The Project Gutenberg EBook of Celebrated Women Travellers of the
Nineteenth Century, by W. H. Davenport Adams

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Title: Celebrated Women Travellers of the Nineteenth Century

Author: W. H. Davenport Adams

Release Date: March 3, 2010 [EBook #31479]

Language: English

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Celebrated Women Travellers








Countess Dora D'Istria 17

The Princess of Belgiojoso 48

Madame Hommaire de Hell 66

Madame Léonie D'Aunet 126

Miss Frederika Bremer 134

Mademoiselle Alexina Tinné 184

Madame Ida Pfeiffer 215

Madame de Bourboulon 270

Lady Hester Stanhope 302

Lady Brassey 340

Lady Morgan 379

Mrs. Trollope 385

Miss Harriet Martineau 404

Miss Isabella Bird 418

Lady Florence Dixie 437

Miss Gordon Cumming 443

Florence and Rosamond Hill 452

Lady Barker 456

"Magyarland" 458

[Pg 17]



The Princess Helena Koltzoff-Massalsky, better known by her pseudonym of Dora d'Istria,[1] came of the family of the Ghikas, formerly princes of Wallachia, and was born at Bucharest, on the 22nd of January, 1829. Through the care and conscientiousness of her instructor, Mons. Papadopoulos, and her own remarkable capacity, she acquired a very complete and comprehensive education. When but eleven years old, she composed a charming little story, and before she had reached womanhood, undertook a translation of the Iliad. She showed no inclination for the frivolous amusements of a frivolous society. Her view of life and its responsibilities was a serious one, and she addressed all her energies to[Pg 18] the work of self-improvement and self-culture. She read and re-read the literary masterpieces of England, France and Germany. As a linguist she earned special distinction.

"Her intellectual faculties," says her master, M. Papadopoulos, "expanded with so much rapidity, that the professors charged with her instruction could not keep any other pupil abreast of her in the same studies. Not only did she make a wholly unexpected and unhoped-for progress, but it became necessary for her teachers to employ with her a particular method: her genius could not submit to the restraint of ordinary rules."

She was still in the springtime and flush of youth, when she went on a tour to Germany, and visited several German courts, where she excited the same sentiments of admiration as in her own country; it was impossible to see her without being attracted by so much intellect, grace and amiability. Travelling enlarged her horizon: she was able to survey, as from a watch-tower, the course of great political events, and she found herself mixing continually with the most celebrated savants and statesmen of the age. Her friendly relations with persons of very diverse opinions, while enabling her to compare and contrast a great variety of theories, did but strengthen in her "the idea and sentiment of liberty, which can alone conduct society to its true aim." Finally, from the Italian revolution of 1848, which awoke her warmest[Pg 19] sympathies, she learned to understand the fatal consequences of despotic government, as well as the inevitable mistakes of freedom, when first unfettered and allowed to walk alone.

At the age of twenty she was married (February, 1849), and soon afterwards she set out for St. Petersburg, where she was recognised as the ornament of the higher society. In the midst of her numerous engagements, in the midst of the homage rendered to her wit and grace, she found time to collect a mass of valuable notes on the condition and inner life of the great Russian Empire, several provinces of which she knew from personal observation. From St. Petersburg to Moscow, from Odessa to Revel, her untiring activity carried her. Most social questions are at work under an apparent calm, and offer, therefore, subjects well worthy of careful study, especially to so grave and clear an intellect as that of Princess Dora d'Istria, who possessed, in the highest degree, the faculty of steady meditation amidst the movement and the world-stir that surrounded her. The world, charmed by her personal attractions, had no suspicion of the restlessness and activity of her inquiring mind.

Her departure to the South brought her inquiries and investigations to an end. She had suffered so much from the terrible winters of the great Northern capital, and her health was so seriously shaken, that her doctors presented to her the grave alternative of departure or death (1855).[Pg 20]

The Princess Dora d'Istria, as we have hinted, was a fine linguist. She made herself mistress of nine languages. Her historical erudition was profound; her mind was continually in search of new knowledge. She seemed to have inherited from one of her illustrious friends, M. von Humboldt, that "fever of study," that insatiable ardour, which, if not genius, is closely akin to it.

The great Berlin philosopher and the young Wallachian writer lived for some time in an intellectual confraternity, which, no doubt, is to this day one of the most valuable souvenirs of the brilliant author of "La Vie Monastique dans l'Eglise Orientale." In reference to this subject, we take leave to quote a passage from the graceful pen of M. Charles Yriarte:—

"The scene lies at Sans-Souci, in one of the celebrated saloons where the great Frederick supped with Voltaire, d'Alembert and Maupertuis. 'Old Fritz' has been dead a hundred years; but the court of Prussia, under the rule of Frederick William, is still the asylum of beaux esprits. The time is the first and brilliant period of his reign, when the king gathers around him artists and men of science, and writes to Humboldt invitations to dinner in verse, which he seals with the great Seal of State, in order that the philosopher may have no excuse for absenting himself. A few years later, and, alas, artists and poets give place to soldiers!

"The whole of the royal family are collected at a[Pg 21] summer fête, and with them the most famous names in art and science, and some strangers of distinction.

"The prince has recently received a consignment of ancient sculptures and works of art, and while the royal family saunter among the groves of Charlottenhof, M. von Humboldt and the aged Rauch, the Prussian sculptor, examine them, and investigate their secrets. Rauch is a grand type of a man. This senior or doyen of the German artists, who died overwhelmed with glory and honours, had been a valet de chambre in the Princess Louisa's household. He had followed the princess to Rome, where, among the masterpieces of antiquity and of the Renaissance, she had divined the budding genius of him who was to carve in everlasting marble the monumental figure of the great Frederick.

"These two illustrious men are bending over a basso-relievo with a Greek inscription, when the king enters; he is accompanied by a gentleman, who has on either arm a fair young girl in the spring of her youth and beauty. The king invites M. von Humboldt to explain the inscription, and the gallant old man goes straight to one of the young girls, excusing himself for not attempting to translate it in the presence of one of the greatest Hellenists of the time.

"'Come, your Highness,' he says, 'make the oracle speak.'

"And the young princess reads off the inscription fluently, setting down M. von Humboldt's ignorance to the account of his politeness.[Pg 22]

"The king compliments the handsome stranger, and Rauch, struck by her great beauty, inquires of his friend who may be this fair, sweet Muse, who gives to the marbles the tongue of eloquence, who, young and lovely as an antique Venus, seems already as wise and prudent as Minerva.

"You see that it is a pretty tableau de genre, worthy of the brush of Mentzel, the German painter, or of the French Meissonier. For background the canvas will have the picturesque Louis Quatorze interiors of Sans-Souci; in the foreground, the king and the great Humboldt, who inclines towards the young girl; farther off, her sister leaning on their father's arm, and the aged Rauch, who closes up the scene and holds in his hand the bas-relief.

"That young girl, who has just given a proof of her erudition is Helena Ghika, now famous under the literary pseudonym of Dora d'Istria. The old man is the Prince Michael, her father, whose family, originally of Epirus, has for the last two centuries been established in the Danubian Principalities, and has supplied Wallachia with Hospodars. The other young lady is Helena's sister."

Dora d'Istria was one of those fine, quick intelligences which look upon the world—that is, upon humanity—as, in the poet's words, "The proper study of mankind."

"It has always seemed to me," she one day observed,[Pg 23] "that women, in travelling, might complete the task of the most scientific travellers; for, as a fact, woman carries certain special aptitudes into literature. She perceives more quickly than man everything connected with national life and the manners of the people. A wide field, much too neglected, lies open, therefore, to her observation. But, in order that she may fitly explore it, she needs, what she too often fails to possess, a knowledge of languages and of history, as well as the capability of conforming herself to the different habitudes of nations, and the faculty of enduring great fatigues.

"Happily for myself, I was not deficient in linguistic knowledge. In my family the only language made use of was French. M. Papadopoulos at an early age taught me Greek, which in the East is as important as French in the West. The Germanic tongues terrified me at first, the peoples of Pelasgic origin having no taste for those idioms. But I was industrious enough and patient enough to triumph over all such difficulties, and though the study of languages is far from being popular in the Latin countries, I did not cease to pursue it until the epoch of my marriage.

"M. Papadopoulos has often referred to my passionate love of history even in my early childhood. This passion has constantly developed. The more I have travelled, the more clearly I have perceived that one cannot know a people unless one knows thoroughly its antecedents; that is, if one be not fully acquainted[Pg 24] with its annals and its chief writers. In studying a nation only in its contemporary manifestations, one is exposed to the error into which one would assuredly fall if one attempted to estimate the character of an individual after living only a few hours in his company.

"Besides, to understand nations thoroughly, it is necessary to examine, without any aristocratic prejudice, all the classes of which they are composed. In Switzerland, I lived among the mountains, that I might gain an exact idea of the Alpine life. In Greece, I traversed on horseback the solitudes of the Peloponnesus. In Italy, I have established relations with people of all faiths and conditions, and whenever the opportunity has occurred, have questioned with equal curiosity the merchant and the savant, the fisherman and the politician. When I appear to be resting myself, I am really making those patient investigations, indispensable to all who would conscientiously study a country."

After residing for some years in Russia, she felt the need of living thenceforward in a freer atmosphere, and betook herself to Switzerland. Her sojourn in that country—a kind of Promised Land for all those who in their own country have never enjoyed the realisation of their aspirations—was very advantageous to her. She learned in Switzerland to love and appreciate liberty, as in Italy the fine arts, and in England industry.

The work of Dora d'Istria upon German Switzerland is less descriptive than philosophical. The plan she has[Pg 25] adopted is open perhaps to criticism: such mixture of poetry and erudition may offend severer tastes; we grow indulgent, however, when we perceive that the writer preserves her individuality while passing from enthusiastic dithyrambs to the most abstract historical dissertations.

It is not, however, the woman of letters so much as the patient untiring female traveller whom we seek to introduce to our readers in these pages. We attempt therefore, no analysis of her works,[2] but proceed to speak of her mountaineering experiences: the most important is the ascent of the Mönch, a summit of the Jungfrau system—one of the lofty snow-clad peaks which enclose the ice-rivers of the Oberaar and the Unteraar. We shall allow Madame Dora d'Istria to conduct us in person through the difficulties of so arduous an enterprise.

"When I announced my project of scaling the highest summits of the Alps, the astonishment was general. Some imagined that it was a mere whim which would be fully satisfied by the noise it caused. Others exclaimed against a hardihood willing to encounter so many perils. None were inclined to regard my words as dictated by an intimate conviction. None[Pg 26] could accustom themselves to the idea of so extraordinary a scheme. The excitement was redoubled at the departure of the different telegraphic despatches summoning from their village homes the guides spoken of as the most resolute in the district. One hope, however, remained: that these guides themselves would dissuade me from my enterprise. Pierre was encouraged to dilate upon the dangers which I should incur among the glaciers. Through the telescope I was shown the precipices of the Jungfrau. All the manuals of travellers of Switzerland lay upon my tables. Everybody insisted on reading to me the most frightful passages—those most likely, as they thought, to unnerve me. But, on the contrary, these stirring stories did but sharpen my curiosity, did but quicken my impatience to set out. I ceased to think of anything but the snowy wildernesses which crown the lofty mountain summits.

"I summoned Pierre to my private apartment, and spoke to him with firmness, so as to strengthen his resolutions. My words reassured him. 'Whatever happens,' he said, 'do you take the responsibility?' 'Assuredly,' I answered; and I gave him my hand, engaging him at the same time to remain unmoved by any remonstrance, to encourage the guides on their arrival, before they could be exposed to any foreign influence. He promised, and his face brightened at the sight of my tranquil smile. He went away to superintend the preparations for the expedition, and arrange my masculine costume, which consisted of woollen pantaloons striped with black and[Pg 27] white, of a closely buttoned coat descending to my knees, of a round felt hat like that of a mountaineer, and a pair of large strong boots. Oh, how slow the hours seemed to me! I dreaded so keenly any occurrence which might thwart my wishes, that I could scarcely listen to the questions put to me respecting the necessary arrangements. Everything wearied me, except the sight of the Jungfrau and of Pierre, who seemed to me a friend into whose hands I had entrusted my dearest hope.

"The first to arrive were the guides of Grindelwald. I uttered a cry of joy when Pierre Bohren appeared, a man of low stature but thickset limbs, and Jean Almer, who was tall and robust. Both were chamois hunters, renowned for their intrepidity. They looked at me with curious attentiveness. They confessed, with the frank cordiality peculiar to these brave mountaineers, that their experience would be of no service in the expedition I was undertaking, as they had never attempted any one like it. They knew, however, the perils of the glaciers, for every day they risked their lives among them. But Bohren, who had ventured the farthest, had not passed beyond the grotto of the Eiger.

"Before coming to a definite decision, we waited the arrival of Hans Jaun of Meyringen, who had accompanied M. Agassiz in his ascent of the Jungfrau (in 1841). He arrived towards morning, and called upon me in company with Ulrich Lauerer, of Lauterbrunnen. The latter was as tall as Almer, but did not seem so ready. I learned afterwards that he was still suffering from a fall which he[Pg 28] had but recently met with while hunting. Hans Jaun was the oldest of all and the least robust. His hair was growing grey, his eyelids were rimmed with a blood-coloured border. However, he presided over the gathering. I had closed the door, so that no one should disturb our solemn conference. The guides appeared meditative, and sought to read in my eyes if my firmness were real or assumed.

"It was decided that we should take with us four porters loaded with provisions, ladders, ropes, and pick-axes; that towards evening I should start for Interlachen with Pierre and Jaun, and that the other guides should await me at Grindelwald. Then we separated with the friendly greeting, 'Au revoir.'

"Scarcely had the sun dropped below the horizon, streaked with long bars of fire, when I took my solitary seat in an open carriage. Peter occupied the box. We traversed the walnut-tree avenues of Interlachen and its smiling gardens. We followed the banks of the pale Lütschina, which bounds through the midst of abrupt rocks. Clouds accumulated on the sky. Soon we heard the distant roar of thunder. We passed into the presence of colossal mountains, whose rugged peaks rose like inaccessible fortresses. On turning round, I could see nothing in the direction of Interlachen but gloomy vaporous depths, impenetrable to the eye. Nearer and nearer drew the thunder, filling space with its sonorous voice. The wind whistled, the Lütschina rolled its groaning waters. The spectacle was sublime. Night[Pg 29] gathered in all around, and the vicinity of Grindelwald I could make out only by the lights in the châlets scattered upon the hill.

"I had scarcely entered beneath the hospitable roof of the hotel of the Eagle, before the rain fell in torrents, like a waterspout. I elevated my soul to God. At this moment the thunder burst, the avalanches resounded among the mountains, and the echoes a thousand times repeated the noise of their fall.

"The stars were paling in the firmament when I opened my window. Mists clothed the horizon. The rushing wind soon tore them aside, and drove them into the gorges, whence descend, in the shape of a fan, the unformed masses of the lower glacier, soiled with a blackish dust.

"The storm of the preceding evening, those dense clouds which gave to the Alps a more formidable aspect than ever, the well-meant remonstrances of the herdsmen of the valley, all awakened in the heart of my guides a hesitation not difficult to understand on the part of men who feared the burden of a great responsibility. They made another effort to shake my resolution. They showed me a black tablet attached to the wall of the church which crowns the heights:—

Aimé Munon, Min. du S. Ev.
Tomba dans un gouffre
De la Mer de Glace.
Ici repose son corps,
Retiré de l'abîme.
[Pg 30]

"I said to Pierre, after glancing at this pathetic inscription, 'The soul of this young man rests in peace in the bosom of the Everlasting. As for us, we shall soon return here to give thanks to God.'

"'Good!' replied Pierre; 'that is to say, nothing will make you draw back.'

"He rejoined his companions, and I went to shut myself up in my chamber.

"The deep solitude around me had in it something of solemnity. Before my eyes the Wetterhorn raised its scarped acclivities; to the right, the masses of the Eiger, to the left, the huge Scheideck and the Faulhorn. Those gloomy mountains which surrounded me, that tranquillity troubled only by the rash of the torrent in the valley and by an occasional avalanche, all this was truly majestic, and I felt as if transported into a world where all things were unlike what I had seen before. My mind had seldom enjoyed a calm so complete.

"I had not the patience to wait for morning. Before it appeared, I was on foot. I breakfasted in haste, and assumed my masculine dress, to which I found it difficult to grow accustomed. I was conscious of my awkwardness, and it embarrassed all my movements. I summoned Pierre, and asked him if I could by any means be conveyed as far as the valley. He sent, to my great satisfaction, for a sedan-chair. Meanwhile, I exercised myself by walking up and down my room, for I feared the guides would despair of me if they saw me[Pg 31] stumble at every step. I was profoundly humiliated, and only weighty reasons prevented me from resuming my woman's dress. At last I bethought myself of an expedient. I made a parcel of my silk petticoat and my boots (brodequins), and gave it to a porter, so that I might resort to them if I should be completely paralyzed by those accursed garments which I found so inconvenient.

"We had to wait until eight o'clock before taking our departure. The sun then made its appearance, and the mountains gradually threw off their canopy of mist. Having wrapped myself in a great plaid, I took my seat in the sedan-chair and started, accompanied by four guides, four porters, and a crowd of peasants, among whom was a Tyrolean. All sang merrily as they marched forth, but those who remained looked sadly after us. It was the 10th of June, 1855.

"We marched without any attempt at order, and the people of Grindelwald carried our baggage as a relief to our porters. The sun was burning. The peasants took leave of us as soon as we struck the path which creeps up the Mettenberg, skirting the 'sea of ice.' Only the Tyrolean, accompanied by his young guide, remained with us. He said that curiosity impelled him to follow us as long as he could, that he might form some idea of the way in which we were going to get out of the affair. He sang like the rest of the caravan, his strong voice rising above all.

"It was the first time I had seen the immense glacier popularly called 'La Mer de Glace.' Through the[Pg 32] green curtains of the pinewoods, I gazed upon the masses rising from the gulf, the depths of which are azure-tinted, while the surface is covered with dirt and blocks of snow. The spectacle, however, did not impress me greatly, whether because I was absorbed in the thought of gaining the very summit of the Alps, or because my imagination felt some disappointment in finding the reality far beneath what it had figured.

"I descended from my sedan-chair when we arrived at an imprint in the marble rock known as 'Martinsdruck.' The gigantic peaks of the Schreckhorn, the Eiger, the Kischhorn, rose around us, almost overwhelming us with their grandeur. To the right, the Mittelegi, a spur of the Eiger, elevated its bare and polished sides. Suddenly the songs ceased, and my travelling companions uttered those exclamations, familiar to Alpine populations, which re-echoed from rock to rock. They had caught sight of a hunter, gliding phantom-like along the steep ascent of the Mittelegi, like a swallow lost in space. But in vain they pursued him with cries and questions; he continued to move silently along the black rock.

"At length we descended upon the glacier. They had abandoned me to my own resources, probably to judge of my address. I was more at ease in my clothes, and with a sure step I advanced upon the snow, striding across the crevasses which separated the different strata of ice. By accident, rather than by reflection, I looked out for the spots of snow and there planted my feet. Later I learned that this is always the safest route, and never leads one into danger. The Tyrolean took leave of us, convinced at last that I should get out of the affair. As for the guides, they gave vent to their feelings in shouts of joy. They said that, in recognition of my self-reliance, they would entrust to me the direction of the enterprise. After crossing the Mer de Glace, we began to climb the steep slopes of the Ziegenberg.


[Pg 33]

"For a long time the songs, a thousand times repeated, continued to answer each other from side to side of the glacier. Then we could hear no longer the voice of men, nor the bell of the church of Grindelwald, whose melancholy notes the wind had hitherto wafted to us. We were in the bosom of an immense wilderness, face to face with Heaven and the wonders of Nature. We scaled precipitous blocks of stone, and left behind us the snowy summits. The march became more and more painful. We crawled on hands and feet, we glided like cats, leaped from one rock to another like squirrels. Frequently, a handful of moss or a clump of brushwood was our sole support, where we found no cracks or crevices. Drops of blood often tinted, like purple flowers, the verdure we crushed under foot. When this was wanting we contrived to balance ourselves on the rock by the help of our alpenstocks, having recourse as seldom as possible to one another's arms, for fear of dragging the whole company into the abyss. Hundreds of feet below us glittered the deep crevasses of the glacier, in which the rays of the sun disported. The cold winds,[Pg 34] blowing from the frozen heights, scarcely cooled our foreheads. We were streaming with perspiration, but our gaiety increased, instead of diminishing, with the dangers. When we came to a stretch of granite, our speed was doubled, and whoever first set foot upon it would announce the fact to the others. There we slipped but seldom, and by assisting one another, we could walk erect and more quickly. Bohren the younger, who was one of our porters and the youngest of the company, continued his merry song. In moments of peril his voice acquired a decided quaver, but he never paused in his march or in his cadences, and never fell back a step.

"The prospect, which embraced the whole valley, was magnificent. We could perceive the châlets of Grindelwald, like miniatures sprinkled over the greensward. My guides exclaimed, 'Ah, it is from the height of the heavens that we behold our wives!' And we continued our ascent, leaving beneath us the clouds floating everywhere like grey scarves. At eleven o'clock we halted on a promontory where we contrived to find room by sitting one behind the other.

"The fatigue and heat had exhausted us, and no one stirred, except the two Bohrens, who climbed a little higher in search of wood, so that we might light a fire, and prepare some refreshment. A crystalline spring, filtering through the marble and the brushwood, murmured close beside us. But all vigorous vegetation had disappeared. Nothing was to be seen but the grasses and mosses; the juniper, the wild thymes, which[Pg 35] perfumed the air, and fields of purple rhododendron, the metallic leaves of which mingled with the black lichens. At intervals, a few stunted larches were outlined against the everlasting snows. The Bohrens arrived with some brushwood, and soon a fire crackled and sparkled cheerily, the water boiled, and, to my great satisfaction, rhododendron flowers and fragments of juniper were put into it—my companions assuring me that this kind of tea was excellent and very wholesome.

"My thirst was keen, and I drank with avidity the odoriferous beverage, which seemed to me excellent.

"The guides had brought me a large posy of beautiful Alpine roses, and I made them into a wreath, which I twined around my hat.

"After an hour's halt, we resumed our march, and soon could see only the cold white snow around us, without the least sign of vegetation or life. The acclivity we were climbing was very steep, but having quitted the bare rocks, we no longer ran any risk of sliding. We endeavoured to quicken our steps, in order to reach, before nightfall, an immense cavern known only to two of our chamois hunters, who made use of it as a hiding-place when their unconquerable passion for heroic adventures tempted them to disregard the cantonal regulations. Joyous shouts broke forth when the yawning mouth of the grotto opened wide under thick layers of snow. Our songs recommenced, and, as night was coming on, we pressed forward rapidly. For some hours I had been unconscious of fatigue, and I could[Pg 36] have marched for a considerably longer period without feeling any need of rest.

"But the guides were impatient to gain a shelter where we should not be exposed to the avalanches which rumbled in every direction.

"A mysterious twilight partly illumined the extensive cavern, its farthest recesses, however, remaining in deep shadow. We could hear rivulets trickling and drops of water falling with monotonous slowness. Never had I penetrated into a place of such savage beauty. In the middle of the cavern, opposite the entrance, was a great pillar of ice, resembling a cataract suddenly frozen. Beyond this marvellous block, glittering like crystal, spread a stream of delicious freshness. When we had kindled a large fire with branches of juniper, accumulated by the hunter who most frequented the retreat, the ice shone with a myriad diamond tints; everything seemed to assume an extraordinary form and life. The fantastically carved walls of rock sparkled with capricious gleams. From the sides of black granite hung pendent icicles, sometimes slender and isolated, sometimes grouped in fanciful clusters. In the hollows, where damp and darkness for ever reign, climbed a bluish-grey moss, a melancholy and incomplete manifestation of life in the bosom of this death-like solitude. Within, the whole scene impressed the imagination strongly, while without, but close beside us, resounded, like thunder, the avalanches which scattered their ruins over our heads, or plunged headlong into fathomless gulfs.[Pg 37]

"Some white heifer-skins were laid down under a block which formed a kind of recess at the farther end of the grotto. I wrapped myself in my coverings and shawls, for the cold increased in severity, but I was protected from it by the assiduous care of my good guides, who heaped upon me all their furs and cloaks. Then, seated around the fire, they prepared the coffee which was to serve us the whole night. None of them thought of sleeping, nor felt inclined to repress their natural but modest gaiety. If one complained that his limbs were stiff, the others immediately cried out that he was as delicate as a woman, and that we had no cause of complaint while sojourning in a palace grander than kings' palaces. They inscribed my name upon the roof near to the entrance.

"Two of the guides had sallied forth to clear a pathway and cut steps in the snow, for there would be some difficulty in getting out of the grotto. On their return they informed us that we might rely on a fine day—words which were welcomed with loud applause. After undergoing so much fatigue, it was natural we should desire a complete success. I rejoiced to see so near me the immense glaciers and lofty peaks of the Alps, the image of which had often haunted my happiest dreams. Yet I felt somewhat uneasy at the symptoms of indisposition which would not be concealed. I experienced slight attacks of nausea, and a depression which I sought to conquer by rising abruptly and giving the signal of departure. I was forced to change[Pg 38] my boots, for those I had worn the day before were in shreds.

"About three o'clock in the morning we took leave of the hospitable cavern, but it was not without difficulty we crossed the precipices which frowned before us, and for the first time had to employ our long ladder. We supported it against the side of a chasm, the opposite brink of which lay several hundred feet below. We descended backwards the close and narrow steps, strictly forbidden to cast a downward glance. Day advanced rapidly. The masses of snow which rose around us resembled so many mountains piled upon other mountains. We were in the heart of the vast solitudes of the Eiger, which seemed astonished by the echoes of our steps. We often made use of the ladder. By the third time I had recovered my liberty of action, and no longer descended backward, but contemplating with an undefinable charm the gaping gulfs which vanished in the obscure recesses of the glacier, bluer than the skies of the East.

"The troop soon divided into two sections. We wore blue glasses to protect our eyes from the dazzling brilliancy of the snow, which every moment became less compact. Almer had even covered his face with a green veil, but mine I found inconvenient, and resolutely exposed my skin to the burning rays of the sun, which were reflected from the glittering frozen surfaces, though the sun itself was hidden by clouds. The fissures in the glacier were few and very narrow, and we employed[Pg 39] the ladder but once or twice in the immense plain of powdery snow which, towards eight o'clock, opened before us. It was then that our real sufferings began. The heat was excessive; walking, slow and very difficult, for at each step we sank almost to our knees. Sometimes the foot could find no bottom, and when we withdrew it we found a yawning azure-tinted crevasse. The guides called such places mines, and feared them greatly. The air every instant grew more rarefied; my mouth was dry; I suffered from thirst, and to quench it swallowed morsels of snow and kirsch-wasser, the very odour of which became at last insupportable, though I was sometimes compelled to drink it by the imperative orders of the guides.

"It had taken us long to cross the region of springs and torrents; not so long to traverse that in which the fissures of the glacier were hidden under the snow; and now at last we trod the eternal and spotless shroud of the frozen desert. I breathed with difficulty, my weakness increased, so that it was with no small pleasure I arrived at the halting-place marked out by our foremost party. I threw myself, exhausted, but enchanted, on the bed of snow which had been prepared for me. Avalanches were frequent. Sometimes they rolled in immense blocks with a sullen roar; sometimes whirlwinds of snow fell upon us like showers of heavy hail. To our great alarm the mist rose on all sides so that we often lost sight of those of our party who were acting as pioneers. After leaving the plain of snow[Pg 40] we ascended a steep and difficult incline. The guides had hardly strength enough to clear a path, so rude was the acclivity and so dense the snow.

"At length, about ten o'clock, we halted on a platform which stretched to the base of the Mönch, whose ridge or backbone rose before our eyes. Here a small grotto had been excavated in the ice in which I was bidden to rest myself, thoroughly well wrapped up. We were literally on the brink of a complete collapse, respiration failed us, and for some minutes I expectorated blood. However, I regretted neither my fatigues, nor the resolution which had carried me to this point. All that I feared was that I should not be able to go farther. The very air which I endured so badly was an object of interest and study on account of its extraordinary purity. One of the guides, having brought from the grotto a few juniper branches, kindled a fire and melted some snow, which we drank with eagerness. I then remarked that they had collected in a group at some distance apart, and were conversing in a low tone and with anxious faces. The Jungfrau had been indicated as the goal of our enterprise, and their apprehensive glances were turned towards that mountain, which rose on our left, shrouded in dense fogs. I felt a vague fear that they wished to interpose some obstacle to the complete realization of my projects; and, in fact, they soon came to tell me that it would not be possible to climb the Jungfrau that day; that there was still a long march to be made before we could reach its base, which, by an[Pg 41] optical illusion, seemed so near to us; and that from thence to the summit would be at least another three hours' climb.

"It seemed scarcely practicable to pass the night on the snow at so great an elevation, where the effort of breathing was a pain, and the icy cold threatened to freeze our aching limbs, and, besides, the guides were unanimous in predicting a violent storm in the evening. 'And then,' said they, 'what shall we do without shelter, without coverings, without fire, without any hot drink (for our supply of coffee was exhausted), in the midst of this ice?' I knew in my heart they were right, but I was keenly disappointed at failing to reach the goal when it seemed so near. As I could not make up my mind to adopt their opinion, Almer rose, and laying the ladder at my feet, said, with much energy, 'Adieu, I leave you, for my conscience as an honest man forbids me to lend a hand to a peril which I know to be inevitable.'

"I called him back, and rising in my turn, exclaimed: 'Will the difficulties be as great in the way of an ascent of the Mönch? There it is, only a few paces from us. It is free from mist, why should we not reach its summit?' At these words the astonishment was general, and everybody turned towards the peak I had named. The snow upon it seemed quite solid, and I thought it would be impossible to find there anything more dangerous than we had already experienced. Their hesitation surprised me. 'Are you aware,' said they,[Pg 42] 'that yonder mountain has never been ascended?' 'So much the better,' said I, 'we will baptize it!' And, forgetting in a moment my weariness, I started off with a firm step. Pierre Jaun and Pierre Bohren, seeing me so resolved, seized our flag, set out in advance, and never rested till they had planted it on the loftiest summit of the Mönch, before the rest of us could get up. The flag was of three colours, white, yellow, and blue, and bore the beloved name of 'Wallachia,' embroidered in large letters. As if Heaven favoured our wishes, while clouds rolled upon all the surrounding mountains, they left free and clear the peak of the Mönch.

"Though the acclivity was much steeper than that of the Eiger, we did not find the difficulties much greater. The snow was hard, and as we did not sink far into it, our march was less fatiguing. We held to one another so as to form a chain, and advanced zigzag, fired with impatience to reach the summit. All around us I saw deep beds of snow, but nowhere such blocks of ice as M. Deser found upon the crest of the Jungfrau. It is probable that, owing to the season, the Mönch was still buried under the accumulated snows of winter, and this circumstance greatly contributed to our success.

"The image of the Infinite presented itself to my mind in all its formidable grandeur. My heart, oppressed, felt its influence, as my gaze rested upon the Swiss plain half hidden in the mists of the surrounding mountains, which were bathed in golden vapours. I was filled with such a sense of God that my heart—so it seemed to[Pg 43] me—was not large enough to contain it. I belonged wholly to Him. From that moment my soul was lost in the thought of His incomprehensible power.

"But the time had come for our departure, and I must take leave of the mountain where I was so far from men! I embraced the flag, and at three o'clock we began our homeward march. With much toil and trouble we descended the declivities of the Mönch. We were obliged to lend each other more assistance than in ascending, and more than once we nearly fell into the abysses. But as soon as we regained the Eiger, we swept forward as rapidly as the avalanche which knows no obstacles, as the torrent which carves out its own channel, as the bird which on mighty pinions cleaves space. Seated on the snow, we allowed ourselves to slide easily down those steeps which we had so painfully climbed, even to the very brink of the precipices, which we had crossed on a ladder instead of bridge. We observed that the gulfs yawned wide which in the morning we had crossed upon the snow that covered them; for the aspect of these mountains changes with a truly extraordinary rapidity. Song and laughter soon broke forth again, provoked by our strange fashion of travelling. Great was our joy when we found ourselves once more in an atmosphere favourable to the life of vegetation, and all of us rushed headlong to the first brook, whose murmur sounded as sweet to us as the voice of a friend.

"But as soon as we reached the rocks free from snow,[Pg 44] our troubles recommenced; difficulties reappeared, and were even more serious than those we had met with in our ascent. The peril was extreme; and but for the courageous Pierre Bohren, who carried me rather than supported me, I could never have descended the bare rocks that skirt the edge of the glacier. When we struck the Mer de Glace, we fell in with so many gaping fissures that we could cross them only by hazardous leaps and bounds. We had not reached the other side before we were met by our porters with the sedan-chair; and we arrived singing and cheering at Grindelwald, where everybody eyed us with as much wonder as if we had risen from the dead. I asked for some citrons, which I devoured while changing my clothes. Though completely knocked up, I set out immediately for Interlachen, to reassure those who were awaiting me there. At the foot of the Grindelwald hill, I stopped at Pierre Bohren's châlet to pay a visit to his wife, who held in her arms an infant only a few days old. I embraced it and promised to be its godmother.

"About midway between Grindelwald and Interlachen, we were overtaken by a storm as violent as that which had heralded our departure.

"The guides, therefore, had made no mistake. We should have experienced this tempest among the loftiest summits of the Alps, if we had continued our excursion.

"When I rose next morning, my face was one great wound, and for a long time I endured the keenest sufferings. Not less fatigued than myself, the guides at[Pg 45] length arrived singing, and brought me a superb diploma upon official paper."[3]

The princess afterwards travelled in Greece, where she received an enthusiastic welcome, and ovations were offered to her as to a sovereign. Everybody did homage to the bright and generous author of "La Nationalité Hellénique,"—the liberal and zealous advocate of the rights, the manners, the character, and the future of Greece. But of nationalities she was always the defender, and her wide sympathies embraced not only the Greeks, but the Albanians and the Slavs.

After having studied the antiquities of Athens, undertaken sundry scientific and archæological excursions into Attica, and enjoyed a delightful intercourse at Athens with kindred spirits—such as Frederika Bremer—she traversed the nomarchies, or provinces, of the kingdom of Greece, with the view of obtaining an exact and comprehensive account of the moral and material condition of the rural population.

As M. Pommier remarks, this long excursion in a country which offers no facilities to travellers, and where one must always be on horseback, could not be accomplished without displaying a courage unexampled, an heroic perseverance, and a physical and moral strength equal to every trial. She had to undergo the strain of[Pg 46] daily fatigue and the heat of a scorching sun; to fear neither barren rocks, nor precipices, nor dangerous pathways, nor brigands. In spite of the counsels of prudence and of a timorous affection, the intrepid traveller would not omit any portion of her itinerary; she traversed successively into Bœotia, Phocis, Ætolia, and the Peloponnesus. When the mountaineers of Laconia saw her passing on horseback through the savage gorges, they cried out in their enthusiasm, "Here is a Spartan woman!" And they invited her to put herself at their head and lead them to Constantinople.

From Greece she went into Italy, in 1861, and took up her residence, where she has ever since remained, at Florence. Garibaldi has saluted as his sister this ardent champion of the rights of nationalities, who, to this day, has continued her philanthropic exertions. In 1867, she published "La Nazionalità Albanese secondo i Canti popolari;" in 1869, "Discours sur Marco Polo;" in 1870, "Venise en 1867;" in 1871-1873, "Gli Albanesi in Rumenia," a history of the princely family of the Ghikas from the 17th century; in 1871, a couple of novels, "Eleanora de Hallingen," and "Ghizlaine;" in 1877, "La Poésie des Ottomans;" and in 1878, "The Condition of Women among the Southern Slavs."

The princess, besides plunging into historical labours, sedulously cultivates the Fine Arts, and is moreover a first-rate pistol-shot. A true Albanian, she loves arms, and handles them skilfully.[Pg 47]

It cannot be denied, that she deserves her splendid reputation. Any one of her works, says a French critic, would make a man famous; and they are unquestionably marked by all the characteristics of an independent and observant mind. But it is her life that best justifies her renown—her life with its purity, its enthusiasm, its zeal for the oppressed, its intense love of knowledge, its vivid sympathies and broad charities, and its constant striving after truth and freedom, and the highest beauty.


[1] A pseudonym derived from the ancient name of the Danube—Ister.

[2] The chief of which are: "La Vie Monastique dans l'Eglise Orientale," 1855; "La Suisse Allemande," 1856; "Les Héros de la Roumanie;" "Les Roumains et la Papauté" (in Italian); "Excursions en Roumélie et en Morée," 1863; "Les Femmes de l'Orient," 1858; "Les Femmes d'Occident;" "Les Femmes, par une Femme," 1865.

[3] See the princess's "La Suisse Allemande et l'Ascension du Mönch." 4 vols., 1856.

[Pg 48]


A French writer observes, that in an age like ours, when firm convictions and settled beliefs are rare, it is no small satisfaction to have to record a career like that of the Princess of Belgiojoso—a career specially illustrious, because, above all things, honourable. But truly great minds, to paraphrase some words of Georges Sand, are always good minds.

The princess's chief titles to distinction are as a vigorous writer and a liberal thinker; she did not qualify herself for a place among great female travellers until unhappy events exiled her from her country.

Christina Trivulzia, Princess of Belgiojoso, was born on the 28th of June, 1808. At the early age of sixteen she was married to the Prince Emile de Barbian de Belgiojoso. She died in 1871.

Passionately devoted to the cause of a "free Italy," she was unable to live under the heavy yoke of the Austrian supremacy, and hastened to establish herself at Paris, where her rank, her fortune, her love of letters[Pg 49] and the arts, and the boldness of her political opinions, made her the attraction of the highest society. She formed an intimate acquaintance with numerous great writers and celebrated statesmen, particularly of Mignet and Augustin Thierry, whose daily diminishing liberalism she rapidly and boldly outstripped. In 1848 she plunged with all the ardour of an enthusiastic nature—a child of the warm South—into that wild revolutionary movement which swept over almost every country in Europe, rolling from the Alps to the Carpathians, from Paris to Berlin. She hastened to Milan, which had expelled its Austrian garrison, and at her own expense equipped two hundred horse, whom she led against the enemy. But Italy was not then united; she was not strong enough to encounter her oppressor; the bayonets of Radetzky re-imposed the Austrian domination; the princess was compelled to fly, and her estates were confiscated.

During the insurrectionary fever at Rome, in 1849, she fearlessly made her way into the very midst of the fighting-men, and in her own person directed the ambulances. Her love of freedom and her humanity were rewarded by banishment from the territories of the Church. As she could nowhere in Italy hope for a secure resting-place, she resolved to reside for the future in the East, and, repairing to Constantinople, she founded there a benevolent institution for the daughters of emigrants.

But in a short time she withdrew from European Turkey,[Pg 50] and at Osmandjik, near Sinope, laid the foundations of a model farm. In 1850 she published in a French journal, the National, her memorials of Veile; and as a relief to the stir and unrest of politics, she wrote, in the following year, her "Notions d'Histoire à l'usage des Enfants" (1851). The narrative of her journey in Asia Minor appeared at a later date in the well-known pages of the Revue des deux Mondes.

Having recovered possession of her estates, thanks to the amnesty proclaimed by the Emperor Francis Joseph, she sought in literary labour a field for the activity of her restless intellect. Balzac points to that great female artist and republican, the Duchess of San-Severins, in Stendhal's "La Chartreuse de Parme," as a portrait of the princess. Whether this be so or not, she was assuredly one of the most conspicuous and original figures of the time.

Her chief title to literary reputation rests upon her "Études sur l'Asie-Mineure et sur les Turcs." In reference to these luminous and eloquent sketches, a critic says: "I have read many works descriptive of Mussulman manners, but have never met with one which gave so exact and full an idea of Oriental life." But in the princess's writings we must not seek for those richly coloured pictures, those highly decorative paintings in which style plays the principal part—pictures composed for effect, and entirely indifferent to accuracy of detail or truth of composition. She never seeks to dazzle or beguile the reader; her language is direct and vigorous[Pg 51] and full of vitality because it always embodies the truth.

No one has shown a juster appreciation of that strange Eastern institution, the harem, though it is no easy thing to form a clear and impartial judgment upon a system so alien to Western ideas and revolting to Christian morality. A vast amount of unprofitable rhetoric has been expended upon this subject. Let us turn to the princess's discriminative statement of facts.

After explaining the many points of contrast between the people of the East and the people of the West, she continues:—

"Of all the virtues held in repute by Christian society, hospitality is the only one which the Mussulmans think themselves bound to practise. Where duties are few, it is natural they should be greatly respected. The Orientals, therefore, have recognized in its highest form this sole and unique virtue, this solitary constraint which they have agreed to impose upon themselves.

"Unfortunately, every virtue which is content with appearances is subject to sudden changes. This is what has happened—is happening to-day—in respect of Oriental hospitality. A Mussulman will never be consoled for having failed to observe the laws of hospitality. Take possession of his house; turn him out of it; leave him to stand in the rain or sun at his own door; plunder his store-rooms; use up his supplies of coffee and brandy; upset and pile one upon another his carpets, his mattresses, his cushions; break his crystal; ride his horses, and even[Pg 52] founder them if it seems good to you—he will not utter a word of reproach, for you are a monzapi, a guest,—it is Allah himself who has sent you, and whatever you do, you are and will ever be welcome. All this is admirable; but if a Mussulman finds the means of appearing as hospitable as laws and customs require, without sacrificing an obolus, or even while gaining a large sum of money, fie upon virtue, and long live hypocrisy! And such is the case ninety-nine times out of a hundred. Your host overwhelms you while you sojourn beneath his roof; but if at your departure you do not pay him twenty times the value of what he has given you, he will wait until you have crossed his threshold, and consequently doffed your sacred title of monzapi, to throw stones at you.

"It goes without saying that I speak of the rude multitude, and not of the simple honest hearts who love the good because they find it pleasant, and practise it because in practising it they taste a secret enjoyment. My old mufti of a Tcherkess is one of these. His house, like all good houses in Eastern countries, consists of an inner division reserved for women and children, and an outer pavilion, containing a summer-saloon, and a winter-saloon, with one or two rooms for servants. The winter-saloon is a pretty apartment heated by a good stove, covered with thick carpets, and passably furnished with silken and woollen divans arranged all round the apartment.

"As for the furniture of the summer-saloon, it consists of a leaping, shining fountain in the centre, to which[Pg 53] are added, when circumstances require it, cushions and mattresses on which to sit or recline. There are neither windows, nor doors, nor any kind of barrier, between the exterior and the interior. My old mufti, who, at the age of ninety, possesses numerous wives, the oldest of whom is only thirty, and children of all ages, from the baby of six months, up to the sexagenarian, professes the repugnance of good taste for the noise, disorder, and uncleanness of the harem. He repairs there every day, as he goes to his stable to see and admire his horses; but he dwells and he sleeps, according to the season, in one or other of the saloons. The good fellow understood that if long habit had not rendered the inconveniences of the harem tolerable to himself, it would be still worse for me, freshly disembarked from that land of enchantments and refinements which men here call 'Franguistan.' So at the outset he informed me that he would not relegate me to that region of obscurity and confusion, smoke and infection, named the harem, but would give up to me his own apartment. I accepted it with gratitude. As for himself, he took up his abode in the summer-saloon. Though it was the end of January, and snow was deep on the ground, both in town and country, he preferred his frozen fountain, his damp pavement and draughts of air, to the hot, but unwholesome, atmosphere of the harem.

"Perhaps I destroy a few illusions, in speaking of the harem with so little respect. We have all read of it in 'The Thousand and One Nights,' and other Oriental[Pg 54] stories; we have been told that it is the dwelling-place of Love and Beauty; we are authorized to believe that the written descriptions, though exaggerated and embellished, are nevertheless founded upon reality, and that in this mysterious retreat are to be found all the marvels of luxury, art, magnificence and pleasure. How far from the truth! Picture to yourself walls black and full of chinks, wooden ceilings, split in many places and dark with dust and spiders' webs, sofas torn and greasy, door-hangings in tatters, traces of oil and candle-grease everywhere. When for the first time I set foot in one of these supposed charming nooks, I was shocked; but the mistresses of the house detected nothing. Their persons are in harmony with the surroundings. Mirrors being very rare, the women bedizen themselves with tinsel, the bizarre effect of which they have no means of appreciating.

"They stick a number of diamond pins and other precious stones in the handkerchiefs of printed cotton which they twist around their head. To their hair they pay no attention, and none but the great ladies who have resided in the capital have any combs. As for the many-coloured ointment which they use so immoderately, they can regulate its application only by consulting one another, and as the women occupying the same house are all rivals, they willingly encourage one another in the most grotesque daubs of colouring. They put vermilion on the lips, rouge on the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin, white anywhere to fill up,[Pg 55] blue round the eyes and under the nose. But strangest of all is the manner in which they tint the eyebrows. They have undoubtedly been told that, to be beautiful, the eyebrow should form a well-defined arch, and hence they have concluded that the greater the arch the greater will be the beauty, without asking if the place of that arch were not irrevocably fixed by nature. Such being the case, they give up to their eyebrows the whole space between the temples, and paint the forehead with two wide arches, which, starting from the origin of the nose, extend, one on each side, as far as the temple. Some eccentric beauties prefer the straight line to the curve, and describe a great streak of black all across the forehead; but they are few in number.

"Most deplorable is the influence of this painting when combined with the sloth and uncleanness natural to the women of the East. Each feminine countenance is a work of high art that cannot be reconstructed every morning. It is the same with the hands and feet, which, variegated with orange, fear the action of water as injurious to their beauty. The multitude of children and servants, especially of negresses, who people the harems, and the footing of equality on which mistresses and attendants live, are also aggravating causes of the general uncleanliness. I shall not speak of the children—everybody knows their manners and customs—but consider for a moment what would become of our pretty European furniture if our cooks and maids-of-all-work rested from their labours on our settees and fauteuils,[Pg 56] with their feet on our carpets, and their back against our hangings. Remember, too, that glass windows in Asia are still but curiosities; that most of the windows are filled up with oiled paper, and that where corn-paper is scarce the windows are blocked up, and light enters only by the chimney—light more than sufficient for the inmates to drink and smoke by and to apply the whip to refractory children—the only occupations during the day of the mortal houris of faithful Mussulmans. Let not the reader suppose, however, that an Egyptian darkness prevails in these windowless apartments. The houses being all of one story, the chimneys being very wide and not rising above the level of the roof, it often happens that by stooping a little in front of the chimney-place you see the sky through the opening. What these apartments are really deficient in is air; but the ladies are far from making any complaint. Naturally chilly, and having no means of warming themselves by exercise, they remain for hours at a time huddled on the ground before the fire, and cannot understand that a visitor is almost choked by the atmosphere. If anything recalls to my mind these artificial caverns, crowded with tattered women and noisy children, I feel ready to faint."

The princess does not, on the whole, speak unfavourably of the Turkish character. Perhaps the reader would judge it more severely; but still the consensus of the best authorities supports the view[Pg 57] taken by the princess, and it is the governing-class, rather than the masses, that seems to justify the general dislike. Of Turkish officials it would be difficult, perhaps, to say anything too severe; the ordinary Turk, however, has many good qualities, which need only the stimulus of good government for their happy development. As to the governing-class, their vices are the natural result of the corruption of the harems, and until these are reformed, it is useless to expect any elevation of the low moral standard which now unfortunately prevails among the pashas.

The Turkish people, if less enlightened than other European nations, are not without qualities that demand recognition. They are temperate, hospitable, and orderly. They are faithful husbands and good wives.

The Turkish peasant is at once father, husband, and lover to his wife, whom he never contradicts willingly and knowingly, and there is little to which he will not submit in the depth of his affection for her.

In these climates, and under the influence of coarse and unwholesome food, the woman ages early; whereas the man, better constituted to endure fatigue and privation, preserves his vigour almost to the last unimpaired. Nothing is more common here than to see an old man of eighty and odd surrounded by little children who are his flesh and bone. In spite of this disproportion between man and woman, the union, contracted almost in childhood, is only dissolved by death. The Princess de Belgiojoso tells us that she has[Pg 58] seen hideous, decrepit, and infirm women tenderly cared for and adored by handsome old men, straight as the mountain pine, with beard silvered but long and thick, and eyes bright, clear, and serene.

One day, our traveller met an old woman, blind and paralytic, whom her husband brought to her in the hope that the princess would restore her sight and power of movement.

The woman was seated astride an ass, which her husband led by the bridle. On arriving, he took her in his arms, deposited her on a bench near the door, and installed her on a heap of cushions with all the solicitude of a mother for her child.

"You ought to be very fond of your husband," said the princess to the blind woman.

"I should like to be able to see clearly," answered she. The princess looked at the husband, he smiled sadly, but without any shadow of ill-will.

"Poor woman," he remarked, passing the back of his hand over his eyes, "her blindness renders her very unhappy. She cannot accustom herself to it But you will give her back her sight, will you not, Bessadée?"

As the Princess Christina shook her head, and began to protest her powerlessness, he plucked the skirt of her robe and made her a sign to be silent.

"Have you any children?"

"Alas! I had one, but he died a long time ago."

"And how is it you have not taken another wife, as[Pg 59] your law allows—a strong and healthy woman who might have brought you children?"

"Ah, that is easily said; but this poor creature would have been sadly vexed, and then I could not have been happy with another, not even if she had brought me children. You see, Bessadée, we cannot have everything in this world. I have a wife whom I have loved for nearly forty years, and I shall make no second choice."

The man who spoke thus was a Turk. His wife was as much his property as a piece of furniture; none of his neighbours would have blamed, no law would have punished him, if he had got rid by any violent means of his useless burden. Happily, the character of the Turkish people neutralizes much of what is pernicious and odious in their customs and creed. They possess at bottom a wonderful quality of goodness, of gentleness, of simplicity, a remarkable instinct of reverence for that which is good and beautiful, of respect for that which is weak. This instinct has resisted, and will, let us hope, continue to resist, the influence of injurious institutions founded exclusively upon individual selfishness and the right of the strong hand. If you would understand the mildness and the serenity which are natural to the Turk, you must observe the peasant among his fields, or at the market, or on the threshold of a café. Seedtime and harvest, the price of grain, the condition of his family—these are the invariable topics of his simple childlike conversation. He never raises his voice in anger, never lets drop a pleasantry which might wound or even fatigue[Pg 60] his companions, never indulges in those profanities and indecencies unhappily too common in the speech of the lower orders in European countries. This admirable reticence, this nobility and simplicity of manner, do they owe it to education? Not at all; it is the gift of nature. In some respects nature has been very liberal to the Turkish people; but all the gifts she has bestowed upon them, their institutions tend to debase and invalidate. And in proportion as we carry our observations above the classes which so happily preserve their primitive characteristics, to the bourgeoisie, or into regions higher still, so shall we find the growth and development of vice; it extends, predominates, and finally reigns alone.

The peculiar interest and permanent value of the writings of the Princess de Belgiojoso are due to the fact that they owe nothing to received ideas. Moreover, she indulges in no conjectures regarding the subjects she takes up, she has investigated them carefully, and understands them thoroughly. In each page of her work upon Turkey we meet with calm statements of established facts which overthrow the speculations and fancies too often found in works of great popularity from the pen of distinguished writers. It is the truth she speaks; and her influence is all the greater because she makes no effort to convince or impose upon her readers; she writes gravely and deliberately, without passion and without imagination.[Pg 61]

A few facts from the princess's pages will not be without interest for the reader, at a time when "the unspeakable Turk" is the object of so much public discussion.

"Passing through one of the streets of Pera (the European suburb), I was arrested by a score of persons grouped round a gavas (a kind of civic guard) who was endeavouring to persuade a negress to be conducted to the palace where she was expected, and where, he told her, she would meet with all the pleasures imaginable. The negress answered only with sobs, and the cry, 'Kill me rather!' The gavas resumed his enthusiastic and fanciful descriptions of the good bed, the good cheer, the fine clothes, the pipe always alight, the floods of coffee, all the delights which would convert this prison into a complete paradise. For half-an-hour I listened to the discussion, and when I went on my way no decision had been arrived at. I asked a kind of valet de place who accompanied me, why the gavas lost his time in attempting to convince the negress, instead of forcibly conveying her to her destination. 'A woman!' was his answer, completely scandalized by my question, and I began to suspect that the Turks were not such brutes as they are popularly supposed to be in Europe."

"The following anecdote also relates to my residence at Constantinople. A woman, a Marseillaise by birth[Pg 62] but married to a Mussulman, was engaged in a law-suit on some matter which I have forgotten; but I know that her adversaries grounded their hopes and pretensions on a document which they had placed in the judge's hands. Informed of this circumstance, the Marseillaise repaired to the Cadi, and begged him to acquaint her with its contents. Nothing could be more reasonable. The Cadi took the paper, and prepared to read it to her; but he had scarcely perched his glasses on his nose when the lady leaped forward, sprang at his throat, seized the paper, put it in her pocket, made her obeisance, and calmly passed out through the vestibule, which was filled with slaves and servants. The Marseillaise defied her opponents to produce any written document in their favour, and she won her cause. When this story was told to me, I remarked that the judge must have been bribed by the Marseillaise, since nothing could have been easier for him than, if he wished it, to have her arrested by his guards, and deprived of the paper which she had carried off with so much audacity. Again I received the answer: 'But she was a woman!'"

Among female travellers the Princess of Belgiojoso must hold an honourable place, in virtue of the accuracy of her observation and the clearness of her judgment. Moreover, she is always impartial: she has no preconceived theories to support, and consequently she is at liberty neither to extenuate nor set down aught in malice. In picturesqueness of description she has been excelled[Pg 63] by many, in soberness and correctness of statement by none; and, after all, it is more important that our travellers should tell us what they have really seen, than what they would have wished to see; should trust to their intelligence as observers rather than to their fancy as poets.

Note on the Harem, or Harum.—It is curious to compare with the princess's disillusionizing account of a harem, such a poetical and romantic description as the following, in which it becomes a bower of beauty, tenanted by an Oriental Venus:—

"The lady of the harum—couched gracefully on a rich Persian carpet strewn with soft billowy cushions—is as rich a picture as admiration ever gazed on. Her eyes, if not as dangerous to the heart as those of our country, where the sunshine of intellect gleams through a heaven of blue, are, nevertheless, perfect in their kind, and at least as dangerous to the senses. Languid, yet full, brimful of life; dark, yet very lustrous; liquid, yet clear as stars; they are compared by their poets to the shape of the almond and the bright timidness of the gazelle. The face is delicately oval, and its shape is set off by the gold-fringed turban, the most becoming head-dress in the world; the long, black, silken tresses are braided from the forehead, and hang wavily on each side of the face, falling behind in a glossy cataract, that[Pg 64] sparkles with such golden drops as might have glittered upon Danaë, after the Olympian shower. A light tunic of pink or pale blue crape is covered with a long silk robe, open at the bosom, and buttoned thence downward to the delicately slippered little feet, that peep daintily from beneath the full silken trousers. Round the loins, rather than the waist, a cashmere shawl is loosely wrapt as a girdle, and an embroidered jacket, or a large silk robe with loose open sleeves, completes the costume. Nor is the fragrant water-pipe, with its long variegated serpent, and its jewelled mouth-piece, any detraction from the portrait.

"Picture to yourself one of Eve's brightest daughters, in Eve's own loving land. The woman-dealer has found among the mountains that perfection in a living form which Praxiteles scarcely realized, when inspired fancy wrought out its ideal in marble. Silken scarfs, as richly coloured and as airy as the rainbow, wreathe her round, from the snowy breast to the finely rounded limbs half buried in billowy cushions; the attitude is the very poetry of repose, languid it may be, but glowing life thrills beneath that flower-soft exterior, from the varying cheek and flashing eye, to the henna-dyed taper fingers, that capriciously play with her rosary of beads. The blaze of sunshine is round her kiosk, but she sits in the softened shadow so dear to the painter's eye. And so she dreams away the warm hours in such a calm of thought within, and sight or sound without, that she starts when the gold-fish gleam in[Pg 65] the fountain, or the breeze-ruffled roses shed a leaf upon her bosom."—Eliot Warburton, "The Crescent and the Cross," etc. etc.

As European gentlemen are never admitted to the harem, it is hardly credible that Major Warburton could have had an opportunity of seeing the beauty which he paints in such glowing colours.

[Pg 66]



Not only as a persevering and enlightened traveller, but as a poet, Madame Hommaire de Hell has gained distinction. It is in the former capacity that she claims a place in these pages.

She was born at Artois, in 1819. While she was still an infant, her mother died; but it was her good fortune to find in the love of an only sister no inadequate substitute for maternal affection. Her father seems to have been one of those individuals whom Fortune tosses to and fro with pertinacious ill-humour; moreover, he had something of the nomad in his temperament, and without any real or sufficient motive, moved from place to place, entailing upon his young family sudden and burdensome journeys. Before Adela was seven years old, she had been carried from Franche-Comté into the Bourbonnais, thence into Auvergne, and thence to Paris. She was afterwards placed in a boarding-school at Saint-Maudé,[Pg 67] but her father's death restored her to her sister's guardianship at Saint-Etienne.

A short time after her arrival in this town, she attracted the attention of Xavier Hommaire de Hell, since so justly celebrated as a traveller and a scientist. He fell passionately in love with her, and though she was but fifteen years of age, and had no fortune, he rested not until his family gave their consent to his marriage.

To provide for his child-wife he obtained an office in the railway administration, but only temporarily, for already he had made up his mind to seek fortune and reputation in some foreign country. He pushed his solicitations with so much energy that, in the first year of his wedded life, he secured an appointment under the Turkish Government. His wife, to whom a child had just been given, was unable to accompany him. The pain of separation was very great, but both knew that in France there was no present opening for his talents, and both were agreed that their separation should not be for long. And, indeed, before the end of the year, Madame de Hell clasped her babe to her bosom, and set out to join her husband.

Her poetical faculties were first stimulated by her voyage to the East. Previously she had cherished a deep love for nature, for the music of verse, for nobility of thought, but had made no attempt to define and record her impressions. The isles and shores of the Mediterranean,[Pg 68] with their myriad charms and grand historic associations:—

"That great mid-sea that moans with memories,"[4]

loosened her genius, so to speak, and stimulated her to clothe her feelings and sentiments in a metrical form. It is not difficult to understand the effect which, on a warm imagination and sensitive temperament, that richly-coloured panorama of "the isles of Greece," and that exquisite prospect of Constantinople and the Golden Horn, would necessarily produce. For some time, as she herself tells us, she lived in a kind of moral and intellectual intoxication; she was absorbed in an ideal world, which bewildered while it delighted her.

The plague was then dealing heavily with the unfortunate Mussulman populations, but it did not terrify our enthusiastic travellers; as if they bore a charmed life, they went to and fro, seeing whatever was fine or memorable, and yet all unable to satisfy that thirst for beauty which the beautiful around them had excited. Madame de Hell was under the influence of a subtle spell; her quick fancy was profoundly impressed by the picturesque aspects of Oriental life, by its glow of colour and grace of form, so different from the commonplace and monotonous realities of the West. She seemed to be living in the old days of the Khalifs—those days which the authors of the "Thousand and One Stories"[Pg 69] have immortalized—to be living, for example, in the "golden prime of good Haroun Al-Raschid"—as she saw before her the motley procession of veiled women, Persians with their pointed bonnets, Hindu jugglers with lithe lissom figures, negro slaves, grey-bearded beggars looking like princes in disguise, and Armenians wrapped in their long furred cloaks. She delighted, accompanied by her husband, to explore the silent recesses of the hilly and almost solitary streets in the less frequented quarters of Stamboul, where a latticed window or a half-open door would suggest a romance of love and mystery, or a vision of some gorgeous palace interior, of

"Carven cedarn doors,
Flung inward over spangled floors,
Broad basëd flights of marble stairs,
Run up with golden balustrade."

When Madame de Hell visited the East, it was considered dangerous for Franks to venture into the streets of Constantinople, and they occupied only the suburbs of Pera and Galata, which were exclusively made over to the Christian population, and separated from the Mussulman city by the arm of the sea known as the Golden Horn. And as in those days, which were long before the introduction of Mr. Cook's "personally conducted tours," tourists were few, the presence of a "giaour" in the Mohammedan quarter was an extraordinary event. Those who should have fallen in with our two young adventurers, their eager gaze roving everywhere in quest[Pg 70] of new discoveries, strolling hither and thither like two children out for a holiday, would never for one moment have supposed that a terrible pestilence was raging through the city, and nowhere more fatally than in the very districts they had chosen for their explorations. But perhaps the danger from disease was not so imminent as the peril they incurred in penetrating into the chosen territory of Islam. Fortune favoured them, however, or their frank bearing disarmed fanaticism, and they escaped without molestation or even insult.

As Monsieur and Madame de Hell resided for a year in Constantinople, it is needless to say they remained long enough for the glamour to disappear, in which at first their lively imaginations had invested everything around them. The gorgeous visions vanished, and their eyes were opened to the hard realities of Mohammedan ignorance, bigotry and misgovernment. They learned, perhaps, that the order and freedom of Western civilization are infinitely more valuable than the picturesqueness of Oriental society. In 1838 they set out for Odessa, where Monsieur de Hell hoped to obtain a position worthy of his talents. The future of the young couple rested wholly on a letter of recommendation to General Potier, by whom they were warmly welcomed. The general, who owned a large estate in the neighbourhood, where he cultivated a famous breed of Merino sheep, had formed a project for erecting mills upon the Dnieper. To carry it out he needed an engineer, and in M. Hommaire de Hell he found one. Straightway they[Pg 71] proceeded to his estate at Kherson, and M. de Hell set to work on the necessary plans. While thus engaged, he conceived the idea of a scientific expedition to the Caspian Sea—a basin of which little was then known to our geographers—and this idea held him so firmly that, a few months later, he gave up his employment in order to realize it. In one of his excursions to the cataracts of the Dnieper, where the mills were to be erected, his geological knowledge led him to the discovery of the rich veins of an iron mine, which has since been profitably worked.

"This period of my life," wrote Madame de Hell, afterwards, "spent in the midst of the steppes, remote from any town, appears to me now in so calm, tender, and serene a light, that the slightest memorial of it moves me profoundly. Only to see the shore where we passed whole days in seeking for shells, only to hear the sound of the great waves rolling on the sandbanks and among the seaweed, only to recall a single one of the impressions of that happy epoch, I would willingly repeat the voyage."

For his great scientific expedition, M. de Hell made vigorous preparations during the winter of 1838, and having obtained from Count Vorontzov, the governor of New Russia, strong letters of recommendation to the governors and officials of the provinces he would have to traverse, he and his wife started in the middle of May, 1839, accompanied by a Cossack, and an excellent[Pg 72] dragoman, who spoke all the dialects current in Southern Russia.

Their journey through the country of the Don Cossacks we shall pass over, as offering nothing of special novelty or interest, and take up Madame de Hell's narrative at the point of her arrival on the banks of the Volga.

"A dull white line," she says, "scarcely perceptible through the gloom, announced the presence of the great river. We followed its course all night, catching a glimpse of it from time to time by the faint glimmer of the stars, and by the lights of the fishermen's lanterns flashing here and there along its banks. There was an originality in the scene that strongly affected the imagination. Those numerous lights, flitting from point to point, were like the will-o'-the-wisps that beguile the belated traveller; and then the Kalmuk encampments with their black masses that seemed to glide over the surface of the steppe, the darkness of the night, the speed with which our troika (set of three) carried us over the boundless plain, the shrill tinkle of the horse-bells, and, above all, the knowledge that we were in the land of the Kalmuks, wrought us up to a state of nervous excitement that made us see everything in the hues of fancy.

"At daybreak our eyes were turned eagerly towards the Volga, that flashed in the glories of the morning sky. From the elevation we had reached we could survey the whole country; and it may easily be conceived[Pg 73] with what admiration we gazed upon the calm majestic river, and on its multitude of islands, fringed with aspen and alder. On the other side, the steppes, where the Kirghiz and Kalmuks encamp, extended as far as the eye could reach, till limited by a horizon as smooth and uniform as that of the ocean. It would be difficult to imagine a grander picture, or one more entirely in harmony with the ideas evoked by the Volga, to which its course of upwards of six hundred leagues assigns the foremost place among European rivers."

At the outset of her journey, Madame de Hell had exclaimed: "What happiness it is to escape from the prosaic details of every-day life, from social obligations, from the dull routine of habit, to take one's flight towards the almost unknown shores of the Caspian! It is strange, but it proves that my vocation is that of tourist, that what would daunt the majority of women is really what charms me most in the forecast of this journey."

