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It is clear that a bull cannot depend upon mere incongruity alone ; for if a man were to say that he would ride to London upon a cocked hat, or that he would cut his throat with a pound of pickled salmon, this, though completely incongruous, would not be to make bulls, but to talk nonsense. The stronger the apparent connection, and the more complete the real disconnection of the ideas, the greater the surprise and the better the bull. The less apparent, and the more coinplete the relations established by wit, the higher gratification does it afford. A great deal of the pleasure experienced from bulls proceeds from the sense of superiority in ourselves. Bulls which we invented, or knew to be invented, might please, but in a less degree, for want of this additional zest.
As there must be apparent connection, and real incongruity, it is seldom that a man of sense and education finds any form of words by which he is conscious that he might have been deceived into a bull. To conceive how the person has been deceived, he must suppose a degree of information very different from, and a species of character very heterogeneous to, his own, a process which diminishes surprise, and consequently pleasure. In the above-mentioned story of the Irishman overlooking the man writing, no person of ordinary sagacity can suppose himself betrayed into such a mistake; but he can easily represent to himself a kind of character that might have been so betrayed. There are some bulls so extremely fallacious, that any man may imagine himself to have been betrayed into them; but these are rare : and in general it is a poor contemptible species of amusement; a delight in which evinces a very bad taste in wit.
Whether the Irish make more bulls than their neighbours is, as we have before remarked, not a point of much importance; but it is of considerable importance that the character of a nation should not be degraded : and Mr. Edgeworth has great merit in his very benevolent intention of doing justice to the excellent qualities of the Irish. It is not possible to read his book, without feeling a strong and a new disposition in their favour. Whether the imitation of the Irish manner be accurate in his little stories, we cannot determine ; but we feel the same confidence in the accuracy of the imitation, that is often felt in the resemblance of a portrait of which we have never seen the original. It is no very high compliment to Mr. Edgeworth's creative powers, to say, he could not have formed any thing, which was not real, so like reality ; but such a remark only robs Peter to pay Paul ;
' and gives every thing to his powers of observation, which it takes from those of his imagination. In truth, nothing can be better than his imitation of the Irish manner; it is first-rate painting.
Edgeworth and Co. have another faculty in great perfection. They are eminently masters of the pathos. The Firm drew tears from us in the stories of little Dominick, and of the Irish beggar, who killed his sweetheart. Never was any grief more natural or simple. The first, however, ends in a very foolish way :
Desinit in piscem.
We are extremely glad that our avocations did not call us from Bath to London on the day that the Bath coach conversation took place. We except from this wish the story with which the conversation terminates; for as soon as Mr. Edgeworth enters upon a story he excels.
We must confess we have been much more pleased with Mr. Edgeworth in his laughing and in his pathetic, than in his grave and reasoning moods. He meant, perhaps, that we should ; and it certainly is not very necessary that a writer should be profound on the subject of bulls. Whatever be the deficiencies of the book, they are, in our estimation, amply atoned for by its merits; by none more, than that lively feeling of compassion which pervades it for the distresses of the wild, kind-hearted, blundering poor of Ireland.
DR. WINTERBOTTOM'S ACCOUNT OF SIERRA LEONE.
An Account of Native Africans in the Neighbourhood of Sierra Leone. To
which is added An Account of the present State of Medicine among them. By THOMAS WINTERBOTTOM, Physician to the Colony of Sierra Leone.
Hatchard, Piccadilly. Vol. Í. IT T appears from the Preface of this book, that the original design of
Dr. Winterbottom was to write only on the medical knowledge of the Africans in the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone ; but as he had lived among them some time in quality of physician to the colony, and had made many observations on the genius and manners of the various African natic which surround it, it was thought fit (i.e., profitable) that he should write one volume for general, and one for therapeutic readers. The latter has not yet come to our hands; the former we have read with pleasure. It is very sensibly and agreeably drawn up, and the only circumstance we regret is, that, upon the whole, it must be rather considered as a compilation from previous writers, than as the result of the author's experience ; not that he is exactly on a footing with mere compilers ; because every account which he quotes of scenes to which he is familiar, he sanctions by his authority; and, with the mass of borrowed, there is a certain portion of original matter. It appears, also, that a brother of the author, in company with a Mr. Watt, penetrated above 400 miles into a part of Africa totally unknown to Europeans; but there are very few observations quoted from the journal kept in this excursion; and the mention of it served for little more than to excite a curiosity which is not gratified by further communication.
