תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

must be placed the name of the late REGINALD HEBER, Bishop of Calcutta. The nomination of Dr. Heber, to the situation, from which death so speedily snatched him away, was heard of in this country with unmixed satisfaction. The arrival amongst us, of a scholar, who had distinguished himself early in life, by his poetical genius, and subsequently by his eloquent contributions to the theological literature of his country, aud whose amiable and condescending manners had endeared him to all who, like himself, laboured in the literary field, promised a stimulus to the exertions of every scholar in the East, who would be proud of the approbation of such a compeer; and might be guided in his researches, by the ripened counsel and experience of one, so deeply read and travelled as the dignified stranger; and the little band, that only wanted such a leader, to cheer and to reward them with his countenance, saw in Dr. Heber all that they could covet. He had already visited most of the countries of Europe ; and his remarks on what he witnessed, had earned for him the fame of one of the most acute, and intelligent of travellers. Independently, therefore, of the higher claims, which the late Bishop unquestionably possessed, to the veneration and the love of those, over whom he was placed as their spiritual father and guide, it was fondly anticipated by the literary world of India, that his Lordship would take a delight in examining the vast country, that comprized his Diocese in making known the result of his observations, and enriching the literary Public he had left, and in which he had already been admitted to the most distinguished honours. To a man of Bishop HEBER’s habits aud pursuits, never was a fairer or a richer field of research presented: and we can easily imagine with what ardour and enthusiasm he must have surveyed it—what hopes of doing justice to its magnitude and importance must have inspired him—and with what pleasure he must have anticipated the day when his Travels in India,' should raise his name and his reputation still higher, than they stood, in the world of literature.

It is now alas ! too late to indulge in the contemplation of what might, and ought to, have proceeded from the late Bishop, when he became the delineator, faithful, judicious, and trustworthy, of Indian scenes, and Indian manners. The picture has, indeed, been sketched by him, in the volume before us; but it is a mere sketch, made in a hurry, before his eye had embraced the lineaments he was to trace; and it has no pretensions to be a likeness. It was, indeed, impossible, that such an artist, as Bishop HEBER, should not, even at first sight, have hit off some of the features, that presented themselves. His talents and his habits gave ample assurance of this, however hasty the hand, with which he applied to the canvas. And equally impossible would it have been, in our travellerin Scandinavia to have traced a dull and uninteresting outline. The book, which his diaries and correspondence have furnished forth, is with all its imperfections an entertaining work : it contains much that is correct, if little that is new; but it is throughout superficial, and abounds with inaccuracies, which must detract materially from its value as an authority. We may ven, ture safely to foretell, that it will never be quoted as a standard book on India, beyond the pages of the Quarterly Review : and when it is better known, than a notice in that journal, as superficial on Indian affairs as itself, can make it, we fear a very general judgment will be formed on it, as far beneath what was hoped and expected from its author.

It is due, however--and we would be the last to withhold the debt-to the memory of the Bishop, to keep in mind the circumstances under which the Journal was composed and published. Dr. HEBER left England in June, 1823, he arrived in Calcutta in October. In June, 1824, he proceeded on his first visitation to the Churches of the Upper Provinces, and from thence across Central India to Bombay, where he arrived on the 20th April, 1825.

FROM Bombay he returned, by way of Ceylon to Calcutta, which he reached in Oct. or Nov. 1825. On the 30th Jan. 1826, he renewed his travels; and set off to the Southern Peninsula, where death sud.. denly arrested him at Trichinopoli, in April, 1826.

