« 前へ次へ »
especially, to the eating of eggs, by those who are subject to bilious disorders. We recollect no traveller that has described the annual inundation which overflows India, more particularly than the present writer; a part of his description we shall set before our readers.
“The inundation which overflows Ben
al, especially in the districts of Nattore, #. Jessore, the southern parts of Rungpore, and a part of Mahomed-Shi, is, perhaps, one of the most curious of nature’s phenomena The wisdom of our Creator is most conspicuously shown in the appropriation of sustenance, both for the human and for the brute species, suited to pmeet this annual visitation of the waters. However copious the rains may be in the southern provinces, though they might become boggy, and be partially inundated where the lands were low, yet, without the influx of these immense streams, which, owing to the declivity of the surface, pour down from the upper country, Bengal would, at such seasons, be but a miry plain, or a shallow morass, The greatin: undation does not generally take place till a month after the period when the rains have, according to the phrase in use, “set in.” The thirsty soils of Oude, Corch, AlHahabad, Benares, Gazypore, Patna, Rung: pore, Boglepore, Purneah, and all bevond the 25th degree of latitude, require much moisture to saturate them, as do also those parched plains into which they ultimately pour their streams, before any part of the soil can be covered. Indeed, such is the state of the southern provinces after the cold season, that that rich friable soil in which they abound is seen cake-dried and cracked by fissures of many inches in breadth, as though some great convulsion of nature had been exerted to rend the surface into innumerable divisions.
“Under the circumstances of a flood, which lasts for many months, fluctuating from the middle or end of July to the beginning of October (though the water does not drain off before the middle of December in low situations) the inhabitants might be supposed to suffer under all the miseries of a general ruin and subsequent scarcity. The reverse is, however, the fact; for, provided the rains do not fall in such torrents as to wash away their habi. tations, and to occasion so rapid a rise in the fluid plain as to overwhelm the growing rice, the more ample the bureauty [i. e.
the rains] the more plentiful the crop, and generally the less sickly does the season prove. The latter point will appear selfestablished, when we consider that amplitude of inundation serves not only to divide the sceptick matter contained in the water, but likewise to accelerate its action and cause its proceeding with added impetus to discharge itself into the bay. At this season, rivers are only known by the currents, and consequent swells, which appearamidst this temporary ocean The navigation, for several months, assumes a new appearance. Vessels of great burthen, perhaps of two thousand maunds (each 80lb.) equal to nearly one hundred tons, are seen traversing the country in all directions, principally with the wind, which is then within a few points on either side of south. Noted cities, exalted mosques, and populous gunjes, or grain markets, on the river’s bank, are not objects of attentention. The boatman having set his enormous square sail, proceeds by guess, or, perhaps guided by experience, through the fields of rice, which every where raise their tasseled heads, seeming to invite the reaper to collect the precious grain. As to depth of water, there is generally from ten to thirty feet, in proportion as the country may be more or less elevated. “It is curious to sail among these insulated towns, which, at this season appear almost level with the surrounding element, and hemmed in by their numerous dingies, or boats, which, exclusive of the necessity for preparing against an over-abundant in, undation, are requisite for the purposes of cutting the paddy, rice being so called while in the husk. “So soon as what is considered the final secession of the inundation is about to commence, the whole of the boats are in motion, and the paddy is cut with astonishing celerity. It is fortunate, that, owing to the country on the borders of the sea being higher than the inundated country, the waters cannot draw off faster than they can find vent, by means of the rivers which discharge into the bay of Bengal, else the growing rice would be subjected to various fluctuations unsuited to its nature, and occasioning the straw to bend; whereby its growth would be injured, even if it should recover from its reclined state so as again to assume a vigorous appearance on the surface. “The waters of the inundation, it will be seen, are a rixture of all the streams flowing from every part of the extensive valley formed by the ranges of mountains stretching from Chittagog to Loll Dong, or Hurdwar, on the east and northeast,
and from Midnapore to Lahore on the west and northwest, a course of not less than fifteen hundred miles, and generally from two to four miles in breadth.