By the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, Mr. Winterbottom means the windward coast, or that portion of the western shore of Africa, which extends from the river Senegal to the latitude of nearly five degrees north, where the coast quits its easterly direction, and runs away to the south, or a little to the east of south.
The whole of the coast is inhabited by a great number of independent nations, divided by different shades of barbarism and disputed limits of territory, plunged in the darkest ignorance and superstition, and preyed upon by the homicide merchants of Europe. The most curious passage in this section of the work is an extract which Mr. Winterbottom has given us from a report made to a Committee of the House of Commons by the Directors of the Sierra Leone Company; and which (as we conjecture from Dr. Winterbottom's mode of expressing himself, has never been printed) we shall extract from his book.
"A remarkable proof (says the Directors)exists in the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, of the very great advantages of a permanent, though very imperfect, system of government, and of the abolition of those African laws which make slavery the punishment of almost every offence. Not more than seventy years ago, a small number of Mahommedans established themselves in a country about forty miles to the northward of Sierra Leone, called from them the Mandingo country. As is the practice of the professors of that religion, they formed schools in which the Arabic language and the doctrines of Mahomet were taught; and the customs of Mahommedans, particularly that of not selling any of their own religion for slaves, were adopted ; laws founded on the Koran were introduced; those practices which chiefly contribute to depopulate were eradicated ; and, in spite of many intestine convulsions, a great comparative idea of civilization, unity, and security, was introduced ; population, in consequence, was rapidly increased : and the whole power of that part of the country in which they are settled has gradually fallen into their hands. Those who have been taught in their schools are succeeding to wealth and power in the neighbouring countries, and carry with them a considerable portion of their religion and laws; other chiefs are adopting the names assumed by these Mahommedans, on account of the respect with which it is attended ; and the religion of Islam seems to diffuse itself peaceably over the whole district in which the colony is situated, carrying with it those advantages which seem ever to have attended its victory over African superstition.”
Agriculture, though in a rude infant state, is practised all along this coast of Africa. All the lands must be strictly appropriated in a country, and the greater part cultivated, before any can be cultivated well. Where land is of little value, it is cheaper and better to till it slightly than perfectly ; or rather, perfection, under such circumstances, consists in idleness and neglect. The great impediment to be removed from the fresh land which the Africans mean to cultivate, are those troublesome weeds called trees; which are first cut down, and then, with the grass, set fire to at a particular season of the year. This operation is performed when the Pleiades, the only stars they observe,
are in a certain position with respect to the setting sun. At that season the fires are seen rolling in every direction over the parched and inflammable herbage; and the blazing provinces are discerned at an immense distance in the night by ships approaching the coast. At this period of arson it is not safe to travel without a tinder-box; for, if a traveller is surprised by the pursuit of the flame, his only safety consists in propagating the same evil before, by which he is menaced behind ; and, in trudging on amidst the fiery hyphen, multiplying destruction in order to avoid it. The Foolahs, who seem to have made the greatest advances in agriculture, are, however, still ignorant of the use of the plough, though Dr. Winterbottom is quite persuaded they might easily be taught to use cattle for that purpose.
“ There came (says the Doctor) during my residence at the colony, a chief of considerable importance, from the river Gambia, attracted by curiosity, and a desire of information. The man, whose appearance instantly announced a mind of no common cast, was so much struck with what he saw there, that before he went away he engaged in his service two of the most ingenious mechanics in the colony, one of whom, a carpenter, among other things, was to make a plough, and the other was to teach his people the art of training oxen for the draught, and fixing them to the yoke. For a further account of this person, see the Report of the Directors of the Sierra Leone Company. London, 1795."
