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among those who have been most remarkable for unfeigned piety and active philanthropy. If she does not raise him to the same station with her Sherlocks, her Warburtons, and her Horsleys, she will delight to add his name to the list of her Tillotsons and her Seckers, of those who, possessing not a soaring genius, but respectable talents, have devoted themselves with unwearied industry to the most beneficial pursuits. Undoubtedly, there have been many English divines of more commanding powers, of more profound erudition, of greater polemical acuteness, than Bishop Porteus; but it might not be easy to name a prelate who has surpassed him in that rectitude of intention, benevolence of heart, and warmth of devotion, which are the brightest graces of the Christian character; or who has laboured with more sincere and earnest zeal, in endeavouring to purify the morals, to elevate the piety, and to promote the eternal welfare, of his fellow-creatures.
Art. III. Travels in the Island of Iceland, during the Summer
of the Year 1810. By Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, Baronet, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, &c. &c. &c. Edinburgh, Constable and Co.; London, Longman and Co.; Cadell
and Davies ; Miller; and Murray. 4to. pp. 510. 1811. Journal of a Tour in Iceland, in the Summer of 1809. By
William Jackson Hooker, F. L. S. and Fellow of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh. London, Vernor and Co.; Miller, Albemarle-street. 8vo. pp. 545. 1811.
• A PART, how small, of this terraqueous globe
Is tenanted by man! the rest a waste,
Such is earth's melancholy map!
, was the gloomy humour in which Young contemplated it; for in reality the map is less dismal than the poet Țepresents it; and’if he had remembered the triumphs over natural difficulties which man obtains, not less by the pliability than by the fortitude of his nature, he might have found matter for happier contemplations. The moral map, indeed, may well make a wise man mournful, but not the physical one. The Arab, amid the sands of the desert, and the Greenlander, amid snows and everlasting ice, are equally contented with their lot: and if we were asked to lay our finger upon that spot of the globe where history affords to the philosoplier the least cause for humiliation and sorrow, it would be upon an island in the Northern Ocean, situated upon the very limits of the living world.
Whether Iceland was the Ultima Thule of the ancients, is a question which has been much discussed, and which, were it possible, it would be of little importance to determine. The first person who is known to have seen it, was a northern pirate, by name Naddoc or Naddodr; he was driven thither by a tempest in the year 861, and gave it the appropriate name of Snoeland from its appearance. His report induced Gardar Suaversen, a Swede, to visit it, who, like some of our modern navigators, unnecessarily changed its name for the sake of substituting his own. The third visitor was Flokko: he took with him some ravens, and when he supposed himself near the end of his voyage, let one loose, thinking to be directed by its course; but the bird, having soared to a great height, turned back toward Norway. After some days a second raven was liberated, which, like his ancestor of the ark, could find no rest for his feet, and returned to the vessel; but on the third and last trial, Ralph snuffed the land, and flew straight towards it. Flokko seems to have gone either with the intention of forming a settlement, or of reconnoitering with a view to one; he past one winter at Watusfiordur, in the gulph of Breidafiord, and a second on the southern coast; and from the quantity of ice which, in the intervening spring, filled the gulph, he gave the island its present appellation. Upon his report, a party of Norwegian nobles, who could not brook their subjection to Harold Harfagre, determined to emigrate thither, under the guidance of Ingulf and his kinsman Hiorleif. Their leader took with him the door-posts of his former dwelling, and when he approached the coast, threw them into the sea, meaning to fix his house upon the spot where they should be stranded: this was a customary superstition among these northern adventurers; akin to, and perhaps arising from a feeling still preserved with little diminution in Spain, where the solar or family floor is regarded with a sort of reverence, and gives an honorary title to old families. But Ingulf was borne away in a different direction, while that which should have guided him drifted out of sight. He landed at a promontory in the S. E. part of the island, called at this day Iogulfshöfdi; the feeling, however, with which he regarded the custom of his country was so strong, that three years afterwards, when the door-posts were discovered, he removed with his family to the auspicious place. It happened, by a singular coincidence, to be the spot where the present capital of the island stands.
Iceland was not in those days the dreadful country which it is now; the climate was far less severe, and its tremendous volcavoes had not yet broken out. The way once open, adventurers followed in great numbers. Harold encouraged this at first, because it rid him of turbulent spirits, whom it might have been difficult to restrain at home; but the emigration became so great, that VOL. VII. NO, XIII.
in order to check it, he imposed a fine of four ounces of silver upon every person who should leave Norway to settle in Iceland. "In the course of threescore years, the whole of the coasts and most of the habitable parts are said to have been peopled. Danes and Swedes, as well as Norwegians, repaired thither, and emigrants even from Scotland and Ireland. The leader of every fresh party established himself like a feudal chief, dispossessing those who were weaker than himself, if he did not find a track to his mind which was unoccupied. After half a century of continual broils, an end was put to this anarchy by the establishment of a general government. The island was divided into four provinces, each under an hereditary governor ; these were subdivided into twelve departments, each also having its hereditary lord; and these again into smaller districts, called hreppar, which were under four elective magistrates, whose business it was to maintain good order, and especially to attend to the condition and management of the poor. Every hreppar had its assembly, composed of all the inhabitants who possessed a certain property, and were of unblemished character ; their proceedings were under the cognizance of the assembly of the department, which was composed of the lord and of deputies from the hreppars ; an appeal lay from hence to the provincial assembly, and finally to the states general, who held their annual meeting on the shores of the lake of Thingvalla.