The rice extends its stalk (which draws out, like a pocket telescope) as the water increases, so that in twenty four hours, it will have lengthened itself six feet, in order to keep its head on the surface of the water. “I have seen it,” says our author, “do much more.”
“It has often been asked, as a matter of surprise, how it happens that Bengal has never been visited by the plague The question has been founded on the supposed affinity between that country and Egypt, in regard to the annual inundations; and to the narrowness, as well as the filth, of the streets in the great cities; which would, if the conjecture were correct, induce pestilence, as the same causes are said to do in Turkey.
“The case is widely different. In Egypt, although the lands are inundated, rain is scarcely ever known to fall; the floods coming from the southerly mountains. Hence, the inhabitants are under all the disadvantages attendant upon a hot atmosphere, during eight months in the year, and are, for the remaining four, exposed to the insalubrity arising from the inundation, especially when it is draining off.”
To what geological events such inundations may give rise, appears strongly from a circumstance mentioned respecting the great bund, or dyke, at Juanpore, with its accession of land. It reminds us of the ancient tradition that Egypt was gained from a state of morass, by means of a new channel for its water, and by shuting up the old channel; others of captain W’s remarks on the Soonderbunds (the Delta of the Ganges) are perfectly applicable to the origin of the Egyptian Delta; although the causes which influenced the depositions of the Nile, may long since have ceased to exist.
“The great bund, or dyke, at Juanpore, was built about fifteen hundred years ago, and having been made of a very obdurate kind of kumkur, found in those parts, blended with excellent lime, probably burnt
from the same stones, appears now a complete mass of rock, capable of resisting the ravages of all time to come. This bund, which bears all the venerable marks of antiquity, was originally thrown up to limit the Goomty; a fine river that rises in the Peelabeet country, and, washing Lucknow, the capital of Oude, passes through the city of Juanpore under a very lofty bridge, built on strong piers, terminating in gothick arches. The want of due breadth in the arches occasions the waters to rise du ring the rainy season to an immense height creating a fall of which that at London bridge, at its worst, is, indeed, but a poor epitome!. The distance between the top of the bridge and the water below it, in the dry season, is something less than sixty feet; yet it is on record, and in the memory of many inhabitants of Juanpore, that the river has been so full as to run over the bridge, which is flat from one end to the other, lying level between two high banks, distant about three hundred and twenty yards. “Formerly, when the waters were high, they used, according to the tradition alluded to, to overrun the country on the left bank; forming an immense inundation throughout the country lying east of Juanpore, and extending down towards the fertile plains of Gazypore. The hollow, or low land, by which they penetrated, was about two miles in width; therefore the bund was built to a suitable extent. It is now about two miles and a half long; in most parts, about thirty feet broad at the top, and double that width at the base Its height varies from ten to twenty feet. The record states it to have proved effectual in resisting the inundation, which, however, on account of the bund being at right angles with the river, so as to occupy a favourable position, and cut off the torrent, continued to flow annually as far as its base. In time, the sediment deposited by the water thus rendered stagnant, filled up the hollow, raising its surface as high as the other parts of the river's boundary, and creating a soil peculiarly valuable, now chiefly occupied by indigo planters. The insalubrity occasioned by the many swamps left by the inundation, was at the same time averted, and the dread entertained that the Goomty would in time, force a new channel for the entire body of its stream, removed. Large tracts, before of little value, acquired a deep staple of soil, which, at this date, yields sugar, indigo, wheat, barley, &c. in abundance and perfection.”
