to confute it: for if no one can refute a sneer, it must also be remembered, that a sneer can refute nothing.

The History of the Reformation in Scotland, with the exception of one book, has been irrefragably proved by our author to be the work of Knox: an undertaking in which Dr. M'Crie seems to bave been aware that truth alone was indebted to him; for he speaks with no disrelish of the broad and coarse buffoonery with which it requires no fastidiousness of taste to be disgusted, and which can now no longer be imputed to some unknown and impertinent interpolator.

Many of Dr. M'Crie's readers have probably conceived of this son of thunder' as of a large athletic man, able in that age of apostolic blows and knocks' to have proved the orthodoxy of bis doctrine by the sword as well as by tongue and lively voice. On the contrary, he was a man of slender frame and feeble constitution, (Beza says corpore pusillo,) literally worn out by labours at one period of his life, and by sufferings at another. But cujusque mens, is est quisque, and Knox might be said to be all soul and spirit. He was one of those rare and gifted men upon whom the moral and religious destinies of nations are made to depend, and like the two other heroes of the Reformation, Calvin and Luther, was sent into the world with energies, which, in ordinary times, and when mighty energies were not wanted to subvert mighty abuses, would have been mischievous in their strength. In knox and Calvin there seeins to have been a perfect harmony of principles and temper. Luther, besides the strange erratic course which he held on the subject of concomitancy in the sacrament, had a tincture of enthusiasm from which both the others were exempt. All agreed in the predestinarian doctrine, and in that of justification by faith; but more strikingly in an indignant spirit of opposition to existing abuses, in a disregard of worldly rank and power, in a constitutional intrepidity not to be awed, and a pertinacity never to be wearied. Yet what topics are so fashionable, with those who have no other scale of character than the tame mediocrity of settled times, as the rigour and obstinacy of these great reformers? And yet what is plainer than that the workmen were merely suited to their work? Popery

was

was not a pile to be battered down by popguns. Its foundations Were deeply laid in ancient power, in terrible cruelty, in universal ignorance. From the want of such powerful engines, how many pious spirits had long deplored its corruptions, and wounded their own consciences by partaking of its plagues ! How many penetrating understandings had long seen and derided the great imposture, yet seen and derided in secret; either awed by its terrors or bribed by its emoluments! Courage therefore vot to be appalled, and integrity not to be corrupted, must be combined with piety and acuteness to constitute a first reformer; and all these qualifications met in this incomparable triumvirate, and, in their perfection, in them alone.

Thus much then for the subject of this vigorous and original work. With respect to the style, it is natural and forcible, free from all modern affectation, excepting the abominable verb narrate', which must absolutely be proscribed in all good writing. It abounds indeed with Scotticisins, for which we like it the better. They are the epiz wplov ti of a work so thoroughly national. For, why should a Scotsman, who is ashamed of nothing else belonging to his country, be ashamed of its dialect? It is to English what the Doric was to pure Greek, adorned with many rustic graces which have long been felt and acknowledged in the poetry of that country. Why then should it not be tolerated in history, especially since experience has shewn that no efforts of their best writers have been able wholly to avoid it? With respect to the typography of the quotations, we were disposed to invoke the shade of William Bowyer: they have been committed to an illiterate conipositor, and never, as appears, revised by the learned author. The Latin is almost unintelligible, and in a Greek epigram of four lines, there are three errata. This mechanical defect we should not have mentioned had such a work been likely to rest in a first or second edition.

We now take leave of Dr. M'Crie with sincere esteem and goodwill, notwithstanding some important points of difference which a little more candour and courtesy to a sister church, not deficient in those regards to his own establishinent, might have prevented.

Art. XI. Voyages and Travels in various parts of the World,

during the lears 1803, 4, 5, 6 and 7. By G. H. Von Langsdorff, Aulic Counsellor to His Majesty the Emperor of Russia,

&c. London. 1813. HOWEV

OWEVER gratifying to us it might be to know that our critical

labours make their way to the most distant corners of the globe, the pleasure derived from that circumstance would be

considerably

considerably abated by any well grounded complaint of severe or unmerited censure. We are not indeed now to learn how difficult it is for the best natured critic to satisfy the expectations of the least aspiring author; but we confess ourselves not to have been quite prepared for the serious remonstrance which Captain (now Admiral) Krusenstern has transmitted from St. Petersburgh. This officer, it seems, has taken offence at our remarks on the two volumes of his voyage round the world, printed at Berlin, and a copy of which we took some pains to procure. In his letter, he expresses ' much surprize at the spirit of animosity against Russia which pervades the whole of the Review. This at once astonishes and mortifies us; for to what does it amount ? Merely to an observation, which every one knows to be true, that the reign of Catharine was a reign of projects; and that the Japanese embassy sent by Alexander was only following up the views of his august predecessor. Whether this embassy was grafted on the original plan of the voyage, or the voyage was undertaken to carry out the ambassador, is, in our estimation, a matter of very small importance;

;* in neither case do we see, any more than the author, that Russia had made herself ridiculous. If Admiral Krusenstern will give himself the trouble to read over the 3d Article of our 9th Number, written when at war with Russia, and the 11th Article of the 16th Number, drawn up since the return of friendly relations, he will see in both a consistency of opinion, and a spirit which breathes any thing but' animosity against Russia.'