This great assembly was called the Althing, and nothing can be more striking than the picture which it presented. The magistrates, the legislators, and the assembled people lived in tents, pitched upon the banks of the river Oxeraa, where it enters the lake. The lake is about ten miles long, and from three to seven in breadth. It is a wild and dreary scene, bearing around it marks of the convulsions of nature. There are two islands in the lake, composed entirely of volcanic matter. The mountains at the southern end continually send up vapour from their hot springs; some of the rocks have been rent by earthquakes, and others formed by lava. When the Althing was originally instituted, these convulsions had not laid the country waste ; but it must always have been a solemn scene. The assembly took place in the open air upon the grass: and if any culprits were condemned to death, the men were beheaded upon an islet in the river; the women drowned in a deep pool. Here, for more than eight centuries, the general assembly was held, till, about ten years ago, it was removed to Reikiavik, somewhat perhaps to the immediate convenience of the people, yet with some injury to their feelings, and with an ominous disre spect of antiquity, and of all which deserves veneration. Here the Langman or Langsaugumadur presided, the chief magistrate of the whole island, who held his place, as long as he filled it to the satisfaction of the nation. He was the public speaker, the su
preme judge, and had the charge of promulgating all the laws enacted by the Althing. Under this system, though frequently disturbed by intestine broils, Iceland flourished as an independent republic for nearly 400 years. In 1260 the people consented, in an evil hour, to become subjects of the King of Norway; with Norway they were united to the dominion of Denmark, and the consequences of that union are to be seen in their present state.
Guided by a happy instinct, says M. Mallet, the Icelanders established their fine constitution at once, as bees from their htves. The truth is, that they followed the order of the bive from which which they had swarmed, making only such alterations as adapted it to the circumstances in which they were placed. In one material circumstance they differed from the other branches of the great northern family, by whom the kingdoms of modern Europe were founded ; and to this, though it seems to have been overlooked by all the writers upon Iceland, the activity and prosperity of their golden age may in great measure be attributed. They had taken possession of a country which was uninhabited, and gaining it thus by occupancy instead of conquest, the great evils of the feudal system had no existence among them. Slavery was unknown among the Icelanders, and they escaped those ages of oppression and barbarism, through which all the Gothic kingdoms past in their progress, before the conquerors and the conquered were blended into one people, and a common language had been produced by the intermixture. Centuries elapsed before the English tongue became as polished as the Saxon was during the heptarchy: it is true, we had authors who wrote in Latin, but their writings could have no influence upon the people; whereas the Icelanders, from the time of their first settlement, had their own poets and historians, and were thus, when compared with the rest of Europe, a literary as well as a free people.
The local situation of their country was also a material advantage in those ages; they felt the benefit of inhabiting an island as we do now, being removed from all the wars of the continent; and they felt it when we did not, because Iceland had nothing which could: tempt the Vikingr to ravage its shores ; when in England there were to be found the remains of Roman luxury and the produce of Saxon labour, gold and silver in the monasteries, corn in the granaries, and mead and ale and wine in the cellars. The sea kings never went north in their expeditions: it was only by bettering their climate that they could find the booty of which they were in search. Iceland offered nothing which they did not possess at home.
The enterprizes of the Icelanders took a different direction, probably because they could not go south without encountering a people stronger than themselves. Erich Randi, or the Redheaded, was
banished for three years, for having slain a neighbouring chief; it so happened that a man, by name Gunbroern, had not long before discovered land to the westward; the exile sailed iu quest of it, wintered at an island, examined the main land during the second year, and, at the expiration of the third, returned and persuaded many of his countrymen to form a settlement in this new country s which he called Greenland, as if by its name to denote the advantages which, according to his description, it possessed over their land of ice and snow. So successful were these representations, that no fewer than five and twenty ships followed him thither; but of these only fourteen reached their destination. They settled in East, or as it is now called Old or Lost Greenland; an appellation which denotes the singular and melancholy fate of this once flourishing colony. Fresh colonists pursued their course both from Iceland and Norway, and the country was peopled both on the east and west sides as high as latitude 65. The new colony was formed before the conversion of the mother country: but all the Gothic nations have been converted with remarkable facility, and these Greenlanders soon became Christians, and received a bishop from Norway.
The loss of this colony is one of the most singular events in human history; their loss it may literally be called, for, to use the words which Montgomery has so well applied to a different occasion,
• This sole memorial of their lot
Remains; they were--and they are not.' The last authentic accounts of their existence are towards the close of the fourteenth century. The pestilence which, under the name of the Black Death, devastated Europe in the middle of that century, is supposed to have reached this remotest region of the north. In Iceland two-thirds of the population were cut off by it; it is therefore scarcely to be imagined that their neighbours should have escaped the same dreadful visitation, especially as, unlike other pestilences, the farther north it proceeded the more destructively it raged. But the room made by such ravages would soon have been filled up, and there is reason to attribute the loss of East Greenland to a more permanent evil. During the winter of 1348, the whole of the coast of Iceland was frozen, so that a horseman might have ridden from cape to cape round the island. Such a circumstance had never occurred before since the country was discovered ; and it seems probable that in this winter the accumulation of ice began, which has blocked up the coast of East Greenland. The drift-ice, collecting along its shore, maintained its ground during one inauspicious summer : if a land breeze had arisen and sent it on its way to better latitudes, Iceland and Lapland would not have been at this day the cheerless regions which