« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
as among the familiar operations of nature. The doctrine of Devils,' also, if it still exists in its earlier forms, is stripped of most of its absurdities; and though men may not yet be ready to admit, what beyond all comparison is the most alarming truth, that within their own hearts, even their sinful and cherished lusts, are the “Satans' of their own creation, whom they have most to dread; — yet they have ceased to invest the prince of darkness with a rival sovereignty, believing that the spirits are in subjection to the Father of spirits, and that the devils also believe and tremble.
But though we may not apprehend the same delusions, it were presumptuous indeed to expect freedom from all others. The sources of error remain, though the particular forms of it may change. They.are constantly varying with the changes of society. If there is a fanaticism of superstition, let it, not be forgotten, that there is also the fanaticism of unbelief; and we have recently seen it asserted, what only the fool can say
in his heart, that the faith of the existence of a God can exert no good influence on the virtue or happiness of men. Who can question too, that the same love of the marvellous, the same indulgence of an uncontrolled imagination, or even of a perverted curiosity ; the same passion for power in ministers or in rulers; the same readiness to turn popular excitements into instruments of personal advancement, may produce at this day evils not less deplorable than those, which in the days of our fathers seemed the fruit only of religious fanaticism? It is the improvement we should make of this history, and it is among the sound practical instructions which the writer himself deduces from it, and enforces with the eloquence of conviction, that there is no safety, but in simple truth ; – that when men suffer their imaginations to usurp the place of reason, or their passions to be inflamed by sympathy, especially by that most dangerous form of it, party spirit, they may work a work,' which, in its consequences to themselves or to others, they would not believe,
a man should tell it them. The history of the present day, not less in its secular than in its religious fervors, affords, we fear, but too exact an illustration of all this. The spirit of witchcraft is abroad in its furious zeal, in its obtrusive inquisitions, and its stern denunciations. It assumes to itself to try the spirits, and according to its own standard to pronounce men friends or enemies of order, justice, and the
laws. Its leading features,' says Mr. Upham, whose remarks, though written before the full developement of the transactions to which we refer, are so excellent, that we adopt them as the best possible expression of our meaning, - 'its leading features and most striking aspects have been repeated in places, where witches and the interference of supernatural beings are never thought of. For whenever a community gives way to its passions and spurns the admonitions and casts off the restraints of reason, there is a delusion, that can hardly be described in any other phrase. We cannot glance our eye over the face of our country without beholding such scenes ; and so long as they are exhibited, so long as we permit ourselves to invest objects of little or no real importance with such an inordinate imaginary interest, that we are ready to go to every extremity rather than relinquish them, we are following in the footsteps of our fanatical ancestors. It would be wiser to direct our ridicule and reproaches to the delusions of our own times, rather than to those of a previous age; and it becomes us to treat with charity and mercy, the failings of our predecessors, at least until we have ceased to repeat and imitate them.'
ART. VIII. — Travels in Malta and Sicily, with Sketches of
Gibraltar in 1827. By ANDREW BIGELOW, Author of
THERE are no books, the rapid multiplication of which is to be regarded with so much forbearance, as books of travels. The face of things, the manners, customs, and institutions in many countries in Europe and South America have been changed so frequently and materially, during the last thirty or forty years, that it is only from the recent traveller we can learn their present condition. It is an advantage, also, when we can avail ourselves of the observations and researches in foreign countries of one who has been brought up among us; partly because he will be curious in those matters which, from similarity of education and circumstances, will be most likely to interest us, and partly because his comparisons and
N. S. VOL. VI. NO. II.
illustrations will generally be borrowed from places and events, with which we are familiar. Mr. Bigelow has travelled before, and is favorably known to the public by his work on North Britain and Ireland, which was in such esteem abroad as to be reprinted in Edinburgh, and noticed and praised in several of the English periodical journals. His style in this as well as in his former publications is marked by a glow of patriotism, and of sincere and rational piety, which must give the work a peculiar attraction to the religiously disposed, at the same time that his various information, and the literary merit of the narrative portions, must gratify the scholar and general reader. In the more ornate and ambitious passages we do not think Mr. Bigelow equally happy. He has also committed the serious error of making his book too large, an error the less excusable, because it has arisen, for the most part, from his introducing irrelevant matter, sometimes of too private or personal a nature, which it would have been better on every account to omit. We hope that in this book-making age it will soon be universally adopted as a canon of criticism in regard to books of travels, that the writer shall confine himself strictly and religiously to what has passed under his own observation.
