« ПредишнаНапред »
Madras. And really'his Lordship seems to have assumed, and Mr. Barrow seems to ascribe, a degree of merit for this gross violation of morality and law. The former says, " I have never had a private'quarrel in my life, but have unfortunately been engaged in two public ones, and suffered severely from won ds received in both. These I might easily have avoided, had I not preferred the public service to all private considerations.' Vol. I. p. 379. Mr. B. says, " so conscious was Lord M. of the recitude of all bis views and intentions, that he frequently took occasion to declare his fixed purpose of never shrinking from responsibility, either public or private, for any one act of his government or his life." p. 336.
We cannot dissemble having felt a considerable sensation of fatigue by the time we came to the end of this memoir. There is a prolixity in some parts of it bevond the endurance of any human patience, but that of the writer; as, for instance, in the account of the difficulties attending the conclusion of the treaty with the empress of Russia, the debates in the India House previously to the appointment of Lord M., and his ridiculously serious negociation, at a later period, with Messrs Pitt and Dundas about a patent of British nobility, as a condition of his accepting the offered appointment of governor general cf India. It is curious to see what trifles a man of Mr. Barrow's sense can really think his pen and the name of his patron capable of rendering interesting to the commonwealth of readers. If it be, in the nature of things, possible to give a degree of interest to matters so essentially frivolous, or so entirely relating to transactions which have long since lost their importance, Mr. B.'s pen is not of the kind to do it. The interest, in reading any part of this long memoir, depends solely on the importance of the facts; for nothing can be less captivating than a style that continually reminds us of the language of gazettes and parliamentary reports. Excepting perspicuiiy, it is devoid of all the attributes of good writing. It is dry, and incorrect, and heavy; and the work stems a hasty production of a writer who has not, we fear, very accurately calculated how many large volumes in rapid succession his reputation can bear, before it comes in danger of foundering. . It will probably be held of considerable value, as a detail of the transactions of Lord M. and his contemporaries in the east. It must be read as a history of Indian politics, during a certain term of years; for a person that shall take it up as purely a biographical memoir, will never read it through. As to the correctness of the histoiy, the greatest part is authenticated by the papers in the appendix, and the whole seems to be sufficiently free from any influence of party prejudice to deserve the reader's reliance. The author makes very few observations.
It is possible there are persons who retain so much prejudice against Lord M. as to need a large assortment of documents, in the form of an appendix, to confirm the statements in the narration; the general reader could perfectly well have spared this incumbrance. It is fair however to observe, that the papers written by Lord M. are of some value as specimens of an excellent official style, and also of a candour, an ingenuousness, and a dignity, that will never be surpassed, and rarely imitated, by any political or diplomatic character.
The extracts from the Accounts of Ireland and Russia are of very considerable worth, but ought not to have been here. They give a striking disclosure of the hideous depravity which has prevailed in the government of both those countries. Being written in the earlier part of his lordship's life, their composition is a good deal spoiled by an affectation of antithesis, of which his good sense was afterwards cured.
If ample and repeated accounts of the embassy to China had not completely satiated the public curiosity, the ambassador's own private Journal might have been deemed an acquisition, as being entirely written at the time and on the spot of the successive transactions, and therefore with the vivid freshness of the fiist perceptions. Every fact and opinion however, of any material consequence, has already appeared, Sir. G. Staunton having had the free use of this journal. His lordship was on the whole, too much inclined, we think, to a favourable estimate of the Chinese; and perhaps rather more flattered, than became an old statesman and philosopher, by the attentions of some of the grandees of the court of Pekin, a court of which the collective virtue might indeed barely deserve to reside in, but of which the collective talent would hardly suffice decently to govern, our colony at Botany Bay.
We will try to make the conclusion at least of this article a little entertaining to our readers, by transcribing the ambassador's account of the temple of Pusa, at a place not very far north of Canton.