Assuredly, the details of every-day life were left behind when the courageous lady embarked upon the Volga, and set out for the famous city of Astrakhan. All around her was new and strange, and each day, each hour, brought before her eager mind some fresh subject of speculation. She paid a visit to a Kalmuk prince, Prince Tumene, and found herself in the midst of a new world. The prince's palace was built, she says, in the Chinese style, and pleasantly situated on[Pg 74] the green side of a gentle slope, about one hundred feet from the Volga. Its numerous galleries afforded views over every part of the island on which the palace was situated, and commanded a long reach of the shining river. From one angle the eye looked down on a mass of foliage embosoming the glittering cupola and the golden ball above. Beautiful meadows, studded with clumps of trees, and highly cultivated fields, spread out their verdure to the left of the palace, and formed a succession of landscapes, like pictures in a panorama. The whole was enlivened by the figures of Kalmuk horsemen galloping to and fro, of camels wandering here and there through the rich pastures, and officers conveying the orders of their chief from tent to tent. The spectacle was imposing; various in its details, but harmonious as a whole.

Madame de Hell was invited to visit the prince's sister-in-law, who, during the summer season, resided in her kibitka in preference to the palace. The curtain at the threshold of the pavilion having been raised, she was ushered into a spacious room, lighted from above, and draped with red damask, the reflection from which shed a glowing tint on every object; the floor was covered with a rich Turkey carpet, and the air was heavy with perfumes. In this rosy light and balmy atmosphere was seated the princess, on a low platform at the further end of the tent, dressed in shining robes and motionless as an idol. Around her, crouching on their heels, were arranged some twenty women in full dress. Having allowed[Pg 75] Madame de Hell a few minutes to admire her, the princess slowly descended the steps of the platform, approached with a dignified bearing, took her by the hand, embraced her affectionately, and led her to the seat she had just vacated. Through the medium of an Armenian interpreter a brief conversation followed, after which she made signs that dancing should begin. One of the ladies of honour then rose and performed a few steps, turning slowly upon herself; while another, who remained seated, drew forth from a balalaika (an Oriental guitar) certain doleful sounds, ill-adapted to the movements of a dancer. Nor were the attitudes and movements of her companion so much those of the dance as of the pantomime. There was evidently a meaning in them, though Madame de Hell could not unravel it. The young figurante frequently extended her arms and threw herself on her knees, as if in invocation of some unseen power.

The performance lasted for some considerable time, and Madame de Hell had ample opportunity of scrutinizing the princess, and of coming to the conclusion that her high reputation for beauty was not undeserved. Her figure was imposing and well-proportioned. The lips, beautifully arched and closing over pearly teeth; the countenance, expressive of great sweetness; the skin, of a brownish tint, but exquisitely delicate, would entitle her to be considered a very handsome woman, even in France, if the outline of her face and the arrangement of her features—the[Pg 76] oblique eyes, the prominent cheek-bones—had been less pronouncedly Kalmuk.

A word as to her costume. Over a costly robe of Persian stuff, laced all over with silver, she wore a light silk tunic, open in front, and descending only to the knee. The high corsage was quite flat, and glittered with silver embroidery and fine pearls that covered every seam. Round her neck she wore a white cambric habit-shirt, in shape not unlike a man's collar (forty years ago), and fastened in front by a diamond button. Her luxuriant deep black hair fell over her bosom in two magnificent and remarkably long tresses. A yellow cap, edged with rich fur, and fashioned like the square cap of a French judge, was set jauntily on the crown of her head. But in her costume the two articles that most surprised Madame de Hell were an embroidered cambric handkerchief and a pair of black mittens, significant proofs that the products of the French loom found their way even to the toilet of a Kalmuk lady. Among the princess's ornaments must not be forgotten a large gold chain, which, after being twisted round her glossy tresses, was passed through her gold earrings and then allowed to fall upon her bosom.

Madame de Hell was afterwards entertained with a specimen of Kalmuk horsemanship. The moment she came out into the open, five or six mounted men, armed with long lassoes, rushed into the middle of the taboon, or herd of horses, collected for the purpose, keeping their[Pg 77] eyes constantly on the princess's son, Madame de Hell's companion, who was to point out the animal they should seize.

At the signal, they immediately galloped forward and noosed a young horse with long dishevelled mane, whose dilated eyes and smoking nostrils revealed his inexpressible terror. A lightly clad Kalmuk, who followed them a-foot, sprang instantly upon the stallion, cut the thongs that were throttling him, and engaged with him in a contest of incredible agility and daring. It would scarcely be possible for any spectacle more vividly to affect the mind than that now presented to Madame de Hell's astonished gaze. Sometimes rider and horse rolled together on the grass, sometimes they shot through the air with arrowy speed, and then suddenly halted as if a wall had sprung up before them. All at once the impetuous animal would crawl on its belly, or rear in a manner that made the spectators shriek with terror, then, plunging forward in a mad gallop, he would dash through the startled herd, seeking by every possible means to rid himself of his unaccustomed burden.

But this exercise, violent and perilous as it looked to Europeans, seemed but sport to the Kalmuk, whose body followed every movement of the animal with so much suppleness, that one might have supposed both steed and rider to be animated by the same thought. The sweat poured in profuse streams from the stallion's flanks, and he trembled in every limb. As for the rider, his coolness would have put to shame the most[Pg 78] accomplished horseman in Europe. In the most critical moments he contrived so far to retain his self-command as to wave his arms in token of triumph; and, in spite of the passion and temper of his untrained steed, held sufficient control over it to keep it always within the circle of the spectators' vision. At a signal from the prince, two horsemen, who had remained as close as possible to the daring centaur, seized him with astonishing swiftness, and galloped away with him before those who looked on could understand the new manœuvre. The horse, for a moment stupefied, soon darted away at full speed and was lost in the midst of the herd. This exploit was several times repeated, and always without the rider suffering himself to be thrown.

Madame de Hell's account of the Kalmuks is, on the whole, very favourable, while it shows how closely she studied their manners and customs, and the habits of their daily life. As to physical details, she says that the Kalmuks have eyes set obliquely, with eyelids little opened, scanty black eyebrows, noses deeply depressed near the forehead, prominent cheek bones, spare beards, thin moustaches, and a brownish-yellow skin. The lips of the men are thick and fleshy, but the women, particularly those of the higher classes—the "white bones," as they are called—have heart-shaped mouths of more than ordinary beauty. All have great ears, projecting strongly from the head, and their hair is invariably black.[Pg 79]

The Kalmuks are generally small, but with well-rounded figures and an easy carriage. Very few deformed persons are seen among them; for, with the wisdom of nature, they leave the development of their children's frames unchecked, nor, indeed, do they put any garments upon them until they reach the age of nine or ten. No sooner can they walk than they mount on horseback, and address themselves vigorously to wrestling and riding, the chief amusements of the tribes.

Like all who dwell upon vast plains, they enjoy an exceedingly keen sight. An hour after sunset they can distinguish a camel at a distance of upwards of three miles. Madame de Hell tells us that often when she could see nothing but a point on the horizon, they would clearly make out a horseman armed with lance and gun. They have also an extraordinary faculty for tracing their way through the pathless wildernesses. Without any apparent landmarks they would traverse hundreds of miles with their flocks, and never deviate from the right course.

The costume of the common Kalmuks exhibits no decided peculiarity, apart from the cap, which is invariably of yellow cloth trimmed with black lambskin, and is worn by both sexes. Madame de Hell seems inclined to think that some superstitious notions are connected with it, from the difficulty she experienced in procuring a specimen. The trousers are wide and open below. The well-to-do Kalmuks wear two long tunics, one of which is fastened round the waist, but the usual[Pg 80] dress consists only of trousers and a jacket of skin with tight sleeves. The men shave a part of their heads, and the rest of the hair is collected into a single cluster, which hangs down on the shoulders. The women wear two tresses, which is really the sole visible distinction of their sex. The princes have adopted the Circassian costume, or the uniform of the Astrakhan Cossacks, to which body some of them belong. The ordinary chaussure is red boots with very high heels and generally much too short. The Kalmuks have almost as great a partiality for small feet as the Chinese, and, as they are constantly on horseback, their short boots cause them no great inconvenience. But for these reasons they are very bad pedestrians, their "cribbed, cabined, and confined" foot-gear obliges them to walk on their toes; and their distress is great when they have no horse to mount.

Like all pastoral people, the Kalmuks live frugally, because their wants are few, and their nomadic life is unfavourable to the growth of a liking for luxuries. They live chiefly upon milk and butter, with tea for their favourite beverage. Their bill of fare also includes meat, and particularly horse-flesh, which they prefer to any other, but they do not eat it raw, as some writers have pretended. As for cereals, which Europeans value so highly, their use is scarcely known; it is at rare intervals only that some of them buy bread or oatcake from the neighbouring Russians. Their mode of preparing tea would not commend itself to the denizens of[Pg 81] Mayfair. It comes to them from China in the shape of very hard bricks, composed of the leaves and coarsest portions of the plant. After boiling it for a considerable time in water, they add milk, butter, and salt. The infusion then acquires consistency, and a dull red colour. "We tasted the beverage," says Madame de Hell, "at Prince Tumene's, but must confess it was perfectly detestable.... They say, however, that one easily gets accustomed to it, and eventually learns to think it delicious. It has, however, one good quality. By strongly stimulating perspiration it serves as an excellent preservative against the effect of sudden chills. The Kalmuks drink it out of round shallow little wooden vessels, to which they often attach a very high value. I have seen several," adds our traveller, "which were priced at two or three horses. They are generally made of roots brought from Asia. It is scarcely necessary to say that the Kalmuks know nothing of tea-kettles, and make their beverage in large iron pots. Next to tea, they love spirituous liquors. From mare's milk or ass's milk they manufacture a kind of brandy; but as it is a very feeble stimulant, they eagerly seek after Russian liquors; and therefore, to prevent the fatal consequences of their mania, the government has forbidden the establishment of any dram-shops among their hordes. The women crave the deadly liquor no less ardently than the men, but are so closely watched by their lords and masters that they have few opportunities of indulging the taste."

Among the Kalmuks, as among most Oriental peoples,[Pg 82] the stronger sex looks with contempt upon all household matters, abandoning them entirely to the women; who work and take charge of the children, keep the tents in order, make up the garments and furs of the family, and attend to the cattle. The men hardly condescend to groom their horses; they hunt, drink tea or brandy, doze about upon felts, and smoke or sleep. Add to their daily occupations, if such they can be called, their joining in occasional games, such as chess and knuckle-bones, and you have a complete picture of the existence—we will not say life—of a Kalmuk paterfamilias. At their laborious days, however, the women never repine; they are accustomed to the burden, and bear it cheerfully; but they age very early, and after a few years of wedlock, not only lose their good looks, but acquire a coarseness of feature and a robustness of figure which make it exceedingly difficult to distinguish them from men. Nor is the difficulty lessened by the fact that the costume of both sexes is closely alike.

At Astrakhan the most dangerous as well as the most arduous part of the expedition of our two travellers began. They were compelled to carry provisions with them, if they did not wish to perish of hunger on the steppes. An escort was therefore necessary, and the Russian governor selected for the post one of his best officers; a young man famed for his skill as a hunter, and as the happy owner of a falcon from which he would never separate. Satisfied with providing so competent a purveyor, the governor, in presenting him to the[Pg 83] travellers, said; "Now my conscience is at rest! I give you a brave soldier to protect you, and a travelling companion who will take care that you are not starved to death in the desert."

From Astrakhan they pushed forward to Vladimirofka, a town on the Kuma, which they entered with a good deal of pomp and circumstance. A britchka, drawn by three camels, and carrying Monsieur and Madame de Hell, led the van; then came a troop of four or five Cossacks, armed to the teeth, and several Kalmuks guiding a train of camels loaded with baggage. The Cossack officer, with falcon on wrist, and his long rifle slung behind him, rode by the side of the carriage, ready, with Muscovite precision, to transmit orders to the escort, and gallop off at the slightest signal; whilst the dragoman lolled on the box-seat with a fine air of contemptuous indifference to everything around him. After a few days' rest and refreshment, they resumed their journey, advancing rapidly towards the Caucasus, of which the highest summit, Mount Elburz, from time to time afforded them a glimpse of its lofty head, which was almost always shrouded in mist, as if to conceal it from the profane gaze. Tradition avows that Noah's dove alighted on its peak, and plucked thence the mystic branch which has ever since been hallowed as symbolic of peace and hope.

"We were now," writes Madame de Hell, "in an enchanted region, though but just beyond the verge of the steppes. The faint lines that chequered the sky[Pg 84] gradually assumed a greater distinctness of form and colour; at first the mountains seemed so many light, transparent vapours, floating upon the wind; but by degrees the airy vision developed into forest-crowned mountains, deep shadowy gorges, and domes clothed with mists. Our minds were almost overwhelmed with a multitude of emotions, excited by the prodigal nature before us, the magnificent vegetation, and the various hues of forest and mountain, peak, crag, ravine, and snowy summits. It was beautiful, superbly beautiful, and then it was the Caucasus! The Caucasus—a name associated with so many grand historic memories, with the earliest traditions and most fabulous creeds—the abode, in the world's grey morning, of the races whence have sprung so many famous nations. Around it hangs all the vague poetry of the ages, visible only to the imagination through the mysterious veil of antiquity."

At Georgief they rested on the threshold of the Caucasus. Thence they proceeded to Piatigorsk, celebrated for its mineral waters. On the road they fell in with a troop of Circassians. "I shall never forget," says Madame de Hell, "the glances which they flung on our Cossacks as they passed by, though it was only in looks they durst manifest the hatred that seethed in their hearts against everything Russian. They were all fully armed. Beneath their black bourkas glittered the sheen of their pistols and their damasked poniards. I confess their appearance pleased me most when they were just[Pg 85] vanishing from sight on the summit of a hill, where their martial figures were outlined against the sky. Seeing them through the mist, I began to think of Ossian's heroes."

Piatigorsk is not so much a town as a pleasant cluster of country-houses, inhabited for some months of the year by a rich aristocracy. All about it is gay and pretty, and everywhere are those signs of affluence which the Russian nobles love to see around them. Nothing offends the eye; nothing touches the heart; there are no poor, no squalid huts, no indication of the wretchedness of poverty. It is a terrestrial Elysium, where great ladies and princes, courtiers and generals, look out upon none but agreeable images, selected from all that is charming in art and nature. Thermal springs are found on most of the surrounding heights, and the works that afford access to them do credit to the skill of the Russian engineers and the liberality of the Russian government. On one of the loftiest peaks rises an octagonal building, consisting of a cupola resting upon slender shapely columns, which are encircled at their base by a graceful balustrade. The interior, open on all sides, contains an Æolian harp, the melancholy notes of which, blending with all the mountain echoes, descend softly to the valley.

The route of our travellers, after quitting Piatigorsk, lay along the broad deep valley of the Pod Kouwa, which, on the right, is bounded by rocks piled one upon another, like billows suddenly petrified, and bearing[Pg 86] witness to some great upheaval in the past; on the left, tier after tier of richly wooded mountains rise gradually to the majestic chain of the Kazbek. Eventually the road leaves the valley, at a point where it has become very narrow, and traverses a long sinuous ledge, parallel with the course of the torrent, until it begins to enter the mountains. Here the miry soil through which their horses had laboured with much difficulty, and the grey sky, and the moist atmosphere that had hitherto accompanied them, were at once exchanged for a dry air, cold, dust, and sunshine. This sudden contrast is a phenomenon peculiar to elevated regions.

Madame de Hell was strongly impressed by the wild picturesque character of the scenery of this part of the Caucasus. At certain intervals, conical mounds of earth, about sixty feet high, stood conspicuous—watch towers, where sentinels are stationed day and night. Their outlines, sharply marked against the sky, produce a curious and striking effect amidst the profound solitude. The sight of these Cossacks, with muskets shouldered, pacing up and down the small platform on the summit of each eminence, conveyed to the spectator's mind a knowledge of the rapid advance which Russian civilization had made into this remote region.

It was mid-October, but vegetation still retained its freshness. The steep mountain sides were covered with rich greenswards, which afforded abundant pasture for the scattered flocks of goats. Their keepers, clothed in sheepskins, and carrying, instead of the traditional[Pg 87] crook, long guns slung across their shoulders, with two or three powder and ball cases at their waists, seemed in strange contrast to the pastoral sentiment of the landscape. Gigantic eagles, roused from their eyries, swept with heavy wing from crag to crag, the monarchs of these solitudes. Here our travellers really looked out upon those features of the Caspian wilderness on which their imaginations had so often dwelt.

Of the Circassian inhabitants of this mountain region, before they were completely subjugated by the despotism of the white Czar, Madame de Hell furnishes a graphic account. Bred amid the sights and sounds of war they went always well armed, carrying a rifle, a sabre, a long dagger, which they wore in front, and a pistol in the belt. Their picturesque costume consisted of tight pantaloons, and a short tunic, which was belted round the waist, and had cartridge pockets worked on the breast; a round laced cap, encircled with a black or white border of long-wooled sheepskin, formed their head-gear. In cold or rainy weather, they wore a bashlik, or hood, and a bourka, or cloak, of impervious felt. They were bold and skilful riders, and their horses, though small, were remarkable for spirit and endurance. It is well known that a Circassian horseman would cover twenty-five or even thirty leagues of ground in a night. When pursued by the Russians, they would leap the most rapid torrents. If their steeds were young, and unaccustomed to such perilous exploits, they would gallop them up to the brink of the ravine, cover the head with their bourkas,[Pg 88] and then dash, almost always without mishap, down precipices from twenty to fifty feet in depth.

It is unnecessary to dwell on their address in the use of fire-arms and of their two-edged daggers. Armed only with the latter weapon, they were often known, during their long and heroic struggle for independence, to leap their horses over the Muscovite bayonets, stab the soldiers, and break up and put to flight their serried battalions. When surrounded in their forts or villages, and shut out from all hope of escape, they frequently sacrificed their wives and children—like the Jews in the last agonies of their war with Rome—set fire to their dwellings, and perished heroically in the flames. With true Oriental devotedness they stand by their dead and wounded to the last extremity, and fight with the most dogged courage to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Madame de Hell is not disposed to endorse the reputation for beauty which so many writers have agreed in bestowing upon the Circassian women. She considers them even inferior, physically, to the men. "It is true," she says, "we were unable to visit any of the great centres of population, or to travel amongst the independent tribes, but we saw several aouls on the banks of the Kouban, and were entertained in a princely family, and nowhere did we meet with any of those surpassing beauties whom more fortunate travellers have celebrated." What she did observe in those daughters of the mountains was the elegance of their shape and the[Pg 89] natural grace of their movements. A Circassian woman is never awkward. Dressed in rags or in brocade, she never fails to assume, spontaneously and without thought of display, the most graceful and picturesque attitudes. "In this respect," says Madame de Hell, "she is unquestionably superior to the highest efforts of fascination which Parisian art can achieve."

A visit to the family of a Circassian prince "at home" is thus narrated by our travellers:

The dwelling was a wretched mud hut, in front of which, on a mat, lay the prince in his shirt, and barefooted. He received his visitors very hospitably, and after the usual courtesies proceeded to make his toilette. He sent for his finest garments and costliest "leg gear," girded on his weapons, and then led the way into his "interior," which was as bare and unfurnished as any Connemara peasant's cabin, the only objects visible being a saddle, a few vessels, and a divan covered with reed matting. His guests having rested for a few minutes, the prince introduced them to his wife and daughter, who had been apprised of their arrival, and were anxious to see them.

These ladies occupied a hut of their own, consisting, like the prince's, of a single room. They rose at the entrance of their visitors, and saluted them with much grace; then, motioning them to be seated, the mother sat down in the Turkish fashion on her divan, while her daughter reclined against the couch on which the strangers had taken their places. They, when the reception[Pg 90] was over, remarked with surprise that the prince had not crossed the threshold, but had simply put his head in at the door to answer their questions and converse with his wife. The explanation afforded was, that a Circassian officer cannot, consistently with honour, enter his wife's apartment during the day, and it seems that in all families with the slightest pretension to distinction this rule is rigorously observed.

A greater appearance of comfort was observable in the princess's apartment than in her husband's, as might well be the case. It contained two large divans, the silk cushions of which were gay with gold and silver embroidery, carpets of painted felt, several trunks, and a very pretty work-basket. A small Russian mirror and the prince's armorial trophies formed the decoration of the walls. But the floor was not boarded, the walls were rough plastered, and the only provision for light and air were two little holes furnished with shutters. The princess, a woman apparently between five-and-thirty and forty years of age, was by no means fitted to sustain the Circassian reputation for beauty. Her dress had a character of its own: under a brocaded pelisse, with short sleeves and laced seams, she wore a silk chemise, which displayed more of the bosom than European notions of decorum would approve. A velvet cap, trimmed with silver, smooth plaits of hair, cut heart-shape on the forehead, a white veil falling from the top of the head and covering over the bosom, and finally, a red shawl thrown carelessly over the lap—voilà tout! As[Pg 91] for the daughter, she was charming. She wore a white robe fastened round the waist by a red kazavek. Her features were delicate; she had a complexion of exquisite fairness, revealing the play of "the pure and eloquent blood" which "spoke in her cheek, and so distinctly wrought that one might almost say her body thought;" and a profusion of glossy raven tresses escaped from under her cap.

Beyond all praise was the geniality of the two ladies. About the country of their visitors, their calling, and the objects of their journey, they put a thousand questions. The European costume, and especially the straw hats, interested them greatly. Yet there was a certain air of coldness and impassiveness about them, and not once did the princess smile, until a long curtain accidentally fell, and shut her out for a moment from her guests. After a short but rapid conversation the visitors asked the princess's permission to take her portrait and sketch the interior of her abode. She offered no objection. When the drawings were finished, a collation was served, consisting of fruits and cheese-cakes. In the evening, the strangers took their leave, and, on coming out of the hut, they found all the inhabitants of the aoul assembled to witness their departure and do them honour.

We must resume our narrative of Madame de Hell's journey. On their way to Stavropol, they experienced a mountain-storm, one of the grandest and most terrible[Pg 92] they had ever witnessed. The roar of the thunder, repeated by every echo in cavern and ravine, mingled with the groaning and jarring of the great trees, with the loud gusts of the furious wind, with all those mysterious voices of the tempest which come we know not whence, but deeply stir the heart, and have so potent a harmony and such a sublimity and force of sound that the least superstitious mind involuntarily awaits some supernatural manifestation, some message from the other world. We have ourselves listened to a storm in a Highland glen—the wind sweeping down the rugged declivities with terrible impetuosity, and the thunder-peals reverberating from peak to peak, while the clouds

"From many a horrid rift abortive poured
Fierce rain with lightning mixed, water with fire,"

until the sense of an eerie and mysterious Presence has forced itself upon our mind, and we have been able to understand the emotions in which originated the visions of wraith and phantom of the bards of old. Our travellers, however, passed through the gale unhurt. A tremendous outburst of rain, the final effort of the tempest, cleared the sky, which towards the west was gradually lighted up with gleams of purple light, contrasting gloriously with the darkness of the rest of the firmament. A gorgeous rainbow, one foot of which rested on the highest peak of the Caucasus, while the other was enveloped in the mists of evening, rose before them for a few moments, like an image of hope, and then slowly faded into thin[Pg 93] air. At length they reached the station, but in an unpleasant condition—wet, weary, dazed, and not a little surprised to find themselves safe and sound after the adventures of the day.

Descending the last spurs of the Caucasus, our travellers next day entered upon the region of the plains. The road was thronged with vehicles of all kinds, horsemen, and pedestrians, all hurrying to the great fair of Stavropol, and every variety of type which characterizes the peoples of the Caucasus: Circassians, Cossacks, Turcomans, Tartars, Georgians—some in brilliant costumes, caracolling on their high-bred Persian horses, others huddled up with their families in hide-covered carts, others again driving before them immense herds of sheep and swine, and others gravely leading a train of loaded camels. Madame de Hell particularly noticed a handsome young Circassian, mounted on a richly caparisoned horse, who rode constantly by the side of an unusually elegant pavosk (a kind of litter), the curtains of which were kept down. This carriage stimulated her curiosity, and, in such a country, was well adapted to suggest to a lively fancy the outlines of a romance. No doubt, she thought, the pavosk contained a young and beautiful Circassian, whose charms would fascinate some Oriental prince, and place a queen's diadem upon her brow. At an inn, in Stavropol, Madame de Hell again fell in with the Circassian and his mysterious charge, but the latter was veiled from head to foot[Pg 94] "The young mountaineer," she says, "prepared a divan with cushions and pillows very like our own, and, a few moments afterwards, returned, carrying in his arms a woman completely shrouded in her veil; he placed her very delicately upon the divan, and seated himself by her side with every mark of tenderness. Occasionally he lifted the young girl's veil to question her in the most respectful manner. The whole scene was invested with a poetic charm which I vainly endeavour to express. In the attitudes, the costume, the physiognomy of this little group, there was an Oriental grace which would have impressed a painter. Not only was the picture pleasant to the eye, but it was suggestive to the imagination. Unfortunately, the delightful vision disappeared like a dream. A few minutes, and in came our host in search of the mysterious couple, to conduct them to a private apartment. Infinite precautions were taken in the removal of the unknown lady, who seemed to be on the brink of the grave. Next morning we questioned our host in reference to the incident, but he replied very vaguely, and all we could gather was, that the young girl had come to Stavropol to consult a famous physician respecting her condition, which offered but little hope. We could gain no information from them as to the relations existing between her and the young chief, the moral causes of her malady, or, in a word, the interesting part of the story."


[4] George Eliot.

[Pg 95]



From Stavropol, a pleasant and lively town, the capital of the Caucasus, our travellers journeyed toward the Don with singular rapidity, accomplishing the distance of 316 versts,[5] in two-and-twenty hours. They ate and slept in their carriage, and did not alight until they reached the river-side, where every kind of tribulation lay in wait for them. Madame de Hell would afterwards remark on the strange tenacity with which ill-luck adheres to us when it has overtaken us. At ten o'clock at night, when they were still at some distance from the Don, they were informed that the bridge across it was in a dangerous condition, and that probably they would be compelled to wait till the next day before they could cross. For such a delay they were unprepared, having calculated on a good supper and a good bed that night under a friendly roof in Rostov. Another reason for haste was the change in[Pg 96] the weather, which had suddenly turned cold; so, disregarding the information given them, they continued to push forward until they reached the bridge. There the signs of its insecure condition were too numerous to be denied. Several carts stood unyoked, and peasants lay beside them, calmly waiting for daylight. Then was repeated the bad news which had already discouraged our travellers, and it seemed clear that they would have to spend some hours in the britchka, exposed to the chill night air, while, once on the other side, they could reach Rostov in a couple of hours.

So influential a consideration carried the day. They would not halt; they would cross the bridge—though not without taking all due precautions. Alighting from the carriage, they allowed it to go forward, the coachman driving slowly, while the Cossack, with his lantern, pointed out all the dangerous places. "I do not think," says Madame de Hell, "that in the whole course of my travels we were ever in so alarming a situation. The danger was urgent and real. The cracking of the woodwork, the darkness, the noise of waters dashing through the decayed floor that bent and trembled under their tread, and the cries of alarm uttered every moment by the coachman and the Cossack might well have filled us with apprehension; yet I do not think that the thought of death ever occurred, or, rather, my mind was too confused to formulate any thought at all. Frequently the wheels sank between the broken planks, and these were moments of terrible anxiety; but at last, by dint of[Pg 97] patient effort, we reached the opposite bank in safety, after a passage of more than an hour. I could not have held out much longer; the water on the bridge was over our ankles. The reader will understand with what satisfaction we again took our places in the carriage. We were then better able to realize the nature of the perils we had incurred, and for a moment almost doubted our actual safety. For awhile we seemed to hear the dash of the waters breaking against the bridge; but this feeling was soon dispelled by others—the night's adventures were by no means at an end.

"At some versts from the Don," continues Madame de Hell, "our unlucky star threw us into the hands of a drunken driver, who, after losing his way, and jolting us over ditches and ploughed fields, actually brought us back in sight of the dreadful bridge, the thought of which still made us shudder. We would fain have persuaded ourselves that we were mistaken, but the truth was beyond dispute; there before us rolled the Don, and yonder stood Axai, the village through which we had passed after reseating ourselves in the britchka. Conceive our indignation at having floundered about for two hours only to find ourselves again at our point of departure! The sole resource we could think of was to pass the night in a peasant's cabin, but our abominable coachman, whom the sight of the river had suddenly sobered, and, perhaps, the fear of a sound thrashing, threw himself on his knees, and so earnestly implored us to try the road again, that we consented. The difficulty[Pg 98] was, how to get back into the road, and many a false start was made before we effected it. In crossing a ditch the carriage was so violently shaken, that the coachman and our dragoman were thrown from their seats, the latter falling upon the pole in such a way that he was not easily extricated. His cries for help, and his grimaces when my husband and the Cossack had set him on his feet, were so desperate, that one might have supposed half his bones to be broken, though, in reality, he had sustained only a few bruises. As for the yemshik, he picked himself up very composedly, and climbed into his seat again as if nothing unusual had befallen him. From the quiet way in which he resumed the reins, one might have thought that he had just risen from a bed of roses; such is the uniform apathy of the Russian peasant!"

They spent a week with their friends at Taganrog, and thence proceeded to Odessa, the great commercial entrepôt of the Euxine. In one night the grim blasts of the Ural had swept away all that October had spared. The weather was still sunny when they arrived on the shores of the Sea of Azov; but next day the sky wore that sombre chilly hue which always precedes the metels, or snow-storms. All nature seemed to be prepared for the reception of winter—that eternal ruler of the North. Its advent was indicated by the thin ice-crust that covered the beach, the harsh winds, the frost bound soil, and the increasing lurid gloom of the atmosphere; symptoms which made our travellers apprehensive of possible suffering on their road to Odessa, their intended[Pg 99] winter-quarters, whence they were distant about 900 versts.

It was indeed the worst season for travelling in Russia. Travellers have good reason to fear the first snows, which, as they are not firm enough to bear a sledge, are almost every year the cause of many accidents. The winds, too, at this season are excessively violent, and raise the drifts in terrific whirling snow-storms, which threaten the destruction of the traveller. Madame de Hell and her husband, however, accomplished their journey in safety, though not without enduring considerable pain and anxiety. Nothing can be more awful than the snowy wastes they were compelled to traverse, swept and ravaged as they were by furious blasts. All trace of man's existence—all trace of human labour—is buried beneath the great cold white billows, which lie heaped upon one another, like breakers on a stormy coast.

Madame de Hell and her husband spent the winter at Odessa; and in the following May departed on a visit to the Crimea, on board a brig belonging to the consul of the Netherlands. Their voyage was short, but it was not unmarked by incident, by sea-sickness and sudden squalls, by calm moonlit nights, by something of all the pain and pleasure of the sea. At sunrise on the second morning, the voyagers first caught sight of the coast of that gloomy peninsula which the ancients stigmatized as inhospitable, in allusion to the cruel custom of its inhabitants to massacre every stranger whose ill-fortune led him thither.[Pg 100] The woes of Orestes, as depicted by the Greek poet, have for ever made the Tauris famous. Who does not remember the painful beauty of that grand sad drama, in which the vengeful cries of the Furies seem to echo along this wild and desert shore? As soon as Madame de Hell could distinguish the line of rocks that traced the vague horizon, she began to look for Cape Partheniké, the traditional site of the altar of the goddess, to whom the young priestess Iphigenia was on the point of sacrificing her brother. Assisted by the captain, she at length descried on a rocky headland a solitary chapel, dedicated, she was told, to the Virgin Mother. "What a contrast," she naturally remarks, "between the gentle worship of Mary and that of the sanguinary Taura, who was not content with the mariners' prayers and offerings, but demanded human victims!"

All this part of the coast is barren and bleak; a barrier of rock seems to shut out the stranger from the celebrated peninsula which warlike nations have ravaged and commercial nations coveted. Richly gifted by Nature's liberal hand, it has always been an object of desire to the people of Europe and Asia. Pastoral races have lusted after its green mountain ranges; commercial nations have striven to gain possession of its ports and straits; warrior tribes have pitched their tents in its fertile valleys; and all have craved a foothold in that land to which cling so many glorious memories of the Greek civilization. But in the eighteenth century the contention came to an end, at least so far as political[Pg 101] observers can determine, for ages, and under the rule of the Russian Czar, the Crimea has long enjoyed a profound tranquillity.[6]

"So that," as Mr. Kinglake puts it, "the peninsula which divides the Euxine from the Sea of Azov was an almost forgotten land, lying out of the chief paths of merchants and travellers, and far away from all the capital cities of Christendom. Rarely went thither any one from Paris, or Vienna, or Berlin; to reach it from London was a harder task than to cross the Atlantic; and a man of office receiving in this distant province his orders despatched from St. Petersburg, was the servant of masters who governed him from a distance of a thousand miles.

"Along the course of the little rivers which seamed the ground, there were villages and narrow belts of tilled land, with gardens and fruitful vineyards; but for the most part this neglected Crim-Tartary was a wilderness of steppe or of mountain-range, much clothed towards the west with tall stiff grasses, and the stems of a fragrant herb like southernwood. The bulk of the people were of Tartar descent, but no longer what they had been in the days when nations trembled at the coming of the Golden Horde; and although they yet hold to the Moslem faith, their religion has lost its warlike fire. Blessed with a dispensation from military service, and far away from the accustomed battle-fields of Europe and[Pg 102] Asia, they lived in quiet, knowing little of war except what tradition could faintly carry down from old times in low monotonous chants. In their husbandry they were more governed by the habits of their ancestors than by the nature of the land which had once fed the people of Athens, for they neglected tillage and clung to pastoral life. Watching flocks and herds, they used to remain on the knolls very still for long hours together, and when they moved, they strode over the hills in their slow-flowing robes with something of the forlorn majesty of peasants descended from warriors."[7]

Into this secluded and remote peninsula Madame de Hell and her husband carried their rare powers of observation and description. They landed at Balaklava, since so famous in the annals of the British army, for it was there that "the thin red line" resisted unmoved all the fury and force of the Muscovite hosts. Its appearance from the sea is very attractive, for its port is surrounded with mountains, the highest of which still retains a memorial of the old Genoese dominion, while in part of its blue expanse lies the pretty Greek town, with its balconied houses and masses of foliage rising in terraces one above the other. Above it towers a ruined castle, whence the Genoese, in their days of supremacy, scanned with vulture-gaze the sweep of sea, prepared to[Pg 103] pounce upon any hapless vessel wind-driven into these waters. It was Sunday when our travellers arrived, and the whole population were holiday making on the green shore or greener heights. Groups of mariners, Arnaouts in their quaint costume, and girls as graceful of shape as those who of old joined in the choric dances of Cytherea, wound their way up the steep path to the fortress, or tripped in mirthful measures to the shrill music of a balalaika.

The day after their arrival at Balaklava they undertook a boating excursion to explore the geological formation of the coast, and landed in a delightful little cove, embowered amid flowering trees and shrubs. On their return the boatmen decked themselves and their boat with wreaths of hawthorn and blossoming apple sprays, so that they entered the harbour with much festal pomp. In her poetic enthusiasm, Madame de Hell, as she gazed upon the cloudless sky and the calm blue sea and the Greek mariners, who thus, on a foreign shore, and after the lapse of so many centuries, retained the graceful customs of their ancestors, could not but be reminded of the deputations that were wont every year to enter the Piræus, the prows of their vessels bright with festoons of flowers, to share in the gorgeous festivals of Athens.

From Balaklava the travellers proceeded to Sevastopol, of which Madame de Hell supplies an excellent description, necessarily rendered valueless, however, by[Pg 104] the events of the Crimean war. She speaks of its harbour as one of the most remarkable in Europe. It owes all its excellence to Nature, which has here, without assistance from the science of the engineer, provided a magnificent roadstead, the branches of which form a number of basins admirably adapted for the requirements of a great naval station. The whole expanse of this noble harbour is commanded from the upper part of the town. The roadstead first catches the eye; it stretches east and west, penetrates inland to a depth of four miles and three-quarters, with a mean breadth of 1,000 yards; and forms the channel of communication between Sevastopol and the interior of the peninsula. The northern shore is girt by a line of cliffs; the southern shore, broken up by numerous natural basins. To the east, at the very foot of the hill on which the town stands, lies South Bay, nearly two miles in length, and completely sheltered by high limestone cliffs. Beyond lies the dockyard, and the dock, which is of great extent; and to the west may be seen Artillery Bay.

In spite of the historical interest which now attaches to Sevastopol, as the scene of the crowning struggle between Russia and the Western Powers, the most remarkable place in the Chersonese is Bagtche Serai, "that ancient city which, prior to the Muscovite conquest of the peninsula, might compete in wealth and power with the great cities of the East." Beautiful exceedingly is the approach to it, by a road running parallel with a chain of heights, and clothed with luxuriant orchards,[Pg 105] studded with village and farm, and brightened by the sheen of brooks. Owing to an ukase of Catherine II., which allowed the Tartars to keep possession of their ancient capital, Bagtche Serai retains to this day its individuality of aspect. It is neither modernized nor Russianized. Sauntering through its narrow streets, and looking upon its mosques, shops, and cemeteries, the traveller feels that the atmosphere of the East is around him. And amid the courts and gardens of the old palace he may well believe himself transported to an "interior" in Bagdad or Aleppo.

This palace has been celebrated by the muse of Pushkin, the Russian poet; in fine, it is not possible to do justice to its charms, which seem to have powerfully impressed our traveller's susceptible imagination. "It is no easy task," she exclaims, "to describe the magic of this superb and mysterious abode, wherein the voluptuous Khans forgot the trials and sorrows of life: I cannot do it, as in the case of one of our Western palaces, by analyzing the style, the arrangement, and the details of its splendid architecture, by deciphering the idea of the artist in the regularity, grace, and simplicity of the noble edifice. All this may easily be understood or described, but one needs something of the poet's heart and brain to appreciate an Oriental palace, the attraction of which lies not in what one sees, but in what one feels (and imagines?). I have heard persons speak very contemptuously of Bagtche Serai. 'How' they ask, 'can any one apply the name of palace to that cluster of[Pg 106] wooden houses, daubed with coarse paintings, and furnished only with divans and carpets?' From this point of view they are right. The positive cast of their minds prevents them from seeing the beautiful in aught but costly material, well-defined forms, and highly-polished workmanship: hence, to them Bagtche Serai must be a mere group of shabby huts adorned with paltry ornaments, and fit only for the habitation of miserable Tartars."

To this order of minds, however, Madame de Hell, as we have had abundant opportunities of observing, did not belong, and Bagtche Serai has justice done to it at her hands.

The Serai, or palace, is situated in the centre of the town; it is enclosed within walls and a moat, and fills the heart of a valley, which is surrounded by irregular heights. Entering the principal court you find yourself in the shade of flowering lilacs and tall poplars, and on your ear falls the murmur of a fountain, which sings its monotonous song beneath the willows. The palace, properly so called, displays externally the usual irregularity of Oriental architecture, but its want of symmetry is forgotten by him who surveys its broad colonnades, its bright decorations, its fantastic pavilions, and sheltering groves. As for the interior, it is a page out of the "Arabian Nights." In the first hall is the celebrated Fountain of Tears, to which Pushkin has dedicated a beautiful lyric. It derives its pathetic name from the sweet sad murmur of its pearly drops as they fall upon the marble basin. The[Pg 107] sombre and mysterious aspect of the hall stimulates the tendency in the mind of the visitor to forget reality for the dreams of the imagination. The foot falls noiselessly upon soft Egyptian mats: the walls are blazoned with sentences from the Koran, written in gold on a black ground in those fantastic Turkish characters which seem better adapted to express the vagaries of a poetical fancy than to become the vehicles of sober thought.

From the hall we pass into a large reception-salon, where a double row of windows of richly stained glass represent a variety of rural scenes. Ceiling and doors are richly gilded; the workmanship of the latter is exquisite. Broad divans, resplendent with crimson velvet, run all round the room. In the centre a fountain springs from a basin of porphyry. In this room everything is magnificent, but its effect is neutralized by the curious fashion in which the walls are painted, their surface being covered with the inventions of a prolific fancy in the shape of castles and harbours, bridges, rivers, islands—all crowded together with a sublime disregard for perspective—while in niches above the doors are collected all kinds of children's toys, such as wooden dolls' houses, fruit-trees, models of ships, and little figures of men writhing in a thousand contortions. These interesting objects were accumulated by one of the last of the Khans, who would shut himself up every day in this room in order to admire them. "Such childishness," as Madame de Hell remarks, "so common among the Orientals, would induce us to form an unfavourable[Pg 108] opinion of their intelligence, were it not redeemed by their innate love of beauty and their genuine poetic sentiment. We may forgive the Khans the strange devices on their walls in consideration of the silvery fall of the shining fountain and the adjoining garden with its wealth of bloom."

The hall of the divan is of regal magnificence; the mouldings of the ceiling, in particular, are of exquisite delicacy. But every room has in it many evidences of the wealth and taste of its former occupants, and all are adorned with fountains, and the glow and gleam of colour. Not the least interesting is that which belonged to the beautiful Countess Potocki. It was her ill fate to inspire with a violent passion one of the last of the Crimean Khans, who carried her off and made her absolute queen and mistress of his palace, in which she lived for ten years, struggling between her love for an infidel, and the penitence that brought her prematurely to the grave. "The thought of her unhappy fortune," says Madame de Hell, "invested everything we beheld with a magic charm. The Russian officer, who acted as our cicerone, pointed out to us a cross carved above the mantel-piece of the bedroom. The mystic symbol, placed above a crescent, eloquently interpreted the condition of a life divided between love and grief. What tears, what conflicts of the heart and mind had it not beheld!"

The travellers passed through a succession of gardens and walled enclosures, in the course of their inspection[Pg 109] of the various pavilions, kiosks, and buildings comprised within the precincts of the palace. To the one occupied by the harem has appropriately been given the name of "The Little Valley of Roses." It is a beautiful rose-bower, which echoes divinely with the sound of falling waters and the song of the nightingales.

A tower of considerable altitude, with a terrace fronted with gratings that can be raised or lowered at will, overlooks the principal court. It was erected to enable the inmates of the harem to watch, unseen, the martial exercises that were practised there. The prospect from the terrace, embracing a bird's-eye view of the labyrinth of buildings, gardens, and other enclosures, is very lovely. It includes a panorama of the town as it rises, tier upon tier, against the background of the sloping hills. The various voices of the town collected and reverberated within the limited space, are heard distinctly, especially at hush of eve, when the summons to prayer from every minaret mingles with the bleating of the weary flocks, and the cries of the shepherds returning from their pastures.

Before Madame de Hell quitted the Chersonese, she paid a visit to Karolez, a mountain village belonging to the Princess Adel Bey, who received her visitors with admirable courtesy.

"The guest-house was prepared with the ostentation which the Orientals are fond of displaying on all occasions. A double row of servants of all ages was[Pg 110] drawn up in the vestibule when my husband and I dismounted; and one of the eldest and also the most sumptuously attired, introduced us into a saloon arranged in Oriental fashion, with brightly painted walls and red silk divans. The son of the princess, a charming boy of twelve, who spoke Russian fluently, attached himself to us, politely translated our orders to the servants, and was careful that we should want for nothing. I gave him my letter of introduction, which he immediately carried to his mother, and soon afterwards, returning, he told me, to my great delight, that she would receive me when she had completed her toilette. In my eager curiosity I now counted every minute, until an officer followed by an aged female, veiled, came to usher me into the mysterious palace of which, as yet, I had seen only the lofty outer wall.

"My husband, as we had preconcerted, attempted to follow us, and, no impediment being offered, unceremoniously passed through the little door into the park, crossed the latter, boldly ascended a terrace adjoining the palace, and at last found himself—much surprised at his extraordinary good fortune—in a little room that seemed one of the princess's private apartments. Hitherto no male stranger except Count Worontzov, had entered the palace; the flattering and unlooked-for exception which the princess had made in my husband's favour, induced us to hope that she would carry her complaisance still further. We were soon undeceived. The officer who had acted as our guide, after offering us iced[Pg 111] water, sweetmeats, and pipes, took my husband by the hand, and conducted him from the room with significant celerity. As soon as he had disappeared, a curtain was raised at the other end of the apartment, and a strikingly beautiful woman, richly clad, made her entry. Advancing with a singularly dignified air, she took both my hands, kissed me on both cheeks, and with many friendly demonstrations sat down by my side. She was highly rouged, her eyelids were painted black and met over the nose, communicating to her countenance a certain sternness, that, nevertheless, did not impair its agreeable character. To her still elegant figure fitted closely a vest of furred velvet. Altogether she was far more beautiful than I had imagined.

"We passed a quarter of an hour in close examination of each other, interchanging as well as we could a few Russian words which very inadequately expressed our thoughts. But in such cases, looks supply the deficiencies of speech, and mine must have expressed the admiration I felt. Hers, I own, in all humility, seemed to indicate much more surprise at, than approval of, my travelling costume. What would I not have given to know the result of her purely feminine analysis of my appearance! In this tête-à-tête I felt an inward twinge of conscience at having presented myself before her in male attire, which must have given her a strange idea of European fashions.

"I would fain have prolonged my visit in the hope of seeing her daughters, but the fear of appearing intrusive[Pg 112] prompted me to take my leave. Checking me with a very graceful gesture, she said eagerly, 'Pastoy! Pastoy!' (Stay, stay!) and clapped her hands several times. At the signal a young girl entered, who, by her mistress's orders, threw open a folding door, and immediately I was silent with surprise and admiration at the brilliant apparition before me. Let the reader imagine the most beautiful sultanas, or 'lights of the harem,' of whom poet and artist have endeavoured to give the presentment, and his conception will still fall far short of the enchanting models on whom my gaze rested. Each of these three was as lovely and as graceful as her companions. Two wore tunics of crimson brocade, embellished in front with broad gold lace. The tunics were open and disclosed beneath them cashmere robes, with very tight sleeves terminating in gold fringes. The youngest was attired in a tunic of azure brocade, with silver ornaments; this was the sole difference between her dress and that of her sisters. All these had superb black hair, which escaped in countless tresses from a fez of silver filagree, set like a diadem over their ivory foreheads; they wore gold embroidered slippers and wide trousers drawn close at the ankle.

"Skins of such dazzling purity, eyelashes of such length, a bloom of youth so delicate, I had never before looked upon. The calm repose that breathed from their lovely countenances had never been disturbed by any profane glance. None but their mother had ever told them that they were beautiful; and this reflection[Pg 113] enhanced the charm of their beauty in my eyes. In our Europe, where women, exposed to the gaze of crowds, so quickly learn the art of coquetry, the imagination would not be able to form such a type of loveliness. The features of our maidens are too soon affected by the vivacity of their impressions, for the artist's eye to have any chance of discovering in them that divine grace of beauty and ignorance which so profoundly impressed me in the Tartar princesses. After embracing me they withdrew to the end of the room, where they remained standing in those graceful Oriental attitudes no woman of the West can imitate. A dozen attendants, shrouded in white muslin, were gathered round the door, and regarded the scene with respectful curiosity. This delightful vision lasted an hour. When the princess saw that I had determined on taking my leave, she made signs that I should go and see her garden; but, though gratefully acknowledging the courteous attention, I prepared to rejoin my husband immediately, being impatient to relate to him all the particulars of the interview with which I was completely dazzled."

The Crimea is not without its memorable places. Madame de Hell refers to Parthenit, where still flourishes the great hazel under which the Prince de Ligne wrote to the modern Messalina, Catherine II.; Gaspra, the residence for some years of Madame de Krudener, the beautiful mystic and religious enthusiast who exercised so powerful an influence over the Czar Alexander;[Pg 114] Koreis, the retreat of the Princess Galitzin, the soul of so many strange political intrigues, and afterwards one of the associates of Madame de Krudener, and the small villa on the seashore, near Delta, beneath the roof of which died, in 1823, the soi-disant Countess Guacher, now known to have been none other than the notorious Madame de Lamotte, who figured in the strange romantic history of "The Diamond Necklace," and as an accomplice of Cagliostro was whipped in the Place de Grève, and branded on both shoulders with a V for Voleuse, Thief.[8]

At Soudagh, a valley near Oulou-Ouzon, Madame de Hell visited one of the most remarkable women of her time, Mademoiselle Jacquemart, of whom a long but not wholly accurate biographical sketch appears in the Duc de Raguse's "Excursion en Crimée."

Few women have had a more eccentric career. In her early years her beauty, her wit, and her talents gained her a degree of fame such as rarely attaches to one in the humble position of a governess. From the age of sixteen, when she removed from Paris to St. Petersburg, and entered upon a professional life, she enjoyed an unparalleled social distinction. Suddenly, for no reason apparent to the world at large, she retreated to the Crimea, abandoning everything in which she had hitherto delighted, and voluntarily sentencing herself to[Pg 115] a seclusion which to her, of all women, it might have been thought, would have proved most distasteful. Seeing her in the semi-masculine costume, studying geology, painting, music, and poetry, without the shadow of a pretension, one could not help asking oneself in what mysterious drama her strange existence had been involved. Having been apprised, the day before, of Madame de Hell's intended visit, she hastened to meet her, and received her with an unaffectedly cordial welcome. Her guest could not look at her, however, without a feeling of astonishment. Attired in a long brown petticoat, and a vest which concealed her figure, she wore a manly virile aspect, according thoroughly with the character of the life she had adopted.

Her cottage consisted of a single room on the ground floor, which served as dining-room, drawing-room, and bedroom; it was adorned with a guitar, a violin-case, a collection of animals, art-objects, and arms. The exceeding solitariness of her dwelling exposed her to frequent attacks by night, and hence a brace of pistols always hung at the head of her bed. Her fruit, her poultry, and even her vines suffered from prowling depredators; she was continually on the watch, and especially had to guard against a repetition of the cruel attempt to which on one occasion she nearly fell a victim.

Her account of this affair was as follows:—Two days before it occurred, a Greek applied to her for work and food. The former she was unable to give; the latter she[Pg 116] would never deny. The next day but one, as she was returning in the twilight from a geological excursion, carrying in her hand a small hatchet which she used for breaking stones, she discovered that this man was walking behind her stealthily. Turning to look in his face, she found herself at the same moment grasped round the waist—the hatchet was snatched from her hand—and blow after blow was rained on her head until she fell to the ground in a swoon. When she recovered consciousness, the assassin had disappeared. How she reached home with her skull fractured she never could explain. For months her life was in peril, and her reason trembled in the balance. At the time of Madame de Hell's visit she still suffered acutely from some fragments of a comb that remained in her head.

Remote from the ordinary track as was Mademoiselle Jacquemart's lonely dwelling, many persons were drawn to it by the attraction of her singular story. Not long before, a young and handsome lady, incognita, but evidently of high birth, had spent a whole day there. Her curiosity greatly excited, Mademoiselle Jacquemart said to her on her departure, smilingly, "Queen or shepherdess, leave me your name, that it may always recall to me one of the most delightful souvenirs of my hermit-life."

"Well," replied the unknown, in the same spirit, "pass me your album, and you shall know me as a very sincere admirer of your merit."

She immediately wrote a few lines in the album and[Pg 117] departed in haste, while Mademoiselle Jacquemart was reading the following quatrain, improvised in her honour by the Princess Radzivil:—

"Reine ou bergère je voudrais
Dans ce doux lieu passer ma vie,
Partageant avec vous, amie,
Ou ma cabane ou mon palais."
[Queen or shepherdess, I fain
In this sweet spot my life would spend,
Sharing with thee, gentle friend,
Or palace grand or cottage plain.]

Before quitting the Crimea, Madame de Hell visited another distinguished woman, also a solitary, who, in a terribly tragic scene, had nearly lost her life. The Baroness Axinia lived at Oulou-Ouzon, and this was her story:

She was married at a very early age to a man much older than herself. The ill-assorted union was as unhappy as such unions generally are. The Baroness Axinia was beautiful, and drew around her a crowd of admirers, whose flatteries she did not reject, though it does not appear that she listened to professions of love which could have dishonoured her. In a jealous frenzy, not unnatural in the circumstances, her husband struck her with his dagger, and at the same time killed a young man whom for a long time he had regarded as a friend. The result was an immediate separation. The Baron settled upon her a considerable estate, and, in addition, a handsome income. She had[Pg 118] the consolation, moreover, of being allowed to retain by her side the youngest of her daughters, and thenceforth she resigned herself to a life of solitude, keeping hid within her bosom the secret of her sorrow, her regret, and, perhaps, her remorse.

Ten years passed, and the baroness never crossed the borders of her estate. This self-imposed penance, so rigidly observed, may be accepted, we think, as a sufficient acknowledgment of the errors of her thoughtless youth.

"At our first interview," says Madame de Hell, "she seemed to me a little timid, nay, even wild (sauvage)—a circumstance amply justified by her exceptional position. But, in the course of a few days, this constraint passed away, and a warm intimacy sprang up between us.

"From the first days of my visit, I remarked with lively surprise that our hostess was incessantly assailed by a crowd of pretty tomtits, who pecked at her hair and hands with truly extraordinary familiarity. The baroness, after enjoying my astonishment, told me that two years before she had brought up a couple of tomtits, and given them their liberty; and that, in the following year, the couple returned with their brood, who were easily taught to take their food from the hands of their charming protectress. Other birds soon imitated their example, and thus the beautiful solitary came to represent, undesignedly, one of the most charming creations of Georges Sand, the bird-charmer, in her novel of 'Tévérino.'"[Pg 119]

In one of her walks with Madame de Hell, the baroness conducted her new friend to the scene of the tragic drama which had broken up her life. The house, entirely abandoned by the Baron, was inhabited only by a Tartar, its guardian—a man of wild and gloomy aspect, whom the sight of his mistress seemed to stupefy. While he was opening the doors and windows, which had been kept closed since the fatal catastrophe, a wretched half-starved looking dog, shivering in spite of the sunshine, crawled out of a corner, the wonderful instinct of these animals having made him conscious of the presence of his mistress. The latter, overwhelmed with emotion, burst into tears: "Poor Salghir! poor Salghir!" she cried, and was unable to utter another word.

When she had recovered herself, she turned to Madame de Hell, and bade her observe how the seal of sorrow and forgetfulness was set upon everything. Formerly the very stones of the court had breathed of life, and sunshine, and youth; formerly that poor dog had been bright and well-favoured, and as happy as are all things that are loved. "But now," she exclaimed, "look at these ruins, these crawling mosses; yonder shattered wall, the grass which has obliterated the traces of my footsteps, and agree with me that a kind of curse weighs upon the spot. One feels, one divines that life has been arrested here by one of those fatal crises which involve everything in ruin. Alas, this house is a striking proof of it! It had a youth, a freshness, a coquettishness of its[Pg 120] own, when I was young, and fair, and a coquette; now it is gloomy, dank, degraded...."

"Because you are old and ugly?" said Madame de Hell, smiling, "is not that the logical consequence of your reasoning! But, you see, the first looking-glass would flatly contradict it. Come, in spite of the somewhat greenish hue of our surroundings, look at that soft, gentle, and still youthful countenance, those brilliant eyes, that flowing hair, and tell me if it be all in harmony with the unattractive aspect of the scene before you."

"Oh, undoubtedly I have not yet arrived physically," she answered with a faint smile, "at this degree of old age, but if you could read to the bottom of my heart, you would see it as gloomy and as desolate as these chambers with their want of light and air."

The baroness led her guest into every apartment, explaining the destination of each with feverish volubility. On entering her former bedchamber, she turned pale, and pointed with a gesture to her husband's portrait, separated from her own by an antique clock, the motionless hands of which added to the melancholy of the scene. Madame de Hell bestowed a long gaze on the haughty and sombre countenance of the baron. His rough, strongly-marked features were the very emblem of brutal strength, and she felt herself tremble all over in thinking of what his wife must have suffered in the first years of their union. Her unhappy past seemed almost justified by the hard ferocious countenance of such a husband. As for the[Pg 121] baroness, there was about her portrait a significantly haggard air. "I carried her out," says Madame de Hell, "upon the balcony, where, overcome by her emotions, the influences of the place, and that yearning after sympathy which is so powerful in solitude, she opened her heart to me, and told me a simple but pathetic story of all that she had endured.

"The promise that I would hold sacred the confidences of that shattered heart compels me to leave my narrative imperfect. Two days later I embarked on board the steamer St. Nicholas, gazing with inexpressible regret at the shores of the Tauric peninsula as they gradually blended with the horizon, their broken outline melting finally into the mists of evening."

That Madame de Hell to a habit of close and profound observation, added very remarkable powers of description, will be apparent, we think, from the preceding summary, brief as it necessarily is, of her record of travel in the Caucasus and the Crimea.


[5] A verst is equal to 3,500 feet.

[6] Except when broken by the war of 1855.

[7] A. W. Kinglake: "Invasion of the Crimea," Vol. i., c. 1, 6th edition.

[8] See Carlyle's "Biographical Essays, § Diamond Necklace;" also, H. Vizetelly's "True Story of the Diamond Necklace."

[Pg 122]



Madame de Hell and her husband spent the winter of 1841 at Odessa. Thence, in the following year, they repaired to Moldavia—a country which was just beginning to revive from the barbarism and desolation in which the Turkish rule had so long condemned it to linger. Under the prudent and energetic management of the Aga Assaki, "The Moldavian Bee" and "The Gleaner" announced the resurrection of liberal thought and the patriotic sentiment in literary articles, nearly all signed by Moldavian names and written in the national language.

In the young Princess Morosi, the daughter of the Aga Assaki, afterwards married to Edgar Quinet, Madame de Hell learned to know and love a charming wit and a rare beautiful nature. She studied the French poets with assiduity, and her great ambition was to visit France, little thinking that she would one day become[Pg 123] French by her marriage with the illustrious French writer.

In the Caucasian steppes our traveller's life had been singularly calm and serene; in Moldavia it was agitated and disturbed by mundane occupations, by official receptions, balls, concerts, dinners, the theatre, and the thousand and one responsibilities of social life. Worn and weary with the monotonous round of pretended pleasures, she frequently looked back with regret to the solitudes of the Caspian. Yet the event which delivered her from it was one that caused her a very keen anxiety. Her husband was attacked by one of the malarious fevers of the Danube, and in order to recover his health was compelled to throw up his engagement and return to France, after some years of almost constant travel and exploration.

On their arrival they were received with the welcome earned by their patience of investigation and strenuous pursuit of knowledge. While the young and already celebrated engineer was rewarded with the Cross of the Legion of Honour, his wife, who had shared his labours and his perils, and co-operated with him in the production of his fine work on the Steppes, was honoured with the special attention of M. Villemain, then Minister of State. Shortly after her return she gave to the world a volume of poetry, entitled "Reveries of a Traveller," a work strongly written, thoughtful, and emotional, which has never obtained the reputation it fully deserves.[Pg 124]

In 1846 the two travellers departed on a second expedition to the East, which was cut short by the premature death of M. de Hell. His widow returned to Paris towards the close of 1848, so crushed beneath the calamity that had overthrown her household gods, that, as she has since acknowledged, she never slept without the hope that her sleep might know no waking in this world, but might prove the means of re-uniting her with her beloved husband. However, she was of too clear an intellect and too strong of heart not to recognize that the ties of duty bound her to this world; she had to bring up and educate her children, and to complete and publish the important works her husband had begun. While thus engaged, she contributed several articles on the East to the Presse and numerous other journals. In 1859 she published her own narrative of adventure and travel in the steppes of the Caucasus. Great political changes have occurred since Madame de Hell's visit to that region, which have profoundly affected the character of its people and their social polity; so that her account of it, as well as her account of the Crimea, must be read with the necessary allowances. These, however, will not detract from Madame de Hell's unquestioned merit as a close and exact observer, endowed with no ordinary faculty of polished and incisive expression, and a fine capacity for appreciating and describing the picturesque aspects of nature. She wields a skilful brush with force and freedom; her pictures are always accurate in composition and full of colour.[Pg 125]

Her later years have shown no decay of her resolute and active spirit. She has accomplished a tour in Belgium, another in Italy, a visit to London, and several excursions into the South of France. In 1868 she proceeded to Martinique, where her eldest son had for some years been established. We believe she has published her West Indian experiences and impressions. But we have given up to Madame de Hell as much of our limited space as we can spare, and now take leave of her with the acknowledgment that among modern female travellers she deserves a high rank in virtue of her intelligence, her sympathies, and her keen sensibility to all that is beautiful and good.

[Pg 126]


Among the crowd of lady travellers to whom this nineteenth century has given birth, the able and accomplished Frenchwoman, so widely known by her pseudonym of Madame Léonie d'Aunet, merits a passing allusion. Remove from her the mask she is pleased to assume before the public, and she stands revealed as Madame Biard, the wife of the great humoristic painter, whose "Sequel of a Masquerade," "Family Concert," "Combat with Polar Bears," and other pictures, are not less highly esteemed by English than by French connoisseurs. Born about 1820, she is twenty years younger than her husband, whom, in 1845, she accompanied in his excursion to Spitzbergen; an excursion which opened with, by way of prologue, a rapid tour through Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and Norway. Of the tour and the excursion she has published a brilliant narrative, which it is impossible to read without pleasure, so polished is the style, and so sharply defined are the descriptions. Her literary skill gives her an advantage over the great[Pg 127] majority of female travellers, whose diaries and journals, from want of it, are often bald, colourless, and diffuse. On the other hand, she is deficient in sympathy; she judges rather with the intellect than with the heart, which is at least as necessary to the formation of a fair and intelligent opinion. Her mind, however, is so keen and so incisive, so prompt to seize the most curious facts, so apt in discovering characteristic details, that even when she speaks of places and peoples with whom we are all familiar, she compels us to listen, and irresistibly holds our attention. It has been said that in some respects her manner is that of the elder Dumas, but while she is more honest and less given to exaggeration she does not rise to the same literary standard. The famous author of "Anthony" is still first master in the art, more difficult than the world in general believes it to be, of recording the experiences of travel; he is a master in it, because he does not make the attempt, which must always be unsuccessful, of minutely recording every particular that comes under a traveller's notice, and because he is gifted beyond ordinary measure with the art and verve of the raconteur. Persons and situations he knows how to group in the most effective manner; incidents assume their most dramatic form; scenes are worked up so as to produce a definite impression on the reader's mind.

Madame d'Aunet, as a popular novelist, knows when writing that she can count upon her thousands of readers. But this is a fact which we wish she could have[Pg 128] forgotten or ignored. For, keeping it always before her, she is led to weigh with critical timidity every word, every phrase, and to elaborate each sentence until, in the old Greek phrase, we "smell the oil." Those passages of glowing description which at first marched on so freely and fully, come to an abrupt pause. The language, formerly so vigorous and incisive, becomes vague, colourless, hesitating; or, very frequently, gets upon stilts and assumes an air of pretentious affectation. The writer has evidently forgotten, in her over-scrupulous regard for the artistic and picturesque, that nothing is so attractive as simplicity. And Madame d'Aunet is always most charming when she is most natural—that is, when she is herself; when she writes spontaneously, and fully possessed by her subject, without casting anxious glances at the reader to see if he admires this polished period or catches that apt allusion. Therefore, we are compelled to indicate as a defect—which, if not very great, might as well have been avoided—a certain affectation and coquetry of style, displaying the solicitude of the artist rather than the frank simplicity of the story-teller. Something of this fault the English reader notes in Mr. Kinglake's "Eöthen."

In speaking of Belgium and Holland, Madame d'Aunet lets drop some felicitous expressions, some pregnant and rememberable phrases, which give the reader an exact idea of the manners of the inhabitants and of the land they dwell in. The touch is delicate, but always firm and true.[Pg 129]

As to the Hollanders, she says:—

"These people have not the love of cleanliness, but its cultus."

Referring to the two Dutch towns which are the most rigorously watched over, she says:—

"Saardam is a page, and Broek a vignette, from the history of Holland.

"The people of Broek have neither the taste for, nor the love of, cleanliness; it is with them a fanaticism, a fetichism. A certain means of ensuring from them a favourable reception is the avoidance, not of vices, but dirt."

In Norway, Madame d'Aunet visited Christiania, Drontheim, and other localities; but it is Man rather than Nature that interests her. Nor did she penetrate far enough inland to gain a satisfactory conception of the character of the Norwegian scenery. In the heart of the Dovrefeld Mountains are grand and sublime landscapes of peak and ravine, cataract and forest, not inferior to the most famous scenes in Switzerland. Norway can boast of the finest waterfall in Europe: that of the Maan-ily, or Riukan-foss, which is as majestically beautiful as the cascade of Gavarni or the falls of Schaffhausen—which, indeed, has sometimes been compared to Niagara itself.