It is curious to remark, that where any instance of civilization and refinement is discovered in the manners of a barbarous people, it exists in a much higher degree than the same virtue in nations generally refined. There are many single points of barbarous courtesy much more rigidly adhered to than the rules of European politeness would require. We have often remarked this in the voyages of Captain Cook, among the islands of the Indian Archipelago ; and there is a very remarkable instance of it among the natives of this coast. The houses (says Dr. Winterbottom) have seldom any other opening than the door, of which there are usually two opposite to each other. These serve the purpose of keeping up a current of air; they also admit the light; and afford an exit to the smoke of the fire, which is made in the middle of the floor. The entrance of a house is seldom closed by anything but a mat, which is occasionally let down, and is a sufficient barrier against all intruders. The most intimate friend will not presume to lift the mat and enter, unless his salutation is returned. Nay, when the door is thus slightly closed, a woman, by pronouncing the word Mooradee (I am busy), can prevent her husband from entering, even though he is assured she is entertaining her gallant. His only remedy is to wait for their coming out.
The explanation of these insulated pieces of superlative refinement among savages, frequently is, that they are not mere ceremonies, but religious observances; for the faith of barbarous people commonly regulates all the frivolous minutiæ of life, as well as its important duties; indeed, generally considers the first as of greater consequence than
the last. And it must be a general fact, at all times, that gross ignorance more tenaciously adheres to a custom once adopted, because it respects that custom as an ultimate rule, and does not discern cases of exception by appealing to any higher rule upon which the first is found.
The Africans are very litigious; and display, in their law-suits or palavers, a most forensic exuberance of images, and loquacity of speech. Their criminal causes are frequently terminated elling one of the parties into slavery ; and the Christians are always ready to purchase either the plaintiff or defendant, or both; together with all the witnesses, and any other human creature who is of a dusky colour, and worships the great idol Boo-Boo-Boo with eleven heads.
No great division of labour can of course be expected in such a state of society. Every man is a city in himself, and is his own tailor, hairdresser, shoemaker, and everything else. Among the Foolahs, however, some progress has been made in the division of employments. The tanner and the blacksmith are distinct trades; and the ingenuity which they evince in overcoming obstacles, by means so inadequate to those which Europeans possess, may convince us what a stock of good qualities human nature has in store for cases of emergency. They put to sea canoes of ten tons' burthen, hollowed from a single tree ; and although they are ignorant of the use of the potter's wheel, make earthen pots fit for every domestic use. Dr. Winterbottom thinks they may have learnt their pottery from Europeans : but if this is true, it is rather singular they were not instructed by the same masters in the use of the potter's most convenient and most prominent instrument. The common dress of the men consists in a shirt, trousers, woollen cap or hat, which they buy of Europeans. Those who can afford it, are fond of decorating themselves in all the second-hand splendour they can purchase at the same market : and Monmouth Street embarks its decayed finery for the coast of Africa, where Soosoo rakes and loungers are joyfully vested in the habiliments of their Bond Street predecessors. The dress of the Pagan African is never thought complete, unless a variety of gree-grees, or amulets, be superadded ; these are to guard against every possible accident; but, as Dr. Winterbottom observes, are such very cumbersome protectors, that in all real dangers they are commonly thrown away. The Mahommedan religion is inimical to dancing, singing, and all the lighter species of amusement. Riding on horseback is the only exercise of those Africans who have adopted this dull faith. Sedentary amusements, such as reading and writing, which flatter the literary pride with which they are puffed up, are most congenial to their habits. The collation of manuscripts, which they perform with industry and accuracy, takes up much of their time. The Pagan African, on the contrary, is commonly a merry, dancing animal, given to every species of antic and apish amusement; and as he is unacquainted with the future and promised delights of the Arabian prophet, he enjoys the bad music and imperfect beauty of this world with a most eager and undisturbed relish.