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Journal of a Residence in Great Britain, by Jehungeer Nowrajee
and Hirjeebhoy Merwanjee, of Bombay, Naval Architects. London, 1841.
The main object in the establishment of our journal was, as our readers have been often reminded, the examination of works having more immediate reference to India, and of measures designed to elevate the condition of its numerous inhabitants. But though these are the avowed limits within which we proposed to confine the authority of our literary tribunal, we still reserved to ourselves the privilege of exercising, whenever such a step appeared expedient, a control over cases situate beyond the sphere of our regulated jurisdiction. Our proceedings, in the present instance, may therefore fairly be considered as an exercise of this prerogative. The volume before us, though the conjoint production of two natives of India, cannot, as of right, demand admittance to our file for the adjudication of its merits. Its character, if we may use the expression, is European rather than Oriental. Its pages are not dedicated to Indian topics: Neither can they lay claim, however partial we may be disposed to be in our judgment, to originality of thought, profound or curious speculation, graphic or animated descriptions of external nature, or forcibly drawn delineations of the peculiarities that distinguish us as a nation. Such perfections, which belong to the regular tourist, the most enthusiastic educationist could scarcely expect in the present journal. It contains simply the observations, dressed in homely language, of two intelligent gentlemen belonging to a class of our subjects who have earned celebrity for their liberality and mercantile enterprize, on some of the principal institutions, naval arsenals, edifices, scientific improvements, and amusements, more especially those that are to be seen in, and about, the vicinity of the great metropolis. As a pure emanation, however, of the native mind amid scenes to which it was a stranger, and as an earnest of that abundant literary barvest which the surrounding educational movements, and the progressive intelligence of the age fully warrant us in expecting, the work under review, on account of these circumstances, no less than from novelty and its intrinsic merit, is entitled to every attention. We are not aware that its contents are generally known by those for whom the publication was more immediately intended. We shall therefore, by means of a few extracts, endeavour to give a wider circulation to the “impressions” of our authors. But in doing so we must candidly own that we are not catering for our more advanced and intelligent readers, who, if they derive any pleasure, cannot reasonably expect instruction from such impressions which, it may be well to remark, were composed during intervals snatched from more serious avocations, and were intended, not for the purpose of establishing a literary reputation, but for the information of their countrymen, and of the natives of India generally, who may, now that steam has made the
attempt comparatively easy, be disposed from motives of curiosity, or other causes, to visit the great island of western civilization.
It is not our intention, though such is generally our practice, to offer any positive opinion on the literary merits of the journal, because we consider it by no means fair to subject a writer who expresses his sentiments in a foreign tongue to all those rigid tests which abound in the canons of our critical code, and which at times are unsparingly, but not improperly applied, by English critics to the compositions of their own countrymen. We would not wish it to be inferred from this avoval, that our journalists cannot arrogate to themselves any literary pretension ; on the contrary our authors, for foreigners, possess a tolerably free, copious and idiomatic style, and, moreover, exhibit, in spite of a few errors into which high wrought zeal has doubtless hurried them, occasionally a range of illustration, coupled with historical research, which shews that, to natural sagacity, they add by no means a meagre acquaintance with western literature : in short their journal, unpretending" as they declare it to be in their dedication to Sir Charles Forbes, may be reckoned more than an average specimen of what European civilization and intercourse have effected on the natural capacity of the native intellect. We may, without being chargeable with exaggeration, go a step beyond this, and assert that, if impartially analysed, the journal before us, in so far as its aim is concerned, will, notwithstanding the absence of all studied regularity, for pertinence of remark and general accuracy of description and information, be found to bear a comparison with many of the insipid attempts at book making with which European tourists, in this prolific age of authorship, are wont to deluge the press.