Mons. Gainvard's expedition quitted Hammerfest, the northernmost town in Scandinavia, and after a voyage of some weeks in duration, approached the gloomy coast of ice-bound Spitzbergen. The ice-fields and the icebergs[Pg 130] inspired Madame d'Aunet with profound emotion, and, in describing them, she breaks out into what may be called a lyrical cry. "These Polar ices," she exclaims, "which no dust has ever stained, as spotless now as on the first day of the creation, are tinted with the vividest colours, so that they look like rocks composed of precious stones: the glitter of the diamond, the dazzling hues of the sapphire and the emerald, blend in an unknown and marvellous substance. Yonder floating islands, incessantly undermined by the sea, change their outline every moment; by an abrupt movement the base becomes the summit; a spire transforms itself into a mushroom; a column broadens out into a vast flat table, a tower is changed into a flight of steps; and all so rapidly and unexpectedly that, in spite of oneself, one dreams that some supernatural will presides over those sudden transformations. At the first glance I could not help thinking that I saw before me a city of the fays, destroyed at one fell blow by a superior power, and condemned to disappear without leaving a trace of its existence. Around me hustled fragments of the architecture of all periods and every style: campaniles, columns, minarets, ogives, pyramids, turrets, cupolas, crenelations, volutes, arcades, façades, colossal foundations, sculptures as delicate as those which festoon the shapely pillars of our cathedrals—all were massed together and confused in a common disaster. An ensemble so strange, so marvellous, the artist's brush is unable to reproduce, and the writer's words fail adequately to describe![Pg 131]

"This region, where everything is cold and inert, has been represented, has it not? as enveloped in a deep and sublime silence. But the reader must please to receive a very different impression; nothing can give any fit idea of the tremendous tumult of a day of thaw at Spitzbergen.

"The sea, bristling with jagged sheets of ice, clangs and clatters noisily; the lofty littoral peaks glide down to the shore, fall away, and plunge into the gulf of waters with an awful crash. The mountains are rent and splintered; the waves dash furiously against the granite capes; the icebergs, as they shiver into pieces, give vent to sharp reports like the rattle of musketry; the wind with a hoarse roar, scatters tornadoes of snow abroad.... It is terrible, it is magnificent; one seems to hear the chorus of the abysses of the old world preluding a new chaos.

"Never before has one seen or heard anything comparable to that which one sees and hears there; one has conceived of nothing like it, even in one's dreams! It belongs at once to the fantastic and to the real: it disconcerts the memory, dazes the mind, and fills it with an indescribable sense of awe and admiration.

"But if the spectacle of the bay had something magical in it, ominous and gloomy was the scene on shore. In all directions the ground was white with the bones of seals and walruses, left there by the Norwegian or Russian fishermen, who formerly visited these high latitudes for the purpose of collecting oil; for some years, however, they have abandoned a pursuit[Pg 132] which was much more dangerous than profitable. These great bones, bleached by time and preserved intact by the frost, seemed so many skeletons of giants—the past dwellers in a city which had finally been swallowed up by the sea.

"The long fleshless fingers of the seals, so like to those of the human hand, rendered the illusion singularly striking and filled one with a kind of terror. I quitted the charnel-house, and directing my steps very cautiously over the slippery soil, penetrated inland. I found myself very speedily in the middle of a cemetery; but this time, the remains lying on the frozen snow were human. Several coffins, half open and empty, had formerly been occupied by human bodies, which the teeth of the white bear had recently profaned. As, owing to the thickness of the ice, it is impossible to dig graves, a number of enormous stones had, in primitive fashion, been heaped over the coffin-lids, so as to form a defence against the attacks of wild beasts; but the stout limbs of "the great man in the pelisse" (as the Norwegian fishers picturesquely call the polar bear) had removed the stones and devastated the tombs; a throng of bones strewed the shore, half broken and gnawed ... the pitiful remains of the bears' banquet. I carefully collected them, and replaced them piously in their proper receptacles.

"In the middle of this work of burial, I was seized with an indescribable horror; the thought came upon me that I was doomed, perhaps, to lay my bones among[Pg 133] these dismembered skeletons. I had been forewarned of the perils of our expedition. I had accepted the warning and fancied that I comprehended all the hazard; yet these tombs made me for the moment shudder, and for the first time I dwelt with regret on the memories of France, my family, my friends, the blue sky, the gentle and serene life which I had quitted in order to incur the risks of so dangerous a voyage."

Madame d'Aunet, however, returned to Paris in safety, and satisfied with her experiences of the Polar world, attempted no second expedition. According to M. Cortambert, to whom I owe this sketch, she afterwards resided in Paris, and edited several journals intended for women's reading. She also produced some works of no inconsiderable merit.

[Pg 134]


It seems reasonable enough that a good novelist should make a good traveller; for to both is essential the possession of a faculty of quick and accurate observation. Among the novelists of the nineteenth century Frederika Bremer holds a distinguished position; we hope to show that she merits a similar place among its travellers.

She was born at Tuorla Manor House, near Abo in Finland, on the 17th of August, 1801. When she was three years old her father removed his family to the small estate of Arsta, about twenty miles from Stockholm, which he had purchased. Here she received a careful education, early attaining a good knowledge of French, so as to read and speak it with facility. Her literary powers were almost prematurely developed, like those of Charlotte Bronté, and she wrote verses to the Moon at eight years old. At ten she meditated an elaborate poem on no less a subject than "The Creation of the World." But her attention was soon turned to more[Pg 135] practical themes, and it is noticeable that even in this early springtime she began to think much upon the dependent and subordinate position to which woman has been so unjustly condemned by society.

She was about twelve when her father took up his abode at Nynäs. Nynäs was an old-fashioned mansion situated amidst picturesque scenery, which appears to have awakened in Frederika her first impressions of the beauty of Nature. Her education still continued; she studied English and German, and made considerable progress in history and geography.

In 1813 Nynäs was sold, and the family once more settled at Arsta. There the young Frederika learned to take a deep interest in the great political events which were then convulsing Europe—in the great uprising of the nations against the selfish tyranny of Napoleon. The patriotic fire burned brightly in her girl's heart. She wept because she had not been born a man, so that she might have girded on her sword, and joined her country-men to fight in the cause of right and freedom. A strong desire possessed her to become a warrior; it was, in truth, the bird beating against the bars: the restlessness and activity of a genius which as yet had not found its proper channel of expression. She at one time resolved to flee from home and proceed to the theatre of war, which she imagined would be a matter of no difficulty, and, attired in male costume, to become page to the Crown Prince (afterwards King Charles XIV.), who then appeared to her little less than a demi-god. This[Pg 136] scheme amused her fancy for more than a year, and melted away slowly, like snow in water. Gradually her enthusiasm as patriot and warrior declined, and gave way to new and equally strong emotions. Religious fervour, she says, and the most mundane coquetry struggled within her; feelings for which she could not account seemed to beset her young bosom, filling it sometimes with a heaven and sometimes with a hell. "Like two all-consuming flames," she writes, "the desire to know and the desire to enjoy were burning in my soul, without being satisfied for many long years. The mere sight of certain words in a book—words such as Truth, Liberty, Glory, Immortality—roused within me feelings which vainly I would try to describe. I wanted in some way or other to give vent to and express the same; and I wrote verses, dramatic pieces, and a thousand different kinds of essays; composed music, drew and painted pictures, some of them worse than others."

By degrees, society in Stockholm began to appreciate the fact that the Bremer family boasted of a maiden of more than ordinary ability, who, for the family fêtes, composed little dramas of more than usual merit. They engaged the attention of the poet Frauzon, who was frequently present at the juvenile performances, and by his advice helped to form the young dramatist's taste, and correct her judgment. Her earlier efforts were in verse; but after a time she essayed to clothe her thoughts in prose, and in prose of a very vivid and forcible kind. The "Correspondence between Axel and Anna" was[Pg 137] her first serious work; so great already was her facility of composition that she finished it in two days and two nights. Her poems did not make their appearance until twenty years later, when they had been revised and corrected by their author, whom experience had taught that polish of style and gravity of language which can be acquired only by the careful study of the best writers.

In the comparatively limited circle to which for several years she was confined, and under conditions of domestic life which were unfavourable to the happy development of her genius, she would have found it very difficult to indulge her literary tendencies, if the Countess Sonnethjelm, a Norwegian lady, had not come to her assistance by providing her with an asylum under her roof. There her powers began rapidly to expand, and she herself to comprehend that literature offered the sphere of action for which she had so ardently longed.

Afterwards, like the authoress of "Jane Eyre," she spent some time as a governess in a ladies' school at Stockholm. We have already hinted that her early life was not altogether happy; her parents do not appear to have understood or sympathized with her, and the household concord was frequently broken by the austere, not to say eccentric, temperament of its head. She says of herself that "a dark cloud came over the splendour of her youthful dreams; like early evening it came over the path of the young pilgrim of life, and earnestly, but in vain, she endeavoured to escape it. The air was[Pg 138] dimmed as by a heavy fall of snow; darkness increased and it became night. And in the depth of that endless winter's night she heard lamenting voices from the east and from the west, from plant and animal, from dying nature and despairing humanity; she saw life with all its beauty, its love, its throbbing heart, buried alive beneath a chill covering of ice."

In the summer of 1831 she paid a visit, which extended over a twelvemonth, to a recently married sister, then settled at Christianstadt. We are told that the young novelist had determined not to mix in society or accept any invitations, but to live in retirement, and develop herself for what she now considered to be her mission and her vocation, namely, to become an authoress; and, enriched by experience of the world, to devote her talents in a double measure to the comfort and assistance of the suffering and unhappy.

"Frederika," says her sister,[9] "found and felt that she required to learn much, and that she stood in need of a firm religious faith, which she had hitherto lacked. The contradictions which she fancied she saw in the Bible and the world had long shaken her belief, and raised doubts in her soul to such a degree that, at times, with her reflecting and inquiring mind, they seemed to darken life."

[Pg 139]

The teacher, or guide, for whom she had instinctively yearned, she found at Christianstadt in the head master of the High School, the Rev. Peter Böklin, by whose teaching, example, and character she profited greatly. His influence was as beneficial as it was powerful. Well versed in history and philosophy, he gave a new impulse to Frederika's genius, while his wise and judicious criticism corrected the errors into which spontaneity and facility betrayed her. He showed her that it was not enough to compose with ease, she must learn to think clearly and soundly; and that grace of style and picturesqueness of description were of little avail to the novelist without the creative idea.

Under these changed circumstances a change came over the tone in which she spoke of life. Writing to her mother, in October, 1831, she says:—

"Life seems now to be of value to me. Formerly it was not so. My youth has not been happy; on the contrary, it has been a time of suffering, and its days to a great extent—this is indeed the truth—have passed away in a continual wish to die. But now it is otherwise. As a compensation for that long period of pain and compulsory inactivity, another has succeeded, which gives me the means of usefulness, and therefore also of new life and gladness. We hope—we desire—my sisters and I—nothing else than to be able to do some little good while we are wandering here on earth, and according to the power that is given to us to work for the good of others, and live ourselves in peace and harmony; and[Pg 140] perhaps our saddened youth, if it have deprived us of some of the enjoyments of life, may in a certain measure have led our minds to higher aspirations, and to a stronger desire for real usefulness."

Her literary career had begun three years before this epoch. In 1828 she published at Stockholm her "Sketches of Every-day Life" (Teckningar ur Hvardags-lifort), including, "Axel and Anna," "The Twins," and other stories. They met at once with a favourable reception. But it was not until she produced her striking picture of "The H—— Family" that the public recognized the full extent and claims of her genius. Her reputation spread with great rapidity, and was extended and confirmed by the works which proceeded in swift succession from her fertile pen. "The President's Daughter," "Nina," "The Neighbours," "The Home," and "Strife and Peace;" all these books are marked by the same general characteristics: entire purity of tone, warmth of feeling, clearness of judgment, insight into human nature, genial humour, a sharp perception of social aspects, a strong, clear style, and unusually vivid descriptive powers. Her plots are simple, and her incidents natural. In fact she seeks them in the ordinary scenes of domestic life, in its joys and sorrows, in the duties and pleasures, the lights and shadows of home—and is never induced to venture into the regions of melodramatic or philosophical fiction.

In 1841 the works we have enumerated were translated[Pg 141] into German, to attain in Germany to as great and enduring a popularity as they had acquired in their native country. In the following year they were made known to the British public, through the labours of William and Mary Howitt; and the reception accorded to them was as enthusiastic as could be desired. Their merits, indeed, were precisely those which English readers might be supposed to appreciate.

It may be interesting to note that in "The Neighbours," more than in any of her other works, Frederika Bremer drew from real life. Aged Mrs. Mansfeld is almost a literal portrait of one of her most familiar acquaintances. As for Francisca Werner, she is the authoress herself. Alternately despondent, dreamy, energetic, enthusiastic, housewifely, such is the character of Francisca, and such was Frederika. She represents her heroine as small of stature, with a plain face, which is yet not without some charm of expression, as a woman of excessively simple tastes, a student, and an artist. It is an exact portrait; and "The Neighbours" is a record of her thoughts and a history of her heart and its generous impulses.

An author has gained a good deal when he succeeds in pleasing his readers; but to ensure a claim to immortality he must bare to them his personality, the secrets of his soul, the feelings of his heart. This has been done by Frederika Bremer. It is true that she reveals no stormy passions, no wild and wayward emotions; but she[Pg 142] shows us herself, in all her love of things good and beautiful, in all the breadth and purity of her sympathies, in all the elevation of her thoughts. We see, too, her knowledge of the domesticities, her intimate acquaintance with the duties and responsibilities of home. Her judgments are always sound and prudent; the advice she gives is advice which, founded upon experience and reflection, we cannot reject without injury. Let us borrow a few passages from the conversations in which Mrs. Mansfeld figures:—

"Many marriages, my friends, have begun like the dawn, and fallen like the dark night. Why? Because after the marriage-feast is over, husband and wife have forgotten to be as agreeable to one another as they were before it. Seek, therefore, to please reciprocally; but in doing this have God always present before your eyes. Do not lavish all your tenderness to-day; remember that in marriage there is a to-morrow and a day after to-morrow. Keep some wood for the winter fire, and remember what is expected of a married woman. Her husband must be able to count upon her in his home; it is she to whom he must entrust the key of his heart; his honour, his household, his welfare are in the hands of his wife.

"Be to thy husband, my dear daughter, like the rays of the sun which you see among the trees; allow thyself to be guided by him, render him happy and thou thyself wilt be happy, and thou wilt understand what there is of good in life; thou wilt become[Pg 143] of value in thine own eyes, before God, and before men."

To housewives and housekeepers she gives some shrewd, sensible counsel:—

"It is only at intervals that you should make a general survey of the household; this keeps servants respectful, and things orderly. If you set the clock going in proper time, it afterwards goes alone, and you have no need to be always ticking like a pendulum. Remember this, my dear daughter, some mistresses are too restless with their bunches of keys; they run about the kitchen and the pantry, but it is time lost; a woman will do well to take care of her household with her head rather than with her feet.

"Some mistresses are always at their servants' heels, by which nothing is gained.

"Servants also ought to have some liberty and calm. We must not muzzle the mouth of the ox who treads the corn. Let thy people be responsible for what they do; hold them strictly to every tie of heart and honour; give them richly that which comes back to them. The labourer is worthy of his hire. But three or four times a year, and always unexpectedly, swoop down upon them like the Last Judgment; examine every corner and recess; make a noise like thunder, and strike right and left at the fitting moment—this clears the house for many weeks!"

There is nothing sensational or romantic, quaint or picturesque, in these passages, we grant you. To those[Pg 144] who have fed on the rhapsodies of a certain school of fiction they will seem vulgarly commonplace. But their practical good sense is indisputable, and they illustrate the characteristics of Frederika Bremer as a writer. They point to her combination of domesticity, household economy, and imagination; to the alliance between poetry and prose which strengthened her vivid genius.

The great object which she set before herself, after she had arrived at a full understanding of her powers, was the emancipation of her sex from the thraldom imposed upon it by tradition and conventionalism, and more definitely, the alteration of the Swedish law so far as it pressed harshly and unjustly upon women. She desired, her sister tells us, that women, like men, and together with them, should be allowed to study in the elementary schools and at the academies, in order to gain opportunities of securing employment and situations suitable for them in the service of the State. In her opinion it was a grave injustice to deny them, even such as were endowed with great talents and brilliant intellectual powers, such opportunities. She was fully convinced that they could acquire all kinds of knowledge with as much facility as men; that they ought to stand on the same level, and to prepare themselves in the public schools and universities, to become lecturers, professors, judges, physicians, and official functionaries. She predicted that if women were as free as men to gain knowledge and skill, they would, when their capacity[Pg 145] and indispensableness in the work of society had obtained more general recognition, be found fitted for a variety of occupations, which were either already in existence, or would be required in future under a more energetic development of society; and, finally, she maintained with warmth and eloquence that woman ought to have the same right as man to benefit her native country by the exercise of her talents.

In the autumn of 1848 Frederika Bremer left home, paying first a visit to her old friend and teacher, the Rev. Peter Böklin, and afterwards proceeding to Copenhagen. In the following year she made several excursions to the Danish islands, and then, by way of London, directed her steps to New York, anxious to study the social condition of women in the United States. She remained in the great Western Republic for two years, traversing it from north to south, and collecting a mass of information on social, moral, and religious topics. Her "Homes of the New World" was, perhaps, the first discriminating and impartial work upon America and the Americans.

On her return home she met with a severe blow in the death of her beloved sister Agatha, which had taken place during her absence. Two years later (March, 1855) she lost her mother; after which event she removed from the old family house at Arsta to Stockholm. Here, in December, 1856, she published her romance of "Hersha,"—a story with a purpose—its aim being the[Pg 146] reform of the Swedish laws affecting women. Stories with a purpose are seldom acceptable to the general public, and "Hersha" is the least popular of Frederika Bremer's works, though it is the most carefully and artistically wrought. It is satisfactory to know, however, that its purpose was attained.

In the summer of 1853, when the cholera devastated Stockholm, Frederika became president of a society of noble women, whose aim it was to take charge of, and provide a home for, those children who were orphaned by the terrible epidemic, and to give assistance to families in which the father or mother had been taken away. Two years afterwards, she placed herself at the head of a small association of ladies whose object it was to visit the prisons of Stockholm, and procure an amelioration of the condition of the prisoners, as well as to assist, on their discharge, those who seemed anxious to embark on an honest career. A considerable portion of her time, her energies, and her income was devoted to benevolent purposes, and the alleviation of human suffering she accepted as one of her holiest and happiest duties.

Having read with deep interest the works of Vinet, she was seized with a desire to study on the spot the religious movement in Protestant Switzerland called forth by the "Free Church," of which that eloquent divine was the founder. In the summer of 1856 she accordingly visited Switzerland. Thence she proceeded to Belgium, France, and Italy, and finally she extended[Pg 147] her tour to Greece and Palestine, so that it was not until the summer of 1861 that she returned home. Of this long and interesting journey she issued a graphic record.

Three months of the summer of 1864 she spent at Arsta with the patriarchal family who had become the owners of the paternal estate, and enjoyed so much peace and pleasantness that she resolved to accept their invitation to lodge with them permanently. She still continued her philanthropic labours, and looked forward confidently to an old age of usefulness, hallowed by the love of suffering humanity and brightened by implicit confidence in the mercy and meek submission to the will of God. But on Christmas Day, 1865, she caught cold at church, and inflammation of the lungs supervened with a severity she had not strength enough to resist. She herself did not believe there was any danger; and in spite of increasing pain and difficulty in breathing, could not be persuaded to lie down, but walked about even on the last day of her life, which was also the last day of the year. Her mind preserved its clearness and serenity. Shortly before her death, she went, leaning on her nurse's arm, from window to window in her large sitting room, as if taking leave of the surrounding landscape which she loved so deeply. Then in a low weak voice she uttered some broken sentences, and frequently repeated the words, "Light, eternal light!" Clasping her nurse's hands in her own, she exclaimed, "Ah, my child, let us speak of Christ's love,—the best, the highest love!"[Pg 148] At three o'clock on the following morning, she peacefully drew her last breath.[10]

From this brief sketch of the life of the great Swedish novelist, we turn to a consideration of her work as a traveller.

Her visit to the United States she turned to good account, examining with a keen observant eye the manners and customs of the people. She made the acquaintance of Channing and Emerson; she went from town to town, and village to village; she investigated the character and influence of American institutions; she gave a lively consideration to the great moral and political questions which were then stirring the American mind. The result was, a strong and affectionate interest in the great Western Commonwealth—an interest so strong and deep that it made her somewhat unjust to England, which she had formerly placed in the front rank of the nations as the mother of progress and true freedom.

In the following passage she particularizes, from her point of view, the difference between the English and American character:—

"Brother Jonathan and John Bull," she says, "have the same father, but not the same mother. John Bull is[Pg 149] corpulent, with high-coloured cheeks, is self-assertive, and speaks in a loud voice; Brother Jonathan, who is much younger, is lank, tall, weak about the knees, not boastful, but vigorous and decided. John Bull is at least forty, while Jonathan is not yet twenty-one.

"The movements of John Bull are pompous, and somewhat affected; Jonathan's feet move as nimbly as his tongue. John Bull laughs loud and long; Jonathan does not laugh, but smiles slightly. John Bull seats himself calmly to make a good dinner, as if he were bent on some great and weighty matter; Jonathan eats rapidly, and is in a hurry to quit the table in order to found a town, dig a canal, or construct a railway. John wishes to be a gentleman; Jonathan does not trouble himself about appearances—he has so much to do, that it matters little to him if he rushes about with a hole at the elbow or a tail of his coat torn off, so long as he advances. John Bull marches, Jonathan runs. John Bull is certainly very polite to the ladies, but when he is bent on enjoying himself at the table, he puts them to the door—that is, he begs them to be so obliging as to go into another room and make tea for him, 'he will follow them immediately.' Jonathan does not act like this; he loves the society of women, and will not be deprived of it; he is the most gallant man upon earth, and if he sometimes forgets his gallantry, it is because he has forgotten himself; but this does not often happen. When John Bull has a fit of indigestion, or a stroke of ill-luck, he suffers from the spleen, and[Pg 150] thinks of hanging himself; when Jonathan has a fit of indigestion, or a stroke of ill-luck, he goes on his travels. Now and then he has a paroxysm of lunacy, but he recovers himself quickly, and never dreams of putting an end to his existence. On the contrary, he says to himself, 'Let us think no more of it; go ahead!'

"The two brothers have taken it into their heads that they will humanize and civilize the world; but Jonathan marches with more zeal in this direction, and wishes to go much farther than John Bull; he has no fear of wounding his dignity by putting his two hands to the pie, like a true workman. The two brothers desire to become rich men; but John Bull keeps for himself and his friends the best and largest portion. Jonathan is willing to share his with everybody, to enrich all the world;[11] he is a cosmopolitan; a part of the earth serves him as larder, and he has all the treasures of the globe with which to keep up his household. John Bull is an aristocrat; Jonathan is a democrat—that is to say, he wishes to be, and thinks he is one; but it occurs to him to forget it in his relations with people of a different complexion from his own. John Bull has a good heart, which at times he conceals in his fat and phlegm under his well-wadded and buttoned-up coat. Jonathan has a[Pg 151] good heart also, but does not hide it. His blood is warmer; he has no corpulence; he marches with coat unbuttoned or without one. Some persons maintain even that Brother Jonathan is John Bull stripped of his coat, and it is with this American saying that I take leave, for the present, of John Bull and his brother Jonathan."

The manners and customs most opposed to European ideas found favour in the eyes of Frederika Bremer, when she thought she detected in American usages the elements of progress and liberty. It is, indeed, with too light a touch that she glides by the more regrettable defects of the American character, so fascinated, so dazzled is she by the brilliant mirage of independence—independence of thought and action, often verging upon or passing into licence—which the United States presented to her. She reminds one of that Western patriot who, from the banks of the Mississippi, watching the explosion of a steamship, exclaimed, "Heavens! the Americans are a great people!" This exclamation she does not repeat in so many words, but the idea which it embodies is present in every page of her book.

But, in truth, she travelled under conditions which made it almost impossible for her to form an impartial judgment of men and things. She was everywhere received with so much enthusiastic hospitality, even by Quakers, Shakers, Plungers, and other of those strange sects described with so much unction by the late Mr.[Pg 152] Hepworth Dixon, that her usual keen powers of observation were necessarily obscured. She saw everything through rose-coloured glasses. On the question of slavery, for example, she, the ardent champion of the emancipation of humanity, who started with the firm resolution to launch her heaviest thunderbolts at the slave-owners, was led to give forth an uncertain sound. For the astute Southerners got hold of her, fêted her, complimented her, read her works; how could she retain her impartiality when brought under such powerful influences? Can any author inveigh against the men who read his books? So it has not inaptly been said that she denounces the slave-holders only when she is in Yankee territory, and criticises the Yankees only when she is in the Southern States. Allowing herself to believe that the condition of the negroes was not so deplorable as she had supposed, she even began to extenuate the institution of slavery by arguments too transparently feeble to call for detailed confutation. It is true, she says, that slavery is an evil to-day, but to-morrow it will be a boon to humanity, and a boon to the negro world. Why? Because the American negro, enlightened by the teachings of Christianity through his contact with the white man, will, at some future time, return to Africa, the home of his ancestors, a missionary of civilization, charged with the glorious task of redeeming and regenerating it.

This was a new reading of the old falsehood, doing evil that good may come. What could the negro think[Pg 153] of a Christianity that justified his subjugation by oppression? Or how could a race, kept in the bonds and fetters of an accursed degradation, be fitted to play the part of apostles and missionaries? Happily it is unnecessary to discuss the subject, since slavery no longer exists in America.

Of those beautiful descriptions of nature which lend so great a charm to Miss Bremer's fiction we find but few examples in her work on the United States. Unfortunately she travelled as a philosopher, not as an observer of nature; engaged in the study of social questions, she seems to have had neither the leisure nor the inclination to survey the magnificent scenery through which she passed. The area she traversed was very considerable; from New York she crossed the continent to New Orleans; she visited Canada, the lakes, the valley of the Mississippi, and made an excursion to Cuba; but of all the landscapes, sublime, beautiful, and picturesque that met her gaze, she says little or nothing. Even the mighty Niagara has scarcely power to move her; the rolling prairies make no impression on her imagination. From her book, therefore, we can offer no quotations. In a country like America social questions change their aspects with so much rapidity that Miss Bremer's opinions upon them are already antiquated. It is Nature only that preserves her character. The relations of the North to the South, of the slave-holder to the negro, or of the Democratic party to the Republican,[Pg 154] may undergo, in twenty or thirty years a complete transformation; but Niagara still pours its flood of waters into the St. Lawrence, and leagues upon leagues of grassy savannahs are still untrodden by the foot of man.

The defect which we have indicated in Miss Bremer's "Homes of the New World" does not appear in the later work, "Two Years in Switzerland and Italy." Here we find that warm sympathy with Nature, that vivid appreciation of the beautiful, which we might reasonably expect from one who had the poet's feeling and fancy, though not endowed with the poet's faculty of expression.[12] In the opening chapter or "station," as she prefers to call it, we come upon a picture full of power and colour, in which the artist uses her pencil with equal grace and freedom. It is the valley of Lauterbrunnen, or "Laughing Waters":—

"From Steinbock the valley becomes ever narrower, between ever higher mountain walls; louder and louder roar the becks and the streams, which, now swollen by the rains, are hurled from the glaciers down towards the valley and the river. Here falls the Staubbach, thrown like silver rain, driven hither and thither by the wind over the field which it keeps green below; here rushes down the strong Trummelsbach, foaming from the embrace of the cliffs; there the still stronger Rosenbach,[Pg 155] which the Jungfrau pours out of her silver horn. On all sides, near and afar off, there is a rushing and roaring and foaming, on the right hand and on the left, above me, below me, and before, out of a hundred hidden fountains, and even wilder beside me rushes on the Lutschine, with still increasing waters. It is too much, I cannot bear even my own thoughts. I am in the bosom of a wild Undine, who drowns her admirers while she embraces them—and the Titans are growing ever loftier and broader, and the valley ever narrower, gloomier, and more desolate. I felt depressed, and as it were, overwhelmed, but, nevertheless, I went forward. It is melancholy scenery, but, at the same time, grand and powerful. And scenery of this character exercises a strong attractive power, even when it astonishes. The shades of evening fell darkly over the valley, where I saw before me, in its gloomy depth, a broad, grey-white, immense wall of water, like dust hurled thundering down from a lofty mountain. It seemed to shut up the valley. That is enough. I salute the giantess, the great Schmadribach, the mother of the Lutschine river, and return. No, it is not good to be here, and the society of the Titans is more agreeable for a simple mortal at a greater distance!...

"On my return to Interlachen the Titans presented me with a glorious spectacle, and it was not without joyful admiration that I parted from their immediate neighbourhood. The great spirits which terrify can also enchant. In the light of the descending sun the white peaks and fields of the Alps stood out in the most[Pg 156] brilliant colouring; the lofty Jungfrau clothed herself in rose-tint, the blue glaciers shone transparently, and the lower the sun sank the higher and clearer gleamed the Alpine pinnacles....

"Later still, new astonishment awaited me from the camp of the giants. The head of the Jungfrau was surrounded with a soft glory of light, which increased in beauty and brightness, till at length the moon, shining in full splendour, slowly advancing above, crowned the Titaness with beauty."[13]

Apart from its picturesque descriptions, however, Miss Bremer's book on Switzerland and Italy is hardly a success. She had not the qualifications of a Madame de Staël, and her observations, therefore, are frequently superficial. Moreover, she seems to have suffered in self-appreciation. In Sweden she shone as a great star in the literary firmament; and she appears to have been under an impression that her fame would have preceded her into other countries, and ensured her a triumphal reception in any town she entered; but Germany showed her very little attention, and hence she sees it in a very unfavourable light. So in Switzerland: she was caught up in the stream of tourists; her name, inscribed in the visitors' books of the hotels, received but a fugitive notice; and she who had created in her fancy an ideal Switzerland, prepared to welcome with open arms the champion of freedom generally, and[Pg 157] the freedom of women in particular—discovered only a nation of good housekeepers, who were thinking of everything in the world but emancipation.

Miss Bremer visited the valleys of the High Alps and the Forest Cantons; spent a Sunday on the Righi; journeyed to Basle; passed into Belgium and Flanders, surveying the antiquities of the old historic cities of Ghent, Bruges, and Antwerp; proceeded to Paris; returning to Switzerland, spent the winter at Lausanne; in the following year crossed the Alps into Italy, and through Piedmont travelled to the Eternal City; thence to Naples, where she saw an eruption of Vesuvius and the buried city of Pompeii; and, finally, explored the fair landscapes of Sicily. This vast variety of scenes she sketches always with a quick and dexterous pencil.

In the course of her two years' travel she met with several illustrious men—with some who have made, or helped to make, the history of our time—and her record of their conversations is full of interest. As might be expected, she excels in portraiture. This is her portrait of the late Cardinal Antonelli:—

"Antonelli has a strongly marked countenance of the true Italian character; handsome dark eyes, with a penetrative glance, gloomy or bright according to the sentiment which they express; dangerous eyes, it seems to me, they would be to those on whom their glance was directed in love. The countenance is pale; the features are regular—even handsome—all[Pg 158] except the mouth, which is large, with large teeth, and devoid of agreeable sentiment when speaking. In short, the countenance has a commanding expression. An abundance of dark brown hair waves from under the red cap, and falls in waving curls upon the pale cheeks. The whole figure is picturesque—artistic in effect; to which also the costume—the red cardinal stockings, the large silver buckles, the short silk cloak, and the red cap—contribute in no small degree. In his demeanour he has all the self-possession and ease of a perfect man of the world."

The Roman Carnival has often been described, but never, we think, with more lively appreciation of its humorous features than by Frederika Bremer. In the following passage we recognize something of that realistic power which makes the charm of her novels. The details are touched as vividly and picturesquely as in her Swedish interiors:—

"At three o'clock in the afternoon the festival began. The Corso was filled with people and gendarmes. Military, mounted and on foot, were posted at the corners of all the streets, as well as in the square. Crowds of ragged lads were loitering about the Corso, shouting as they followed any laughably-attired mask. Windows and balconies were filling with gentlemen and ladies in dominoes, some in costume. One saw many lovely faces.... The whole Corso, from the Piazza di Venezia to the Piazza del Popolo, looks[Pg 159] like a festively-decorated arena. But, for the first time during many weeks, the sky is grey, and the streets are wet with rain which has fallen in the night; it even now looks threatening, and already has rained a little, but the air is soft and calm. The north wind has left Rome, and all windows are open. Some carriages, with masks in costumes and dominoes, begin to drive up and down the Corso; the war with comfits and bouquets has begun between pedestrians and those who are in carriages—between the people in the streets and the people at the windows and in the balconies. They seek either to powder one another or to make a present. Extremely beautiful bouquets and fine bonbons come amongst quantities of others which are less beautiful and not at all splendid. One is obliged, in the meantime, to hold a fine wire gauze, in the form of a little scoop, before the face, if one would escape bruises. Our balcony is decorated with red and white, and along the outside of the iron railing small boxes are hung for the bouquets and comfits. Our agreeable hostess belongs to the ornaments of her balcony, into which flowers are assiduously thrown by gentlemen in carriages and on foot.

"At five o'clock a mounted troop of soldiers, in close rank, galloped at full speed up the Corso, in order to clear the street, for now the horse-race was to begin. The people gather themselves close together by the walls of the houses; a pause succeeds, and then a loud exulting shout, which runs like wildfire along the[Pg 160] Corso; and from the Piazza del Popolo speeds, in flying career, a little troop of small horses, adorned with gold-paper wings or flags. Away they rush at full speed along the Corso up to the Piazza di Venezia, where they are stopped, and the judges of the race award the prizes which their owners shall receive. Scarcely have the swift-footed steeds passed, when the throng of people crowd after them like a swarming ant-hillock. This closes the amusements of the day....

"On Monday the Corso was, nevertheless, more animated than on Saturday, and the warfare of comfits and flowers was carried on very gaily. People threw flowers at each other from balcony to balcony, from window to window; and people amused themselves with grand comfits, strung upon long threads fastened to long sticks, like fishing-lines, which they enticed their acquaintance, from one story to another, to catch; or they deceived the boys in the streets with these same tempting baits, which the next moment were snatched up again. If any one wishes to be polite, he fastens at the end of the string a beautiful flower, or some other pretty little thing, and allows it to be caught by the lady for whom it is intended. The street boys are in general, however, the greatest winners by this polite warfare; for everything which misses its object and falls into the street belongs to them, and that is not little....

"On Friday ... the Corso was crowded with all kinds of costumes and masks in carriages and on foot; the[Pg 161] windows and balconies and roofs were thronged with dominoes and fantastic costumes; bouquets of flowers and comfits showered down through the air.... Two rows of carriages drive in close file along the Corso. They assaulted each other incessantly; besides which, they threw their missiles up to the windows and balconies, and received others in return. Sometimes a masquerading gentleman designs to present you with an extremely beautiful bouquet; but if you do not take great care it is quickly snatched away by some lad, who jumps upon the step or wheel of the carriage.... Sometimes the procession of carriages is stopped by the crush, and woe then to the carriage or the ladies who happen to be stopped under a great balcony, for they are then overwhelmed by such a shower of chalk and powder comfits, which rain down upon them like hail, that the dominoes and outer attire are spoiled! One is fortunate if one can keep one's eyes uninjured; but a great many of the uneducated class amuse themselves by throwing white powder into people's faces, and if this gets into the eyes, it sometimes occasions long suffering; sometimes one receives a great blow on the head from an immense bouquet; or a great piece of confectionery, as hard as a stone; but any one who enters into the sport must tolerate it—and, happen what may, people are only the more excited and filled by the spirit of the time.... That which interested me most was to see the handsome Roman women, in their holiday costume, standing in open loges in the lower story of the[Pg 162] houses. They receive, with stoical resignation, the showers of comfits and bouquets which are incessantly aimed at their gold-adorned heads. Women of the peasant class, dressed as if for a wedding festival, with bare heads, adorned with red ribbon and grand ornaments, were also the principal figures in many of the carriages....

"The streets swarmed with harlequins, punchinellos, and jesters, who leaped about, talking to people in the carriages and on foot, inviting to drink, pretending themselves to be intoxicated, and spilling the beer or water on the right hand and left; crowds of castanet-players and dancers, in every variety of laughable, grotesque, and most frequently tatterdemalion costume, beating drums, and so on—making a horrible din. Sometimes, in the midst of all this wild confusion, a kind of French courtier would come mincing along, in old-fashioned costume, leading a lady, also in antique attire, and, gazing on the right hand and the left through an immense opera-glass, making, in the meantime, the most polite bows. However much he might be pushed about, or powdered, it mattered not; he only gazed through his opera-glass, and bowed all the more, and never lost his self-possession. In the midst of all this whirl and confusion comes a brilliant procession: it is the governor of the city and the Roman senate, driving in a great number of grand carriages, with splendid horses and servants; gold and silver shine out, and liveries which appear to be covered with fire. The[Pg 163] brilliant cortège advances with great dignity through the many-coloured mass of the Corso up to the Capitol."

Not the least interesting pages in her book are those descriptive of an interview which she enjoyed with the great founder of Italian unity, Count Cavour—the statesman who successfully realized the dreams of the theorist, and raised Italy to a place among the European Powers. When Miss Bremer saw him, he was still the Minister of the King of Sardinia; but in secret was unweariedly labouring to carry out the policy which placed on the brow of the King of Sardinia the Italian crown.

Miss Bremer had been told that nothing in his exterior revealed the astute statesman; that, on the contrary, he looked very much as one might imagine Dickens's Mr. Pickwick to look; and she confesses that at the first glance he reminded her more of an English red-complexioned country squire, who rides and hunts, eats good dinners, and takes life lightly, than of a profound and sagacious politician, who, with sure glance and firm hand, steers the vessel of the State towards its destined haven over the stormy waves of statecraft. But quickly that countenance lighted up, and the more Miss Bremer studied, during their long conversation, the more significant and agreeable she found it. They who had painted the great Minister's portrait had not understood this countenance nor the character of the head. There was in it a certain squareness, but at the same time refinement.[Pg 164] The complexion was fresh and delicate, the forehead magnificent, open, with ample space for both broad and elevated ideas; clear, lively, and penetrating was the glance of the light blue eye; the nose and mouth, as well as the shape of the face, not unlike those of the first Napoleon, having the same delicacy and yet firmness of outline. An arch expression was visible in the play of the muscles about the nose, and the graciousness of the sunny South was in the smile. As to stature, he was not tall, but he was well-built, and his figure was solid and robust, like that of a man who can hold his footing firmly. The manners were easy, calm, and very agreeable, and indicated no ordinary power of self-control.

Cavour seemed well pleased to learn that even in remote Sweden the affairs of Piedmont were a subject of general interest, and that his own words and actions were attentively studied. From his expressions it was evident to his visitor that he well understood the Swedish government and constitution. Its mode of representation he pithily characterized as "heavy machinery."

To Miss Bremer's numerous questions regarding Piedmont and his views as to its future, he replied with kindly simplicity and absolute candour. He concluded with a forecast abundantly justified by events, that he would eventually conduct Piedmont, with complete security, into a path whence it could not turn back, and she saw that he would not hesitate to make pecuniary sacrifices for this cause.[Pg 165]

"Piedmont," he said, "had long been like a vessel which, having run too close to the rocks, was prevented by that means from having the wind in her sails, and this impediment must be removed."

One of the means to this end mentioned by Cavour was the gigantic work which has since been successfully accomplished, the tunnelling of Mont Cenis; he was of opinion that this would facilitate communication between the social culture and social life of the most developed of the European cities.

When Miss Bremer expatiated on the brilliant hopes for the future of all Italy which Piedmont's advance on the path of freedom had awakened, he did not discourage them, but, with the prudence of the politician, refrained from anything more than vague expressions.

To her observation that she had not seen any statesman who appeared to bear so easily the burden of a statesman's life, he answered, with a smile:—

"Ah! 'tis so only in appearance; for behind, in the depth, lie weary cares, and it is not easy to keep alight the sacred fire."

In Miss Bremer's opinion the appearance was not deceptive. According to what she heard from many of his friends, Cavour occupied his seat with tolerable ease, and without undue strain discharged his duties as First Minister of Piedmont, and the shaper of its destiny. The fact was, that his nature was that of a statesman; he was born, not made, and performed his work as Mozart executed his symphonies or Raphael painted[Pg 166] his pictures, without torturing his brains, without any special difficulty. In his sphere of duty he was as much a genius and an artist as they were.

At parting she earnestly urged him to give juster laws to the women of Piedmont, who, in all that appertained to the right of inheritance, were greatly inferior to men. M. de Cavour laughed, half cynically, as at an expression called forth by a certain esprit de corps; but afterwards he discoursed seriously on the difficulties which, particularly amongst an agricultural population, stood in the way of an equal right of inheritance. Miss Bremer listened with greater pleasure when he added, with the accent of conviction, that in any case equal right of inheritance would become law, sooner or later, amongst them. It existed in the spirit and tendency of all their legislation, and, besides, it was right.[14]


[Pg 167]

It was in the spring of 1859 that Miss Bremer set out for the East. The voyage, to one of so vivid an imagination and of such profound religious impressions,[Pg 168] was full of living interest. She spent long, solitary hours on the deck of the vessel that conveyed her, and allowed her fancy free course over that sea with a thousand historic memories—the Mediterranean. With vigilant eye she watched the waves as they rolled past with glittering crests of foam, and the lights and shadows which chased one another in swift succession over the purple expanse, as sunshine or cloud rested on the bosom of the sapphire sky.

"The heavens," she exclaims, "declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork. Words are powerless to describe the beauty of the day, and the scene which developed before me. We were sailing on the sea of Syria towards the East—the country of the morning—and what a brightness shone around us! I think that never before had I seen the sun so luminous, so instinct with flame, or the sky and the sea so transparent. The latter is of a deep blue, lightly rippled; here and there small wave-crests, white with foam, surge up, like lilies, from the infinite depths. The air is soft and mild; sometimes the clouds unite above our heads and slide downwards into the west, while the eastern portion of the celestial vault is serene and pure as a diamond of the finest water. Above and around us we see only the sky and the sea, but they are calm and beautiful."

The Holy Land comes in sight, and a flood of emotions rushes upon our poet's soul. "David," she says, "did not rise earlier than I to see the day break[Pg 169] over the shores of Palestine. A fire-red cloud was spread like an arch above the verdurous hills, green with palms and other trees. Upon a height near the shore was grouped a mass of houses of grey stone, with low cupola roofs. Here and there the palm-trees towered among them. It was Jaffa, the ancient Joppa, one of the oldest cities in the world. In the distance rose a chain of deep blue mountains, perpendicular as a wall; it was the Judæan chain. Further to the west, another considerable chain descended seaward; that was Carmel. At a still greater distance, in the same direction, and in the interior of the country, is a lofty mountain, snow-crowned, and, beyond that wall of rock, invisible to our eyes, lay Jerusalem!"

Landing at Joppa, Miss Bremer and her party hired horses to carry them to the Holy City; but it was not without much mental perturbation that the novelist, who was but an indifferent equestrian, saw herself at the mercy of a young and fiery courser. On this occasion she gained two victories—one over herself and one over her steed, whose ardent impatience she contrived to master.

The small caravan with which Miss Bremer travelled included a Russian princess, two boyars, and some Englishmen; among others there was a professor with a cynical smile and a sarcastic wit, who possessed a happy faculty of describing, in epigrammatic phrase and always at the right moment, the more noticeable features of the manners of the natives. While the first-named[Pg 170] of these eminent personages rode in advance, Mr. Levison, the professor, remained by the side of Miss Bremer in the rear. Between the two cultured minds there was a certain bond of sympathy, and the length of the journey was beguiled by their animated conversations.

The professor amused himself by calling our novelist Sitti, an Arabic title bestowed upon women of high rank, and almost equivalent to that of "princess." Abhul, the guide, overhearing it, inquired if she were a kinswoman of the Sultan of Prussia, Frederick! "Yes," answered Mr. Levison, gravely, "she is a kinswoman, but a distant one." And then he apprised his fellow-traveller of the new dignity he had conferred upon her.

This was sufficient to convert Abhul into her devoted slave. He was mightily proud of attending, and acting as guide to, a princess of royal blood. He almost went down on his knees before her; his attentions were unremitting. The title which had been flashed before him produced on his commonplace mind a thousand times the effect that would have been produced by the knowledge that, plain little middle-class dame as she was, the humble Swedish lady was infinitely more celebrated than three-fourths of the princesses of Europe. But there are hundreds of our own compatriots who are quite as eager tuft-hunters as this poor Arab guide! John Bull dearly loves "a lord," while before "a princess" his soul creeps and grovels in infinite abasement.[Pg 171]

"This ridiculous mania for titles which overwhelmed the guide Abhul" is, nevertheless, in M. Cortambert's opinion, "one of the most pronounced characteristics of the boastful and childish genius of the Orientals. The Turks and Arabs cannot believe in the importance of personages without titles of distinction; and hence the smallest prolétaire who can equip a caravan is saluted with the name of excellency. M. de Lamartine was hailed as prince and lord; he was supposed, I believe, to belong to the House of Orleans. One of our friends, an artist of high merit, by no means desirous of being taken for that which he was not, and valuing more highly his personal repute than all the titles in the world, could not shake off the rank of prince, which welcomed him at every village. Since the visit of M. de Lamartine every French traveller seems to be regarded as a seigneur of illustrious lineage. One easily understands that the purse of the tourist was the first to suffer from this circumstance. Several times our friend endeavoured to set his guide right, but in vain; the moukra was unwilling to pass, in the eyes of his companions, for the conductor of a private individual. By elevating his master he thought that he was raising himself."

Frederika Bremer did not allow her supposititious title of Sitti to blind her to the fact that she was before all a poet and a woman of letters. On entering Jerusalem she gave the reins to her imagination, and set herself to work on one of those delightful letters which[Pg 172] afterwards formed the basis of a complete narrative of her Eastern tour. "I raise my hands," she says, "towards the mountain of the house of the Lord, experiencing an indescribable thankfulness for my safe arrival here. I am in Jerusalem; I dwell upon the hill of Zion—the hill of King David. From my window the view embraces all Jerusalem, that ancient and venerable cradle of the grandest memories of humanity—the origin of so many sanguinary contests, so many pilgrimages, hymns of praise, and chants of sorrow."

Everybody knows what constitutes a traveller's life in Palestine: a succession of pilgrimages to the several places connected with Old Testament history, or with the life of our Lord; a constant renewal of those touching experiences which so deeply impress the heart and brain of every Christian. Even the freethinker cannot gaze without emotion on the shrines of a religion which has so largely affected the destinies of humanity and the currents of the world's history. What, then, must be the feeling with which they are regarded by those to whom that religion is the sure promise of eternal life? Not Greece, with its memories of poets, sages and patriots; its haunted valleys and mysterious mountain-tops; nor Italy, with its glories of art and nature, and its footprints of a warrior-people, once rulers of the known world, so appeals to the thoughtful mind as does the Holy Land, in the fulness of its sanctity as the home and dwelling-place of Jesus Christ.

But the attention of Miss Bremer was not wholly given[Pg 173] to the hallowed scenes by which she was surrounded. In the East, as in the West, she reverted to the question of woman's independence, the restoration of her sex to its natural and legitimate freedom. What she saw was not of a nature to cheer and encourage her. Nowhere else is the condition of woman so deplorable; not so much because she is deprived of her liberty as because she is condemned to the most absolute ignorance. And in this ignorance lies one of the principal causes of Oriental degeneracy; for the young, being brought up in the polluted atmosphere of the harem, undergo a fatal enervation of body and soul, and imbibe the germs of the most fatal vices.

One day, in company with several young persons of her own sex, Frederika Bremer paid a visit of courtesy to the wife of a sheikh, who, when informed that the ladies she had admitted to her presence were unmarried, manifested the liveliest surprise, and added that it was a great shame. The girls laughingly pointed to Miss Bremer as being also a spinster; whereupon their hostess threatened to withdraw, declaring herself overwhelmed, and, indeed, almost scandalized by such a revelation. However, on reaching the threshold she turned back, and desired to know what had induced the European lady to remain unmarried. The reasons given in reply must have been, we suppose, of a shocking character, since she cut them short by a declaration that she did not wish to hear such things spoken of.

To this example of the complete condition of moral[Pg 174] dependence to which even the wives of sheikhs are degraded, Miss Bremer adds another and not less characteristic fact. She asked several young women, distinguished by their eager and animated air, whether they had no desire to travel and see Allah's beautiful earth.

"Oh no," they replied, "for women that would be a sin!"

Women bred in this state of mental and moral degradation can never play an important part in the regeneration of the East.

A philosopher first, a poet after, and sometimes a painter, such is Frederika Bremer. She does not often paint a picture, however; when she does, it is brightly coloured, and its details are carefully elaborated; but her skill is more favourably displayed in portraiture. Her palette is not rich enough in glowing colours to reproduce fairly the warm luxuriant landscapes of the East. For this reason she excels in a sketch like the following, where she deals not with sky, and sea, and mountain, but the humanity in those types of it which crowd the streets and lanes of the Holy City:—

"The population of Jerusalem," she says, "I would divide into three classes: the smokers, the criers, and the mutes or phantoms. The first-named, forming in groups or bands, are seated outside the cafés smoking, while youths in the pretty Greek costume hasten from one to another with a wretched-looking coffee-pot and pour out the coffee—the blacker it is the more highly[Pg 175] it is esteemed—into very small cups. With an air of keen satisfaction the smokers quaff it, drop by drop. Frequently one of them delivers himself of a recital with very animated gestures; the others listen attentively, but you seldom see them laugh. In the café may often be heard the sound of a guitar, accompanied by a dull monotonous strain, in celebration of warlike exploits or love adventures; the Arabs give to it their pleased attention. In the bazaars, in the shops, wherever a pacific life predominates, smokers are met with. Those wearing a green turban spring from the stock of Mohammed, or else have performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and learned the Koran by heart, which raises them to the rank of holy men.

"The criers' class of Jerusalem consists of all who sell in the streets, of the camel and donkey drivers, and of the country-women who daily bring fuel, herbs, vegetables, and eggs, into the city. They generally station themselves and their wares on the Place de Jaffa, and scream in a frightful manner; one would think they were quarrelling, when, in reality, they are only gossiping. These women allow their dirty mantles or veils to fall from the head down upon the back, and do not cover the face. They are always decked and sometimes plated with silver ornaments. Silver coins, strung together, are carried in bands across the forehead, and hang down the cheeks. Their fingers are covered with rings and their wrists with bracelets. Not unfrequently you will see very young girls with the face framed in silver[Pg 176] money, to correspond with their head-gear—a small cap or hood embroidered with Turkish piastres, set as close together as the scales of a fish.

"I have heard it said that this cap is a maiden's dower. The country-women are often remarkable for a kind of savage beauty, but generally they are ugly, with an expression of rudeness and ill-nature. They are a collection of sorceresses, whom I feared more than the men of the same class, though the latter assuredly did not inspire me with much confidence.

"The Arab women of high rank, enveloped in long white mantles, and with their faces hidden by a close veil of black, yellow, or blue gauze, form my third division. They walk, or rather totter, through the streets in numerous groups or bands, shod with yellow slippers or bottines, to enjoy a promenade outside the Jaffa Gate. You never hear them utter a word in the streets, nor do they pause for a moment. If that black or yellow object approach you, covered with her white veil, and turn in your direction, it is with an expressive, a piercing, questioning glance; but you cannot discover nor even divine the face concealed by that coloured gauze. These poor dumb phantoms, who are all the more to be pitied because they have no idea that they need pity, generally betake themselves to the cemeteries, where, seated under the olive trees, they spend the day in doing nothing."

The ease, grace, and dramatic power of this description no reader will question.[Pg 177]

After visiting most shrines of interest in the Holy Land, Miss Bremer extended her tour to the Turkish sea-coast, and investigated all that was worth seeing at Beyrout, Tripoli, Latakia, Rhodes, Smyrna, and Constantinople. In bidding farewell to the East, she expressed her joy and delight at having seen it, but added that not all its gold, nor all its treasure, would induce her to spend her days in its indolent and luxurious atmosphere. She loved the West, with its intellectual activity and deep moral life, its progress and its aspirations after the higher liberty. The inertia of the East irritates a strong brain almost to madness.

Her next pilgrimage was to classic Greece, the land of Solon and Lycurgus, Pericles and Pisistratus, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Demosthenes—the land of Byron and Shelley—the land of poetry and patriotism, of the myths of gods and the histories of heroes—the land which Art and Nature have fondly combined to enrich with their choicest treasures. The impression it made upon her was profound. Writing at Athens, she says:—

"I confess that the effect produced upon me here by life and the surrounding objects makes me almost dread to remain for any length of time; dread, lest beneath this clear Olympian heaven, and amid all the delightful entertainment offered to the senses, it might be possible, not, indeed, to forget, but to feel much less forcibly the great aim and purpose of that life for which the God-Man[Pg 178] lived, died, and rose again from the dead. 'They who cannot bear strong wines should not make use of them.' For this reason, therefore, I shall soon leave Greece, and return to my Northern home, the cloudy skies and long winters of which will not delude me into finding an earthly existence too bewitchingly beautiful. Yet am I glad that I shall be able to say to the men and women in the far North, 'If there be any one among you who suffers both in body and soul from the bleak cold of the North, or from the heavy burden of its life, let him come hither. Not to Italy, where prevails too much sirocco, and the rain, when it once begins, rains as if it would never leave off; no, but hither, where the air is pure as the atmosphere of freedom, the heavens as free from cloud as the dwellings of the gods; where the temples on the heights lift the glance upwards, and the sea and the mountains expand vast horizons to the eye, rich in colour, in thought, and in feeling; where all things are full of hope-awakening life—antiquity, the present, and the future. Let him, beneath the sacred colonnades on the hills, or in the shade of the classic groves in the valleys, listen anew to the divine Plato, enjoy the grapes of the vales of Athéné, the figs from the native village of Socrates, honey from the thyme-scented hills of Hymettus and Cithæron, feed the glance and the mind, the soul and the body, daily with that old, ever-young beauty—that which was, and that which now springs up to new life, and he will be restored to his usual vigour of health; or, dying, will thank God that[Pg 179] the earth can become a vestibule to the Father's home above.'"[15]

"I shall soon leave Greece," she writes; but the charm of Hellas proved too powerful for her, and she spent nearly a year in visiting its memorable places. It was in the early days of August, 1859, that she landed at Athens; in the early days of June, 1860, she arrived at Venice. In the interval she had visited Nauplia, Argos, and Corinth; had sailed amongst the beautiful islands of the blue Ægean; had wandered in the classic vale of Eurotas, and amongst the ruins of Sparta; had traversed Thessaly, and surveyed the famous Pass where Leonidas and his warriors stood at bay against the hosts of Persia; had mused in the oracular shades of Delphi and gazed at the haunted peak of Parnassus, and looked upon all that remains of hundred-gated Thebes. It is impossible for us to follow in all this extended circuit, and over ground so rich in tradition and association. Wherever she went she carried the great gift of a refined taste and a cultivated mind, so that she was always in full accord with the scene, could appreciate its character, and recall whatever was memorable about it. It is only thus that travel can be made profitable, or that a genuine enjoyment can be derived from it; just as it is only an harmonious nature that feels the full charm of music.

There are delightful pages in Miss Bremer's "Greece[Pg 180] and the Greeks"; the keen pleasure she felt in the classic and lovely scenes around her she knows how to communicate to her readers; her literary skill puts them before us in all their freshness of colour and purity of atmosphere. Let us take a picture from Naxos, the island consecrated by the lovely legend of Ariadne; it shall be a landscape fit to inspire a poet's song:—

"Villa Somariva is situated on the slope of a mountain, or on one of the many terraces which are formed from the slopes. Behind the villa lies, somewhat higher up the mountain, a little village of white-washed, small, den-like houses, and a yet whiter church; and still higher up than the village, a square tower—Pyrgos—in the style of the Middle Ages. Below, and on both sides of our villa, spread out extensive grounds, consisting of private gardens and groves, separated from each other by two walls, almost concealed from the eye by the number of trees and bushes which grow there in a state of nature and with all its luxuriance. Vines clamber up into the lofty olive trees, and fall down again in light green festoons, heavy with grapes, which wave in the wind. Slender cypresses rise up from amidst brightly verdant groves of orange, fig, pomegranate, plum, and peach trees. Tall mulberry trees, umbrageous planes, and ash trees glance down upon thickets and hedges of blossoming myrtles, oleanders, and the aguus cactus. From amidst this garden-paradise, which occupies the whole higher portion of the entire extent of the valley, rise here and there white villas, with ornaments upon their roofs and balconies, with small towers, which show a mediæval Venetian origin. Around the valley ascend mountains in a wide circuit, their slopes covered with shadowy olive woods, and cultivated almost to their summits, which are rounded and not very high. These larger villages, with their churches, and half a dozen lesser homesteads, are situated on the terraces of the hills, surrounded by cultivated fields and olive groves. All these houses are of stone, and white-washed, and all approach the square or dice-like form. From our windows and balconies which face the west, we can overlook almost the whole of this extensive valley, and beyond a depression in its ring of mountains, we see the white-grey marble tympanum of Paros, with its two sister cupolas, surrounded by that clear blue vapour which makes it apparent that the sea lies between them and our island. On the side opposite to the softly-rounded crown of Paros shines out the interior summit of Naxos, high above the mountain of Melanès, a giant head upon giant shoulders, which are called Bolibay, and have a fantastic appearance.


[Pg 181]

"But I have not yet mentioned the Fountain of Beauty, in the valley of Melanès, the fountain of its fertility—the Fleurio, which flows in many small streams through the gardens, and supplies us with the most glorious water.... The river Fleurio bounds along the middle of the valley, and makes its fields green; it murmurs meanderingly along over a deep bed of marble blocks and stones, its banks garlanded with fine-leaved,[Pg 182] white-flowering savin and oleanders; besides being overshadowed in many places by the most beautiful plane trees stretching out their high branches to each other across the little stream, which in its calm but fresh career, and its romantic meanderings, is a living image of a beautiful quiet life."

Not the least interesting of Miss Bremer's many pilgrimages was the one she made to that plain of Marathon, where the genius of Miltiades beat back the legions of Persia under Datis—the scene of the first great victory of the West over the East. The lower portion of the plain, which skirts the coast, was clothed with abundant harvests of wheat and rye, which waved softly in the wind. What monument, asks Miss Bremer, could have been more beautiful for those brave men whose dust has been mingled with the earth?[16] After thousands of years their heroic contention for liberty had prepared freedom and peace for Greece. The seed they sowed was "flaming" seed, which continues to live even in the darkness of the grave; seed from which the harvests of peace spring up in all their glory.

The Swedish novelist and her companions rested and dined on the greensward at a spot where a number of white marble slabs indicated that the ancient monuments had stood there. Around them spread the shining corn-fields,[Pg 183] and myriads of beautiful flowers gleamed amid the grass. In the afternoon they rambled to the village of Viana—old Marathon—picturesquely situated at the foot of Pentelicus. Old and young gathered round them in the village—a poor, ignorant, half-savage people, but not one of them begged; on the contrary, they were generous and hospitable according to their means. They fetched straw mats and mattresses, and laid them on the ground round a large tree.... In a cleft of the mountain, just above the village, stood a little monastery church, wonderfully picturesque. The prospect over the extensive plain, the gleaming straits, and the cliffs of the island of Eubœa, is full of inspiration. Visitors to Marathon, in search of mementoes, generally look for the arrows that are sometimes found upon the shore; but Miss Bremer, as a more appropriate souvenir, carried away a bouquet of wheat ears and wild everlastings.

It would be pleasant to follow Miss Bremer from place to place throughout her classic wanderings, for such a companion enhances the delight and utility of travel; it is like studying a fine poem with the help of a poet's interpretation of it. But our space is exhausted, and the reader who would go further must be referred to her interesting volumes. Every page bears the stamp of a sympathetic intelligence.


[9] F. Milon: "Life and Letters of Frederika Bremer" (Ed. 1868), p. 9.

[10] Besides the works named in the preceding pages, Frederika Bremer wrote "The Diary," "Life in Dalecarlia," "Brothers and Sisters," and "The Midnight Sun."

[11] Frederika Bremer's judgment is certainly at fault here; and in other points she does not show a very exact discrimination. The sketch, indeed, is witty rather than accurate; a clever caricature rather than a correct drawing.

[12] There is much more poetry in Miss Bremer's prose works than in her poems, which are little more than the efforts of an accomplished versifier.

[13] F. Bremer, "Two Years in Switzerland and Italy" (transl. by Mary Howitt), i. 15-17.

[14] One or two quotations, illustrative of Frederika Bremer's style, we may give in a note. And, first, her impression of the mountains ("Two Years in Switzerland and Italy," i. 239):—

"They stand in nature like the prophets of the Old Testament, or, more correctly speaking, like the old wise men and teachers of the pagan world, and point us to a greatness high above that in which we, the children of the valleys and the plains, have our being. For these pyramids are not the pleasantest things upon earth, they are not the fragrance of the flowers, not the singing of the birds, not the changing life of the seasons. Imperishable in their eternal place, they are moved alone by the sun. The sun alone causes them to glow or become pale, and to paint for us images of life or of death. But they alone receive its earliest beams in the morning, and retain its light in the evening long after it has departed from us. It is in their bosoms that spring feeds the great rivers which fertilize the earth, foster the life of cities, and extend themselves, beautifying, benefiting, even to the smallest blades of grass."

And, secondly, the Simplon (ibid. i. 315, 316):—

"The scenery was wild, and of an imposing grandeur. The sun shone upon the mass of cloud, and wind chased the misty shadows amongst the mountains. All around, in an immense circle, glaciers and snow-clad mountain-peaks gleamed forth from amongst the clouds. Before me rose a lofty mountain, shaped like a cupola, the top of which was covered with a black cloud, whilst the lower part was lighted up by bright sunshine. It was the peak of the Simplon. Troops of misty shapes were chased round it by the wind, as in a wild sweep, whilst they strove to reach the top, which seemed in its turn to reject them. The black cloud lay threateningly above, and the white, misty spectres careered around like the unhappy and unsettled souls in the Hell of Dante. Still increasing in number, they ascended from the depth below; still more and more wildly were they chased round the ice-clad mountain—clad as in tatters of ice—into the dazzling sunshine beneath the black forbidding cloud. Masses of water were hurled down from the neighbouring glaciers with thundering din. There is danger here from avalanches during spring and autumn, and for that reason strong stone galleries are built in many parts of the road to serve as a shelter for people and for carriages. Avalanches and torrents are hurled down over the arched roofs and into the abyss on the other side. Even now masses of ice hang threateningly upon the heights to the left along the road; but these will dissolve in foaming rivers, which will find their outlets in deep clefts of the mountain, over which the road is carried, or they are conveyed away by means of strongly constructed gutters over the roofs of the stone galleries. One of these streams is hurled down with a force and a din which is deafening. The whole of this scene was so wild and so magnificent that it thrilled me at once with terror and joy. The sun gleamed through all as with lightning-flashes, and as if in combat with the demons of nature."

[15] "Greece and the Greeks," i. 40, 41.

[16] A monument has since been erected.

[Pg 184]


For the female mind, ever touching at one extreme the most prosaic matter-of-fact, and at the other the most exalted sentiment, with an almost equal capacity for realism and idealism, the combined romance and simplicity, picturesqueness and primitiveness of Oriental life, has a peculiar charm. So, too, in the romance of Eastern travel, with its surprises and adventures, its strong lights and profound shadows, it finds an exciting contrast to that commonplace routine of existence, that daily round of conventionalities, which is imposed upon them by the social tyranny of the West. Fettered as women are in highly civilized countries by restraints, obligations, and responsibilities, which are too often arbitrary and artificial, their impatience of them is not difficult to be understood; and it is natural enough that when the opportunity offers, they should hail even a temporary emancipation. No doubt it is this motive which, in different ways, has influenced the courageous ladies, whose names in the present century have been[Pg 185] so brilliantly inscribed on the record of Eastern travel; such as Lady Hester Stanhope, Lady Duff Gordon, Lady Baker, Miss Edwards, and Lady Blunt. And this motive it was, strengthened by a naturally adventurous disposition, which induced Mademoiselle Alexina Tinné—of whose career we are now about to speak—to incur the perils of African exploration.

"Visitors to Algiers some years ago, will remember the air of mystery hanging about a certain yacht lying off the harbour. Rumour spread all kinds of glowing reports about the mistress of its motley crew, Europeans, negroes, and stately Nubians. Some said it was an Oriental princess; one invented a love affair to account for the lonely wanderings of this female Odysseus; another hinted darkly at some political mission from far-off Mussulman courts to the chiefs of the Sahara. The bare truth, when at last it was made known, was almost as marvellous as anything fiction could invent on behalf of its owner. The yacht, indeed, belonged to a lady, young, beautiful, and possessed of queenly fortune, whose existence, almost from childhood, had been spent in the East; who had already accomplished several voyages of discovery in Central Africa; and who, undaunted by the mishaps of former pioneers in the same direction, now projected an undertaking, which, if carried out successfully, would place her in the foremost rank of African explorers."