'I rose at an early hour, and embarked in a small shallop, in order to avoid interruption or incumbrance Before we had proceeded many hundred yards, we were attracted to the left by an arm ot the river, which had bent and elbowed itself ;nto a deep cove or bason, above which enormous masses of rocks rose abrupdy on every side, agglomerating to a stupendous height, and menacing collision The included flood was motionless, silent, *ullen, black The ledge where we landed was so narrow, that v/e could "ot stand without difficulty, and were hemmed round with danger. Our °ply safety seemed even in the jaws of a cavern, that yawned in our front. We plunged into it without hesitation, and for a moment felt the joy ot a madea escape; but our terrors returned when we surveyed our asyiuia. We found ourselves at the bottom of a staircase, hewn in the rock, long, narrow, steep and rugged. At a distance, a feeble taper glimmered from above, and faintly discovered to us the secrets of the vault. M^e, however, looked forward to it as our pole star; we •have scrambled up the steps, and with much trouble and fatigue arrived at the landing place. Here an ancient bald-headed Bonze issued from his den, and offered himself as our conductor through this subterraneous labyrinth. The first place that he led us to was the grand hall, or refectory of the convent. It is an excavation forming nearly a cube of 25 feet, through one face of which is a considerable opening that looks over the water, and is barricadoed with a rail. This apartment is well furnished, in the taste of the country, with tables and chairs highly varnished, and with many gauze and paper lanthorns of various colours, in the middle of which was suspended a glass lanthom of prodigious size made in London, the offering of ah opulent Chinese bigot at Canton. From hence we mounted an ascent of many difficult steps to the temple itself, which is directly over the hall, but of much greater extent. Here the god, Pusa, is displayed in all his glory, a gigantic image, with a Saracen face, grinning horribly from a double row of gilded fangs, a crown upon his head, a naked cimeter in one hand, and a fire brand in the other. But how little, alas! is celestial or sublunary fame; I could learn very few particulars of this colossal divinity. Even the Bonzes who live by hi« wor>hip, scarcely knew any thing of his history. From the attributes he is armed with, I suppose he was some great Tartar prince, or commander of antiquity,' and if he bore any resemblance to his representative, he must have been a most formidable warrior, and probably little inferior in his day to the King of Prussia or Prince Ferdinand in our own. A magnificent altar was dressed out at his feet, with lamps, lanthorns, candles, candlesticks, censers and perfumes, strongly resembling the decorations of a Romish chapel, and on the walls were hung numerous tablets, inscribed in large characters, with moral sentences, and exhortations to pious alms and religion. Opposite to the image is a wide breach in the wall, down from which the perpendicular view requires the firmest nerves, and the steadiest head to resist its impression. -The convulsed rocks above, shooting their tottering shadows into the distant light, the slumbering abyss below, the superstitious gloom brooding on the whole, all conspired to strike the mind with accumulated horror snd terrifying images.'
'The Bonzes having now learned the quality of their visitors, had lighted an additional number of torches and flambeaux, by which we were enabled to see all the interior of the Souterrain, and to examine into the nature of its inhabitants, and their manner of living in it. Here we beheld a number of our fellow creatures, endowed with faculties like our own, (" some breasts once pregnant with celestial fire") buried under a mountain, and chained to a rock, to be incessantly gnawed by the vultures of superstition and fanaticism. Their condition appeared to us to be the' last stage of monastic misery, the lowest degradation of humanity. The" aspiring thoughts and elegant desires, the promethean heat, the nobler energies of the soul, the native dignity of man, all sunk, rotting, or extinguished in a hopeless dungeon of religious insanity. From such scenes the eye turns away with pity and disdain, and looks With impatience for a ray of relief, from the light of reason and philosophy.' VoL II. p. 97*.'
Art. II. The History of the World from the Reign of Alexander to that of Augustxu, comprehending tho latter Ages of European Greece and the History of the Greek Kingdoms in Asia and Africa, from their Foundation to their Destruction; with a preliminary Survey of Alexander's Conquests, and an Estimate of his Plan* for their Consolidation and Improvement. By John Gillies, LL. D. F. R. S. and S. A. &c. 2 vol*. 4*o. pp. 726. 853. Price 4,1. it. Strahan, Cadell and Co. 1807.