But a charge of a more serious nature is brought against us-that of attacking“ in one instance, at least, his moral character.' The instance, it seems, is this. Lieutenant Chwostoff, who visited the coast of Jesso subsequent to the departure of Captain Krusenstern, was told by the Japanese that a revolution actually took place in Jeddo on account of the dismissal of the Russian embassy. Our observation on this passage was, that we did not expect the sober good sense of Captain Krusenstern would have sed him to give publicity to so idle a tale;' and we added, the idea is too absurd to deserve a moment's attention ; unless indeed it was intended to flatter Count Romanzoff.' That the Count, like other courtiers, is open to this mode of address, is by no means improbable; nor is there any thing very extravagant in the supposition that the narrative of a voyage should be made as palatable to him that plamed it, as truth would allow; we must therefore repeat our surprize that Captain Krusenstern does

* Admiral Krusenstern says in his letter, · The embassy to Japan was engrafted upon the original plan of the voyage.' We said, • The project of a new embassy was easily grafted on the present voyage.' Where do we difer? yet this passage has given offence.

not

[ocr errors]

German. Their comic effusions' and ' pantomimic gestures, too

not see the absurdity of this story. He would be the first to

smile, at being told that the governor of the Crimea, in sending a ci away a Turkish minister, by order of his court, bad occasioned a

rebellion in Petersburgh, and a revolution in the whole government of Russia. Most willingly would we gratify this gentleman—but, ou re-perusing our former Article, we can honestly and conscientiously assure him that we find nothing to alter, and that we are at a loss for terms to introduce him more fairly to the English public' than we have already done in our concluding sentence, which, to please him, we shall repeat-We cannot take leave of Captain Krusenstern without expressing the satisfaction which we have derived from the perusal of his very clear and intelligent account of a Voyage round the World, conducted apparently with great good temper, discretion and judgment, and related in a style of modesty and candour which cannot fail to secure the approbation of the most fastidious. But the English reader has now obtained the fullest and fairest introduction to his acquaintance through the medium of a translation, which, we have little doubt, will find a place among every collection of voyages and travels

, and afford in the perusal both amusement and information.

We now turn to the account of the same voyage written by a fellow traveller, who accompanied the ambassador in the capacity of naturalist. This work may be considered to bear pretty nearly the same relation to the authentic and original account of the voyage, that Forster's did to that of Captain Cook. To the general reader it will probably be more amusing than Captain Krusenstern's, because it is less grave, and, with the exception of a storm or two, without which a voyage would be nothing, divested of all nautical matters. Doctor Langsdorff is a German of a far more lively cast than most of his philosophic countrymen, whose ponderous labours we are occasionally doomed to encounter; he even attempts to be witty, and occasionally manifests a disposition to be waggish. At St. Catharine's, he slily insinuates, when in the act of being rubbed down by a negro slave, that “ if he could but have prevailed on the fair daughter of his host to press the muscles with her delicate hands, the pleasure would have been equal to that of animal magnetism-a pleasure which, not having ourselves experienced it, we pretend not to estimate. His colouring too of the naked beauties of Nukahiwa is far more warm and glowing than we had expected to encounter from the pencil of a phlegmatic expressive to be mistaken, while swimming and playing about the ship" like a troop of Tritons," he found to be utterly. indescribable, Were such as to make ' a novel impression on the doctor's

feelings.

le

SEL

but they

[ocr errors]

feelings. These damsels, it seems, who were so frolicsome in the water, affected considerable distress at appearing on the ship's deck in a state of primitive simplicity; and they crept about,' says the doctor, ' with their hands in the position of the Medicean Venus, in attitudes which presented a beautiful spectacle to the philosophic observer.' Cnfortunately, however, this beautiful spectacle' was evavescent; and the doctor very feelingly laments that he was not allowed' a sufticient time for making philosophical observations on the new Venusses,' who suddenly disappeared with the sailors, hand in hand, into the interior of the ship. They were equally provoking the following morning; for they no sooner peeped. upon deck than they plunged into the sea, to the visible mortification of Doctor Langsdorft.

These · Venusses,' however, by no means answered the expectations which he bad formed of them from the descriptions of former voyagers; and he even thinks that Captain Krusenstern has greatly overrated their beauty. “I must confess,' be observes, that in my opinion, both the form and countenance of a well made negress are more pleasing and interesting than those of the women of these islands. We certainly found in Nukahiwa an Apollo of Belvidere; but it may be as certainly made a question whether a nice observer would not sooner find the original of the Medicean Venus upon the coast of Africa than in the South Sea.'

Without detaining our readers with even a sketch of the manners, laws, &c. of these islanders, from Doctor Langsdorff's book, which have again and again been described by former visitors, and which wear but a thin shade of difference from those of other savage nations, we shall content ourselves with the notice of one custom, which, to us at least, is perfectly novel—that of joining noses by way of salutation. When two friends meet,' says the doctor,

they press the points of their noses together; this stands with them in the place of a kiss, to the sweet sensation of which they seein entire strangers.' Perhaps also their desterity in catching rats by the hand, and feeding their swine with them,' may be something new; but we really cannot discover the force of the doctor's logical conjecture that, because there are plenty of rats and no tame cats to eat them, there must be wild cats in the woods: there may be 110 necessity for cats either wild or tame, where pigs are so ready to perform their functions.

We cannot in decency entirely pass over the chapter in which the doctor exhibits many profound and philosophical specula, tions on anthropophagism. Happy for pauvre Jean Jacques

' that he did not live to peruse these unholy • speculations on the deep depravity of the simple children of nature.' How rude a shock must bis morbid sensibility have sustained on hearing that

,

6

« AnteriorContinuar »