Alexina, or Alexandrina Tinné, was born at the Hague in 1835 (or, according to some authorities, 1839). Her[Pg 186] father was a Dutch merchant, who, after acquiring a large fortune in Demerara, was naturalized in England, and finally took up his residence at Liverpool. Her mother, a Dutch baroness, was the daughter of Admiral van Capellen, who commanded the Dutch squadron of Lord Exmouth's fleet at the bombardment of Algiers in 1816. The death of her father while she was still a child, made her the heiress of vast wealth; but she was fortunate in having in her mother a prudent and sagacious guardian, who was careful that her education should in all respects be worthy of her position. She was introduced at Court at an exceptionally early age, and became a great favourite of the Queen of Holland. Fate, indeed, seemed to have placed at her disposal everything which society most values, and to have enabled her to realize in an unusual degree what Dr. Johnson so happily described as "the potentialities of wealth." All the enjoyments of literary and artistic culture, all the pleasures of a refined and favoured life, all the influence for good or evil that accrues to a leader of fashion, were commanded by this young lady; and yet, in the very bloom of maidenhood, she voluntarily set them aside. Whether it was that an impatient and a restless spirit rebelled against social conventionalisms, or whether she was actuated by an earnest love of knowledge, or whether some romance of crushed hope and rejected love was involved, is not certainly known; but rich, and gifted, and fortunate as she was, she suddenly disappeared from the Hague about 1859, and after a[Pg 187] brief visit to Norway and a rapid tour to Italy, Constantinople, and Palestine proceeded to the banks of the Nile. In company with her mother and her aunt she examined the monuments and antiquities of Egypt, and then took up her winter residence at Cairo.

This experience of travel sharpened her appetite for adventure. It was a time when the minds of men were much occupied with the subject of African exploration, and we need not wonder, therefore, that it attracted the attention of Alexina Tinné. She appears to have been by nature of a romantic temperament, with an imagination as lively as her spirit was undaunted. At Palmyra she had dreamed of a career which should emulate that of Zenobia. In the Lebanon she had a vision of installing herself as successor to Lady Hester Stanhope. And now she conceived the idea of competing for the suffrages of posterity with Burton and Livingstone, Speke and Baker. To some extent she was influenced, perhaps, by the wide-spread reputation of Mrs. Petherick, the wife of the English consul at Khartûm; but no doubt her main desire was to solve the great enigma of the Nilitic sphinx, and show that a woman could succeed where men had failed. What an immortality of fame would be hers if she prevailed over every obstacle and difficulty, and penetrated, as no European yet had done, to the remote source, the parent fountain of the waters of Egypt's great historic river! It must be owned that, if this were her ambition, there was nothing mean or unworthy in it.[Pg 188]

She set out on the 9th of January, 1862, still accompanied by her mother and her aunt, over whom her resolute nature exercised an undisputed ascendancy, voyaging in their boats, which carried a large stock of provisions, an ample supply of money, chiefly in copper, and a numerous train of guides, guards, and servants. In the largest and most commodious dahabuyah went the three ladies, with a Syrian cook and four European servants. Alexina's journal, it is said, preserves many curious details in unconscious illustration of the mixed character of this expedition, which might almost have been that of a new Cleopatra going to meet a new Mark Antony; we see the beauty there as well as the heroine; the handsome woman, mindful of her toilette appliances, as well as the courageous explorer, athirst for knowledge.

Passing in safety the first cataract, Miss Tinné's flotilla reached Korosko, where she and her companions took temporary leave of the Nile, of tourists, and civilization, and stuck across the sandy wastes of Korosko to Abu-Hammed, in order to avoid the wide curve which the river makes to the eastward. The caravan, besides Miss Tinné's domestics, included six guides and twenty-five armed men; while a hundred and ten camels and dromedaries were loaded with stores and provisions. The desert did not prove so dreary as it had been painted; sand and rock were frequently relieved by stretches of gracious verdure. The monotony of the plains was often broken by ranges of undulating hills.[Pg 189] Every evening the camels found an ample supply of pasturage, and could quench their thirst freely in the basins of water that sparkled in the hollows of the rocks.

The passage of the Korosko Desert usually occupies eight or nine days; but as Alexina advanced very leisurely, by daily stages not exceeding seven or eight hours each, she consumed nearly three weeks in the journey. Notwithstanding this easy mode of travel, her mother was so fatigued that, on arriving at Abu-Hammed, on the banks of the Nile, she solicited that they should again take to the river. A dahabuyah was accordingly hired, along with six stalwart boatmen, all of whom swore on the Kúran that they would keep pace with the swiftest dromedary. So while the caravan dragged its laborious way through the burning, shifting sand, Alexina and her kinswomen leisurely ascended the Nile. But the boatmen soon threw to the winds their promises, relaxed their efforts, and allowed the caravan to push ahead of them, replying to all reproaches that their work was arduous, and the sun's heat excessive.

Meantime, the progress of the caravan was considerable, and at nightfall tents were pitched on the river-bank, and fires lighted. When no dahabuyah appeared much surprise was felt, and men were sent to look out for it, but in vain. It was not until the following day that news was obtained of it, and then it was found that the Egyptian boatmen had at last laid down their oars in sullen indolence, and that Miss Tinné and the other ladies had been compelled to pass the night in a[Pg 190] Nubian village. This misadventure taught them the lesson that in Eastern countries it is safer to trust to brutes than to men; the boatmen were summarily dismissed, and the ladies once more joined the caravan.

But the heat proving insupportable, they were driven once more to essay the river transit. A boat was again hired; a second time they embarked on the shining Nile; and again an evil fortune attended them. Instead of reaching Berber, as they should have done, in four days, they spent a week in the voyage; but it was some compensation for their fatigue when, at two hours' march from the city, they were received by some thirty chiefs, mounted upon camels, and attended by janissaries in splendid attire, who, with much pomp and circumstance, escorted them to the gates of Berber. There they were received by the governor with every detail of Oriental etiquette; were comfortably lodged in pavilions in his garden, and surrounded by an atmosphere of courteous hospitality. No longer in need of a complete caravan, Miss Tinné dismissed her camel drivers; and desirous of leaving on their minds a permanently favourable impression, she rewarded them with such unbounded generosity that they broke out into unaccustomed exclamations of joy and gratitude, and to this day sing of the white queen's glory, as if she had revived the splendour of Palmyra.

This profusion was, however, not wholly without calculation. Those who benefited by it spread her praises in every direction, so that her coming was eagerly looked[Pg 191] for, and hospitality pressed upon her with an eagerness which may have been inspired by selfish motives, but was not the less agreeable to her companions or herself. The young girls danced merrily at her approach; they took her for a princess, or, at all events, as such they saluted her.

After resting for some weeks at Berber, Miss Tinné again hired their boats, and ascended the Nile to Khartûm, the chief town of the Egyptian Soudan. Situated at the confluence of the two Niles, the White and the Blue, it is already the centre of a considerable commerce, and the rendezvous of almost all the caravans of Nubia and the Upper Nile. Unfortunately it is one of the world's cloacinæ, a kind of moral cesspool, into which flows the uncleanness, the filth of many nations; the rendezvous of Italians, Germans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen, whom their own countries have repudiated; political gamblers, who had played their last card and lost their last stake; fraudulent bankrupts, unscrupulous speculators—men who have nothing to hope, nothing to lose, and are too callous, or too desperate, or too miserable to fear. The great scourge of the place—even now, after all the efforts, not wholly unsuccessful, of Colonel Gordon, is the detestable slave-trade; and by its abettors the projected journey of Miss Tinné was regarded with much hostility. It was obvious that, traversing as she would do the districts blighted by this terrible plague, she would see all its sad results, and her fearless exposure of them would not long be delayed. Secretly, therefore,[Pg 192] they threw every possible obstacle in the way of her advance; but her wealth, high position, and unfailing energy, prevailed over all; and after a delay of some weeks she succeeded in completing her preparations. A sufficient stock of provisions was got together, and a supply of trinkets for the purpose of gifts or barter; an escort of thirty-eight men, including ten soldiers, fully armed, and all bearing a good character for trustworthiness, was engaged; and, finally, she hired, for the large sum of ten thousand francs, a small steamboat, belonging to Prince Halim, the late Khedive's brother.

Her high moral sense revolted at the low social tone of Khartûm, and she left it with gladness to begin the ascent of the White Nile, and carry out the objects she had proposed to herself. It was pleasant to gaze on the fair landscapes which lined the banks of the great river. Its serene loveliness charmed her, and she compared it, not inappropriately, to Virginia Water, the picturesque miniature lake which shines amid the foliaged depths of Windsor Forest. Pleasant to look upon were the dense groups of shapely trees: palms, mimosas, acacias, the gum-tree—which frequently rivals the oak in size—and the graceful tamarisk. Myriads of shrubs furnish the blue ape with a shelter; the air sparkles with the many-coloured wings of swarms of birds. On the broad bright bosom of the stream spread the large leaves and white flowers of colossal lilies, among which the crocodile and hippopotamus pursue their unwieldy pastime.

How marvellous the effects of colour, when this[Pg 193] romantic scene is flooded in the glowing sunshine. Through the transparent air every object is seen with a sharp, clear outline, and the sense of distance is overcome. When a shadow falls it is defined as boldly as on canvas; no generous mist softens or conceals it; everything is shown as frankly as in a mirror. In the noontide heats all nature is as silent here as in the virgin forests of the New World; but when the cool breath of evening begins to be felt, and that luminous darkness which is the glory of a summer night in Central Africa folds softly over the picture, the multiform life of earth swiftly re-awakens; birds and butterflies hover in the air, the monkeys chatter merrily, and leap from bough to bough. The sounds which then arise—song and hum and murmur, the roll of the river, the drone of insects, the cries of the wild beasts—all seem to blend in one grand vesper harmony—one choral hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord of life. These are generally hushed as the night advances; and then swarms of fire-flies and glow-worms light their tiny torches and illuminate the dark with a magical display; while the drowsy air hangs heavy with the sweet and subtle odours exhaled from the corollas of the plants which open only in night's cool and tranquil hours.

Such a landscape as this, with its gorgeous colour and its novel life, harmonized admirably with Miss Tinné's poetical and dreamy temperament. She had realized her visions; the romance of the East was around her, and she the most conspicuous figure in it. Through the[Pg 194] different Nile villages the expedition touched at, she loved to ride, followed by an armed escort, dazzling the natives by her fair young beauty and splendour of appearance, amazing them by her lavish liberality, and receiving from them the homage due to a supposed daughter of the Sultan. To this high rank they naturally elevated so magnificent and commanding a personage. Their hearts, moreover, were won by her evident sympathy with their down-trodden and suffering race. On one occasion she encountered an Egyptian pasha, returning with a booty of slaves from a recent razzia. She besought him to release the unhappy creatures, and when he refused, purchased eight of them, immediately setting them at liberty, and supplying them also with provisions. This has been ridiculed as a quixotic act; but to our thinking it was an act of generous womanly enthusiasm, which may be accepted as redeeming many of the faults and failings of Miss Tinné's character, and compensating for the frivolities which overclouded the real motive of her enterprise. To every benevolent impulse her heart responded, like an Æolian harp to the touch of the lightest breeze; and in the midst of her enjoyment of the picturesque features of her enterprise, she ceased not to suffer severely at the sight of the wretched condition of the poor negroes who fell victims to the necessities of a nefarious traffic.

This traffic had excited such passions of revenge and hatred in the breasts of the riverine tribes of the Nile, that the passage of the river had become very dangerous,[Pg 195] and the land journey almost impossible. The natives looked upon every white man as a Turk and a slave-dealer; and when a boat appeared on the horizon, terror-stricken mothers cried to their children, "The Tourké, the Tourké are coming!" The scarlet fez, or tarbouch, was regarded with peculiar aversion. "It is the colour of blood just spilled," said a negro to his family. "It never fades," they said; "the Turk renews it constantly in the blood of the poor black man."

They learned to distinguish, however, between the slave-dealer's boats and Alexina Tinné's steamer. Twice or thrice they boarded the latter; at first very timidly, but afterwards with courage. "Is the young lady in command," they said, "the Sultan's sister? Comes she to assist or to persecute us?" When acquainted with the pacific object of her expedition, they rapidly grew familiar, and ventured to go upon deck. "Since you mean no evil against us," they cried, "we will do you no harm; we will love you!" They took from her hands a cup of tea, and courteously drank it without showing any repugnance; while they answered all her questions respecting their manners and customs, and supplied her with information relative to the surrounding country. So greatly to her liking was her reception that she would have remained for a lengthened period among this friendly people, had she not felt bound to prosecute her journey to the southward.

Resuming her voyage, she proceeded steadily in the[Pg 196] direction of the land of the Derikas. Two or three villages were seen on the river-banks, but the landscape was bare and sterile, and Miss Tinné felt no inclination to disembark until she reached Mount Hunaya. When her followers understood that she had resolved to encamp there during the rainy season, they protested vehemently, and talked of the dangers to be incurred from elephants and lions. Alexina, however, was not to be moved from her determination; but as the steamer was in need of repair, she sent it back to Khartûm in charge of her aunt.

As soon as the necessary repairs were completed, Madame Tinné quitted Khartûm. On her arrival at Jebel Hunaya, she was received with shouts of joy, and, to the surprise of the natives, with a salute from some small cannons. Nothing had occurred of special interest during her absence, except that on one occasion, when Alexina was reading at a short distance from the camp, she had a narrow escape from a young panther. On discovering the animal, she had the presence of mind, however, to stand perfectly still, while she summoned her soldiers and servants to her assistance. On their arrival, a cordon was drawn round the panther, and it was easily captured.

On the 7th of July, the steamer, heavily laden and towing two boats, continued its course up the river. Between the Jebel Hunaya and the point where the Bahr-el-Ghazal flows into the White Nile, the scenery is of a very unattractive character, and the river-banks[Pg 197] are parched and unfruitful. Here and there the wind soughs through masses of tall reeds and aquatic plants; at other points the waters overflow their bounds for some two or three thousand yards, creating on each side an impassable swamp.

The journey was continued eastward until they reached the settlement of an Arab chief, named Mohammed Chu, who, by mingled craft and force, had subjugated the neighbouring tribes, and asserted his rule over this part of the Soudan. When, as not infrequently happened, he was in want of money, he exercised the right of the strong hand, and, at the head of his freebooters, sallied forth; destroying villages, massacring their male inhabitants, seizing upon the women and children to sell as slaves, and carrying off the cattle. He was partial to pomp and circumstance, and paraded to and fro on a magnificent horse, the saddle of which was embroidered with gold and silver, and sparkled with precious stones. But on the arrival of Alexina Tinné, his courage seemed to desert him; and he was terrified by the Turkish soldiers who mounted guard on the steamer's deck. It was probably owing to this spasm of alarm that he received the ladies with royal honours, sending them sheep, oxen, fruit, vegetables, dancers, archæological curiosities—in short, he seemed anxious to make offering of all he possessed. Afterwards, however, his liberality was found to proceed from another motive; he supposed that he was doing honour to the favourite daughter of the Grand Turk, and in his zeal meditated[Pg 198] proclaiming her the Queen of the Soudan. When his visitors bade him farewell, he strenuously advised them not to proceed any further south. "Take care," he said, "you do not come into collision with the Shillooks, who are my sworn enemies, and the enemies of all who cross their frontiers. Beware lest they set fire to your boats, as they have already done to all vessels coming from Khartûm."

Alexina Tinné disregarded these warnings, continued her voyage, and, a few days later, anchored off a Shillook village. The sailors, frightened by Mohammed's speech, refused to approach it; but she landed with her usual decision, attended only by an interpreter, an officer, and an escort of ten soldiers. Her fame as the daughter of the Sultan had already preceded her, and she was welcomed with every demonstration of respect. The Shillooks, as is the case with other and more civilized peoples, endeavour to beguile every stranger into a share in their hostilities; and they made great efforts to induce Miss Tinné to assist them against that terrible Mohammed Chu, who had but just shown such a loyal anxiety to proclaim her Queen of the Soudan. When she refused to join in the campaign, their disappointment was bitter. Dr. Barth and other travellers speak in warm terms of this unfortunate tribe, who have suffered scarcely less from Europeans than from Arabs. They live under conditions the most unfavourable to their development; on every side they are hemmed in by foes. Constantly falling victims to the cruelty of the slave-hunters, it is[Pg 199] no wonder that they regard with suspicion, and too often treat with ferocity, the strangers who traverse their land; not unnaturally they implicate them in the traffic which crushes them to the ground.

Alexina Tinné reached at length the junction of the Sobat with the Nile. She determined on ascending the tributary stream to its highest navigable point, calculating that the voyage would not occupy more than seven or eight days. The Sobat valley is much more attractive to the eye than the course of the White Nile. Its ample pastures, teeming with flocks of ostriches and herds of giraffes, stretch away to the remote horizon. Elephants wander freely in the fertile uplands, coming down to the river at evening-time to drink. For weeks the voyagers lingered among the fair scenery of this happy valley; and then they resumed their ascent of the Nile as far as Lake Nû, where it receives the majestic volume of the Bahr-el-Ghazal before striking sharply towards the south.

The swamps of the White Nile exhale a malarious atmosphere, unfavourable to human life, but not adverse to the growth of a picturesque vegetation. Tamarisks, mimosas, climbing plants, papyrus, and euphorbia—the latter yielding a poisonous milky juice in which the natives dip their deadly arrow-points—thrive in unchecked luxuriance, and present a rich variety of colour.

Beyond Lake Nû the White Nile breaks into an[Pg 200] intricate series of curves and meanders, through which its current rushes with great rapidity, and with such strength that the steamer was compelled to throw off the towing-rope of the two Nile boats, and leave them to themselves. The sailors and servants accordingly landed, and set to work with sturdy arms to haul them against the stream. But in the worst fury of the current the rope broke, and the boats drifting downward, seemed doomed to destruction. Osman Aga, a resolute and courageous soldier, who was on the deck of the steamer at the time, seized another rope and sprang instantly into the river. With vigorous strokes he made for the shore. He had almost gained it, and had flung the rope to the crew of the nearest boat, when the strength of the current overpowered him, and he sank! After awhile his surviving comrades recovered the brave fellow's body, and gave it honourable burial in the native fashion at the foot of a patriarchal tree, on the trunk of which was cut a memorial inscription.

Some days after this sad event, Miss Tinné ascended the river to Heiligenkreuz, an Austrian missionary station. There she remained until mid-September, making a short excursion into the interior; crossing rivers, penetrating into swampy forests, and visiting villages inhabited by a quite naked population, feeding upon bats, snakes, termites, and raw roots.

As the voyagers drew near Gondokoro they observed that the scenery assumed a grander character. The river-banks lay deep in the shadow of luxuriant tropical[Pg 201] forests, in the recesses of which the ruins of ancient buildings were sometimes visible. Gondokoro, long regarded as the ne plus ultra of the Nile Valley, was reached on the 30th of September. It proved to be the farthest limit of the African explorations of our heroine. She ardently desired to advance; to share some of the glory which crowns the names of Speke and Grant, Baker and Petherick; to behold with her own eyes the vast expanse of the blue Victorian Sea; to trace to its fountain-head the course of the Nile; but the authorities threw obstacles in her way which proved to be insurmountable. Apart from these, the progress of the expedition was arrested by the malarious fever which attacked herself and most of her followers. In her own case the attack was so severe as at one time to threaten her life.

After her recovery she devoted herself to the study of the habits and manners of the tribes dwelling in the neighbourhood of Gondokoro. They are all Baris; very ignorant and superstitious, but not naturally cruel. The most prosperous trade among them is that of the sorcerer, who acts also as the medicine-man. When a Bari falls ill, he hastens to consult the Punok, receives from him some infallible and grotesque recipe, and—behold he is cured! His faith in the prescribed remedy is the source of its efficacy. One of these magicians had the address to persuade the negroes of his immortality, and extracted from them ample presents of oxen, sheep, and the like. Unfortunately, he declaimed vehemently against the proceedings of the Egyptians, who having no sense[Pg 202] of humour, put him to death. His dupes collected round his dead body, and waited patiently for his resurrection; they began to doubt only when the corpse began to putrefy.

Among the Bari sorcerers an influential position is held by the "rain-maker," and the villagers lavish upon him, in days of drought, gifts of oxen, fruits and trinkets, as an inducement to evoke from the clouds their treasures of genial rain. Greatness, however, has always to pay a penalty; and if after the rain-maker has performed his rites, the drought continues, it is not unusual for the disappointed people to surround the Kodjan's house, drag him forth, and summarily cut open his stomach, on the plea that as the storms make no outward sign they must be shut up therein. Few are the years in which one of these "rain-makers" does not perish, unless he is crafty enough to effect his escape before his deception is discovered.

From Gondokoro Alexina Tinné returned to Khartûm, where the European community received her with applause. Her restless and adventurous spirit, however, could not long endure the burden of inaction. Baffled in one design, she immediately struck out another; and with characteristic energy and daring she resolved on ascending the great western tributary of the Nile, the Bahr-el-Ghazal, exploring the waters which feed it, and penetrating into the country of the Nyam-Nyam. She shared her counsels with two distinguished Abyssinian[Pg 203] travellers, Dr. Steudner, a German botanist, and Dr. Heughlin, a German naturalist, and the plans of the three adventurers were soon matured. They were joined by the Baron d'Arkel d'Ablaing; and having collected large supplies of provisions—the list reads like the catalogue of a co-operative store—and of articles suitable for barter, with a riding-horse for each traveller, and such a wardrobe for Miss Tinné and her mother as to justify the supposition that they intended to establish a Magasin des Modes among the Nyam-Nyam, they quitted Khartûm in February, 1863. The personnel of the expedition numbered 200 souls, including the Dutch women-servants, an Italian ship's steward, a Turkish officer, and ten privates, besides twenty Berber soldiers and several Arab interpreters and scribes. These were embarked on board a steamer, two dahabecyahs, and two ordinary Nile boats, which also carried four camels, thirty donkeys and mules, and the riding-horses aforesaid.

Doctor Heughlin, who had started in advance as a kind of pioneer, passed, on the 31st of January, the Jebel Tefafan, a lofty mountain which rises at no great distance from the river. His descriptions of the scenery through which his boat conveyed him are very graphic. The river broadened as he advanced, its entire breadth, however, not being discernible from the boat. Vegetation became more luxuriant, and was on a larger scale; the bushes resounded with the songs of birds, echoing clearly across the transparent water. Splendid was the white plumage of the osprey, shining in the midst of the dark-green[Pg 204] foliage; nor less so that of the little white heron, standing with melancholy aspect on the prostrate tree-trunks. On an overhanging branch, defined against the sky, was perched the timid, snake-necked cormorant, with fiery-red eyes fixed on his slippery prey; then, plump as a stone, darted into the water, above which, after a long interval, showed his head and neck. One of his comrades seemed to feel a little too drenched after his late immersion, for he sat in the sun, spreading out his beautiful plumage of dark metallic-green to dry. The piping call of the cheerful jacamar was changed at intervals for the deep, full note of the red-billed shrike, as he sat hidden in the thicket; bright yellow weaver-birds twittered in crowds on the boughs, whilst from the depth of the shade came the cooing murmur of the turtle-dove. Stark and rigid, like the stem of an old tree, the crocodile took his rest, sometimes with wide-open jaws: here and there the hippopotamus lifted his giant head from the troubled waters, now scattering them in showers of spray, now raising his fearful voice, which every echo of the distant shores repeated.

At length Dr. Heughlin reached Lake Nû, on the Bahr-el-Ghazal. At that time of the year the river in many places is as narrow as a canal, and bordered on both sides by a swampy plain which stretches away to the dim horizon, covered with a dense growth of gigantic reeds. At other places it broadens into considerable lakes.

The natives navigate it in light canoes, which they[Pg 205] manage with great dexterity. They sit astride the stern, with their legs hanging down in the water, and if they cannot find any branches capable of being used as oars, they paddle with their hands. The Nouers, who inhabit this region of marsh and morass, seem to offer an illustration of the Darwinian theory of the "survival of the fittest." By a process of natural selection, they have become thoroughly adapted to the conditions of the soil and climate, the weaker of the race having been killed off. Their physical strength is remarkable; they may, in fact, be described as a race of Anaks, averaging from six to seven feet in height.

While Dr. Heughlin, in the true scientific spirit, industriously explored the banks of the Bahr-el-Ghazal, Alexina Tinné was preparing to join him, and was bringing all her energy to bear upon the difficulties that impeded her. When only a few miles from Khartûm, her captain came to tell her, with signs of the greatest alarm, that the steamer was leaking and must shortly sink. It is easy to imagine her anxiety; but recovering her presence of mind, she gave orders that the cargo should be immediately unloaded, and the leak being repaired, she resumed her voyage. A few hours later, and the vessel was again in danger, the water pouring in with greater violence than before. A careful investigation was now made, and then it was discovered that the pilot and captain had each agreed to bore a hole in the ship's hull, in the hope of abruptly terminating a voyage which they, not less than their[Pg 206] crew, regarded with dread. Miss Tinné, however, was not to be thwarted in a fixed resolve; she at once dismissed the more unworthy portion of the crew, as well as the captain and the pilot, and then, with men who swore to be faithful to her, she once more proceeded towards the Bahr-el-Ghazal.

Her progress at first was slow, on account of the growth of tall thick grasses and aquatic plants that choked up the stream. In many places a water-way for the steamer had to be cut with axe and knife. Grisly crocodiles lay in the sun-baked mud; from the depths of the intertangled reeds rose the snort of the hippopotamus; while, with steady gaze, the elephant watched the movements of the strange apparition. The swamps of the Gazelle River are the happy pasture-grounds of hundreds of wild beasts. But though game is so plentiful, the sportsman finds it no easy matter to get at it. He cannot make his way through the dry and withered vegetation without a crackling of leaves and a snapping of stems, which give instant alarm to vigilant and suspicious ears. No sooner does he set foot in the jungle, than, as if warned by some secret telegraphic agency, all its inmates take to flight. On one occasion, while Miss Tinné's men were vainly seeking to track the great river-horse, a huge elephant, which had probably pushed forward too far into the river in the keenness of its thirst, was caught up in the current and driven against one of the boats. This was too good an opportunity to be neglected: the[Pg 207] boatmen immediately attacked the ill-fated animal, killed it, and cut it in pieces.

On the 10th of March the ladies steamed into the port of Meschra-el-Rey, in the Bahr-el-Ghazal, and joined Dr. Heughlin. They were received with great enthusiasm—flags flying and guns firing. Here a delay of some days occurred, while they awaited further supplies of provisions, and a number of porters to carry their baggage, from Khartûm. At length the gentlemen grew impatient, and it was arranged that they should go in search of the promised bearers, leaving Miss Tinné and her companions at Meschra. Accordingly, Drs. Heughlin and Steudner set out; but the malarious climate was working its evil will upon them, and in a state of great prostration from fever and dysentery, they traversed a desert country, and crossing the river Djur on the 2nd of April, arrived the same evening at Wan. Here Dr. Steudner succumbed to his disease, and passed away, almost without pain, on the 10th. His friend contrived to give him decent burial. The body was wrapped in Abyssinian cloth, covered with leaves, and interred in the shade of melancholy boughs, amidst "that magnificent nature whose true servant and worshipper he was."

At Bongo, in the land of Dur, Dr. Heughlin succeeded in hiring an adequate number of porters, though at a heavy price, and returned to Meschra after an absence of six weeks. The ladies were suffering from fever; but a supply of provisions having arrived from[Pg 208] Khartûm, they set out, undismayed, for Bongo. They travelled by short stages, and when towards nightfall they reached a village which seemed to offer convenient quarters, Miss Tinné would send for the sheikh, and the gift of a few beads was always sufficient to secure them convenient quarters.

The African villages are frequently of considerable size. They are usually surrounded by a belt of cultivated ground, where dourra, sesamum, and culinary vegetables thrive abundantly. The flocks that swarm over the pastures often include some thousands of sheep, though they are never killed by the natives for purposes of food. At first Miss Tinné easily purchased several, but as soon as the natives discovered that she slaughtered them for provision, they refused to sell. Apparently they make them the object of a rude cultus, as the Lapps do the hare. Their scruples vanished, however, at the sight of the White Princess's trinkets. What is very curious is, that each tribe has its favourite colour—that while one swears by blue beads, another has eyes only for green; so that a tribe which will violate its conscience for a handful of blue or yellow beads, will preserve it untouched if tested by beads of any other colour. The most potent bribe—potent enough to prevail over even the stoutest conscience—is a piece of blue or red cotton; but this, on account of its moral value, Miss Tinné was careful to keep exclusively for the chiefs.

The journey to Bongo was rendered tedious and[Pg 209] troublesome by the rains. A large quantity of provisions was spoiled, and the ladies on their mules were drenched to the skin without any possibility of drying their clothes. The country through which they passed presented scene upon scene of an interesting or attractive character. The groves expanded into woods, and the woods into forests, the delighted eye gazing with ever fresh gratification on the dense network of creepers and wild vines that stretched from tree to tree, while the green gloom was everywhere lighted up with starry blossoms. As the travellers penetrated farther into the country, they came upon an entirely different picture; vast plains widened away to that vague horizon where earth and heaven seemed to blend in mist. Occasionally the monotonous level was pleasantly relieved by clusters of gracious trees, forming so many isles of greenery, where the bland calm air was fragrant with the sweet subtle odours breathed from magnificent cactuses, orchids, and irises. Thousands of birds, surprised among the tall grasses by the passing caravan, sprang aloft, and filled the air with the whir and winnow of swift wings.

As for some years a marked diminution had taken place in the number of elephants inhabiting the valley of the White Nile, the ivory traders had gradually pushed forward into the lands watered by the Gazelle and the Djur. This was a virgin region, a mine hitherto unworked, and accordingly, in order to profit[Pg 210] to the full by its resources, a chain of stations was established, each in charge of a vakeel, or manager. Every November these were visited by the traders, who carried off in their boats the accumulated ivory, and sometimes added to their cargo of elephants' tusks the unfortunate negroes who had served them as guides and hunters. As time went on, they extended their operations, armed the tribes one against the other, encouraged them in their destructive feuds, and in this way consolidated their nefarious tyranny.

By one of these infamous traffickers in flesh and blood our travellers were grossly plundered. At his urgent request, Miss Tinné and her companions advanced to Bongo, where he exercised authority. A royal welcome was accorded them. Their arrival was announced by volleys of musketry, and Biselli (such was the name of the vakeel) met them at the entrance to the village, and conducted them to a really spacious and convenient residence, where they were immediately served with sherbet, coffee, and other refreshing drinks. His lavish hospitality embraced everybody; not only the travellers but their attendants. The abrek, the drink of the country, was freely circulated among the people, and distributed even to the porters.

Biselli, it was soon discovered, owned almost everything in the village, and lorded it over the entire neighbourhood. Alexina requested him to sell her some corn and oxen; he replied, in what seemed the spirit of a true gentleman, that for twenty-four hours he was her[Pg 211] host, that consequently he had abdicated his position as a trader, and could think of nothing but giving her an honourable reception. Far from diminishing, his prodigality increased; and his European guests felt almost humiliated at being the objects of so boundless a hospitality.

But on the following day he dropped his mask. Miss Tinné wished to hire, for the accommodation of her people, a small zeribah, or camp, containing two tents; and Biselli named thirty dollars as the rent, but when Miss Tinné's servants began to store the baggage, he suddenly raised his demand to two hundred. This attempt at extortion was promptly and firmly refused; he then reduced the charge to forty dollars, which was paid. Soon afterwards the caravan was in need of dourra, and recourse was had to Biselli. The knave, presuming on their necessity, charged forty times more than the price of dourra at Khartûm, and on every other article he put in like manner a tax of forty or fifty per cent. He was no longer the generous host, but had resumed his natural character as an unprincipled trader.

The fever continued its attacks after their arrival at Bongo, and, to the great sorrow of Alexina, carried off her mother. Dr. Heughlin and several of the men fell ill of it, and a general feeling of depression pervaded the encampment. Dr. Heughlin relates how, after the death of Madame Tinné, he went daily from the zeribah to Alexina's own residence, situated at a considerable distance, to inquire after her health, and console her in her[Pg 212] affliction. To drag himself to and fro was all he could do; and frequently his strength failed him on the way, so that he had to sit down and rest. Sometimes he did not reach home till midnight, and at other times was seized on the road with an attack of fever. A Dutch girl, Alexina's maid-servant, was often almost mad with home-sickness, lamenting her unhappy fate to die so young, so lonely, and so far from home.

Eventually Miss Tinné found herself compelled to abandon her scheme of penetrating into the land of the Nyam-Nyam, and carrying with her the bodies of Madame Tinné and her maid, who had also fallen a victim to the pestilence, she returned to Khartûm, after an absence of a year and a half. In the interval, her aunt, the Baroness van Capellan, had died (May, 1864). Alexina, to recover from the shock of so many misfortunes, retired to a village a short distance from Khartûm, and gave herself up to solitude and silence. When she had recruited her physical and mental energies, she returned to Cairo.

There she took up her residence on a splendid scale. She furnished her villa in the Oriental style; would have none but Arabs and negroes to wait upon her, and, finally, she adopted the Arab dress. For four years she continued to be a foremost figure in the semi-European, semi-Asiatic society of Cairo; but her roving and adventurous spirit was not quenched, her love of new things and new places was not checked. The arrival of some vast caravans from the Sahara while she was on a yachting[Pg 213] voyage at Tripoli, fired her imagination anew with visions of African discovery. She resolved upon an expedition which in boldness of enterprise and romantic interest should exceed all previous adventures; proposing to travel from Tripoli to the capital of Fezzan, thence to Kuka in Bornu, and, westward, by way of Wadai, Darfur, and Kordofan, to the Nile. To carry out this plan she would have to cross the country of the Towaregs, the treacherous "pirates of the Desert," the cruellest and falsest, and at the same time the bravest and handsomest, of the African tribes; and she provided herself, therefore, with a strong escort, consisting of three Europeans and forty-seven Arabs, well armed. On the 29th of January, 1869, she set out from Tripoli, and on the 1st of March arrived at Sokna, in Fezzan. There she engaged the services of a Towareg chief, Ik-nu-ken, to whom she had been recommended, and agreed with him to attend her as far as Ghat; but at the last moment he was unable to fulfil his engagement, and Miss Tinné accepted the proffered assistance of two other chiefs, who professed to have been sent by him for that purpose; it is known, however, that this statement was wholly fictitious, and intended to beguile, as it did beguile, Miss Tinné into a false security.

A few days after her departure from Sokna, these men, who had arranged to murder and rob their unsuspecting patroness, continued to excite a quarrel among the camel drivers; and when Miss Tinné quitted her tent to ascertain the cause, one of them shot her with a rifle[Pg 214] bullet, wounding her to death. Not one of her escort—her three European attendants being also massacred—offered her any assistance, and she was left to linger for four-and-twenty hours in mortal agony at the door of her tent (August 1st). It is pleasant to know, however, that justice eventually overtook her murderers, who were captured in the interior, brought to Tripoli, tried, and sentenced to imprisonment for life.[17]

Such was the unhappy termination of Miss Tinné's career—a career in which much was promised and something performed, but in which, it must be owned, the performance was not equal to the promise. But let us be gentle in our criticism, for may not this be said, all too truly, of our own lives? Who is it that realizes his own ideal?


[17] The story of Miss Tinné's death is differently told by different authorities; but we believe the above to be a correct version. See Dr. Heughlin's "Reise in das Gebiet des Weissen Nil," etc.; Dr. Augustus Petermann, "Mittheilungen;" Miss Edwards's "Six Life-Studies of Famous Women," etc.

[Pg 215]



The motives by which travellers are actuated are as various as their temperaments; some find the "propelling power" in the impulse of curiosity, some in the thirst for novelty; others in a strong and genuine love of knowledge; others, again, in a natural impatience of inaction, or a rebellion against the commonplaces and conventionalities of society, a yearning after the romantic and adventurous. But, generally speaking, they constitute two great classes: those who discover, and those who observe—that is, those who penetrate into regions hitherto untrodden by civilized men, and add new lands to the maps of the geographer; and those who simply follow in the track of their bolder or more fortunate predecessors, gathering up fuller, and, it may be, more accurate information. To the latter class, as this volume shows, belong our female travellers, among whom we find no companion or rival to such pioneers as a Livingstone,[Pg 216] a Barth, a Franklin, or a Sturt. Unless, indeed, we regard as an exception the wonderful woman to whose adventures and experiences the following chapter will be devoted. Of Madame Ida Pfeiffer we think it may justly be said that she stands in the front ranks of the great travellers, and that the scientific results of her enterprise were both valuable and interesting. It has been remarked that if a spirit like hers, so daring, so persevering, so tenacious, had been given to a man, history would have counted a Magellan or a Captain Cook the more. But what strikes us as most remarkable about her was the absolute simplicity of her character and conduct; the unpretending way in which she accomplished her really great achievements; her modesty of manner and freedom from pretension. She went about the world as she went about the streets of Vienna; with the same reserve and quietness of demeanour, apparently unconscious that she was exposing herself to death, and hazards worse than death; so calmly and unaffectedly courageous that she makes us almost forget how truly grand was her heroism, how sublime was her patience, and how colossal her daring. The same reticence and simplicity are visible in every page of the published record of her personal experiences. She does not pretend to literary skill; she attempts no elaborate pictorial descriptions; she says of herself that she has neither wit nor humour to render her writings entertaining; she narrates what she has seen in the plainest, frankest manner. And she imposes upon us the conviction[Pg 217] that she entered upon her wondrous journeys from no idle vanity, no love of fame, but from a natural love of travel, and a boundless desire of acquiring knowledge. "In exactly the same way," she says, "as the artist feels an unconquerable impulse to paint, and the poet to give free expression to his thoughts, so was I hurried away with an unconquerable desire to see the world." And she saw it as no other woman has ever seen it.

Ida Reyer was born at Vienna on the 15th of October, 1797. Her parents occupied a respectable position, and took care that she should receive a decent education; but from her earliest childhood she manifested a strong distaste for the accomplishments and amusements which were then considered "proper" for her sex. They were too tame and spiritless for her ardent nature, and she inclined towards the bolder and more robust pastimes of her brothers. Up to the age of nine she was their constant companion—wore clothes like theirs, and shared in all their games, looked with utter scorn upon dolls and toys, and thirsted after guns and swords, and the music of the drum. She says of herself that she was livelier and hardier than even her elder brothers, who were lively and hardy beyond most boys of their age. Evidently nature had gifted her with a strong constitution: she was physically as well as mentally strong. Endowed, moreover, with an heroic will, she loved the heroic in history and poetry. William Tell was one of the gods of her idolatry, and[Pg 218] on one occasion she was found with an apple on her head, at which her brothers, like the Swiss champion, were shooting arrows!—a remarkable example of coolness of nerve and contempt of danger. For Napoleon, as the conqueror of her country, she entertained an intense feeling of hatred. In 1809 she was compelled by her mother to accompany her to the Emperor's review of his Imperial Guards at Schönbrunn; but when he approached the ground she indignantly turned her back. Her mother struck her, and by sheer force held the head of her obstinate daughter towards Napoleon. She resolutely shut her eyes, and thus was able to say that she had never seen her country's oppressor.

It was a day of sorrow for Ida when she was forced to assume the dress of her sex. She fell ill with grief and disappointment, and her parents found it necessary to allow her to retain the boy's blouse and cap, to which she was so partial. Then, as if by magic, she recovered, and resumed her favourite games. She acknowledges that feminine work filled her with contempt. Pianoforte-playing, amongst other things, seemed an occupation so inappropriate and uncongenial, that to escape those odious "exercises"—which thousands of girls, by the way, have found equally distasteful—she would frequently cut and wound her fingers severely.

We have alluded to her fondness for history. She was not less addicted to voyages and travels—to any reading, in fact, which satisfied her love of adventure. She would envy at times the condition of a postilion,[Pg 219] and the sight of a travelling carriage would set her dreaming for hours.

She was fourteen years old before she would consent to wear petticoats. About the same time her parents placed her education in charge of a young professor, who, recognizing the high qualities of her ill-regulated character, set himself to work to develop and mature them. He was so devoted to his pupil, that she on her part became anxious to anticipate his wishes, and never felt so happy as when he was satisfied with her efforts. In truth it was the old story of Hymen and Iphigenia reversed. Her wayward and wilful nature was subdued by the influence of love; and at the cost of not a few tears, she renounced her childish caprices in order to please him, and occupied herself with the pursuits she had previously regarded so contemptuously. She took up even the most thoroughly feminine avocations, and learned to sew, and knit, and cook. Meanwhile, she was wholly ignorant of the nature of the feeling which had transformed the romp into a discreet and retiring maiden, until, at the age of seventeen, an unexpected incident awakened her to it. A Greek merchant sought her hand; her parents refused him on the score of her youth. "Hitherto," she writes, "I had had no presentiment of the violent passion which can make one either the happiest or unhappiest of women. When my mother informed me of the proposal, and I learned that I was destined to love one man and belong to him only, the impressions I had until then all unconsciously experienced,[Pg 220] assumed a definite form, and I discovered that I could love no person except the guide of my youth." As he was not less passionately attached to her, he hastened to make a proposal, to which her parents objected on the ground of his want of fortune. The young girl openly avowed that she would never marry any other, and adhered tenaciously to her opposition. But after a while the young man felt it to be his duty to respect the decision of her parents, and his correspondence with his pupil ceased. The little romance, according to Madame Ida Pfeiffer, ended as follows:—

"Three long years passed without our meeting, and without any change taking place in my feelings. One day, when I was out walking with a friend of my mother, I accidentally met my old master; both of us involuntarily halted, but for a long time we could not speak. At length he contrived to subdue his emotions. As for myself, I was too much disturbed to be able to utter a word; I felt as if I should swoon, and returned home hastily. Two days afterwards I was seized with a fever, which at first the doctors thought would prove mortal."

Her strong constitution carried her through it. On her recovery, in her burning impatience to escape from the parental roof, she declared she would accept the first person who sought her hand, provided he was a man of a certain age; by this proviso wishing her lover to understand that her marriage was wholly due to constraint. An advocate of some repute, a Herr Pfeiffer, proposed and was accepted. This was in 1820.[Pg 221]

A marriage made under such conditions could hardly prove a happy one. Her husband was unworthy of her. He treated her harshly, and he wasted the fortune she brought him. But for the sake of her two sons, Oscar and Alfred, she endured the miseries of her position as long as she was able, and devoted herself with assiduous self-sacrifice to their education. Meanwhile, the prosaic character of her daily life she knew how to relieve by privately indulging in dreams of travel, of adventure in far lands, and exploration in isles beyond the sunset. On the occasion of an excursion to Trieste, the sight of the sea revived in her all the old passionate longing, and the visions of her childhood became the fixed resolves and convictions of her womanhood.

[Pg 222]



At length she was free to indulge her long-cherished inclinations. Her sons stood no longer in need of her support; her husband was separated from her and was living in retirement at Lemberg; her means, though moderate, were not inadequate to the fulfilment of the projects she had in view. It was true she was forty-five years old, and that is not an age at which one usually attempts a tour round the world; but, on the other hand, it invested a woman with a certain degree of security, and it rendered more feasible an enterprise which in any case was beset with difficulties.

Having completed the necessary preparations, she set out on her first great journey in March, 1842. It was natural enough that a woman of religious temperament should be attracted to the Holy Land. She visited its holiest places, and the effect they produced upon her imagination is a proof that years and the cares of[Pg 223] domestic life had in no wise chilled its early warmth. Returning in December, she proceeded to compile a narrative of her experiences, which was published in 1843, under the title of "Travels of a Viennese Woman to the Holy Land," and immediately obtained a worldwide popularity. Its merits, however, are not of a literary character; its attractiveness is due entirely to its simplicity and straightforwardness. The reader at once discovers that he is dealing with a writer who makes no attempt to deceive, who neither diminishes nor exaggerates, nor adapts her facts to preconceived opinions. To this we may add that Madame Pfeiffer, though an accurate, is not a profound observer.

From the sultry heat of the East she next betook herself to the sullen cold of the North; and the result of her wanderings in 1846 was a lively book upon Scandinavia and Iceland, describing perils which few men would care to confront, with evidently unaffected enjoyment.

But these comparatively short excursions were but preliminary to the great enterprise of her life, the prologue, as it were, to the five-act drama, with all its surprises, hazards, amazing situations, and striking scenes. The experience she had acquired as a traveller she resolved to utilize in the accomplishment of a tour round the world, and on this notable adventure she set out in June, 1846, being then in her fiftieth year, on board the Caroline, a Danish brig, bound for Rio Janeiro. She arrived at the Brazilian capital on the[Pg 224] 16th of September, and remained there for upwards of two months, exclusive of the time devoted to excursions into the interior. On one of these excursions she narrowly escaped the murderer's knife. She and her companion, in a lonely spot, were overtaken by a negro, who, with a lasso in one hand and a long knife in the other, suddenly sprang upon them, and gave them to understand, more by gestures than words, that he intended to murder them, and then drag their bodies into the forest. They had no arms, having been told that the road was perfectly safe; their only defensive weapons were their parasols, with the exception of a clasp knife, which Ida Pfeiffer instantly drew from her pocket and opened, resolved to sell her life as dearly as possible. They parried their adversary's blows as long as they could with their parasols, but these did not long avail; Madame Pfeiffer's broke in the struggle, leaving only a fragment of the handle in her hand. The negro, however, dropped his knife; the courageous woman made an effort to seize it; he thrust her away with his hands and feet, recovered it, and brandishing it furiously over her head, dealt her two wounds in the upper part of the left arm. She thought she was lost, but despair nerved her to use her own knife; she made a thrust at his breast, but succeeded only in wounding him severely in the hand. At the same moment, her companion, Count Berchthold, sprang forward, and while he seized the villain from behind, Madame Pfeiffer regained her feet. All this took place in less than a minute. The negro[Pg 225] was now roused into a condition of maniacal fury; he gnashed his teeth like a wild beast, and brandished his knife, while shouting fearful threats. The issue of the contest would probably have been disastrous, but for the opportune arrival of assistance. Hearing the tramp of horses' hoofs upon the road, the negro desisted from his attack, and sprang into the forest. A couple of horsemen turning the corner of the road, our travellers hurried to meet them, and having heard their tale, which, indeed, their wounds told eloquently enough, they leaped from their horses, and entered the wood in pursuit. Two negroes afterwards came up; the villain was captured, securely pinioned, and, as he would not walk, severely beaten, until, as most of the blows fell upon his head, Madame Pfeiffer feared the wretch's skull would be broken. Nothing, however, would induce him to walk, and the negroes were compelled to carry him bodily to the nearest house.

Our traveller was much impressed by the beauties of the tropical scenery. In one of her rambles she crossed a small waterfall; she struck right into the depths of the virgin forest, following a narrow path along the bank of a little stream. Stately-crested palms waved high above the other trees, which intertwining their inextricable boughs, formed the loveliest fairy-bowers imaginable; every stem, every branch, was garlanded with fantastic orchids; while ferns and creepers glided up the tall, smooth trunks, mingling with the boughs, and spreading in every direction waving curtains of flowers of the[Pg 226] rarest fragrance and vividest hues imaginable. With shrill twittering cry and rapid wing flashed the humming-bird through the transparent air; the pepper-pecker, with glowing plumage, rose timorously upwards; while parrots and parroquets, and innumerable birds of beautiful appearance, enhanced, by their voices and movements, the loveliness of the scene.

From Rio Janeiro Madame Pfeiffer sailed in an English ship, the John Renwick, on the 9th of September, for Valparaiso, the great sea-port of Chili. In sailing southward, the ship touched at Santos, where the voyagers celebrated New Year's Day, and they made the mouth of the Rio Plata on the 11th of January. In these latitudes the Southern Cross is the most conspicuous object in the heavens. It consists of five shining stars, arranged in two diagonal rows. Towards the end of the month Madame Pfeiffer gazed upon the sterile cliffs and barren mountains of Patagonia, and next upon the volcanic rocks, wave-worn and wind-beaten, of Fire-Land, or Tierra del Fuego. Through the Strait of Le Main, which separates the latter from Staten Island, the voyagers passed onward to the extreme southern point of the American Continent, the famous promontory of Cape Horn. This is the last spur of the mighty mountain-chain of the Andes, and consists of a mass of huge basaltic rocks, piled together in huge disorder as by a Titan's hand.

Doubling Cape Horn they encountered a furious gale,[Pg 227] which raged for several days; and soon discovered, like other voyagers, how little the great southern ocean deserves its name of the Pacific. "Such a storm as this," says Ida Pfeiffer, "affords much food for reflection. You are alone upon the boundless ocean, far from all human aid, and feel more than ever that your life depends upon the Most High alone. The man who, in such a dread and solemn moment can still believe there is no God, must indeed be irretrievably struck with mental blindness. During such convulsions of Nature a feeling of tranquil joy always comes over me. I very often had myself bound near the binnacle, and allowed the tremendous waves to break over me, in order to absorb, as it were, as much of the spectacle before me as possible; on no occasion did I ever feel alarmed, but always full of confidence and resignation."

Madame Pfeiffer reached Valparaiso on the 2nd of March. She was by no means pleased with its appearance. It is laid out in two long streets, at the foot of dreary hills, these hills consisting of a pile of rocks covered with thin strata of earth and sand. Some of them are crowded with houses; on one lies the church-yard; the others are sterile and solitary. The two chief streets are broad and much frequented, especially by horsemen, for every Chilian is born a horseman, and is usually mounted on a steed worthy of a good rider.

Valparaiso houses are European in style, with flat Italian roofs. Broad steps lead up into a lofty entrance-hall on the first floor, from which, through large glass[Pg 228] doors, the visitor passes into the drawing-room and other apartments. The drawing-room is the pride, not only of every European settler, but of every native Chilian. The foot sinks into heavy and costly carpets; the walls are hung with rich tapestry; the furniture and mirrors are from European makers, and gorgeous in the extreme.

A singular custom prevails among the Chilians on the death of a little child. Such an incident is a cause of sorrow and tears in most European families; in Chili it is the occasion of a great festival. The deceased angelito, or little angel, is adorned in various ways. Its eyes, instead of being closed, are opened as wide as possible; its cheeks are painted red; then the cold rigid corpse is decked in the finest clothes, crowned with flowers, and set up on a little chair in a flower-wreathed niche. Relatives and neighbours crowd in to wish the parents joy in the possession of such an angel; and, during the first night, they keep a kind of Irish wake, indulging in the most extravagant dances, and feasting before the angelito in a mood of the wildest merriment.

On the 1st of March our adventurous traveller, having resolved on putting a girdle round about the world, took her passage for China in the Dutch barque Lootpuit, Captain Van Wyk Jurianse. On the 26th of April, her eyes were gladdened with a view of the "island-Eden" of the Southern seas, Tahiti, the largest and most[Pg 229] beautiful of the Society group. From the days of Bougainville, its discoverer, down to those of "the Earl and the Doctor," who recently visited it, Tahiti has moved the admiration of voyagers by the charms of its scenery. It lifts the summit of its pyramidal mass out of a wealth of luxuriant vegetation, which sweeps down to the very margin of a sea as blue as the sky above it. Cool verdurous valleys slope gently into its mountain recesses, their swelling declivities loaded with groves of bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees. The inhabitants, physically speaking, are not unworthy of their island-home; a tall, robust, and well-knit race, they would be comely but for their custom of flattening the nose as soon as the child is born. They have thick jet-black hair and fine dark eyes. The colour of their skin is a copper-brown. Both sexes, at the time of Ida Pfeiffer's visit, preserved the custom of tattooing, the devices being often very fanciful in design, and always artistically executed.

The Tahitian women have always been notorious for their immodesty; and notwithstanding the past labours of English missionaries, the island continues to be the Polynesian Paphos. The moral standard of the population has not been raised since they came under the shadow of a French protectorate.

Madame Pfeiffer undertook an excursion to the Lake Vaihiria, assuming for the occasion a kind of masculine attire, very suitable if not peculiarly becoming. She wore, she tells us, strong men's shoes, trousers, and a blouse, which covered the hips. Thus equipped,[Pg 230] she started off with her guide, and in the first six miles waded through about two-and-thirty brooks. Then, through a maze of ravines, she struck off into the interior. As they advanced, she noticed that the fruit trees disappeared, and that instead the slopes were covered with plantains, tarros, and marantas, the last attaining a height of twelve feet, and growing so luxuriantly that it was with some difficulty the traveller made her way through the tangle. The tarro, or taro, which is carefully cultivated, averages two or three feet in height, and has fine large leaves and tubers like those of the potato, but not so good when roasted. Very graceful is the appearance of the plantain, or banana, which varies from twelve to fifteen feet in height, and has fine large leaves like those of the palm, but a brittle reedy stem, not more than eight inches in diameter. It attains its full growth in the first year, bears fruit in the second, and then dies; thus its life is as brief as it is useful.

Tahiti is an island of many waters; through one bright crystal mountain-stream, which swept along the ravine over a stony bed, breaking and dimpling into eddies and tiny whirlpools, and in some places attaining a depth of three feet, Madame Pfeiffer and her guide waded, or half swam, two-and-sixty times. We are filled with admiration at the resolute spirit of this courageous woman, who, though the track at every step became more difficult and dangerous, persisted in pressing forward. She clambered over rocks and stones; she forced her way through intertangled bushes; and, though[Pg 231] severely wounded in hands and feet, never faltered for a moment. At two points the ravine narrowed so considerably that the entire area was filled by the brawling torrent.

In eight hours the bold traveller and her guide had walked, waded, and clambered some eighteen miles, and attained an elevation of fully eighteen hundred feet. The lake itself was not visible until they came upon its very margin, for it lies deep down in a dark hollow among lofty precipices, which, with startling abruptness, descend to the edge of the darkling waters. To cross the lake the traveller must trust to his swimming powers, or to a curiously frail kind of boat which the natives construct on the spot with equal skill and rapidity. Ida Pfeiffer was nothing if not adventurous, and whatever was to be dared, she straightway confronted. At her request, the guide turned boat-builder. He tore off some branches of plantain, bound them together with long tough grass, laid a few leaves upon them, launched them in the water, and then requested Madame Pfeiffer to embark. She acknowledges to have felt a little hesitation, but, without saying a word, stepped "on board." Her guide took to the water like a duck, and propelled the crazy craft, which, however, made the transit of the lake, and back again, without accident.

Having fully satisfied herself with admiring the lake and its surrounding scenery, she withdrew to a little nook thatched over with leaves, where her guide quickly kindled a good fire in the Indian fashion. Cutting a[Pg 232] small piece of wood to a fine point, and then selecting a second piece, which he grooved with a narrow and not very deep furrow, in this he rubbed the pointed stick until the fragments detached during the process began to smoke. These he flung into a heap of grass and dry leaves previously collected, and swung the whole several times round in the air until it ignited. The entire operation did not occupy more than two minutes. Some roasted plantains served for supper; after which Madame Pfeiffer retired to her lonely couch of dry leaves, to sleep as best she might. Who will refuse a tribute of admiration to the courage, self-reliance, and intrepidity of this remarkable woman? Who but must admire her wonderful physical capabilities? How many of her sex could endure for a week the exposure and fatigue to which she subjected herself year after year?

The night passed without any eventful incident, and on the following morning she accomplished the return journey in safety.

On the 17th of May she left Tahiti, the Dutch vessel in which she had embarked being bound viâ the Philippines. This rich and radiant island group they passed on the 1st of July, and the next day entered the dangerous China Sea. Soon afterwards they reached Hong Kong, which had been an English settlement since 1842. But as Madame Pfeiffer wanted to see the Chinese at home, she made no stay in this hybrid town, but ascended the Pearl River, marvelling much at the immense[Pg 233] rice-plantations on either bank, and the quaint little country houses, with their fronts of coloured tiles, to Canton. As she approached this great seat of commerce, she was much moved by the liveliness of the scene. The river was thronged with ships and inhabited boats—with junks almost as large as the old Spanish galleons, their poops impending far over the water, and covered in with a roof, like a house; with men-of-war, flat, broad, and long, mounted with twenty or thirty guns, and ornamented in the usual Chinese mode, with two large painted eyes at the prow, that they may be the better able to see their way. Mandarins' boats she saw, with doors, and sides, and windows gaily painted, with carved galleries, and tiny silken flags fluttering from every point. And flower-boats she also saw; their upper galleries decked with flowers, garlands, and arabesques, as if they were barks fitted out for the enjoyment of Queen Titania and her fairy company. The interior is divided into one large apartment and a few cabinets, which are lighted by quaint-patterned windows. Mirrors and silken hangings embellish the sides, while the enchanting scene is completed with a liberal store of glass chandeliers and coloured paper lanterns, interspersed with lovely little baskets of fresh flowers.

It was characteristic of Madame Pfeiffer that she found access to so much which no European woman had ever seen before. She obtained entrance even into a Buddhist temple—that of Honan, reputed to be one of the finest in China. A high wall surrounds the sacred enclosure.[Pg 234] The visitor enters first a large outer court, and thence, through a huge gateway, passes into the inner. Beneath the gateway stand the statues of war-gods, each eighteen feet high, with faces terribly distorted, and in the most threatening attitudes; these are supposed to prevent the approach of evil genii. A second portal, similarly constructed, under which the "four heavenly kings" sit enthroned, leads to a third court, surrounding the principal sanctuary, which measures one hundred feet in length, and is of equal breadth. On rows of wooden pillars rests a flat roof, from which hang glass lamps, lustres, artificial flowers, and brightly-coloured ribbons. All about the area are scattered altars, statues, vases of flowers, censers, and candelabra.

But the eye is chiefly attracted by the three shrines in the foreground, with the three coloured statues behind them, of Buddha, seated as symbolical of Past, Present, and Future. On the occasion of Madame Ida Pfeiffer's visit, a funeral ceremony was being performed in honour of a mandarin's deceased wife. Before the right and left altars stood several priests, in garments curiously resembling, as did the rites also resemble, those of the Roman Church. The mandarin himself, attended by a couple of fan-bearers, prayed before the middle altar. He kissed the ground repeatedly, and each time he did so, thin, fragrant wax tapers were put into his hands. These, after raising in the air, he handed to the priests, who then stationed them, unlighted, before the Buddha images. Meantime, the temple resounded with the[Pg 235] mingling strains of three musicians, one of whom struck a metal ball, while another scraped a stringed instrument, and a third educed shrill notes from a kind of flute.

This principal temple is surrounded by numerous smaller sanctuaries, each decorated with images of deities, rudely wrought, but a-glow with gold and vivid colours. Special reverence seems to be accorded to Kwanfootse, a demi-god of war, and to the four-and-twenty gods of mercy. These latter have four, six, and even eight arms. In the Temple of Mercy, Madame Pfeiffer met with an unpleasant adventure. A Bonze had offered her and her companions a couple of wax tapers to light in honour of the god. They were on the point of compliance, as a mere act of civility, when an American missionary, who was one of the visitors, roughly snatched them from their hands, and gave them back to the priests, protesting that such compliance was idolatrous. It was not without difficulty they forced their way through the crowd, and escaped from the temple.

The curiosity hunters were next led to the so-called House of the Sacred Swine. These porcine treasures are as tenderly cared for as was Hamlet's mother by Hamlet's father. They reside in a spacious hall of stone, but the atmosphere, it must be owned, teems with odours that are not Sabæan. Throughout their idle existence, the swine are reverentially cherished and liberally fed; nor is the cruel knife permitted to cut short the thread of their destiny. At the time of Ida Pfeiffer's visit, only[Pg 236] one pair were living in this otiose state, and the number seldom exceeds three pairs.

From China our adventurous lady sailed for the East Indies, "looking in" on the way at Singapore, a British settlement, which forms the meeting-place of the traders of South Asia. The scenery around it is of a rich and agreeable character, and the island on which it is situated excels in fertility of vegetation. Very pleasant the visitor finds it, to saunter among the plantations of cloves and nutmegs, the air breathing a peculiar balsamic fragrance, a concentration of sweet odours. Pepper and gambie plantations are also among the sights of Singapore. Further, it is an island of fruits. Here thrives the delectable mangosteno, which almost melts in the mouth, and enchants the palate with its exquisite flavour. Here, too, the pine-apple frequently attains the weight of four pounds. Here grows the saucroys, as big as the biggest pine-apple, green outside, and white or pale yellow inside, with a taste and perfume like that of the strawberry. And to Singapore belongs the custard-apple, which is as savoury as its compound name implies.

From Singapore, Madame Pfeiffer crossed to Point de Galle, in Ceylon. The charming appearance of this island from the sea moved her, as it moves every traveller, to admiration. "It was one of the most magnificent sights I ever beheld," she says, "that island soaring gradually from the sea, with its mountain ranges growing[Pg 237] more and more distinctly defined, their summits lighted by the sun, while the dense cocoa-groves, and the hills, and the plains lay shrouded in cool shadows." Above the whole towers the purple mass of Adam's Peak, and wherever the eye roams, it surveys the most prodigal foliage, and glades rich in verdure, and turfy slopes deep in flowers.

Point de Galle presents a curious mixture of races. Cingalese, Kanditores, Tamils from South India, and Moormans, with crimson caftans and shaven crowns, form the bulk of the crowd that throng its streets; but, besides these, there are Portuguese, Chinese, Jews, Arabs, Parsees, Malays, Dutchmen, English, with half-caste burghers, and now and then a veiled Arab woman, or a Veddah, one of the aboriginal inhabitants of the island. Sir Charles Dilke speaks of "silent crowds of tall and graceful girls, as we at first supposed, wearing white petticoats and bodices, their hair carried off the face with a decorated hoop, and caught at the back by a high tortoise-shell comb. As they drew near, moustaches began to show, and I saw that they were men, whilst walking with them were women naked to the waist, combless, and far more rough and 'manly' than their husbands. Petticoats and chignons are male institutions in Ceylon."

With indefatigable energy of mind and body, Madame Pfeiffer visited Colombo and Kandy, the chief towns of the island. At the latter she obtained admission to the temple of Dagoba, which contains a precious relic of Buddha, namely, one of his teeth. The sanctuary[Pg 238] enshrining it is a small chamber or cell, less than twenty feet in breadth. It is shrouded in darkness, for of windows there are none, and the door is curtained inside, still more effectually to exclude the light. Rich tapestry covers the walls and ceiling. But the principal object is the altar, which glitters with plates of silver, and is encrusted about the edges with precious stones. Upon it rests a bell-shaped case, about three feet high, and at the base three feet in diameter. It is made of silver, is elaborately gilt, and decorated with costly jewels. In the middle blazes a peacock of precious stones. Six smaller cases, said to be of gold, each diminishing in size, are enclosed within the large case, and under the last is the tooth of Buddha. It is as large as that of a great bull, so the great Indian philosopher must have had a monstrous jaw!

Madame Pfeiffer arrived at Madras on the 30th of October. Thence she proceeded to Calcutta, the city of palaces; but, of course, she adds nothing to the information furnished by a swarm of travellers. She saw the broad flood of the Ganges, and, filling a glass with its sacred water, drank to the health of the Europeans and all whom she loved.

Throughout her Indian travel she felt much vexed at being conveyed in a palanquin; it seemed a dishonouring of men to treat them as beasts of burden. However, necessity prevailed over her humanitarian scruples. Unlike the majority of Indian tourists, she went everywhere without an expensive retinue of attendants; she[Pg 239] had but one servant, yet she contrived to go everywhere, and to see all that was to be seen. It is worth noting that she reduced the cost of travel to a minimum, and accomplished the circuit of the globe for a less sum than the rent of a furnished house in Mayfair for only a twelvemonth. It is true that she submitted to privations which the English tourist would deem insupportable; she embarked in sailing ships because they were cheaper than steamers; resorted to third-class railway carriages; avoided expensive hotels; lived always with the "masses" and on plainest fare; and dispensed with the services of dragoman or interpreter. But for all that her enjoyment was not the less, and she saw much which, had she travelled in the usual fashion, she would not have seen.

