Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

The places next in splendour to the drapers', are the gin stores. Although spirituous liquors are so much cheaper with us, I believe the places where they are sold are as numerous in London ;-over the door is generally a huge lamp ; a sign to the customers, and the slaves of the lamp are very, very many in London. The gas is in a wreath, or disposed in some fancifal way or other; they are called gin palaces; the casks containing the spirits are painted, and labelled “Old Tom,” “The Rose of Life,'' “ Butter Gin," “ Cream o' the Valley,” “Mountain Dew,” etc. etc. Cockneys so dearly love the rural, that they must thus libel roses and dews; they must drink pastorally! Methinks I see you, O very arch Julia, open your eyes and then your mouth-your eyes with wonder, that I describe these things with the familiarity of an eye-witness, and your mouth with laughter, that my curiosity (how often have you twitted me with it, mischievous that you are) had carried me such extraordinary lengths--that it had carried me into a retail bar ! But my introduction to the internal worship of this great spirit —this too powerful spirit of strong drink-was accidental. . Three poor women of the working class entered this gin palace whilst we waited. "Please miss,” said one to the smartly ringed and ringleted barmaid, “a quartern of the right sort, and a three-out.” The spirit was supplied and gulped approvingly. “Money never was so dull," said the paymistress of the trio; "I can get none, and have been forced to put my bed up my uncle's flue. The hearers were expressing their commiseration of this state of finances, when a drunken butcher rushed into the place, and we thought it better to face the furious brute than the imbruted man, and so left. i requested Mr. Wilderton to translate me the poor woman's speech into English. “It is English," laughed he. “Translate it into American, then.” “ The three-out glass," he explained, “ is one that contains a third of the measure purchased, so that the quarter of a pint fills out three glasses; the uncle's flue, which you seem to think is some chimney in which the untidy woman had concealed her bed, is the pawnbroker's warehouse—the poor call the pawnbroker their uncle.” God pity them, thought I, if they have no better kinsman. British travellers are ingenious in detecting and collecting Americanisms; they are, in nineteen cases out of twenty, genuine as imported," and they are imported from the old country. I suppose we have “my uncle” and his “flue” in America by this time.

A cockney caterer must have provided these particulars for the lady-writer. It then of course came to be for her innocence to make the most of the vulgarity and grossness; flattering herself that she was really offering genuine and adequate Change for the broad and direct American Notes.

But there are better and deeper things in the book than anything we have yet cited; things that should operate as wholesome reproofs and not ill-timed exposures of English absurdities. Our selfishness, hypocricies, and coarse contempts, are deserving of far sharper chastisement than the dealer in Change can bestow, it is true; but still service may be done, although the lessons are not urged with first-rate force or skil). Take certain statements and remarks relative to the English drama :

I have been struck with the excellence of the Shaksperian performances at Drury Lane, and how wonderfully the mighty master knew when to bring even mechanical means to his aid : the knocking at the door in the murder scenes in Othello and Macbeth, knocks at one's very heart. How the English public can crowd to unmeaning operas, I mean in the national theatres, and let Shakspeare be played, as is often the case, to empty benches I cannot understand, except it be that fashion, however paltry, will carry them anywhere. It may be also that “true no-meaning" not “puzzles," but pleases them " more than wit."

I have heard very intelligent critics say, that the drama, the tragic or classical drama, was now superior to what it had been since Otway, or at any rate since Rowe. I think there can be no doubt upon the subject; Sheridan Knowles, Sergeant Talfourd, and Sir Lytton Bulwer, being no common men-no managers' play wrights-no dramatists to order. I think too, that many of the comedies of the day must be pronounced far better than those of the sentimental school, where broad grin is alternated with the small wbine of sensibility.

I for one pay little attention to the complaints of the dearth of histrionic excellence the complaint is so perennial. In the days of the Kembles, alas for Garrick! was the cry-now, alas for the Kemble and the Kean, for Emery and Liston! and so will the changes be rung, until the curtain falls upon the last drama in England.