Our author was consequently about two years and a half altogether on this country. Of this period he spent only about nine months at the Presidency. The remainder was devoted to travelling, under circumstances that obviously afforded few favorable opportunities of collecting information. Such as he enjoyed were necessarily hurried, miscellaneous, and desultory. It is not, therefore, matter of much marvel, that his information should frequently be incorrect. Had this information, as noted down upon the spot, been afterwards subjected to the revising hand of the Bishop himself, we should undoubtedly have been presented with a very different volume from that before usa volume not more interesting, perhaps, in its pictures of Indian manners and scenery, but far more correct in its details, and entitling itself to more deference and respect for its deductions and opinions. A longer acquaintance with the country would have shewn the Bishop the defects of his first impressions, and the inaccuracy of much, which he was too ready to take on the mere hear-say of others. It was not to be expected of even the talents and acquirements of Heber, that he should be able at once to penetrate much beyond the surface of the things around him : but repeated investigation, had he been spared to have bestowed it, would have conducted him to discoveries, of which his superficial enquires could not give him even the remotest indication. We should then indeed, have had a book of the greatest value in the volumes of the Bishop: as they stand, they present nothing more than the crude diary of the notions of a clever man, or the repetitions of loose conversations, submitted to no competent or deliberate scrutiny ; and prefaced by no previous course of study or research. But independently of the circumstances, which we have now enumerated, as disqualifying the late Bishop, from being an authority, on matters of Indian literature and manners, or policy, on which we can rest with confidence, it is to be recollected, that he was utterly unacquainted with the languages of this country. To produce a work, descriptive of the manners and customs of any people, it is requisite that the traveller should at least have some medium of communication with them; and although few, who have enlightened us on the state of Russia or Turkey, could perhaps speak or understand the language of either country, yet they must still have enjoyed, in the more universal English, French, or Latin tongues, a medium of conversation, to which there is nothing similar in the Mofussil of India. With the English residents, indeed, communication is easy enough ; but they are few and far apart; and though the far greater portion of the track, nothing but Hindostanee or Hindi will avail. Of these the late Bishop was ignorant, as we shall have too abundant occasion to shew : and as the most irksome part of our critical task had better be performed, as speedily as possibly, we shall get rid of Dr. Heber's deficiencies without more ado, and then proceed to the more pleasing duty of pointing out the merits, and excellencies of his work.

IGNORANCE of the language of Hindostan threw the Bishop upon an interpreter : and we are not disposed to think, that he was particularly fortunate in the man, into whose hands he fell. He is described as a Musselman named Abdullah, who had been converted to christianity by our present Venerable ARCHDEACON CORRIE; had afterwards accompanied Sir GORE OUSELY to Europe, and was returning to India, in the Grenville, when Bishop HEBER encountered him. His religion, his poverty, and a smattering of English, recommended him to the worthy prelate, who took him into his service, and raised him to the office of jemadar of his peons. In this capacity he accompanied the Bishop on his travels in India, and acted, at the same time, as occasion required, in the character of Interpreter. His honesty, as a servant, appears somewhat ambiguous, as we find him in the second volume, accused by the sepoys of peculation ; and his goodtempered master is only able to acquit him, from a reluctance to think ill of so useful a servant. We are not without our suspicions, however, that Abdullah often took improper advantage of the Bishop's want of familiarity with the dialects of the country: and at all events, it may be presumed that Abdullah, a Musselman, must have been himself but indifferently acquainted with the Hindoos generally, who speak a very different language from the jargon, current amongst the Mohammedans, and could not, therefore, have been a medium of communication with them, on which much reliance was to be placed.

Shortly after the commencement of his voyage from Engand, we find the Bishop, indeed, professing to apply himself to Hin

dostanee and Persian on board of ship. His chief exercises, however, seem to have been the revision of Gilchrist's uncouth versification of some of the poetry of Hindostan, and the clothing it in a somewhat more elegant garb. Yet on what must have been necessarily a very slender acquaintance with the subject, we are sure prized to find the Bishop pronouncing rather an authoritative opinion, that “what is called the florid Eastern style is chiefly to be found in translations; and that the characteristics of the originals are often rather flatness and vapidity than exuberance of ornament. As the chances were, so the fact is, that Dr. HEBER is altogether wrong in this opinion of Persian, and Hindose tanee Poetry.

