Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Art. IV.-Egypt and the Holy Land in 1842: with Sketches of

Greece, Constantinople, and the Levant. By W. D. STENT, B. A.

2 vols. Bentley MR. STENT, starting from Malta, visited Athens, Alexandria, Cairo, crossed the desert to Gaza,-extended his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jordan, the Dead Sea, &c.; he afterwards directed his course to Beirout, the account of his travels closing at Constantinople. There is consequently nothing of novelty in respect of the route nor of the places at which he alighted or sojourned; nor can it be said that there is newness in the manner of the author, or in the matter of his thoughts. Indeed some of his subjects have not only been rendered threadbare, but often and years ago have they been much more spiritedly described and sensibly commented upon. Altogether our traveller seems to be what is understood by the phrase “ a good sort of person ;” plain, practical, and religious; ready to be pleased with whatever met his eye for the first time, and willing to tell all that he knew or felt about it. He does not look like a book-maker; that is to say, he did not travel in order to publish the results of his observations, but published because he travelled, and had collected a mass of notes that seemed to him to have value. If we except his enthusiasm in regard to sacred scenes and subjects when in the Holy Land, he evinces little of that colouring commodity. Classical antiquities did not draw deeply upon his time ; neither does he display any particular favour for natural science. He is a jog-trot sort of tourist, forming an agreeable companion ; but being far from competent to set your heart on fire, or to rivet you to his volumes; for these without much reluctance will be laid aside at any time, just as they will as soon as a leisure moment is at command be frankly taken up again, to be relinquished ungrudgingly whenever another interruption occurs.

Mr. Stent has a good deal of the utilitarian in his constitution, and would perhaps distinguish himself if he were employed on economical statistics. At Athens, for instance, he shows a taste in that direction; or at least for collecting minute information that would be serviceable to any stranger who might happen to follow in the same track of travel.

Before the arrival of the court, land around Athens might be purchased at a few shillings per acre, which realizes at this day several pounds: the value of building-ground there has risen from sixpence the square yard to eight times that sum. Among the inducements to reside in this country, the low price of provisions would act as an important consideration; butcher's meat varying from twopence to threepence per pound, while fruits and vegetables are extremely cheap and abundant. A well-fattened turkey costs from two shillings, and the small fowls from sixpence each. The game

includes the red-legged partridge ; snipes and woodcocks abounding throughout the country; with pheasants, deer, and wild boar, in particular localities. The former are met with near Missolonghi, but the coasts of Albania and the Western shores of the Morea afford excellent amusement to the sportsman in quantity and variety.

Woodcocks are in such excess that we loathed the sight of them at our table ; the price is from sixpence a bird. Lambs are slaughtered so small that one was served for our dinner as a hare, being scarcely of greater size. It is not the custom to cook either of these animals with the head remaining on them.

The butter is quite white, having a burned flavour; it is made by simply propelling the material to and fro in a bladder. The honey of Hymettus maintains its classic fame: amid all the changes of Attica, the Cecropian bees remain in their wonted excellence : the aroma of the honey is truly delicious, arising from the thyme, whence it is plentifully culled.

Owing to ignorance in their manufacture, the oil and wine are very inferior ; the latter is, indeed, almost nauseous, quantities of rosin being mixed with it, not only for the purpose of fining, but to prevent acidity: notwithstanding, it is largely consumed by the lower classes of the community, who delight also in garlic, olives, bread, milk, and fruits.

Jerusalem had special attractions for Mr. Stent; and yet he adds little to our knowledge of the people or the antiquities of that venerable place,---not even by his sympathies awakening much fresh interest in its history and prospects. The most important particulars, and the newest that we have found, relate to the Protestant Bishop lately arrived there ; but our author, although of course a zealous member and hearty admirer of the Anglican Church, gives but a sorry account of the condition and prospects of the communion. We quote several paragraphs descriptive of what our traveller observed and personally ascertained on the subject.

A small upper room, within the city, on the lower slopes of Sion, appropriately fitted up, and ascended by a staircase from without, is as yet the only place for the administration of our holy worship; and that was too spacious for the little flock that assembled there, including, besides ourselves, only the architect, the Bishop's family, with a portion of his household, and two Missionaries.