The rivers usually begin to rise,
a few inches only, in May; in June they approach the summits of their banks; the great swell takes place. in August. When the rains abate too suddenly in September, great mortality ensues. Those of our readers who have any intention of visiting India, will do well to peruse these volumes with attention. They will perceive, by them, that the Asiaticks are not a whit behind the most ingenius Europeans in the arts of deception. Let them learn never to trust to Asiatick descriptions of articles they mean to purchase, whether it be a horse warranted sound and free from blemish, and of “a high caste;” or a habitation replete with every convenience, most delightfully situated, and of the most captivating appearance. It was our design to have introduced some of those subjects of commercial speculation, on which this writer suggests a variety of hints; but we can only mention a few of them. “Talc may readily be vitrified with borax, or gypscous earths, when it forms a rich, pellucid, yellow glass of equal brightness and durability.” Teak wood possesses some principle distinct from hardness, by which it resists the white ant, and the river worm; nails driven into teak wood are never so corroded as to decay the surrounding wood and to stand isolated. Coir rope, in salt water, floats; so that while a hempen cable makes a curve downwards, between the vessel and her anchor, a coir cable makes a curve upwards; and a coir rope thrown from a ship to a boat may be caught by the latter, at a considerable distance from the vessch, because it does not sink. Capt. W. thinks such a cable might be of use on board our men of war. Unhappily, this material though seemingly even refreshed by salt water, speedily rots in fresh water. India abounds in wax, the production of
wild bees; it might be imported into Europe in sufficient quantities, and at a rate so reasonable as to “give a national benefit equal to 3,750,000l. and a revenue of 650,000l. arising from the duty, at 401, per ton, on the raw material.” The captain also, thinks that the wild vines of Bengal, &c. would, with a trifle of attention, yield if not wine, yet brandy and vinegar, of good quality, to a great amount. From these specimens, our readers will perceive that this gentleman has included in his observation, many things entirely distinct from those with which he was by duty familiar as an officer; and should his suggestions prove useful, his country as well as individuals will have cause highly to esteem his ingenuity. We add for the consideration of such captains whose ships may be pestered with that troublesome and destructive visiter, the weevil; “one or two live cray-fish placed on a heap of rice, by their effluvia quickly expel the predatory tribe.” The cause of this our author recommends to the consideration of naturalists. There are several incidental notices in these volumes which might be referred to biblical questions; such as the fruit of the trees being always presented to the deity, i. e. his priest, during their first three years; but our author says scarcely any thing on the subject of religion, except as it affects the conduct of the natives toward Europeans, who, of whatever rank, are universally considered by the natives in their service, as infinitely below them, Indeed, his account of protestant zeal is little to its credit; while he applauds, as it deserves, the exertion of a Catholick, who built a chapel, at his own expense. We have reason to believe, that on this subject, captain W. is misled by his acquaintance with former times; and that the condition of Christianity, throughout the British dominions in India is more hopeful than appears from his publication.
How far the efforts made by the missionaries may have contributed to this, we are not prepared to say; but, our information leads us to credit the fact, and we deem it too honourable to our countrymen to be passed unnoticed. As to any extensive advantages speedily to be derived from the labours of the missionaries, captain W. does not expect them. He recommends the establishment of schools of various descriptions for the benefit of the natives, and indulges himself in foreseeing the most favourable results from the communication of knowledge and information to them. Whether these predictions are correct, time may show; but we doubt whether the natives will ever consider the caste of Europeans as on a level with themselves; and whether the knowledge which one in a million may be induced to value, will possess any influence over the minds of the remainder of that million; i. e. of the mass of the population.
While we hope the best, and would by all means encourage wellintended endeavours, we cannot but deal fairly with the publick by observing, the number of gentlemen who have obtained, by personal inspection, a competent acquaintance with the Hindoos, and whose testimonies concur to moderate the sanguine expectations, indulged by that benevolence which directs the aims of some of the most respectable and ardent of British philanthropists. This must be lamented at present; a future age may see obstacles removed, and congratulate itself on the enjoyment of such felicity.
We close this report by acknowledging our obligations to the ingenious writer for much information and amusement; adding, that although gentlemen returned from India, are doubtless acquainted with a great part of what these volumes contain, yet gentlemen designing to visit that country will find them no unprofitable preparative, as to matters of familiar occurrence, connected with personal conduct, in that branch of the British empire.
FROM THE MONTHLY REVIEW.
