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Charles Wilks. A. M. Author of Christian Essays, Christian Missions, the St. David's Prize Essay for 1811 on the Clerical Character, &c. 8vo. 12s.
Practical Reflections on the Psalms, or short daily meditations; intended to promote a more frequent and attentive study of the Psalter. To which is added, a prayer adapted to each foregoing Psalm. By Mrs. Sheriffe. 2 vols. 12mo. 12s.
Seventeen Sermons of the eminently
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Sermons, by the late Frederick Thruston, A.M. &c. With a portrait of the Author. 8vo. 12s.
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ECLECTIC REVIEW, REVIEW,
FOR SEPTEMBER, 1821.
Art. I. Notes on Rio de Janeiro, and the Southern Parts of Brazil; Taken during a Residence of Ten Years in that Country, from 1808 to 1818. By John Luccock. 4to. pp. xvi., 640. London.
ALL that is sublime in inanimate nature, in contrast with all that is disgusting in human nature, is comprised in the present aspect of the Southern division of the New World. If beauty and magnificence of scenery had any tendency, as some persons contend, to modify the character, here, where the most luxuriant fertility and the most stupendous phenomena present themselves to the astonished traveller, he might hope to recognise a correspondence in the minds of the intelligent beings who have grown up amid circumstances so felicitous. Should this influence not be very apparent in the inhabitants of ports and cities, where the simplicity of primitive tastes and instincts has been corrupted by the introduction of the manners and vices of the Old World, it must needs, if it exist at all, communicate an enthusiasm, an elevation, or an energy to the unsophisticated tribes who inhabit the central recesses of this wonderful continent. It is astonishing that it should be necessary to refute so wild an hypothesis as that which attributes any moral effect to external scenery, apart from the associations of science or of history. In the striking absence of sympathy and correspondence between the physical features of the landscape and the human produce of the soil and climate, in these regions, there is presented a sufficient illustration of its absurdity. In no part of the world does savage nature assume a more brutalised, a less romantic form. All is here, in a moral respect, desert. That which calls itself the history of Brazil, makes no appeal to the imagination, nor contains any thing which can stamp character or interest on the scenery of its details. Yet, it is only through the medium of the imagination that inanimate objects or localities can acquire any significance, or awaken any simpathy; and VOL. XVI. N. S.
the imagination is fed by the memory. The three most powerfully influential circumstances which contribute to the formation of character in a rude or savage state of society, are, the traditions of the country, its language, and the means of subsistence. To the first and the last of these, the moral power of scenery may be almost entirely referred. The pastoral life,' Mr. Southey remarks, is necessarily unfavourable to civilization; but no where has it been found so completely to debase ' and brutalize man as in the grazing countries of South Ame'rica.' Agriculture, on the contrary, while it induces a most important change in the domestic habits, and implies a certain advancement in civilization, gives rise to new associations, the elements of poetical feeling, and imparts a specific interest to the landscape. Under the reign of Ceres and of Bacchus, the face of Nature is first taught to smile. If, in the absence of this civilizing art, the natives of some wild mountain territory, have, in any instance, been found susceptible of the local enthusiasm, it has been because tradition has consecrated the soil to their imagination, and they have been possessed of a history and a language. Such associations have, however, only an accidental connexion with all that the geologist, the naturalist, or the artist descries in the beauty and magnificence before him, and they must be put out of the question in estimating the abstract effect of fine scenery upon the human mind. An intelligent perception and a genuine admiration of the beauties or the sublimer phenomena of Nature, are, indeed, among the rarest endowments of civilized and educated men. To suppose them to exist in the savage, is an absurdity. Yet, destitute of these qualifications, it is inconceivable what moral influence he can receive from the scenes through which he passes, any more than the herd he drives before him, or what higher gratification he can receive from external nature than the mere animal sensations produced by air and sunshine. Neither consciously nor unconsciously can he be the better for constantly witnessing material forms of picturesque beauty or grandeur, which neither recal any visions of the past, nor excite in his mind reflections stretching into the unseen and the future. Failing to convey any salutary intimations of the power and design of the Author of Nature, the whole stupendous exhibition is absolutely lost upon the degraded beings whose moral character is in so terrible discrepancy with the scene, and in whom the destitution of religious feeling is attended by a poverty of imagination which renders them insensible to any thing above the wants and sensations of physical existence. Such are the hapless beings who are found scattered over the fairest portions of God's earth-the aborigines of the territory. And the Christian intruders with whom they have been brought into contact, how much higher do they rise in the scale of intel
lectual existence? In too many cases, the savage has seemed the more inoffensive, if not the more rational animal. The colonist is, in general, but an indifferent sample of the nation from which the love of gain, or the spirit of adventure, or stern ne cessity has detached him. And the mixed race which originate in old colonial settlements, too cominonly exhibit a mulish degeneracy, retaining the blended vices of both the indigenous and the foreign breed. Mr. Luccock's picture of the Brazilian charaeter, may be adduced in proof of this statement. "The cities for which Abraham interceded, Cyprus, Carthage, Crete, and 'Sparta, had joined,' he says, at the period when my acquaintance with the country began, to form the social order of Rio 'de Janeiro.'
