페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small]

We have little doubt that the vast section of the public who glean their minimised historical knowledge from Scott, Ainsworth, or James, who regard Salathiel as the medium by which accurate information respecting the early Christian ages may be disseminated, and who rejoice in the perusal of a comic Blackstone, a comic Euclid, and a comic Latin Grammar, will feel much pleasure when they read a veritable anthropological novel. The late Eugene Sue, who had exhausted his skill in the depiction of the incongruities attached to apocryphal French maritime successes, the vices of the citi, the tropical swamps of Sumatra, or the subtleties of the Jesuit clergy, when he was satiated with the constant reproduction of scenes of horror, immorality and impossibility, in his last days commenced the novel before us.

The plot is simple. A family of Bretons, the sons of Joel, resident near the classical stones of Karnak, and which, in the ideal mind of Sue, typify the Keltic races of France, are, century after century, encountered by an opponent family, the Nerowegs, of Plouernel, of Frankish (i.e., Teutonic or German) extraction. The wars between the Kelt and the Teuton, the Gaul and the Frank, the aborigen and the invader, range between the years B.C. 57 and A.d. 1849. The events described offer a wide range of variation; they oscillate from the self-immolation of Hena, the virgin of the Island of Sen, who is incremated upon a pile decently and respectfully, as a civilized young lady from Hindustan or Dahomey might be burnt, to the imprisonment of the red Republicans, who had the worst of the conflict at the Paris barricades in June 1848. We believe that our computation is correct when we say, that the amount of rapine and slaughter which is described in this work is unexampled, except on the boards of a melodramatic theatre. It reads like the chronicles of the New England Pilgrim Fathers, who warred against the Indians much in the same manner as the early inhabitants of France, and, unlike the savage Frank, without the excuse of a noble cause, or a truly religious senti-' ment. Whatever may be said of the amount or nature of the morality which can be inculcated by the perusal of the horrors of traditionary history, M. Sue's work admittedly gives many brilliant pictures of the

• The Rival Races; or the Sons of Joel. A Legendary Romance. By Eugene Sue. 3 vols. 8vo. London: Xriibner and Co. 1863.

[ocr errors]

physical appearance of the natives of early France and 'Western Germany. The following description closely resembles that of the warriors of Equatorial Africa; it is that of Riowag, chief of the Rhenish Franks :—

"I knew, indeed, that the Franks often took off the skins of their prisoners with great dexterity, and that the chiefs of the hordes wore these as triumphal ornaments. The proposition of the flayer was received with cries of joy; those who held me bound, sought for a suitable place for my torture, while the others sharpened their knives upon the rocks. Suddenly the chief of these flayers approached me slowly; he was horrible to look upon; a tattooed circle of bright red surrounded his eyes and striped his cheeks; they looked like bleeding gashes upon that blackened face. His hair, knotted at the top of his head, in the Frank fashion, fell down over his shoulders like the mane of a helmet, and was of a copperish colour; round his neck and wrists he wore necklaces of tin; his dress was a cloak of black sheep-skin; his legs and thighs were also wrapped in sheep-skins, bound with crossed skin bands. By his side hung a sword and a long knife."

It must be recollected that M. Sue was a Gaul, and that the amount of vilification to which our collateral relations, the unfortunate Franks, are exposed throughout his work, is something fearful. We recollect that we were once told by the chief diplomatic representative of a Barbary power, that the "battle of Waterloo was a naval battle, in which the French beat the English;" and with M. Thiers' account of that battle before our eyes, we feel little surprise at the ingenuity by which M. Sue tries to disguise the fact, that the Teuton and Scandinavian races, whenever opposed to the Kelts or Bretons, in fair fight, vanquished them; the result being caused, we believe, as anthropologists, by the superior physical stamina of the Northeastern race.

"This immense but disorderly camp, was a gigantic and savage town; here and there were their chariots of war, hidden by entrenchments, constructed of earth, and strengthened by trunks of trees; according to the usage of these savages, their untiring lean little horses, with rough and shaggy hides, having a halter of rope for their bridles, were tethered to the chariot wheels, or trees, of which they gnawed the bark. The Franks, clothed in skins of beasts, their beards and hair greasy with tallow, looked stupid and ferocious as well; some lay stretched in the hot rays of the sun, which they had come to seek from the depths of their dark and icy forests; others found amusement in hunting vermin upon their hairy bodies; for these barbarians wallowed in such filth, that although they were encamped in the open air, a foul infectious stench hung about their neighbourhood.

"At the sight of these undisciplined hordes, innumerable but illarmed, recruited continually by new tribes emigrating in masses from the icy lands of the North to burst upon our fertile and smiling Gaul as upon a prey, I remembered, despite of myself, some words of sinister prediction which had escaped Victoria; but soon I held in great contempt, these barbarians, who, three or four times superior in number to our army, had never been able, during several years, and despite of bloody battles, to effect any settlement upon our soil.

"As I passed, carried upon the shoulders of the four black warriors, I was pursued by curses, threats, and cries by the Franks. Several times my escort was obliged to use its arms to prevent my being massacred. I remarked a larger and more carefully constructed hut than the rest, before which flaunted a yellow and red flag. A great number of horsemen clad in bear's skins, some in the saddle, some on foot and leaning on their lances, posted around that habitation, showed that one of the chiefs of these hordes occupied it. I again begged Riowag, who walked beside me, ever grave and silent, to conduct me first to the chief whose banner I perceived, after which they might kill me; my request was in vain, and we entered a green wood, and at last reached the centre of a great glade. At some distance I noticed a natural grotto, formed of great blocks of grey rock, between which, here and there, tall firs and chestnuts grew; a spring of water, running over the rocks, fell into a sort of natural basin. Not far from this cavern, stood a narrow vessel of brass, about the length of a man; a net of iron chains covered this infernal cauldron. Four great stones supported this vessel, beneath which was heaped a quantity of brushwood and logs; whitened human bones, scattered on the ground, gave the glade the appearance of a place of slaughter. In the centre of the glade arose a colossal statue with three shapeless heads, roughly hewn in the trunk of an enormous tree."