Travels in Asia and Africa; including a Journey from Scanderoon to Aleppo and over the Desert to Bagdad and Bussora; a Voyage from Bussora to Bombay, and along the Western Coast of India; a Voyage from Bombay to Mocha and Suez in the Red Sea; and a Journey from Suez to Cairo and Rosetta in Egypt. By the late Abraham Parsons, Esq. Consul and Factor Marine at Scanderoon. 4to. pp. 346. 11. 5s. Boards.
ALTHOUGH these travels have been recently published, they were performed between thirty and forty years ago, having been begun in 1772, and brought to a close in 1778. It is natural to inquire the causes of so unusual a delay; and the editor endeavours to anticipate the questions of his readers by an explanatory notice, in which he mentions the decease of the author before he had prepared the MS. for the press, as the original source of procrastina
tion. On Mr. Parsons’s death, the MS. devolved, by bequest, to his brother-in-law, the revd. John Berjew, of Bristol. How long it remained in his possession we are not apprised: but it does not appear that his labours in regard to editing went farther than the easy task of recommending to his son to do what he had not done himself. The son, “desirous to comply with the wishes of a much respected father,” undertakes the charge of editor, and laments that professional avocations should have so long retarded the fulfilment of his duty. To judge from the period that has elapsed, we should naturally conclude that some Herculean labour had devolved on the editor: but this, on the other hand, we are prevented from thinking by his own explanations, when he tells us that “the only liberty he has taken with the narrative has been confined to the correction of verbal or grammatical inaccuracies, and in some very few instances to the altering of the arrangement of sentences, which in the original, appeared rather obscure.” All this, in our humble opinion, was practicable in the course of a few months instead of the twenty-three years which elapsed hetween the death of Mr. Parsons and the publication of his MS. Whatever, therefore, may have been the veneration of Mr. P’s relatives for his memory, we cannot pay them the compliment of having felt a very ardent solicitude for the dissemination of his fame as a traveller and an author. Mr. Parsons’s history is given briefly in the preface:
“He was originally bred to the navy, in which his father was a captain. In the earlier part of his life he commanded different vessels in the merchants’ service, during which period he visited several parts of the globe, a pursuit particularly adapted to the turn of a mind naturally fond of novelty, and remarkably inquisitive. When he quitted the sea, he carried on considerable commerce as a merchant in Bristol, which not being attended with the desired success, after some years, he was obliged to relinquish. After this he was, in the year 1767, appointed by the Turkey company consul and factor-marine at Scanderoon, in Asiatick Turkey; a situation which, after a residence of six years, he was obliged, from the unhealthiness of the country, to resign, when he commenced a voyage of commercial speculation; the narrative of which is contained in the following pages. Soon after the conclusion of this tour he retired to Leghorn, where he died in the year 1785.”
this late period has convinced us of the propriety of publishing it, and has afforded us a degree of satisfaction of which we should have been sorry to have been deprived. The observations of six years of travelling are here given to the world in the pains-taking way of a man of business, who notes down whatever he deems worthy of recollection, and conveys his information in plain and unambitious language. The book is, therefore, a journal of what the writer saw and did in the course of a progress through countries celebrated among former generations, and is not devoid of interest to the present: but, while it possesses the fidelity and perspicuity of a journal, it is marked by those deficiencies which we may expect in so plain a species of narrative. It contains few reflections of any length, and still fewer comparisons between the opinions of the writer and the reports of former travellers. Though Mr. Parsons did not go so far as Kotzebue, in purposely avoiding to read books on the subject of the countries which he visited, his travels bespeak the man of business more than the man of letters, and afford us the result of actual observation without much benefit from disquisition or research. In reviewing a work so slightly characterized by original thought, and consisting of a series of local observations without application to general conclusions, the critick finds little opportunity of entering on the field of literary discussion; his functions being confined to an explanation of the plan of the book, and to an exhibition of specimens of its execution, sufficiently varied to af. ford an idea of the value of the author's matter, and of the style in which that matter is conveyed. The most interesting parts are the account of Syria; the journey to Alleppo; and the navigation of the Euphrates; and from these we shall accordingly make our extracts: