Изображения страниц

the state and lyfe of Chanons, prestes, clerkes, and minys. tres of the church, was fyrst copyled in Latyne by the reuerend and deuoute father Dyonisius, some tyme one of the Charter-house in Ruremond, and taken and exemplifyed with greate diligence out of an originall copy, ye which he wrote with his owne hande, and nowe againe beynge diligently corrected, is trāslated into the Englyshe tonge vnto the honour of god, and for the vtilite and soule helth of Clerkes & other studentes of the same."-It proceeds as far as sig. L.v., and is without date : at the end is this colophon:

Impryntyd at London in the Fletestreete, by me Robert Redman: Cum priuilegio."

Mr. Dibdin also sometimes mentions as rare and valuable, works that are neither the one nor the other : thus he states that Thomas Wilson's “ Arte of Rhetorique," printed by Grafton in 1553, is in Mr. Heber's collection, as if only to be found in the most stupendous library of that great Bibliomaniac: we have ourselves Ames's copy, with his own sig. nature and arms, to which Kingston's edition of Wilson's « Rule of Reason” is annexed, and for the whole we only gave a guinea.

ART. V.-The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a

Cornish Man: taken from his own mouth, in his Passage to England from off Cape Horn, in America, in the Ship Hector. By R. S., a Passenger in the Hector. London, T. and J. Allman; Edinburg, John Fairbairn; 2 vols.

12mo. new edit. 1816. To some of our readers, we are persuaded that, not only the title, but the body of this book, will be new; and others who have heard of it, have derived their knowledge merely from the notes to Mr. Southey's very striking poem, " The Curse of Kehama," where he admits that the Glendoveer, the description and actions of whom form the most delightful part of his production, is borrowed from “ the neglected story of Peter Wilkins, a work of great genius ;” and he subjoins,“ whoever the author was, his winged people are the most beautiful creatures of imagination that ever were devised." The addition of the Ship of Heaven, so deli. cately described in the 7th canto, is, however, the invention of Mr. Southey.

Probably the eulogy above quoted (whicb, however, is not referred to in the new edition) led to the republication of this very original and romantic novel. We do not exactly remember the date of the old edition, but it is at least sixty or eighty years old; and from that time till 1810, when “The Curse of Kebama” appeared, it has remained unnoticed. Who was the author, it is now in vain to inquire, and the initials “ R. S., a passenger in the Hector," are probably merely fictitious; the work does not seem at first to have attracted sufficient notice to induce the writer to disclose himself, and probably he was some man of unobtrusive talent, who penned it for his amusement, and there found the only reward he expected. We have heard it hinted that De-foe was the author of Peter Wilkins, but it was only a conjecture, and that not a plausible one; for, independently of some discordancy in dates, there are such essential differences between Robinson Crusoe and Peter Wilkins, as to render it very unlikely that both should have flowed from the same individual. Our readers need not be under any alarm, lest we should enter into a fresh criticism of the book which was the delight of the boyhood of most of us, in order to shew these differences; we would only say, that the great charm of Robinson Crusoe is its reality, the perfect faith we put in its varied relations, as if they were undoubted historical facts, and as if the hero had had a positive being; while, on the contrary, we read Peter Wilkins as a poetical invention, that describes something out of nature, but at the same time with such truth and vividness, as to induce us to believe in the possibility of its existence. Robinson Crusoe is a work of talent, in which the adaptation of known means is the chief recommendation ; Peter Wilkins is a work of genius, where even those means of accomplishing particular purposes are the effort of invention.

In the short space to which we are under the necessity of confining ourselves, more especially in noticing a new edition of a book, we cannot pretend to enter into any detail of the strange story of the Life of Peter Wilkins: it will be enough for our present object to observe, that he is a mariner, who, after a series of very singular and admirablyrelated adventures, is cast upon a barren rock; he lives alone for some time on board the wreck of his ship; but at last, sailing in the ship's boat round the rock, he is drawn into a sort of gulf, or cavern, and, by the force of the current, is carried for some days through a subterraneous passage, which at length opens into a salt lake, surrounded by impassable precipices, leaving a wooded and fertile tract round the margin of the water. Here he is compelled to take up his abode, not being able to force his boat back against the stream; and having built himself a grotto, soon after his arrival he hears voices as of human beings sporting in the air, at night, and sees shadows floating along the surface of the lake. On one occasion, after sorely lamenting the solitude he was destined to endure, he hears something strike against the thatch of his cottage, and looking out, with his Jamp in his hand, he sees a beautiful woman lying at his door, the lower part of her person covered with a thin film or web, while her head and shoulders are surrounded by a kind of wings that spread like an umbrella. Peter Wilkins carries her in, and finds to his astonishment that she is a Gawrey, or flying woman-a female of a new race of human beings, who, by means of this film or web, when expanded, (which is called a graundee,) are able to divide the air with more ease and greater velocity than birds. Wilkins is violently enamoured, and lives with her in a platonic sort of love during a whole winter; and after they have learnt something of the language of each other, they plight faith, and become man and wife: The flying lady, whose appearance is exquisitely described, gives this account of herself:

“ Compliments (if in compliance with old custom I may call them so, for they were by us delivered from the heart) being a little over on both sides, I first desired to know what name she went hy before I found her: 'For having only hitherto called you madam, and my lady, besides the future expression of my love to you in the word dear, I would know your original name, that so I might join it with that tender epithet:- That you shall,' said she, and also my family at another opportunity; but as my name will not take up long time to repeat at present, it is YOUWAKKEE. And pray now gratify me with the knowledge of yours.'- My dear Youwarkee, my name was PETER WILKINS when I heard it last; but that is so long ago, I had almost forgot it. And now there is another thing you can give me a pleasure in. —You need then ouly mention it

, my dear Peter.:- - That is,' said I, * only to tell me, if you did not by some accident, fall from the top of the rock over my habitation, upon the roof of it, when I first took you in here; and whether you are of the country upon the rocks? She, softly smiling, answered, "My dear Peter, you run your questions too thick ; as to my country, which is not upon the rocks, as you suppose, but at a vast distance from hence, I shall leave that, till I may hereafter at more leisure speak of my family, as I promised you before; but as to how I came into this grotto, I knew not at first, but soon perceived your humanity had brought me in, to take care of me after a terrible fall I had; pot froin the rock, as you suppose, for then I must not now have been living to enjoy you, but from a far less considerable height in the air. I'll tell you how it happened. A parcel of us young people were upon a merry swangean round this arboe. which we usually divert ourselves with at set times of the year, chasing and pursuing one another, sometimes soaring to an extraordinary beight, and then shooting down again with surprising precipitancy, till we even touch the trees; when of a sudden we mount again, and away. Being of this party, and pursued by one of my comrades, I descended down to the very trees, and she after me; but as I mounted, she overshooting me, brushed so stiffly against the upper part of iny graundee, that I lost my bearing; and being so near the branches, before I could recover it again, I sunk into the tree, and rendered my graundee useless to me; so that down I came, and that with so much force that I had but just felt my fall and lost my senses. Whether I cried out or no, upon my coming to the ground, I cannot say; but if I did, my companion was too far gone by that time to hear or take potice of me; as she probably, in so swift a flight, saw not my fall. As to the condition I was in, or what happened immediately afterwards, I must be obliged to you for a relation of that: but one thing I was quickly sensible of, and never can forget, that I owe my life to your care and kindness to me.” (p. 139, vol. i.)

In a few years this couple have a family of several children, and when they are old enough, the mother takes such as have graundees (for all of them had not this appendage) to visit her father and relations, who were persons of great consequence and power in their own country, and in turn the father makes a flying expedition to the grotto of his unknown son-in-law. In the mean time, a prophecy is pronounced among the Glumms (such being the appellation of the flying men) that Peter Wilkins will be extremely instrumental in defeating a rebel named Harlokin, who had gathered great strength in a neighbouring district: Peter is, therefore, carried by the Glumms on a machine of his invention, to the capital of their kingdom, where he is introduced to the King Georigetli. Here the author allows a complete range to his fancy, in describing the government, manners, occupations, and mode of life of this new people, in every respect differing from others hitherto mentioned in any writer. We will give one extract from this part of the work, describing the sort of lamps used by the Glumms, the idea of which is ingeniously taken from the glow-worm.

Being now in my oval chamber, and alone with my children, I had a mind to be informed of some things I was almost ashamed to ask Quilly:

Tommy,' (one of Wilkins's children, who had resided for some time at the court,) said I, what sort of fires do they keep CRIT. Rev. VOL. IV, Sept. 1816.

2 L


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

in these globes ? and what are they made of ?--' Father,' said he, yonder is the man shifting them, you may go and see.' Being verv curious to see how he did it, I went to him; as I came near him, he seemed to have something all fire on his arm. • What has the man got there ? said I. • Only

, sweecoes,' replied Tommy. By this time I came up to him; 'Friend,' said I, what are you about?-Shifting the swecoes, Sir,' answered be, 'to feed them.'

- What oil do you feed with ?' said I. • Oil!' answered he, they won't eat oil; that would kill them all.'—Why,' said I, 'my lamp is fed with oil.

Tommy could scarce forbear laughing himself; but for fear the servant should do so too, pulled me by the sleeve, and desired me to say no more. So turning away with him, he said, “ It is not oil that gives this light, but sweecoes, a living creature; he has got his basket full, and is taking the old ones out to feed them, and putting new ones in; they shift them every half-day, and feed them.'

„ What!' said I, • are all these infinite number of globes I see living creatures ?— No,' replied he; 'the globes are only the transparent shell of a bott, like our calibashes—the light comes from ihe sweecoe within.'— Has that man,' said I, got any of them?'

- Yes,' answered he, you may see them; the king, and the colambs, and indeed every man of note, has a place to breed and feed them in.'— Pray, let us go see them,' said I; 'for that is a curiosity indeed.'

Tommy desired the man to shew me the sweecoes, so he set down his basket, which was a very beautiful resemblance of a common higgler's basket, with a handle in the middle, and a division under it, with flaps on each side to lift up and down. It was made of straw-coloured small twigs, neatly compacted, but so light as scarce to be of any weight. Opening one of the lids, I could make very little distinction of substances, the bottom seeming all over of a quite white colour. I looking surprised at the light, the man took out one, and would have put it into my hand, but perceiving me shy of it, he assured me it was one of the most innocent things in the world; I then took it, and surveying it, it felt to my touch as smooth and cold as' a piece of ice. It was about as long as a large lob-worın, but much thicker. The man seeing me admire the brightness of it's colour, told me it had done it's duty, and was going to be fed; but those which were going upon duty were much clearer: and then opening the other lid, those appeared far exceeding the others in brightness, and thickness too. I asked what he fed them with. He said, 'Leaves and fruit; but grass, when he could get it, which was not often, they were very fond of.” (p. 102, vol. ii.)

The Glumms, by Peter's advice and aid, having defeated the rebels, who were assisted by domestic treachery, he settles the whole kingdom, reforms sạch customs as he thought injurious, abolishes idolatry, and establishes chris

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »