Page images

whether to repose under the leaden sceptre of Austria, or to pass through the fiery ordeal of revolution, he deserves well of that country, who makes her feel that, but for her own intestine discords, she might have been one among the nations. At any rate, though the vivid representations of her own annals under the captivating hues of poetry, should effect little in warning her against those petty jealousies and rivalries which have always distracted and weakened her; though she abandon all hope of doing more than

Servir sempre, o vincitrice, o vinta;

though she still remain divided and subdivided, and portioned out among different sovereigns-and we see no probability of her being otherwise, in any manner consistent with the peace of Europe and her own internal happiness; still let her be able to pride herself on her poets winning the admiration of the world: let it be her glory in her adversity that the Miltons and Grays of distant countries draw poetic inspiration from her perennial fountains, as it will be an ennobling recollection, should a more fortunate period of her history unexpectedly arrive, if her poets and men of letters shall have consecrated their powers to her improvement and instruction; if they have not only adorned her by their fame, but enlightened her by their generous principle; if they have not only raised her standard of intellectual, but also of moral greatness.

ART. IV. Journal of a Tour through part of the Snowy Range

of the Himāla Mountains and to the Sources of the Rivers Jumna and Ganges. By James Baillie Fraser, Esq. 4to. London. 1820.

MANY years have not elapsed since we knew only the name

of that stupendous buttress, which supports on the south the elevated Table Land of central Asia, and which, for altitude and extent, has no parallel on the surface of the globe; for although there cannot remain a doubt that some of those extraordinary men, the Jesuit missionaries, scaled this vast barrier, and forced as it were a direct communication between Hindostan and China, through Thibet, from the beginning to the middle of the seventeenth century, their statements are so vague with regard to the geography of the countries traversed, as barely to enable us to trace their route, though at the same time sufficiently explicit to shew that they crossed the Himalaya through Cashmere and Nepaul.

Not only the existence however, but the nature of this mountainous region, was known to the ancient geographers. Indeed the


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

closer we examine into the direction and extent of its various ramifications, the more grounds we see for believing that the infor`mation obtained by Ptolemy was authentic, and his details generally correct; nor can we doubt that the Emodus or Imaus of Pliny, incolarum lingua nivosum significans' derived its origin immediately from the Himaleh of the Hindoos, which, really signifies, in their language, snowy,' or more strictly speaking, the


'seat of snow.'

The British conquerors of India had long viewed the snowcapt summits of this stupendous barrier from the plains of Hindostan, and by degrees advanced to its very base; but the pas sage was closed against all approach to its interior, till war, which, with all its evils, is confessedly a great promoter of geographical knowledge, opened a way into these recesses, and afforded those opportunities of which our enterprizing countrymen were not slow in availing themselves. It is true that pacific missions had introduced Turner, Kirkpatrick, Moorcroft, Raper, and a few others, into the eastern parts of the extensive chain which separates India from Tartary; but the western portion, or that part included between the Sutlej and the Jumna, had never been approached by any European; and it may be considered as a singular circumstance, that our first knowledge of the possibility of this part of the mountainous region being passable by an army, was the discovery of General Ochterlony,-that an elephant had been sent, as a marriage dowry, from Nahn to Bussaher, a distance of 80 miles; before which this part of the hilly country,' as it is called, had been confidently described by the natives, and was universally believed on the plains, to be inaccessible to any four-footed animal.

When those restless freebooters, the nominal subjects of the 'Celestial Empire,** (known to us by the name of Ghorkalis, who had long been in possession of Nepaul, and who, about the beginning of the present century, had completely subdued the whole of the hilly states, as far west as the Sutlej,) thought fit, in the year 1814, to disturb the Hindoos, living peaceably under the protection of the British government, by repeated and destructive incursions upon the plains, and when remonstrances and negociations had failed, it became expedient to march an army into these mountainous regions, and ultimately to reduce the whole line of country which had been injuriously invaded and possessed by the Ghorka Rajahs. Peace or war was in fact no longer a matter of choice; our zemindars,' says Mr. Fraser, were plundered and


[ocr errors]

* In asking the assistance of the Emperor of China against the English, they avowed themselves to be his subjects.

G 4


even murdered, and the petty chiefs dependent on our protection and authority, if they did not agree to the terms of these oppressors, were insulted and driven from their houses and their properties.' We notice this with no view of entering into any discussion on the merits of the war, but merely to point out the occasion which supplied Mr. Baillie Fraser with the means of collecting the materials of the volume before us, by accompan ing his brother, then acting in the capacity of 'Political Agent' to that part of the army which was under the command of General Martindale.


It is much to be regretted that so fine an opportunity should have been lost to all the important purposes of science. Mr. Fraser was neither furnished with instruments of any kind to measure angles, the temperature of the atmosphere, or the pressure of the air; nor, by his own admission, was he qualified to add much to the stock of human knowledge. These deficiencies are provoking enough: and when to them we add the total want of arrangement of the matter which he has collected, the perplexing mixture of camps and campaigns and military movements with manners, politics and, what Sir Toby calls, arguments of state,' broken, too, into brief paragraphs, which frequently remind us of the chronological list of events in a modern almanack, it will be granted, we think, that we have some reason to quarrel with Mr. Fraser's book; yet, having persevered in toiling through a minute detail of uninteresting matter, we honestly confess that a favourable impression remained on our mind, and that we could not help feeling, that the work was highly worthy of public notice, and encouragement; and that, with all its drawbacks, a kind of witchery hovered over the pages which brought before us those holy haunts of superstition, where, enthroned on the lofty and snow-capt pinnacles of Himalaya, the divine Mahadeo sat and surveyed the fertile plains of Hindostan.

The route of Mr. Fraser will be more distinctly understood if, in the absence of a map, (with which, however, the book is accompanied,) we endeavour to trace a general outline of the great geographical features of the mountainous region which separates India from Tartary. We know not exactly to what portion of this rugged and highly elevated tract of country, which extends, without interruption, from the confines of China on the east, to the Caspian nearly on the west, the name of Himaleh, Himalaya, or Himmachal, was applied by the natives of India; but our present geographers seem to limit it to that portion of the chain which is included between the ravines of the Indus and the Bramapootra. Beyond the Indus to the westward, it takes the name of the Hindoo Coosh, or Indian Caucasus, and is that part which,

with its continuation on the northern extremity of Persia, was known to Ptolemy by the name of Parapamisus. The general direction of the chain is about north-west, and south-east; and the length of the Himaleh alone, as we have described it, about 1400 miles; its greatest latitude not exceeding 35°, and least not falling below 25°; its longitude reaching from 74° to 94°. The width of this mountainous tract, including the lower hills, is various, but in no part less probably than fifty, or more than a hundred miles. The portion of this range described by Mr. Fraser is not more in a straight line in the direction of the chain than sixty or seventy miles.

The character of the inferior hills is described by our author as 'wild, rugged, and difficult of access, irregularly connected; those,' he adds, forming the boundary of the Deyrah-Doon, and the roots of the more lofty ones, rise abruptly from the sandy flat that stretches at their feet, without any undulation of ground whatever: their aspect is rocky and brown, though they are tolerably clothed with wood; a mixture of the productions of the low country with a few of those that affect a loftier situation. Their south-western and southern aspects are steep and broken; while that of their backs, to the north-east, exhibits an easy slope, covered with much wood in most places, but green where wood does not extend. These hills rise to a height of from 400 to 750 feet; and the range separating the Dhoon from the plains may extend from three to six miles in depth. They seem to be formed of sandstone, more or less destructible, of indurated clay, and beds of rounded pebbles and gravel. Their aspect, viewed from a height, is singular, and much reminds one of a wave of the sea, which has rolled by, showing here and there its broken crest, half turned backwards. Beyond these first low hills others rise more lofty and majestic, and are found of various heights, from 1500 feet to 5000. They are very sharp, rough, and run into numerous ridges, divided by deep shaggy dells; and the crests of the ridges are frequently so sharp, that two persons can hardly stand abreast upon them.'-p. 313.

These are the irregular hills which rise immediately from the plains of Hindostan; but beyond them we arrive at a more connected range, of limestone formation, and of a round, lumpy, rugged character.' Deep glens, and the beds of mountain torrents separate this from the farther range, which rises to the height of 10,000 or 12,000 feet, and in particular places even more, before it passes into the great granite formation, of which the towering peaks are supposed to consist; though it is not impossible that the continuous bed of granite may be surmounted by sand-stone, which is not unusual, and, in the present instance, is the more probable from the frequency of large detached masses of this substance being found at the summit of the hills which immediately unite with the wall-sided mountains,


On this point Mr. Fraser observes:

'The lofty spires and masses of the snowy range, and of their ridges, were in all probability formed of a different rock from any we had seen in quantity; and although, from subsequent observations, it was to be presumed that the principal portion was granite, still the obvious stratification that existed in some places, among others in the peaks about Seran, would, as I have been informed, militate strongly against this supposition, granite not in general assuming a stratified form. At this place the snowy peaks were not more than from two to two miles and a half horizontal distance from us. We had good glasses, and thus were enabled to make pretty accurate observations respecting them. The lines of stratification were particularly obvious on the steep perpendicular faces of many, especially those pointing to the south-west; and that distinction which was obvious throughout the whole hills, between the north-western and western exposures, and those to the south and south-eastward, was finely confirmed here, as will be more distinctly stated hereafter.

Where the rock is perpendicular the snow cannot of course lie; and even on faces not so precipitous, it slides down as the lower portions melt, thus giving to view a large portion of the more elevated cliffs. The rock then was black in colour, occasionally veined with red and yellow. It was remarkably sharp, and its fracture seemed to preserve this character: at times it spires up into slender peaks of most fantastic forms; and even in these we could detect the stratification and direction of the strata. For some thousand feet below their top all vegetation ceased, and there did not appear to be any soil: at the foot of each cliff were spread the ruins that had fallen from it, mouldering as weather and time acted on them, strewing the mountain side (where it was not covered with snow) with various sized fragments.-p. 316.

It has long been known that the extensive plains of Hindostan, comprehended between the Indus and the Ganges, and commencing at the base of the mountainous region of which we have been speaking, owe their extraordinary fertility to the innumerable streams which issue out of it; but very confused and erroneous notions were entertained, until very lately, of their sources. The Indus on the west is composed of the Punjab, or five rivers, of which the easternmost is the Sutlej, with the exception of which, and the western branch, all the intermediate rivers, and their tributary streams, have their sources at or near the southern base of the highest ridge of the chain. The Jumna, the great western branch of the Ganges, is composed of the Girree, the Pabur, the Touse, and the Jumna properly so called, with numerous inferior streams, all issuing from the south side of the Himalaya. The Ganges, composed of the Bhagarutee and Alicanunda, and the latter of the Kaligunga, the Pindar, and several other considerable streams, has also its source in the southern side of the snowy mountains; but the great western branch of the Indus, the Sutlej, and

« PreviousContinue »