'When, however, M. Sue attempts to describe his own supposed ancestors, the Gauls, he does not exhibit the same minute fidelity of description. Their physical characters are passed over without a word. As regards their dwelling houses, M. Sue, on authority of Thierry, Dom Bouquet, Herodian, Vitruvius, and Strabo, thus describes them:—

"The house of Joel, like all rural habitations, was very spacious, of Tound form, and constructed by means of two ranges of hurdles, between which was well beaten clay, mixed with chopped straw; then the outside of this thick wall was plastered with a coat of fine, fat earth, which, in drying, had become as hard as stone; the roof, large and overhanging, formed of rafters of oak joined together, was covered with a layer of seaweed, too thick for the water to penetrate. On each side of the house extended buildings destined for the harvest, stables, sheep-folds, cellars, and wash-houses. These several buildings, forming an oblong square, enclosed a large court, shut up, during the night, by a massive door. Outside, a strong palisade, planted behind a deep ditch, surrounded the building, leaving behind them and it a sort of lane all round, some four cubits broad. In this, two large and very savage war-dogs were let loose every night. To this palisade there was an exterior gate, corresponding to the interior gate of the court. Every place was closed at nightfall.

"The numher of men, women and children, all more or less related to Joel, who assisted him in farming, was considerable. They lived in buildings dependent on the principal house, where they assembled at noon and evening, to take their meals in common.

"Other habitations thus constructed, and occupied by numerous inhabitants, whom their lands maintained, were dispersed here and there throughout the country, and composed the lignez, or tribe of Karnak, of which Joel had been elected chief."

Many amusing anecdotes are related of the manners and customs of the Gauls, none of which, however, rest on the statements of contemporary history. The only conclusion at which we can arrive is that they were a set of wretched savages; and we think that the conquests which extirpated the Gaul to introduce the Frank, like those which destroyed the Briton to make room for the Saxon, were of the greatest benefit to humanity. The philosophy of Charles Darwin is most sound on this point. That the extirpation of the lower race should be the immediate cause of "the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the. higher animals,"* is a sound biological generalization. The historical event, that the autochthonous Gaulish race has been nearly "improved off" the face of the earth, we consider to have been conducive to the well-being of Western Europe. Now that such ideas as these are no longer confined to anthropologists, but are uttered by the politician, we have no doubt that such amusing and instructive works as that of M. Sue will be diligently perused, so long as they faithfully depict the struggles of a nation to attain an impracticable liberty, or the futile efforts of a doomed race to maintain its position in the ethnic scale.

RAMSAY ON GEOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY.f

Professor Ramsay's lectures, amongst the geologists for which they were destined, will inevitably receive the support they so eminently deserve. We believe that the whole work, and especially the • Darwin, Origin of Species, 1st edition, p. 4^9.

+ The Physical Geology and Geography of Great Britain; a Course of Six Lectures delivered to Working Men in the Museum of Practical Geology, Jermyn Street. By Professor A. C. Ramsay, F.R.S., President of the Geological Society. 8vo. London: Stanford. 1B63.

second lecture, which treats of metamorphism and contortions of strata, may be indicated as a model series of elementary lectures, in which the author has adhered to the strict paths of logical science, while, by a charm of language, a lucidity of style, and a prudent abnegation of all unproven and unproveable hypotheses, Professor Ramsay has added new laurels to his geological fame. Scientific men will sooner or later learn that the "rapid and right" progress of truth is best advanced, not by the proposition of chimerical hypotheses, or vague speculations, but by the diffusion of accurate and positive facts, inductively ascertained, amongst the thinking world. However tempting it may be to discuss Professor Ramsay's geological facts, we must pass them over in the attempt to answer the broad question, "What is the bearing of this work on anthropological science?"

After Professor Ramsay has discussed, in his sixth lecture, the more striking effects of the physical geology of the country on population and industry, the following passage occurs :—

"I would now wish to say a few words on the influence of geology upon the inhabitants of different parts of our island.

"Great Britain is inhabited by two or three great races, more or less intermingled with one another. It requires but a cursory examination to see that the barren districts, as a whole, are inhabited by two branches of one race, distinct from each other, and yet alike, while the more fertile parts are occupied by one or two other races. Thus the north of Scotland, beyond the great valley, is, as every one knows, chiefly inhabited by the Celtic Highlanders. On the east, along the coasts of the Moray Forth, Caithness, and in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the people are of Scandinavian origin and speak Scotch, thus standing out in marked contrast from the Gaelic clans, who possess the wilder and higher grounds in the interior and western districts. There is here a curious relation of the human population to the geological character of the country. The Scandinavian element is strongly developed along the maritime tracts, which, being chiefly composed of Old Red Sandstone, stretch away in long and fertile lowlands, while the Celts are pretty closely restricted to the higher and bleaker tracts where the barren gneissic and schistose rocks prevail.

"From an early period it appears that on both sides of the Channel, the Continent of Europe, and what is now Great Britain, were inhabited by a Celtic population, known to us in our history by the name of the Cimri, whom we call Welsh, or the ancient Britons. Further north another Celtic people, whom we know as the Gaels, inhabited the greater part of what is now termed Scotland, and, I believe, the whole of Ireland. Which of these two Celtic races is most ancient in our islands we seem unable clearly to make out; there are a great many theories on the subject, but I do not think it has been proved to demonstration that one of them is later than the

« 이전계속 »