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ART. XVI. Voyage par terre de Santo Dominga, &c. ; i. e. Travels from the Capital of the Spanish Part of Saint Domingo to Cape François, the Capital of the French Part of that Island; with a Report of the State of the Mines of the Spanish Colony, translated from Don Juan Nieto, Mineralogist to His Catholic Majesty. To which is subjoined a Detail under the Title of My return to France. By DORVO SOULASTRE, formerly Advocate and ex-Commissary of the Government at St. Domingo. 8vo. pp. 407. Paris. 1809. Imported by Dulau and Co. Price 10s.
HAD we not been aware of the existence in Paris, as well as in London, of the precious art of book-making, this publication would have let us into the secret. M. SOULASTRE dedicates his book, with no little appearance of consequence, to Prince Cambacérès; and he adds an introduction which, like the title, is calculated to convey the idea that the work consists of a description of a journey through the interior of St. Domingo. Of a thick volume, however, only 89 pages are appropriated to that subject; a few are added on the state of the mines; and the remaining three fourths, intitled "Mon retour en France," contain a visit to the isle of Cuba, where the author, observing the tomb-stone of Captain Ducloz, cannot refrain from devoting 173 pages to that gentleman's history. The materials, therefore, which ought to have been compressed into a small pamphlet, are thus spun out into an 8vo volume; and the reader, who is deliberately searching for an addition to his stock of geographical and statistical information, finds himself transported into the regions of imagination, and his sympathy assailed by a tale of romantic adventures.
Nevertheless, that part of the book which treats of the island of St. Domingo is not altogether deficient in interest. The author was an Army-Commissary in the small expedition which sailed from Brest for St. Domingo, in February 1798, under General Hédouville. They reached their destination, the town of St. Domingo, in safety, and marched across the island in a north-west direction to Cape François, having traversed nearly the whole of the Spanish quarter. The reason for sending the expedition to a harbour at such a distance from the Cape was to shew the inhabitants of the Spanish quarter (then lately ceded to France, and a cession which was by no means popular,) that a French force had arrived, and was acquainted with the roads and passes. Ten days after the termination of this march, an earthquake took place at the Cape, which the author thus describes: (page 22.)
On the preceding evening, the clouds had sunk extremely low, the horizon appeared close to us, and the heat had become insupportable.
We could not be said to breathe, we panted; and although not making the least movement, we were covered with copious perspiration, which ran off at the points of our fingers. We remained in this painful condition till one o'clock in the morning, when the want of air became complete, and our difficulty in breathing was similar to that of an animal placed under an air-pump. The eonsternation now became general: every one ran from his residence, and fled either into the streets or the open country. We heard from a distance the lowing of cattle, the howling of dogs, and plaintive cries from every breathing animal. Gradual shocks were then felt from east to west during thirty-nine seconds. Several walls fell, some houses were shattered, springs were dried up in some places, and reappeared in others. After all was quiet in the earth, it thundered, and a smart degree of cold ensued, followed by a very heavy fall of rain.'
It appears that the French were greatly struck with the fertility of this island. Throughout their whole march, they did not see a single barren spot: but the ground was every where covered either with grass or with beautiful trees. Nowhere could nature be more rich or more splendid, but nowhere could her stores be less improved by art; and in the course of the first ninety miles, they saw only one village and a few detached habitations. The face of the country, though often hilly, discovered many extensive plains; and it is watered by numerous streams, and by four large rivers, the Ozanna, Isabella, Grand Yacqui, and Yuna: but all these advantages are lost at present; the inhabitants cultivate nothing except for the supply of their immediate wants, and they have no trade but in cattle, which roam at large in these vast pastures, and attain a size that is seldom equalled in Europe. The earth abounds with mines of gold, and of various other metals. The French found several families occupied in separating the grains of gold from the sands of the Rio Verde; and the report of the mineralogist, Nieto, mentions with confidence several gold mines imperfectly wrought, which seemed to him de la plus grand richesse. M. SOULASTRE, strongly impressed with the advantages that may be derived from a spirited improvement of St. Domingo, recommends the adoption of speedy measures to that effect. He advises that the bay of Samana should be surveyed, and a harbour constructed in it; that the inland communication by roads and canals should be improved; and that the mines should be wrought on the European plan.
The Spanish settler (for he has no title to the name of planter) consumes his time in great indolence and poverty. A wretched cabin, with hammocks slung at the corners, a few spots of ground cultivated for vegetables or tobacco, and some tattered clothes, constitute the sum of his property. His wife works while he reclines at ease, and it is even too much trouble for him to attend M m 3
to his cattle. The negroes in the Spanish quarter of St. Domingo are, for the most part, free: the Spanish law favours their emancipation by redemption; and the incorrigible indolence of the settlers prevents a demand for slaves for any other than domestic purposes.-This country is subject, like the rest of the West Indies, to sudden inundations in the rainy season. The rivers rise in a few hours to the height of their banks, and, overflowing these barriers, spread their waters across the neighbouring plains. The method of passing them is curious: two sticks are fastened crosswise to a cow-hide, the sides of which are raised so as to form a kind of canoe: on this frail skiff the traveller's baggage is placed in the first instance, and next-the traveller himself; who preserves his balance by taking hold of a stick with each hand, and keeping himself in a sitting posture. Three men swim beside the canoe for the purpose of guiding it, and the traveller's horses follow their master, by swimming across behind the canoe.-In course, the spacious harbour at the town of Santo Domingo could not fail to attract the attention of so vigilant an observer as M. SOULASTRE. He terms it magnificent; and he has no doubt that, if it had been in the pos session of the French, the bar which obstructs the entrance of vessels of above twelve feet draught could long since have been removed. This harbour extends two leagues inland; it is wider than that of Brest; and it has four fathoms of water to the extent of half a league. Were the bar removed, the author declares that the harbour would not be inferior to that of the Havannah.
M. SOULASTRE does not enter into any particular detail of the proceedings of General Hédouville in St. Domingo: but, after having briefly mentioned the inutility of resistance to Toussaint, and the leave consequently given to the individuals belonging to the expedition to quit the island, he informs us that he took his passage in a schooner for Cuba. Before he reached Batabano in Cuba, the vessel was captured by three New Providence privateers; and, after some detention, the crew were put ashore on a spot which appeared to be a part of the main land of Cuba, but which they had the mortification to find was an island. Here they suffered greatly from thirst and hunger, being obliged to pass the night on trees, from which they heard the hideous noise of the American crocodiles; and they were so stung by musquitoes that their features became undiscernible, and they were able to know each other only by their clothes and the sound of their voices. At last, they accomplished their escape to the main land on a raft.
We have mentioned nearly all of this writer's observations on St. Domingo which can interest the general reader; and the
rest of his remarks are local. His personal adventures do not seem deserving of farther notice; and we cannot recommend to the public attention a book of which the substance proves so different from its title.
ART. XVII. Histoire Chevaleresque des Maures de Grenade, &c. ; i. e. A Chivalric History of the Moors of Grenada, translated from the Spanish of Gines Perez de Hita; preceded by some Reflections on the Mussulmans of Spain: with Notes historical and literary, by A. M. SANE. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 638. Paris. 1809. Imported by Dulau and Co. Price 16s.
THE HE original work of Perez de Hita, of which the present is an abridged translation, has been known in Spain during two centuries. It consists of a collection of tales on subjects belonging to the history of the Moors in that country, on a plan similar to that which we have seen adopted at a late date in France by the popular M. Florian; the characters introduced being real personages, and the events described having also some foundation in authentic records, but the concomitant circumstances, such as the harangues of the principal actors, the behaviour of the spectators, and other parts of ornamental superstructure, being altogether the offspring of imagination.
It has already been observed by Mr. Hayley that the history of the Moors in Spain would furnish favourable subjects for heroic poetry; and we may add that an analysis of their national character would be matter of curious research to the philosopher. That character would be found to combine a variety of apparent contradictions, which can be solved only by attending to the long duration of the residence of these Moors in Spain, and to the changes produced in a people by diversity of temper in their sovereigns. In one age, we see the Moors so greatly improved beyond their gothic contemporaries as to cultivate the elegant arts, and to construct those edifices which are still the proudest monuments of Spain; and in another we discover them to be so infatuated as to remain immersed in their nocturnal revels, while a conquering enemy is at the walls of their capital. We are induced, at one time, to regard them as considerably advanced in civilization, when we find them granting freedom and respectability to the weaker sex: but they soon betray the rude passions of barbarians in their factions and civil wars, and in their reluctance to suspend domestic contest for a single season, even when it was ob vious that their only chance of safety lay in cordial and intimate union.
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While the habits of the Moors, in civil life, differed from those of the Christians in a manner that bespoke distinct ancestry and religion, their warlike exercises and amusements were the same. The practice of tournaments, being of gothic origin, was probably adopted by the Moors from their Christian neighbours but it coincided so happily with the Moorish characteristic of excellence in horsemanship, as speedily to become identified with their national institutions. Spain accordingly abounded in champions. The number of its independent sovereignties, and the emulation of two hostile nations, multiplied single combats in all quarters; and the romantic exploits of these warriors became the favourite themes of encomium with their poets.
This state of society is favourable to the developement of those characters in which poetry delights: but, notwithstanding the magnificent declamation of the present French translator, we cannot admit that his volumes either possess interest in themselves, or do justice to their subject. It is amusing to see how much M. SANÉ labours, in his introduction, to attach consequence to his book. The warfare between the Moors and the Spaniards lasted during eight centuries; a circumstance which most people would be disposed to call a dreadful calamity, but which, according to M. SANE, is a lutte genereuse, a generous struggle between two parties contending for the sweetest passessions of mankind.' We agree with him in considering the expulsion of the Moors as a great national misfortune to Spain: but we cannot think, as he sometimes appears to do, that their invasion of the peninsula is to be regarded as an advantage. His words are (p. 38.) Spain owes them eternal gratitude. The paradise of Grenada (as the Moors still term it) was a hive in which the bees never intermitted their labours. This was what the Arabs did for their new country, and the remembrance of their actions is inextinguishable.'-These observations would be commendable, were they the liberal effort of a philosophic mind to render justice to an injured people: but we are not at liberty to ascribe such disinterested motives to M. SANE'S panegyrics. He had translated a book about the Moors of Spain, and he must therefore shew in his preface that the Moors of Spain were the most interesting of nations.
As a specimen of the work, the abstract of a challenge and single combat will be perfectly sufficient.
Boadillin having succeeded his father Muley Hazen on the throne of Grenada, his accession was signalized by magnificent rejoicings; in the midst of which, the Grand Master of Calatrava, Don Rodriguez Telles Giron, appeared at the head of his troops, and ravaged the beautiful plain of Grenada. Not