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This is not a mere fanciful hypothesis. M. Michelet has elsewhere shown that the initiation into the Guilds of Artificers, in the middle ages, was of this very character. The acolyte affected to be the most worthless character upon earth, and was usually made to perform some act symbolical of worthlessness: after which, his admission into the fraternity was to have the merit and honour of his reformation. Such forms were in complete harmony with the genius of an age, in which a transfer of land was not binding without the delivery of a clod-in which all things tended to express themselves in mute symbols, rather than by the conventional expedient of verbal language. It is the nature of all forms used on important occasions, to outlast, for an indefinite period, the state of manners and society in which they originated. The childlike character of the religious sentiment in a rude people, who know terror but not awe, and are often on the most intimate terms of familiarity with the objects of their adoration, makes it easily conceivable, that the ceremonies used on admission into the Order were established without
irreverent feeling, in the purely symbolical acceptation which some of the witnesses affirmed. The time, however, had past, when such an explanation would be understood or listened to.
- What arrayed the whole people against them-what left them not a single defender among so many noble families to which they were related—was this monstrous accusation of denying and spitting on the cross. This was precisely the accusation which was admitted by the greatest number of the accused. The simple statement of the fact turned every one against them; every body signed himself, and refused to hear another word. • Thus the Order, which had represented in the most eminent degree the symbolical genius of the middle age, died of a symbol misunderstood.'-(Vol. iii. p. 206.)
From this time the history of France is not, except in a far more indirect manner, the history of Europe and of civilization. The subordination of the Church to the state once fully established, the next period was mainly characterized by the struggles between the king and the barons, and final victory of the crown. On this subject France cannot represent English history, where the crown was ultimately the defeated instead of the victorious party; and the incidents of the contest are necessarily national, not European incidents. Here, therefore, having regard also to our necessary limits, our extracts from M. Michelet's work may suitably close ; although the succeeding volumes, which come down nearly to Louis XI., are not inferior in merit to those from which we have quoted; and germs of
are even, as we before remarked, superior in the value of their materials—being grounded, in a great measure, upon the public documents of the period, and not, like previous histories, almost exclusively upon the Chronicles.
In what we have said, we have been far more desirous to make the work known, and recommend it to notice, than to criticise it. The latter could only become a needful service after the former had been accomplished. The faults, whether of matter or manner, of which M. Michelet can be accused, are not such as require being pointed out to English readers. There is much more danger lest they should judge too strictly the speculations of such a man; and turn impatiently from the truth which often lurk even in the errors of a man of genius. This is, indeed, the more to be apprehended, as V. Michelet, apparently, has by no means the fear of an unsympathizing audience before his eyes. Where we require thoughts, he often gives us only allusions to thoughts. We continually come upon sentences, and even single expressions, which take for granted a whole train of previous speculation—often perfectly just, and perhaps familiar to French readers; but which in England would certainly have required to be set forth in terms, and cleared up by explanations.
His style cannot be fairly judged from the specimens we have exhibited. Our extracts were selected as specimens of his ideas, not of his literary merits; and none have been taken from the narrative part, which is, of course, the principal part of the work, and the most decisive test of powers of composition in a writer of history. We should say, however, of the style generally, that it is sparkling rather than flowing ; full of expressiveness, but too continuously epigrammatic to carry the reader easily along with it; and pushing that ordinary artifice of modern French composition, the personification of abstractions, to an almost startling extent. It is not, however, though it is very likely to be taken for, an affected style ; for affectation cannot be justly imputed, where the words are chosen, as is evidently the case here, for no purpose but to express ideas; and where, consequently, the mode of expression, however peculiar, grows from, and corresponds to, the peculiarities of the mode of thought.
Art. 11.–Narrative of a Voyage round the World, performed
in Her Majesty's ship Sulphur, during the years 1836–1842. By CAPTAIN Sır EDWARD BELCHER. 2 vols. 8vo. London : 1843.
vered, and passed through, that intricate but navigable strait that connects the Atlantic with the Pacific, and which bears and has immortalized his name; whose ship (after his death at the Ladrone Islands) continued, under his survivor, to complete the first voyage ever made round the world. It was some half a century after this event, that our countryman Francis Drake, having, on one of his adventurous voyages, obtained a sight of the great South Sea from the summit of a hill on the Isthmus of Darien, then and there made a vow, that by God's good pleasure he would one day sail upon that great ocean—a vow which he very soon afterwards accomplished; and thus became, accordingly, not only the first Englishman that navigated the Pacific, but, as stated in the historical account of the voyage by his kinsman, the first English seaman who turned up a furrow round the world.'
The successful issue of this daring enterprise, worthy such an extraordinary man, was speedily followed by other Englishmen, with the like success but less hazard— Cavendish, Anson, Wallis, Byron, and Cook; to all of whom, and to many subsequent circumnavigators, were laid open new lands, new people, and new objects, in every variety of created nature; most of which, in the course of time, and by succeeding voyagers, have been investigated with such ardent attention, and described with such accuracy, as to have left but little of novelty to be culled by the moderns. Nature, however, in the various regions and climates of the globe, is found under so many different aspects, and assumes so many varieties—her stores are so inexhaustiblethat the inquisitive and industrious traveller will always be gratified by some new and undescribed discovery. Thus the voyage of Captain (now Sir Edward) Belcher, even had nothing further been done, has supplied to the several departments of Natural History, as we understand, a more splendid and extensive collection of objects, as well in the animate as the inanimate part of the creation, than any single individual voyager, that we know of, has had the good fortune to bring home; a selection from which, as we are informed, is, by order of the Treasury, now under publication, entirely distinct from the prints (very indifferent ones) in the work we are about to notice.
Strictly speaking, the title of his book is incorrect. 'A Voyage round the World' necessarily implies, when made from Europe, that the ship must have passed round the Cape of Good Hope, and also round Cape Horn, or through the Strait of Magelhaens, out and home ; whereas Captain Belcher never approached the latter, either on the Atlantic or the Pacific side. He was appointed at home to supersede Captain Beechey, who was obliged, from ill health, to give up the command of the Sulphur, employed on a survey of the western coast of America and the numerous islands of the Pacific. He set out in the mail-packet for the West Indies, thence to Chagres, crossed the isthmus of Darien, and joined the ship at Panama.
We are by no means satisfied with his · Narrative.' It is fair, however, to observe, that the duties of a naval surveyor are supposed to occupy so much of the officer's time in that service alone, and are mostly of such a nature that the details are not calculated to give scope for a narrative likely to afford pleasure, or indeed information, to the general reader: the constant observations he is expected to make, the calculations necessary to arrive at their results, can be interesting only to a certain and small portion of the community. On these considerations, therefore, we did not look for any attempt at fine writing, polished periods, or learned disquisitions on abstract questions from Captain Belcher; but we did expect some more information than what his two portly volumes contain—something regarding the peculiar habits and manners of the various classes of human beings with whom he came in contact. We did expect to find a brief summary of facts and occurrences, of a general nature, arranged under a plain and connected narrative; some vivid descriptions of tropical scenery—of volcanic mountains in a state of activity-and of the numerous groups of coral formations spread over the surface of the Pacific. These and other grand features of nature, we must confess, are very sparingly given, and in so loose and unconnected a manner, as to render the title of Narrative scarcely admissible. Yet, as we shall see, these deficiencies do not arise from any scarcity of subjects, or from want of opportunities.
The wide expanse of ocean over which Sir Edward Belcher navigated, the numerous groups of islands through which he passed, and all the ports on the coast of the two Americas, from King William's Sound on the north, to Callao on the southvisiting many of them twice or thrice ; and finally, after leaving the Society Íslands, calling at the Friendly Islands, the Navigators', the Fijees, New Hebrides, New Ireland, New Guinea, through Dampier's Strait to the Moluccas, round Borneo, and
to Singapore—all these must have afforded new and interesting matter. At the last of these places, orders awaited the Sulphur to proceed to China, where she arrived in time to assist in the operations on the Canton river, and before that city; and from Canton, Captain Belcher proceeded to England by the Cape of Good Hope.
To give any connected account in our pages of what is said of the multitude of places noticed in the voyage, would be an idle and useless attempt. We shall therefore confine the observations we may have to offer, for the most part, to certain of those islands in the Pacific, where the first quiet and progressive revolution in the minds and habits, in the moral and religious feelings of the people, has unfortunately been disturbed by a second revolution of a hostile and revolting nature, the issue of which is not easily to be foreseen.
We may commence with the Sandwich Islands. While Captain Belcher was at Oahu, (Owyhee of our old voyagers,) the principal island, a French frigate, La Venus, of sixty guns, commanded by Captain (since Admiral) Dupetit Thouars, made her appearance, being on a voyage partially scientific.Our
meeting,' says Belcher, 'was very cordial. At a déjeûné given on board the Venus to the consuls, (English and American,) • the flags of the two nations combined were hoisted at the fore,
and a salute of eighteen guns fired.' Captain Belcher had been before at Oahu, when a Lieutenant, with Captain Beechey, in the year 1826, and he thought on a first glance that the place had retrograded. The appearance of the natives was miserable and
dirty; their features apparently coarser, and that brightness of eye and independence of carriage, which freedom alone can • exhibit, were decidedly wanting. The habit of frequent bath•ing, which constituted half their original (meaning former)
existence, is entirely exploded, and not one good trait or fea'ture, by which former navigators have described them, can be • traced.' He says, moreover, that the native population has • decreased, while that of foreign residents has increased; that • in 1827, with the exception of the consul's family and mission
ary ladies, not a foreign female could be found; whereas now, • at a bail, not fewer than twenty couple stood up;' and, as evidence of what we consider increasing prosperity, he tells us, the houses of the foreign residents are considerably improved ; that shops were more numerous and well supplied, and several of them kept by Chinese; that the chiefs and upper classes are better clothed, and appear as if they were accustomed to dress properly; and, among other improvements, there is a school for children of mixed parents, supported by voluntary contributions