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There are a multitude of occasions for observing what a mighty power of ingenuity, or we may say genius, is exercised by the disparity of the human mind. The most striking of the exemplifications is, that Religion, even the Christian Religion, the grand heaven-descended opponent of all evil, can be perverted by this genius, to subserve absolutely every purpose of iniquity and vanity, every passion and taste, from the most frivolous to the most infernal. In the place of our Author's transatlantic sojourn, as indeed in some of the countries of Europe, Religion is one of the most stimulant and favourite diversions. He witnessed all the gayties, shows, frolics, and riotous indulgences of the Easter Season; of which the zest was heightened by the mumery of a more solemn cast on Good Friday.
On the following day, Good Friday, the decorations of the churches, the dress of the women, and even the manner of both sexes were changed, (from the flare of gay finery on Holy Thurday;) all was dismal. In the morning I went to the church of the Sacramento, to witness a representation of our Saviour's descent from the Cross. The church was much crowded. An enormous curtain hung from the ceiling, excluding from sight the whole of the principal chapel. An Italian Missionary Friar of the Penha convent, with a long beard, and dressed in a thick dark brown cloth habit, was in the pulpit, and about to commence an extempore sermon. After an exordium of some length, adapted to the day, he cried out,“ Behold him;" the curtain immediately dropped, and discovered an enormous cross, with a full-sized wooden image of our Saviour, exceedingly well carved and painted; and around it a number of angels represented by young persons, all finely decked out, and each bearing a large pair of outstretched wings, made of guaze; a man dressed in a bob-wig, and a pea-green robe, as St. John, and a female kneeling, at the foot of the Cross, as the Magdalen; whose character, as I was informed, seemingly that nothing might be wanting, was not the most pure. The friar continued with much vehemence, and much action, his narrative of the crucifixion: and after some minutes again cried out, “ Behold, they take him down;" when four men, habited in imitation of Roman soldiers, stepped forward. The countenances of these persons were in part concealed by black crape. Two of them ascended ladders placed on each side against the Cross, and one took down the board, bearing the letters I. N. R. I. Then was rendoved the crown of thorns, and a white cloth was put over, and pressed down upon the head; which was soon taken off and shown to the people, stained with the cir. cular mark of the crown in blood. This done, the nails which transfixed the hands, were by degrees knocked out, and this produced a violent beating of breasts among the female part of the congregation. A long white linen bandage was next passed un.
der each arm pit of the image; the nail which secured the feet was removed; the figure was let down very gently, and was carefully wrapped up in a white sheet. All this was done by word of command by the preacher. The sermon was then quickly brought to a conclusion, and we left the church.'
The entrance of a novice into the Order of St. Francis, an occurrence now very uncommon, attracted Mr, K. and a multitude of other persons, to a town at a considerable distance. • Formerly,' he says, ' of every family at least one member was a friar; but now this is not the custom; children are brought up to trade, to the army, to any thing rather than a monastic life, which is fast losing its reputation. None of the convents are full, and some are nearly without inhabitants.' This is attributed to the scandalous conduct of these gentry. The utmost levity appeared in the behaviour of the fraternity, during the ceremony, and it was followed by much eating, much drinking, and much confusion;' appropriately concluded in the evening with hubbub and fire-works. The secular priests are represented as much more respectable, and some of them considerably cultivated. Their great politeness to Mr. K. and the various other English heretics then at Pernambuco, would seem to evince, from what cause soever arising, a degree of liberality for which they would probably be little applauded by their sacerdotal brethren of the mother country and the contiguous kingdom, whom we have enabled to resume their ecclesiastical tyranny.
Our Author seems to have been more pleased with the society of the Brazilians, (the denomination by which he distinguished the white natives of the country,) than with any thing he was admitted to see or hear among the Portuguese at Pernambuco. A chief cause was the interest and vivacity with which the ladies take part in the conversation: they would allow,' he says, of no subject into which they could not enter;' they asserted in every way, their just claims to social rank and consequence; and they did not, as among us, retire after dinner, to leave the gentlemen perfectly free for ribaldry. It is, however, to be acknowledged, that instances are mentioned of festive parties, in which their presence did not restrain the high and rational lords from some excess of potation and noise.
He agrees with other reporters in asserting the superiority of the women of colour to the Brazilian ladies, in the graces of form and in activity of mind. The mixed race, he says, seems more congenial with the climate.
• Their features are often good, and even the colour, which in Europeap climates is disagreeable, appears to appertain to that in
which it more naturally exists; but this bar to European ideas of beauty set aside, finer specimens of the human form cannot be found than among the mulatto females whom I have seen.'
Among some of the families of Brazilian planters removed from the interior to reside at Recife, there are customs brought from the woods, which will soon vanish in the refining process of the town. For instance, at a dinner party at one of their houses, our Author was complimented with pieces of meat from the plates of various persons at the table.' The manners and habits of the city population had as yet no settled standard; but they will probably not be long in attaining the enviablo subjection to an authoritative mode, by the amalgamation of the varieties, under the ascendancy and prescription, possibly of some deputed models of dignity and grace from the Brazil Court. At present the chief operator of changes is growing wealth, which inspirits the competition in luxuries and splendour,-accompanied, according to our author, with some little increase of mental cultivation, which may throw a slight grace of literature and taste over the heterogeneous elements, while they are mixing and moulding into form,—and by an incipient sense of somewhạt more of political consequence, since the acquisition of royalty and a court on the Brazil shores.