The Italian Opera is a subject akin to the last-mentioned, suggesting also not less natural and unsophisticated remarks:

The Italian Opera House is generally well filled, the boxes being rentea by subscribers ; the Italian Opera is so refined a pleasure-I suppose it is my want of refinement that causes me to prefer Othello to Otello (murder set to music)—nay, to think the acting of a scholar and a gentleman like Macready more enjoyable than the capering of any active French girl, even though she can not only stand on her toe, but whirl about on it! “The greater the fool,” says Hook, "the better the dancer.” I cannot describe to you what the ballet is; but I think the taste of those who delight in it is a coarse taste, a superficial taste also, which admires tinsel because it always glitters, and gold only sometimes ; it is but an eye-pleasure; and as to delicacy—if the ballet be refinement, delicacy and refinement have little in

common.

The lady visited the monuments in Kensal Green. She found the ground intersected with nice gravel walks; and “many well dressed parties were strolling about (principally ladies) and chatting gaily as they watched the trains rushing rapidly along the Great Western Railway. It has been said, 'in the midst of life we are in death ;' but here the reverse seemed inculcated, for there were steamcarriages and cheerful idlers, and man's trim and careful hand everywhere, as who should

say,

• In the midst of death we are in life.' Kensal Green still, and the precautions and intimations which the Zoological Gardens and similar places press upon the visitor's attention :

Greatly to my surprise no fee was exacted as we entered ; perhaps, if these death-gardens become fashionable promenades, the proprietors may charge for admittance ; there is plenty of precedents--why should their monuments be viewed gratuitously? Why should they not sell their fresh air as well as their flowery ground ? I think I never told you before, that in all, I suppose in all places like these, as well as in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, etc. etc., are placed a number of painted boards containing respectful requests that the visitors will refrain from plucking the flowers, etc. How is this? Why, in so very civilisedI beg their pardon, so very polished a community, are these constant prohibitions necessary? Recollect, flower-loving but never flower-stealing Julia, the rabble--the mere vulgar, are no frequenters of these scenes.

The truth and the reflection which our next two extracts so clearly indicate, and pointedly press, are among the gravest and best things in the way of Change. They must serve as the concluding matter for our paper. The meaning of the word respectable as understood in English society :

“I wonder," say I, " to see a man like Mr. in society, is he not known to be a worthless husband; an avaricious and tyrannical father, and constantly in disreputable quarrels ?”—“Very true, but then he's such a respectable man."-"And Mr. I am told his fortune has been made by strange means, and many attribute their ruin to his plausibility.”—“Yes, but he's a very respectable man too.

None of the dictionaries define " respectable" as it is understood now; it means “ rich.” When people in England "plate sin with gold," it is sin do longer.

The other passage promised needeth neither preface nor comment:

I can hardly believe that even parliamentary reports tell true of the ignorance of England, when I know that Connecticut alone has a permanent school-fund of nearly two million and a half of dollars; whilst it was found at the last census there were little more than five hundred adults in that small State who had not been taught to read and write, and they were chiefly foreigners--the population being rather more than three hundred thousand. New York, with its fund of more that ten million of dollars for educational purposes—but why dwell upon the truism, how well the scholastic culture of American citizens is eared for as a general rule? And what is accorded for the purpose by the wisdom of the British Parliament ? An accumulation of-talk, and a small sum of money so small a sùm as 30,0001.-150,000 dollars, fo the nation, mind I not for one of the counties; and even that was refused last session or the session before. One anxious to find fault might say it was illustrative of English legislation, that the bills granting 70,0001. for new stabling at Windsor and this mite for education were sent up on the same night in the House of Commons-the stables were voted, the schools were not !—the people could wait it appeared, not so the horses. I would not have you think that I ever speak of the queen personally with any feelings but those of respect and admiration. I think she is more popular than has been any predecessor of her family, and I am sure she deserves to

be so.

Art. IX.- Personal Observations on Sindh. By T. POSTANS,

late Assistant to the Political Agent in Sindh and Bilúchistan.