One is apt to think that a woman who accomplished such really remarkable feats of endurance and energy must have been endowed with great physical strength and robust proportions. But such was by no means the case. Her stature did not exceed—nay, was below—the average, and there was nothing masculine in her face or figure. "I smile," she says in one of her letters, "when I think of those who, knowing me only through my voyages, imagine that I must be more like a man than a woman! Those who expect to see me about six feet high, of bold demeanour, and with pistol in my belt, will find me a woman as peaceable and as reserved as most of those who have never set foot outside their native village."[Pg 240]

At Benares she saw the bazaars, and the temples, and the palaces; the bathing in the Ganges, the burning of the dead on the bank of the sacred river, and a nautchni or dance of nautches; but her attention was chiefly drawn to the miserable fanaticism of the fakeers, who revelled in self-imposed tortures. Thus they stuck an iron hook through the flesh, and allowed themselves to be suspended by it at a height of twenty or twenty-five feet; or for long hours they stood upon one foot in the burning sunshine, with their arms rigidly extended in the air; or they held heavy weights in various positions, swinging round and round for hours together, and tearing the flesh from their bodies with red-hot pincers. One man held a heavy axe over his head as if about to fell a tree, and in this position stood immovable like a statue; another held the point of his toe to his nose. Yet, from one point of view, these men are right. What torture of the body can equal the torture of the soul? If it were possible by any amount of physical pain to still and silence the agony of conscience, who would not endure it? The greatest condemnation of the self-cruelty of the fakeers is—its uselessness.

In her tour through India Madame Pfeiffer visited Allahabad, at the junction of the Jumna and the Ganges; Agra, where she surveyed with admiring eyes the lovely Taj-Mahal, erected by the Sultan Jehan as a memorial to his favourite wife, and the Pearl Mosque, renowned for the beauty of its carving; Delhi, the ancient capital of[Pg 241] the Moguls; the cave-temples of Ellora and Ajunta, and the great commercial port of Bombay.

Crossing the border of British India, she sailed to Bassora, and ascended the historic Tigris—so named from the tiger-like swiftness of its course—to Bagdad, that quaint Oriental city, which is associated with so many wonderful legends and not less wonderful "travellers' tales." This was of old the residence of the great Haroun-al-Raschid, a ruler of no ordinary sagacity and the hero of many a picturesque tradition, whose name the "Thousand and One Nights" have made familiar to every English reader. It is still a populous and wealthy city, with, we suspect, a future before it not less glorious than its past. Many of its houses are surrounded by blooming gardens; its shops are bright with the products of Eastern looms; and it descends in terraces to the river banks, which are lined with orchards and groves of palm. Over all extends the arch of a glowing sky.

From Bagdad Madame Pfeiffer made an excursion to the ruins of Babylon. They consist of massive fragments of walls and columns, lying on either side of the Euphrates.

On the 17th of June she joined a caravan which was bound for Mosul, a journey of three hundred miles, occupying from twelve to fourteen days, and lying across a desert country of the most inhospitable character. Madame Pfeiffer's experiences on this journey were new and interesting. One day she repaired to a small village in search of food. After wandering from hut to hut, she[Pg 242] obtained a small quantity of milk and three eggs. These she laid in hot ashes, covering them completely; filled her leathern flask from the Tigris, and thus provided regained the encampment formed by the caravan. She ate her eggs and drank her milk with an appetite, which, to an epicure, would have been a surprise.

The manufacture of butter at this village was conducted on primitive principles. The cream was poured into a leathern bottle, and rolled about on the ground until consolidated into butter, which was then transferred to a bottle filled with water, and eventually turned out as white as snow.

Next day, when they rested during the heat, the guide of the caravan endeavoured to procure her a little shelter from the sun's pitiless glare by laying a small cover over a couple of poles let into the ground; but so small was the area thus protected, and so weak the artificial tent, that she was compelled to sit immovably in one position, as the slightest motion would have overthrown it. Shortly afterwards, when she wished to dine, she could obtain nothing but lukewarm water, bread so hard that she was obliged to soak it before it was eatable, and a cucumber without salt or vinegar.

At a village near Kerku the caravan halted for ten days. On the first day Madame Pfeiffer's patience was severely tested; for all the women of the place hastened to examine "the strange woman." First they inspected her clothes, and next wanted to take off her turban; in fact, they were inquisitive beyond all toleration. At last,[Pg 243] Madame Pfeiffer seized one of them by the arm, and turned her out of her room with so much promptitude that she had no time to think of resistance. By the eloquence of gesture, our traveller made the others understand that, unless they withdrew at once, a similarly abrupt dismissal awaited them. She then drew a circle round her place, and forbade them to cross it; a prohibition which was strictly respected.

She had next to settle with the wife of her guide, who had besieged her the whole day, and incessantly petitioned for largesse. Fortunately her husband came on the scene, and to him Madame Pfeiffer preferred her complaint, threatening to leave his house and seek shelter elsewhere, well knowing that the Arabs consider this a great disgrace. He immediately ordered his wife to desist, and the traveller was at peace. "I always succeeded," says Madame Pfeiffer, "in obtaining my own will. I found that energy and boldness influence all people, whether Arabs, Persians, Bedouins, or others." It was this strength of will which crowned Madame Pfeiffer's enterprises with success.

Towards evening, she says, she saw, to her great delight, a caldron of mutton seething on the fire. For eight days she had eaten nothing but bread, cucumber, and a few dates; she had a great craving, therefore, for a hot and more nutritious meal. But her appetite declined when the style of cookery was forced on her notice. The old woman, her guide's mother, threw several handfuls of small grain and a large quantity of[Pg 244] onions into a pan full of water to soften. In about half an hour she thrust her dirty hands into the water, and mixed the whole together, now and then taking a mouthful, and, after chewing it, spitting it back again into the pan! She then took a dirty rag, strained off the juice, and poured it over the flesh in the caldron. Madame Pfeiffer had firmly resolved to refuse the dish, but when it was ready her appetite was so keen, and the smell so savoury, that her resolution gave way, and she comforted herself with the reflection that she must often have eaten of food prepared in a similar manner. What we do not see, it is easy enough to tolerate.

On the 28th of June the caravan reached Erbil, anciently Arbela, the scene of one of Alexander the Great's most famous victories. Two days later they crossed the great river Sab upon rafts of inflated skins, fastened together with poles, and covered with reeds, canes, and planks. Rapidly traversing the Mesopotamian wastes, they arrived at Mosul on the 1st of July, and thence Madame Pfeiffer proceeded to inspect the ruins of Nineveh. Her description of them, however, presents no points of interest to merit quotation.

A caravan being about to start for Tabrîz, Madame Ida Pfeiffer decided that she would join it, though warned that it would traverse a country containing not a single European. But, as we have seen, she was a woman who knew not what fear was. Nothing could divert her from a fixed purpose. She had made up her[Pg 245] mind to go to Persia, and to Persia she would go. The caravan set out on the 8th of July, and next day crossed the hills that intervene between Mesopotamia and Kurdistan. The latter country has never enjoyed a good reputation among travellers, and Madame Pfeiffer's experience of it confirmed its evil fame. The travellers were crossing a recently reaped corn-field, when half-a-dozen Kurds, armed with stout cudgels, sprang out from their hiding-place among the sheaves, and, seizing the bridles, poured out a volley of mingled oaths and menaces. One of the travellers leaped from his steed, seized his assailant by the throat, and, holding to his head a loaded pistol, indicated his determination to blow out his brains. The effect of this courageous conduct was immediate; the robbers desisted from their attack, and were soon engaged in quite a friendly conversation with those whom they had intended to plunder. At last they pointed out a good site for an encampment, receiving in return a trifling backshish, collected from the whole caravan.

A few days later, the travellers, having started at two in the morning, passed into a sublime mountain valley, which the waters of a copious stream had cleft through the solid rock. A narrow stony path followed the upward course of the stream. The moon shone unclouded, or it would have been difficult even for the well-trained horses of the caravan to have kept their footing along the perilous way, encumbered as it was with fallen masses of rock.

Like chamois, however, they scrambled up the steep[Pg 246] mountain side, and safely carried their riders round frightful promontories and past dangerous and dizzy precipices. So wildly romantic was the scene, with its shifting lights and shadows, its sudden bursts of silvery radiance where the valley lay open to the moon, and its depths of darkness in many a sinuous recess, that even Madame Pfeiffer's rude companions felt the influence of its strange beauty; and, as they rode along, not a sound was heard but the clatter of the horses' hoofs, and the fall of rolling stones into the chasm below. But all at once thick clouds veiled the moon, and so intense a darkness prevailed that the travellers could scarcely discern each one his fellow. The leader continually struck fire with a flint that the sparks might give his companions some indication of the course. This, however, proved insufficient guidance; and at last, as the horses began to miss their footing, their sole chance of safety consisted in standing still. At daybreak, however, a grey light spread over the scene, and the travellers found themselves surrounded by a ring of lofty mountains, rising one above the other in grand gradation, and superbly dominated by one mighty, snow-crowned, massive summit.

The journey was resumed. Soon the travellers became aware of the fact that the path was sprinkled with spots of blood. At last they came to a place where crimsoned a complete pool; and looking down into the ravine, they could see two human bodies, one about a hundred feet below them, the other, which had rolled[Pg 247] farther, half hidden by a projecting crag. They were glad to leave behind them this wild Aceldama.

At a town called Ravandus, Madame Pfeiffer had numerous opportunities of observing the manners and customs of the Kurds. What she saw by no means prepossessed her in their favour; the women were idle, ignorant, and squalid; the men worked as little and robbed as much as they could. The Kurds practise polygamy; their religion is simply the practice of a few formalities which repetition renders meaningless. The costume of the wealthier is absolutely Oriental, but that of the common people differs in some particulars. The men wear wide linen trousers, and over them a shirt confined round the waist by a girdle, with a sleeveless woollen jacket made of stuff of only a hand's-breadth, sewed together. Instead of white trousers some affect brown, but these are by no means picturesque; they look like sacks with two holes for the insertion of the feet—the said feet being encased in red or yellow leather boots, with huge iron heels; or in shoes of coarse white wool, adorned with three tassels. The turban is the universal head-covering.

The women don loose trousers, and red or yellow iron-heeled boots, like those of the men; but over all they throw a long blue garment, which, if not tucked up under the girdle, would depend some inches below the ankles. A large blue shawl descends below the knee. Round their heads they twist black shawls, turban-wise, or they[Pg 248] wear the red fez, with a small silk handkerchief wound about it; and on the top of this, a kind of wreath made of short black fringe, worn like a diadem, but leaving the forehead free. The hair falls in narrow braids over the shoulders, and from the turban droops a heavy silver chain. As a head-dress it is remarkably effective; and it is only just to say that it frequently sets off really handsome faces, with fine features and glowing eyes.

In the course of her wanderings through the wild highlands of Persia, Madame Pfeiffer came to Urumiyéh, on the borders of the salt lake of that name, which, in some of its physical features, closely resembles the Dead Sea. Urumiyéh is a place of some celebrity, for it gave birth to Zaravusthra (or Zoroaster), the preacher of a creed of considerable moral purity, which still claims a large number of adherents in Asia. Entering a more fertile country, she reached Tabrîz in safety, and rejoiced to find herself again within the influence of law and order. Tabrîz, the residence of a viceroy, is a handsomely built town, with numerous silk and leather manufactories; it is reputed to be one of the chief seats of Asiatic commerce. Its streets are clean and tolerably broad; in each a little rivulet is carried underground, with openings at regular intervals giving access to the water. Of the houses the passer-by sees no more than is seen in any other Oriental town: lofty windowless walls, with low entrances to the street, while the inner front looks upon open courtyards, which bloom with trees and flowers, and usually adjoin a pleasant garden.[Pg 249]

On the 16th of August, Madame Pfeiffer quitted Tabrîz, and in a vehicle drawn by post-horses she set out, with one attendant, for Natchivan. At Arax she crossed the Russian frontier. Reaching Natchivan after an uneventful journey, she joined a caravan bound for Tiflis, the drivers of which were Tartars. Of the latter she remarks that they do not live so frugally as the Arabs. Every evening a savoury pilau was made for their enjoyment, frequently with dried grapes or plums.

The caravan route lay through the large fertile valleys which lie at the base of Ararat. Of that famous and majestic mountain, which lifts its wan and aged brow some 16,000 feet above the sea-level, our traveller obtained a noble view. Its summit is cloven into two peaks; and in the hollow between, an ancient tradition affirms that Noah's ark rested on the subsidence of the Great Flood.

In the neighbourhood of a town called Sidin, Madame Pfeiffer met with a curious adventure. She was returning from a short walk, when catching the sound of approaching post-horses, she paused for a moment to see the travellers, who consisted of a Russian seated in an open car, with a Cossack carrying a musket by his side. As soon as the vehicle had passed she resumed her walk; when, to her astonishment, it stopped suddenly, and almost at the same moment she felt a strong grasp on her arms. It was the Cossack, who endeavoured to drag her to the car. She struggled with him, and pointing to the caravan, said she belonged to it; but the fellow put his hand on her mouth, and flung[Pg 250] her into the car, where she was firmly seized by the Russian. Then the Cossack sprang in, and away they went at a smart gallop. The whole affair was the work of a few seconds; so that Madame Pfeiffer could scarcely tell what had happened; and as the man still held her tightly, and kept her mouth covered up, she was unable to give an alarm. The brave woman, however, preserved her composure, and speedily arrived at the conclusion that her gallant captors had mistaken her for some dangerous spy. Uncovering her mouth, they began to question her closely; and Madame Pfeiffer understood Russian sufficiently to be able, in reply, to tell them her name, native country, and her object in travelling. This, however, did not satisfy them, and they asked for her passport, which she could not show them, as it was in her portmanteau.

At length they reached the post-house. Madame Pfeiffer was shown into a room, at the door of which the Cossack stationed himself with his musket. She was detained all night; but the next morning, having fetched her portmanteau, they examined her passport, and were then good enough to dismiss her, without offering any apology, however, for their shameful treatment of her. To such discourtesies travellers in Russian territories are too often exposed. It is surprising that a powerful government should stoop to so much craven fear and petty suspicion.

From Tiflis our traveller proceeded across Georgia to Redutkalé, whence she made her way to Kertch, on the[Pg 251] shore of the Sea of Azov; and thence to Sevastopol, destined a few years later to become the scene of a great historic struggle. She afterwards reached Odessa, one of the great European granaries, situated at the mouth of the Dniester on the Euxine. From Odessa to Constantinople the sea-distance is four hundred and twenty miles. She made but a brief sojourn in the Turkish capital. Taking the steamer to Smyrna, she passed through the star-like clusters of the isles of Greece—those isles "where burning Sappho loved and sung;" and from Smyrna she hastened to Athens. There she trod, indeed, upon "hallowed ground." Every shattered temple, every ruined monument, every fragment of arch or column, recalled to her some brave deed of old; or some illustrious name of philosopher, statesman, poet, patriot, enshrined for ever in the world's fond remembrance. Madame Pfeiffer was not a scholar, but she had read enough to feel her sympathies awakened as she gazed from the lofty summit of the Acropolis on the plains of Attica and the waters of the Ægean, on Salamis and Marathon. She was not an artist, but she had a feeling for the beautiful; and she examined with intense delight the Parthenon, the Temple of Theseus, the Olympian, the Tower of the Winds, and the graceful choragic monument of Lysicrates. These, however, have been more fitly described by writers capable of doing them justice, and Madame Pfeiffer's brief and commonplace allusions may well be overlooked.

From Athens to Corinth, and from Corinth to Corfu,[Pg 252] and thence to Trieste. Our traveller's bold enterprise was completed on the 30th of October, and she could honourably boast of having been the first woman to accomplish the circuit of the globe. She had been absent from Vienna just two years and six months, and had travelled 2,800 miles by land, and 35,000 miles by sea. Such an achievement necessarily crowned her with glory; and when she published her plain and unaffected narrative of "A Woman's Journey Round the World," it met at once with a most favourable reception.

At first, on her return home, she spoke of her travelling days as over, and represented herself, at the age of fifty-one, as desirous only of peace and repose. But her love of action, her craving after new scenes, her thirst for knowledge could not long be repressed; and as she felt herself still strong and healthy, with energies as potent as ever, she resolved on a second circuit of the globe. Her funds having been augmented by a grant of 1,500 florins from the Austrian Government, she quitted Vienna on the 18th of March, 1851, proceeded to London, and thence to Cape Town, where she arrived on the 11th of August. Her original intention was to penetrate the African interior as far as Lake Ngami; but eventually she resolved on exploring the Eastern Archipelago. At Sarâwak, the British settlement in Borneo, she received a warm welcome from Rajah Sir James Brooke, a man of heroic temper and unusual capacities for command and organization. As soon as she could complete the necessary preparations, she boldly[Pg 253] plunged into the very heart of the island—a region almost unknown to Europeans. This was the most daring enterprise of her life, and of itself stamps her as no ordinary woman—as, in truth, a woman of scarcely less heroic temper than the boldest adventurers of the other sex. To endure the pains and perils of such a journey she must have had, not only a remarkable physical energy, but a scarcely less remarkable energy of mind. Night after night she passed in the depths of the vast Bornean forest, a little rice her only food—journeying all day through thickets, which lacerated her feet; swimming brooks and rivers too deep to be forded; recoiling before no form of danger, however unexpected; and astonishing the very savages by her daring and endurance. She equipped herself in a costume of her own devising, well adapted for the work she had to do; and protected her head with a large banana leaf from the burning rays of a tropical sun. No conjuncture, however critical, found her without resources; and we hesitate not to say that in the whole history of discovery and geographical enterprise there is no more wonderful or exciting chapter than that which records Madame Ida Pfeiffer's travels in the interior of Borneo.

We owe to her enterprise an interesting account of the character and usages of the Dyaks. Their ferocity of disposition is proverbial in the East. It is said that when a Dyak has promised a head—a human head—to the woman he loves, he will obtain it at any cost. Whether he strikes down friend or foe he cares not, so[Pg 254] long as he secures the ghastly gift; and his eye being as sure as that of the tiger, his arrow never misses its aim. When we remember that these savages are cannibals, that they had never before seen among them an European woman, and that Ida Pfeiffer went without guard or guide, we begin to realize the full extent of her daring. But boldness is always the best policy: this plain-featured, middle-aged woman commanded the respect and admiration of her hosts, and went from encampment to encampment in entire security.

After visiting the island of Celebes she repaired to Sumatra, which is inhabited by a race of men even more sanguinary than the Dyaks, namely, the Battahs, who slake their thirst in human blood, and make of anthropophagism a "fine art!" It is said that some of the tribes purchase slaves on purpose to devour them, while, as a matter of course, prisoners taken in battle and shipwrecked seamen fall victims to their cannibal appetites. Many voyagers agree in asserting that they also deal in the same hideous fashion with their old men, who, when they cease to be of any service to the tribe, are deemed unworthy of longer life; the sons themselves become the executioners of their fathers, coolly fastening them to a tree and hacking them to pieces, without showing the slightest emotion at the spectacle of their agony.

In the course of her explorations in Sumatra, she found herself, on one occasion, surrounded by a tribe of savages, who would undoubtedly have treated her as an enemy, if she had not behaved with remarkable presence[Pg 255] of mind. The natives who accompanied her took to flight, and left her to face the danger alone. "These savages," she says, "were six feet in stature, and the natural ugliness of their features was increased by the rage that contorted them. Their large mouths, with projecting teeth, resembled the jaw of a wild beast. They deafened me with their yells.... I did not lose my head, but pretending to feel perfectly assured, I seated myself on a stone close at hand.... The gestures of the savages left no doubt of their intentions; with their knives they simulated the action of cutting my throat, with their teeth they seemed to rend my arms, and they moved up and down their jawbones as if my flesh were already in their mouths.... Rising, I went straight to the nearest man, and striking him familiarly on the shoulder, I said, with a smile, half in Malay and half in Battah, 'Come, come, you will never have the heart to kill and eat a woman, and an old woman like me, whose skin is harder than leather!'" A roar of laughter greeted this courageous speech, and the speaker was immediately received into the friendship of her savage auditors, who overwhelmed her with marks of goodwill and admiration.

Having "looked in" at Banda and Amboyna, Madame Pfeiffer quitted the Moluccas, and having obtained a gratuitous passage across the Pacific, sailed for California. On the 29th of September, 1853, she arrived at San Francisco. At the end of the year she sailed for Callao, the port of Lima, with the design of crossing the Andes[Pg 256], and pushing eastward, through the interior of South America, to the Brazilian coast. A revolution in Peru compelled her, however, to change her course, and she made her way to Ecuador, which served as a starting-point for her ascent of the Cordilleras. After witnessing an eruption of the volcano of Cotopaxi, she retraced her steps to the West. In the neighbourhood of Guayaquil she had two very narrow escapes—one by a fall from her mule, and another by accidentally falling into the river Guaya, which swarms with alligators. In no part of the world did she meet with so little sympathy or so much discourtesy as in Spanish America, and she was heartily glad to set sail for Panama.

Crossing the Isthmus towards the close of May, 1854, she sailed for New Orleans. Thence she ascended the majestic but muddy Mississippi to Napoleon, and the Arkansas to Fort Smith. A severe attack of fever detained her for several days. On recovering her strength she travelled to St. Louis, the Falls of St. Anthony, Chicago—which was then beginning to justify its claim to the title of "Queen of the West"—and the vast inland seas of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. After a rapid visit to Canada, she recrossed the frontier of the United States; and from Boston proceeded to New York and other great cities, and then undertook the voyage to England, where she arrived on the 21st of November, 1854. The narrative of her adventures was published in 1856, under the title of "My Second Journey Round the World."


[Pg 257]

It might have been supposed that, at the age of fifty-nine, this female Odysseus would have rested content with her world-wanderings, and spent the few remaining years of life in peace; but her restless spirit could not endure inaction. There is something in the nature of travel to stimulate rather than satisfy the appetite, and it does not seem that any who have once entered on the vocation are able or willing to withdraw themselves from it. The charm of perpetual motion is upon them, as upon that unfortunate Jew, who, bending beneath the weight of eighteen hundred years, is still supposed to be roaming over the face of the earth.

On the 21st of May, 1856, she once more took up her pilgrim's staff. Her first visits were made to the great cities of Western Europe—Berlin, Amsterdam, Leyden, Rotterdam, Paris, and London. In each the scientific world received her with open arms. At Paris she was specially honoured by the Société de Géographie. At a public reception she was addressed by the president, de Jomard, who, after briefly enumerating her titles to distinction, said:—"Madame, in your favour we design to commit an irregularity of which our Society is proud: we name you an honorary member by the side of your country-men, Humboldt and Karl Ritter;" and recalling a famous saying, he added, "Nothing is wanting to your glory, madame, but you are wanting to ours."

She now undertook—what to her was merely a brief holiday-trip—the voyage to the Cape of Good Hope.[Pg 258] There she hesitated for a while in what direction she should turn her adventurous steps before she pushed forward to the goal on which she had fixed her aims—Madagascar. At length she decided on a visit to the Mauritius.

In the scenery of this rich and beautiful island she saw much to admire. Its volcanic mountains are characterized by the boldest and most picturesque outlines. Its vegetation witnesses everywhere to Nature's lavish use of her materials. Each deep gorge or mountain-valley blooms with foliage; the slopes are hung with stately trees, graceful shrubs, and masses of creeping and climbing plants; from crag to crag falls the silver of miniature cascades. Madame Pfeiffer did not fail to visit the sugar-cane plantations, which cover the broad and fertile plains of Pamplimousse. She learned that the sugar-cane is not raised from seed, but that pieces of cane are planted. The first cane requires eighteen months to ripen; but as, meanwhile, the chief stem throws out shoots, each of the succeeding harvests can be gathered in at intervals of twelve months: hence four crops can be obtained in four years and a half. After the fourth harvest, the field must be cleared completely of the cane. If the land be virgin soil, on which no former crop has been raised, fresh slips of cane may be planted immediately, and thus eight crops secured in nine years. But if such be not the case, "umbregades" must be planted; that is, a leafy plant, growing to the height of eight or nine feet, the leaves of which continually falling,[Pg 259] decay, and fertilize the soil. After two years the plants are rooted out, and the ground is once more occupied by a sugar plantation.

When the canes are ripe, and the harvest begins, as many canes are cut down every day as can be pressed and boiled at once. The cane is introduced between two rollers, set in motion by steam power, and pressed until it is quite flat and dry; in this state it is used for fuel. The juice is strained successively into six pans, of which the first is exposed to the greatest heat, the force of the fire being diminished gradually under each of the others. In the last pan the sugar is found half crystallized. It is then deposited on great wooden tables to cool, and granulate into complete crystals of about the size of a pin's head. Lastly it is poured into wooden colanders, to filter it thoroughly from the molasses still remaining. The whole process occupies eight or ten days. Such, in brief, is Madame Pfeiffer's explanation.

Our adventurous lady—now in her sixtieth year—made an excursion, of course, to Mont Orgueil, which commands a very fine view of the island scenery. On one side the high ridge of the Mont Brabant, which is linked to the mainland only by a narrow neck of earth, stretches far out into the shining sea; near at hand rises the Pitou de la Rivière Noire, the loftiest summit in the island—2,564 feet. In another direction are visible the green heights of the Tamarin and the Rempart; in a fourth may be seen the three-headed mountain called the Trois Mammelles. Contiguous to these opens a deep caldron,[Pg 260] two of the sides of which have broken down in ruin, while the others remain erect and precipitous. Besides these, the view includes the Caps de Garde du Port Louis de Mocca, Le Pouce, with its narrow peak projecting over the plateau like a thumb, and the precipitous Peter Botte.

Madame Pfeiffer also paid a visit to the Trou de Cerf, or "Stag's Hole," a crater of perfectly regular formation, brimful of bloom and foliage. As its locality is indicated by no sign or landmark, the traveller is seized with astonishment on suddenly finding it lying open beneath his feet. The prospect from this point embraces three-fourths of the island; majestic mountains clothed in virgin forests almost to their very crests; wide-spreading plains, green with the sugar-cane plantations; rich verdure-clad valleys where the shadows drowsily linger; and beyond, and all around, the dark blue shining sea with a fringe of pearly foam indicating the broken outline of the coast.

It was on the 25th of April, 1857, that Madame Pfeiffer sailed for Madagascar, and on the last day of the month she reached the port of Tamatavé. Of late years Tamatavé has grown into a place of much commercial importance, but in Madame Pfeiffer's time it was but a poor, though a very large village, with between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. Obtaining permission to pass into the interior of the island, she penetrated as far as Antananarivo, or "City of a Thousand Towers," the capital. As she approached it,[Pg 261] she could see it picturesquely planted on a high hill that rose almost suddenly out of the broad and fertile inland plain; and after a pleasant journey through rich and beautiful scenery, she came upon the suburbs, which enclose it on all sides.

At first the suburbs were simply villages; but they have gradually expanded until they have touched one another, and formed a united aggregate. Most of the houses are built of earth or clay; but those belonging to the city itself must, by royal decree, be constructed of planks, or at least of bamboo. They are all of a larger size than the dwellings of the villagers; are much cleaner, and kept in better condition. The roofs are very high and steep, with long poles reared at each end by way of ornament. Many of the houses, and sometimes groups of three or four houses, are encircled by low ramparts of earth, which, apparently, serve no other purpose than to separate the courtyards from the neighbouring tenements. The streets and squares are all very irregularly built; the houses are not placed in rows, but in clusters—some at the foot of the hill, others on its slopes. The summit is occupied by the royal palace.

When Madame Pfeiffer visited Madagascar, its sovereign was Queen Ranavala, a woman notorious for her blood-thirstiness, her antipathy to Europeans, and her persecution of the Christian converts. That from this feminine tyrant she obtained so many concessions—such as permission to travel about the island, and even admission to the royal presence, would seem to argue[Pg 262] the possession of some faculty of fascination. Her reception by the Queen was not without interest.

Towards four o'clock in the afternoon Madame Pfeiffer was conveyed to the palace, over the door of which a great gilded eagle expands its wings. According to rule, in stepping across the threshold the visitor put her right foot foremost; and this formula she also observed on entering, through a second gateway, the spacious courtyard in front of the palace. Here the Queen was visible, having her seat in a balcony on the first story, and Madame Pfeiffer and her attendants stood in a row in the courtyard opposite to her. Under the balcony some soldiers were going through various evolutions, which terminated, comically enough, in a sudden lifting up of the right foot as if it had been stung by a wasp.

The Queen was attired in a wide silk simboo, and wore on her head a large golden crown. She sat in the shade, but, nevertheless, an ample umbrella of crimson silk—throughout the East a sign of royal dignity—was held over her head. She was of rather dark complexion, strongly and even sturdily built, and, though seventy-five years of age, remarkably hale and active. On her right stood her son, Prince Rakoto; on her left, her adopted son, Prince Ramboasalama. Behind her were gathered nephews, nieces, and other relatives, and the dignitaries and grandees of the kingdom.

The minister who introduced Madame Pfeiffer and her companion—M. Lambret, a French adventurer, who[Pg 263] at one time played a prominent part in the affairs of Madagascar—addressed a short speech to the Queen; after which the visitors had to bow thrice, and to repeat the words "Esaratsara tombokoe" (We salute you cordially), the Queen replying, "Esaratsara" (We salute you). They then turned to the left to salute King Radama's tomb, which was close at hand, with three similar bows, afterwards taking up their former position in front of the balcony, and making three additional obeisances. M. Lambret next held up a gold piece of eighty francs value, and placed it in the hands of the minister who had introduced them. This gift, which is presented by every stranger, is called "Monosina." The Queen then asked M. Lambret if he wished to put any question to her, or if he needed anything, and also addressed a few words to Madame Pfeiffer. The obeisances and greetings were then resumed, due reverence was paid to King Radama's monument, and the visitors, as they retired, were again cautioned not to put the left foot first over the threshold.

Soon afterwards, Queen Ranavala gave a banquet in honour of her visitor, and invited—or, perhaps, we should say commanded—her to give a musical performance before all her court.

"To-day," she writes in her journal, "I have had the great honour to show my talent, or rather my ignorance, on the piano before the Queen. In my youth I had been a tolerable musician, but, alas, that was long ago. For thirty years I had forgotten the instrument. Who[Pg 264] would ever have thought that I should one day be summoned to perform before a queen and her court, and at the age of sixty, when I fumbled more atrociously than do children who have had a few months' lessons?... With great difficulty I forced my old stiff fingers to run through some scales and exercises. I learned a few waltzes, and some other dance airs, and thus prepared, ventured to challenge the judgment of the severe Aristarchuses of Madagascar.

"I sat down at the piano, and began to play; but what were my feelings at finding it so out of order that not one note was in tune, and that several of the keys responded to the strongest pressure with an obstinate silence? And it was upon such an instrument I was to perform! But the true artist-genius rises above all such difficulties, and electrified by the thought of displaying my talent before a public of such enlightened amateurs, I set to work to accomplish the most unpolished roulades imaginable, to stamp my best on the rebellious keys, and to play sans suite et sans raison.... As a reward, I had the satisfaction of perceiving that my talent was generally appreciated, and of obtaining her Majesty's thanks. The same day, as a signal mark of her gracious favour, I received a number of fowls and a large basketful of eggs."

Unfortunately, during Madame Pfeiffer's sojourn at Antananarivo, a conspiracy was formed for the purpose of dethroning the tyrant queen Ranavala in favour of the[Pg 265] next heir, Radama. It failed, however, and those concerned in it were ruthlessly punished. The Christians, who were supposed to have encouraged and abetted it, were now exposed to Queen Ranavala's tempestuous wrath, and Madame Pfeiffer and her companions found themselves in a position of exceeding peril. She was thrown into prison, and it seemed impossible that she should escape with her life. She writes:—"To-day was held in the Queen's palace a great kabar, which lasted six hours and was very stormy. The kabar concerned us Europeans, and met to decide our fate. According to the ordinary way of the world, nearly all our friends, from the moment that they saw our cause lost, abandoned us, and the majority, to avoid all suspicion of having had a share in the conspiracy, insisted on our condemnation with even more bitterness than our enemies themselves. That we deserved the penalty of death was a point on which the agreement was soon very general; only the mode in which we were to be dispatched furnished the matter for prolonged discussion. Some voted for our public execution in the market-place; others for an attack by night on our house; others, again, that we should be invited to a banquet, at which we might either be poisoned, or, on a given signal, massacred.

"The Queen hesitated between these different proposals; but she would certainly have adopted and carried out one of them, if the Prince Rakoto had not come forward as our tutelary genius. He protested strongly against a sentence[Pg 266] of death. He implored the Queen not to yield to her impulse of anger, and laid special stress on the fact that the European Powers would assuredly not allow the murder of persons so considerable as we were to pass unpunished. Never, I am told, has the Prince expressed his opinion before the Queen in so lively and firm a manner. The news reached us through a few rare friends, who, contrary to our expectation, had remained faithful to us.

"Our captivity had lasted nearly a fortnight: we had passed thirteen long days in the most painful uncertainty as to our fate, expecting every moment a fatal decision, and trembling day and night at the slightest sound. It was a frightful, a terrible time.

"This morning I was seated at my desk. I had just laid aside my pen, and was meditating whether, after the last kabar, the Queen would not have come to a decision. All at once I heard an extraordinary noise in the court. I was about to leave my room, the windows of which looked in an opposite direction, to see what was the matter, when Mons. Laborde, one of the conspirators, came to inform me that another great kabar was to be held in the court, and that we were summoned to be present.

"We went, and found upwards of a hundred persons, judges and nobles and officers, seated in a large semi-circle upon chairs and benches, and some upon the ground. Behind them was drawn up a detachment of soldiers. One of the officers received us, and assigned[Pg 267] us places in front of the judges. The latter were attired in long white simboos; their eyes were fixed upon us with a sombre and ferocious glare, and for awhile the silence of death prevailed. I confess that at first I felt somewhat afraid, and I whispered to M. Laborde, 'I think our last hour has arrived.' He replied, 'I am prepared for everything.'"

Happily, the balance went down in favour of mercy. Madame Pfeiffer, and the other six Europeans then in Antananarivo, were ordered to quit the capital immediately. They were only too thankful to obey the order, and within an hour were on their way to Tamatavé, escorted by seventy Malagasy soldiers. They had good reason to congratulate themselves on their escape, for on the very morning of their departure, two Christians had been put to death with the most horrible tortures.

The journey to Tamatavé was not unattended by dangers and difficulties; and Madame Pfeiffer, who had been attacked with fever, underwent much suffering. No doubt the recent mental strain had enfeebled her nervous system, and rendered her more liable to disease. The escort purposely delayed them on their journey; so that, instead of reaching the coast, as they should have done, in eight days, the time actually occupied was three-and-fifty. As the road traversed a low-lying and malarious country, the consequences of such a delay were as serious as they were probably meant to be. In the unhealthiest spots, moreover, the travellers were forced to linger for a[Pg 268] week or even a fortnight; and frequently when Madame Pfeiffer was in agony from a violent access of fever, the brutal soldiers would drag her from her wretched couch, and compel her to continue the journey.

At length, on the 12th of September, she arrived at Tamatavé; broken down, and unutterably weary and worn, but still alive. Ill as she was, she hastened to embark on board a ship that was on the point of sailing for the Mauritius; and reaching that pleasant island on the 22nd, met with a warm welcome from her friends—to whom, indeed, she was as one who had been dead and was alive again.

The suspense, the long journey, the combined mental and physical sufferings which she had undergone, and the ravages of fever, reduced her to a condition of such weakness that, at one time, her recovery seemed impossible. But careful watching and nursing warded off the enemy; and on her sixtieth birthday, October 14th, the doctors pronounced her out of danger. But a fatal blow had been given to her constitution; the fever became less frequent and less violent in its attacks, but never wholly left her. Her mind, however, recovered its elasticity, and with its elasticity, its old restlessness; and she once more began to project fresh schemes of travel. All her preparations were complete for a voyage to Australia, when a return of her disease, in February, 1858, compelled her to give up the idea and to direct her steps homeward.[Pg 269]

In the month of June she reached London. After a few weeks' stay she proceeded to Berlin.

Her strength, formerly exceptional, was now rapidly declining; though at first she seemed unconscious of the change, or regarded it as only temporary, and displayed her characteristic impatience of repose. But about September she evinced a keen anxiety to return home; and her friends perceived that the conviction of approaching death was at the bottom of this anxiety. Growing rapidly feeble, she was conveyed to Vienna, to the house of her brother, Charles Reyer; and, for a few days, it seemed as if the influence of her native air would act as a restorative. The improvement, however, did not last, and her malady (cancer of the liver) returned with increased violence. During the last days of her life, opiates were administered to relieve her physical pain; and in the night between the 27th and the 28th of October, she passed away peacefully, almost as one who sleeps.

[Pg 270]


We must not omit from our chronicle of female travellers the name of Madame Catherine de Bourboulon. Of her biography we know no more than that, a Scotchwoman by birth, she married a French diplomatist, who, in 1860, was serving the State as French ambassador to the Court of Pekin.

In the month of August, 1860, she was temporarily residing at Shanghai. It would be interesting to know what the Chinese people thought of this handsome and self-possessed lady; unaccustomed as they were and are to visits from European women, and unfamiliar as they were and are with the idea that a person of the grand monde in nowise compromises her dignity by travelling about as freely and walking as readily as servants and females of the lower classes. "To see ourselves as others see us" is always instructive and interesting; and a sketch of Madame de Bourboulon by the Chinese would not be less valuable than a sketch of the Chinese by Madame de Bourboulon.[Pg 271]

Fortune had not been kind to Madame de Bourboulon in throwing her into Shanghai during the great Taïping conspiracy, and compelling her to be an eye-witness of the crimes which sullied it. Beneath her windows were carried every day the dead bodies of the poor creatures massacred by the Taïpings, and she followed with reluctant gaze these sad "waifs and strays" as the river conveyed them seawards.

Though her health was not good, she hastened, on the conclusion of peace, to follow her husband to Pekin. From Shanghai to the Gulf of Petchi-li, into which the Peiho empties its waters, the distance is two hundred leagues. Our traveller embarked on board the steam despatch-boat Fi-lung, which was escorted by a man-of-war brig. On crossing the river-bar, she saw before her the celebrated Taku forts, and higher up the river the town of Pehtang, with immense plains of sorghum, maize, and millet spreading as far as the eye could see.

On the 12th of November she arrived at Tien-tsin. The French legation was established in a rich yamoun, which, under the presiding genius of Madame de Bourboulon, soon become the highly recherché centre of European society. There, Chinese art displayed all its marvels of design and workmanship; the colours of the rainbow glittered everywhere; the walls were emblazoned with pleasant landscapes, azure seas, transparent lakes, shadowy forests, an imperial hunting party, with antelopes and roebucks flying before the loud-mouthed hounds; in a word, with all the delights of a Chinese earthly paradise. But[Pg 272] Madame de Bourboulon did not confine herself to social pleasures; her heart and hand were ever ready for charitable labours, and the Chinese poor had ample occasion to acknowledge her beneficence. Among other works of mercy, she adopted a young orphan girl, of whom she says:—"My little companion eats well and sleeps well. She is full of mirth, and seems neither to remember nor to care for the terrible catastrophe which separated her from her parents, massacred at the capture of Pehtang. Her feet are not yet completely deformed; however, when we remove the bandages which compress them, she does not forget to replace them at night. It is not only in China that coquetry or fashion stimulates its victims to torture and disfigure God's handiwork: the unnaturally small feet of the Chinese women are at least not more injurious or unsightly than the unnaturally small waists of the ladies of Europe!"

What the Chinese think of their women may be inferred from a characteristic incident, of which Madame de Bourboulon is the narrator.

The cook of the embassy, Ky-tsin, was a man with more years than gallantry. One day he went to see his wives and children, who resided at some distance; on his return, Madame de Bourboulon put some questions to him respecting his family. "The wives," he replied, in his bad French, and with an air of sovereign contempt, "pas bon, pas bon, bambou, bambou!" The stick seems to be the only, or at least the favourite, argument of the Chinese in their dealings with the other sex; and in this contempt for women we shall probably find the cause of the moral rottenness of the Celestial Empire.


[Pg 273]

The winter of 1860-61 Madame de Bourboulon spent quietly at Tien-tsin, her health not permitting her, in such rigorous weather, to make the journey to Pekin; but on the 22nd of March the whole legation set out for the Chinese capital, Madame de Bourboulon travelling in a litter, attended by her physician. Fortunately, the change of air and scene, and the easy movement gradually restored her physical energies. From Tien-tsin to Pekin the distance is about thirty leagues. On the road lies Tchang-kia-wang, the scene of the treacherous outrage in 1858 on the French and English bearers of truce; and almost at the gates of Pekin, the great town of Tung-tcheou and the famous bridge of Palikao, where, on the 21st of September, 1860, the Anglo-French army defeated 25,000 Tartar horsemen. This bridge, a curious work of art, measures one hundred and fifty yards in length and thirty in breadth; the marble balustrades are skilfully carved, and surmounted by marble lions in the Chinese taste.

On arriving at Pekin the French embassy was installed in the Tartar quarter. Five months later the revolution broke out which placed Prince Kung in power. The prince was well-disposed towards Europeans, and under his rule Madame de Bourboulon was able to traverse Pekin without fear. We subjoin some extracts from her journals:—

"I set out on horseback this morning," she says,[Pg 274] "accompanied by Sir Frederick Bruce and my husband, to make a tour of the Chinese town; our escort consisted only of four European horsemen and two Ting-tchaï. We arrived at a populous carrefour, which derived a peculiar character from the large numbers of country people who flock there to dispose of all kinds of provisions, but particularly, game and vegetables; heaps of cabbages and onions rise almost to the height of the doors of the houses.

"The peasants, seated on the ground, smoke their pipes in peace, while the aged mules and bare-skinned asses, which have conveyed their wares, wander about the market-place, gleaning here and there some vegetable refuse. At every step the townsfolk, with indifferent bearing, and armed with a fan to protect their wan and powdered complexion, jostle against the robust copper-coloured country people, whose feet are thrust into sandals, and their heads covered with large straw hats. Not knowing how to guide our horses through the midst of this confused mob, we gained the precincts of the police pavilion in the hope of enjoying a little more tranquillity.

"We had been there a few moments only, when my horse showed a determined unwillingness to remain. Evidently something had frightened him. I raised my head mechanically, and thought I should have fainted before the horrible spectacle which struck my eyes. Behind us, close at hand, was a row of posts to which were fixed cross-beams of wood, and in each cage were[Pg 275] death's heads, which stared at me with fixed, wide-open eyes, their jaws dislocated with frightful grimaces, their teeth set convulsively by the agony of the last moment, and the blood rolling drop by drop from their freshly severed necks!

"In a second we had spurred our horses to the gallop to get out of sight of this hideous charnel-house, of which I long continued to think in my sleepless nights.

"Turning to the left, we entered a street which I will call, in allusion to the trade of its inhabitants, the Toymen's.... But what means this noisy music, this charivari of flutes and trumpets, drums, and stringed instruments? It is a funeral ceremony, and yonder is the door of the defunct, and in front of it the Society of Funerals (there is such an one at Pekin) has raised a triumphal arch, consisting of a wooden framework, covered with old mats and pieces of stuffs. The family has stationed a band at the door to proclaim its grief by rending the ears of the passers-by.

"We quicken our steps in order to avoid being delayed in the middle of the interminable procession. The gala-day in a Chinaman's life is the day of his death. He economizes, he deprives himself of all the comforts of life, he labours without rest or intermission, that he may have a fine funeral!

"We do not get out of this accursed street! Here another large crowd bars our passage; some proclamations and notices have just been placarded on the door of the chief of the district police; people are reading[Pg 276] them aloud; some declaim them in a tone of bombast; while a thousand commentaries, more satirical than the text, are uttered amidst loud bursts of laughter.

"This liberty of mockery, pasquinade, and caricature at the expense of the mandarins is one of the most original sides of Chinese manners.

"A band of blind beggars, in a costume more than light, pass along, hand in hand; then an itinerant smith, a barber al fresco, and a cheap restaurateur, simultaneously ply their different trades surrounded by their customers.

"We dismounted from our horses, and by a covered passage or arcade proceeded on foot to the legation. This passage, much favoured by vendors of bric-à-brac, is simply a dark lane, 550 to 600 feet long, where two people can hardly walk abreast. There are no proper shops here, but collections of old planks, united anyhow, and supported by piles of merchandise of all kinds, vases, porcelain, bronzes, arms, old clothes, pipes; from the whole proceeds a fœtid and insupportable odour, tempered by the thick pungent smoke of lamps fed with rice-oil.

"The reader may judge with what pleasure we regained the pure air, the blue sky, and all the comfortable appliances of our quarters at Tsing-kong-fou."

Having made the journey from China to Europe five times by sea, Madame de Bourboulon and her husband resolved that their sixth should be by land, being[Pg 277] desirous of rendering some direct service to science by penetrating into regions of which little was known. This overland route, as they foresaw, would involve them in many difficulties, fatigues, and hardships. It would impose on them a journey of six thousand miles, in the midst of half-savage populations, and over steppes and deserts virtually pathless; they would have to climb steep mountain-sides, to ford broad rivers; and, finally, to sleep under no better roof than that of a tent, and to live on milk, butter, and sea-biscuit for several months. Madame de Baluseck, wife of the Russian minister at Pekin, had already accomplished this journey. Madame de Bourboulon felt capable of an equal amount of courage, and though accustomed to live amid all the luxuries and comforts of European civilization, desired to encounter these privations, and to brave these perils.

Prince Kung, regent of the Chinese Empire, promised the travellers full security as far as the borders. He did more; for he attached to their train some mandarins of high rank to ensure the execution of his orders. A fortnight before the day fixed for departure, a caravan of camels was despatched to Kiakhta, on the Russian frontier, with wine, rice, and all kinds of provisions, intended to replace the supplies which would necessarily be exhausted during the transit of Mongolia.

A captain of engineers, M. Bouvier, superintended the construction of some vehicles of transport, light enough to be drawn by the nomad horsemen, and yet[Pg 278] solid enough to bear the accidents of travel in the desert. Bread, rice, biscuit, coffee, tea, wine, liqueurs, all kinds of clothing, preserved meats and vegetables, were carefully packed up and stowed away in these carts, which were sent forward, three days in advance, to Kalgan, a frontier town of Mongolia. And all these preparations being completed, and every precaution taken, the 17th of May was appointed as the day of departure.

Thenceforth, and throughout the journey, Madame de Bourboulon adopted a masculine costume—that is, a vest of grey cloth, with velvet trimmings, loose pantaloons of blue stuff, spurred boots, and at need a Mongolian cloak with a double hood of furs. She mounted her favourite horse, which she had taken with her to Pekin, and it had been her companion in all her excursions in the city and the surrounding country.

At six o'clock in the morning everybody was assembled in the court of the yamoun of the French legation. Sir Frederick Bruce, the English minister; Mr. Wade, the secretary to the English legation; M. Trèves, a French naval lieutenant, and some young French interpreters were present.

Two Chinese mandarins—one with the red button; the other, his inferior in rank, with the white—gravely awaited the moment of departure to escort the travellers as far as Kalgan, and to take care that, upon requisition being made, they were provided with everything necessary to their comfort. Numerous Tching-taï, the[Pg 279] official messengers of the legations, and other indigenous domestics, crowded the court, gravely mounted upon foundered broken-down hacks, their knees raised up to their elbows, and their hands clutching at the mane of their Rosinante, like apes astride of dogs in the arena of the circus. A couple of litters, carried by mules, were also prepared; one was intended for Madame de Bourboulon, in case of need, the other for the conveyance of five charming little Chinese dogs which she hoped to transport to Europe. At length the mandarin of the red button came to take the ambassador's orders, and gave the signal of departure.

At this moment the air resounded with noisy detonations: fusees, serpents, and petards exploded in all directions—at the gate, in the gardens, even upon the walls of the legation. Great confusion followed, as no one was prepared for this point-blank politeness, so mysteriously organized by the Chinese servants. In China nothing takes place without a display of fireworks. About an hour was spent in reorganizing the caravan. Meanwhile, Madame de Bourboulon, whose frightened horse had carried her through the town, waited in a great open space some distance off. It was the first time, she says, that she had been alone in the midst of that great town. She had succeeded in pulling up her horse near a pagoda, which she did not know, because she had never visited that quarter of Pekin; her masculine garb attracted curiosity, and she was speedily surrounded by an immense crowd. Though its[Pg 280] demeanour towards her was peaceable and respectful, she found the time very long, and it was with intense satisfaction she rejoined the cavalcade, the members of which had begun to feel alarmed at her absence.

The whole company being once more reunited, they passed the walled enclosure of the great city, garrisoned by a body of the so-called "Imperial Tigers," and entered the northern suburb.

The great road of Mongolia is lined on both sides with pagodas, houses, and a host of small wayside public inns, painted with stripes of red, green, and blue, and surmounted by the most attractive signs. There is a constant succession of caravans of camels, directed by Mongols, Turcomans, Tibetans; of troops of mules, with clinking bells, bringing salt from Setchouan or tea from Hou-pai; and of immense herds of horned cattle, horses, and sheep, in charge of the dexterous horsemen of the Tchakar, who keep them together by the utterance of loud guttural cries, and by dealing them smart cuts with their long whips.

About one hour after noon, the caravan arrived at Sha-ho, a village situated between the two arms of a river of the same name (which means "the river of sand"). Madame de Bourboulon thus describes the hospitable reception given to the travellers:—

"We knocked at the door of a tolerably spacious house, situated near the entrance to the village: it was an elementary school; we could hear the nasal drone of the[Pg 281] children repeating their lessons. The schoolmaster, a crabbed Chinaman, scared by my presence, placed himself on the threshold, and looked as if he would not allow me to enter. But at the explanations made in good Chinese by Mr. Wade, the surly old fellow, undergoing a sudden metamorphosis, bent his lean spine in two, and ushered me, with many forced obeisances, into his wives' room. There, before I had time to recollect myself, these ladies carried me off by force of arms, and installed me upon a kang or couch, where I had scarcely stretched my limbs before I was offered the inevitable tea. I was gradually passing into a delightful dizziness, when a disquieting thought suddenly restored all my energy: I was lying on a heap of rags and tatters of all colours, and certainly the kang possessed other inhabitants than myself. I immediately arose, in spite of the protestations of my Chinese hostesses, and took a seat in the courtyard under the galleries. When I was a little rested, I seated myself in my litter, and about half-past six in the evening we arrived at the town of Tchaing-ping-tchan."

On the following day our travellers turned aside to visit the famous sepulchre of the Mings—a vast collection of monuments, which the Chinese regard as one of the finest specimens of the art of the seventeenth century—that is, the seventeenth century of their chronology. And, first, there are gigantic monoliths crowned with twelve stones placed perpendicularly, and surmounted by five roofs in varnished and gilded tiles; next, a monumental triumphal arch[Pg 282] in white marble, with three immense gateways; through the central one may be seen a double row of gigantic monsters in enamelled stone, painted in dazzling colours; finally, you pass into an enclosure with a gigantic tortoise in front of it, bearing on its back a marble obelisk covered with inscriptions. At the time of Madame de Bourboulon's visit the entrance was closed, and while the Ting-tchaï went in search of the guardians, she and her companions dismounted, seated themselves on the greensward, in the shadow of some colossal larches, and enjoyed a pleasant repast, the sepulchral stones serving as tables.

"'Oh,' she exclaims, 'ye old emperors of the ancient dynasties, if any of your seers could but have told you that one day the barbarians of the remote West, whose despised name had scarcely reached your ears, would come to disturb the peace of your manes with the clinking of their glasses and the report of their champagne corks!'... But at length the keys are turned in the rusty locks, the guardian of the first enclosure offers us tea, and we distribute some money among the attendants.... In China, perhaps more even than in Europe, this is an inevitable formula: the famous principle of nothing for nothing must have been invented in the Celestial Empire. Out of respect, or for some other reason, the guardians left us free to go and come at will, dispensing with the labour of following us. At first we traversed a spacious square court, paved with white marble, planted with yews and cypresses, cut into shapes as at Versailles, and[Pg 283] peopled with an infinite number of statues; then we climbed a superb marble staircase of thirty steps, which led to another square court, planted in the same style, and shut in on the right and left by a thick forest of huge cedars, which conceals eight temples with circular cupolas, crowned and ornamented by the grimacing gods of the Chinese Trinity, with their six arms and six heads. Now another staircase, leading to a circular platform in white marble, in the middle of which rises the grand mausoleum. It is of marble; a great bronze door admits to the interior. We pass under a vault, the niches of which enclose the bones of the Ming emperors; a spiral staircase, with sculptured balustrades, very handsome in style, conducts to a second platform, elevated some seventy feet above the ground. The view from it is magnificent, overlooking a world of mausoleums, pagodas, temples, and kiosks, which the great trees had concealed from us.

"The mausoleum is continued into an immense cupola, and terminates in a pointed pyramid, covered with plates and mythological bas-reliefs. Finally, the pyramid is crowned by a great gilded ball."

The travellers here quitted their English horses, and mounted the frightful Chinese steeds which carry on the postal service. After a couple of wearisome days, occupied in clearing narrow defiles, torrents, and plains of blinding dust, they reached the Lazarist Mission.

On entering the town, they were surrounded by an immense multitude, all silent and polite, but not the less[Pg 284] fatiguing—gênant, as Madame de Bourboulon puts it. "Their eager curiosity did not fail to become very inconvenient, and we could well have dispensed with the 20,000 quidnuncs who accompanied us everywhere. We halted at last before the great gateway above which figures, though only for a few days, the cross, that noble symbol of the Latin civilization. It is the standard of humanity, of generous ideas and universal emancipation, placed throughout the extreme East under the protection of France. The English occupy themselves wholly with commerce: for them, faith and the sublime teachings of religion take but the second place."

Very few French travellers seem able to avoid an occasional outbreak of splenetic patriotism. The greatness and the generosity of France are the hobby-horse on which they ride with such a fanfare of trumpets as to provoke the ridicule of the passer-by. Madame de Bourboulon, as a woman, may be excused her little bit of sarcasm, though she must have known and ought to have remembered what has been done and endured by English missionaries in the name and for the sake of the cross of Christ.

The Lazarist priests gave our travellers a hearty welcome; and after a good night's rest, the caravan quitted Suan-hou-pu, a large town, remarkable for the number of Chinese Mussulmans who inhabit it. They reached Kalgan on the 23rd of May, and were greeted by Madame de Baluseck, who was to return to Europe in company with Madame de Bourboulon. Thus, as Sir[Pg 285] Frederick Bruce was still with them, the representatives of the three greatest Powers in the world met together in this remote town, which, previously, was almost unknown to Europeans.

Kalgan, the frontier town of Mongolia, is not so well built as the imperial cities; it is a commercial centre, where bazaars abound, and open stalls; the foot passengers touch the walls of the houses as they file by, one after the other, and the roadway, narrow, squalid, and muddy, is thronged with chariots, camels, mules, and horses. "I have been much struck," writes Madame de Bourboulon, "with the extreme variety of costumes and types resulting from the presence of numerous foreign merchants. Here, as in all Chinese towns, the traders at every door tout for custom. Here, porters trudge by loaded with bales of tea; there, under an awning of felt, are encamped itinerant restaurateurs with their cooking-stoves; yonder, the mendicant bonzes beat the tam-tam, and second-hand dealers display their wares.

"Ragged Tartars, with their legs bare, drive onward herds of cattle, without thought of passers-by; while Tibetans display their sumptuous garb, their blue caps with red top-knots, and their loose-lowing hair. Farther off, the camel-drivers of Turkistan, turbaned, with aquiline nose and long black beard, lead along, with strange airs, their camels loaded with salt; finally, the Mongolian Lamas, in red and yellow garments, and shaven crowns, gallop past on their untrained steeds, in striking contrast[Pg 286] to the calm bearing of a Siberian merchant, who stalks along in his thick fur-lined pelisse, great boots, and large felt hat.

"Behold me now in the street of the clothes-merchants; there are more second-hand dealers than tailors in China; one has no repugnance for another's cast-off raiment, and frequently one does not deign even to clean it. I enter a fashionable shop: the master is a natty little old man, his nose armed with formidable spectacles which do but partly conceal his dull, malignant eyes. Three young people in turn exhibit to the passer-by his different wares, extolling their quality, and making known their prices. This is the custom; and to me it seems more ingenious and better adapted to attract purchasers, than the artistically arranged shop-windows which one sees in Europe. I allowed myself to be tempted, and purchased a blue silk pelisse, lined with white wool; this wool, as soft and fine as silk, comes from the celebrated race of the Ong-ti sheep. I paid for it double its value, but the master of the establishment was so persuasive, so irresistible, that I could not refuse, and I then left immediately, for he was quite capable of making me buy up the whole of his shop. The Chinese are certainly the cleverest traders in the world, and I predict that they will prove formidable competitors to the dealers of London and Paris, if it should ever occur to them to set up their establishments in Europe.

"After dinner, M. de Baluseck took leave of his wife, and set out on his return to Pekin; Sir F. Bruce goes[Pg 287] with us as far as Bourgaltaï, the first station in Mongolia. From our halting-place I can perceive the ramifications of the Great Wall, stretching northward of the town towards the crest of the mountains. Kaigan, which has a population of 200,000 souls, is the northernmost town of China proper."

On the 24th of May, the travellers, accompanied by Madame de Baluseck, departed from Kaigan and crossed the Great Wall. This colossal defensive work consists of double crenelated ramparts, locked together, at intervals of about 100 yards, by towers and other fortifications. The ramparts are built of brickwork and ash-tar cemented with lime; measure twenty feet in height, and twenty-five to thirty feet in thickness; but do not at all points preserve this solidity. In the province of Kansou, there is but one line of rampart. The total length of this great barrier, called Wan-ti-chang (or "myriad-mile wall") by the Chinese, is 1,250 miles. It was built about 220 b.c., as a protection against the Tartar marauders, and extends from 3° 30' E. to 15° W. of Pekin, surmounting the highest hills, descending into the deepest valleys, and bridging the most formidable rivers.

Our travelers entered Bourgaltaï in the evening, simultaneously with the caravan of camels, which had started a fortnight before, and were lodged in a squalid and filthy inn. Nothing, however, could disturb the cheerful temperament of Madame de Bourboulon, who rose superior to every inconvenience or vexation, and this bonhommie is the chief charm of her book. Thus,[Pg 288] speaking of the first evening in this dirty Mongolian inn, she says:—"There was nothing to be done but to be content with some cold provisions, and our camping-out beds. It was the birthday of Queen Victoria, and as our landlord was able to put his hand upon two bottles of champagne, we drank, along with Sir Frederick Bruce and Mr. Wade, her Majesty's health. Afterwards we played a rubber at whist (for we had found some cards). Surely, never before was whist played in the Mongolian deserts!"

Before accompanying our travellers into these deserts, it may be convenient that we should note the personnel of their following, and the organization of their expedition. In addition to Monsieur and Madame de Bourboulon, the French caravan consisted of six persons:—Captain Bouvier, of the Engineers; a sergeant and a private of the same branch of the service; an artillerist; a steward (intendant); and a young Christian, a native of Pekin, whom M. de Bourboulon was taking with him to France. Madame de Baluseck's suite consisted of a Russian physician; a French waiting maid; a Lama interpreter, named Gomboï; and a Cossack (as escort). A small carriage, well hung on two wheels, was provided for the two ladies. The other travellers journeyed on horseback or in Chinese carts. These small carts, with hoods of blue cloth, carry only one passenger; they are not hung upon springs, but are solidly constructed.


[Pg 289]

At Zayau-Tologoï, the Chinese drivers were replaced by Mongolian postillions, and the Chinese mandarins gave up the responsibility of escort to Mongolian officials.

The Mongolian mode of harnessing is very strange: a long wooden transversal bar is fastened to the end of the shafts, and on each side a horseman glides under his saddle; then they set off at full gallop. When they halt the horsemen disappear, the shafts fall abruptly to the ground; and the travellers, if they have not a good strong hold, are projected from the vehicle.

The officers of the escort go in advance to prepare tents or wigwams formed of hurdles, upon which is stretched a great awning of felt; the whole has very much the appearance of an enormous umbrella, with a hole at the top, to let out the heated air, and at need the smoke.

As the travellers carried with them a large stock of provisions, and fresh meat could generally be obtained from the nomad shepherds, their table was well served; but owing to the absolute dearth of any other kind of fuel, they were compelled to kindle their fires with argols, or dried cow-dung.

In due time they entered upon the great desert of Gobi, where the grassy plain is covered by a countless multitude of mole-hills, which render locomotion very difficult. This apparently boundless desert, notwithstanding its lack of trees and shrubs and flowers, and its monotonous uniformity, is not without a certain charm, as many travellers have acknowledged. Madame de Bourboulon, writing of it, says:[Pg 290]

"I grew accustomed to the desert; it is only for a few days that I have had experience of tent-life, and yet it seems to me as if I had always lived so. The desert is like the ocean: the human eye plunges into the infinite, and everything speaks of God. The Mongolian nomad loves his horse as the sailor loves his ship. It is useless to ask him to be bound by the sedentary habits of the Chinese, to build fixed habitations, and cultivate the soil. This free child of Nature will let you treat him as a rude barbarian, but in himself he despises civilized man, who creeps and crawls like a worm about the small corner of land which he calls his property. The immense plain belongs to him, and his herds, which follow his erratic courses, supply him with food and clothing. What wants he more, so long as the earth does not fail him?"

There is another light in which this vast desert may be looked at. Unquestionably, its influence on the destinies of the human race has been injurious; it has checked the progress of the Semitic civilization. The primitive peoples of India and Tibet were civilized at an early period of the world's history; but the immense wilderness put an impassable barrier between them and the barbarous tribes of Northern Asia. More than the Himalaya, more than the snow-capped peaks of Sirinagur and Gorkha, these boundless wastes, alternately withered by a tropical summer, and blighted by a rigorous winter, have prevented for ages all intercommunication, all fusion between the inhabitants of Northern and those of Southern Asia; and it is thus that India and Tibet[Pg 291] have remained the only regions of this part of the world which have enjoyed the benefits of civilization, of the refinement of manners, and of the genius of the arts.

The barbarians who, in the last agonies of the Roman Empire, invaded and devastated Europe, issued from the steppes and table-lands of Mongolia. As Humboldt says—"If intellectual culture has directed its course from the East to the West, like the vivifying light of the sun, barbarism at a later period followed the same route, when it threatened to plunge Europe again into darkness. A tawny race of shepherds of Thon-Klüu—that is to say, of Turkish origin, the Hioungum—inhabited, living under sheepskin tents, the elevated table-land of Gobi. Long formidable to the Chinese power, a portion of the Hioungum were driven south into Central Asia. The impulse thus given, uninterruptedly propagated itself to the primitive country of the Fins, on the banks of the Ural, whence irrupted a torrent of Huns, Avars, Chasars, and divers mixtures of Asiatic races. The armies of the Huns first appeared on the banks of the Volga, then in Pannonia, finally on the borders of the Marne and the Po, ravaging the beautiful plains where, from the time of Antwor, the genius of man had accumulated monuments upon monuments. Thus blew from the Mongolian desert a pestilential wind which, even as far as the Cisalpine plains, blighted the delicate flower of art, the object of cares so constant and so tender."[18]

[Pg 292]

The temperature is extremely variable in these steppes, so that Madame de Bourboulon records having experienced in the morning a frost of one degree below zero, and some hours afterwards a heat of thirty degrees above zero (Centigrade). These changes are most numerous and most violent in the spring.

The difficulty of travel is increased by the peculiar rapid trot of the Mongol horses and the formidable unevenness of the ground. The jolting is almost intolerable. However carefully the traveller's wares may have been packed, they are infallibly damaged; and Madame de Bourboulon says that they strewed the desert with the wreck of their wardrobe and their linen. Her husband laughingly averred that the very money in the iron-bound chests was broken by the violent friction, and his veracity, at first impugned, was confirmed by the exhibition of a handful of silver filings; a pile of piastres was found pared and ground down as if by a file, and had the journey been much prolonged, "all would have been reduced to dust."

As the travellers advanced, they observed the increasing scarcity of vegetation; here and there might be seen a few tufts of saxifrage lifting up amidst the stones their rose-tinted posies—a rank, thorny, and creeping herbage—some attenuated heaths, and in the crevices and hollows of the rocks, a little couch grass. They had taken leave of the irises, white, purple, and yellow, and the scarlet anemones, which at first had brightened the[Pg 293] way, and filled the plains with their delicious balmy odour.

Madame de Bourboulon affords us a glimpse, and an interesting one, of the manners of the nomad tribes:—"Throughout the day a tropical heat had prevailed, and in the evening, on arriving at Haliptchi, where they were to pass the night, the postillions eagerly moved down upon the vessels of water and camel's milk which the women and children had made ready for them. A violent altercation ensued, because one of the Hagars of the desert had allowed a stranger to drink before her husband had been supplied. The latter emptied out the contents of the vessel and threw some at the head of his immodest wife, amidst the shouts and laughter of the shepherds." This scene reminded Madame de Bourboulon of the Bible and the age of the patriarchs.