It is matter of history that, since their expulsion from Persia by the Mahomedans, a considerable number of the followers of Zerdosht or Zoroaster, domesticated at Bombay and Surat. By their general demeanour and due obedience to the laws of the country, they soon gained the favor of the superior authorities, and by their intelligence, industry and activity they contributed, in no small degree, towards augmenting the prosperity of these two places. The progenitors of our journalists it seems settled at Surat. Lowjee Nasserwaujee, the founder of the Bombay dock-yard, which of late perhaps more than any thing else has tended to raise the commercial reputation of the little island, and to make it, as it were, the Liverpool of India, is the individual from whom the “Lowjee Family" takes its name. By the skill and ingenuity be displayed in constructing at Surat a vessel for the Bombay Government, he was invited by a Mr. Dudley, deputed there to watch her proper construction, to come to the Presidency in order to select a proper site for the formation of a dock yard. Lowjee being then à mere superintendent, and having before him very undefined prospects of advancement in life accepted the offer and proceeded to Bombay with twelve or fourteen shipwrights. The result was the establishment of the present docks which, in consequence of the height to which the tides rise; the facility with which timber, of prime quality, is supplied from the teak forests to the north and east of Bassein by
means of navigable streams; and the regular and superior description of şhipwrights which the Parsee population invariably supply, are considered the most complete and efficient in India.
The extensive support that Lowjee received from the Bombay Government, and the wide field of useful employment that lay temptingly before him, induced him to educate his two sons in the noble profession which he had adopted. From the date of the establishment the descendants of the founder have supplied a succession of master builders to the Bombay docks: in fact, till very recently, the Parsees have had almost an entire monopoly of all the departments appertaining to it. Remarkable as is this fact, being contrary to the principle that has regulated the management of other departments of the State, we are not aware of any instance in which they have abused the almost unlimited confidence reposed in them. The opportunities to do so, have been ample; for in an extensive dock-yard, where large sums of money, from the mercantile nature of its multifarious duties are in a continual state of transition, numerous avenues must lie open for the surreptitious accumulation of wealth. But the integrity of the Parsee, whether from a scrupulous desire to adhere rigidly to the moral and excellent maxims laid down in the Zendavasta, the great work of Zoroaster,* or from some other causes, has, in a land rife, we regret to say, with peculation and dishonesty, remained unsullied. This feature so characteristic of high moral principle, no less than the peculiar one, how that without European assistance, the Ghebirs have continued to maintain their superiority as naval artchitects over every other class of natives in India, is a phenomenon not unworthy of examination, but one to which we cannot at this moment give a satisfactory solution.
So far back as 1810, when European intercourse with this country was, comparatively speaking, restricted; and when the stores of Western knowledge and improvements in the exact and physical sciences, were naturally not so open to the natives as they are now, Jamsetjee the grandson of the founder, built the “ Minden,” a seventy-four, without European assistance. This was the first instance, we believe, in which a ship of the line was built in the British dominions out of Europe. Naval Commanders, and others capable of giving an opinion, applauded the skill with which the task was executed, and numerous were the marks of approbation Jamsetjee received from the Board of Admiralty, and the Hon'ble the East India Company. The reputation of the dock-yard was, by this event, greatly increased, and up to the present time some twenty ships of war have been constructed there ; but the spirit of competition and the irresistable force of circumstances that led to the formation, in greater numbers, of docks on this side of India, coupled by the fact of the recent purchase, at a very large cost, by the government of the extensive premises belonging to the Docking Company, at Kidderpore, have, we think, diminished, though not materially, this important branch of Bombay Commerce. Nevertheless it will be admitted that
Vide Malcolm's History of Persia, in which this distinguished Officer pronoun, ces an opinion on the morality inculcated in this work of the ancient Philosopher.
the numerous merchant and other vessels, which have been built there by Parsee architects will, for beauty of construction, finish of workmanship, and durability, vie with any class of merchant ships in the world. Calcutta, it is true, now has its supplies of teak from the adjoining province of Tenasserim, and European agency is, moreover, at work in the Kidderpore docks; but as the quality of the timber, it is admitted, is not equal to the Malabar, and the cost of import from the latter forests being great, unless at a particular season of the year, the Bombay architects will still have the one great advantage of durability on their side to say nothing of the superiority of artizans or subordinate agents.