He notices two inconveniences which Englishmen had to encounter, at their influx, a few years back, into Pernambuco.
The established custom required them to take off the hat in passing a sentinel, or meeting in the streets a military guard; and to fall on their knees on meeting the procession of the Sacrament, carried to dying persons, and so to remain till it went out of sight. The first was intolerable, and was uniformly and firmly refused, as an improper submission, we suppose, for freemen; but as to the religious affair, the act of idolatrous homage, that was far too trifling a matter to be worth a scruple or an effort of spirit in Protestants: here Englishmen,' says Mr. K. in some degree conformed, in proper deference to the religion of the country.' In plain terms, they repelled the one demand because it was insulting to themselves, they acquiesced in the other, because it was insulting only to God. Has this unhappy nation, at this late and calamitous period, yet to learn, that the worst of all omens for a people's liberties, is a prevailing contempt of the claims of the Most High? To a religious man deeply sharing in the zeal for freedom and political melioration, it affords but a melancholy presage to see so little hold of religion on the national mind, so little recognition of the Governor of the world, so little perception, in many of the advocates of a righteous cause, that the oppressive evils of which bad men
are the immediate inflicters, are, all the while, the inflictions of his justice; and that something more is required in order to the effectual vindication of rights, than the mere energy of reaction against the instruments of oppression.
When growing wealth' is mentioned among the circumstances of the settlement, it is not to be understood that the mass of the people partake in any such privilege. No; in striking contrast with the social economy in Europe, there is a large privileged and official class enriched at the expense of the general body. It is not often that so brief a description as the following, will suffice to explain perfectly a state of things in no one respect similar to any thing within the previous knowledge of those who read it.
• The number of civil and military offices is enormous; inspectors innumerable-colonels without end, devoid of any objects to inspect, without any regiments to command; judges to manage each trilling department, of which all the duties might be done by two or three persons; their salaries are augmented, the people are oppressed, but the state is not benefited.
• Taxes are laid where they fall heavy on the lower classes, and none are levied where they could well be borne. A tenth is raised in kind upon cattle, poultry, agriculture, and even salt. All the taxes are farmed to the highest bidders, and this among the rest. They are parcelled out in extensive districts, and are contracted for at a reasonable rate, but the contractors again dispose of their shares in small portions; these are again retailed to other persons; and as a profit is obtained by each transfer, the people must be oppressed that these men may satisfy those above them and enrich themselves. The system is in itself bad, but is rendered still heavier by this division of the spoil.' p. 31.
The account ends with the curious fact, that'a tax is paid at Pernambuco, for lighting the streets of Rio de Janeiro, while those of Recife remain in total darkness. As to the multitude of persons enriched by offices, it is remarked, that many of them would remain poor enough if they had only the regular and authorized receipts, but that other ways are found of making these offices productive. The conduct of the governor, at the time of our author's visit, is pronounced an honourable exception; he stood unimpeached in every part of his admin.stration; the more is it to be regretted that his power should not have been competent to the punishment and reformation of all the inferior tribe of functionaries.
There is little other manufacture at Recife, than that of gold and silver trinkets, and gold and thread lace. The public institutions are stated to be excellent, though rather few. At the neighbouring city of Olinda, once the more important station, but now in a great degree deserted for Recife, is a college for the education, chiefly, of young ecclesiastics, of which the professors are praised for "knowledge and liberality.' • Free schools are also established in most of the small towns in the country,' principally for teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. In both these and the college, the instruction is free of expense to the pupils. It will appear surprising to English persons,' as Mr. K. justly says, 'that in a place so large as Recife, there should be no printingpress or bookseller.' That branch of the polity which respects the punishment of criminals, is represented as emphatically bad, especially in the article of transportation: the small island of Fernando de Noronha, where a crowd of criminals are kept under a military force, for a term of years, or for life, being a den of most flagrant and execrable depravity. On the whole, our author pronounces a strong condemnation on the government of this portion of the Brazilian states, as administered down to the period of the removal to America of the chief government, and not as yet corrected by that transfer; but he ventures or professes to hope that the measure must have its good effects in due time.
After enjoying for the greatest part of the year, at Recife, the convivialities, the amusements, the pleasant alternation of sea and land breezes, which attemper the climate of a spot so near the equator, to the constitution and almost the ease of an Englishman, Mr. K. set off upon a northward journey, into the captaincy of Seara. The progress and incidents are minutely related, indeed a little too much in detail; but many of the particulars are entertaining, and they give a long and disagreeable picture of the physical quality of the country. Large tracts of it are an absolute eternal sand, only not quite so burning and volatile as in the African deserts. Other parts are covered with thickets, completely impervious but by some narrow path, which has been cut through the dense substance with bill-hooks and hatchets. We transcribe the description of one of the vegetable productions which contribute to render them so.
• The cipo is a plant consisting of long and flexible shoots which twist themselves around the trees, and as some of the sprouts which have not yet fixed upon any branch, are moved too and fro by the wind, they catch upon a neighbouring tree, and as the operation continues for many years undisturbed, a kind of net-work is made of irregular from, but difficult to pass through. Several kinds of cipo are used as cordage in making fences, and for many other purposes.'
Animal nuisances were furnished in quite the due proportion. With one of them he made an early acquaintance.
• I laid down in my clothes, but soon started up, finding myself uneasy. The guide saw me, and called out, “Sir, you are co