Quitting the desert of the Gobi, our travellers entered the country of the Khalkhas, a region of great forests, pasturages, and crystal rivers; but even this earthly paradise of bloom, verdure, and freshness was not without its dangers. We take an extract, in illustration of them, from Madame de Bourboulon's journal:—

"I rode on horseback this morning," she says, "enticed by the aspect of the beautiful green prairies of Taïrene. My horse bounded over their surface, and giving him the reins I allowed myself to traverse the plain in a furious gallop, lulled by the dull sound of his hoofs, which a thick carpet of grasses deadened, paying no heed to anything around me, and lost in a profound[Pg 294] reverie. Suddenly I heard inarticulate cries behind me, and as I turned to ascertain their cause, I felt myself pulled by the sleeve of my vest; it was a Mongolian of the escort, who had been sent in pursuit of me. He lowered first one hand and then another, imitating with his fingers the gallop of a runaway horse; at length, perceiving that I did not understand, he pointed fixedly to the soil. My presence of mind returned; I had an intuition of the danger which I had escaped, and I discovered that the animation of our horses was not due to the charm of green pasture, but to fear, the fear of being swallowed up alive. The ground disappeared under their feet, and if they remained still they would sink into the treacherous bogs which do not restore their victims. I tremble still when I think of the peril I have escaped; my horse, better served by its instinct than I by my intelligence, had dashed onwards, while I perceived nothing: a few paces more and I was lost!

"White vapours, rising from the earth, gave our postillions a fantastic appearance; one might have mistaken them for black shadows of gigantic proportions, mounted upon transparent and microscopic horses. Madame de Baluseck and I were amusing ourselves with this grotesque mirage, when our attention was attracted by a still more curious phenomenon: the sun, as it rose, dissipating the morning mists, revealed to us Captain Bouvier, who, hitherto hidden in the obscurity, was galloping about a hundred yards in advance of us; he had become trebled—that is, on each side of him a[Pg 295] double had taken its place, imitating faithfully his movements and gestures. I do not remember ever before to have seen such a phenomenon, and I leave it to those who are more learned than I am to decide what law of optics disclosed it to our astonished gaze."

We must pass more rapidly than did our travellers through the land of the Khalkhas, a race who nominally acknowledge the authority of the son of Herica, the great Mandchoo, the descendant of Genghiz-khan, who governs the empire of the Centre, but pay him neither tax nor tribute, and are, in reality, governed and administered by the Guison-Tamba, one of the divine incarnations of Buddha in the body of an eternal child who comes from the holy court of Tibet.

At Guibanoff, on the frontiers of the two empires, Russia and China, our travellers found provided for them, by the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, new means of transport. He had sent them also an escort, and his own aide-de-camp, M. d'Ozeroff, who was to conduct them to Irkutsk. The carriages supplied were tarantas, or large post-chaises, drawn by six horses, and telagas, or four-wheeled waggons. They speedily made their way to Kiakhta, where they met with a most hospitable reception, and were splendidly fêted. Dinner, concert, ball were given in their honour; "nothing was wanting, not even the polka." The large number of[Pg 296] political exiles always residing here has introduced into the midst of the Siberian deserts the urbanity of the best society; nearly all the ladies speak French.

According to Madame de Bourboulon, Siberia is more civilized than old Russia; so true is it that it is easier to overlay a new country with civilization than to rejuvenate an old one.

On reaching the bank of Lake Baikal, our travellers were greatly disappointed to find that the steamers which navigate the lake had sustained severe injuries, and were undergoing repair. After some hesitation, they decided upon embarking in the sailing-vessels, heavy, lumbering, and broad-beamed boats, intended only for the conveyance of merchandise, and terribly unclean. The tarantas were hauled up on their decks, and after a night of peril, when a sudden hurricane put to the test their solidity and staying qualities, they effected the transit of the lake in safety. The "Holy Sea," as the natives call it, is the third largest lake in Asia—about 400 miles in length, and varying in breadth from nineteen miles to seventy. Though fed by numerous streams it has only one outlet, the Angara, a tributary of the Yenisei. Lying deep among the Baikal mountains, an offshoot of the Altai, it presents some vividly coloured and very striking scenery. Its fisheries are valuable. In the great chain of communication between Russia and China it holds an important place, and of late years its navigation has been conducted by steamboats. An interesting account of it[Pg 297] will be found in Mr. T. W. Atkinson's "Oriental and Western Siberia."

Irkutsk was very pleasant to our travellers after their long experience of the desert. Once more they found themselves within the generous influences of civilization. Though possessing not more than 23,000 inhabitants, it is a busy and a lively town; and here, as at Kiakhta, the number of exiles gives a certain tone and elevation to the social circle. Here Madame de Baluseck parted company. M. and Madame de Bourboulon, resuming their journey, pressed forward with such alacrity that, in the space of ten hours, they sometimes accomplished 127 versts, though this rate of speed must necessarily have told heavily on the strength of Madame de Bourboulon. The fatigue she endured brought on the sleep of exhaustion, which almost resembles catalepsy. "We arrived," she writes, "at eight in the morning on the banks of the Tenisci; immediately the horses were taken out and forced into the ferry-boat, in spite of their desperate resistance—I did not stir. My carriage was lifted up and hauled on board by dint of sheer physical strength, fifty men being required for the work, and singing their loudest to inspirit their efforts—I heard nothing. On the boat the ropes rattled through the pulleys and the iron chains of the capstans, while the master directed the movements of his crew by sharp blasts on his whistle—I continued to sleep; in fine, by an ordinary effect of the[Pg 298] profoundest sleep, I awakened only when silence succeeded to this uproar."

Carlyle has a remark to the effect that from the way in which a man, of some wide thing that he has witnessed, will construct a narrative, what kind of picture and delineation he will give of it, is the best measure we can get of the man's intellect.[19] Certainly from a record of travel one can form a tolerably correct estimate of the character, disposition, and faculties of the traveller. On every page of her book, for example, Madame de Bourboulon reveals herself as a woman of some culture, of a cheerful temper, a lively apprehension, and refined mind. Her keen remarks indicate that she has been accustomed to good society. Speaking of the daughter of the Governor of Krasuvïarsk, she observes:—"She would be charming, if she did not wear a hat with feathers and white aigrettes, so empanaché as to have a very curious effect on her blonde and roguish (espiègle) head." She adds, "Wherever I have travelled I have observed that the so-called Parisian modes, the most eccentric things and in the worst possible taste, were assumed by ladies of the most remote countries, where they arrive completely made up, though it is not possible for their makers to ascertain if they will be acceptable to the public. Hence the heterogeneous toilets of strangers who land in Paris, persuaded that they are dressed in the latest fashion."

[Pg 299]

At Atchinsk, which separates East from West Siberia, the travellers were received with graceful hospitality, but made no lengthened stay. Onward they sped, over the perpetual plains, intersected by forests of firs and countless water-courses. At Tomsk their reception was not less cordial than it had been at Irkutsk. Next they plunged into the immense marshes of Baraba; into a dreary succession of lakes, and pools, and swamps, blooming with a luxurious vegetation and a marvellous profusion of wild flowers, each more beautiful than the other, but swarming, unhappily, with a plague of insects eager to drink the blood of man or beast. Madame de Bourboulon had a cruel proof of their activity, though she had fortified her face with a mask of horsehair, and thrust her hands into the thickest gloves. "I was seated in a corner," she says, "wrapped up in my coverings; I lift the window-sash of one of the doors; the air is close and warm, the night dark; black clouds, charged with electricity, roll above me, and the wind brings to me the marsh-odours acrid and yet flat.... Gradually I fall asleep; I have kept on my mask, but the window-pane remains open.... A keen sensation of cold and of intolerable itchings in the hands and face awakens me; day has dawned, and the marshes lie before me in all their splendid colouring, but I have paid dearly for my imprudence; every part of my face which my mask touched in the position in which I fell asleep has been stung a thousand times through the meshes of hair by thousands of probosces and suckers athirst for my[Pg 300] blood—forehead and chest and chin are grotesquely swollen. I do not know myself. My wrist, exposed between the glove and the edge of the sleeve, is ornamented with a regular swelling like a bracelet all round the arm; in a word, wherever the enemy has been able to penetrate, he has wrought indescribable ravage....

"At the next posting-house, I have the satisfaction of seeing that my travelling-companions have not escaped better than myself, and, thanks to the vinegar and water bandages we are forced to apply, we resemble, as we sit at the breakfast table, an ambulatory hospital!"

The Baraba marshes measure 250 miles in breadth, and in length extend over eight degrees of latitude (from the 52nd to the 60th); a road has been carried across them, consisting of trunks of fir trees fastened together and covered with clay, but it is not very substantial.

Abandoning the steppes and forests of Western Siberia, our travellers crossed the great Ural range of mountains, made their way to Perm, and thence to the Volga. Having disposed of all their vehicles, they transformed themselves into European tourists, with no other incumbrances than boxes and portmanteaus. They traversed Rayan, and in due time arrived at Nijni-Novgorod, just at the season of its famous fair, which in importance equals that of Leipzig, and in variety of interest surpasses it. To the observer it offers a wonderful collection of different types of humanity. There you may see assembled all the strange races of the East,[Pg 301] elbowing Russians, and Jews, and Cossacks, and the traders of almost every European nation. Among the shows and spectacles, Madame de Bourboulon was most struck by a performance of Shakespeare's "Othello," in which the hero was played by a black actor from the West Indies (Ira Aldridge?), who spoke in English, while all the other characters delivered their speeches in Russian. The result was a curious cacophony. She thought the Othello good, nay, very good, for, she observes, "On returning from China one is not very hard to please."

From Nijni-Novgorod our travellers proceeded to Moscow by rail, and thence to St. Petersburg, returning to Paris through Prussia and Belgium.

In four months they had accomplished a journey of very great length, having traversed from Shanghai to Paris, some 8,000 miles, without accident. We regret to add that Madame de Bourboulon did not long survive her return home; she died at the château of Claireau, in Loiret, on the 11th of November, 1865, at the early age of 37.


[18] Humboldt: "Ansichten der Natur," i. 8.

[19] Thomas Carlyle: "Lectures on Heroes," Lect. iii.

[Pg 302]


Lady Hester Stanhope was born in 1776. She came of a good stock: her father was that democratic and practical nobleman who invented an ingenious printing-press, and erased his armorial bearings from his plate and furniture; her mother was the eldest daughter of William Pitt, the "great Earl of Chatham." It was at Burton-Pynsent, her illustrious grandfather's country seat, she spent her early years, displaying that boldness of spirit and love of independence which marked her later career, training and riding the most unmanageable horses, and shocking society not a little by her disregard of its conventionalities. She inherited from her parents great force of character, intellectual faculties of no common order, and something, probably, of her eccentricity of disposition. A large and liberal education developed these natural powers, which were in themselves remarkable, and as[Pg 303] she grew up to womanhood her sagacious estimates of policy and her sound judgment of men and things secured her respect in the highest political circles. To her cousin, the younger Pitt—"the pilot who weathered the storm," in the language of poetry; who died when it was at its height, in the language of fact—her advice was always acceptable. It was always freely given, for her admiration of her distinguished kinsman was unbounded. In the last months of his life, when he was stricken by a mortal disease, and sinking under the burden of political disaster, she was assiduous in her attendance upon him; and it was to her, after the memorable battle of Austerlitz, he addressed those historic words, so pathetic in their expression of failure, "Roll up that map (the map of Europe), it will not be wanted these two years."

After the death of Mr. Pitt, Lady Hester abandoned the gay and polished society of which she had been an acknowledged ornament, and quitted England. This defection society was by no means able to understand. That a woman of high birth, and rank, and wealth, the niece of one great minister and the kinswoman of another, should deliberately renounce the advantages of her position, was a circumstance unintelligible to ordinary minds, and thenceforth she shared with Lord Byron the curiosity and speculation of the public. Her singular independence of thought and character had already invested her with a fatal reputation for "eccentricity," and to "eccentricity" her action was very generally[Pg 304] attributed. Some, indeed, were pleased to cast upon it a gleam of romance, and protested that it was brought about by her sweet sorrow for a young English officer of high rank who had perished on one of the battle-fields of the Peninsula. Others, who were nearer the truth, ascribed it to a love of adventure. But, in plain truth, the ruling motive was pride, a colossal, an all-absorbing pride, which could be satisfied only by power and influence, and a foremost place. Her great kinsman's death had necessarily excluded her from the councils of ministers, and closed upon her the doors of cabinets. The ordinary pursuits of society afforded her no gratification, opened up no channel in which her restless energies could expend themselves. She was of too strong a mind, of too clear an intellect, to value the ephemeral influence enjoyed by wealth or beauty; she wanted to reign, to rule, to govern, and as that was no longer a possibility in the political world, she resolved upon seeking some new sphere where she would always be first. It was this illimitable pride, this uncontrolled ambition, which weakened and obscured the elements of true greatness in her character, a character which cannot fail to possess an extraordinary interest for the psychological public.

After traversing Europe with impetuous feet she visited Athens in company with Mr. Bruce. Here she made the acquaintance of Lord Byron. In the language of Mr. Moore, one of the first objects that met the eyes of the[Pg 305] distinguished travellers, on their approaching the coast of Attica, was the noble poet, "disporting in his favourite element under the rocks of Colonna." They were afterwards introduced to each other by Lord Sligo, and it was in the course of their first interview at Lord Sligo's table that Lady Hester, with that "lively eloquence" for which she was remarkable, briskly assailed the author of "Childe Harold" for the depreciating opinion he was supposed to entertain of all female intellect. Being but little inclined, were he even able, to sustain such a heresy against one who was in her own person such an irresistible refutation of it, Lord Byron had no other refuge from the fair orator's arguments than in assent and silence; and this well-bred deference being, in a sensible woman's eyes, equivalent to concession, they became, thenceforward, most cordial friends.

At Constantinople, which she next visited, Lady Hester remained for several years. There was much in the gorgeous life of the East to charm her fancy and gratify her besetting weakness. She delighted in the implicit submission to her orders, in the almost servile obedience which Orientals pay to their superiors, in the sharp contrast between the old and the new civilization. After awhile, however, she wearied even of the Golden City—it was not remote enough from Western ideas, nor did it offer that solitary and independent throne which her ambitious and restless spirit coveted. She resolved on seeking it amid the glowing plains of Syria; and with this view embarked on board an English merchant-vessel,[Pg 306] which she had loaded with her property, with pearls of considerable value, and with a large amount of costly presents designed to purchase the homage or allegiance of the Syrian tribes.

Caught in a violent storm, the ship was wrecked on a reef near the island of Rhodes. The waves swallowed up Lady Hester's treasures, and she herself barely escaped with life. On a small desert island she remained for four-and-twenty hours without food or shelter, until happily discovered by some Levantine fishermen, who conveyed her to Rhodes.

Returning to England, she hastened to collect the remains of her scattered fortune, sold a portion of her estates, chartered another vessel, and a second time sailed for the East. The voyage was not marked by any contrary incident, and Lady Hester safely disembarked at Latakia, a small port of Syria, between Tripoli and Alexandretta. In the neighbourhood she hired a house, and began the study of Arabic, while busily preparing for her Syrian travels.

Having acquired a tolerable knowledge of the language, customs, and manners of the people, Lady Hester organized a numerous caravan, and proceeded to visit every part of Syria. She halted in succession at Jerusalem, Damascus, Aleppo, Baulbek, and Palmyra—everywhere maintaining an almost regal state—and by the stateliness of her demeanour and the splendour of her pretensions producing a powerful[Pg 307] impression on the wandering Arab tribes, who proclaimed her Queen of Palmyra and paid her an enthusiastic homage.

After several years of migratory enterprise, during which her pretensions gradually grew bolder and stronger as her own faith in them increased, she at length fixed her abode in an almost inaccessible solitude of the wild Lebanon, near Saïd—the ancient Sidon—a concession of the ruined convent and village of Djoun, a settlement of the Druses, having been granted by the Pastor of St. Jean d'Acre. There she erected her tent. The convent was a broad, grey mass of irregular building, which, from its position, as well as from the gloomy blankness of its walls, gave the idea of a neglected fortress; it had, in fact, been a convent of great size, and like most of the religious houses in this part of the world, had been made strong enough for opposing an inert resistance to any mere casual band of assailants who might be unprovided with regular means of attack. This she filled with a large retinue of dragomen, women, slaves, and Albanian guards. She lived like an independent princess, with a court of her own, a territory of her own, and it must be added, laws of her own; carrying on political relations with the Porte, with Beschir the celebrated Emir of the Lebanon, and the numerous sheikhs of the Syrian deserts. Over these sheikhs and these tribes she exercised at one time a singular influence. Mr. Kinglake reports that her connection with the Bedawun began by her making a large present of money (£500, an immense[Pg 308] sum in piastres) to the chief whose authority was recognized between Damascus and Palmyra. "The prestige," he says, "created by the rumours of her high and undefined rank, as well as of her wealth and corresponding magnificence, was well sustained by her imperious character and dauntless bravery."

Lady Hester, in conversation with the European visitors, would occasionally mention some of the circumstances that assisted her to secure an influence amounting almost to sovereignty.

"The Bedawun, so often engaged in irregular warfare, strains his eyes to the horizon in search of a coming enemy just as habitually as the sailor keeps his 'bright look out' for a strange sail. In the absence of telescopes a far-reaching sight is highly valued; and Lady Hester had this power. She told me that on one occasion, when there was good reason to expect hostilities, a far-seeing Arab created great excitement in the camp by declaring that he could distinguish some moving objects upon the very farthest point within the reach of his eyes. Lady Hester was consulted, and she instantly assured her comrades in arms that there were indeed a number of horses within sight, but that they were without riders: the assertion proved to be correct, and from that time forth her superiority over all others in respect of far sight remained undisputed."

We may quote another anecdote, because it has a double significance, illustrating not only the character of[Pg 309] Lady Hester, but the temperament of the wandering race over whom she sought to rule.

She was marching one day along with the military array of the tribe. Observing that they were making preparations for an engagement, she inquired the reason, and, after some attempt at mystification on the part of the sheikh, was informed that war had been declared against the tribe on account of its alliance with the English princess, and they were consequently exposed to attack by a highly superior force. The sheikh contrived to let Lady Hester see that she was the teterrima causa belli, and that the contention would readily be appeased but for his recognition of the sacredness of the duty of protecting the Englishwoman whom he had received as his guest; at the same time his tribe would probably experience a crushing disaster. Lady Hester's resolution was immediately taken: she would not for one moment suffer a calamity to fall upon her friends which it was in her power to avert. She could go forth alone, trusting in herself and her ability to encounter and overcome danger. Of course the sheikh professed his objection to her determination, and candidly told her that though, if she left them, they would be instantly able to negotiate the conditions of an arrangement, yet they could do nothing for her, and that the enemy's horsemen would sweep the desert so closely as to render impossible her escape into any other district.

No fear of danger, however, could move the calm, courageous soul of Lady Hester. She bade farewell to[Pg 310] the tribe, turned her horse's head, and rode away into the wilderness alone. Hour after hour passed away, and still, with the hot sun overhead, and round her the solitude of the desert, she rode onward. Suddenly her keen eye sighted some horsemen in the distance. They drew nearer and nearer; evidently they were making direct towards her; and eventually some hundreds of fully-armed Bedawun galloped up to her, with fierce, hoarse shouts, brandishing their spears as if they thirsted for her blood. Her face, at the time, was covered, as is the Eastern custom, with her yashmak; but just as the spears of the foremost horsemen glittered close to her horse's head, she raised her stately figure in her stirrups, drew aside the yashmak that veiled her majestic countenance, waved her arm slowly and disdainfully, and with a loud voice cried, "Avaunt!"

The horsemen, we are told,[20] recoiled from her glance, but not in terror. "The threatening yells of the assailants were suddenly changed for loud shouts of joy and admiration at the bravery of the stately Englishwoman, and festive gunshots were fired on all sides around her honoured head. The truth was that the party belonged to the tribe with which she had allied herself, and that the threatened attack, as well as the pretended apprehension of an engagement, had been contrived for the mere purpose of testing her courage. The day ended in a great feast, prepared to do honour to the heroine, and[Pg 311] from that time her power over the minds of the people grew rapidly."

This was probably the happiest, or at least the most successful, period of her career. Her ambition was satisfied—she felt herself a power; her pride received no wounds, and her will no check. But by degrees clouds gathered on the horizon: her subjects, if ever they were her subjects, grew impatient of a rule which did not fulfil their longings after military empire. Her immense expenditure told upon her fortune, and its gradual diminution compelled her to withhold the presents she had formerly bestowed with so lavish a hand. She awoke at last to a perception of the hollowness of her authority. Meanwhile, many of the attendants who had accompanied her from Europe died; others returned to their native country. She was left almost alone in her Lebanon retreat, with only the shadow of her former power. The sense of failure must have been very bitter, but she bore herself with all her wonted pride, and made neither complaint nor confession. Without bestowing a regret on the past, she encountered misfortune and ingratitude with a composed countenance, facing them as fearlessly as she had faced the Bedawun of the desert. She yielded nothing, either to the old age which was creeping upon her, or the desertion of the ungrateful wretches who had profited so largely by her generosity. Alone she lived, with the great mountain peaks closing in upon her[Pg 312] remote abode—without books, without friends; attended by a few young negresses, a few black slaves, and a handful of Arab peasants, who took charge of her gardens and stables, and watched over the safety of her person. The love of power, however, was still strong within her, and as her worldly authority slipped away, she endeavoured to replace it by a spiritual. The energy of her temper and the extraordinary force of her character found expression in exalted religious ideas, in which the "illuminationism" of Europe was strangely blended with the subtleties of the Oriental faiths and the mysteries of mediæval astrology. To what extreme they carried her it is difficult to say. It has been hinted that she dreamed of being united in a nuptial union with her Saviour, reviving the old illusion of St. Catherine of Siéna. There is no doubt that at times she claimed to be the possessor of divine power; there is no doubt that she was not always a believer in her own claims. Her intellect was too strong for her imagination. As Miss Martineau remarks, "She saw and knew things which others could not see or know; she had curious glimpses of prescience; but she could not depend upon her powers, nor always separate realities from mere dreams."

Occasionally a visitor from the active world of the West broke in upon her loneliness—but only by permission—and, if he were a man of quick sympathies, would draw her out of herself. Her revelations, under such circumstances, were always of deep interest.[Pg 313]

Alphonse de Lamartine, the French poet, orator, and man of letters, obtained admission to her presence, though not without difficulty, in 1832, when she was standing on the threshold of old age. He has left us a graphic record of the interview.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon when he was informed that Lady Hester was ready to receive him. After traversing a court, a garden, a day-kiosk, with jasmine hangings, then two or three gloomy corridors, a small negro boy introduced him into her cabinet. So profound an obscurity prevailed there, that at first he could scarcely distinguish the noble, grave, sweet, yet majestic features of the white figure which, clothed in Oriental costume, rose from her couch, and extended to him her hands.

To her visitor Lady Hester seemed about fifty years of age; she was really fifty-six; she was still beautiful—beautiful with that beauty which lies in the form itself, in the purity of the lines, in the majesty, the thought which irradiate the countenance. On her head she wore a white turban; from her forehead a veil, or yashmak, of purple wool fell down to her shoulders. A long shawl of yellow cashmere, an ample Turkish robe of white silk, with hanging sleeves, enveloped her whole person in their simple and majestic folds; so that you could but catch a glimpse, where this outer tunic opened on the bosom, of a second robe of Persian stuff, which was fastened at the throat by a clasp of pearls. Turkish boots of yellow morocco, embroidered in silk, completed her costume.[Pg 314]

"You have come a great distance," said Lady Hester to her visitor,[21] "to see a hermit; you are welcome, I receive few strangers, but your letter pleased me, and I felt anxious to know a person who, like myself, loved God, and nature, and solitude. Something told me, moreover, that our stars were friendly, and that our sympathies would prove a bond of union. Be seated, and let us converse.

"You are one of those men," she said, "whom I await; whom Providence sends to me; who have a great part to accomplish in the work that Fate is getting ready. You will shortly return to Europe. Well, Europe is worn out; France alone has a great mission before her; in this you will participate, though I know not how, but I can tell you this evening if you wish it, after I have consulted the stars."

"As yet," she continued—evidently her keen perception had detected her visitor's vanity, and she skilfully played upon it—"as yet, I do not know the names of all. I see more than three, however; I can distinguish four, perhaps five, and—who knows?—still more. One of them is certainly Mercury, which bestows clearness and colour upon intelligence and speech. You will become a poet—I see it in your eyes, and in the upper part of your face; in the lower you are under the sway[Pg 315] of widely different stars, almost all of them of opposite characters. I discern, too, the influence of the sun in the pose of your head, and in the manner in which you throw it back on the left shoulder. What is your name?"

Lamartine, who had already won distinction as a poet, told her.

"I had never heard it," she exclaimed, with a convincing accent of sincerity; "but, poet or not, I like you, and have hope for you."

"Go," she added; "dinner is served. Dine quickly, and return soon. I go to meditate upon you, and to see more clearly into the confusion of my ideas respecting your person and your future."

Lamartine had scarcely concluded his dinner when Lady Hester sent for him. He found her smoking a long Oriental pipe, the fellow of which she ordered to be brought for his own use. Accustomed to see the most graceful women of the East with their tchibouques, he was neither surprised nor shocked by the gracious, nonchalant attitude, or the light wreaths of perfumed smoke issuing from Lady Hester's finely curved lips, interrupting the conversation without chilling it. They conversed together for a long time upon the favourite subject—the unique, mysterious theme of that extraordinary woman, or the modern Circe of the Desert, who so completely recalled to mind the famous female magicians of antiquity. The religious opinions of Lady Hester seemed to her guest a skilful though confused mixture of the[Pg 316] various creeds among which she was condemned—or had condemned herself—to live.

"Mystical as the Druses, with whose mysterious secrets she alone, perhaps, in the world, was acquainted, resigned like the Mussulman, and as fatalistic; with the Jew, expectant of the Messiah's coming; with the Christian, a worshipper of Christ, whose beneficent morality she practised—she invested the whole in the fantastic colours and supernatural dreams of an imagination steeped in the light of the East, and, it would seem, the revelations of the Arabian astrologists. A strange and yet sublime medley, which it is much easier to stigmatize as lunatic than to analyze and comprehend. But Lady Hester Stanhope was no lunatic. Madness, which reveals itself only too clearly in the victim's eyes, was not to be detected in her frank, direct look—madness, which invariably betrays itself in conversation, which it involuntarily interrupts by sudden, irregular, and eccentric outbreaks, was nowhere discernible in Lady Hester's exalted, mystical, and cloudy, but sustained, connected and vigorous monologues.

"If," adds M. de Lamartine, "I were to offer an opinion, I should rather say it was a voluntary and studied madness, which knew what it was about, and had its own reasons for posing as madness. The patent admiration which her genius has excited, and still excites, among the Arab tribes, is a sufficient proof that this pretended insanity is only a means to an end."[Pg 317]

In the course of conversation, Lady Hester suddenly said to her guest:

"I hope that you are an aristocrat; but I cannot doubt it when I look at you."

"You are mistaken, madam," replied the man of sentiment, "I am neither aristocrat nor democrat; I have lived long enough to see both sides of the medal of humanity, and to find them equally hollow. No, I am neither aristocrat nor democrat; I am a man, and an ardent partisan of all which can ameliorate and perfect the whole man, whether he be born at the summit or at the foot of the social ladder. I am neither for the people nor the great, but for all humanity; and I am unable to believe that either aristocratic or democratic institutions possess the exclusive virtue of raising humanity to the highest standard. This virtue lies only in a divine morality, the fruit of a perfect religion! The civilization of the peoples—it is their faith!"

We shall shortly see that Lady Hester, with her quick insight into character, an insight sharpened by long and varied experience, took "the measure" of her visitor very accurately, and lightly estimated the vanity, self-consciousness, and inflated sentimentality which weakened the genius of Lamartine and marred his career, both for his country and himself.

She invited him to visit her garden—a sanctuary into which the profanum vulgus were never allowed to penetrate. Here is his description of it, somewhat exaggerated in colouring:[Pg 318]

"Gloomy trellises, the verdurous roofs of which bore, like thousands of lustres, the gleaming grapes of the Promised Land; kiosks, where carved arabesques were entertwined with jasmines and climbing plants, the lianas of Asia; basins, into which the waters—artificial they are here—flowed from afar to leap and murmur in the marble jets of alleys lined with all the fruit trees of England, of Europe, and of the sunny Eastern climates; green leaves besprinkled with blossoming shrubs, and marble beds enclosing sheaves of flowers."

She also exhibited to her famous guest, if, indeed, he may be implicitly credited, the noted mare which realized ancient prophecy, in which nature had accomplished all that is written on the animal destined to the honour of carrying the Messiah—"She will be born ready saddled." He says: "And in truth, I saw, on this beautiful animal, a freak of nature, rare enough to encourage the illusion of a vulgar credulity among half-barbarous peoples: instead of shoulders, she had a cavity so broad and deep, and so exactly imitating the shape of a Turkish saddle, that one might truthfully say she was born ready saddled, and, with stirrups at hand, one might readily have mounted her without a saddle." This magnificent bay mare was the object of profound respect and admiration on the part of Lady Stanhope and her slaves; she had never been ridden, and a couple of Arab grooms cared for her and watched her carefully, never losing sight of her.

A few years later, and the brilliant author[Pg 319] "Eöthen," Mr. A. W. Kinglake, while travelling in the East, made his way to Lady Hester's Lebanon retreat. She had been the friend of his mother, and consequently he had no difficulty in obtaining admission.

In the first court which he entered a number of fierce-looking and ill-clad Albanian soldiers were hanging about the place, a couple of them smoking their tchibouques, the remainder lying torpidly upon the flat stones. He rode on to an inner part of the building, dismounted, and passed through a doorway that led him at once from an open court into an apartment on the ground floor. There he was received by Lady Hester's doctor, with a command from the doctor's mistress that her visitor would rest and refresh himself after the fatigues of the journey. After dinner, which was of the usual Oriental kind, but included the wine of the Lebanon, he was conducted into a small chamber where sat the lady prophetess. She rose from her seat very formally, uttered a few words of welcome, pointed to a chair placed exactly opposite to her sofa, at two yards' distance, and remained standing up to the full of her majestic height, perfectly still and motionless, until he had taken his appointed position. She then resumed her seat—not after the fashion of the Orientals—but allowing her feet to rest on the floor or footstool, and covering her lap with a mass of loose white drapery.[22]

[Pg 320]

The woman before him had exactly the person of a prophetess; not, indeed, of the divine Sibyl, imagined by Dammichino, but of a good, business-like, practical prophetess, long used to the exercise of her sacred calling. Her large commanding features reminded him of the great statesman, her grandfather, as he is seen in Copley's famous picture; her face was of surprising whiteness; she wore a very large turban, composed of pale cashmere shawls, and so arranged as to conceal the hair; her dress, from the chin down to the point at which it was concealed by the drapery on her lap, was a mass of white linen loosely folding—an ecclesiastical sort of affair—more like a surplice than any of those blessed creations which our souls love under the names of "dress," and "frock," and "bodice," and "collar," and "habit-shirt," and sweet "chemisette."

Such was the outward seeming of Lady Hester Stanhope, the grand-daughter of Chatham, the adviser of Pitt, the Queen of Palmyra, the prophetess of the Lebanon—she who, in her life, had played so many parts, but in all had given full rein to her master-passion, pride. And assuredly the moralist who, commenting on the disastrous effect of this passion, should need an illustration to point his moral and adorn his tale, could find none more striking than Lady Hester Stanhope's career affords.

A couple of black slaves appeared at a signal, and[Pg 321] supplied their mistress and her visitor with lighted tchibouques and coffee.

"The custom of the East sanctions, and almost commands, some moments of silence whilst you are inhaling the first few breaths of the fragrant pipe. The pause was broken, I think, by my lady, who addressed to me some inquiries respecting my mother, and particularly as to her marriage; but before I had communicated any great amount of family facts, the spirit of the prophetess kindled within her, and presently (though with all the skill of a woman of the world) she shuffled away the subject of poor, dear Somersetshire, and bounded onward into other spheres of thought....

"For hours and hours this wondrous white woman poured forth her speech, for the most part concerning sacred and profane mysteries; but every now and then she would stay her lofty flight, and swoop down upon the world again. Whenever this happened I was interested in her conversation."

In reference to her mode of life, she informed her guest that for her sin, or sins, she had subjected herself during many years to severe penance, and that her self-denial had not been without reward. "Vain and false," she declared, "was all the pretended knowledge of the Europeans. Their doctors asserted that the drinking of milk gave yellowness to the complexion; yet milk was her only food, and was not her face white?" Her intellectual abstemiousness was not less severe than[Pg 322] her physical self-denial. Upon book or newspaper she never cast a glance, but trusted wholly to the stars for her sublime knowledge. Her nights she usually spent in absorbed communion with these silent but eloquent teachers, and took her rest during the daytime. She spoke contemptuously of the frivolity and benighted ignorance of the modern Europeans, and gave as a proof their ignorance not only of astrology, but of the common and every-day phenomena produced by the magic art. She evidently desired her hearer to believe that she had at her command all the spells which exercise control over the creatures of the unseen world, but refrained from employing them because it would be derogatory to her exalted rank in the heavenly kingdom. She said that the charm by which the face of an absent person is thrown upon a mirror lay within the reach of the humblest magicians, but that the practice of such arts was unholy as well as vulgar.

Reference was made to the divining rod or twig (Virgil's "Aurea virga"[23]), by means of which precious metals may be discovered.

"In relation to this," says Kinglake, "the prophetess told me a story rather against herself, and inconsistent[Pg 323] with the notion of her being perfect in her science; but I think that she mentioned the facts as having happened before she attained to the great spiritual authority which she now arrogated. She told me that vast treasures were known to exist in a situation which she mentioned, if I remember rightly, as being near Suez; that Napoleon, profanely brave, thrust his arm into the cave containing the coveted gold, and that instantly his flesh became palsied. But the youthful hero (for she said he was great in his generation) was not to be thus daunted; he fell back, characteristically, upon his brazen resources, and ordered up his artillery; yet man could not strive with demons, and Napoleon was foiled. In latter years came Ibrahim Pasha, with heavy guns and wicked spells to boot, but the infernal guardians of the treasure were too strong for him. It was after this that Lady Hester passed by the spot; and she described, with animated gesture, the force and energy with which the divining twig had suddenly leaped in her hands. She ordered excavations, and no demon opposed her enterprise. The vast chest in which the treasure had been deposited was at length discovered; but, lo and behold! it was full of pebbles! She said, however, that the times were approaching in which the hidden treasure of the earth would become available to those who had 'true knowledge.'"

Among the subjects on which Lady Hester discoursed, with equal fluency and earnestness, were religion and race. On the first head she announced[Pg 324] that the Messiah was yet to come; on the second, she expressed her low opinion of Norman, and her high opinion of ancient French, blood. Occasionally she descended to inferior topics, and displayed her conspicuous abilities as a mimic and satirist. She spoke of Lord Byron, and ridiculed his petty affectations and sham Orientalism. For Lamartine she had still less mercy. His morbid self consciousness and exaggerated refinement of manner, had excited her contempt. Indeed, she seems to have cherished an abundant scorn of everything approaching to exquisiteness or "æstheticism."

Next day, at her request, he paid her a second visit. "Really," said she, when he had taken his seat and his pipe, "we were together for hours last night, and still I have heard nothing at all of my old friends; now do tell me something of your dear mother and her sister; I never knew your father—it was after I left Burton-Pynsent that your mother married." Kinglake began to furnish the desired particulars; but his questioner could not long attend to them. She soared away to loftier topics; so that the second interview, though it lasted two or three hours, was all occupied by her mystical, theological, transcendental, necromantical discourse, in which she displayed the expressiveness, if not the glowing eloquence, of a Coleridge.

In the course of the afternoon, the captain of an English man-of-war arrived at Djoun, and Lady Hester[Pg 325] resolved on receiving him for the same reason as that which had governed her reception of Mr. Kinglake, namely, an early intimacy with his family. He proved to be a pleasant and amusing guest, and all three sat smoking until midnight, conversing chiefly upon magical science.

"Lady Hester's unholy claim to supremacy in the spiritual kingdom was, no doubt, the suggestion of fierce and inordinate pride, most perilously akin to madness; but I am quite sure," says Mr. Kinglake, "that the mind of the woman was too strong to be thoroughly overcome by even this potent feeling. I plainly saw that she was not an unhesitating follower of her own system; and I even fancied that I could distinguish the brief moments during which she contrived to believe in herself, from those long and less happy intervals in which her own reason was too strong for her.

"As for the lady's faith in astrology and magic science, you are not for a moment to suppose that this implied any aberration of intellect. She believed these things in common with those around her; and it could scarcely be otherwise, for she seldom spoke to anybody, except crazy old dervishes, who at once received her alms and fostered her extravagances; and even when (as on the occasion of my visit) she was brought into contact with a person entertaining different notions, she still remained uncontradicted. This entourage, and the habit of fasting from books and newspapers, was quite enough[Pg 326] to make her a facile recipient of any marvellous story."[24]

After Lady Hester's death, a visit was paid to the place which had been her residence for so many years, by Major Eliot Warburton, the accomplished author of "The Crescent and the Cross." He speaks of the buildings, that constituted the palace, as of a very scattered and complicated description, covering a wide space, but only one story in height; courts and gardens, stables and sleeping rooms, halls of audience and ladies' bowers, all strangely intermingled. Heavy weeds clambered about the open portals and a tangle of roses and jasmine blocked the way to the inner court, where the flowers no longer bloomed and the fountains had ceased to play in the marble basins. At nightfall when Major Warburton's escort had lighted their watch-fires, the lurid gleam fell strangely upon masses of honeysuckle and woodbine; on the white, mouldering walls beneath, and the dark, waving trees above; while the quaint picture seemed appropriately filled up by the group of wild mountaineers, with their long beards and vivid dresses, who gathered around the cheerful blaze.

Next morning, Major Warburton explored the spacious gardens. "Here many a broken arbour and trellis bending under masses of jasmine and honeysuckle, showed the care and taste that were once lavished on this wild but[Pg 327] beautiful hermitage: a garden-house, surrounded by an enclosure of roses run wild, stood in the midst of a grove of myrtle and bay trees. This was Lady Hester's favourite resort during her life-time, and now, within its silent enclosure,

"'After life's fitful fever she sleeps well.'"

It is painful to know that in her last illness she was shamefully deserted. Mr. Moore, the English consul at Beyrout, on hearing that she was stricken, rode across the mountains to visit her, accompanied by Mr. Thompson, the American missionary. It was evening when they arrived, and silence reigned in the palace. No attendants met them. They lighted their own lamps in the outer court, and passed unquestioned through court and gallery until they reached the room where she lay—dead. "A corpse was the only inhabitant of the palace, and the isolation from her kind which she had sought so long was indeed complete. That morning, thirty-seven servants had watched every motion of her eye; its spell once darkened by death, every one fled with such plunder as they could secure. A little girl, adopted by her, and maintained for years, took her watch and some papers on which she had set peculiar value. Neither the child nor the property was ever seen again. Not a single thing was left in the room where she lay dead, except the ornaments upon her person: no one had ventured to take these; even in death she seemed able to protect herself. At midnight, her countryman and the[Pg 328] missionary carried her out by torchlight to a spot in the garden that had been formerly her favourite resort, and there they buried the self-exiled lady."

Some curious particulars of Lady Hester Stanhope's mode of life in its closing years are recorded by her physician. She seldom rose from her bed until between two and five in the afternoon, and seldom retired before the same hours in the morning. It was sunset before the day's business really began. Not that the servants were permitted to remain idle during daylight. On the contrary, their work was assigned to them over-night, and their mistress employed the evening hours in arranging their occupations for the following day. When this was done, she wrote her letters and plunged into those endless conversations which seem to have been her sole, or, at all events, her chief pleasure. She always showed a reluctance, an air of unwillingness, to retire; not an unusual characteristic in persons of her peculiar temperament. When the room was ready, one of her two girls, Zezefôrn or Falôom, would precede her to it, bearing wax tapers in their hands.

Her bedstead might have suited a veteran campaigner; it consisted simply of a few planks nailed together on low tressels. On these planks, which sloped slightly towards the foot, was spread a mattress, seven feet long and about four and a half feet broad. Instead of sheets, she had Barbary blankets, which are like the finest English, two over and one under her. There was no counterpane, but, as occasion required, a woollen abak[Pg 329] or cloak would be used or a fur pelisse. Her pillow-case was of Turkish silk, and under it was another covered with coloured cotton. Behind this were two more of silk, ready at hand, if needed.

Her dress for the night was a chemise of silk and cotton, a white quilted jacket, a short pelisse, a turban on her head, and a kefféyah tied under her chin in the same manner as when she was up, with a shawl over the back of her head and shoulders. It is rather a puzzle how she could enjoy in this full panoply any sound or refreshing repose.

No man is said to be a hero to his valet; I suppose the proverb may be applied in the case of his physician. Certainly, Lady Hester Stanhope's medical attendant does not forget to expose her weaknesses. "As it had become," he says, "a habit with her to find nothing well done, when she entered her bedroom, it was rare that the bed was made to her liking; and, generally, she ordered it to be made over again in her presence. Whilst this was doing, she would smoke her pipe, then call for the sugar basin to eat two or three lumps of sugar, then for a clove to take away the mawkish taste of the sugar. The girls, in the meantime, would go on making the bed, and be saluted every now and then, for some mark of stupidity, with all sorts of appellations. The night-lamp was then lighted, a couple of yellow wax lights were placed ready for use in the recess of the window, and all things being apparently done for the night, she would get into bed, and the maid whose turn it was to sleep[Pg 330] in the room (for latterly she always had one) having placed herself, dressed as she was, on her mattress behind the curtain which ran across the room, the other servant was dismissed. But hardly had she shut the door and reached her own sleeping-room, flattering herself that her day's work was over, when the bell would ring, and she was told to get broth or lemonade or orgeat directly. This, when brought, was a new trial for the maids. Lady Hester Stanhope took it on a tray placed on her lap as she sat up in bed, and it was necessary for one of the two servants to hold the candle in one hand and shade the light from her mistress's eyes with the other. The contents of the basin were sipped once or twice and sent away; or, if she ate a small bit of dried toast, it was considered badly made, and a fresh piece was ordered, perhaps not to be touched."

In what follows we are almost inclined to suspect a degree of exaggeration. Dr. Meryon says that the dish being removed, the maid would again depart, and throw herself on her bed; and, as she wanted no rocking, in ten minutes would be asleep. But, meanwhile, her mistress would feel a twitch in some part of her body, and the bell would again be rung. As servants, when fatigued, sleep sometimes so soundly as not to hear, and sometimes are purposely deaf, Lady Hester Stanhope had got in the quadrangle of her own apartments a couple of active fellows, a part of whose business it was to watch by turns during the night, and see that the maids answered the bell; they were, therefore, sure[Pg 331] to be roughly shaken out of their sleep, and, in going, half stupid, into her ladyship's room, would be told to prepare a fomentation of chamomile, or elder flowers, or mallows, or the like. The gardener was to be called, water was to be boiled, and the house again was all in motion. During these preparations the mistress would recollect some order she had previously given about some honey, flower, or letter—no matter however trivial—and the person charged with its execution would be summoned from his bed, whatever might be the time, and questioned respecting it. Nobody in Lady Hester's establishment was suffered to enjoy an interval of rest.

A description of the bedchamber, which, for most purposes, was Lady Hester's principal apartment, we shall now subjoin. It bore no resemblance to an English or a French chamber, and, independent of its furniture, was scarcely better than a common peasant's. The floor was of cement. Across the room was hung a dirty red cotton curtain, to keep off the wind when the door opened. There were three windows; one was nailed up by its shutter on the outside, and one closed up by a bit of felt on the inside; only the third, which looked on the garden, was reserved for the admission of light and air. In two deep niches in the wall (which was about three feet thick) were heaped on a shelf, equidistant from the top and bottom, a few books, some bundles tied up in handkerchiefs, writing paper, with sundry other articles of daily use—such[Pg 332] as a white plate, loaded with several pairs of scissors and two or three pairs of spectacles, and another white plate with pins, sealing-wax, and wafers; also, a common white inkstand, and the old parchment cover of some merchant's daybook, with blotting paper inside, on which, spread on her lap, as she sat up in bed, she generally wrote her letters.

She had neither watch, clock, nor timepiece; and when her physician asked her why she had never purchased one, as a thing so essential to good order in a household, she replied, "Because I cannot bear anything that is unnatural; the sun is for the day, and the moon and stars for the night, and by them I like to measure time."

A wooden stool by her bedside served for a table, and upon it stood a variety of things to satisfy any sudden want or fancy; such as a little strawberry preserve in a saucer, lemonade, chamomile tea, ipecacuanha lozenges, a bottle of cold water. Of these she would take one or other in succession, almost constantly. In a day or two fresh remedies or concoctions would take their place. There would be a bottle of wine or of violet syrup; anise seeds to masticate instead of cloves; quince preserve; orgeat; a cup of cold tea; a pill-box.

Her bed was without curtains or mosquito net. An earthenware ybrick, or jug, with a spout, stood in one of the windows, with a small copper basin, and this constituted her washing appliances. There was no toilet table; and when she washed herself, the copper basin[Pg 333] was held before her as she sat up in bed. Near the foot of the bed stood an upright, ill-made walnut wood box, with a piece of green calico depending before it. The windows were curtainless, and the felt with which one of them was covered was held in its place by a faggot-stick, stuck tightly in, from corner to corner diagonally. "Such was the chamber of Lord Chatham's grand-daughter! Diogenes himself could not have found fault with its appointments!" But the thoughtful observer will regret the indulged self-will and the exaggerated egotism which placed in such a position a woman whose powerful intellect might have been applied to the benefit of the community. It is impossible not to see and feel that hers was a wasted life.

It was this self-will, this colossal egotism that led her to spend so much of her time in conversation—if those could be called conversations in which one of the talkers insisted upon a monopoly of attention. It would be more accurate to describe them as monologues, with occasional interpolations of assent on the part of the listener. We have no wish to underrate their charm, though, from the reports transmitted to posterity, they would hardly seem to have deserved the very warm eulogy pronounced by the physician, who says,[25] "Her conversations lasted eight and ten hours at a time, without moving from her seat: so that, although highly entertained, instructed, or astonished at her versatile[Pg 334] powers, as the listeners might be, it was impossible not to feel the weariness of so long a sitting. Everybody," he adds, "who visited Lady Hester Stanhope in her retirement will bear witness to her unexampled colloquial powers; to her profound knowledge of character; to her inexhaustible fund of anecdotes; to her talents for mimicry; to her modes of narration, as various as the subjects she talked about; to the lofty inspiration and sublimity of her language, when the subject required it; and to her pathos and feeling, whenever she wished to excite the emotions of her hearers. There was no secret of the human heart, however studiously concealed, that she could not discover; no workings in the listener's mind that she would not penetrate; no intrigue, from the low cunning of vulgar intrigue to the vast combinations of politics, that she would not unravel; no labyrinth, however tortuous, that she would not thread. It was this comprehensive and searching faculty, this intuitive penetration, which made her so formidable; for under imaginary names, when she wished to show a person that his character and course of life were unmasked to her view, she would, in his very presence, paint him such a picture of himself, in drawing the portrait of another, that you might see the individual writhing on his chair, unable to conceal the effect the words had on his conscience. Everybody who heard her for an hour or two retired humbled from her presence, for her language was always directed to bring mankind to their level, to pull down pride and conceit, to strip off the garb of[Pg 335] affectation, and to shame vice, immorality, irreligion, and hypocrisy."

We have admitted Lady Hester Stanhope's great mental powers, but we can find no trace in the records of her conversation of such extraordinary genius as is here indicated. No doubt, she talked very well; but like all great talkers, she sometimes talked very ill. The great attraction of her conversation was its reflection of one strange personality: she glassed herself in it as in a mirror; and as she had seen much, and known many great men, and gone through a vast variety of experience, she had always something to tell which was interesting. But how largely it was informed by egotism, and how narrowly at times it escaped the reproach of silliness, may be understood, I think, from the following specimen:—

"Doctor," one day she said to her physician, "you have no religion: what I mean by religion is, adoration of the Almighty. Religion, as people profess it, is nothing but a dress. One man puts on one coat, and another another. But the feeling that I have is quite a different thing, and I thank God that He has opened my eyes. You will never learn of me, because you cannot comprehend my ideas, and therefore it is of no use teaching you. Nobody opens a book to an idiot, that would foam and splutter over it; for you never could make him read. Ah! I see my way a little before me, and God vouchsafes to enlighten me perhaps more than other people....[Pg 336]

"It was ever an object with me to search out why I came into the world, what I ought to do in it, and where I shall go to. God has given me the extraordinary faculty of seeing into futurity; for a clear judgment becomes matter of fact. It has ever been my study to know myself. I may thank God for my sufferings, as they have enabled me to dive deeper into the subject than, I believe, any person living. The theory of the soul, doctor, what an awful thing!

"My religion is to try to do as well as I can in God's eyes. That is the only merit I have. I try to do the best I can. Some of the servants sometimes talk about my religion—dyn es Sytt, as they call it—and I let them talk; for they explain it to people by saying it is to do what is right, and to avoid all uncleanliness.

"My views of the Creator are very different. I believe that all things are calculated, and what is written is written; but I do not suppose that the devil is independent of God: he receives his orders. Not that God goes and gives them to him, any more than the big my lord goes and gives orders to his shoe-black. There is some secondary being that does that—some intendant.

"There are angels of different degrees, from the highest down to the devil. It must be an awful sight to see an angel! There is something so transcendent and beautiful in them, that a person must be half out of his senses to brave the sight. For, when you are looking down, and happen to raise your head, and there is the[Pg 337] angel standing before you, you can't say whether it came up through the earth, or down from the sky, or how—there he is, and may go in the same way. But angels don't appear to everybody. You know, doctor, you can't suppose that if you were a dirty little apothecary, keeping a shop in a narrow street, a prime minister would waste his time in going to call on you; or that, if a man is sitting over his glass all the evening, or playing whist, or lounging all the morning, an angel will come to him. But where there is a mortal of high rectitude and integrity, then such a being may be supposed to condescend to seek him out.

"God is my Friend—that is enough; and, if I am to see no happiness in this world, my share of it, I trust, will be greater in the next, if I am firm in the execution of those principles which He has inspired me with."[26]

In reference to her inveterate love of smoking, her physician says, "Much has been written in prose and verse on the advantages and mischief of smoking tobacco.... All I can say is, that Lady Hester gave her sanction to the practice by the habitual use of the long Oriental pipe, which use dated from the year 1817, or thereabouts. In her bed, lying with her pipe in her mouth, she would talk on politics, philosophy, morality, religion, or on any other theme, with her accustomed eloquence, and closing her periods with a whiff that would[Pg 338] have made the Duchess of Richmond stare with astonishment, could she have risen from her tomb to have seen her quondam friend, the brilliant ornament of a London drawing-room, clouded in fumes so that her features were sometimes invisible. Now, this altered individual had not a covering to her bed that was not burnt into twenty holes by the sparks and ashes that had fallen from her pipe; and, had not these coverings been all woollen, it is certain that, on some unlucky night, she must have been consumed, bed and all.

"Her bedroom, at the end of every twenty-four hours, was strewed with tobacco and ashes, to be swept away and again strewed as before; and it was always strongly impregnated with the fumes.

"The finest tobacco the country could produce, and the cleanest pipes (for she had a new one almost as often as a fop puts on new gloves), could hardly satisfy her fastidiousness; and I have known her footman get as many scoldings as there were days in the week on that score. From curiosity, I once counted a bundle of pipes, thrown by after a day or two's use, any one of which would have fetched five or ten shillings in London, and there were 102. The woods she most preferred were jessamine, rose, and cork. She never smoked cherry-wood pipes, from their weight, and because she liked cheaper ones, which she could renew oftener. She never arrived at that perfectibility, which is seen in many smokers, of swallowing the fumes, or of making them pass out at her nostrils. The pipe was to her[Pg 339] what a fan was, or is, in a lady's hand—a means of having something to do. She forgot it when she had a letter to write, or any serious occupation. It is not so with the studious and literary man, who fancies it helps reflection or promotes inspiration."[27]


[20] "Eöthen," pp. 87, 88.

[21] Alphonse de Lamartine: "Voyage en Orient." Lamartine's version of Lady Hester's conversation is sometimes of dubious accuracy.

[22] "Eöthen," pp. 81, 82. In the following narrative we very frequently adopt, with slight alteration and condensation, Mr. Kinglake's language.

[23] The branch which obtains Æneas admission to the shades (Æneid, Book vi.)—

"This branch at least"—and here she showed
The branch within her raiment stowed—
"You needs must own"...
He answers not, but eyes the sheen
Of the blest bough.

[24] "Eöthen," pp. 97, 98.

[25] "Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope," i. 135, 136.

[26] "Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope," i. 142-144.

[27] "Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope," iii. 189, 190.

[Pg 340]


Most of our readers will be familiar with the exciting story of voyages round the world; with that famous circumnavigation by Magellan, which first found an ocean-way between the West and the East, and carried a furrow across the broad waters of the Pacific; that scarcely less famous circumnavigation of Drake's, which made the English flag known on the southern seas; that great voyage of Cook's, which added so many lands, hitherto unknown, to the map of the inhabited globe, down to later circumnavigations, accomplished for scientific objects by ships equipped with the most perfect appliances. Storm and wreck and calm; intercourse with savages who look with wonder on the white sails that have come up from the under-world; the wash of waters upon coral-reefs; the shadow of green palms upon lonely isles; strange sea-weeds floating on the deep green wave, and flying-fish hunted by voracious foes; long days and nights spent under glowing skies, without a glimpse of land; the breathless[Pg 341] eagerness with which some new shore is sighted—with such incidents as these we English are necessarily familiar, possessing as we do a vast and various literature of the sea. And yet our appetite never grows weary of the old, old tale; there is a romance about it which never seems to fade—like the sea itself it seems ever to present some fresh and novel aspect.

And such an aspect it certainly wears when it is told by a woman, as it has been told by Lady Brassey, one of the most adventurous and agreeable of lady-voyagers. Told, too, with a literary skill and a refined taste which have greatly charmed the public, and given a permanent value to her rapid record. There is no affectation of high-wrought adventure or heroic enterprise about it. Lady Brassey describes only what she has seen—and she saw a great deal. She invents nothing and she magnifies nothing; her narrative is as plain and unvarnished as a ship's log-book.

The yacht Sunbeam in which Lady (she was then simply Mrs.) Brassey accomplished her voyage round the world was a screw three-masted schooner, of 530 tons, with engines of thirty-five horse-power, and a speed of 10 to 13 knots an hour. She was 157 feet in length, with an extreme breadth of twenty-seven and a-half feet. Belonging to a wealthy English gentleman, she was richly appointed, and fitted up with a luxurious splendour which would have driven wild with envy and admiration the earlier circumnavigators. Leaving Chatham on the 1st of July, 1876, she ran off Beachy Head on the[Pg 342] following evening, dropped anchor off Cowes next morning, and early on the 6th passed through the Needles.

"We were forty-three on board, all told," says Mrs. Brassey, the party then including her husband and herself and their four children, some friends, a sailing master, boatswain, carpenter, able-bodied seamen, engineers, firemen, stewards, cooks, nurse, stewardess, and lady's maid.

On the 8th they were fairly away from Old England. Next day, in the afternoon, they rounded Ushant, at the distance of a mile and a-half: "the sea was tremendous, the waves breaking in columns of spray against the sharp needle-like rocks that form the point of the island." Two days later, Mrs. Brassey had her first rough experience of the sea. "We were all sitting or standing," she says, "about the stern of the vessel, admiring the magnificent dark blue billows following us, with their curling white crests, mountains high. Each wave, as it approached, appeared as if it must overwhelm us, instead of which it rushed grandly by, rolling and shaking us from stem to stern, and sending fountains of spray on board. Tom (Mr. Brassey) was looking at the stern compass, Allnutt being close to him. Mr. Bingham and Mr. Freer were smoking, half-way between the quarter-deck and the after-companion, where Captain Brown, Dr. Potter, Muriel, and I were standing. Captain Lecky, seated on a large coil of rope, placed on the box of the rudder, was spinning Mabelle a yarn. A new[Pg 343] hand was steering, and just at the moment when an unusually big wave overtook us, he unfortunately allowed the vessel to broach to a little. In a second the sea came pouring over the stern, above Allnutt's head. The boy was nearly washed overboard, but he managed to catch hold of the rail, and, with great presence of mind, stuck his knees into the bulwarks. Kindred, our boatswain, seeing his danger, rushed forward to save him, but was knocked down by the return wave, from which he emerged gasping. The coll of rope, on which Captain Lecky and Mabelle were seated, was completely floated by the sea. Providentially, however, he had taken a double turn round his wrist with a reefing point, and throwing his other arm round Mabelle, held on like grim death; otherwise nothing could have saved them. She was perfectly self-possessed, and only said quietly, "Hold on, Captain Lecky, hold on!" to which he replied, "All right." I asked her afterwards if she thought she was going overboard, and she answered, "I did not think at all, mamma, but felt sure we were gone." Captain Lecky, long accustomed to very large ships, had not in the least realized how near we were to the water in our little vessel, and was proportionately taken by surprise. All the rest of the party were drenched, with the exception of Muriel, whom Captain Brown held high above the water in his arms, and who lost no time in remarking, in the midst of the general confusion, "I'm not at all wet, I'm not." Happily, the children don't know what fear is. The maids, however, were very[Pg 344] frightened, as some of the sea had got down into the nursery, and the skylights had to be screwed down. Our studding sail boom, too, broke with a loud crack when the ship broached to, and the jaws of the fore-boom gave way.

"Soon after this adventure we all went to bed, full of thankfulness that it had ended as well as it did, but, alas! not, so far as I was concerned, to rest in peace. In about two hours I was awakened by a tremendous weight of water suddenly descending upon me and flooding the bed. I immediately sprang out, only to find myself in another pool on the floor. It was pitch dark, and I could not think what had happened; so I rushed on deck, and found that, the weather having moderated a little, some kind sailor, knowing my love of fresh air, had opened the skylight rather too soon, and one of the angry waves had popped on board, deluging the cabin.

"I got a light and proceeded to mop up as best I could, and then endeavoured to find a dry place to sleep in. This, however, was no easy task, for my own bed was drenched and every other berth occupied; the deck, too, was ankle-deep in water, as I found when I tried to get across to the deck-house sofa. At last I lay down on the floor, wrapped up in my ulster, and wedged between the foot-stanchions of our swing bed and the wardrobe athwart ship; so that, as the yacht rolled heavily, my feet were often higher than my head. Consequently what sleep I snatched turned into a nightmare,[Pg 345] of which the fixed idea was a broken head, from the three hundredweight of lead at the bottom of our bed swinging wildly from side to side and up and down, as the vessel rolled and pitched, suggesting all manner of accidents. When morning came at last the weather cleared a good deal, though the breeze continued. All hands were soon busily employed in repairing damages; and very picturesque the deck and rigging of the Sunbeam looked, with the various groups of men occupied upon the ropes, spars, and sails. Towards evening the wind fell light, and we had to get up steam. The night was the first really warm one we had enjoyed, and the stars shone out brightly; the sea, which had been of a lovely blue colour during the day, showed a slight phosphorescence after dark."

The voyage, which opened in this stirring manner, proved not less prosperous than pleasant, and was unmarked by any striking adventures, though not devoid of interesting incidents. By way of the Cape de Verde Islands and Madeira, the Sunbeam kept southward to the Equator, and gradually drew near the coast of South America, until it touched at the Brazilian capital, Rio de Janeiro. Thence it ran southward to the River Plate, skirted the Patagonian shores, and, threading its way through the defiles of the Magellan Strait, emerged into the Southern Ocean. A northerly course took it to the great sea-port of Chili—Valparaiso, whence it reached across the Pacific to the beautiful group of the Society Islands, visiting Tahiti, the Eden of the southern[Pg 346] seas. The Sandwich Islands are almost the same distance north as the Society are south of the Equator. Here Lady Brassey was received with great hospitality, and surveyed the new and rising civilization of Hawaii with much interest. In the track of the trade winds the voyagers crossed the Pacific, which, so far as they were concerned, justified its name, to Japan; thence they proceeded to Hong-Kong, and through the Straits of Malacca to Penang. Ceylon lies on the farther side of the Bay of Bengal. From Ceylon they sailed to Aden, at the mouth of the Red Sea, one of those strong strategical points by which England keeps open the ocean-highways to her commercial fleets. Through the Suez Canal the Sunbeam passed into the Mediterranean, "whose shores are empires," touching at Malta and at "the Rock," which the enterprise of Sir George Rorke gave, and the patient courage of General Eliott preserved, to England. Entering the familiar waters of the Atlantic, it put into Lisbon, and afterwards fell into the track for "home," sighting the first English land, the Start, very early in the morning of the 26th of May. At midnight the voyagers reached Beachy Head, and could see the lights of Hastings in the distance. At half-past six on the 27th they landed there, and were warmly greeted by a multitude of well-wishers.

In our limited space it would be impossible for us to follow up very closely a voyage which covered so large a part of the world's surface; nor is it necessary, since[Pg 347] Lady Brassey's charmingly written narrative is now well known to every reader; but we shall permit ourselves the pleasure of seeing, as Lady Brassey saw, a picture here and there of beautiful scenery or foreign manners, that we may judge of the impression it produced on so accomplished an observer. Lady Brassey evidently belongs not to the nil admirari school, but enjoys keenly and heartily everything that is fresh and new—a bright bit of colour or a picturesque detail. It is this which makes her book so enjoyable. There is no affectation in its pages—no airs of conscious superiority; and we feel that we are in the company of a woman with a woman's heart—of a woman with broad sympathies and a happy nature.

Our first visit, with Lady Brassey as our guide, shall be to the market at Rio de Janeiro.[28]

The greatest bustle and animation prevailed, and there were people and things to see and observe in endless variety. The fish market was full of finny monsters of the deep, all new and strange to us, whose odd Brazilian names would convey to a stranger but little idea of the fish themselves. There was an enormous rock fish, weighing about three hundred pounds, with hideous face and shiny back, and fins; large ray, and skate, and cuttle fish—the octopus, or pieuvre, described with so much exaggeration in Victor Hugo's "Travailleurs de la Mer," to say nothing of the large prawns for which the coast is famous—prawns[Pg 348] eight or ten inches long, with antennæ of twelve or fourteen inches in length. Such prawns suit those only who care for quantity rather than for quality; they are of indifferent flavour; whereas the oysters, which are particularly small, are remarkable for their delicious taste. Mackerel are here in abundance, also a good many turtle and porpoises, and a few hammer-headed sharks.

In the fruit market were many familiar bright-coloured fruits. Fat, jet-black negresses, wearing turbans on their heads, strings of coloured beads on their necks and arms, and single long white garments, which appeared to be continually slipping off their shoulders, presided over glittering piles of oranges, bananas, pine-apples, passion-fruit, tomatoes, apples, pears, capsicum and peppers, sugar-canes, cabbage-palms, cherimoyas, and bread-fruit.

In another part of the market all sorts of live birds were for sale, with a few live beasts, such as deer, monkeys, pigs, guinea-pigs in profusion, rats, cats, dogs, marmosets, and a dear little lion-monkey, very small and rather red, with a beautiful head and mane, who roared exactly like a real lion in miniature. There were cages full of small flamingoes, snipe of various kinds, and a great many birds of smaller size, with feathers of all shades of blue, red, and green, and metallic hues of brilliant lustre, besides parrots, macaws, cockatoos innumerable, and torchas on stands. The torcha is a bright-coloured black and yellow bird, about as big as a starling, which puts its little head on one side and takes flies from one's fingers in the prettiest and most enticing manner.[Pg 349]

While the Sunbeam was lying in the River Plate, Lady Brassey and her party made an excursion to the Pampas, those broad, league-long undulating plains of verdure, on which civilization as yet has made but a limited advance.

"Miles and miles of gold and green
Where the sunflowers blow
In a solid glow,
And to break now and then the screen—
Black neck and eyeballs keen,
Up a wild horse leaps between."—(R. Browning.)

According to Lady Brassey, the first glimpse of the far-spreading prairie was most striking in all its variations of colour. The true shade of the Pampas grass, when long, is a light dusty green; when short, it is a bright fresh green. But it frequently happens that, owing to the numerous prairie fires, either accidental or intentional, nothing is visible but a vast expanse of black charred ground, here and there relieved by a few patches of vivid green, where the grass is once more springing up under the influence of the rain.

