Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

to have entered with earnestness into his subject, and to have had all his feelings interested it it. We see before us not. the cool reasoner, but the zealous impassioned orator, who is earnestly bent, not merely on convincing, but on persuading; not merely on presenting the truths of which he treats, to the understandings of his hearers, but on impressing them deeply on their feelings. Accordingly, the department in which he particularly excels, is the application of his subject to the circumstances of those whom he addresses. If we were disposed to find any fault with the composition of his discourses, it would be, that he is sometimes a little too desultory—there is an occasional tendency to fly off from one topic to another, and to press different views of the subject in a confused mass on the mind.

His lectures on the gospel of St. Matthew, which occupy also two volumes of this collection, have maintained, since their public cation, that popularity with which they were received at their first delivery. It need not be said, that they present no claim to originality of research. The author had merely in view to excite the attention of the public to useful and improving topics, by digesting an exposition of the gospel in an alluring form, and in clear iatelligible language. He has executed his task with accuracy and judgment. The lectures are not calculated for the learned theo- , logian; but they will always form a useful manual for students and general readers who wish to obtain information on the subjects of which they treat. In these lectures, his happy.talent of making a forcible application to the feelings of his hearers, is, we think, more conspicuous, and more skilfully displayed than in his sermons.

Among his tracts, his Essay on the beneficial effects of Christianity displays more extensive research and general acquaintance with authors ancient and modern, than any other of his productions. A singular testimony to the merit of his little tract contain, ing . A Summary of the Evidences of Christianity,' is given by Mr. Hodgson (p. 280.) On its being projected to attempt the conversion' of the Ceylonese, several tracts on the evidences of Christianity were put into the hands of some intelligent natives, in order to ascertain which was likely to have most effect: they all gave a decided preference to that of the Bishop. Accordingly, this tract was translated into the Cingalese language.

On the whole, Bishop Porteus must be pronounced a distinguished ornament of the English church. This church, if she does not rank him among the greatest and most prominent of her sons, for genius and erudition, will place him at the least among those who have been most useful in their generation,

among

among those who have been most remarkable for unfeigned piety and active philanthropy. If she does not raise him to the same station with her Sherlocks, her Warburtons, and her Horsleys, she will delight to add his name to the list of her Tillotsons and her Seckers, of those who, possessing not a soaring genius, but respectable talents, have devoted themselves with unwearied industry to the most beneficial pursuits. Undoubtedly, there have been many English divines of more commanding powers, of more profound erudition, of greater polemical acuteness, than Bishop Porteus; but it might not be easy to name a prelate who has surpassed him in that rectitude of intention, benevolence of heart, and warmth of devotion, which are the brightest graces of the Christian character; or who has laboured with more sincere and earnest zeal, in endeavouring to purify the morals, to elevate the piety, and to promote the eternal welfare, of his fellow-creatures.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

.

.

[ocr errors]

ART. III. Travels in the Island of Iceland, during the Summer · of the Year 1810. By Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, Baronet, - Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, &c. &c. &c. Edin

burgh, Constable and Co., London, Longman and Co.; Cadell

and Davies ; Miller; and Murray. 4to. pp. 510. 1811. Journal of a Tour in Iceland, in the Summer of 1809. By William Jackson Hooker, F. L. S. and Fellow of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh. London, Vernor and Co.; Miller, Albemarle-street. 8vo. pp. 545. 1811.

" A PART, how small, of this terraqueous globe

Is tenanted by man! the rest a waste,
Rocks, deserts, frozen seas, and burning sands,
Wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings and death! .

Such is earth's melancholy map! SUCH, rather, was the gloomy humour in which Young conw templated it; for in reality the map is less dismal than the poet represents it; and if he had remenubered the triumphs over natural difficulties which man obtains, not less by the pliability than by the fortitude of his nature, he might have found matter for happier contemplations. The moral map, indeed, may well make a wise man mournful, but not the physical one. The Arab, amid the sands of the desert, and the Greenlander, amid snows and everlasting içe, are equally contented with their lot: and if we were asked to lay our finger upon that spot of the globe where history affords to the philosopher the least cause for humiliation and sorrow, it would be upon an island in the Northern Ocean, situated upon the very limits of the living world.

