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Mr. M'Leod, that we think our author acted rather injudiciously in dwelling upon it at such length. The notice respecting Java too, after the very ample account which has been given of that magnificent island by the late Governor Raffles, might as well have been omitted; together with the geological discussion on the appearances of the peninsula of the Cape, especially as they have been described more fully and more scientifically by Captain Hall in the Philosophical Transactions of Edinburgh.
On anchoring at St. Helena, Lord Amherst paid a visit to Buonaparte, who, having previous notice of his intention, and being furnished with a catalogue raisonnée of his suite, was prepared to say something apropos to each individual. At that time he was at the point of dying, as he has been ever since, of an incipient hepatites; -but, says Mr. Abel,
Buonaparte's person had nothing of that morbid fulness which I had been led to look for. On the contrary, I scarcely recollect to have seen a form more expressive of strength and even of vigour. It is true that he was very large, considering his height, which is about five feet seven inches; but his largeness had nothing of unwieldiness. The fine proportion of his limbs, which has been often noticed, was still preserved. His legs, although very muscular, had the exactest symmetry. His whole form, indeed, was so closely knit, that firmness might be said to be its striking characteristic. His standing posture had a remarkable statue-like fixedness about it, which seemed scarcely to belong to the graceful ease of his step. The most remarkable character of his countenance was, to me, its variableness. Buonaparte has the habit of earnestly gazing for a few seconds upon the person whom he was about to address; and whilst thus occupied holds his features in perfect repose. The character of his countenance in this state, especially when viewed in profile, might be called settled design. But the instant that he enters into conversation his features express any force or kind of emotion with suddenness and ease. His eye, especially, seems not only to alter its expression, but its colour. I am sure, had I only noticed it while the muscles of the face, and particularly of the forehead, were in play, I should have called it a very dark eye; on the contrary, when at rest, I had remarked its light colour and peculiar glary lustre. Nothing, indeed, could better prove its changeable character than the difference of opinion which occurred amongst us respecting its colour. Although each person of the embassy naturally fixed his attention on Napoleon's countenance, all did not agree on the colour of his eyes.
There was nothing in the appearance of Buonaparte which led us to think that his health had at all suffered from his captivity. On the contrary, his repletion seemed to be the consequence of active nourishment. His form had all that tone, and his movement all that elasticity, which indicate and spring from powerful health. Indeed, whatever sympathy we felt for the situation of any of the prisoners received no
increase from any commiseration for their bodily sufferings: they were all in excellent plight.'-p. 516, 317.
The volume concludes with an Appendix of various papers on subjects of natural history, chiefly plants of China; and the same official documents which have already been printed by Mr. Ellis. Making due allowance for all the disadvantages against which Mr. Abel has had to contend, we cannot but think that he has produced a very respectable work; it is rather his misfortune than his fault, that his labours have been anticipated, and thus deprived of that charm of novelty which could alone recommend them to the general reader.
