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CHAPTER XIV.

Amusements.-Want of public ones.Concerts.

Dancing assemblies, &c.-Rural sports.Convivial parties.

AS a taste for literature is but little cultivated, in this island, so neither do any of the polite and elegant amusements of life meet with much encouragement in it. There is neither countenance for the poet, nor employment for the painter, the statuary, nor the harmonious son of Apollo. Here is no classic ground for the contemplative student to tread on; and as to the muses, they are treated as vagrants. The avidity with which wealth is sought after and pursued ; the lukewarmness of so great a proportion of the inhabitants, who come to the country with the sole view of making a fortune, and whose hopes and affections are centered in another country ; the want of taste, spirit, or liberality in what may be called the permanent inhabitants, to encourage generous undertakings; and perhaps the absence of the chief proprietors, whose presence and countenance would doubtless give energy to whatever would do honour to their native coun. try, are among the causes which contribute to this vandalism of taste.

There are no theatrical exhibitions in this island. About twenty-five years ago a company of the sons and daughters of Thespis came here. They had some years before migrated from North America, terrified and proscribed as they must have been by the fierceness of civil discord. Put on peace being restored to that country, they returned to it; and have not since, nor have any others, visited the shores of this island. A company of good actors might be stationary in the country: Kingston might be considered as their head-quarters, from whence they might, at certain periods, say annually, depart on a tour round the island, in order to exhibit in the other towns.

A monthly concert is an amusement which might, with little trouble or expense, be procured for the ladies of a tolerably populous and genteel town, by such gentlemen as were amateurs in the art, combining their talents for this

purpose ; and surely nothing can be a more pleasing task than an effort to deserve the thanks and the approbation of the fair. In Kingston there are occasionally tolerable concerts, the principal performers in which are French emigrants from St. Domingo; these unhappy people resorting, among other expedients, to this exercise of their talents, in order to obtain a livelihood. And here, as the subject of these unfortunate wanderers has been mentioned, it is but justice to

ädd, that from the inhabitants of this island, they experienced the most hospitable and benevolent reception. Suddenly cut off, as they were, by a horrible convulsion, from their possessions and homes, reduced as it were in a moment from happiness, affluence, and independence, to all the wretchedness of want, many of them found in this island an hospitable asylum, and in the generosity of its inhabitants a relief from the horrors of their forlorn situation. Jealousies of the intriguing spirit of this people have, however, existed of late ; and a wish has been expressed to the

governor to have them removed ; but whither was he to have sent them? and how and by what means were they to be provided for ?

But to return. The want of public amusements and of amusing exhibitions in this island, creates an eager and lively curiosity in the bulk of the people of all descriptions to see whatever has the appearance or promise of novelty in spectacles of the most trifling nature. Conjurors, sleight of hand men, dancers on the slack wire, exhibitors of wax-work figures, sometimes make their appearance here, and never fail to attract crowds of inquisitive people, to their great emolument, as they take care that the price of admission should be consonant to the supposed wealth and munificence of the West Indians.

Monthly assemblies in the different parishes are a sourge of some amusement here, particu

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Jarly to the females, who, as before observed, are very fond of dancing. These are continued throughout the year. In temperate climes, the inhabitants usually lay this exercise aside in the hot summer months, as being rather warm for such a season, být here there is no such renunciation ; it continues throughout the year, and during the sultry dog days, the gay throng trip it on the “ light fantastic toe with as much vivacity; and animation as in the cooler months of December and January. Country dances are the greatest favourites; and the negro fiddlers, accompanied by the lively sound of the tambourin, in lieu of the bass-viol, often play, though not regu. larly taught, with wonderful accuracy and apparent taste. It is, however, rather a painful sight often to see, in a hot room, where even the sedentary spectator pants for the refreshing air, a groupe, of charming well-dressed young women sweltering... through the fatigue of a long country dance, yet animated by gaiety, and a love of the amusement, to renew again and again the grateful toil.

The horse races, which haye already been described, afford also a week's amusement once in two years to the inhabitants of the different pa-, rishes. On these occasions, a ball is given, and the time while the races last is spent with great festivity and hilarity. Drinking, dancing, and gambling parties are then more than ysually frequent, from the mixed concourse of people which

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the occasion brings together from the different neighbouring parishes, besides the inhabitants of the one in which the race takes place. The opu-, lent and the fashionable of both sexes throng the course, în carriages and on horse-back, the same as in England. The purses are an hundred pounds, or an hundred pistoles ; they are all raised by subscription, except the king's purse, ; which is the first that is run for. The heats are two, three, and four miles. Gambling, if it may be classed as an amusement, is very common in Jamaica, particularly during races; and sometimes considerable sums of money are won and lost. The favourite games are billiards, and various games of hazard with the dice.

There are few rural sports here. There are neither deer, hares, nor foxes to pursue ; and if there were, there is but a narrow range of chama paign country for such amusement, and that little adapted to it. The hunting of the wild hog is now, as before said, generally relinquished as a too fatiguing and troublesome sport. Shooting various sorts of game is, however, common. These consist of the different species of the wild pigeon here, quails, coots, &c. and, in the sea. son, the wild duck, the snipe, the ortolan, the plover, and other birds of the migratory kind common in the West Indies. There are no game laws existing in Jamaica, to restrain the unqualified sportsman, or protect the featured

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