"The road, or rather track, was in a bad condition, owing to the recent wet weather, and on each side of the five cañadas, or small rivers, which we had to ford, there were deep morasses, through which we had to struggle as best we could, with the mud up to our axle-trees. Just before arriving at the point where the stream had to be crossed, the horses were well flogged and urged on at a gallop, which they gallantly maintained until the other side was reached. Then we stopped to breathe the horses and to repair damages, generally finding that[Pg 350] a trace had given way, or that some other part of the harness had shown signs of weakness. On one occasion we were delayed for a considerable time by the breaking of the splinter-bar, to repair which was a troublesome matter; indeed, I don't know how we should have managed if we had not met a native lad, who sold us his long lasso to bind the pieces together again. It was a lucky rencontre for us, as he was the only human being we saw during the whole of our drive of thirty miles, except the peon who brought us a change of horses half way.

"In the course of the journey we passed a large estancia, the road to which was marked by the dead bodies and skeletons of the poor beasts who had perished in the late droughts. Hundreds of them were lying about in every stage of decay, those more recently dead being surrounded by vultures and other carrion birds. The next cañada that we crossed was choked up with the carcasses of the unfortunate creatures who had struggled thus far for a last drink, and had then not had sufficient strength left to extricate themselves from the water. Herds of miserable-looking, half-starved cattle were also to be seen; the cows very little larger than their calves, and all apparently covered with the same rough shaggy coats. The pasture is not fine enough in this part of the country to carry sheep, but deer are frequently met with....

"The natives of these parts pass their lives in the saddle. Horses are used for almost every conceivable[Pg 351] employment, from hunting and fishing to brick-making and butter-churning. Even the very beggars ride about on horseback. I have seen a photograph of one, with a police certificate of mendicancy hanging round his neck. Every domestic servant has his or her own horse, as a matter of course; and the maids are all provided with habits, in which they ride about on Sundays, from one estancia to another, to pay visits. In fishing, the horse is ridden into the water as far as he can go, and the net or rod is then made use of by his rider. At Buenos Ayres I have seen the poor animals all but swimming to the shore, with heavy carts and loads, from the ships anchored in the inner roads; for the water is so shallow, that only very small boats can go alongside the vessels, and the cargo is therefore transferred directly to the carts to save the trouble and expense of transhipment In out-of-the-way places, on the Pampas, where no churns exist, butter is made by putting milk into a goat-skin bag, attached by a long lasso to the saddle of a peon, who is then set to gallop a certain number of miles, with the bag bumping and jumping along the ground after him."[29]

When on her way to the Straits of Magellan, Lady Brassey saw something of one of the most terrible of "disasters at sea"—a ship on fire. The barque proved to be the Monkshaven, from Swansea, with a cargo of smelting[Pg 352] coal for Valparaiso. The Sunbeam, on discovering her, hove-to, and sent a boat, which, as it was found impossible to save the burning vessel, brought her captain and crew on board, and afterwards saved most of their effects, with the ship's chronometers, charts, and papers.

"The poor little dingy belonging to the Monkshaven had been cast away as soon as the crew had disembarked from her, and there was something melancholy in seeing her slowly drift away to leeward, followed by her oars and various small articles, as if to rejoin the noble ship she had so lately quitted. The latter was now hove-to, under full sail, an occasional puff of smoke alone betraying the presence of the demon of destruction within. The sky was dark and lowering, the sunset red and lurid in its grandeur, the clouds numerous and threatening, the sea high and dark, with occasional streaks of white foam. Not a breath of wind was stirring. Everything portended a gale. As we lay slowly rolling from side to side, both ship and boat were sometimes plainly visible, and then again both would disappear, for what seemed an age, in the deep trough of the South Atlantic rollers."[30]

Something Lady Brassey has to say about the Patagonians, of whom the early voyagers brought home such mythical accounts. They owe their name to the fanciful credulity of Magellan, who thus immortalized his conviction that they were of gigantic proportions—Patagons,[Pg 353] or Pentagons, that is, five cubits high. Sir Thomas Cavendish speaks of them as averaging seven to eight feet in stature. In truth, they are a fine robust race; well-limbed, of great strength, and above six feet in height; not giants, but men cast in a noble mould, and, physically, not inferior to the household regiments of the British army. They live the true nomadic life, being almost constantly on horseback, and dashing at headlong speed across their wide and open plains. Both men and women wear a long flowing mantle of skins, which reaches from the waist to the ankle, with a large loose piece dependent on one side, ready to be thrown over their heads whenever necessary; this is fastened by a large flat pin, hammered out either from the rough silver or from a dollar. They are no believers in cleanliness; but daub their bodies with paint and grease, especially the women. Their only weapons are knives and bolas, the latter of which they throw with a surprising accuracy of aim. That they possess even the rudest form of religious belief, or perform any religious ceremonies, has never yet been ascertained. Their food consists chiefly of the flesh of mares, and troops of these animals accompany them always on their excursions. They also eat ostrich flesh, as an exceptional bonne bouche, and birds' eggs, and fish, which the women catch.

Low as they are in the scale of humanity, from the standpoint of Western civilization, the Fuegians, or Canoe Indians, as they are generally called, because they live so much on the water, and have no fixed abodes on[Pg 354] shore, sink much lower. They are cannibals, and, according to an old writer, "magpies in chatter, baboons in countenance, and imps in treachery." Whenever it is seen that a ship is in distress, or that a shipwrecked crew have been cast ashore, signal fires blaze on every prominent point, to convey the good news to the whole island population, and immediately the natives assemble, like the clans at Roderick Dhu's bidding, in Scott's "Lady of the Lake." But if all goes well, a vessel may pass through Magellan's Straits without discerning any sign of human life, the savages and their canoes lying hidden beneath the leafy screen of overhanging boughs. Those who frequent the Eastern part of "Fireland" (Tierra del Fuego) are clothed, in so far as they cover their nakedness at all, in a deerskin mantle descending to the waist; those at the Western end wear cloaks made from the skin of the sea otter. But most of them are quite naked. Their food is of the scantiest description, consisting almost wholly of shell-fish, sea-eggs, and fish generally, which they train their dogs to assist them in catching. These dogs are sent into the water at the mouth of a narrow creek or a small bay, where they bark and flounder about until the fish are frightened into the shallows.

Lady Brassey had an opportunity of seeing some Fuegians closely. When the Sunbeam was in English Reach, a canoe suddenly appeared on her port bow, and as she seemed making direct for the yacht, Sir Thomas ordered the engines to be slowed. Thereupon her[Pg 355] occupants plied their paddles more furiously than before, shouting and gesticulating violently, one man waving a skin round his head with an energy of action that threatened to capsize his frail craft—frail, in truth, for it was made only of rough planks rudely fastened together with the sinews of animals. A rope was thrown to them, and they came alongside, shouting "Tabáco, galléta" (biscuit), a supply of which they received, in exchange for the skin they had been waving; "whereupon the two men stripped themselves of the skin mantles they were wearing, made of eight or ten sea-otter skins, sewed together with finer sinews than those used for the boat, and handed them up, clamouring for more tobacco, which we gave them, together with some beads and knives." Finally, the woman, influenced by so fair an example, parted with her sole garment, in return for a little more tobacco, some beads, and some looking-glasses, which were thrown into the canoe.

"The party consisted of a man, a woman, and a lad; and, I think," says Lady Brassey, "I never saw delight more strongly depicted than it was on the faces of the two latter, when they handled, for the first time in their lives probably, some strings of blue, red, and green glass beads. They had two rough pots, made of bark, in the boat, which they also sold, after which they reluctantly departed, quite naked but very happy, shouting and jabbering away in the most inarticulate language imaginable. It was with great difficulty we could make them let go the rope, when we went ahead, and I was quite[Pg 356] afraid they would be upset. They were all fat and healthy-looking, and, though not handsome, their appearance was by no means repulsive; the countenance of the woman, especially, wore quite a pleasing expression, when lighted up with smiles at the sight of the beads and looking-glasses. The bottom of their canoe was covered with branches, amongst which the ashes of a recent fire were distinguishable. Their paddles were of the very roughest description, consisting simply of split branches of trees, with wider pieces tied on at one end with the sinews of birds or beasts."[31]

A fine contrast to these gloomy scenes is presented by Lady Brassey's description of a coral island, one of those almost innumerable gems which stud the broad bosom of the Pacific, like emeralds embossed on a shield of azure and silver. It was the first land she touched in the great South Sea. A reef of glowing coral enclosed a tranquil lagoon, to which the green shores of the island gently sloped. The beauty of this lagoon would need a Ruskin's pen to reproduce it in all its exquisite and manifold colouring. Submarine coral forests, of every hue, enriched with sea-flowers, anemones, and echinidæ, of unimaginable brilliancy; shoals of the brightest fish flashing in and out like rainbow gleams; shells of gorgeous lustre, moving slowly along with their living inmates; fairy foliage of fantastic sea-weeds stirred[Pg 357] into tremulous motion by the gliding wave; upon these the enchanted gaze dwelt in the depths of the lagoon, while the surface glowed with every possible and exquisite tint, from the palest aqua marina to the brightest emerald; from the pure light blue of the turquoise to the "deeply, darkly, beautifully blue" of the sapphire; while here and there the glassy wave was broken up by patches of red, brown, and green coral rising from the mass below. A rich growth of tropical vegetation encumbered the shore, stretching down to the very border of the ribbed sands; palms and cocoa-nuts lifted high their slender, shapely trunks; while in and out flitted the picturesque figures of native women in red, blue, and green garments, and of men in motley costumes, loaded with fish, fowls, and bunches of cocoa-nuts.

On the 2nd of December the Sunbeam arrived at the "Queen of the Pacific," the lovely island of Tahiti, or, as it was first called, Otaheite. Here Lady Brassey found herself in the midst of a fairy-like drama, to describe which is almost impossible, so bewildering was it in the brightness and variety of its colouring. "The magnolias and yellow and scarlet hibiscus, overshadowing the water, the velvety turf, on to which one steps from the boat, the white road running between rows of wooden houses, whose little gardens are a mass of flowers, the men and women clad in the gayest robes and decked with flowers, the piles of unfamiliar fruit lying on the grass, waiting to be transported to the coasting vessels in[Pg 358] the harbour, the wide-spreading background of hills clad in verdure to their summits—these are but a few of the objects which greet the new comer on his first contact with the shore."

The impression produced by the first view was deepened by all that Lady Brassey saw afterwards. On sea and shore, or in the heart of the island groves, all was new, beautiful, striking. There was a strange light in the firmament above, a glow in the wave beneath, such as she had not seen elsewhere; for it was with open hands that Nature poured out her dower upon Tahiti.

She went for a ride; the path carried her through a thick growth of palm, orange, guava, and other tropical trees, some of which were thickly draped with luxuriant creepers. Conspicuous among the latter shone a gorgeous passion flower, with orange-coloured fruit as big as pumpkins, that overspread everything with its vigour. The path was everywhere narrow and sometimes steep; and frequently the horseman had almost to creep under the close thick crop of interlacing boughs. Crossing several bright little streams, it climbed to the summit of an eminence which commanded on the one side a prospect of a picturesque waterfall, on the other side of a deep ravine. A river issuing from a narrow cleft in the rock takes but one mad leap from the edge of the precipice into the valley below, a leap of 600 feet. "First one sees the rush of blue water, gradually changing in its descent to a cloud of white spray, which in its turn is lost in a rainbow of mist. Imagine that from beneath the[Pg 359] shade of feathery palms and broad-leaved bananas through a network of ferns and creepers you are looking upon the Staubbach, in Switzerland, magnified in height, and with a background of verdure-clad mountains, and you will have some idea of the fall of Fuatawah."[32]

With no spot that she touched at in her long ocean wanderings does Lady Brassey seem to have been so delighted as with Tahiti. "Sometimes," she says, "I think that all I have seen must be only a long vision, and that too soon I shall awaken to the cold reality; the flowers, the fruit, the colours worn by every one, the whole scene and its surroundings, seem almost too fairy-like to have an actual existence." Human nature is, of course, the same everywhere: vice and sorrow prevail at Tahiti as in the reeking slums and lanes of great cities. It is only of the outward aspect of things that Lady Brassey speaks, for she saw none other, and assuredly at Tahiti that is fair exceedingly, and well calculated to charm a cultivated taste, to fill a refined mind with memories of beauty.

From Tahiti we pass on to Hawaii, the chief island of the Sandwich group, and the centre of a civilization that may one day influence the direction of the great currents of commerce in the Pacific. The Sunbeam arrived there on the 22nd of December.

"It was a clear afternoon. The mountains, Mauna[Pg 360] Kea and Mauna Loa, could be plainly seen from top to bottom, their giant crests rising nearly 14,000 feet above our heads, their tree and fine clad slopes seamed with deep gulches or ravines, down each of which a fertilizing river ran into the sea. Inside the reef the white coral shore, on which the waves seemed too lazy to break, is fringed with a belt of cocoa-nut palms, amongst which, as well as on the hillside, the little white houses are prettily dotted. All are surrounded by gardens, so full of flowers that the bright patches of colour were plainly visible even from the deck of the yacht.

"Having landed, we went for a stroll, among neat houses and pretty gardens, to the suspension-bridge over the river, followed by a crowd of girls, all decorated with wreaths and garlands, and wearing almost the same dress that we had seen at Tahiti—a coloured, long-sleeved, loose gown reaching to the feet. The natives here appear to affect duller colours than those we have lately been accustomed to—lilac, drab, brown, and other dark prints being the favourite tints. Whenever I stopped to look at a view, one of the girls would come behind me and throw a lei of flowers over my head, fasten it round my neck, and then run away laughing, to a distance, to judge of effect. The consequence was that, before the end of our walk, I had about a dozen wreaths of various colours and lengths, hanging round me, till I felt almost as if I had a fur tippet on, they made me so hot; and yet I did not like to take them off, for fear of hurting the poor girls' feelings."


[Pg 361]

Wherever she went Lady Brassey seems to have commanded special attention; partly no doubt due to her own personal qualities, and partly to the fact that English ladies are rare visitors in the Polynesian islands—and especially an English lady, the wife of a member of parliament, who sails round the world in her husband's yacht!

Lady Brassey made, of course, an excursion to the great volcano of Kilauea, of which Miss Bird has furnished a singularly fine description. Lady Brassey's sketch is not so elaborate or powerful or fully coloured, but it has a charm of its own in its unassuming simplicity. Let us go with her on a visit to the two craters, the old and the new.

And, first of all, we descend the precipice, 300 feet in depth, which forms the wall of the original crater, but now blooming with a prodigal vegetation. In many places the incline is so steep that zigzag flights of wooden steps have been inserted here and there in the face of the cliff in order to facilitate the descent. At the bottom we step on to a surface of cold boiled lava, and even here, in every chink where a little soil has collected, Nature asserts her robust vitality, and delicate little ferns put forth their green fronds to feel the light. An extraordinary appearance did that vast lava field present, contorted as it was into every imaginable shape and form, according to the temperature it had attained and the rapidity with which it had cooled. Here and there a patch looked not unlike the contents of a caldron, which had been[Pg 362] petrified in the very act of boiling; elsewhere the iridescent lava had congealed into wave-like ridges, or huge coils of rope, closely twisted together. Again it might be seen in the semblance of a collection of organ-pipes, or accumulated into mounds and cones of various dimensions. As our travellers moved forward, they felt that the lava grew hotter and hotter, and from every fissure issued gaseous fumes, which seriously affected their noses and throats; till, at last, when passed to leeward of the lava-river rolling from the lake, they were almost suffocated by the vapour, and it was with difficulty they pursued their advance. The lava was more glassy and had a look of greater transparency, as if it had been fused at an exceptionally high temperature; and the crystals of alum, sulphur, and other minerals with which it abounded, reflected the light in bright prismatic colours. In some places the transparency was complete, and beneath it might easily be seen the long streaks of that fibrous kind of lava, connected with a superstition of the natives, which is known as "Pile's hair."

Lady Brassey and her companions reached, at last, the foot of the present active crater, whence the molten contents of the terrestrial interior are continually pouring forth in a lurid flood. With some difficulty they gained the summit—to stand, silent and spell-bound, in contemplation of a spectacle which more than realizes the terrors of the ancient Phlegethon. The precipice overhung a basin of molten fire, measuring nearly a mile across.[Pg 363] With a clang, a clash, and a roar, like that of breakers on a rocky coast, waves of blood-red, fiery, liquid lava dashed against the opposing cliffs, and flung their spume high up in the air—waves which were never still, but rolled onwards incessantly to the charge, and as incessantly retired—hustling one another angrily, and hissing and boiling and bubbling, like a sea chafed by adverse wind and current. A dull dark red, like that of the lees of wine, seems the normal colour of the surging lava, which was covered, however, with a thin grey scum—this scum, or froth, being every moment and everywhere broken by eddies and jets and whirlpools of red and yellow fire, and occasionally thrown back on either side by the force and rush of swift golden-tinted rivers. On one side of the lake the principal object of attack was an island, dark and craggy, against which the lava-waves rolled with impetuous fury. On the other, they swept precipitately into a great cavern, carrying away the gigantic stalactites which hung at its entrance, and filling it with a thunderous roar like that of contending armies.

Scenes there are many in this wide world of ours which neither the craft of the scribe nor the skill of the painter can hope to reproduce, and this is one of them. It is awful in its grandeur, terrible in its sublimity, like Milton's Satan. It fascinates, and yet repels; charms the eye, while it chills the heart. One trembles with the sense of a dire terrific power, which at any moment may leap into the clay, and sweep the shattered island[Pg 364] into destruction. But dreadful as it is by day, a deeper dread attaches to it by night, when the glare of those leaping fountains and rolling billows of molten lava is reflected athwart the darkness of heaven. And as the night advances and the darkness increases, a wonderful phantasmagoria of colour invests the fiery lake—jet black merges suddenly into palest grey; the deepest maroon changes, through cherry and scarlet, into the exquisitest hues of pink and blue and violet; the richest brown pales, through orange and yellow, into a delicate straw. Lady Brassey adds that there was yet another shade, which can be described only by the term "molten lava colour." The wreaths and wheeling clouds of smoke and vapour were by all these borrowed lights and tints translated into beautiful gleaming mist-like creations—belonging neither to earth nor air, but born of the molten flame and seething fire—which seemed splendidly and appropriately displayed against the amphitheatre of black peaks, pinnacles, and crags rising in the background. Of these great pieces would sometimes break off, and with a crash fall into the burning lake, there to be remelted and in due time thrown up anew.[33]

The time spent at Honolulu by Lady Brassey was by no means wasted. She kept both eyes and ears well open, and suffered nothing to escape her which could throw any light on the manners and customs of the Hawaiian population. Though not a deep, she was a close and[Pg 365] an accurate observer; and her book may advantageously be consulted by others than the "general reader."

The Hawaiians, as a people with a good deal of leisure, upon whose shoulders as yet civilization has laid none of its heavier burdens, are naturally prone to amusement, and cultivate their numerous national sports with a good deal of energy and skill. Foremost amongst these is the well-known pastime of surf-swimming—a pastime the origin of which it is not difficult to understand. It is one in which both men and women join. Armed with a surf-board—a flat piece of wood, about four feet long by two feet wide, pointed at each end—which they put edge-wise in front of them, they swim out into the broad and beautiful bay, and dive under the surf-crested billows of the Pacific. When at a certain distance from the land, a distance regulated by the swimmer's measure of strength and address, he chooses a large wave, and either astride, or kneeling, or standing upon his board, allows himself to be swept in shore upon its curling crest with headlong speed. The spectator might almost fancy him to be mounted upon the sea-horse of ancient myths, and holding its grey curling mane, as it snorts and champs and plunges shoreward, wrapped in spray and foam. To this vigorous sport the Hawaiians are exceedingly partial. They are almost to the manner born, for from their earliest childhood they live an amphibious life, and never seem happier than when they are diving, swimming, bathing, or playing tricks in the bright emerald waters that wash the smiling shores of their favoured[Pg 366] isle, or in those of the pleasant river that flows by the groves and gardens of Hilo.

On a sunny afternoon half the population of the latter town may be seen "disporting themselves in, upon, and beneath the water." Climbing the steep and rugged rocks that form the opposite bank, they take headers and footers and siders from any elevation under five-and-twenty feet, diving and swimming in every imaginable attitude, and with a kind of easy and spontaneous grace that commands admiration. One of their great feats is thus described: A couple of natives undertake to jump from a precipice, one hundred feet high, into the river below, clearing in their descent a rock, which at about a distance of twenty feet from the summit, projects as far from the face of the cliff. The two men—lithe, tall, and strong—are seen standing on the green height, their long hair confined by a wreath of leaves and flowers, while a similar wreath is twisted round the waist. With a keen, quick glance they measure the distance, and fall back some yards, in order to run and acquire the needful impetus. Suddenly one of them reappears, takes a flying leap from the rock, executes a somersault in mid-air, and feet foremost plunges into the pool beneath, to rise again almost immediately, and climb the steep river-bank with an air of serene indifference. His companion having performed the same exploit, the two clambered up to the projection of which we have spoken, and again dropped into the river waters; a less wonderful feat than their former, but still one requiring both pluck and skill.[Pg 367]

Among the games mentioned by Lady Brassey are spear-throwing, transfixing an object with a dart, kona, an elaborate kind of draughts, and talu, which consists in hiding a small stone under one of five pieces of cloth placed in front of the players. One hides the stone, and his companions have to guess where it is hidden; and it generally happens that, however skilfully the hider may glide his arm under the cloth and shift from one piece to another, a clever player detects where he lets go the stone by the movement of the muscles of the upper part of his arm. Another game, tarua, resembles the Canadian sport of "tobogonning," only it is carried on upon the grass instead of upon the frozen surface of the snow. The performers stand erect on a narrow plank, turned up in front, which they guide with a kind of paddle. Starting from the summit of a hill or a mountain, they sweep down the grassy slopes at a furious pace, preserving their balance with admirable dexterity. For the game of pahé, which is also very popular, a specially prepared smooth floor is necessary, and along this the javelins of the players glide like snakes. On the same kind of floor they play maita, or uru maita. Two sticks are fixed in the ground, only a few inches apart, and from a distance of thirty or forty yards the player seeks to throw a stone—the uru—between them; the uru being circular in shape, three or four inches in diameter, and an inch in thickness, except at the middle, where it is thicker.[34]

[Pg 368]

We pass on to Japan, and accompany Lady Brassey to a Japanese dinner in a Japanese tea-house. The dinner took place in an apartment which, as an exact type of a room in any Japanese house, may fitly be described. The roof and the screens, which form the sides, are all made of a handsome dark-polished wood resembling walnut. The exterior walls under the verandah, as well as the partitions between the other rooms, are simply screens of wooden lattice-work, covered with white paper, and sliding in grooves; so that a person walks in or out at any part of the wall he thinks proper to select or finds convenient. This arrangement necessarily dispenses with doors and windows. If you wish to look out, you open a little bit of your wall, or a larger bit if you step out. Instead of carpets, the floor is strewn with several thicknesses of very fine mats, each about six feet long by three feet broad, "deliciously soft to walk upon." All Japanese mats are of the same size, and they constitute the standard by which everything connected with house-building or house-furnishing is measured. Once you have prepared your foundations and woodwork of the dimensions of so many mats, you may go to a shop and buy a ready-made house, which you can then set up and furnish in the light Japanese fashion in a couple of days; but then such a house is fitted only for a Japanese climate.

In the room into which Lady Brassey was introduced was raised, on one side, a slight daïs, about four inches[Pg 369] from the floor, as a seat of honour. A stool, a little bronze ornament, and a China vase, in which a branch of cherry-blossom and a few flag-leaves were gracefully arranged, occupied it. On the wall behind hung pictures, which are changed every month, according to the season of the year. Four comely Japanese girls brought thick cotton quilts for the visitors to sit upon, and braziers full of burning charcoal that they might warm themselves. In the centre they placed another brazier, protected by a square wooden grating, with a large silk eider-down quilt laid over it, to keep in the heat. "This is the way in which all the rooms, even bedrooms, are warmed in Japan, and the result is that fires are of very frequent occurrence. The brazier is kicked over by some restless or careless person, and in a moment the whole place is in a blaze."

In due time brazier and quilt are removed, and dinner makes its appearance. Before each guest is placed a small lacquer table, about six inches high, with a pair of chopsticks, a basin of soup, a bowl of rice, a saki cup, and a basin of hot water; while in the middle sat the four Japanese Hebes, with fires to keep the saki hot, and light the long pipes they carried, from which they wished their visitors to take a whiff after each dish. Saki is a kind of spirit, distilled from rice, always drunk hot out of small cups. It is not unpleasant in this state, but when cold few European palates can relish it.

The Japanese cookery was very good, though some of[Pg 370] the dishes were compounded of ingredients not generally mixed together by the cooks of the West. Here is the bill of fare:—

Shrimps and Seaweeds.
Prawns, Egg Omelette, and Preserved Grapes.
Fried Fish, Spinach, Young Rushes, and Young Ginger.
Raw Fish, Mustard and Cress, Horseradish, and Soy.
Thick Soup—of Eggs, Fish, Mushrooms, and Spinach; Grilled
Fried Chicken and Bamboo Shoots.
Turnip Tops and Root Pickled.
Rice ad libitum in a large bowl.
Hot Saki, Pipes, and Tea.

The last dish presented was an enormous lacquer box of rice, from which all the bowls were filled—the rice being thence carried to the mouth of each guest by means of chopsticks, in the use of which it is only practice that makes perfect.

Between each course a long interval occurred, which was filled up with songs, music, and dancing, performed by professional singing and dancing girls. The music was somewhat harsh and monotonous; but a word of praise may be given to the songs and to the dancing, or rather posturing, for there was little of that agility of foot practised by European dancers. "The girls, who were pretty, wore peculiar dresses to indicate their calling, and seemed of an entirely different stamp from the quiet, simply-dressed waitresses whom we found so attentive to our wants; still they all looked cheery, light-hearted, simple creatures, and appeared to enjoy[Pg 371] immensely the little childish games they played amongst themselves between whiles."[35]

This "Voyage Round the World," from which we must now turn aside, does not sum up Lady Brassey's achievements as a traveller. She accompanied her husband, in 1874, on a cruise to the Arctic Circle, but has published no record of this enterprise. On their return, the indefatigable couple started on a voyage to the East, visiting Constantinople, the city of gilded palaces and mosques, of harems and romance; and skimming the sunny waters of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. In 1878 they made a second excursion to the Mediterranean, revisiting Constantinople, and seeing it in storm and shadow as they had previously seen it in sunshine; and exploring Cyprus, which then had been but recently brought under British dominion.[Pg 372] Lady Brassey's narrative of her Mediterranean cruises and Oriental experiences has the distinctive merits of her former work—the same unpretending simplicity and clearness of style, the same quick appreciation of things that float upon the surface; but it necessarily lacks its interest and special value. It goes over familiar—nay, over hackneyed—ground, and thus inevitably comes into comparison with the works of preceding travellers, such as Miss Martineau and the author of "Eöthen," to whose high standard Lady Brassey would be the first to acknowledge that she has no pretensions to attain.

There is a certain amount of freshness in the following brief sketch of Athens[36]:—

"We drove first to the Temple of Theseus, the most perfectly preserved temple of the ancient world. The situation has sheltered it from shot and shell; but, without doubt, it owes its escape from destruction in part to the circumstance that in the Middle Ages it was consecrated as a church. It is a beautiful building, with its double row of columns, bas-reliefs, and roof all perfect, and now contains an interesting collection of antiquities, gathered from its immediate neighbourhood. Thence we drove up the hill to the Acropolis, passing on our way the modern observatory on the Hill of the Nymphs. The Hill of Pnyx rose on our right, and the Areopagus, where St. Paul preached, on our left. We entered the gates, and, passing among ruins of all[Pg 373] kinds—statues, bas-reliefs, columns, capitals, and friezes—soon approached the propylæa. Then we went to the little Temple of Victory, closed with iron gates, and full of most exquisite bits of statues and bas-reliefs, specially two dancing girls, graceful in attitude and full of life and action. After these preliminary peeps at loveliness and art, we went up the long flight of steps, past the Pinartheca, and soon stood on the top of the Hill of the Acropolis, and in full view of all its glories.

"On one side was the splendid Parthenon, on the other the Erechtheum, with the Porch of Caryatides, called Beautiful, and right well it deserves its name. Six noble columns are still standing. We strolled about for a long time, took some photographs, admired the lovely panoramic view from the top—over the town of Athens to Eleusis, Salamis, and Corinth on one side, and from Mount Pentelicus and Mount Hymettus to the Elysian Fields, till our eyes wandered round by the ancient harbours of Phalisum and Piræus; back again by the Street of Tombs to Athens, looking more dusty and more grey than ever as we gazed down on its grey-tiled roofs. Even the gardens and palm-trees hardly relieved it. It was nearly three o'clock before we could tear ourselves away."

This is very natural and simple, though it is hardly what we should expect from a cultivated woman after visiting the memorials of Greek art and history, and the great and beautiful city of the "violet moon." A[Pg 374] greater enthusiasm, a more living sympathy, might surely have been provoked by the sight of the blue sea where Themistocles repulsed the navies of Persia, and the glorious hill on whose crest St. Paul spake to the wondering Athenians, and the monuments of the genius of Praxiteles and Phidias. Lady Brassey, however, is not at her best when treating of the places and things which antiquity has hallowed: it is the aspects of the life of to-day and the picturesque scenes of savage lands that arrest her attention most firmly, and are reproduced by her most vividly. She is more at home in the Hawaiian market than among the ruined temples of Athens.

The reader may not be displeased to take a glance at Nikosia, the chief town of Cyprus—of that famous island which calls up such stirring memories of the old chivalrous days when Richard I. and his Crusaders landed here, and the lion-hearted king became enamoured of Berengaria, the daughter of the Cypriot prince.

"The town is disappointing inside," she says, "although there are some fine buildings still left. The old cathedral of St. Sophia, now used as a mosque, is superb in the richness of its design and tracery, and the purity of its Gothic architecture. Opposite the cathedral is the Church of St. Nicholas, now used as a granary. The three Gothic portals are among the finest I have ever seen. Every house in Nikosia possesses a luxuriant garden, and the bazaars are festooned with vines; but the whole place wears, notwithstanding, an air of[Pg 375] desolation, ruin, and dirt. Government House is one of the last of the old Turkish residences.

"From the Turkish prison we passed through a narrow dirty street, with ruined houses and wasted gardens on either side, out into the open country again, when a sharp canter over the plain and through a small village brought us to the place where the new Government House is in course of erection. This spot is called Snake Hill, from two snakes having once been discovered and killed here, a fact which shows how idle are the rumours of the prevalence of poisonous reptiles in the island. It is a rare thing to meet with them, and I have seen one or two collectors who had abandoned in despair the idea of doing so. The site selected for Government House is a commanding one, looking over river, plain, town, mountain, and what were once forests....

"Leaving the walls of the city behind, we crossed a sandy, stony plain. For about two hours we saw no signs of fertility; but we then began to pass through vineyards, cotton-fields, and pomegranates, olive and orange tree plantations, till we reached the house of a rich Armenian, whose brother is one of the interpreters at the camp. His wife and daughters came out to receive us, and conducted us along a passage full of girls picking cotton, and through two floors stored with sesame, grain of various kinds, cotton, melons, gourds, &c., to a suite of spacious rooms on the upper floor, opening into one another, with windows looking over a[Pg 376] valley. Oh! the delight of reposing on a Turkish divan, in a cut stone-built house, after that long ride in the burning heat! Truly, the sun of Cyprus is as a raging lion, even in this month of November. What, then, must it be in the height of summer! The officers all agree in saying that they have never felt anything like it, even in the hottest parts of India or the tropics....

"After that we mounted fresh mules, and rode up the valley, by the running water, to the point where it gushes from the hill, or rather mountain, side—a clear stream of considerable power. It rises suddenly from the limestone rock at the foot of Pentadactylon, nearly 3,000 feet high, in the northern range of mountains. No one knows whence it springs; but from the earliest times it has been celebrated, and some writers have asserted that it comes all the way, under the sea, from the mountains of Keramania, in Asia Minor. The effect produced is magical, trees and crops of all kinds flourishing luxuriantly under its fertilizing influence. The village of Kythræa itself nestles in fruit-trees and flowering shrubs, and every wall is covered with maiden-hair fern, the fronds of which are frequently four and five feet long. The current of the stream is used to turn many mills, some of the most primitive character, but all doing their work well, though the strong water-power is capable of much fuller development....

"It was nearly dark when we started to return; and[Pg 377] it was with many a stumble, but never a tumble, that we galloped across the stony plain, and reached the camp about seven p.m. Here we found a silk merchant from Nikosia waiting to see us, with a collection of the soft silks of the country, celebrated since the days of Boccaccio. They look rather like poplin, but are really made entirely of silk, three-quarters of a yard in width, and costing about three shillings a yard, the piece being actually reckoned in piastres for price and pies for measurement. The prettiest, I think, are those which are undyed and retain the natural colour of the cocoon, from creamy-white to the darkest gold. Some prefer a sort of slaty grey, of which a great quantity is made, but I think it is very ugly."

In this easy, gossiping manner Lady Brassey ambles on, not telling one anything that is particularly new, but recording what really met her eye in the most unpretending fashion. As a writer she scarcely calls for criticism: she writes with fluency and accuracy, but never warms up into eloquence, and her reflections are not less commonplace than her style. As a traveller she deserves the distinction and popularity she has attained. It would seem that in her various cruises she has accomplished some 12,000 miles—in itself no inconsiderable feat for an English lady; but the feat becomes all the more noteworthy when we find that, instead of being, as we would naturally suppose, "at home on the sea," and wholly untouched by the suffering it inflicts on so many, she has always been a victim.[Pg 378] Entering the harbour of Valetta on her homeward voyage, she writes:—"I think that at last the battle of eighteen years is accomplished, and that the bad weather we have so continually experienced since we left Constantinople, comprising five gales in eleven days, has ended by making me a good sailor. For the last two days I have really known what it is to feel absolutely well at sea, even when it is very rough, and have been able to eat my meals in comfort, and even to read and write, without feeling that my head belonged to somebody else."[37]


[28] Lady Brassey: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam," pp. 46, 47.

[29] Lady Brassey: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam," p. 90.

[30] Lady Brassey: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam," pp. 110, 122.

[31] Lady Brassey: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam," pp. 129, 130.

[32] Lady Brassey: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam," pp. 227, 228.

[33] Lady Brassey: "Voyage of the Sunbeam," pp. 256-262.

[34] Lady Brassey: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam," pp. 268-272.

[35] Lady Brassey: "A Voyage in the Sunbeam," pp. 309-312. With this Japanese bill of fare we may contrast a Chinese bill of fare which Lady Brassey preserves:—

Four courses of small bowls, one to each guest, viz.—Bird's-nest Soup, Pigeon's Eggs, Ice Fungus (said to grow on ice), Shark's Fins (chopped).

Eight large bowls, viz.—Stewed Shark's Fins, Fine Shell Fish, Mandarin Bird's Nest, Canton Fish Maw, Fish Brain, Meat Balls with Rock Fungus, Pigeons stewed with Wai Shau (a strengthening herb), Stewed Mushroom.

Four dishes, viz.—Sliced Ham, Roast Mutton, Fowls, Roast Sucking Pig.

One large dish, viz.—Boiled Rock Fish.

Eight small bowls, viz.—Stewed Pig's Palate, Minced Quails, Stewed Fungus, Sinews of the Whale Fish, Rolled Roast Fowl, Sliced Seals, Stewed Duck's Paws, Peas Stewed.

[36] Lady Brassey: "Sunshine and Storm in the East," pp. 41-44.

[37] Lady Brassey: "Sunshine and Storm in the East," p. 431.

[Pg 379]


Among literary travellers a place must be assigned to Lady Morgan (born 1777), the novelist, who in her books of travel exhibits most of the qualities which lend a characteristic zest to her fictions. She and her husband, Sir Charles Morgan, visited France in 1815, and compounded a book upon it, which, as France had been for so many years shut against English tourists, produced a considerable sensation, and was eagerly read. Its sketches are very bright and amusing, and its naïve egotism was pardonable, considering the flatteries which Parisian society had heaped upon its author. Its liberal opinions, which the Conservatives of to-day would pronounce milk-and-water, fluttered the dove-cotes of Toryism under the régime of Lord Liverpool, and provoked Wilson Croker, the "Rigby" of Lord Beaconsfield's "Coningsby," to fall upon it tooth and nail. Lady Morgan revenged herself by putting her scurrilous attaché into her next novel, "Florence Macarthy," where he figures as Crawley. In 1819 the book-making[Pg 380] couple repaired to Italy, and, of course, a sojourn in Italy meant a book upon Italy, which Lord Byron declared to be very faithful. It is said to have produced a greater impression than even the book upon France; and as a tolerably accurate representation of the moral and political condition of Italy at the period of the Bourbon restoration, it has still some value.

In 1830 Lady Morgan's fecund pen compiled a second book upon France, which, indeed, seemed to exist in order that Lady Morgan might write upon it. This second book, like its predecessor, is cleverly and smartly written; it contains many lively descriptions, and some just criticisms upon men and things. Names appear upon each page, with a personal sketch or a mot, which makes the reader at once of their society. There is a visit to Béranger, the great French lyrist, in the prison of La Force; and there are two memorable dinners, one at the Comte de Segur's, with a record of the conversation, as graphic and amusing as if it were not on topics half a century old; the other is a dinner at Baron Rothschild's, dressed by the great Carême, who had erected a column of the most ingenious confectionery architecture, and inscribed Lady Morgan's name upon it in spun sugar. Very complimentary, but, unfortunately, sadly prophetic! It is only upon "spun sugar" that her name was inscribed by herself or others.

Mrs. Mary Somerville, the illustrious astronomer and physicist, would not have claimed for herself the distinction[Pg 381] of traveller, nor has she written any complete book of travel; but there are sketches of scenery in her "Personal Recollections" which make one wish that she had done so. And, indeed, the fine colouring of the pictures which occur in her "Physical Geography" show that she had the artist's eye and the artist's descriptive faculty, both so essential to the full enjoyment of travel. Much clear and forcible writing, with many vivacious observations, will be found in the "Sketches and Characteristics of Hindustan," published by Miss Emma Roberts in 1835. More minute and exact are the details which Mrs. Postans has collected in reference to the mode of life, the religion, and the old forms of society and government in one of the north-western provinces of India, under the title of "Cutch." It includes a very animated account of a Suttee, that cruel mode of compulsory self-sacrifice which the British Government has since prohibited. On this occasion the widow, a remarkably handsome woman, apparently about thirty, seems really to have been a willing victim, and behaved with the utmost composure.

"Accompanied by the officiating Brahmin, the widow walked seven times round the pyre, repeating the usual mantras, or prayers, strewing rice and cowries on the ground, and sprinkling water from her hand over the bystanders, who believe this to be efficacious in preventing disease and in expiating committed sins. She then removed her jewels and presented them to her[Pg 382] relations, saying a few words to each with a calm, soft smile of encouragement and hope. The Brahmins then presented her with a lighted torch, bearing which

'Fresh as a flower just blown,
And warm with life, her youthful pulses playing,'

she stepped through the fatal door, and sat within the pile. The body of her husband, wrapped in rich kincob, was then carried seven times round the pile, and finally laid across her knees. Thorns and grass were piled over the door, and the European officers present insisted that free space should be left, as it was hoped the poor victim might yet relent, and rush from her fiery prison to the protection so freely offered. The command was readily obeyed; the strength of a child would have sufficed to burst the frail barrier which confined her, and a breathless pause succeeded; but the woman's constancy was faithful to the last. Not a sigh broke the death-like silence of the crowd, until a slight smoke curling from the summit of the pyre, and then a tongue of flame darting with bright and lightning-like rapidity into the clear blue sky, told us that the sacrifice was complete. Fearlessly had this courageous woman fired the pile, and not a groan had betrayed to us the moment when her spirit fled. At sight of the flame a fiendish shout of exultation rent the air, the tom-toms sounded, the people clapped their hands with delight as the evidence of their murderous work burst on their view; whilst the English spectators of this sad[Pg 383] scene withdrew, bearing deep compassion in their hearts, to philosophize as best they might on a custom so fraught with horror, so incompatible with reason, and so revolting to human sympathy. The pile continued to burn for three hours; but from its form it is supposed that almost immediate suffocation must have terminated the sufferings of the unhappy victim."

There is a very charming book, brightly written, and dealing with an interesting people, which reaches very high in the literature of travel. We refer to Lady Eastlake's "Residence on the Shores of the Baltic, described in a series of Letters," in which, with a polished pen and a quick observation, she sets before us the patriarchal simplicity of life and honest character of the Esthonians. Travel-books by ladies were rare at the time that Lady Eastlake (then Miss Rigby) wrote, and the success of her work was influenced, no doubt, by this rarity; but its reputation may well rest upon its genuine merit. Only, justice compels us to say that writing of almost equal merit, sometimes of superior, is now poured out every year, nay, every month, by adventurers of the "other sex." A female traveller has ceased to be a rara avis; delicately-nurtured women now climb Mont Blanc or penetrate into the Norwegian forests, or cross the Pacific, or traverse sandy deserts, or visit remote isles, in company with their husbands and brothers, or "unprotected." This great and rapid increase in the number of female travellers is partly due, no doubt, to the greater facilities of locomotion;[Pg 384] but we believe it is also due to the greater freedom which women of late years have successfully claimed, and to the consequent development of powers and faculties, their possession of which was long ignored or denied.

[Pg 385]


Frances Milton, so well known in English literature under her married name of Trollope, was born at Heathfield Parsonage in Hampshire, in 1787. She received, under her father's supervision, a very careful education, and developed her proclivities for literary composition at an early age. She was but eighteen when she accepted the hand of Mr. Thomas A. Trollope, a barrister, and the cares and duties of married life for some years diverted her energies into a different channel. The true bent of her talents—a sharp, bold, and somewhat coarse satire—she did not discover until after her visit to the United States (1829-1831). There she conceived an antipathy to American manners and customs, which seems to have awakened her powers of sarcasm, and resulted in her first publication, "Domestic Life of the Americans." The peculiarities she had found so obnoxious she sketched with a strong, rough hand; and the truth of her drawing was proved by the wrathful feelings which it provoked in the breasts of its victims.[Pg 386] Reading it now, we are naturally inclined to think it a caricature and an exaggeration; but it is only fair to remember that, since its appearance half a century ago, a great change has come over the temper of American society. The great fault of Mrs. Trollope is, that she is always a critic and never a judge. She looks at everything through the magnifying lens of a microscope. And, again, it must be admitted that she is often vulgar; whatever the want of refinement in American society, it is almost paralleled by the want of refinement in her lively, but coarsely-coloured pages. For the rest, she is a shrewd observer; has a considerable insight into human nature, especially on its "seamy side"; and if a hard hitter, generally keeps her good temper, and does not resent a fair stroke from an antagonist. As a humorist she takes high rank: there are scenes in her novels, as well as in her records of travel, which are marked by a real and vigorous, if somewhat masculine, fun. Perhaps some of her defects are due to the influences among which she lived—that ultra Toryism of the Castlereagh school which resented each movement of reform, each impulse of progress, as a direct revolutionary conspiracy against everything approved and established by "the wisdom of our ancestors"—that narrowness of thought and shallowness of feeling which resisted all change, even when its necessity was most apparent.

That Mrs. Trollope's prejudices sometimes prevail over her sense of justice is apparent in the ridicule she lavishes upon the rigid observance of the Sabbath by[Pg 387] the American people. She forgot that they inherited it from the English Puritans. If her evidence may be accepted, it amounted in her day to a bigotry as implacable as that of the straitest sect of the Scotch Presbyterians a generation ago. She tells an anecdote to the following effect:—A New York tailor sold, on a Sunday, some clothes to a sailor whose ship was on the point of sailing. The Guild of Tailors immediately made their erring brother the object of the most determined persecution, and succeeded in ruining him. A lawyer who had undertaken his defence lost all his clients. The nephew of this lawyer sought admission to the bar. His certificates were perfectly regular; but on his presenting himself he was rejected, with the curt explanation that no man bearing the name of F—— (his uncle's name) would be admitted. We need hardly add that such fanaticism as this would not be possible now in the United States.

Mrs. Trollope's animadversions are obsolete on many other subjects. Much of her indignation was necessarily, and very justly bestowed on the then flourishing institution of domestic slavery; but that foul blot on her scutcheon America wiped out in blood, the blood of thousands of her bravest children. Her criticism upon manners and social customs has also, to a great extent, lost its power of application. Of its liveliness and pungency we may give, however, a specimen; her description of the day's avocations of a Philadelphian lady of the first class:—

"This lady," she says, "shall be the wife of a senator[Pg 388] and a lawyer in the highest repute and practice. She has a very handsome house, with white marble steps and door-posts, and a delicate silver knocker and door-handle; she has very handsome drawing-rooms, very handsomely furnished (there is a side-board in one of them, but it is very handsome, and has very handsome decanters and cut-glass water jugs upon it); she has a very handsome carriage and a very handsome free black coachman; she is always very handsomely dressed; and, moreover, she is very handsome herself.

"She rises, and her first hour is spent in the scrupulously nice arrangement of her dress; she descends to her parlour neat, stiff, and silent; her breakfast is brought in by her free black footman; she eats her fried bean and her salt fish, and drinks her coffee in silence, while her husband reads one newspaper, and puts another under his elbow; and then, perhaps, she washes the cups and saucers. Her carriage is ordered at eleven; till that hour she is employed in the pastry-room, her snow-white apron protecting her mouse-coloured silk. Twenty minutes before her carriage should appear she retires to her chamber, as she calls it, shakes, and folds up her still snow-white apron, smooths her rich dress, and with nice care sets on her elegant bonnet, and all the handsome et cætera; then walks downstairs, just at the moment that her free black coachman announces to her free black footman that the carriage waits. She steps into it, and gives the word, "Drive to the Dorcas Society." Her footman stays at home to clean the knives, but her[Pg 389] coachman can trust his horses while he opens the carriage door, and his lady not being accustomed to a hand or an arm, gets out very safely without, though one of her own is occupied by a work basket, and the other by a large roll of all those indescribable matters which ladies take as offerings to Dorcas societies. She enters the parlour appropriated for the meeting, and finds seven other ladies, very like herself, and takes her place among them; she presents her contribution, which is accepted with a gentle circular smile, and her parings of broad-cloth, her ends of ribbon, her gilt paper, and her minikin pins, are added to the parings of broad-cloth, the ends of ribbon, the gilt paper, and the minikin pins with which the table is already covered; she also produces from her basket three ready-made pin-cushions, four ink-wipers, seven paper matches, and a paste-board watch-case; these are welcomed with acclamations, and the youngest lady present deposits them carefully on shelves, amid a prodigious quantity of similar articles. She then produces her thimble, and asks for work; it is presented to her, and the eight ladies all stitch together for some hours. Their talk is of priests and of missions; of the profits of their last sale, of their hopes from the next; of the doubt whether young Mr. This or young Mr. That should receive the fruits of it to fit him out for Siberia; of the very ugly bonnet seen at church on Sabbath morning; of the very handsome preacher who performed on Sabbath afternoon; and of the very large collection made on Sabbath evening. This lasts till[Pg 390] three, when the carriage again appears, and the lady and her basket return home; she mounts to her chamber, carefully sets aside her bonnet and its appurtenances, puts on her scalloped black silk apron, walks into the kitchen to see that all is right, then into the parlour, where, having cast a careful glance over the table prepared for dinner, she sits down, work in hand, to await her spouse. He comes, shakes hands with her, spits, and dines. The conversation is not much, and ten minutes suffices for the dinner: fruit and toddy, the newspaper, and the work-bag succeed. In the evening the gentleman, being a savant, goes to the Wister Society, and afterwards plays a snug rubber at a neighbour's. The lady receives at ten a young missionary and three members of the Dorcas Society. And so ends her day."

A harmless day, after all! No doubt such days were spent by Philadelphian ladies exactly as Mrs. Trollope describes them; no doubt such days are possible in American society now, and, for that matter, in English society also. But it is not less certain that then and now many women in Philadelphia spent and spend their time with a wiser activity, and more to the advantage of themselves and their fellow creatures. The fault of the satirist is, that he reasons from particulars to generals, whereas the sagacious observer will reason from generals to particulars. The manners and customs, the idiosyncrasies of a class will probably be the manners and customs and idiosyncrasies of most of its members; but it by no means follows that from two or three individuals[Pg 391] we can safely predict the general characteristics of the class to which they belong. In a regiment famous for its bravery we may unquestionably conclude that the majority of the rank and file will be brave men; but a few may be composed of less heroic stuff. Would it be just to take these as the types of the regiment?

After an unsuccessful attempt to make a home in America, Mrs. Trollope returned to England, with the world to begin again, a husband incapacitated for work by ill-health, and children who needed aid, and were too young to give any. In such circumstances many would have appealed to the sympathy of the public, but Mrs. Trollope was a courageous woman, and preferred to rely upon her own resources. She followed her first book, the success of which was immediate and very great, by a novel entitled "The Refugee in America," in which the plot is ill-constructed, and the characters are crudely drawn, but the writer's caustic humour lends animation to the page. "The Abbess," a novel, was her third effort; and then, in the following year, came another record of travel, "Belgium and Western Germany in 1833." Her Conservative instincts found less to offend them in Continental than in American society, and her sketches, therefore, while not less vivid, are much better humoured than in her American book. Some offences against the "minor morals" incur her condemnation; but the evil which most provokes her is the incessant tobacco smoking of the Germans, against[Pg 392] which she protests as vehemently as did James I. in his celebrated "Counterblast."

Three years later she produced her "Paris and the Parisians," of which M. Cortambret speaks as "crowning her reputation," and as receiving almost as warm a welcome in France as in England. The character, customs, and literature of the French furnish the theme of a series of letters, in which the clever and vivacious writer never fails to charm even those whom she does not convince. It is curious to read this book, published in 1836, and to compare the state of society in those days with that which now exists. What changes, in half a century, have been wrought in the national character! There seems in the present a certain dulness, greyness, and indifference,—or is it rather an acquired reticence and self-control?—which contrast very strikingly with the feverish, agitated, tumultuous past, so partial to fantastic crotchets, but so sympathetic also with great doctrines and generous ideas.

Mrs. Trollope records as an historical and noteworthy phrase, much in vogue in 1835, "Young France," and describes it as one of those cabalistic formulæ which assume to give expression to a grand, terrible, sublime, and volcanic idea. What shall we say now-a-days of these two brief monosyllabic words, in which the strong generation of the Revolution and the First Empire reposed so haughty a confidence? What shall we say of them to a disillusionized youth, who no longer believe in anything, and know neither faith nor culture, except in[Pg 393] one thing, money—for whom Sport and the Bourse have replaced the literature which strengthened and developed the faculties, and the politics which made men citizens?

Mrs. Trollope preserves two other words, which first rose into popularity in 1835—the words rococo and décousu. All things which bore the stamp of the principles and sentiments of former generations were branded as rococo. Whatever partook of the extravagance of the Romantic school was termed décousu. Eventually this latter word was abandoned as wanting in vigour, and at first that of débraillé was substituted; afterwards that of Bohemian, which, despite the injurious insinuation it conveyed, has been accepted and adopted by a considerable school. Mrs. Trollope avers that, when she visited France, it was impossible for two persons to carry on a conversation for a quarter of an hour without introducing the words rococo and décousu a score of times. They turned up as frequently as "the head of Charles I." in Mr. Dick's discourse. And, she adds, with her usual causticity, that if one were to classify the population into two great divisions, it would be impossible to define them more expressively than by these two words.

That Mrs. Trollope had no sympathy with the Romantic school will not excite surprise. Lamennais and Victor Hugo she stigmatizes as décousus of the worst kind, and places them in the same rank as Robespierre. The genius of Victor Hugo, so vast, so elevated, and so profound, she could not understand; she could see[Pg 394] only its irregularities, like a certain "æsthete" who, when contemplating the water-floods of Niagara, directed his attention to a supposed defect in their curve! Her methodical, matter-of-fact mind was wholly unable to measure the proportions of the gigantic genius of the author of "Nôtre Dame," and hence she discharges at him a volley of denunciatory epithets, borrowed always from the severest classic style—"the champion of vice," "the chronicler of sin," "the historian of shame and misery." She could not believe that in all his writings it was possible to discover a single honourable, innocent, and wholesome thought. Sin was the Muse which he invoked; horror attended his footsteps; thousands of monsters served as his escort, and furnished him with the originals of the "disgusting" portraits which he passed his life in painting. This was plain speaking; but Mrs. Trollope attacking Victor Hugo is one of those rebellions on the part of the infinitely little against the infinitely great which move the laughter of gods and men.

In truth, she is seldom happy in her literary criticisms. She speaks of Béranger as "a meteor," yet of no French poet has the renown more steadily increased. She is constrained to admit that the great people's poet, whose fame will endure when that of most of his contemporaries has passed into dull oblivion, is a man of a fine genius, but she will not yield to him that foremost place which posterity, nevertheless, has adjudged to belong to him. Of Thiers and Mignet she admits the merits[Pg 395] as historians, but characterizes their philosophy as narrow and shabby.

But from literature let us turn to society, in which she is easier to please. Whether it belongs to the character of the people, or whether it is but a transitory feature in the physiognomy of the age, she declares herself unable to determine; but nothing strikes her so forcibly as the air of gaiety and indifference with which the French discuss those great subjects that involve the world's destinies. We are inclined to think, however, that of late years a more serious spirit has prevailed. On the other hand, we cannot recognize as in existence now that exquisite courtesy of the French husband towards his wife which moved Mrs. Trollope's admiration. Unless recent observers err greatly, and unless the stage has ceased to reflect the tone and manners of society, a great change for the worst has taken place in this respect, due, perhaps, to the combined influence of speculation on the Bourse, smoking, and the coarser code of morals introduced from the North. That elaborate and delicate gallantry was a kind of blague for the whole nation; it made every Frenchman a knight of chivalry. No doubt it served as a cloak for many vices, but we have the vices still, without the cloak! "I should be surprised," says Mrs. Trollope, "if I heard it said that a Frenchman of good education had ever spoken rudely to his wife!"

To one of the worst enemies of the old-fashioned courtesy she makes a passing allusion, while hoping[Pg 396] cordially that the ladies will easily conquer it—we mean Positivism. If the women of France, she says, remain true to their vocation, they will eventually combat with success the ever-increasing partiality of their compatriots for the positive, and will prevent each salon from becoming, like the boulevard of the Café Tortoni, a petite Bourse. Under the second Empire, however, women were scarcely less guilty than the men, and the mania of speculation raged in almost every boudoir. It is too early to decide dogmatically whether in this all-important branch of morals the Republic has effected an improvement; but assuredly the improvement, if it has begun, has not extended very far or very deep.

In 1835 the Parisians sometimes fell to blows in support of a philosophical principle, and would incur almost any hazard to hear a favourite orator or to "assist" at the representation of a drama by one of their own pet authors. Half a century later and they hurry to horse races, and fight one another for a caprice. In 1835 they committed suicide through love or sentiment; now they blow out their brains when their speculations have suddenly collapsed, some bubble burst.

Of the numerous suicides which half a century ago were recorded in the newspapers, Mrs. Trollope furnishes an example. Two young people, scarcely out of their childhood, went into a restaurant and ordered a dinner of extraordinary delicacy and not less extraordinary cost, returning at the appointed time to partake of it. They[Pg 397] finished it with a good appetite, and with the enjoyment natural to their age. They called for champagne, and emptied the bottle, holding each other's hand. Not the slightest shadow of sadness obscured their gaiety, which was prolonged, almost noisy, and apparently genuine. After dinner came coffee, a mouthful of brandy, and the bill. One of them with his finger pointed out the total to the other, and both at the same time broke out into a fit of laughter. After they had drank the coffee they told the waiter that they wished to speak to the proprietor, who came immediately, supposing that they wished to complain of some article as overcharged.

But instead, the elder of the two began by declaring that the dinner was excellent, and went on to say that this was the more fortunate because it would assuredly be the last they should eat in this world; that as for the bill, he must be good enough to excuse payment, inasmuch as neither of them possessed a farthing. He explained that they would never have played him so sorry a joke had it not been that, finding themselves overwhelmed by the troubles and anxieties of the world, they had resolved to enjoy a good meal once more, and then to take leave of existence. The first portion of their project they had satisfactorily carried out, thanks to the excellence of Monsieur's cuisine and cellar, and the second would not be long delayed, since the coffee and the brandy had been mixed with a drug which would help them to pay all their debts.[Pg 398]

The landlord was furious. He did not believe a word of the young man's oration, and declared he would hand them over to the commissary of police. Eventually he allowed them to leave on their furnishing him with their address.

The following day, impelled half by a wish to get his money, and half by a fear that they might have spoken in earnest, he repaired to the address they had given him, and learned that the two unfortunate young men had been found that morning lying on a bed which one of them had hired some weeks before. They were dead, and their bodies already cold.

On a small table in the room lay several papers covered with writing; all of them breathed the desire to attain renown without difficulty and without work, and expressed the utmost contempt for those who consented to gain their livelihood by the sweat of their brow. There were several quotations from Victor Hugo, and a request that their names and the manner of their death might be published in the newspapers.

It is a pity that their yearning for posthumous notoriety was gratified, inasmuch as the sentimental articles written to order by dexterous pens, and the verses composed in honour of the two lunatics by Béranger, in which a romantic halo is thrown over their audacious crime,

"Et vers le ciel se frayant un chemin,
Ils sont partis en se donnant la main"...

encouraged, it is to be feared, a suicidal mania.[Pg 399]

We have hinted that Mrs. Trollope's strength lay in her faculty of observation, and her strong, pungent humour. Occasionally, however, she ventures on a vein of reflection, and not without success. For instance, her observations upon the elevation of Louis Philippe to the French throne are marked by a clear, cool judgment.

When she diverts her thoughts, she says, from the dethroned and banished king to him whom she saw before her, walking without guards and with an assured step, she could not but recall the vicissitudes he had experienced, and the conclusion forced itself upon her that this earth and all its inhabitants were but the toys of children, which change their name and destination according to the moment's whim. It seemed to her that all men must be classed in the order which it was good for them to hold; and that everything would be thrown into the greatest confusion if they were cast down in order to be raised up again, and thus they were perpetually hurled from side to side; with all this, so powerless in themselves, and so completely governed by chance! She felt humbled by the sight of human weakness, and turned her eyes from the monarch to meditate on the insignificance of men.

How vain are all the efforts which man is able to make to direct the course of his own existence! There is nothing, in truth, but confidence in an exalted Wisdom and an immovable Power which can enable us, from the greatest to the smallest, to traverse with courage and tranquillity a world subject to such terrible convulsions.[Pg 400]

In the opinion of one French critic, the book upon "Paris and the Parisians" is one of the most interesting works which has dealt with the subject of French society. It reflects with wonderful accuracy the physiognomy of the reign of Louis Philippe; those outbreaks which so frequently troubled the city; those political discussions which every evening transformed the salons into so many clubs; the romantic aspirations of Young France; the turbulence of the people, and the general want of respect for the monarchy.

Everywhere, moreover, as one of her translators has said, this literary Amazon marches, armed with a bold and vivid criticism, which gathered around her eager readers and bitter foes. Do not expect that she will relate to you (as Lady Morgan does) the tittle-tattle of the boudoirs of the countries she visits or in which she resides; for from the particularity and range of her observations it is clear that she made no flying visit, that her masculine mind penetrated below the surface. When she arrived in a new land she planted there her flag, and with pen upraised set forth to attack or energetically praise, according to her sympathies or her hatreds, the social and political manners exposed to her searching gaze.

France was not the only field of study which she found in Europe. In 1838 she published her "Vienna and the Austrians," in which her old antipathies and causticities reappeared; and in 1843, a "Visit to Italy," which[Pg 401] was far from being a success. The classic air of Italy was not favourable to the development of her peculiar powers, and among the antiquities of Rome the humour which sketched so forcibly the broad features of American society was necessarily out of place.

Our business in these pages is with Mrs. Trollope the traveller, but of the industry of Mrs. Trollope the novelist we may reasonably give the reader an idea. In 1836 she published "The Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw," in which she renewed her attacks on American society, and drew a forcible sketch of the condition of the coloured population of the Southern States. Some of the scenes may fairly be credited with having suggested to Dickens the tone and sentiment of his American pictures in "Martin Chuzzlewit." Her best novel, "The Vicar of Wrexhill"—a highly-coloured portrait of an Anglican Tartuffe, bitter in its prejudices, but full of talent—appeared in 1837; the "Romance of Vienna," an attack on caste distinctions, in 1838. To the same year belongs her "Michael Armstrong," in which her Ishmael hand fell heavily on the narrow-mindedness of the manufacturing class—anticipating, in some degree, Dickens's "Hard Times." "One Fault," a satire upon romantic exaggeration; and the coarse, but clever "Widow Barnaby," a racy history of the troubles of a vulgar-genteel bourgeoise in search of a second husband, were published in 1839; and in the following year appeared its sequel, "The Widow Married," which is quite as coarse as its predecessor, but not[Pg 402] so amusing. With indefatigable pen she produced, in 1843, three three-volume novels, "Hargreave," "Jessie Phillips," and "The Laurringtons"—the first a not very successful sketch of a man of fashion; the second, an unfair and exaggerated delineation of the action of the new Poor Law; and the third, a forcible and lively satire upon "superior people," in which some of the passages are in her best style.

In 1844 the industrious satirist, who would have been more generally successful had she selected the objects of her attacks with greater discretion, withdrew to Florence, from the host of enemies her "free hitting" had provoked, burying herself in an almost absolute seclusion. But her active mind could not long enjoy repose, and in 1851 she resumed her pen, selecting the Roman Catholic Church for her target in "Father Eustace." This was followed in 1852 by "Uncle Walter." It is unnecessary, however, to enumerate the titles of her later works, as they lacked most of the qualities which secured the popularity of her earlier, and have already passed into oblivion. It is doubtful, indeed, whether even her better work is much known to the reading public of the present day.[38]

[Pg 403]

This clever and industrious woman died at Florence on the 6th of October, 1863, in the eighty-fifth year of her age. Her name has been highly honoured in her two surviving sons, Anthony and Thomas Adolphus Trollope, both of whom have attained to a place of distinction in English literature.


[38] We have omitted from our list "The Blue Belles of England" (1841); "Tremordyn Cliff" (1838); "Charles Chesterfield" (1841); "The Ward of Thorpe-Combe" (1842); "Young Love" (1844); "Petticoat Government" (1852); and "The Life and Adventures of a Clever Woman" (1853). Between the last-named and "The Vicar of Wrexhill" the gulf is very wide. One cannot help admiring, however, the indefatigable perseverance and the astonishing fertility of this accomplished novelist.

[Pg 404]


One of the best books on Eastern life in English literature we owe to the pen of a remarkable woman, whose reputation, based as it is on many other works of singular ability, we may take to be of a permanent character—Miss Harriet Martineau. She was born in 1802. Her father was a manufacturer in Norwich, where his family, originally of French origin, had resided since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. To her uncle, a surgeon in Norwich, she was mainly indebted for her education. Her home-life was not a happy one, and unquestionably its austere influences did much to develop in her that colossal egotism and self-sufficiency which marred her character, and has left its injurious impress on her writings. She tells us that only twice in her childhood did she experience any manifestation of tenderness—once when she was suffering from ear-ache, and her parents were stirred into unwonted compassion, and once from a kind-hearted lady who witnessed her alarm at a magic-lantern exhibition.[Pg 405]

Much more care was shown in educing her intellectual faculties than in cultivating her affections. She learned French and music thoroughly, and attained to such proficiency in the classics that she could not only write Latin but think in Latin. She took a great delight in reading, and, of course, read omnivorously, with a special preference for history, poetry, and politics. Her inquisitive and abnormally active mind early began its inquiries into the mysteries of religious faith, but as these were not conducted in a patient or reverent spirit, it is no wonder, perhaps, that they proved unsatisfactory. She got hold of the works of Dugald Stewart, Hartley, and Priestley; plunged boldly into the maze of metaphysics, and grappled unhesitatingly with the mysterious subjects of fore-knowledge and free-will. But in philosophy as in religion, her immense egotism led her astray. She accepted nothing for the existence of which she could not account by causes intelligible to her own mind. Naturally she became a Necessarian, and adopted strenuously the dogma of the invariable and inevitable action of fixed laws. We may be allowed, perhaps, to think of this singular woman as yearning and aspiring after a lofty ideal throughout a sensitive and timorous childhood; and in wayward musings and visionary reflections finding that consolation which should have been, but was not, provided by maternal love. As she grew older, and grew stronger both in mind and body, she grew bolder; aspiration gave way to self-satisfied conviction. Morbid self-reproach was replaced by an[Pg 406] extravagant self-consciousness, and thenceforth she went on her solitary way, acting up always to a high standard of moral rectitude, but putting aside the faiths and hopes and judgments of the many as baubles beneath the notice of a mature and well-balanced intellect.