Mr. Bigelow sailed from Boston, November 28, 1826, and landed at Gibraltar after a voyage of forty days, on the incidents of which he dwells with more particularity than was necessary. Here he stayed about two weeks, and his description of this celebrated fortress is one of the fullest and most graphic which we have seen. Passing up the Mediterranean, he arrived, February 1st, at La Valetta, in Malta, where he resided for more than a month, and appears to have occupied himself most industriously in studying the character, habits, and institutions of the people. Thence, March 8th, he sailed for Sicily, and visited the most remarkable places on that island, of some of which, particularly of Dionysius's Ear and Mount Ætna, he has given us not only a full description, but careful and accurate drawings and charts. His journal closes, March 25th, on quitting the harbour of Messina for Naples.
The following account of the Maltese clergy presents a favorable specimen of Mr. Bigelow's success in light and humorous description.
"As for the priests themselves, their number is “ Legion, for les,
it is many." I meet them at every turn; I mean, including the friars, black, white, and
I know it is common to rail against this order of men as being a race of gourmands; yet it is not for the sake of joining in an idle cry, but of testifying to impressions gathered by my own eyes, when I assert, that a better conditioned set of persons I never beheld. Their fat, sleek visages, and plump, well-fed frames betoken, that whatever becomes of others, they take good care of themselves. I have seen them of all ages, from fourscore years down to four ; for even children are dedicated to the priesthood, and once dedicated, they wear the self-same garb in shape and color as do their superiors in years.
'A more whimsical dress than this professional costume, when put upon boys and striplings, can hardly be conceived. It consists of a large cocked or three-cornered hat, the brim of which is unusually broad, a full skirted coat, ornamented with a single row of buttons, and made rounding from the waist downwards, like a Quaker's, - a long, old-fashioned vest, buttoned to the chin, - tight small-clothes and black hose, silk or worsted, shoes high on the instep, with monstrous buck
a black leathern stock about the neck, and over it a frill of white lawn made to lap close. In cold or wet weather a black cover-all, something like the cloaks of the old Puritan clergy of New England, is added. The heads of these clerical sprigs are partly shaved, in imitation of their seniors.
It is not without a smile that such figures are seen brushing through the streets. To call them priestlings would be by no means a sufficient diminutive. They are Tom Thumbs in ecclesiastical livery, and can scarcely be distinguished sometimes as they move along under their broad-spreading equilat
Their appearance is certainly a burlesque on the Catholic priesthood.
There are several grades, however, for these “ babes and sucklings” to pass through, ere they are formally fraternized. At sundry periods of life, as for instance ten, fifteen, eighteen, or twenty-one years of age, they are interrogated and examined afresh in respect to their ultimate purpose ; and if dissatisfied with the choice made for them by their parents, they are at liberty, on coming to their majority, to withdraw from the clerical ranks. But this seldom happens. I cannot find, on careful inquiry, that they are taught much; certainly, very little of useful knowledge. I express but the sober sense of intelligent lay Catholics themselves, when I say that,' in general, the priests, young and old, are scandalously ignorant. They pick up a smattering of Latin, and are taught the drill
of church forms and ministrations. A little of scholastic divinity and some scraps of ecclesiastical history are then ground into them; and they are turned out for the service of the altar.' - pp. 129, 130.
Of the prospects of the missionary cause in the Levant Mr. Bigelow speaks with candor and sobriety. At Malta
* The American missionary on the island, - who is a sensible man of undoubted piety, and whose worth I am happy in publicly acknowledging, — has applied himself industriously to his vocation. It consists in aiding the translation of Tracts, chiefly into Italian, in concert with an intelligent native Maltese, – overseeing the printing and subsequent disposal of
and occasionally preaching to a small society of dissenting Protestants in connexion with a worthy pastor of the Methodist persuasion. The printing-office is in his own house; the mechanical duties of which have been in charge of another American; but as he is about returning to the United States, they will devolve on a Maltese already trained for that purpose. Mr. T - the missionary to whom I have alluded, has resided here five years, having never joined his brethren on the Palestine station settled at Beirout. During this period he has printed about seventy Tracts, averaging a thousand copies each. They are well executed, and done up with neat covers, the object being to make them as attractive in appearance as may be, with a due regard to economy. The cheapness of the work is surprising; as the general cost, - including translating, paper, ink, printing, and binding, - does not much exceed one mill a page; or about ten pages are afforded for a ha’penny. A few of the Tracts are printed in Romaic. It gave me pleasure to see in the American Repository that invaluable little treatise, Scougal's “ Life of God in the Soul of Man," in its Grecian dress, just ready to be introduced to the natives of the Archipelago.' — pp. 200, 201.
Again he says;
• There is a species of romance which attaches itself, in certain minds, to the contemplation of the efforts and endurances of a foreign missionary. But let me tell them, there is no romance in the actual trial. If a missionary comes to the Levant, however high-blown his previous expectations, his enthusiasm would soon cool. I have talked with gentlemen here, and they speak very rationally and dispassionately on the subject. Theirs is a sober mood. They toil on, — patiently toil, - but with a damp on their spirits. Apart from the labors of the