« VorigeDoorgaan »
"We arrived at the village about three o'clock, and were not long in Anding 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
. Į 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, near 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 poise 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, is so; but how is the victim circumstanced? As a widow, the lot
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 comfort 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 make the
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 whether the writer is any more to be trusted than in his relation of events. In both, we either discover the faint and confused recollections 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 a multitude of ancient monuments that at the first approach, one might imagine oneself entering a petrified town.'
Chambers. Proceeding along the foot of the bill, on the side facing the sea, there is a pagoda rising out of the ground of one solid stone, which seems to have been cut upon the spot out of a detached rock.'
Haafner. At the foot of the hill, near to the sea, there is a very handsome pagoda cut, both as to its pillars and its ornaments, out of the solid rocki
Chambers. “From hence a winding stair leads to a kind of temple, cut out of the solid rock, with some figures of idols in high relief upon its walls, very well finished and perfectly fresh, as it faces the west, and is therefore sheltered from the sea air. From this temple again there are flights of steps that seem to have led to some edifice formerly standing upon the hill.
Haafner. “On the west side is a temple cut out of the rock, whose walls are covered with sculptured figures, which have suffered little from the hand of time, because they are not exposed to the salt air of the sea. From this temple many steps lead to the top of the mountain.'
Chambers. In descending there is an excavation that seems to have been intended for a place of worship, and contains various sculptures of Hindoo deities. The most remarkable of these is a gigantic figure of Vislınow asleep on a kind of bed, with a huge snake wound about in many coils by way of pillow for his head ; and these figures are all of one piece hewn from the body of the rock.'
Haafner. “Descending on the south is another excavation, supported by a great number of columns. Judging from the altars, and the quantity of statues of gods and goddesses which appear, one may conclude that it once served as a temple. Among the statues a colossal figure of Vischnow is remarkable. He reposes on a kind of bed, and his pillow is a serpent coiled round upon itself. This statue is hewn out of the rock to which it is attached by the lower extremity.'
The plagiarism stinks to heaven. Chambers visited the ruins in 1772 and 1776, but did not write his accoumt of them until 1784. Haafner says that he visited them frequently while he resided at Madras, in 1780–82, and he publishes his book in 1806. Our own opinion is, that Chambers's account is vague and inaccurate ; and that Haafner knows no more of them than what appears in the Asiatic Researches: hitherto nothing like a correct description has been given of those ruins, which, as monuments of ancient magnificence, far exceed the caverns of Salsette and Elephanta, and are surpassed only by those unparalleled examples of human labour, the excavations of Ellora. It is not much to the credit of our countrymen, that, though within the distance of 16 or 18 miles of Madras, 110 resident, since the time of Mr. Chambers, has thought it worth his pains to visit them? The situation may be remote,' as Chambers says, from the high road which leads to the different European settlements; and the coast,
as Haafner-subjoins, may be dangerous for vessels ;' yet the latter, if he may be trusted, found no difficulty in approaching the place in a crazy open boat, in the worst season, though we are taught, that
never traveller comes near These awful ruins of the days of yore, Nor fisher's bark, nor venturous mariner
Approach the sacred shore.' In conclusion, if Jacob Haafner be a real character, he is a man totally destitute of every principle of honour and truth; if a mere nom guerre,
the book may be considered as having been got up by the French government for the mean and odious purpose of creating a false and unfavourable impression of the British character on the continent, and fixing an unmerited stigma on the British name in India. This must be our apology for noticing it at all; and this, we trust, our readers will admit to be sufficiently valid.
Art. VII. Traité Elémentaire d’Astronomie Physique, par J. B.
Biot, Membre de l'Institut de France, 8c. Avec des Additions relatives à l'Astronomie Nautique, par M. de Rossel, ancien Capitaine de Vaisseau, Rédacteur et Co-opérateur du Voyage de d'Entrecastelur. Seconde Edition, destinée à l'Enseignement dans les Lycées impériaux et les Ecoles secondaires. . . An Elementary Treatise on Physical Astronomy, &c. Paris.
1810. 3 vols. 8vo. pp. xxxvi. 1727. and 41 Plates. ALTHOUGH the volumes before us constitute the second edi
tion of a work of no superlative merit, yet it has many claims on our attention. In magnitude it nearly triples the former edition, and may, therefore, be considered rather as a new than an improved work. Since its first appearance, the author has received many suggestions for modification and improvement, from Laplace, De lambre, Pictet, Prevost, Maurice, Arago, Chaix, Rodrigues, Berrouer, Mathieu, 'Bouvard, and Rossel; his performance, therefore, may be contemplated as a fair specimen of the maximum of producible talent in France on this interesting subject. It contains, besides, many striking instances of the prevailing wish among Frenchmen of science to extirpate from the continent the notion that any such beings as philosophers now exist in Great Britain. And it developes some of the arts to which even a man of respectable talents will have recourse, in order to derive all possible pecuniary advantage from his character, by swelling out his work to double its requisite size.
M. Biot, in his prefatory sketch of the object of his treatise, supposes the student to possess no absolute knowledge of astronomy, or even of cosmography. He farther supposes the existence of all the prejudices respecting the figure of the earth and the celestial motions which spring from the uncorrected testimony of the senses; and he endeavours to lead his pupil, by a gradual process of observation and reasoning, to the true mechanism of the system of the world, including, of course, the motion of the earth, the laws of Kepler, and the explication of the various phenomena which depend upon attraction. The work is divided into four books, of which we shall speak in their order.
Book I. contains twenty-three chapters, which treat of the heavens viewed astronomically; the roundness of the earth; the atmosphere; instruments necessary in astronomical observations; use of the transit instrument; equality of celestial revolutions, and their use in measuring time; determination of the meridian by the measure of time; direction of the axis of apparent celestial rotation; mural quadrant, and its use in determining the height of the pole; exact determination of the laws of diurnal inotion, including proofs of its uniformity; principal circles of the celestial sphere; terrestrial poles and equator; determination of the figure of the earth; with the exact measure of its magnitude; mode of fixing the position of the different points of the earth's surface; investigation of the physical consequences which result from the universality of the diurnal motion; physical consequences of the compression of the earth's polar axis, including the variations in the length of the second's pendulum; atmospherical refractions; parallaxes; description and use of the repeating circle; instruments used at sea ; sextant; reflecting circle; and mariner's compass. These subjects, with the notes, occupy the whole of the first volume.
In this volume we meet with some excellencies, and not a few peculiarities. Among the former, we must specify the vote on the subject of refraction; and among the latter, the omission of the English measurers in the chapter on the determination of the earth’s figure and magnitude. The progress of sentiment, and change of conduct, on this point, are somewhat curious. At first, the English measurers and the French academicians met at Dover to adjust their plan of operations; they then kept up a friendly correspondence, and the French liberally extolled the superior accuracy of the English operations; afterwards they praised the accuracy of the English measures, but with a saving chause in favour of their own; as was the case with Puissant in his · Géodésie,' who, after stating some remarkable intances of correctness in General Roy and Colonel Mudge, says, ' Neanmoins,