Page images
PDF
EPUB

him that in less than five years he might make his fortune; that he had received a few instructions on this head; but, being equally ignorant of the language and customs of the natives, he would appoint him, (Haafner,) who seemed to understand both, deputy receiver of the revenues, if he would enter his service: Haafner refused this seducing offer, alleging that the wealth which he had already accumulated (in what manner, we are left to conjecture,) was sufficient to allow him to retire to his own country.

. No,' ejaculated he when this Mr. Harclay was gone, ' Heaven preserve me from such an employment! No, never can I become the oppressor of the inhabitants, who are frequently unable to pay the heavy taxes imposed upon them, and whose whole wealth consists in a misera. ble hut of straw, a mat which serves at the same time as a bed and a seat, two earthen vessels to prepare their food, a piece of cotton cloth to cover their nakedness, and a chest to hold the little property which they may possess. It was with a heart filled with grief and indignation, that I followed with my eyes this hungry vulture, who was about to occupy a situation, which ought to be honourable ; for the sake only of fattening himself, after the example of Michalson his predecessor, with the sweat and blood of the miserable inhabitants of Mazulipatnam.'

In truth, Mr. Harclay was rightly served for bestowing bis confidence at first sight upon a foreign vagabond. Wehope that the East India Company dismissed him from their ensploy as soon as they were apprized of his folly, which we think must have been the case, as we do not find any such name upon their records. Seriously, the whole of this story is a ridiculous fable. In 1783 Mr. James Daniell was resident or chief at Mazulipatnam, and was succeeded by Mr. James Hodges in 1784. Harclay and his predecessor Michulson, therefore, are two fabricated names, which will pass on the continent, as well as any others, for those of two hungry vultures,' who made their fortunes by wringing from the hard hands' of the peasants of Mazulipatnam their vile trash, in the form of rupees and pagodas.'

In the course of this volume Mr. Hastings comes in for his proportion of abuse; and a whole chapter is dedicated to the seven and forty capital crimes with which he was charged, but of which both he and his counsel knew before hand that the judges would acquit him, provided he would make the sacrifice of a couple of hundred thousand pounds sterling! He was not only declared not guilty, but what is more, saw himself elevated to the peerage of England !

It is amusing to witness the delight with which this kind-hearted Dutchman dwells on our disasters in India. He details with uncommon glee the unfortunate affair at Perambani, in which Colonel Bailey's detachment was defeated; and adds that if Hyder Ali and Tippo Saheb had managed rightly, the English would have been driven out of the country. What a blessing,' he exclaims, 'would this have been for humanity! whát glory for the Nabob of Mysore ! But as both these worthies frustrated his expectations, he bursts out into a rapturous exclamation; • Zemaun Shaw.! Holkar! my hopes still live in you! Hyder Ali is however his .chief favourite; he calls him an ardent friend to the interests of humanity; and affirms that he was, in every sense of the word, a great prince, and infinitely more deserving of that title than Alexander, Charles XII., and many others to whom adulation has prostituted it.' We had almost persuaded ourselves that Buonaparte was meant to be included among those many others', until we observed, in the preface to the second volume, the following paragraph.

“The beloved monarch who now governs us, will take these people (the Hindoos) under his mighty protection. His well known justice and humanity will not permit them to be oppressed and trampled upon as they have hitherto been. He will prevent every kind of vexation, and his paternal goodness will extend itself to those Hindoos who are his subjects, with the same zeal which he manifests in restoring to Europe tranquillity and peace.'

It is lamentable, Jacob says, that the great Hyder Ali has not yet found a well-informed and faithful biographer; and he therefore undertakes to give a “Notice Historique' on this father of his people,' every particle of which is ridiculously false. He neither knows his parents, the place where, nor the time when he was born, nor when and where he died; neither is he correctly informed of the education which he received, the disposition which he evinced while a youth, the feats which he performed, the tricks by which he ascended the musnud of Mysore; nor in short, of any one circumstance of his chequered life. After acquainting us that he died at Arcot, (which is not true, for he died at Chittoor,) he observes that certain proofs have been found that this prince was poisoned.

O Anglois ! Anglois ! and you, unfortunate Tippo, who exhibit so terrible an example of the frail and gloomy lot of the great; you, like another Hannibal, had sworn, while yet an infant, upon the Coran to your father an eternal hatred against the English ! 'But, alas! you were not permitted to fulfil this noble vow, of which you were yourself the victim !

This amiable prince also fell, it seems, by the craft and treachery of the English, for it was only by surprize that Seringapatnam was taken, when Tippo Saheb died by the sword of a hired assassin. The city was then given up to pillage, and the women of the king saw, themselves exposed to the brutality of the English soldiers.

I 2

A rec A reference to the London Gazette is the best answer which we can give to such infamous falsehoods.

The work is written in a stile and manner well calculated to take the attention of the generality of readers. The language is nervous and concise; sometimes, however, it becomes clumsy, inAlated and declamatory. It embraces, in fact, the pert flippancy of a Frenchman, the coarse vulgarity of a Dutchman, and the whining sentimentality of a modern German. The reflexions on events are not more just or accurate than the events themselves. The descriptions however are sufficiently clear; the objects are distinctly brought forward, but they are all studies; true to general nature, they are false to individual and insulated facts. The indications of the approaching Hurricane at Madras may serve to illustrate our reinark. Not satisfied with the actual accompaniments of the storm, the author collects all the phenomena which his reading can supply, to aggravate the horrors of the description. He sees the sun set in blood, the moon rise (when by his own account there was no moon) in unwonted magnitude, the sea monsters leaving their deep abodes to float on the surface, and, from the streets of Madras, wild beasts seeking the shelter of the forest, with twenty other incongruous concomitants, which

may have been observed at various times and in various places, but not one of which, we will venture to say, was visible on the occasion to which we allude.

His observations on the manners of the natives, and the characteristic features of the country which he delineates, form by far the most interesting part of his book, and inay be read with pleasure. We travel with brahmins and fakirs—with jugglers and fortune tellers, musicians and dancing girls; we ascend the sacred mountains amidst thousands of Hindoos, and sleep in choultries withi groups of coulis, kaschi-kaunis, and travellers of every description. Our ears are stunned with the noisy din of the village school; and we see before its door a group of boys sitting cross-legged and tracing their letters with the finger in the sand, pronouncing each letter or word or sentence at the same instant of time, with a loud voice, the better to impress them on the memory. The bezars or market, with all the diversified produce of the east, is laid before us. We join in the religious processions—the pilgrimages—the oblations of the Hindoos; and we accompany the poor widow, who, in consequence of her vow, burns as a willing sacrifice on her husband's funeral pile. Of this extraordinary ceremony an instance occurred at Velour, which, being conducted in a different manner from those on some parts of the coast, we shall give in the author's own words.

• We

[ocr errors]

We arrived at the village about three o'clock, and were not long in finding out the dwelling of her who was destined to be the heroine of this tragedy. She was seated before the door of her house, surrounded by a few persons of both sexes, her relations, no doubt, to whom she distributed betel from time to time, moving her lips incessantly without speaking a single word; just as a person praying in a low voice; not the least symptom of fear was apparent; she seemed on the contrary to be perfectly at her ease. The poor creature was truly to be pitied ; to me she appeared about 23 years of age. Her features were placid and agreeable, and her person well made. Deeply affected, I left her to take a look at the fiery pit, into which she was to throw herself. I found it at the distance of a short fourth part of a league from the village on a plain; it was about ten feet long by eight wide, and as many deep; they were then busy in throwing in wood to feed and augment this dreadful furnace.

* Shortly after I heard at a distance the music, which announced the approach of the victim. It was accompanied by the same people whom I had seen about her before her door. She held a lemon in her hand, in which were stuck some heads of cloves, which occupy the place of a box of perfumes among the Hindoo women.

The procession now moved with her towards a neighbouring tank. Before she reached it she stripped herself of all her clothing, which she distributed among some of the women who accompanied her. As soon as she had bathed, she put on a robe of white cotton cloth; she then came forward with a firm step; her head erect, as in triumph, to the sound of the music, and attended by some Brahmins, whose object was to keep up her courage in reciting some hymns. During this time, the trench had been surrounded with high mats that the victim might not be terrified with the sight of the furnace before the proper time, neat which was placed the corpse of her husband upon a bier. The widow stopped for some time, and with an air the most sorrowful, looking at the corpse, smote her breast and wept bitterly. She then bent herself before it, and three times made a tour round the pit, and at each time, on approaching the corpse of her husband, she covered her face with her hands and made a profound inclination. At length, stopping near to the body, she turned herself towards her relations and friends, with an air of tranquillity, to take leave of them. A vase of oil was then given to her, a part of which she poured on the body of the deceased, and then placing it on her head, cried out three times with a loud voice Narvina! The mats which surrounded the fiery trench were now quickly removed, the corpse thrown in, and the widow, without discovering any signs of fear, plunged in after it, amid the shouts of the women and the noise of the music, while each of the spectators threw in a small faggot with which they had provided themselves for the purpose, so that she was covered in an instant-Vol. II. p. 59.

It is still a disputed point among Europeans whether this extraordinary sacrifice is voluntary. The act itself, we have no doubt, iş xo; but how is the victim circumstanced? As a widow, the lot

make the vow,

of a Hindoo woman is deplorable ; she cannot contract a second marriage; she cannot inherit her husband's property, but is left to the mercy of her children, or, in default of them, to her husband's relations; she must neither wear jewels, nor gold, nor silver, of which Hindoo women are passionately fond; she must, in short, give up every thing that constitutes confort and independence: and when little or nothing is left to make life desirable, it is not surprizing that the fear of death should be greatly diminished. But if these considerations should not be found sufficient, other positive inducements are not wanting to encourage her. Her family becomes, as it were, ennobled by such a sacrifice: her husband's happiness is secured, and herself entitled to all the joys of Paradise for thirty millions of years. It may be true, as the Brahmins pretend, that they are neither forced nor persuaded to

and that very severe punishments, both in this world and the next, are denounced against all those who use any undue : means to prevail on a widow to devote herself to the pile: but there are moments of weakness or tenderness in which a woman's affections may subdue her reason; an instance of which, indeed, is furnished by the author, who tells us that his devadaschie, or dancing girl, overpowered with feelings of gratitude, resolved, in the event of her having the misfortune to lose him, to die mahasti; that is, to burn herself with his corpse, or, at any rate, to die by some violent means. When the vow has once been made, there is no possibility of retracting it; a woman, in such circumstances, would become the scoff and scorn of the country; and every refuge would be denied her, excepting among the parias or outcasts from society.

In his description of the objects of art, we have our doubts whe ther the writer is any more to be trusted than in his relation of events. In both, we either discover the faint and confused recol lections of an angry man, endeavouring to carry back his imagination some thirty or forty years; or, we find him stealing without measure or acknowledgment from the observations of others. We shall confine ourselves to one instance of this kind of theft from a paper by Mr. Chambers, in the Asiatic Researches, containing an account of the ruins of Mavalipurana, the Mahabalipoor, or city of the great Bali, which, submerged in the dark

green deep, rears the golden summits of its domes above the sea ; and which is rendered still more interesting, by the magnificent description. given of it in the Curse of Kehama.'

Chambers. "On coming near to the foot of the rock or hill of stone, from the north, works of imagery and sculpture crowd so thick upon the eye as might seem to favour the idea of a petrified town.' Haafner. . At the foot of the hill, on the north side, one meets with

such

« PreviousContinue »