ART. V.-Fairy Tales, or the Lilliputian Cabinet, containing Twenty-four choice pieces of Fancy and Fiction, collected by Benjamin Tabart. Tabart & Co. London. 1818. SINCE our boyish days the literature of the nursery has sustained a mighty alteration: the tone of the reading public has infected the taste of the spelling public. Mr. Benjamin Tabart's collection is, as we understand, considered an acceptable present to the rising generation; yet, though it is by no means devoid of merit, it recals but faintly the pleasant homeliness of the narrations which used to delight us in those happy times when we were still pinned to our nurse's apron-strings, and which are now thought too childish to deserve a place even in the tiny library of the baby. Even Nurse herself has become strangely fastidious in her taste, and the books which please her are far different from those over which she used to pore, when she put on her spectacles, and took such desperate pains in leading us onwards from great A and little a, and bouncing B, even down to Empesand and Izzard. Scarcely any of the chap books which were formerly sold to the country people at fairs and markets have been able to maintain their ancient popularity; and we have almost witnessed the extinction of this branch of our national literature. Spruce modern novels, and degenerate modern Gothic romances, romances only in name, have expelled the ancient histories' even from their last retreats. The kitchen wench, who thumbs the Mysteries of Udolpho, or the Rose of Raby, won't grieve at all for the death of Fair Rosamond: and the tale of Troy, which, in the days of good Queen Bess,
Would mollify the hearts of barb'rous people,
has lost every jot of its pathos. Local traditions, indeed, cause the works which refer to them to retain their currency. Whilst the effigy of Sir Bevis guards the Bar-gate at Southampton, his achievements may be recollected there. And Guy Earl of Warwick may
thank his punch-bowl for keeping him alive in the memory of his townsmen. But most of the other ancient heroes of chivalry, who defended their posts so long and so sturdily, have been fairly fibbed out of the ring by modern upstarts and pretenders. Gulley, the Champion of England, has supplanted St. George; and since Molineux and Dutch Sam and Scroggins have shewn fight, there is not a shepherd's boy who cares a straw for the prowess of the Nine Grim Worthies of the World, whether Gentile, Jew or Christian. Politics and sectarianism complete the change which has taken place in the contents of the budget of the flying stationer. The old broadside-ballads have given way to the red stamp of the newspaper; and pedlers burn their ungodly story-books like sorcerers of old, and fill their baskets with the productions sanctified by the Imprimatur of the Tabernacle. As for the much lamented Mr. Marshall, now no longer of Aldermary Church-yard, whose cheap and splendid publications at once excited and rewarded our youthful industry, he hath been compelled to shut up his shop long ago. Not a soul in the trade would bid for the copy-right and back stock of Tommy Two Shoes. His penny books are out of print, one and all, and therefore, if things continue to go on as they have done of late years, there is really no telling what sums of money a good copy of the genuine edition of the Life and Death of Cock Robin may not soon fetch under the hammer of Mr. Evans, especially if it should chance to be a 'tall copy,' with 'uncut margins,' graced with clear impressions' of the numerous wood cuts,' and retaining its original' gilt paper binding.
Physiologists investigate the laws of animated life in the animalcules swimming in the rain-drop. The botanist ascends from mosses and lichens to the oak tree and palm. The man of letters should not disdain the chap book, or the nursery story. Humble as these efforts of the human intellect may appear, they shew its secret workings, its mode and progress, and human nature must be studied in all its productions: And we shall observe, in the words of Walter Scott, that a work of great interest might be compiled upon the origin of popular fiction and the transmission of similar tales from age to age and from country to country. The mythology of one period would then appear to pass into the romance of the next century, and that into the nursery tale of the subsequent ages.'
Fiction thus resolves itself into its primitive elements, as by the slow and unceasing action of the rain and wind the solid granite is crumbled into sand. The creations embodied by the vivid imagination of man in the childhood of his race, incorporate themselves in his fond and mistaken faith. Sanctity is given to his day-dreams by the altar of the idol. Then, perhaps, they acquire a deceitful
truth from the genius of the bard. Blended with the mortal hero, the aspect of the god gleams through the vizor of the helmet, or adds a holy dignity to the regal crown. Poetry borrows its ornaments from the lessons of the priest. The ancient God of strength of the Teutons, throned in his chariot of the stars, the northern wain,* invested the Emperor of the Franks and the Paladins who surrounded him with superhuman might. And the same constellation darting down its rays upon the head of the long lost+ Arthur has given to the monarch of the Britons the veneration which once belonged to the son of Uthry Bendragon,' Thunder the Supreme leader,' and' Eygyr the generating power.' But time rolls on: faith lessens, the flocks are led to graze within the rocky circle of the giants. Even the bones of the warriors moulder into dust; the lay is no longer heard; and the fable, reduced again to its original simplicity and nudity, becomes the fitting source of pastime to the untutored peasant and the listening child.
Hence we may yet trace no small proportion of mystic and romantic lore in the tales which gladden the cottage fireside, or, century after century, sooth the infant to its slumbers. When the nursery-maid looks for her sweetheart in the bottom of the tea-cup she is little aware that she is practising the scyphomancy of the Egyptians. We must not now, however, allow ourselves to wander from the realms of popular fiction to the land of popular superstition, although there is so much difficulty in ascertaining their proper boundaries that forgiveness might be readily obtained for the digression. The elves which dance on the wold must be considered as subject to the same laws as the fairies who bless the young prince's christening cap; and the giant who fills up the portal of the castle, or who wields his club upon the roof of the tower, does not differ essentially from the tall black man who carries away the naughty boy, and terrifies the little ruddy-cheeked maiden on the maternal bosom. These man-eaters were generally the great captains of the times. Beware of Melendo!' was the threat of the Moorish mother to her babe. The Moors were driven from Andalusia
*The Great Bear appears to have been known by the name of Charles's Wain among the Teutons and Scandinavians, in the earliest ages. At Upsala, according to an ancient Swedish metrical chronicle, it was placed in the hands of the God Thor,
Satt nacken som ett barn
Siw Stjernor i Handen och Karlewagn.
† Arthur, according to Mr. Owen, is a mythological personage.
Arthur,' he says,
is the Great Bear, as the name actually implies:' (it is odd he did not think of Arctos and Arcturus to strengthen his hypothesis.) And perhaps this constellation, being so near the pole, and sensibly describing a circle in so small a space, is the origin of the round table.'-Southey's Preface to the History of Arthur, p. 3.
He is mentioned in the account of the siege of Huesca in the Cronica General.
dalusia before fear and hatred had distorted the Castilian knight into a monster. But Attila the Hun, the mighty monarch of the book of heroes, degenerated into a blood-thirsty ogre amongst the inhabitants of Gaul who had smarted under his exterminating sword.
The Welch have their Mabonogion, or 'Juvenile amusements,' of undoubted authenticity and antiquity. Some of them are extant in manuscript, others live only in the traditions of the common people. A translation of the former was prepared for the press by Mr. William Owen, to whom Cymric literature is so greatly indebted, but the manuscript was unfortunately lost before publication. These tales possess extraordinary singularity and interest, and a complete collection of them in the original language is, as Mr. Southey remarks, a desideratum in British literature. The Cymry however seem to have little feeling for the productions of their ancestors; and the praiseworthy and patriotic exertions of individuals may cause the Welch nation at large to blush. When a foreigner asks us the names, of the nobility and gentry of the principality who published the Myvyrian Archæology at their own expense, we must answer that it was none of them, but Owen Jones, the Thames-street furrier.
The popular fiction of the Celts is lively in its poetical imagery. Amongst the nations where the blood of the Teutons yet predominates, popular fiction is equally poetical in its cast. Not so in the happier climes of the south of Europe, where the Italian gives a zest to his popular narratives by buffoonery or ribaldry. A considerable portion of the fairy tales contained in the Pentamerone, overo Trattenemiento de li Piccerille,' or Entertainment for the Little Ones,' together with those from the Nights of Signor Straparola, exhibit the inhabitants of Peristan as their chief characters, though not always retaining their eastern grace and beauty. Giovan' Battista Basile, who published his work under the fictitious name of Gian Alesso Abbatutis, compiled the Pentamerone* from the old stories current amongst the Neapolitans, and the work is written wholly in his native Neapolitan dialect, a language, not a jargon as it is absurdly called by the Tuscans, which was cultivated at a much earlier period than the volgar' illustre of Tuscany. The narrative which connects the stories is invented by the Cavalier Basile himself; the tales are told with characteristic oddity by the ten old women of the city, whose tongues run most glibly, to wit-Zoza Scioffata, Cecca Storta, Meneca Vozzolosa, Tolla Nasuta, Popa Scartellata, Antonella Vavosa, Ciulla Mossuta, Paola Sgargiata,
Rodriguez Gallinato. Tomaron del tan gran miedo los Moros que quando algun niño liorava, decienle, Cata Melendo!
*Il Pentamerone,...... overo Trattenemiento de li Piccerille, di Gian Alesso Abbatutis novamente restampato, e co tutte le Zeremonie corrietto 'n Napole. 1714.