Depravity, too, was not there redeemed by any national qualities of a solid, nor even of a shewy kind; it was not, in general, thought necessary to maintain that shadow of virtue, hypocrisy. Vices which elsewhere men are the most careful to hide, were seen stalking abroad as publicly and unblushingly as the most abandoned could desire. Not negroes and the populace alone contemplated them with apathy: the moral taste and feeling of persons of a higher cast partook so much of the common taint that, when we mentioned with horror the worst of crimes which we were obliged to witness, they often advanced some thing by way of defence, and really appeared as much surprised at our mode of thinking as if we had broached a new religion, or foisted into the new one some scrupulous fancies............ The life of an un distinguished individual was not worth two dollars; for a smaller sum, any coward could hire a bravo to take it away.' p. 134.
The most profound ignorance and the extreme of filthiness in the habits of the people, complete the outline. And all these abominations are continually acted in the face of a scene of al ⚫ most unequalled magnificence and beauty.' The uniformly serene, gay, and exhilarating prospect,' says Mr. Luccock, seems to shew how happily man might have lived under the in'fluence of nature's God." But, that influence being intercepted by superstition and ignorance, the natural advantages of the elimate serve only to foster the seeds of depravity. Yet the Author of the present volume maintains, that,
The cold and phlegmatic Northern politician has seldom calculated the effect of fine scenery upon the human mind, or he would not have expected the Court of Portugal to leave its new abode. This is a silent but powerful agent: its operation is universal and perpetual, renewed by every rising sun, and aided by every refulgent moon. It has here often withstood the stimulus of interest, and destroyed the pithi ness of argument; and is generally most effectual on minds the least aware of its influence. It has contributed to render the Court of Portugal almost ambitious to change its designation: and foreigners indulge the propensity, by speaking of the Court of Rio, and no longer of that of Lisbon.'
This is an unfortunate passage. Subsequent events have proved that the Court of Portugal preferred Lisbon after all; just as Mr. Luccock has probably, by this time, discovered, that the fine scenery of the Brazils is a poor equivalent for the social advantages of the British metropolis. And yet, he is susceptible of the influence of scenery, which the Court of Rio, we strongly suspect, were not. But this notion respecting the universal operation of a silent but powerful agency that is adequate to counteract the stimulus of interest and so forth, is, indeed, nothing better than a piece of harmless poetical nonsense, which is worth transcribing merely as an admonition against the extravagancies of fine writing.
Mr. Luccock writes, in general, like a bighly intelligent and well informed man, and his work contains the most ample as well as the latest account which we possess, of the manners and customs of the Brazilians, the topography of the country, and its commercial and political prospects. It consists of descriptions, anecdotes, and passing remarks, selected from the Author's journal in the order of time; and the information is sufficiently multifarious and interesting. But, although there are but few instances of palpable repetition, this mode of arrangement is fatal to any thing like orderly connexion, and is in no small degree inconvenient to the reader who wishes to obtain a complete view of any one subject. A good index would have been the best remedy for this fault; and we regret that this has been omitted. A volume of such a description and magnitude is materially defective without one. The work is divided into seventeen chapters. The first four are occupied with remarks made during the Author's passage, and with a description of Rio de Janeiro as it was in 1808. The next three describe a voyage to the Plata, and travels in the interior, 1809-1813. The improved appearance of the capital on our Author's return to it in 1813, is described in the eighth chapter. Subsequent excursions into the interior afford materials for the following eight chapters. The last is devoted to general remarks connected with a final survey of the capital in 1818, and forms the most valuable portion of the whole. In an Appendix are given, the Signals by which vessels approaching the port of Rio Grande do Sul, shew to the pilot-boat what water they draw; Tables of Commerce; and a Glossary of Tupi words. The volume contains also a plan of the city, and maps of the Table Land and Southern Lowlands of Brazil.
The subject of most immediate interest is, the present state of the new Brazilian kingdom. Mr. Luccock affirms, that the rapidity with which improvement proceeds in the capital is wonderful. Some of the representations given in the early chapters must, therefore, be understood as relating to a past state of things. In 1813, a very large influx of inhabitants had taken