Longman. Captain Postans has enjoyed unusual advantages for collecting the materials of his work, on a subject which at this moment occupies a large share of general attention. That subject includes the manners and customs of the inhabitants, a view of the productive capabilities of the country, together with a sketch of its history, a narrative of the recent events which have there taken place, and an account of the connexion of the British Government with Sindh down to the present moment. Such are the main matters of which the book professes to treat; and certainly its author has acquitted himself in a meritorious manner. The book abounds with information regarding a territory and people that previously had only been described in scanty and unconnected forms. The Captain writes pleasantly. He has studied his theme in its various branches vigilantly and patiently, and has bestowed reflection and exemplary care before delivering the results of his observation and research. The work, indeed, recognises principles and exhibits views that have breadth and applicability in them, which the student of the condition and manners of any semibarbarous people will do well to consider; nor can we doubt of its becoming an authority upon various points of Indian policy even beyond the interests that are immediately combined with the Sindhian nation.

Captain Postans is a fair and calm recorder of what he has seen and known,--an honest and deliberate reporter of the conclusions he has come to on a subject that has points about which men are much divided. It is not to be denied that his feelings are in favour of the policy that has been followed by the present Indian government with respect to Sindh. But it is not with a partisanship that he either speaks or thinks. He gives you facts that tell against as well as for; and he reasons upon these facts in a manner worthy of a liberal and independent mind; so that while his tendency, naturally perhaps arising from his agency in Sindh, is to approve of the course that has been actually adopted, he does not shun those facts and views which throw doubt and difficulty into the subject, and which indeed may fortify the opinion of those who condemn the late conquest and annexation.

The question does not involve a consideration of Sir Charles Napier's exploits. The almost unparallelled achievements of that commander's army in Sindh must not be impugned or rated the less highly because the policy which the Government determined on pursuing may have been unjust and unwise. It was for Napier and his men to act; it was for Lord Ellenborough to issue instructions. The

military transactions too may have been magnificent; a nation may have been conquered and a country won at a single stroke. And yet similar battles and bloodshed may yet be required in order to keep that which has been gained; or that which has been so speedily and bravely won may not have worth or importance at all commensurate with the amount of life and treasure already expended in the conquest.

The British people should satisfy themselves with regard to the justice and necessity of the conquest, as well as concerning its value and probable duration. For a series of years discussions were maintained between the Government of India and the Amirs of Sindh, sometimes with more and sometimes with less of amicable feeling, relative to the navigation of the Indus and our trading facilities with Central Asia by means of that far-rolling river. Commercial purposes and the denial of all territorial annexation, were uniformly professed and promised by our agents; so that at length, and in terms of negotiations peacefully conducted, and kept peaceable by British caution and influence, a treaty was concluded which at least laid the foundation of the advantages contemplated and the improvements desired by us. An accredited British minister was permitted at Hyderabad; all imposts on merchandise in transit by the Indus were abolished or arranged; everything, as it appears to us, being in a fair way, so long as we acted with prudence and forbearance, of terminating in a perfectly cordial manner with the Sindhians, and of obtaining an absolutely free navigation of the river-free from levies and tolls of every description, and for boats of any cargo.

But the conquest of Affghanistan is resolved upon, and Sindh is required for the passage of our troops. The highway is granted, and the Affghan miserable business over, these troops are thence withdrawn; and now new conditions are suddenly proposed to the Amirs, which conditions, according to Captain Postans, could not be expected to be readily acquiesced in by these chiefs and their people. The transactions that ensued are what require, we think, to undergo a thorough investigation. Let us here quote the words of our gallant author :

The state of affairs in Sindh up to the last period alluded to (October 1842,) had appeared to be particularly quiet, and, with trifling exceptions, satisfactory, though it was generally considered by those whose long experience entitled it to respect, that certain alterations would be made in our Sindhian arrangements to secure the greater advantages required in the navigation of the Indus, some modification of transit duties, and other fiscal impediments to trade, as well as the opportunity for commencing the introduction of a better order of government in the country generally, by establishing a closer interference in its affairs. There was also a distant allusion to certain intrigues said to have been carried on by the Amirs inimical to our interest during the Caubul disasters. However, on the return of the British

« VorigeDoorgaan »