Exuberance of metaphor belongs to both, for the one is indeed but a branch of the other. So far, therefore, the criticism of the Bishop is erroneous ; but it is only justice to him to say, that he admits, in venturing on it, that it was “ too early in the day for him to form any fixed opinion on either Hindoo or Persian literature :” and it might be well, if others, with even slighter pretensions to judge, than the Bishop then had, imitated his prudent reserve. But our chief object, in alluding at all to Dr. HeBER's studies, is to shew, that they were productive of little or no fruit; and that they were never carried far enough, to enable him to obtain any insight into native feelings and thoughts, from his own unassisted intercourse with the Hindoos. It is obviously of material importance to keep this in view, as many of the Bishop's mistakes are thus easily accounted for; while the simple fact of his having sat down to the semblance of application to the languages, is calculated to lead to the conclusion, that he acquired what he studied; and that a more than ordinary deference was due to the opinions of one, who could converse with the natives of Hindostan in their vernacular tongue. It may seem a somewhat invidious task, but it is too clearly within our critical duty, to pass it by, to notice a few of the mistakes, into which Dr. Heber's ignorance of the language betrayed him. Some of these are ridiculous enough, and fully bear out the remarks we have hazarded.

He observes, in one place, that more words have been introduced into the English from the East, than he was wont to suspect. - Cash, which says he, here means small money, is one of them,” But · Cashor kas, is a word unknown 'here,' as a term for small money. It is applied at Madras to the copper coin; but the proper term is kans--mixed metal. We must therefore confess, that we have great doubts as to the etymology discovered by the Bishop

In one place the worthy prelate has, we suspect, a little mis. represented what was said to him.

The rains having opened a convenient water course, the people in the neighbourhood, who were Bengalees, said it was “uchha oonka waste. Now the Hindostanee is not the most idiomatic of its kind; but it was very unlikely, that the Bengalees on the Matabhanga would have spoken in Hindostanee at all.

On enquiring what was the matter with a poor miserable looking man, who came along side the Bishop's boat, he was told, that almost the whole crew of a native boat were lying ill of a complaint he called 'play' which, says Dr. Heber, “I was told was a bilious fever.”-Now there is scarcely an individual, who has ever had native servants, who does not know that 'pilai means diseased spleen-the complaint being of constant and daily occurrence.

A curious mistake is also made by the Bishop, from his igno. rance of the language, as to the nomenclature, and nature of a very common bird on the Ganges, the King-fisher. This bird Dr. HEBER imagines to be the bird of Paradise, on account of its variegated plumage. The name he supposes to be a proof of this, and renders Mucharunga' 'many coloured' in

prose, • the bird of hundred dyes” in verse. We shall not quarrel with the verse, as the poetical license may go a great way without dis. turbance from the mere critic in language; but the prose

is

wrong, although rung,' is a common word for 'colour. But here it inplies predilection,' preference, and the Mutchyarunga or Mucharunga, means merely fisher-or the bird, that is fond of fish.'

or

AGAIN : we are informed by the worthy Bishop, that at Futwa near Patna, there is a College of Musselman Law and Divinity, the Moulavies of which are widely renowned.” We very much doubt the existence of this College: and shrewdly suspect, it has been conjured into existence, by a droll misconception of the word • Futwa,' which means a dictum or opinion in Mohammedan Law, The error is therefore, one perhaps of mere verbal arrangement, or rather misarrangement.--All is right easily explained, on the supposition of the Bishop having mistaken the “ Futwas of the Moulavies,” for “the Moulavies of Futwa.”

On the way to Allahabad from Benares, the Bishop comes to a place where the people spoke “not Oordoo, but what Abdullah said was true Hindoo," and the example given is, that they called milk, not doodh,' but goo-russ'--cow-dew from rusi-ros. Now in the first place doodh is as much “true Hindoo' as goo-russ: and in the second, russ means “juice,' or fuid extract,' but never dew. We doubt, if it is ever applied to 'rain,' even although Abdullah be cited to prove it. This is only an additional proof, that he knew nothing about the matter.

IN several passages of his Journal, we find the Bishop speak. ing of the Jumna Musjeed, both at Allahabad and Delhi : and the

« הקודםהמשך »