TT is the boast of Great Britain to have produced, during a short and recent period erf her literary annals, a series of historical writers of a merit far surpassing that of any of their predecessors among their own countrymen; and scarcely excelled by the most celebrated historiographers of other modern nations. Till the middle of the last century, the historical fame of our country was supported only by such names as Clarendon, Burnet, and Lyttleton, which were ill qualified to maintain a competition with the celebrity of Thuanus, Guicciardini, Mariana, or Davila. But since Hume, Robertson, and Gibbon, have assumed the pen of history, we need not fear a comparison with the annalists of any rival nation; and many names of great merit, though of lesser eminence, are now to be added to the list.
Dr. Gillies may perhaps be considered as the most success, ful competitor with these celebrated writers, among the numerous candidates for historical fame which the present age has produced. His history of ancient Greece, from the earliest ages' to the conquests of Alexander the Great, is a performance which has long been deservedly popular. It exhibits, in a clear and luminous narrative, a connective view of the txploits and revolutions of those celebrated republics, with whose annals we associate in imagination whatever is patriotic or heroic: while it bestows a due share of attention on a still more interesting department of history, which belongs more peculiarly to the records of Greece than to those of any other nation,—the history of science, literature, and the arts. In Dr. Gillies's history of ancient Greece, we are presented not only with an excellent summary of martial atchievcinents, but with an interesting detail of the rise and gradual progress of the laws and political institutions of that celebrated country, with an analysis of its far-famed philosophy, and with a judicious estimate of the merits of its numerous and highly admired poets, orators, painters, statuaries, and architects.
We ajre afraid However that the present work, which its author seems inclined to consider as a sequel or second part to the history of ancient Greece, will scarcely rival the popularity of, its predecessor, Ip the. history of the Greek kingdoms which were founded upon the conquests of Alexander the Great, w« shall look in vain for those examples of heroism and patriotic enthusiasm which diffuse such a charm over the annals of the Grecian republics. In this turbulent period of history the spirit of liberty was nearly extinct; a»d wars were carried on, not in support of national pride or independence, but with the more sordid views of arbitrary subjugation, plunder, or personal revenge.' The most atrocious crimes were then universally prevalent; and revolutions were accomplished, not so much by the exertions of talent and manly enterprise, as by treachery, robbery, and assassination. The literary celebrity and legislative eminence of Greece were not yet entirely extinguished: but they had lost their meridian splendour, and shone with a feeble and doubtful light too surely indicative of speedy annihilation. The farther we advance in the annals of these unsettled ages, the more justly may we characterise them by such traits of gloom; and the more clearly do we perceive the rapid decay of public spirit* of ability, and of virtue: till at length the genius of Rome prevails, and the very name of Greece is sunk in the wide ex-tending empire of the new mistress of the world.
Such are the prominent features of that portion of history which Dr. Gillies now lays before the public; and which may not unaptly be denominated the " decline and fall of the Grsecian or Macedonian empire." As exhibiting the causes and tracing the progress of the transition of power from the Greeks ta the Romans, it certainly affords subject for interesting inquiry, not inferior perhaps in importance to the " decline ana fall" of the Roman empire itself. The resemblance between the subject of the present volumes, and that which has been so ably handled by Gibbon, is indeed sufficiently striking. In both periods we find the same gradual decay of virtue and patriotism; in both the same unblushing prevalence of vice and nefarious criminality ; in both the same progressive degradation of taste, literature, and science. It may even be observed that the present work, in its style and manner, displays a certain resemblance to the history of Gibbon; for the language of Dr. Gillies, without being elegant or majestic, is in many cases more studiously polished and laboured than the simplicity of the historic muse demanded; and some passages of his narrative, in search of grace, seem to have deviated into obscurity. We are happy to state that there is a wide difference between the two writers, in the article of religious belief. Dr. Gillies has in no instance imitated the contemptuous sneers and malicious insinuations of his predecessor against the cause of Christianity; on the contrary, we find him testifying occasionally his reverence for its sanctions, and his attachment to its doctrines. It is natural that, with such principles, he should be careful to avoid effending