Whether

Whether Iceland was the Ultima Thule of the ancients, is a question which has been much discussed, and which, were it possible, it would be of little importance to determine. The first person who is known to have seen it, was a northern pirate, by name Naddoc or Naddodr; he was driven thither by a tempest in the year 861, and gave it the appropriate name of Snoeland from its appearance. His report induced Gardar Suaversen, a Swede, to visit it, who, like some of our modern navigators, unnecessarily. changed its name for the sake of substituting his own. The third visitor was Flokko: he took with him some ravens, and when he supposed himself near the end of his voyage, let one loose, thinking to be directed by its course ; but the bird, having soared to a great height, turned back toward Norway. After some days a second raven was liberated, which, like his ancestor of the ark, could find no rest for his feet, and returned to the vessel ; but on the third and last trial, Ralph snuffed the land, and flew straight towards it. Flokko seems to have gone either with the intention of forming a settlement, or of reconnoitering with a view to one; he past one winter at Watusfiordur, in the gulph of Breidafiord, and a second on the southern coast; and from the quantity of ice which, in the intervening spring, filled the gulph, he gave the island its present appellation. Upon his report, a party of Norwegian nobles, who could not brook their subjection to Harold Harfagre, determined to emigrate thither, under the guidance of Ingulf and his kinsman Hiorleif. Their leader took with him the door-posts of his former dwelling, and when he approached the coast, threw them into the sea, meaning to fix his house upon the spot where they should be stranded : this was a customary superstition among ihese northern adventurers ; akin to, and perhaps arising from a feeling still preserved with little diminution in Spain, where the solar or family floor is regarded with a sort of reverence, and gives an honorary title to old families. But Ingulf was borne away in a different direction, while that which should have guided him drifted out of sight. He landed at a promontory in the S. E. part of the island, called at this day Ingulfshöfdi; the feeling, however, with which he regarded the custom of his country was so strong, that three years afterwards, when the door-posts were discovered, he removed with his family to the auspicious place, It happened, by a singular coincidence, to be the spot where the present capital of the island stands. .

Iceland was not in those days the dreadful country which it is now; the climate was far less severe, and its tremendous volcanoes had not yet broken out. The way once open, adventurers followed in great numbers. Harold encouraged this at first, be. cause it rid him of turbulent spirits, whom it might have been difficult to restrain at home; but ihe emigration became so great, that

VOL. VII. NO. XIII.

[graphic]

in order to check it, he imposed a fine of four ounces of silver upon every person who should leave Norway to settle in Iceland. In the course of threescore years, the whole of the coasts and most of the habitable parts are said to have been peopled. Danes and Swedes, as well as Norwegians, repaired thither, and emigrants even from Scotland and Ireland. The leader of every fresh party established himself like a feudal chief, dispossessing those who were weaker than himself, if he did not find a track to his mind which was unoccupied. After half a century of continual broils, an end was put to this anarchy by the establishment of a general government. The island was divided into four provinces, each under an hereditary governor; these were subdivided into twelve departments, each also having its hereditary lord; and these again into smaller districts, called hreppar, which were under four elective magistrates, whose business it was to maintain good order, and especially to attend to the condition and management of the poor, Every hreppar had its assembly, composed of all the inhabitants who possessed a certain property, and were of unblemished character; their proceedings were under the cognizance of the assembly of the department, which was composed of the lord and of deputies from the hreppars ; an appeal lay fro, n hence to the provincial assembly, and finally to the states general, who held their annual meeting on the shores of the lake of Thingvalla.

This great assembly was called the Althing, and nothing can be more striking than the picture which it presented. The magistrates, the legislators, and the assembled people lived in tents, pitched upon the banks of the river Oxeraa, where it enters the lake. The lake is about ten miles loug, and from three to seven in breadth. It is a wild and dreary scene, bearing around it marks of the convulsions of nature. There are two islands in the lake, composed entirely of volcanic matter. The mountains at the southern end continually send up vapour from their hot springs; some of the rocks have been rent by earthquakes, and others formed by lava. When the Althing was originally instituted, these convulsions had not laid the country waste; but it must always have been a solemn scene. The assembly took place in the open air upon the grass: and if any culprits were condemned to death, the men were beheaded upon an islet in the river; the women drowned in a deep pool. Here, for more than eight centuries, the general as sembly was held, till, about ten years ago, it was removed to Reikia vik, somewhat perhaps to the immediate convenience of the people, yet with some injury to their feelings, and with an ominous disrespect of antiquity, and of all which deserves veneration. Here the Langman or Langsaugumadur presided, the chief magistrate of the whole island, who held his place, as long as he filled it to the satisfaction of the nation. He was the public speaker, the su

preme

« PreviousContinue »