Page images
PDF
EPUB

talents and industry, might have secured for himself friends, and, at least, a competence for his age, if his temper and his conduct had been subject to proper regulation. He died, at Paris, in May, 1826, being then nearly seventy years old. Before that period, he contrived to disgust almost every body who had been in any way connected with him. Thus a man, who made the first steps of his career under very flattering circumstances, and continued, for many years, most industrious and enthusiastic in every thing he undertook, found himself, in the evening of his days, without friends, without character, and, we fear, without the common necessaries of life ;--a miserable fate, for which his letters clearly shew that he had chiefly himself to blame.

There is but one letter in these volumes from the pen of Gibbon, and that has been already published. Dr. Percy, the collector of the “ Reliques of Ancient Poetry," was, at one time, one of Pinkerton's most constant correspondents. His letters are not, however, very interesting. Had the “Reliques" not preserved his name, which they are likely to do as long as our language shall endure, very few of the present generation would have known that he had ever existed. Yet it appears, that when he was elevated to the see of Dromore, he became ashamed of his poetical enthusiasm, and bore, with an ill-disguised impatience, the slightest allusion to the work in question. Whenever it was mentioned, he desired it to be understood, that the thing was the occupation of his idle, juvenile days. He stipulates with Pinkerton, to say as little as possible about it in his collections of Scottish poetry, to omit the Rev. before Dr. as often as he cannot avoid referring to the work, and to speak of its compiler, simply as Dr. Percy, as if he wished the world to believe, that the Doctor and the Bishop were two very different persons. It is well known that he had materials for a fourth volume, which he never published, solely, we believe, on account of this ridiculous feeling, The editor has also preserved a few letters from Dr. Beattie, which, although they are of no great value, shew that, at least, that most amiable man, and exemplary Christian, arrived at an honoured old age, without ever thinking that he ought to be ashamed of his « Minstrel.”

Art. VI. - A new Voyage round the World, in the Years 1823,

24, 25, and 26. By Otto Von Kotzebue, Post Captain in the Russian Imperial Navy. In two volumes, 8vo. London: Colburn and Co.

1830. In these days, when voyages of discovery to various parts of the globe, and round it, are by no means rare, we cannot look for much novelty in the journals that describe them. Greater exactness in fixing the latitudes of islands already known, more ample expositions of the state of society among the communities which inhabit them, and what is of considerable importance, the continuation of their history, down to the latest period, when they were visited by Europeans, constitute nearly all the new information which we can fairly expect from successive enterprises of this description. If there be a pleasure in retracing scenes with which we have been before acquainted, and in observing the changes to which they have been subjected, -changes which mark the progress of civilization all over the globe,-that pleasure is not a little increased, when we are indebted for it to an officer so distinguished in the service of his country, and to an author, who, upon all occasions, shews himself to be so much the friend of mankind, as Captain Kotzebue. He is a true sailor, whose heart is in the right place. We are rather surprised at some of his religious prejudices, considering that Russians are, in general, eminently liberal on that subject. But this does not prevent us from applauding the sentiments of humanity and kindness, with which every page of his work is animated. He is as pleasant a companion as we could desire for a voyage to the Pacific. He does not fatigue us with dissertations upon places with which all the world is sufficiently conversant. His attention is chiefly bestowed upon those of the islands that lay in his route, which are less known than they ought to be, considering the many points of interest which they present to the philosopher and the Christian. The value of his communications is in no degree diminished by the style of a narrative, often gay, and always good humoured.

The Captain, after parting with an affectionate wife, weighed anchor towards the end of July, 1823, in the roads of Cronstadt. The vessel which he commanded was called the Predpriatie, a frigate of a middling rank, the first that was built in Russia under a roof. Having escaped from the perils of the English Channel, which all foreigners, not without reason, dread so much, the Captain pursued the usual course by Rio to Cape Horn, which he doubled, with little difficulty, by keeping near the land, whereas, most navigators run sixty degrees south for that purpose, under the impression, that they will thus experience fewer impediments to their passage into the South Sea. In the summer months good east winds will often blow close to the land, when westerly winds prevail at a distance of forty miles to sea-ward! After a short stay in Chili, Captain Kotzebue proceeded to the Archipelago, lying between the parallels of 15 and 16 degrees south latitude, which he calls “the dangerous Archipelago,” for the purpose of ascertaining, with exactness, the position of the islands which he had discovered on his former voyage. This track was the more interesting, as it has not been much frequented ; its dangers arise from the multiplicity of the islands which compose the Archipelago, and which, being for the most part the work of those ever active artificers, the coral insects, are so low, that they can hardly be seen, even at a short distance. The Captain's observations upon these islands are

useful in a geographical - point of view. He sailed round some of them, and not finding the natives disposed to be friendly, he shaped his course for the Palliser Islands, discovered by Captain Cook, and was contented with seeing, from the mast-head, the group discovered by Bellingshausen. Most of the islands in this Archipelago are in the possession of inhabitants who seem hostile to strangers. They resemble their neighbours, the people of Otaheite, in language and dress. They must be civilized before the condition of the other South-Sea Islanders can be ameliorated.

At Otaheite, Captain Kotzebue had occasion to remark, that, under the superintendance of the Missionaries sent out by the London Society, the natives have become apparently attentive to religious duties. They celebrate the Sunday, by staying the greater part of the day in their houses, where they lay on their bellies reading the Bible and howling aloud ; laying aside every occupation, they devoted, as they said,

the whole day to prayer.' Their Sunday, by the way, was the Russian's Saturday, a difference arising from the first Missionaries having arrived at the island from the west, whilst he reached it from the east. When he completed the circle of the globe, he found that, in the course of his voyage, he had lost a day in his reckoning. The chief Missionary at Otaheite is a Mr. Nott, who has translated the Bible into the native language. He also first instructed the inhabitants in reading and writing,-acquirements which, at present, are not uncommon amongst them. Wilson, the next in rank of the Missionaries, was originally a common sailor. Although now a zealous theologian, he is an honest, good-natured man. There are six other Missionaries in the island; some of the natives, after receiving a suitable education, as it is called, are sent upon the more difficult departinent of the service, to spread Christianity among the islands of the dangerous Archipelago. Upon this, Kotzebue, with naiveté, remarks :

In Russia, a careful education, and diligent study at schools and universities is necessary to qualify any one to be a teacher of religion. The London Missionary Society is more easily satisfied; a half savage, confused by the dogmas of an uneducated sailor, is, according to them, perfectly fitted for the sacred office.' Our author's account of the appearance of an Otaheitan congregation is amusing :--

• Notwithstanding the seriousness and devotion apparent among the Tabaitians, it is almost impossible for an European, seeing them for the first time, in their Sunday attire, to refrain from laughter. value which they set on clothes of our manufacture, has already been remarked; they are more proud of possessing them, than are our ladies of diamonds and Persian shawls, or our gentlemen of stars and orders. As they know nothing of our fashions, they pay no sort of attention to the cut, and even age and wear do not much diminish their estimation of their attire ; a ripped-out seam, or a hole, is no drawback in the elegance of the article. These clothes, which are brought to Tahaiti by merchant

VOL. XVI.

The high

[ocr errors]

ships, are purchased at a rag-market, and sold there at an enormous profit. The Tahaitian, therefore, finding a complete suit of clothes very expensive, contents bimself with a single garment: whoever can obtain an English military coat, or even a plain one, goes about with the rest of his body naked, except the universally worn girdle; the happy owner of a waistcoat, or a pair of trowsers, thinks his wardrobe amply furnished. Some have nothing more than a shirt; and others, as much oppressed by the heat, under a heavy cloth mantle, as they would be in a Russian bath, are far too vain of their finery to lay it aside. Shoes, boots, or stockings are rarely met with, and the coats, mostly too tight and too short, make the oddest appearance imaginable: many of their wearers can scarcely move their arms, and are forced to stretch them out like the sails of a windmill, while their elbows, curious to see the world, peep through slits in the seams. Let any one imagine such an assembly, perfectly satisfied of the propriety of their costume, and wearing, to complete the comic effect, a most ultra-serious expression of countenance, and he will easily believe that it was impossible for me to be very devout in their presence. The attire of the females, though not quite so absurd, was by no means picturesque; some wore white or striped men's shirts, which did not conceal their knees, and others were wrapped in sheets. Their hair was cut quite close to the roots, according to a fashion introduced by the missionaries; and their heads covered by little European chip caps, of a most tasteless form, and decorated with ribbons and flowers made in Tabaiti : but the most valuable article of dress was a coloured gown, an indubitable sign of the possessor's opulence, and the object of her unbounded vanity.

• When Wilson first mounted the pulpit, he bent his head forward, and concealing his face with an open Bible, prayed in silence; the whole congregation immediately imitated him, using their. Psalm-books instead of Bibles. After this, the appointed Psalm was sung, to a most incongruous tune, every voice being exerted to its utmost pitch, in absolute defiance of harmony.

• Wilson then read some chapters from the Bible, the congregation kneeling twice during the intervals; the greater part of them appeared very attentive, and the most decorous silence reigned; which was, however, occasionally interrupted by the chattering and tittering of some young girls seated behind me. I observed that some threatening looks directed towards them by Messrs. Bennet and Tyrman, seemed to silence them for a moment; but their youthful spirits soon overcoming their fears, the whispering and giggling recommenced ; and glances were cast at the white stranger, which seemed to intimate no unwillingness to commence a closer acquaintance. After the conclusion of the sermon, another psalm was sung, and the service concluded. The display of costume, as the congregation strolled homeward in groups, with the greatest self-complacency, through the beautiful broad avenues, their Psalm-books under their arms, was still more strikingly ludicrous than in church. I had by this time, however, lost all inclination to laugh.'-vol. i. pp. 155—158.

The author's inclination to laugh was checked by a train of reflections into which he fell, upon the history of the establishment in the islands of what the Misssionaries called Christianity. He describes it as having been forced upon the people by the first king,

Tago, who was converted by the Missionaries. Whoever would not adopt it was put to death. With the zeal for making proselytes, the rage of tigers took possession of a people once so gentle. Streams of blood flowed-whole races were exterminated. We are willing to believe that there is some exaggeration in this statement. We must remember that it is made by a member of the Greek church, which is not particularly distinguished by a spirit of toleration. The Missionaries are now the real civil governors, as well as the spiritual directors of the Otaheitans. They have given them a constitution like that of England! We fear that there is too much truth in the following observations:

• True, genuine Christianity, and a liberal government, might have soon given to this people, endowed by nature with the seeds of every social virtue, a rank among civilized nations. Under such a blessed influence, the arts and sciences would soon have taken root; the intellect of the people would have expanded, and a just estimation of all that is good, beautiful, and eternally true, would have refined their manners, and ennobled their hearts. Europe would soon have admired, perhaps have envied, Tahaiti: but the religion taught by the Missionaries is not true Christianity, though it may possibly comprehend some of its doctrines, but half understood even by the teachers themselves. That it was established by force, is of itself an evidence against its Christian principle. A religion which consists in the eternal repetition of prescribed prayers, which forbids every innocent pleasure, and cramps or annihilates every mental power, is a libel on the Divine Founder of Christianity, the benign Friend of humankind. It is true, that the religion of the Missionaries has, with a great deal of evil, effected soine good. It has abolished heathen superstitions and an irrational worship, but it has introduced new errors in their stead. It has restrained the vices of thest and incontinence, but it has given birth to bigotry, hypocrisy, and a hatred and contempt of all other modes of faith, which was once foreign to the open and benevolent character of the Tahaitian. It has put an end to avowed human sacrifices, but many more human beings have been actually sacrificed to it, than ever were to their heathen gods.

• The elder Foster estimated, as we have already seen, the population of Tahaiti at one hundred and thirty thousand souls. Allowing that he over-calculated it, by even as much as fifty thousand, still eighty thousand remained :the present population amounts to only eight thousand; so that nine-tenths must have disappeared. The diseases introduced by ardent spirits, the manufacture of Europe and America, may, indeed, have much increased the mortality, but they are also known in many islands in the South Seas, without having caused any perceptible diminution in the population. It is not known, that plague of any kind has ever raged here: it was, therefore, the bloody persecution instigated by the Missionaries, which performed the office of a desolating infection. I really believe that these pious people were themselves shocked at the consequences of their zeal ;. but they soon consoled themselves; and have ever since continued to watch with the most vigilant severity over the maintenance of every article of their faith. Hence, among the remains of these murdered people, their former admirable industry, and

« PreviousContinue »