« ÎnapoiContinuați »
not he have drawn from those awful depths! What proofs might not these terrible soundings have furnished!
Our author was but able to visit a small portion of the sea in question-it was sufficient, however, to impart ample authentication to the reports of previous writers. To his industry and research we are indebted for the preservation of the tale of the sailor we mentioned above, (the companion of the unfortunate Costigan,) which is the first and only account of a circuit of these dread waters having been made. We extract it, and, with it, conclude our notice of this very delightful book.
"When the unhappy Costigan was found by the Arabs on the shore of the Dead Sea, the spirit of the enterprising Irishman was fast fleeting away. He lived two days after he was carried to the convent at Jerusalem, but he never once referred to his unhappy voyage. He had long been a traveller in the East, and long preparing for this voyage; had read every book that treated of the mysterious water, and was thoroughly prepared with all the knowledge necessary for exploring it to advantage. Unfortunately for the interests of science, he had always been in the habit of trusting greatly to his memory; and, after his death, the missionaries in Jerusalem found no regular diary or journal, but merely brief notes written on the margins of books, so irregular and confused that they could make nothing of them; and, either from indifference, or because they had no confidence in him, they allowed Costigan's servant to go without asking him any questions. I took some pains to trace out this man; and afterward, while lying at Beyroot, suffering from a malady which abruptly put an end to my travels in the East, Paul hunted him out and brought him to me. He was a little, dried-up Maltese sailor; had rowed around that sea without knowing why, except that he was paid for it; and what he told me bore the stamp of truth, for he did not seem to think that he had done any thing extraordinary. He knew as little about it as any man could know who had been over the same water, and yet, after all, perhaps, he knew as much as any one else could learn. He seemed, however, to have observed the coast and the soundings with the eye of a sailor, and I got him to make me a map, which has been engraved for this work, and on which I marked down the particulars as I received them from his lips. The reader will perceive by it that they had completed the whole tour of the lake. They were eight days in accomplishing the task, sleeping every night on shore except once, when, afraid of some suspicious Arabs whom they saw on the mountains, they slept on board, beyond the reach of gunshot from the land. He told me that they had moved in a zigzag direction, crossing and recrossing the lake several times; that every day they sounded, frequently with a line of 175 brachia (about six feet each); that they found the bottom rocky and of very unequal depth, sometimes ranging thirty, forty, eighty, twenty brachia, all within a few boats' lengths; that some
'I would suggest whether this irregularity does not tend to show the fallacy of the opinion that the cities of the plain were destroyed by a volcanic eruption, and that the lake covers the crater of an extinct volcano. I have seen the craters of Vesuvius, Solfaterra, Etna, and Monte Rosso, and all present the same form of a mountain excavated in the form of a cone, without any of the irregularities found in the bottom of this sea.
times the lead brought up sand, like that of the mountains on each side; that they failed in finding bottom but once, and in that place there were large bubbles all around for thirty paces, rising probably from a spring; that in one place they found on the bank a hot sulphur spring; that at the southern extremity Mr. Costigan looked for the River of Dogs, but did not find it; that in four different places they found ruins, and could clearly distinguish large hewn stones, which seem to have been used for buildings; and in one place they saw ruins which Mr. Costigan said were the ruins of Gomorrah. Now I have no doubt that Mr. Costigan talked with him as they went along, and told him what he told me ; and that Mr. Costigan had persuaded himself that he did see the ruins of the guilty city; he may have been deceived and probably was; but it must have been the most intensely interesting illusion that ever any man had. But of the island, or what Paul and I had imagined to be such :-He said that they too had noticed it particularly; and when they came towards the southern extremity of the lake, found that it was an optical deception, caused by a tongue of high land, that put out for a long distance from the middle of the southern extremity, as in the map; and being much higher than the valley beyond it, intercepted the view in the manner we had both noticed; this tongue of land, he said, was composed of solid salt, tending to confirm the assertion of Strabo, to which I referred in my journey through Idumea, that in the great valley south of the Dead Sea there were formerly large cities built entirely of salt. The reader will take this for what it is worth; it is at least new, and it comes from the only living man who has explored the lake.