The late Master-Builder, Nowrojee Jamsetjee, who, in consequence of growing infirmities, has, since the publication of the journal before us, retired from the public service, was perhaps the most distinguished naval architect of the “Lowjee Family.” He built three line of battle ships of eighty-four guns each, the • Asia’ the · Bombay' and · Calcutta.' But though he had earned for himself the highest distinction in his profession, he was not one of those conservatives who are glad to rest contented with what they have gained, and never think of looking around them in order to watch and take advantage of the changes and improvements that science is every day making visible to the world. He was of a different mould. He saw that steam, like the giant energy of intellect was making rapid strides, and that, independently of its being employed, in small packets, for the conveyance of our Indian mails, it was extensively used as a propelling power to vessels of all dimensions. Hitherto his best energies had been devoted to the construction of vessels propelled by wind, and though it was too late in life for him to commence a new course of study, he was determined that no impediment that he could remove, should prevent his descendants from mastering a science, which it was physically impossible for him successfully to accomplish. With this laudable intention, he solicited, at the suggestion of Mr. Seppings, the late master-builder at Calcutta, and Rear-admiral Sir Charles Malcolm, the Bombay Government for permission to send two young men of his tribe to England, in order that they might have an opportunity of studying all the modern systems of naval architecture. The proposition, judicious as it was well timed, was approved; and our journalists, the former the son, the other the nephew of the Master-builder were the two that were selected.
On the 29th March 1838, they, with their preceptor Dorabjee Muncherjee and two servants of their own caste,” embarked for England on board the Buckinghamshire, Captain Hopkins. From religious scruples, for the Parsees like Jews and Mahomedans refuse to eat with persons of a different persuasion from themselves, a separate caboose as it is termed on board ship for the preparation of their victuals was furnished them. The voyage, from the numerous places the vessel touched at, was unusually tedious. They had, however, what in such cases is necessary a commander that consulted their comforts, and fellow passengers that were determined to make themselves agreeable. With the exception of our Parsee travellers, most of the passengers were, it seems, at starting sea sick, and this circumstance affords our journalists an opportunity of propounding a preservative against this disgusting malady. It runs counter to the dicta of Lord Byron and Dr. Kitchener, the former of whom in his well known lines in Don Juan, asserts that
“ The best of remedies is a beefsteak
Against sea sickness: try it, Sir" the latter, in commenting on the poet's remedy, advises salted fish and devils, with quant. suff. of hock or brandy in soda-water. For our part we consider, from experience, the recipe of the poet efficacious, and the advice of the Dr. decidedly agreeable from its Epicurean tendency; but as abstinence or teetotalism, in the opinion of many,
is a virtue, such as think so are fully entitled to the benefit of our journalists' prescription : we suggest, say they, to all those, who wish to escape the unpleasant effects of sea sickness, to refrain from taking wine and spirits and to be moderate in the meals for the first few days.”
Previous to making the Cape of Good Hope, the vessel encountered a severe gale between the Fish Bay and the Cape Lagullas on the southern coasts of Africa. The discomforts they experienced, so long as the gale lasted, induces them to recommend to all parties the overland route as the one affording the best accommodation to passengers. The recommendation is open to question ; but if we may venture on an opinion from the number of passengers that still undertake the long sea voyage, we should say that some time will elapse before our magnificent steamers supercede altogether our first class passenger ships.
On the 20th August, the vessel reached Dover and the feelings experienced by our journalists on the occasion are described in the following terms :
“ Here we were greatly surprized to see the amazing number of ships going out and pouring into the Thames, and steamers every now and then running backwards and forwards ; we cannot convey to our countrymen any idea of this immense number of vessels, and the beauty of the sight. You will see colliers, timber ships, merchantmen, steamers and many other crafts, from all parts of the world, hastening, as it were, to seek refuge in a river, which is but a stream compared to the Ganges and the Indus, or the still larger rivers of America. We thought it a great wonder that such a small and insignificant a speck as England appears on the Map of the world, can thus attract so many nations of the world towards her; and we asked ourselves, why should not those mighty rivers and countries, which have naturally much better accommodations for commerce than England, be not frequented as much. But a moment's reflection satisfied us on this pointthe answer presented itself--and we will tell our countrymen that it is the persevering habits of the English, it is the labour and skill of that people, that is the cause of such attraction. They are never satisfied with any one thing, unless it is brought to perfection, it does not matter at what sacrifice. They are ever ready to receive improvements, and thus they have attained that celebrity in their manufactures that countries which grow materials bring them here to be converted into useful things, which are distributed all over the world ; and while other countries were satisfied with what they had, England was eager to augment her resources. And how has she effected