Adjoining the temporary chapel, are laid the foundations of the new Protestant Church; for which the ground is excavated to the depth of fifty feet, through accumulated rubbish. Assuredly it will now stand, for it is not only founded on a rock, but "her foundations are upon the holy hill, and the Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob :" once more, "out of Sion hath God appeared in perfect beauty.”

This sacred edifice is intended to contain five hundred persons. Where so many are to be found, remains yet to be seen. God will, if it be so decreed, prosper the work.

As yet, the only Protestants in the "City of God” are the Consul, a very trifling number of Hebrew converts, and the Missionaries. The prayers of

our liturgy are read daily at seven o'clock in the morning in Hebrew, and in the evening in the English language: on a sabbath afternoon, and on other occasions, the German is used in addition.

Having received an invitation to attend evening service in the confined, though comfortable, well-furnished residence of the Bishop, in a narrow street, I gladly availed myself of the privilege : and subsequently enjoyed much conversation with him. His family consists of a wife, daughters, a governess, chaplin, two or three English servants, and a medical man,-a most requisite addition, the climate at certain seasons being decidedly unhealthy, the rain falling in spring causing fevers and ague: so severely was the architect suffering, that on the occasion of our dining at his residence he was compelled to keep his bed.

The Greek Church, which is not opposed so strongly as its sister of Rome to the tenets of Protestantism, gives its countenance, in some degree, to this new mission, which, though undoubtedly detested by the Turks, and not strengthened by a guarantee to be depended on from the Sultan, was yet, as regards appearance, received with due marks of respect; the Governor of Jerusalem, accompanied by a guard of honour, having gone out to meet it on arriving from Jaffa, and escorting it into the scene of its future labours.

The prospect, it must be confessed, is at this moment aught but cheering; the continuation of the building of the church being, by the last report, forbidden by authority.

There are notices to touch the feelings in the following about the Jews who dwell in the Holy City :

So slight is the trade in the Holy City, that, except during the period about Easter, when it is thronged with pilgrims, a peculiar stillness prevails. Its population approaches thirty thousand, composed of Mahometans, Jews, and Christians : to all these distinct quarters are assigned; those for the former being in the neighbourhood of their chief mosque; the latter, of whom the Armenians are the wealthiest, and the Greeks most numerous, reside in the Western parts, in the vicinity of their convents. But the Jews, strangers in their own land, dwell at the foot of Mount Sion, in the lowest districts. They are poor and cruelly oppressed; yet of late they have decidedly increased in number, now amounting probably to five or six thousand ; and many come hither from distant climes, when of advanced age, in order to lay their bones by the side of their great forefathers. Several of this misguided race may be occasionally observed bewailing their sad fate, at an ancient ruined wall which divides Mount Moriah from Acra, in consequence of a tradition that it was a portion of the Temple. And a truly interesting though piteous sight was it to witness, as I did, many fair ones of the daughters of Judah, "arrayed in robes of virgin white," seated in silence, on their Sabbath eve, around the southern slopes of Sion.

We have intimated that Mr. Stent's enthusiasm found utterance as soon as he entered Palestine; and although he must be sufficiently a scholar to visit Greece with a knowledge of its classical attractions, he seems to have cherished a still deeper acquaintance with Scriptural history. Hence it is that he followed the steps of the Redeemer

with devout feelings, although we think he betrays at times a credulity which previous travellers might have guarded him against. The brevity of his descriptions, however, is worthy of imitation; and some of his conjectures as well as scraps of information are deserving of notice. For example, his testimony will not support the stories which

say

that fish will not live in the waters of the Dead Sea. The statements which were made by persons familiar with the place were of quite a contrary nature; and he himself saw wild ducks alight and swim on the surface of the lake; although it has been fabled that birds cannot live in the exhalations which ascend from it.

Steaming it from Beirout to Constantinople gives occasion for the scene of bustle and amusement now to be described.