"He told me some other particulars; that the boat, when empty, floated a palm higher out of the water than on the Mediterranean; and that Costigan lay on the water, and picked a fowl, and tried to induce him to come in; that it was in the month of July, and from nine to five dreadfully hot, and every night a north wind blew, and the waves were worse than in the Gulf of Lyons; and, in reference to their peculiar exposures, and the circumstances that hurried poor Costigan to his unhappy fate, he said that they had suffered exceedingly from the heat, the first five days Costigan taking his turn at the oars; that on the sixth day their water was exhausted, and Costigan gave out; that on the seventh day they were obliged to drink the water of the sea; and on the eighth they were near the head of the lake, and he himself exhausted, and unable any longer to pull an oar. There he made coffee from the water of the sea; and a favourable wind springing up, for the first time they hoisted their sail, and in a few hours reached the head of the lake; that, feeble as he was, he set off for Jericho, and, in the mean time, the unhappy Costigan was found by the Arabs on the shore a dying man, and, by the intercession of the old woman, carried to Jericho. I ought to add, that the next time he came to me, like Goose Gibbie, he had tried whether the money I gave him was good, and recollected a great many things he had forgotten before. Vol. II. pp. 278–282.
ART. IX.-The Life of Oliver Goldsmith, M. B., from a variety of original sources. By JAMES PRIOR, Esq., Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries; Member of the Royal Irish Academy; author of the Life of Burke, &c. Philadelphia: 1 vol. 8vo. pp. 550.
Of all the writers of whom perhaps any age can boast, Goldsmith engages most the affection and sympathies of his readers. He so identifies himself with his subject, that the interest with which his genius invests it, is involuntarily transmitted to himself. Why is this? What secret chord of the human bosom does he touch, that teaches the heart so to vibrate in harmony with his own emotions? Is it other than a refined and delicate spirit, known as the sensibility of nature, which presides like an enchantress over his delightful and exquisite page?
We pour over the volumes of master minds with gratification, and rise from them with a sense of improvement. We are pleased because we are instructed, and admire for the same reason. But it requires something more than the impress of deep learning or a great understanding, to captivate our fancy and our love. It is possible to admire what we do not esteem, and still more common to be repelled from that which stands high in our estimation.
Nor is the imagination alone that quality in a writer which secures for him the sympathetic regard of his reader. The mind may emit the sublimest conceptions of poetic genius, and yet be unmoved and cold. If the subject of an author be not in unison with the affections of our nature, if he be frigid in his treatment of it, or if he stand at a distance, as if to dictate lessons of wisdom to inferior beings, no desire will be felt towards an intimate acquaintance, and no sentiment excited but that vague impulse which pays homage to acknowledged superiority.
To Goldsmith we are allured by various concurring influWe feel admiration for his genius, love for the man, and sympathy for his frailties and misfortunes.
It is a reflection upon the literature of England, that a period of sixty years elapsed from the death of one of its most charming and gifted authors, before any serious attempt was made to collect his writings or record his life. We are certainly grateful to Mr. Prior for what his diligence and talents have accomplished, in the large contribution which has been made to the knowledge of both. But no assiduity can now recover those minute incidents of conversation and personal history, which vividly portray the man as he lived. These rest only in the memory of survivors, and if not immediately seized, become
perverted or indistinct before death closes the possibility of living testimony.
We are accustomed to view Goldsmith through the distorted medium of Boswell's account. This attractive biographer had one absorbing object in view, the glorification of a great idol. Every person and every event introduced into his book was in subserviency to this. He proposes only to record the colloquies of Johnson, and so much of the actions and conversations of others as may render intelligible his piquancy and wisdom. It is remarkable that among the great wits whose sayings are repeated, all are Doctores Minores in the presence of this Doctor Major, Burke and Garrick, whose colloquial sallies, it is well known, were frequently brilliant, and the former scarcely inferior in declamatory dignity to Johnson himself, are exhibited rather as his foils than equals. No surprise therefore should be felt at the unmeasured inferiority of the part which Goldsmith, in his dramatis persona, is permitted to enact.