Her tastes for literary pursuits she has herself ascribed to the extreme delicacy of her health in childhood; to the infirmity of deafness, which, while not so complete as to debar her from all social intercourse, yet compelled her to seek occupations and pleasures not dependent upon others; and to the affection which subsisted between her and the brother nearest her own age, the Rev. James Martineau, so well known for his fine intellectual powers. The death of the father having involved the family in the discomfort of narrow circumstances, the pen she had hitherto wielded for amusement she took up with the view of gaining an independent livelihood; and she conceived the idea of employing fiction as a vehicle for the exposition and popularization of the principles of social and political economy. The idea was as new as it was happy; nor could it have been realized at a more opportune time than when the English public was beginning to awake from its long political lethargy, and to assert the rights of the nation against the dominant class interests. It was desirable that its new-born activity should be guided by an intelligent apprehension of the cardinal truths by which reform is differentiated from revolution; and to contribute to this result became Harriet Martineau's purpose. Accordingly, in 1826, she[Pg 407] wrote, and after conquering the difficulty of finding a publisher, gave to the world her tale of "The Rioters," the first of a long series of illustrations of political economy, which had a very considerable influence, if not quite so great an influence, as she herself supposed. The series comprises eighteen tales, of which the best, perhaps, are "Ella of Gareloch," "Life in the Wilds," and "The Hamlets." Their true merit consists in their having quickened and strengthened the interest of the reading classes in economic questions. In their day they did an useful work, but they are already forgotten; and, as Sara Coleridge predicted, their political economy has proved too heavy a ballast for vessels that were expected to sail down the stream of time.

In 1834 Miss Martineau "qualified," so to speak, for a place among female travellers, by visiting the United States. She spent nearly two years in traversing the territories of the Great Western Republic, and was everywhere received with an enthusiastic welcome. Returning to England in 1836, she recorded her impressions of American society, and her views of American institutions in her "Society in America" and her "Retrospect of Western Travel." These are discriminative and thoughtful, while sufficiently cordial in their praise to satisfy even the most exacting American; and at the time of their appearance these books unquestionably did much to soothe the irritation which Mrs. Trollope's hard hitting had provoked. It is but just, however, to commend the honesty with which she avowed her anti-slavery opinions,[Pg 408] which could not then be enunciated without exciting the anger even of the people of the North. It brought upon her no small amount of abuse and contumely, many of those who had previously received her with professed admiration joining in the clamour raised against her by the slave-holders and their partisans.

Her literary activity, meanwhile, knew no stint. In 1839 she published "Deerbrook," her best novel, which the critic will always value as a vigorous picture of some aspects of English life. The tone is high and sustained. As for the characters, they are not very strongly individualized; but, on the other hand, the descriptions are clear and forcible, while the interest of the plot is deep and wholesome. John Sterling's criticism of it says:—"It is really very striking, and parts of it are very true and very beautiful. It is not so true or so thoroughly clear and harmonious among delineations of English middle-class gentility as Miss Austen's books, especially as 'Pride and Prejudice,' which I think exquisite."

While travelling on the Continent, in the spring of 1838, Miss Martineau was seized with a very serious illness. By slow stages she returned to England, where she settled down near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to be under the care of her brother-in-law. She resided there for a period of nearly six years. Neither suffering of mind or body, however, was allowed to interfere with her literary work. She gave to the world in 1840 her second novel, "The Hour and the Man," founded on the romantic[Pg 409] career of Toussaint L'Ouverture; and composed the admirable series of children's tales, known by the general title of "The Playfellow." These four volumes, "Settlers at Home," "The Picnic," "Feats on the Fiord," and "The Crofton Boys," show her at her very best. They are full of bold and picturesque descriptions, and the story is told with unflagging energy. Her peculiar position suggested a book that has won a well-deserved popularity—"Life in the Sick-room" (1844). Its delicate and judicious reflections, and its pleasing sketches, cannot be read without a touch of sympathy.

Restored to health in 1845, she removed to Ambleside, among the lakes and mountains, settling in the immediate neighbourhood of the poet Wordsworth. In the autumn she published her "Forest and Game Laws"; and in the following year she made a journey to the East, and ascended the river Nile, recording her experiences in the book which has led us to introduce her among our female travellers—"Eastern Life, Past and Present," a remarkable book, giving a fresh interest to the beaten track of Eastern travel and research, and breathing vitality into the dry bones of Champollini, Wilkinson, and Lane. Putting aside its crude notions of Egyptology, and its wild speculations on religious topics, we must be prepared to admire its fresh and finely-coloured word pictures, the glow and power of which are surprising. Miss Martineau went up the Nile to Philæ; she afterwards crossed the desert to the Red Sea, landed in Arabia, and ascended Mounts Sinai and[Pg 410] Horeb; and, finally, explored a portion of the shores and islands of the Mediterranean. We must pause in our rapid narrative to give a specimen or two of the sketches she made on the way; they will show how a strong and vivid genius can deal with the incidents of travel, and what a record of it may become in the hands of a skilful and accomplished artist.

Let us take her description of the Sphinx—the Sphinx that for some thousands of years has held mute companionship with the Great Pyramids:—

"The full serene gaze of its round face, rendered ugly by the loss of the nose, which was a very handsome feature of the old Egyptian face—this full gaze, and the stony calm of its attitude almost turn one to stone. So life-like, so huge, so monstrous; it is really a fearful spectacle. I saw a man sitting in a fold of the neck—as a fly might settle on a horse's mane. In that crease he reposed, while far over his head extended the vast pent-house of the jaw; and above that, the dressed hair on either side the face—each bunch a mass of stone which might crush a dwelling-house. In its present state its proportions cannot be obtained; but Sir G. Wilkinson tells us, 'Pliny says it measured from the belly to the highest part of the head sixty-three feet; its length was one hundred and forty-three; and the circumference of its head round the forehead one hundred and two feet; all cut out in the natural rock, and worked smooth.' Fancy the long well-opened eyes, in such proportion as this—eyes which have gazed unwinking into[Pg 411] vacancy, while mighty Pharaohs, and Hebrew law-givers, and Persian princes, and Greek philosophers, and Antony with Cleopatra by his side, and Christian anchorites, and Arab warriors, and European men of science, have been brought hither in succession by the unpausing ages to look up into those eyes—so full of meaning, though so fixed!"[39]

At Damascus she visited a Turkish harem, and her account of the visit the reader will find some interest in comparing with Madame Hommaire de Hell's narrative of a similar experience.

She and her companions saw the seven wives of three gentlemen, besides a crowd of attendants and visitors. Of the seven, two had been the wives of the head of the household, who was dead; three were the wives of his eldest son, aged twenty-two; and the remaining two were the wives of his second son, aged fifteen. The youngest son, aged thirteen, was not yet married; but he would be thinking about it soon. The pair of widows were elderly women, as merry as girls, and quite at their ease. Of the other five three were sisters—that is, we conclude, half-sisters; children of different mothers in the same harem. It is evident, at a glance, what a tragedy lies under this; what the horrors of jealousy must be among sisters thus connected for life; three of them between two husbands in the same house! And[Pg 412] we were told that the jealousy had begun, young as they were, and the third having been married only a week. This young creature, aged twelve, was the bride of the husband of fifteen. She was the most conspicuous person in the place, not only for the splendour of her dress, but because she sat on the diwán, while the others sat or lounged on cushions on the raised floor. The moment Miss Martineau took her seat she was struck with compassion for this child, who looked so grave, sad, and timid, while the others romped and giggled, and indulged in laughter at their own silly jokes; she smiled not, but looked on listlessly. Miss Martineau was resolved to make her laugh before she went away, and at length she did somewhat relax—smiling, and in a moment growing grave; but after a while she really and truly laughed, and when the whole harem was shown to the visitors, she slipped her bare and dyed feet into her pattens, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and joined them in the courts, nestling to them, and apparently losing the sense of her new position for a time; but there was less of the gaiety of a child about her than in the elderly widows. Her dress was superb—a full skirt and bodice of geranium-coloured brocade, embossed with gold flowers and leaves; and her frill and ruffles were of geranium-coloured gauze. Her eyebrows were frightful—joined together and extended by black paint. A silk net, bedizened with jewels and natural flowers, covered her head, which thus resembled a bouquet sprinkled with diamonds. Her nails were dyed black, and her[Pg 413] feet dyed black in chequers. Her complexion, called white, was of an unhealthy yellow; indeed, not a healthy complexion was to be seen among the whole company. How should it be otherwise among women secluded from exercise, and pampered with all the luxuries of Oriental life.

Besides the seven wives, a number of attendants came in to look at the European visitors, and serve the pipes and sherbet; also a few ladies from a neighbouring harem; and a party of Jewesses, with whom Miss Martineau and her friends had some previous acquaintance. Mrs. G., we are told, was compelled to withdraw her lace veil, and then to remove her bonnet; the street, she was informed, was the place where the veil should be worn, and not the interior of the house. Then her bonnet went round, and was tried on many heads; one merry girl wearing it long enough to surprise many new comers with the joke. Miss Martineau's gloves were stretched and pulled in a variety of ways, in their attempts to thrust their large, broad brown hands into them, one after another. But it was the ear-trumpet, rendered necessary by her deafness, which afforded the greatest entertainment. The eldest widow, who sat near her, asked for it and put it to her ear; whereupon Miss Martineau exclaimed, "Bo!" When she had done laughing, the lady of the harem placed it to her next neighbour's ear, and shouted "Bo!" and in this way it returned to its possessor. But in two minutes it was asked for again, and went round a second time; everybody[Pg 414] laughing as loud as ever at each "Bo!" so that the joke was repeated a third time.

The next joke was connected with the Jewesses, four or five of whom sat in a row in the diwán. Almost everybody else was puffing away at a tchibouque or nargileh, and the place was one cloud of smoke. The poor Jewesses were obliged to decline joining us, for it happened to be Saturday, and they must not smoke on their Sabbath. They were naturally much pitied, and some of the young wives did what was possible for them. Drawing in a long breath of smoke, they puffed it forth in the faces of the Jewesses, who opened mouth and nostrils eagerly to receive it. Thus was the Sabbath observed, to shouts of laughter.

"A pretty little blue-eyed girl of seven was the only child," says Miss Martineau, "we saw. She nestled against her mother, and the mother clasped her closely, lest we should carry her off to London. She begged we would not wish to take her child to London, and said, 'she would not sell her for much money.' One of the wives was pointed out to us as particularly happy in the prospect of becoming a mother; and we were taken to see the room which she was to lie in, which was all in readiness, though the event was not looked for for more than half a year. She was in the gayest spirits, and sang and danced. While she was lounging on her cushions, I thought her the handsomest and most graceful, as well as the happiest, of the party; but when she rose to dance, the charm was destroyed for ever. The dancing is utterly disgusting.[Pg 415] A pretty Jewess of twelve years old danced, much in the same way; but with downcast eyes and an air of modesty. While the dancing went on, and the smoking and drinking coffee and sherbet, and the singing, to the accompaniment of a tambourine, some hideous old hags came in successively, looked and laughed, and went away again. Some negresses made a good background to this thoroughly Eastern picture. All the while, romping, kissing, and screaming went on among the ladies, old and young. At first, I thought them a perfect rabble; but when I recovered myself a little, I saw that there was some sense in the faces of the elderly women. In the midst of all this fun, the interpreters assured us that 'there is much jealousy every day;' jealousy of the favoured wife; that is, in this case, of the one who was pointed out to us by her companions as so eminently happy, and with whom they were romping and kissing, as with the rest. Poor thing! even the happiness of these her best days is hollow, for she cannot have, at the same time, peace in the harem and her husband's love."[40]

With these specimens we must be content, though we are well aware, as Hierocles has taught us, that we cannot judge of a house from a single brick. They fairly illustrate, however, Miss Martineau's style and manner in her record of Eastern travel—a record which[Pg 416] the narratives of later travellers may have rendered obsolete in some particulars, but have certainly not superseded.

Her brief career as a traveller terminated with her visit to the East; but a reference to the incidents of her later life may possibly be convenient for the reader. In 1849-1850 she published her "History of England during the Thirty Years' Peace," a thoroughly good bit of historical work, not less admirable for the general fairness of its tone than for the lucidity of its narrative. This was followed by her "Introduction to the History of the Peace, from 1800 to 1815." A careful English condensation of Comte's "Positive Philosophy" appeared in 1853. Meanwhile she was a constant contributor to Mr. Charles Dickens's "Household Words," and to the columns of the "Daily News." In the midst of all this activity she was suddenly struck down by disease of the heart, and her doctors announced that she might die at any moment. She resigned herself to her fate with her usual calm courage, and proceeded to draw up and print her autobiography. Strange to say, she lived for twenty years longer; the Damocles' sword suspended over her head forbore to fall, and as soon as her health was to some extent re-established she resumed her literary labours. Among her latest works, which present abundant evidence of the clearness and practical character of her intellect, we may mention a treatise on "The Factory Controversy," 1853; a "History of the American Compromise," 1856; a picturesquely-written[Pg 417] historical sketch of "British Rule in India;" also, "England and her Soldiers;" "Health, Handicraft, and Husbandry;" and "Household Education."

As years passed by her infirmities increased, but she retained her force and freshness of intellect almost to the last. It was not until the beginning of 1876 that her mental condition underwent any serious change. Even then her strong will seemed to stay and strengthen her failing mind. She kept her household books and superintended the household economy to the very end, though suffering under a burden of pain which weaker natures would have found intolerable. Writing to a friend six weeks before her death, she exclaims:—"I am very ill.... the difficulty and distress to me are the state of the head. I will only add that the condition grows daily worse, so that I am scarcely able to converse or read, and the cramp in the hands makes writing difficult or impossible; so I must try to be content with the few lines I can send, till the few days become none. We believe that time to be near, and we shall not attempt to deceive you about it. My brain feels under the constant sense of being not myself, and the introduction of this new fear into my daily life makes each day sufficiently trying to justify the longing for death, which grows upon me more and more."

This longing was fulfilled on the 27th of June, 1876, when Harriet Martineau closed in peace her long and active life.


[39] Harriet Martineau: "Eastern Life," ii., 81, 82.

[40] Harriet Martineau; "Eastern Life," ii. 162-165.

[Pg 418]


"The climate of Colorado is the finest in North America; and consumptives, asthmatics, dyspeptics, and sufferers from nervous diseases are here in hundreds and thousands, either trying the 'camp cure' for three or four months, or settling here permanently. People can safely sleep out of doors for six months of the year. The plains are from 4,000 to 6,000 feet high, and some of the settled 'parks,' or mountain valleys, are from 8,000 to 10,000. The air, besides being much rarefied, is very dry; the rainfall is far below the average, dews are rare, and fogs nearly unknown. The sunshine is bright and almost constant, and three-fourths of the days are cloudless."

This is not Eden, but Colorado; yet, seeing it reproduces as nearly as possible what we may suppose to have been the primary characteristics of that first Garden, to us dwellers in a land where mists and fogs are frequent and sunbeams are rare, Miss Bird's description of it reads like an effort of the imagination. Miss Bird traversed a portion of Colorado in 1878, on her way to[Pg 419] explore the recesses of the Rocky Mountains. Starting from San Francisco, she travelled by railway to Truckee. Here she hired a horse, and for greater convenience assumed what she styled her "Hawaiian riding dress"—that is, a half-fitting jacket, a skirt reaching to the ankles, and full Turkish trousers gathered into frills, which fell over the boots—"a thoroughly serviceable and feminine costume for mountaineering and other rough travelling in any part of the world." Throwing over these habiliments a dust-cloak, she rode through Truckee, and then followed up the windings of the Truckee river—a loud-tongued, rollicking mountain-stream, flowing between ranges of great castellated and embattled sierras. Through the blue gloom of a pine-forest she gallantly made her way, charmed by the magic of the scenery that opened out before her. "Crested blue-jays darted through the dark pines, squirrels in hundreds scampered through the forest, red dragon-flies flashed like 'living light,' exquisite chipmonks ran across the track, but only a dusty blue legion here and there reminded one of earth's fairer children. Then the river became broad and still, and mirrored in its transparent depths regal pines, straight as an arrow, with rich yellow and green lichen clinging to their stems, and firs and balsam pines filling up the spaces between them. The gorge opened, and this mountain-girdled lake lay before me, with its margin broken up into bays and promontories, most picturesquely clothed by huge sugar-pines."[Pg 420]

From Lake Tabor Miss Bird returned to Truckee, and started on another excursion which brought her within view of the Great Salt Lake and the Mormon town of Ogden, and thence to Cheyenne, in the State of Wyoming. Having thus crossed the mountain-range of the Sierras and descended into the plains, she entered upon the region of the "boundless prairies—great stretches of verdure, generally level, but elsewhere rolling in long undulations, like the waves of a sea which had fallen asleep." Their monotony is broken by large villages of the so-called prairie dogs, the Wishton-Wish, a kind of marmot, which owes its misleading name to its short, sharp bark. The villages are composed of raised circular orifices, about eighteen inches in diameter, from which a number of inclined passages slope downwards for five or six feet. "Hundreds of these burrows are placed together. On nearly every rim a small furry, reddish-buff beast sat on his hind legs, looking, so far as head went, much like a young seal. These creatures were acting as sentinels, and sunning themselves. As we passed each gave a warning yelp, shook its tail, and, with a ludicrous flourish of his hind legs, dived into its hole. The appearance of hundreds of these creatures, each eighteen inches long, sitting like dogs begging, with their paws down and all turned sunwards, is most grotesque."

At Greeley Miss Bird entered Colorado, which she describes, as we have seen, in such a manner as to suggest that it rivals Dr. Richardson's imaginary[Pg 421] "Hygeia" in all essential particulars. From Greeley she hastened to Fort Collins, with the grand masses of the Rocky Mountains facing her as she advanced. Still across the boundless sea-like prairie struck the indefatigable traveller, until she came to a sort of tripartite valley, with a majestic crooked cañon, 2,000 feet deep, and watered by a roaring stream, where in a rude log-cabin she abode for several days. Having obtained a horse she rode across the highlands, and striking up the St. Vrain Canyon ascended to Esteo Park, 7,500 feet above the sea-level. To understand the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, the reader must think of them as a mass of summits, frequently 200 and 250 miles wide, stretching, with scarcely any interruption of continuity, almost from the Arctic Circle to the Straits of Magellan. At the point ascended by Miss Bird their scenery was of the grandest description—wonderful ascents, wild fantastic views, cool and bowery shades, romantic glens echoing melodiously with the fall of waters. But it is only fair that Miss Bird should be heard on her own account:—

"A tremendous ascent among rocks and pines to a height of 9,000 feet brought us to a passage seven feet wide through a wall of rock, with an abrupt descent of 2,000 feet, and a yet higher ascent beyond. I never saw anything so strange as looking back. It was a single gigantic ridge which we had passed through, standing up knife-like, built up entirely of great brick-shaped masses of bright-red rock, piled one on another by Titans.[Pg 422] Pitch-pines grew out of these crevices, but there was not a vestige of soil. Beyond, wall beyond wall of similar construction, and range above range, rose into the blue sky. Fifteen miles more over great ridges, along passes dark with shadow, and so narrow that we had to ride in the beds of the streams which had excavated them, round the bases of colossal pyramids of rock crested with pines, up into fair upland 'parks' scarlet in patches with the poison oak, parks so beautifully arranged by nature that I momentarily expected to come upon some stately mansion; but that afternoon, crested blue jays and chipmonks had them all to themselves. Here, in the early morning, deer, bighorn, and the stately elk come down to feed; and there, in the night, prowl and growl the Rocky Mountain lion, the grizzly bear, and the cowardly wolf. There were chasms of immense depth, dark with the indigo gloom of pines, and mountains with snow gleaming on their splintered crests, loveliness to bewilder and grandeur to awe, and still streams and shady pools, and cool depths of shadow; mountains again, dense with pines, among which patches of aspen gleamed like gold; valleys where the yellow cottonwood mingled with the crimson oak, and so, on and on through the lengthening shadows till the track, which in places had been hardly legible, became well defined, and we entered a long gulch with broad swellings of grass belted with pines."[41]

Long's Peak, the "American Matterhorn," 14,700 feet[Pg 423] high, has seldom been ascended, and Miss Bird is the first woman who has had the courage and resolution to reach its summit. Her party consisted of herself, two youths, the sons of a certain Dr. H., and "Mountain Jim," one of the famous scouts of the plain, an expert in Indian border warfare, who acted as guide. The ride at first was one long series of glories and surprises, of peak and glade, of lake and stream, and of mountain upon mountain, culminating in the shivered pinnacles of Long's Peak. And as the sun slowly sank, the pines stood out darkling against the golden sky, the grey peaks took upon their crests a glory of crimson and purple, a luminous mist of changing colours filled every glen, gorge, and canyon, while the echoes softly repeated that peculiar sough or murmur which accompanies the departing day. Our adventurer, with heart touched by the magical beauty and magnificence of the scene, crossed a steep wooded incline into a deep hollow, where, embosomed in the mountain-solitude, slept a lily-covered lake, cradling white, pure blossoms and broad green leaves, and aptly named "The Lake of the Lilies." Calm on its amethyst-coloured waters lay the tremulous shadow of the great dark pine woods.

Thence she and her companions passed again into the leafy wilderness which clothes the mountain side up to a height of about 11,000 feet, cheered, as they climbed slowly upwards on their laborious path, by delightful vistas of "golden atmospheres and rose-lit summits," such as broke upon the dreams of him who created in[Pg 424] his fancy the Garden of Armida; upward and onward through the dusky shade, which in itself may well impress a quick imagination. It is the silence of the forest that makes its mystery. The only sounds are those of the branches swaying in the breeze, or of a bough crashing to the ground through decay, or the occasional voices of the wandering birds; and these seem but to increase the silence by their inadequateness of contrast. Alone in this profundity of gloom it is difficult for the traveller to resist the sense and feeling of a supernatural Presence, and he comes to understand in what way such eerie legends and grim traditions have grown up about the forest, and why to the early races its still depths seemed haunted by the creatures of another world.

Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep
Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades
Like vaporous shapes half seen;—

and the forest is peopled with the phantoms that are born of Silence and Twilight.

As they ascended they found that the pines grew smaller and more sparse, and the last stragglers wore "a tortured, waning look." The forest threshold was crossed; but yet a little higher a slope of mountain meadow dipped to the south-west, towards a bright stream trickling under ice and icicles; and there, in a grove of the beautiful silver spruce, our travellers resolved to encamp for the night. The trees were small of size, but so exquisitely arranged that one might well[Pg 425] ask what artist's hand had planted them—scattering them here, grouping them there, and training their shapely spires towards heaven. "Hereafter," says Miss Bird, "when I call up memories of the glorious, the view from this camping-ground will come up. Looking east, gorges opened to the distant plains, there fading into purple-grey. Mountains with pine-clothed skirts rose in ranges, or, solitary, uplifted their grey summits; while close behind, but nearly 3,000 feet above us, towered the bald white crest of Long's Peak, its huge precipices red with the light of a sun long lost to our eyes. Close to us, in the caverned side of the peak, was snow that, owing to its position, is eternal. Soon the after-glow came on, and before it faded a big half-moon hung out of the heavens, shining through the silver-blue foliage of the pines on the frigid background of snow, and turning the whole into fairyland."

This passage shows—what, indeed, is sufficiently evident in every page of Miss Bird's travel-books—that she possesses, as every traveller ought to possess, the artist's temperament, and that if she cannot transfer the scenes she loves to the canvas, she knows how to reproduce them in words that have the glow of light and life. A sense of the beautiful, and a power of expressing that sense so as to make it felt by others, is the primary and indispensable qualification of the traveller. He must have eyes to see and ears to hear; and that his fellow may be the wiser, better, and happier for his enterprise, he must have the faculty of describing[Pg 426] what he has seen and heard in language of adequate force and clearness.

With a great fire of pine-logs to protect them against the rigour of the night—for the thermometer marked twelve degrees below freezing-point—our travellers passed the hours of darkness. When the sun rose, they too arose; and it was well to do so, as sunrise from a mountain top is such a spectacle of glory as few eyes have the happiness to look upon. From the chill grey peak above them, with its eternal snows and pathless forests, down to the plains which spread below like a cold and waveless sea, everything underwent a strange and marvellously beautiful transformation; for, as the sun rose above the horizon in all the fulness of its orbed splendour, the grey of the plains flushed into purple, the wan peaks gleamed like rubies, the pines shone like so many columns of gold, and the sky reddened with rose-hues like the blush on a fair face. After breakfast the party resumed their ascent of the mountain, and in due time arrived at the "Notch"—a literal gate of rock—when they found themselves on the knife-like ridge or backbone of Long's Peak, only a few feet wide, covered with huge boulders, and on the other side shelving in a snow-patched precipice of 3,000 feet to a picturesque hollow, brightened by an emerald lake.

"Passing through the 'Notch,'" says Miss Bird, "we looked along the nearly inaccessible side of the peak, composed of boulders and débris of all shapes and sizes,[Pg 427] through which appeared broad, smooth ribs of reddish-coloured granite, looking as if they upheld the towering rock-mass above. I usually dislike bird's-eye and panoramic views, but, though from a mountain, this was not one. Serrated ridges, not much lower than that on which we stood, rose, one beyond another, far as that pure atmosphere could carry the vision, broken into awful chasms deep with ice and snow, rising into pinnacles piercing the heavenly blue with their cold, barren grey, on, on for ever, till the most distant range upbore unsullied snow alone. There were fair lakes mirroring the dark pine woods, canyons dark and blue, black with unbroken expanses of pines, snow-slashed pinnacles, wintry heights frowning upon lovely parks, watered and wooded, lying in the lap of summer; North Park floating off into the blue distance, Middle Park closed till another season, the sunny slopes of Esteo Park, and winding down among the mountains the snowy ridge of the Divide (the backbone, or water-shed of the Rocky Mountains), whose bright waters seek both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. There, far below, links of diamonds showed where the grand river takes its rise to seek the mysterious Colorado, with its still unsolved enigma, and lose itself in the waters of the Pacific; and nearer, the snow-born Thompson bursts forth from the ice to begin its journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Nature, rioting in her grandest mood, exclaimed with voices of grandeur, solitude, sublimity, beauty, and infinity, 'Lord, what is man, that Thou art[Pg 428] mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?'"[42]

At the "Notch" the true character of the enterprise she had undertaken was forcibly brought home to Miss Bird's consciousness. The Peak towered above her, two thousand feet of solid rock, with smooth granite sides, affording scarcely a foothold, and patches of re-frozen snow, presenting no ordinary obstacle to the advance. She was by no means an expert mountaineer, having "neither head nor ankles," and, in reality, she was dragged or hauled up the ascent by the patience, skill, and strength of "Mountain Jim." Up a deep ravine they attained to the passage of the "Dog's Lift," through which they emerged on a narrow, rugged shelf, broken and uneven, forming a kind of terrace or platform, where they drew breath before attempting the last 500 feet—the terminal peak itself, a smooth cone of pure granite with almost perpendicular sides. The only foothold here was in narrow cracks or on minute projections of the granite. To get a toe in these cracks or on one or other of these scarcely visible projections, while crawling on hands and knees, weary, thirst-tortured, and gasping for breath, this was to climb; but at last the peak was won, and Miss Bird rejoiced in the consciousness of being the first woman who had ever placed her feet on its lofty summit.

[Pg 429]

The descent, as far as the "Notch," was not less laborious or painful than the upward effort had been; and when Miss Bird reached their former camping-ground she was thoroughly exhausted with fatigue and thirst. But a night's rest recruited her remarkable energies, and when the morning dawned she was fresh and vigorous as ever, and happy in the memory of her successful enterprise—an enterprise such as few women have ever equalled—and in recollections of the beauty and sublimity of Long's Peak, which cannot fail to be "joys for ever."

The "parks" of which we have spoken are broad, grassy valleys, lying at heights which vary from 6,000 to 11,000 feet. They are the favourite retreats of innumerable animals—wapiti, bighorn, oxen, mountain lions, the great grizzly, the wary beaver, the evil-smelling skunk, the craven wolf, cayote and lynx, to say nothing of lesser breeds, such as marten, wild cat, fox, mink, hare, chipmonk, and squirrel. Their features have been fully described by Lord Dunraven in his picturesque book, "The Great Divide."

Miss Bird's animated pages present so many delightful pictures of mountain scenery that we know not which to choose in illustration of her remarkable descriptive powers. We have already alluded to her faculty of pictorial presentment; it is one in which few of her sex surpass her; she puts a scene before us with as much life and distinctness as a Constable or a Peter Graham, and the reader, who would form a clear and well-defined[Pg 430] conception of the Rocky Mountains in their picturesque aspects, cannot do better than study her little but delightful book. While reading it one seems to feel the pure, keen, mountain air around one; to see the great peaks rising one above the other like the towers and spires of some vast cathedral of nature; to watch the ever-shifting phantasmagoria of gorgeous colour that rolls over the landscape from sunrise to sunset, and in the hush of the moonlit night disappears before the silver radiance of the nascent orb; to hear the fall of the mountain streams, and to catch the breath of the fragrant wind that comes from the pine-forest loaded with fragrance and freshness and subtle odours.

Traversing Colorado, in the neighbourhood of the Plate River, she tells us that she "rode up one great ascent, where hills were tumbled about confusedly; and suddenly, across the broad ravine, above the sunny grass and the deep-green pines, rose in glowing and shaded red against the glittering blue heaven, a magnificent and unearthly range of mountains, as shapely as could be seen, rising into colossal points, cleft by deep blue ravines, broken up into shark's teeth, with gigantic knobs and pinnacles rising from their inaccessible sides, very fair to look upon—a glowing, heavenly, unforgettable sight, and only four miles off. Mountains they looked not of this earth, but such as one sees in dreams alone, the blessed ranges of 'the land which is very far off.' They were more brilliant than those incredible colours in which painters array[Pg 431] the fiery hills of Moab and the Desert, and one could not believe them for ever uninhabited, for on them rose, as in the East, the similitude of stately fortresses, not the grey castellated towers of feudal Europe, but gay, massive, Saracenic architecture, the outgrowth of the solid rock. They were vast ranges, apparently of enormous height, their colour indescribable, deepest and reddest near the pine-draped bases, then gradually softening into wonderful tenderness, till the highest summits rose all flushed, and with an illusion of transparency, so that one might believe that they were taking on the hue of sunset. Below these lay broken ravines of fantastic rocks, cleft and canyoned by the river, with a tender unearthly light over all, the apparent warmth of a glowing clime, while I on the north side was in the shadow among the pure unsullied snow.

"'With us the damp, the chill, the gloom;
With them the sunset's rosy bloom.'

"The dimness of earth with me, the light of heaven with them. Here, again, worship seemed the only attitude for a human spirit, and the question was ever present, 'Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?' I rode up and down hills laboriously in snow-drifts, getting off often to ease my faithful Birdie by walking down ice-clad slopes, stopping constantly to feast my eyes upon that changeless glory, always seeing some new ravine, with its depths of colour or miraculous brilliancy of red[Pg 432] or phantasy of form. Then below, where the trail was locked into a deep canyon, where there was scarcely room for it and the river, there was a beauty of another kind in solemn gloom. There the stream curved and twisted marvellously, widening into shallows, narrowing into deep boiling eddies, with pyramidal firs and the beautiful silver spruce fringing its banks, and often falling across it in artistic grace, the gloom chill and deep, with only now and then a light trickling through the pines upon the cold snow, when, suddenly turning round, I saw behind, as if in the glory of an eternal sunset, those flaming and fantastic peaks. The effect of the combination of winter and summer was singular. The trail rose on the north side the whole time, and the snow lay deep and pure white, while not a wreath of it lay on the south side, where abundant lawns basked in the warm sun."[43]

There is something in the majesty of mountain scenery, in the lofty peaks, the shadowy ravines, and the tremendous precipices; in the glow and light and glory which the sun pours out upon the heights, and the strange gloom and haunted darkness which sleep in the mysterious depths, that deeply impresses the imagination and the thoughts of men, and appeals to that higher, purer nature which too often lies dormant in us. However unmoved we may be by the ordinary sights and[Pg 433] sounds which fill up the landscapes, we are most of us hushed and breathless among the mountains, mutely acknowledging the manifestations of a Presence and a Power which are not of the earth—earthy. As the rose of dawn blushes on each waving crest in the birth-hour of the day, or the purple splendour invests them in regal robes when the sun goes down, they seem to reveal to us a vision of the other world; those changing lights that fall upon them are surely the passing gleams of wings of angels; those mystic voices that linger among their echoes, what can they be but the divine chords of that glorious harmony which for ever goes up around the "great white throne"?

Let us now glance at one or two of the personal experiences of Miss Bird, who, we need hardly say, carried in her bosom a man's heart, and was never wanting in courage or resolution. Among the Rocky Mountains one sometimes meets with strange companions; and on her ride from Hall's Gulch to Deer Valley Miss Bird was joined by a horseman, who would have made a fine hero of melodrama. A picturesque figure he looked on his good horse, with his long fair curls drooping from under a big slouch hat almost to his waist; a fine beard, good blue eyes, a ruddy complexion, a frank expression of countenance, and a courteous, respectful bearing. He wore a hunter's buckskin suit, ornamented with beads, and a pair of very big brass spurs. His saddle was elaborately ornamented.[Pg 434] What chiefly drew attention in his equipment was the number of weapons hung about him; he was a small arsenal in himself! Two revolvers and a knife were thrust into his belt, and across his back was slung a carbine; in addition, he had a rifle resting on his saddle, and a pair of pistols in the holsters.

This martial rider was Comanche Bill, whom gossip described as one of the most notorious desperadoes of the Rocky Mountains, and the greatest Indian "exterminator" on the frontier. His father and family had been massacred at Spirit Lake by the hands of Indians, who carried away his sister, a child of eleven. Since then he had mainly devoted himself to the double task of revenging the victims and searching for this missing sister.

Riding from Golden City, a place which every day and every hour gave the lie to its gorgeous name, Miss Bird lost her way on the prairie. A teamster bade her go forward to a place where three tracks would be seen, and then to take the best-travelled one, steering all the time by the north star. Following his directions she came to tracks, but it was then so dark she could see nothing, and soon the darkness so increased that she could not see even her horse's ears, and was lost and benighted. Hour after hour our heroine—for a lady who crosses the Rocky Mountains alone may surely claim the title!—rode onward in the darkness and solitude, the prairie sweeping all around her, and a firmament of frosty stars glittering overhead. At[Pg 435] intervals might be heard the howl of the prairie wolf, and the occasional lowing of cattle gave her hope of the neighbourhood of man. But there was nothing but the wild and lonely plain, and she felt a keen desire to see a light or hear a voice, the solitude was so oppressive. It was very cold, and a hard frost lay on the ground. At last, however, she heard the bark of a dog, and then the too common sound of a man swearing; she saw a light, and in another minute found herself at a large house eleven miles from Denver, where a hospitable reception cheered the belated traveller.

Here is another and more startling episode, which occurred during her journey from Esteo "Park" to Longmount, a ride of 100 miles on a bitter cold December morning:—

"We all got up before daybreak on Tuesday, and breakfasted at seven.... I took only two pounds of luggage, some raisins, the mail bag, and an additional blanket under my saddle.... The purple sun rose in front. Had I known what made it purple I should certainly have gone no farther. These clouds, the morning mist as I supposed, lifted themselves up rose-lighted, showing the sun's disc as purple as one of the jars in a chemist's window, and having permitted this glimpse of their king, came down again as a dense mist; the wind chopped round, and the mist began to freeze hard. Soon Birdie and myself[Pg 436] were a mass of acicular crystals; it was a true easterly fog. I galloped on, hoping to get through it, unable to see a yard before me; but it thickened, and I was obliged to subside into a jog-trot. As I rode on, about four miles from the cabin, a human figure, looking gigantic like the spectre of the Brocken, with long hair white as snow, appeared close to me, and at the same moment there was the flash of a pistol close to my ear, and I recognized 'Mountain Jim,' frozen from head to foot, looking a century old with his snowy hair. It was 'ugly' altogether, certainly a 'desperado's' grim jest, and it was best to accept it as such, though I had just cause for displeasure. He stormed and scolded, dragged me off the pony—for my hands and feet were numb with cold—took the bridle, and went off at a rapid stride, so that I had to run to keep them in sight in the darkness, for we were off the road in a thicket of scrub, looking like white branch-coral, I knew not where. Then we came suddenly on his cabin ... and the 'ruffian' insisted on my going in, and he made a good fire, and heated some coffee, raging all the time.... He took me back to the track; and the interview, which began with a pistol-shot, ended quite pleasantly. It was an eerie ride, one not to be forgotten, though there was no danger."

It would be difficult to point out any deficiency on Miss Bird's part in those qualifications which constitute a great traveller. Physically as well as mentally she seems to have proved herself the equal of men.[Pg 437] Endurance, courage, promptitude, decision, the capacity for quiet and accurate observation, the ready adaptability to circumstances—she possessed all these high virtues. Her "Ride in the Rocky Mountains" shows what may be accomplished by a brave, strong woman under very difficult conditions. In one respect, perhaps, her sex was an advantage; it appears to have ensured her an uniform courtesy of treatment and cordiality of reception in the most remote places and among the wildest and most reckless men; but it is obvious that in other respects it must frequently have been found an inconvenience and even a danger, had it not been for her true patience, her unfailing good humour, and her indomitable "pluck."

Miss Bird is also the author of a charming book on Hawaii, and a not less charming record of her wanderings in "Unbeaten Tracks in Japan."

Time was, and not so very long ago, when a visit to the wilds of Patagonia on the part of an English lady would have been regarded as a wonderful achievement. Now-a-days it excites but little comment The interest excited by Lady Florence Dixie's book, "Across Patagonia," was the legitimate interest inspired by her fresh and lively description of "unexplored and untrodden ground," and not the idle curiosity which a sensational achievement sometimes excites. If one lady can make a voyage round the world, why should not another ride across Patagonia? To our grandmothers a French or[Pg 438] Italian tour was an event of novelty and importance; but nous avons changé tout cela. It is quite understood that no "terra incognita" exists into which our female travellers would fear to penetrate.

Lady Florence Dixie frankly tells us her reason for venturing into Patagonia, and no doubt it is the reason which has actuated many of her sisters in their world-wanderings. She went to "an outlandish place so many miles away"—as her friends called it—"precisely because it was an outlandish place and so far away." She adds: "Palled for the moment with civilization and its surroundings, I wanted to escape somewhere where I might be as far removed from them as possible. Many of my readers have doubtless felt the dissatisfaction with oneself and everybody else that comes over one at times in the midst of the pleasures of life; when one wearies of the shallow artificiality of modern existence; when what was once excitement has become so no longer, and a longing grows up within one to taste a more vigorous unction than that afforded by the monotonous round of society's so-called pleasures."

In this state of mind she looked round for some country that would satisfy her requirements, and decided upon Patagonia, because nowhere else could she find an area of 100,000 square miles for "equestrian exercise," where one would be free from the presence of savage tribes and obnoxious animals, as well as from the persecution of morning calls, invitations, garden parties, telegrams, letters, and all the other "resources of civilization."[Pg 439] To these attractions was added the thought, always alluring to an active mind, that there she would be able to penetrate into vast wilds, untrod as yet by the foot of man. "Scenes of infinite beauty and grandeur might be lying hidden in the silent solitude of the mountains which bound the barren plains of the Pampas, into whose mysterious recesses no one as yet had ever ventured. And I was to be the first to behold them!—an egotistical pleasure, it is true; but the idea had a great charm for me, as it has had for many others."

Accompanied by her husband, brothers, and three friends, Lady Florence left Liverpool on the 11th December, 1878. Early in January they reached Rio de Janeiro, of which she furnishes a pleasantly graphic sketch, that gives a true idea of her descriptive powers. "Nowhere," she says, "have the rugged and the tender, the wild and the soft, been blended into such exquisite union as at Rio; and it is this quality of unrivalled contrasts that, to my mind, gives to that scenery its charm of unsurpassed loveliness. Nowhere else is there such audacity, such fierceness even of outline, coupled with such multiform splendour of colour, such fairy-like delicacy of detail. As a precious jewel is encrusted by the coarse rock, the smiling bay lies encircled by frowning mountains of colossal proportions and the most capricious shapes. In the production of this work the most opposite powers of nature have been laid under contribution. The awful work of the volcano—the immense boulders of rock which lie piled up to the[Pg 440] clouds in irregular masses—have been clothed in a brilliant web of tropical vegetation, purple and green, sunshine and mist. Here nature revels in manifold creation. Life multiplies itself a millionfold, the soil bursts with exuberance of fertility, and the profusion of vegetable and animal life beggars description. Every tree is clothed with a thousand luxuriant creepers, purple and scarlet-blossomed; they in their turn support myriads of lichens and other verdant parasites. The plants shoot up with marvellous rapidity, and glitter with flowers of the rarest hues and shapes, or bear quantities of luscious fruit, pleasant to the eye and sweet to the taste. The air resounds with the hum of insect-life; through the bright green leaves of the banana skim the sparkling humming-birds, and gorgeous butterflies of enormous size float, glowing with every colour of the rainbow, on the flower-scented breezes. But over all this beauty—over the luxuriance of vegetation, over the softness of the tropical air, over the splendour of the sunshine, over the perfume of the flowers—Pestilence has cast her fatal miasmas, and, like the sword of Damocles, the yellow fever hangs threateningly over the heads of those who dwell among these lovely scenes."[44]

After touching at Monte Video, Lady Florence Dixie's party proceeded southwards to the Straits of Magellan, and landed at Sandy Point, a settlement belonging to[Pg 441] the Chilians, who call it "La Colonia de Magellanes." Here they procured horses and mules and four guides, and, having completed all the necessary arrangements, rode along the shore of the famous Strait to Cape Negro. On the opposite side they could distinctly see the Tierra del Fuego, and at different points tall columns of smoke rising up into the still air denoted the presence of native encampments, just as Magellan had seen them four centuries ago, when he gave to the island, on that account, the name it still bears. At last they started into the interior, and began their exploration of the wide region of the Pampas. Game was plentiful, and the fowling-pieces of the party brought down numerous victims. As they advanced they came into occasional contact with the Patagonians, and her observations of their physical character are important and valuable in relation to the marvellous accounts which we find in the old voyagers. "I was not so much struck by their height," she says, "as by their extraordinary development of chest and muscle. As regards their stature, I do not think the average height of the men exceeded six feet, and, as my husband stands six feet two inches, I had a favourable opportunity for forming an accurate estimate. One or two there were, certainly, who towered far above him, but these were exceptions. The women were mostly of the ordinary height, though I noticed one who must have been quite six feet, if not more."

Lady Florence speaks of the features of the pure-bred Tchuelche, or Patagonian aboriginal as extremely regular,[Pg 442] and by no means unpleasant to look at. "The nose is generally aquiline, the mouth well-shaped and beautified by the whitest of teeth, the expression of the eye intelligent, while the form of the whole head indicates the possession of considerable mental capabilities. But such is not the case with the Tchuelches in whose veins is a mixture of Fuegian or Araucanian blood. Of these latter the flat noses, oblique eyes, and badly proportioned figures excite disgust, and they are as different from a pure-bred Tchuelche as a racer is from an ordinary cart-horse. Their long coarse hair is worn parted in the middle, and is prevented from falling over their faces by means of a handkerchief, or fillet of some kind, bound round the forehead. They suffer no hair to grow on the face, and some extract even their eyebrows. Their dress is simple, consisting of a 'chiripa' or piece of cloth round the loins, and the indispensable guanaco cape, which is hung loosely over the shoulders and held round the body by the hand, though it would obviously seem more convenient to have it secured round the waist with a belt of some kind. Their horse-hide boots are only worn, for reasons of economy, when hunting. The women dress like the men except as regards the chiripa, instead of which they wear a loose kind of gown beneath the cape, which they fasten at the neck with a silver brooch or pin. The children are allowed to run about naked till they are five or six years old, and are then dressed like their elders. Partly for ornament, partly also as a means of protection against the wind, a great many Indians[Pg 443] paint their faces, their favourite colour, as far as I could see, being red, though one or two I observed had given the preference to a mixture of that colour with black, a very diabolical appearance being the result of this combination."

We cannot follow Lady Florence Dixie through all her Patagonian experiences, which in their infinite variety must have fully satisfied her craving for new things. She hunted pumas, ostriches, guanacos; witnessed the wild and wayward movements of the wild horses on the plains, which for ages have belonged unto them; suffered from the burden of the heat, and the attacks of the gnats; explored the recesses of the Cordilleras, and came upon a broad and beautiful lake, on which, in all probability, no human eye before had ever looked; until at last she grew weary of adventure, and she and her companions turned their faces once more towards the commonplace comforts of civilization. All this, and more, she tells with much animation, quite unaffectedly, and in a style which, if marked by no special literary merit, is always clear and vigorous. One can do much worse than while away an hour by the fireside with Lady Florence Dixie's book in one's hand. One will close it with the conviction that the writer is a courageous, lively, and intelligent woman, who can ride across country with a firm hand, and hold her own in any dangerous or novel position.

Not inferior to her in courage and endurance, and[Pg 444] her superior in literary qualifications, is Miss Gordon Cumming, who, I think, among female travellers has no rival except Ida Pfeiffer. The worthy representative of a name famous in the annals of adventure and enterprise, she has put a girdle round about the world with unfailing ardour, and plunged into the remote and almost inaccessible regions of the great Asiatic table-land. Her first book, "From the Hebrides to the Himalayas," attracted a great deal of attention by the freshness of its sketches, the grace of its style, the unconventionality of its treatment, and by the space which its author devoted to popular superstitions and antiquities. Her pictures of life in Tibet, of the scenery of the Himalayas, of the manners and customs of the Indian people, of Benares and Hurdwar and Agra, were all so bright and clear as to indicate the pencil of no ordinary artist. Miss Gordon Cumming next betook herself to the Pacific, and spent two years "at Home in Fiji;" two years which she utilized in the collection of much interesting material. She was preparing in 1880 to return to England, when an opportunity was offered to her of effecting that return in a manner which could not but be delightful to a lady of adventurous disposition, with a proper scorn for social "Mrs. Grundyism." A French man-of-war, the Seignelay, which was carrying a Roman Catholic bishop on a cruise round his oceanic diocese, arrived at Levaka, and its officers making the acquaintance of Miss Cumming, courteously invited her to accompany them on the[Pg 445] remainder of their cruise. There was a delightful originality in the invitation, and a no less delightful originality in the acceptance of it. The French officers fitted up a pretty little cabin for her accommodation, and without more ado she took up her quarters on board the Seignelay, with no other escort or chaperonage than that of the good bishop.

From Fiji the Seignelay proceeded to Tonga, in the Friendly Islands, where, in the usages of the population and in the insular antiquities, Miss Cumming found much to interest her and her readers. As might be expected, the old picturesqueness of the native life is fast disappearing under the pressure of Western civilization, and we have reason to be thankful to those travellers who do their best to catch its waning features, and transfer them as faithfully as may be to the printed page. The chief archæological curiosities here are the tombs of the old Tongan kings, cyclopean monuments built up of huge volcanic blocks, which seem to have been brought from the Wallis group of islands in open canoes, and erected on their present site with an immense expenditure of human labour. Scarcely less remarkable is the great solitary dolmen, which still exists intact, though of its origin nothing is known, even in tradition. But that it marks the last resting-place of some great chief or hero may be inferred from the fact that until within the last few years an immense Kana tent stood upon the transverse capstone of the dolmen, and that feasts were celebrated on the spot.[Pg 446] As Miss Cumming reminds, similar celebrations take place in many parts of Britain and Brittany "at the stones" to the present day.

From Tonga Miss Cumming was conveyed to Samoa, where she was very hospitably received by the Samoan notables, and might have enjoyed herself greatly, but for the civil war in which the group is always plunged. It is to the credit of the inhabitants, however, that they agree to abstain from fighting on at least one day of the week. In their manners and customs they retain more of the primitive simplicity than is found now-a-days in most of the Polynesian islands.

Her descriptions of Tahiti, the Eden of the Pacific, are not less glowing than those of her predecessors, from Wallis and Bougainville down to "the Earl and the Doctor." They are full of warm, rich colour, as might have been expected from one who is an artist as well as an author, and set before us such a succession of vivid and enchanting landscapes as hardly any other portion of this wide, wide world can parallel; for with the bold majesty of Alpine peaks is combined the luxuriant grace of tropical forests, and valleys as beautiful as that of Tempe open out upon a boundless ocean as blue as the sky it glasses. Add to this that the vegetation has a charm of its own—the feathery palm and the bread-fruit tree lending to it a quite distinctive character. Here is a vignette, which will give the reader some notion of this enchanting Tahitian scenery:—"We rode along the green glades, through the usual successions[Pg 447] of glorious foliage; groves of magnificent bread-fruit trees, indigenous to those isles; next a clump of noble mango-trees, recently imported, but now quite at home; then a group of tall palms, or a long avenue of gigantic bananas, their leaves sometimes twelve feet long, meeting over our heads. Then came patches of sugar or Indian corn, and next a plantation of vanilla, trained to climb over closely-planted tall coffee, or else over vermilion bushes. Sometimes it is planted without more ado at the root of pruned guava bushes. These grow wild over the whole country, loaded with large, excellent fruit, and, moreover, supply the whole fuel of the isles, and good food for cattle.... Amidst all this wealth of food-producing vegetation, I sometimes looked in vain for any trees that were merely ornamental; and literally there were only the yellow hibiscus, which yields a useful fibre, and the candle-nut, covered with clusters of white blossoms, somewhat resembling white lilac, and bearing nuts with oily kernels, whence the tree derives its name."[45]

Here is a larger picture, taken on one of the smaller islands of the Society archipelago:—

"I fear no description can possibly convey to your mind a true picture of the lovely woods through which we wander just where fancy leads us, knowing that no hurtful creature of any sort lurks among the mossy rocks or in the rich undergrowth of ferns. Here and[Pg 448] there we come on patches of soft green turf, delightfully suggestive of rest, beneath the broad shadow of some great tree with buttressed roots; but more often the broken rays of sunlight gleam in ten thousand reflected lights, dancing and glancing as they shimmer on glossy leaves of every form and shade—from the huge silky leaves of the wild plantain or the giant arum to the waving palm-fronds, which are so rarely at rest, but flash and gleam like polished swords as they bend and twist with every breath of air.

"It has just occurred to me that probably you have no very distinct idea of the shape of a cocoa-palm leaf, which does not bear the slightest resemblance to the palmettes in the greenhouses. It consists of a strong mid-rib about eight feet long, which, at the end next to the tree, spreads out very much as your two clenched fists, placed side by side, do from your wrists. The other end tapers to a point. For a space of about two feet the stalk is bare; then along the remaining six feet a regiment of short swords, graduated from two feet to eighteen inches in length, are set close together on each side of the mid-rib. Of course, the faintest stir of the leaf causes these multitudinous swordlets to flash in the sunlight. Hence the continual effect of glittering light.

"A little lower than these tall queens of the coral-isles rise fairy-like canopies of graceful tree-ferns, often festooned with most delicate lianas; and there are places where not these only, but the larger trees, are literally matted together by the dense growth of the beautiful[Pg 449] large-leaved white convolvulus, or the smaller lilac ipomaæ, which twines round the tall stems of the palms, and overspreads the light fronds like some green waterfall. Many of the larger trees are clothed with parasitic ferns; huge bird's-nest ferns grow in the forks of the branches, as do various orchids, the dainty children of the mist, so that the stems are well-nigh as green as everything else in that wilderness of lovely forms. It is a very inanimate paradise, however. I rarely see any birds or butterflies, only a few lizards and an occasional dragon-fly; and the voice of singing-birds, such as gladden our hearts in humble English woods, is here mute; so we have at least this compensation for the lack of all the wild luxuriance which here is so fascinating."

From Miss Cumming's animated pages we might continue to borrow with advantage to our readers. But we must rest satisfied with one more picture, and this shall be a view of the Tahitian market-place at Papeete:—

"Passing by roads which are called streets, but are rather shady bowers of yellow hibiscus and bread-fruit trees, I entered the covered market-place, where was assembled as gay a throng as you could wish to see, many of them dressed in flowing robes of the very brightest colours; for the people here assembled are chiefly le peuple, whose days of ceremonial mourning for their good old queen are drawing to a close; so the long tresses of glossy black hair, hitherto so carefully hidden within their jaunty little sailor-hats, are[Pg 450] now again suffered to hang at full length in two silky plaits, and hair and hats are wreathed with bright fragrant flowers of double Cape jessamine, orange blossom, scarlet hibiscus, or oleander. Many wear a delicate white jessamine star in the ear in place of an ear-ring. The people here are not so winsome as those in remoter districts. Too much contact with shipping and grog-shops has, of course, gone far to deteriorate them, and take off the freshness of life; but a South Sea crowd is always made up of groups pleasant to the eye; and a party of girls dressed in long graceful sacques of pale sea-green, or delicate pink, pure white, or bright crimson, chatting and laughing as they roll up minute fragments of tobacco in strips of pandameo or banana to supply the inevitable cigarette, is always attractive.

"The men all wear pavus of Manchester cotton stuff, prepared expressly for these isles, and of the most wonderful patterns. Those most in favour are bright crimson, with a large white pattern, perhaps groups of red crowns on circles of white, arranged on a scarlet ground, or else rows of white crowns alternating with groups of stars. A dark blue ground with circles and crosses in bright yellow, or scarlet with yellow anchors and circles, also find great favour; and though they certainly sound 'loud' when thus described, they are singularly effective. It is wonderful what a variety of patterns can be produced, not one of which has ever been seen in England. With these, the men wear white[Pg 451] shirts and sailors' hats, with bright-coloured silk handkerchiefs tied over them and knotted on the ear; or else a gay garland....

"Every one brings to the morning market whatever he happens to have for sale. Some days he has a large stock-in-trade, sometimes next to nothing. But, be it little or be it much, he divides it into two lots, and slings his parcels or baskets from a light bamboo pole which rests across his shoulder, and, light as it is, often weighs more than the trifles suspended from it; perhaps a few shrimps in a green leaf are slung from one end, and a lobster from the other, or, it may be, a tiny basket of new-laid eggs balanced by half a dozen silvery fishes.

"But often the burden is so heavy that the pole bends with the weight—of perhaps two huge bunches of mountain bananas, and you think how that poor fellow's shoulder must have ached as he carried his spoil down the steep mountain path from the cleft in the rugged rock where the faces had contrived to take root. These resemble bunches of gigantic golden plums. As a bit of colour they are glorious, but as a vegetable I cannot learn to like them, which is perhaps as well, as the native proverb says that the foreigner who does appreciate faces can never stay away from Tahiti.

"As you enter the cool, shady market, you see hundreds of those golden clusters hanging from ropes stretched across the building, and great bunches of mangoes and oranges. These last lie heaped in baskets[Pg 452] among cool green leaves. Sometimes a whole laden bough has been recklessly cut off. Pine-apples, bread-fruit, cocoa-nut, all are there, and baskets of scarlet tomatoes, suggestive of cool salads."[46]

We must pass over with a word of allusion Mrs. Macquoid's entertaining records of her tours in Normandy and Brittany, and the Ardennes, where she found the scenery which gives so much picturesqueness of character to some of her best fictions. Nor can we undertake to dwell on Mrs. Mulhall's "Between the Amazon and the Andes," though it deals with a region not by any means familiarly known even to geographers, and is undoubtedly a valuable addition to the literature of South American travel. Mrs. Minto Elliot has written two pleasant volumes descriptive of the experiences of "An Idle Woman in Sicily," but they contain nothing very new or striking. Of higher value is Lady Duffus Hardy's "Tour in America," and still higher value Lady Anne Blunt's "Pilgrimage to Nijd." Mrs. T. F. Hughes embodies much curious and suggestive information in her account of a "Residence in China." Miss Gertrude Forde's "Lady's Tour in Corsica" is an interesting supplement to previous works on that romantic island.

"What We Saw in Australia" is the journal of two sisters, Florence and Rosamond Hill, who, without[Pg 453] servants or escort, accomplished the voyage to the great island-continent; visited Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, with all the remarkable places in the vicinity of each; made a trip to Tasmania, and returned home by way of Bombay, Egypt, and Italy. "We encountered," they say, "no gales of any severity, have to record no alarming adventures, and returned to England after sixteen months' absence, convinced by experience that to persons of average health and strength the difficulties of such a journey exist only in the imagination. It may, we feel sure, be accomplished with ease and comfort by ladies unprovided with servants or escort." The sisters were insatiable in the pursuit of information, and their book affords a tolerably comprehensive view of the economic and social conditions of the Australian colonies. Thus, we are told that "the number of post-offices throughout South Australia is 348, employing 336 officials, besides fifty-six others, who are also engaged in telegraph work. Mails are despatched by every steamer to Melbourne, and three times weekly overland, the latter journey occupying ninety-six hours. Mail-omnibuses convey the country letters where the roads are good, which is the case for many miles out of town in numerous directions. For more distant places coaches are used, much resembling a box hung high upon four wheels; all the parts are very strong, and leathern curtains over the windows largely take the place of glass, the presence of which is undesirable in a break-down or roll over.[Pg 454] The interior is provided with straps to be clung to by the unhappy passengers as the vehicle pursues its bumping way." Orphan schools, institutes, reformatories, cabs, museums, hospitals, prisons—all attracted the attention of the two travellers, who are much to be commended for their scrupulous attention to accuracy. But they did not neglect the various aspects of Australian scenery, so far as they came within their purview. They did not penetrate into the interior, and their range was not very wide or novel, but what they saw they describe with characteristic and pains-taking fidelity. Here is their description of Govat's Leap, a remarkable valley, one of the lions of New South Wales, about five miles from Mount Victoria:—

"We followed for a considerable distance the high road to Bathurst cut through the bush. The mass of gum-trees on either side looked beautiful in their fresh summer foliage. The young shoots are crimson, and when seen against the blue sky, the sunshine gleaming through them, the tree seems covered with gorgeous blossom. Leaving the road, we turned into the scrub, and drove over a sandy soil among small gum-trees and smaller scrub. When at length we quitted the carriage and had followed our guide for a short distance, we suddenly came upon what appeared to be an enormous rift in the ground, which yawned beneath our feet. Far below was an undulating mass of foliage—the tops of a forest of gum-trees, which covered the whole bed of the valley. Vast was the height from which we looked down,[Pg 455] so that the trees had the appearance of perfect stillness, forming in the glorious sunshine a lovely crimson-tinted carpet, the shadows cast upon them by the clouds giving continual variety to the colouring. At the upper end of the valley, towards the west, the cliffs on either side were somewhat depressed. Here a streamlet fell over the rocks, a sheer descent of 1,200 feet, but so gentle its fall appeared, as we watched it obliquely across the valley, that the water looked like marabout feathers softly floating downwards. Towards the bottom it vanished from our sight among large stones, and if in that dry season the stream made further progress, its course was hidden by the forest at its feet. Turning towards the south, the brown, grey, and yellow rocks rose perpendicularly, the sunshine softening them into a delicious harmony of colour; and so great was the width of the valley, that a waterfall on the opposite cliff looked, from where we stood, like a silver thread against its side. Beyond, the valley bore away in a southerly direction until it was closed in by ranges of overlapping hills of lovely blue—indigo or cobalt—as the blaze of the sun or the shadow of the clouds fell upon them. But for the faint murmur caused either by the falling of the water or the wind among the trees, the place was silent, and it was almost devoid of animal life. A bird or two overhead, and the noiseless lizards who ran over our dresses as we attempted to sketch the scene, represented the whole animal life within sight or hearing."[47]

[Pg 456]

Lady Barker is a practised writer, and a good deal of literary skill is shown in her books of travel, "Station Life in New Zealand" and "A Year's Housekeeping in South Africa." Pleasanter reading one could hardly wish for; the sketches are vivid, and the observations judicious; the style is fluent, and flavoured by a genial and unobtrusive humour. Lady Barker looks at things, of course, with a woman's eye, and this womanliness is one of the charms of her books. She sees so much that no man would ever have seen, and sees it all in a light so different from that in which men would have seen it. To our knowledge of South Africa, Lady Barker has unquestionably made a very real and interesting contribution. She and her husband, who had been appointed to an official position of importance in Natal, arrived at Cape Town in October, 1875, and, after a brief rest, steamed along the coast to the little port of East London. Thence they proceeded to Port Durban, where they disembarked, and, in waggons drawn by mules, jolted over the fifty-two miles that lie between Port Durban and their place of destination, Maritzburg. During her residence there she made good use of her time and opportunities, studying the native ways and usages, sketching Zulus and Kaffirs, interviewing witches and witch-finders, exploring the scenery of the interior, and accomplishing an expedition into the Bush, the result being a book of some 320 pages, in which not one is dull or unreadable. Of her lightness and firmness of touch we can give but one specimen, a sketch of a Kaffir bride:[Pg 457]

"She was exceedingly smart, and had one of the prettiest faces imaginable. The regular features, oval face, dazzling teeth, and charming expression, were not a bit disfigured by her jet-black skin. Her hair was drawn straight up from her head like a tiara, stained red, and ornamented with a profusion of bone skewers, a tuft of feathers being stuck coquettishly over one ear, and a band of bead embroidery, studded with brass-headed nails, worn like a fillet where the hair grew low on the forehead. She had a kilt, or series of aprons rather, of lynx skins, a sort of bodice of calf-skin, and over her shoulders, arranged with ineffable grace, a gay table-cover. Then there were strings of beads on her pretty, shapely throat and arms, and a bright scarlet ribbon tied tightly round each ankle. All the rest of the party seemed immensely proud of this young person, and were very anxious to put her forward in every way. Indeed, all the other women, mostly hard-working, hard-featured matrons, prematurely aged, took no more part in the visit than the chorus of a Greek play, always excepting the old luduna, or headman of the village, who came as escort, and in charge of the whole party. This was a most garrulous and amusing individual, full of reminiscences and anecdotes of his fighting days. He was rather more frank than most warriors, who 'shoulder their crutch, and show how fields are won;' for the usual end of his battle stories was the naïve confession, 'and then I thought I should be killed, and so I ran away.' He and I used up a great many interpreters[Pg 458] in the course of the visit; for he wearied every one out, and nothing made him so angry as any attempt to condense his conversation in translating it to me. But he was great fun; polite as became an old soldier, full of compliments and assurances that 'now the happiest day of his life having come, he desired to live no longer, but was ready for death.' The visit took place on the shady side of the verandah, and thither I brought a large musical box and set it down on the ground to play. Never was there such a success. In a moment they were all down on their knees before it listening with rapt delight, the old man telling them the music was caused by very little people inside the box, who were obliged to do exactly as I bade them. They were in a perfect ecstasy of delight for ever so long, retreating rapidly, however, to a distance whenever I wound it up. The old luduna took snuff copiously all the time, and made me affectionate speeches, which resulted in the gift of an old great coat, which he assured me he never would live to wear out, because he was quite in a hurry to die and go to the white man's land now that he had seen me."[48]

Of all the European countries, Hungary, we think, is the one least represented in our English literature of travel, though to Englishmen it might seem to have peculiar attractions, in virtue of its romantic scenery, its[Pg 459] historical associations, and the brave, independent, and vigorous character of its inhabitants. "Its history is that of Greece," says a German writer; "the same heroism lives within its borders, the names of its heroes alone have changed." We turn, therefore, with interest, while writing these last pages, to "Magyarland," a lady's "Narrative of Travels through the Highlands and Lowlands of Hungary." She entered Hungary on the side of its majestic Aljöla, or plains, which extend over an area of 5,400 square miles, and in some places are inhospitable sandy wastes; in some, highly cultivated; in others, green and flowery pastures, where large herds of horses and cattle roam unfettered. These plains are inhabited by various races—the Magyars, who are the dominant people; the Wallachs, who dwell in the easternmost districts; the Germans, Saxons, and Shecklers. South-west of the Carpathians live the Slovaks; in Croatia and Servia the Croat Serbs; and in the provinces south-east of the Carpathians are the Rusniaks or Ruthenians. About these races, and their manners and customs—about Buda-Pesth and Semlin, and the ice-caves of the snowy Tabree, and the wines of Tokay, and the scenery of Romania, our authoress has much to say with equal liveliness and grace.


[41] Bird: "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains," pp. 89, 90.

[42] Isabella Bird: "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains," pp. 108, 109.

[43] I. L. Bird: "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains," pp. 194-196.

[44] Lady Florence Dixie: "Across Patagonia," pp. 26-28.

[45] C. F. Gordon Cumming: "A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-war," ii. 38, 39.

[46] C. F. Gordon Cumming: "A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War," ii. 177-181.

[47] F. and R. Hill: "What We Saw in Australia," pp. 321, 322.

[48] Lady Barker: "A Year's Housekeeping in South Africa," pp. 312-314.

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