The steamer was to convey us in eight days, to Constantinople; the fare for each thither being ten pounds, besides five shillings per day for meals. Our captain and crew were remarkably civil; the berths and saloon sufficiently commodious; and we were daily treated to madeira, and onee or twice to champagne also.

The weather, with only one day's exception, was propitious; the party, too, was extremely agreeable, including English, Irish, and American; so that, being furnished in addition with a tolerable library, the trip was truly delightful, especially when such magnificent imposing scenery was continually offered to the view. The general drawback to our comfort was the cramped condition of the deck, which was literally thronged with passengers ; and among them filthy Turks, who, with their wives and children, continued unceasingly squalling or smoking, praying or devouring garlic, to the no slight disgust of our organs of hearing, seeing, and smelling, besides obstructing a promenade. These poor people looked most destitute: scarcely had they a rude piece of sackcloth, perhaps, to protect them from the night air, and with food most meagre in quantity and bad in quality, to satisfy their craving appetites.

On the deck of the second class passengers were, moreover, numbers of dogs, the enormous tailed sheep of Lebanon, besides horses from Syria, sent as a present to the Sultan. A never-failing source of amusement was afforded by the harem of Selim Pacha; consisting of eight fair ones, though forsooth some were Nubians, and therefore none of the fairest. These were permitted to come on deck for two hours daily ; but were always closely veiled and wrapped in the common ample white linen or cotton robe, seated too in a solitary corner, with a large sheet spread before them to prevent the vulgar gaze, and their attendant black keeping vigilant guard. Their cabin could be clearly discerned from the window above; and on my presuming to approach it, when opened for the sake of air, the chief protector of the happy ladies thrust me back with violent gesticulations, looking bowstrings and daggers unutterable at the presumption of the infidel dog for having the impudence to cast an eye towards the unfortunates; who, however, made themselves happy enough in working, playing, and chatting with the attendant Nubian slave ; whose doings we could clearly discern through a crevice in the adjoining apartment.

In

ART. IV. 1. Marmaduke Wyvill; or, the Maid's Revenge. By Henry Wm.

HERBERT. 3 vols. Colburn. 2. Gabrielle ; or, Pictures of a Reign. By LOUISA STUART COSTELLO.

3 vols. Newby. MR. HERBERT is not an entire stranger in the realms of fiction. the preface this disclosure is made :-“In presenting him for the first time in propria persona as a candidate for the favour of his countrymen, the author of Oliver Cromwell' takes the liberty in the first place to thank them for the kindness with which they received that work, when introduced to their notice under the disguised sanction of Mr. Horace Smith, and to express a hope that they will not deny to 'Marmaduke Wyvill that meed of encouragement by which alone he was emboldened again to appear before them.” The story partakes of the character of historical romance, being laid at a period in English annals, viz., that of the Great Rebellion, which the author must have made the subject of his fond and partial study; and precise as well as animated are many of the pictures of the men and manners, the incidents and scenes that distinguished that extraordinary epoch, which the tale unfolds. The work is skilfully constructed and carefully executed. There is power at the same time that there is tastefulness in the writing. The dialogue is natural and often dramatic; and altogether the tale is one which keeps up the reader's interest, besides impressing right lessons, and exciting in the heart sentiments that are either melting or elevating. Our chief objection is that Mr. Herbert uses up the staple and stock, may we not add, the hackneyed situations and turns of fortune, of the novel-school; and that his descriptions, however beautiful in themselves and abstractedly, his incidents however stirring, his sentimentality though removed from the morbid, and his delineations of character though clearly sketched, present little that is new melodramatically, still less anything that seems to us exquisite on account of nicety of touch, and far from that spontaneous energy of thought and soaring pinion of imagination which proclaim originality and conscious independence. One cannot, we think, but feel persuaded that the author is capable of better things,-cannot but marvel why it is that he has not done more with the materials at his hand, and through the sympathies which he cherishes.

The story opens immediately after the Battle of Worcester, where the royal troops were so signally routed. It is on the evening of that important day that Alice Selby, daughter of the owner of Wolverton Manor, happens to be at a small fishing house which commands a view of the road. As she is about to return homeward her attention is suddenly arrested.

« VorigeDoorgaan »