But candour must acknowledge that other causes were at work, with reference to Boswell's portrait of Goldsmith, than presenting a fine picture in a hero. This was jealousy verging to envy, and vexation approaching to dislike.
Upon his coming to London, Boswell found Goldsmith about his own age, high in the esteem of Johnson, and in the possession of a growing literary fame. The unstudied colloquial ease, denominated by Bozzy the careless rattle of Goldy, his playful and unpremeditated wit, his joyous, perhaps boisterous mirth, were qualities diametrically opposed to the measured stateliness and solemn verbosity of Johnson. Every departure from the habits which marked his venerated favourite, was an abandonment of propriety, and a violation of the rules of true greatness. These might easily detract from his appreciation of a man who took no pains to conceal the contempt in which he held his own pretensions, and whose gibes must have been the more cutting from the exquisite point with which they were conveyed. A bon mot has been preserved by the late Mr. Wheble, which, as it probably reached the ears of its object, may have produced some of the passages objected to. Some one angrily called Boswell "a Scotch cur," in a moment of irritation. Goldsmith replied, "No, no, you are too severe; he is only a Scotch burr. Tom Davies threw him at Johnson in sport, and he has the faculty of sticking." And last, but not least, it was enough to give the preserver of Johnson's conversations and anticipated biographer, a mortal distaste to one who held so high a place in the regard of Johnson himself, as to be considered by that personage the fittest of his contemporaries to transmit his fame to posterity.
These causes conspired to produce ill consequences upon
the usually candid and liberal mind of the panegyrist of Johnson. They soured his feelings, perhaps even unconsciously to himself, and the results are perceptible in almost every page of his interesting Life. The anecdotes of Goldsmith, when related upon his own testimony, may be relied upon; but his comments show the natural effects of jealousy-a disposition to undervalue the character, and depreciate the works of an excellent man and a matchless writer. In one place he applies to him with evident gusto, the ill-natured phrase "an inspired idiot," upon the authority of Hawkins; and, in another, characterizes his mind as a fruitful indeed, but thin soil. These are unjust and disparaging ascriptions, in which none but a determined detractor could indulge.
But notwithstanding the neglect of those friends of the poet from whom mankind had a right to expect some tribute to his memory, and maugre the envemoned shafts of Boswell, his works and memory still live, and promise to live throughout future time. There are few writers to whom all classes of readers recur with so much delight, and no one for whom they entertain feelings so akin to personal friendship. The bland benevolence of his spirit, the simple beauty of his language, the harmony and polish of his sentences, the vivacity of his humour, the elegance of his fancy, and the pungency and occasional power with which he writes, are admitted by all. For ourselves we shall not affect to conceal such a love of the man and admiration of his writings as lead us to examine with minuteness every point in the character of the former, and to read even "Goody Two Shoes," now ranked in the category of the others. We have never been able to believe that a writer of such exquisite genius as Goldsmith, could be the bungling converser described in the pages of Boswell. This opinion receives countenance from the fact, that whenever he is allowed to speak for himself, he does it with characteristic beauty of language and felicity of illustration. Madame D'Arblay, in her amusing but grotesque Life of Dr. Burney, and Sir Joshua Reynolds confirm this impression. We had hoped therefore, perhaps unreasonably, to find in Mr. Prior's book, some detailed and authentic registry of his conversation. But in this we have been disappointed. He disproves many of the opinions and assertions of Boswell, but gives his reader few specimens to enable him to judge of the matter for himself.
In the meagre notices, miscalled biographies, of this eminent writer, there was just enough, with what an admirer could cull from Boswell, to excite his curiosity. Many no doubt have felt, like ourselves, almost feverishly anxious to know something more of the man than these performances convey. Even in this country, the gratification of such a desire was not entirely