« AnteriorContinuar »
all classes. Everybody must have his good reason for his wanderings. Shellfish and Actinice justify the seaair and pleasure of the humblest holiday; and the further we extend our travels, the more indispensable becomes an object and "pursuit."
Under this impulse of fashion and popular inclination, as under all such, there lies, without doubt, a compulsion of use and necessity. Fashions do not come for nothing, any more than needs do. We have come to that condition of society which, for lack of a better term, we call extreme civilisation; everything artificial is at its highest bloom and perfection in our old empires; the comforts of life, and the accessions of luxury, were never so generally within reach, or so universally enjoyed. If everything about us is not beautiful, up to the highest reach of manufacturable beauty, the fault is not ours, but Nature's, who chooses sometimes to balk our training by withholding what she alone can bestow; but we have taught, invented, and constructed to the highest pitch of our powers. We have made it possible to whisper secrets across a continent and through a sea. We can travel at a rate which is all but flying. We can breakfast every morning, if we please, upon all the news of all the world. Though idle people dispute in the newspapers about the possibilities of marriage on three hundred a-year, we are all perfectly aware that three hundred a-year nowadays means a degree of personal comfort impossible to monarchs as many years ago. And the superficial idea is, that all this is remarkably satisfactory, the real end of national effort, the state of social eminence most desirable, and of the greatest benefit to the race. Experience, however, and social wisdom, tell other tales. History knows, and does not fail to testify, that of all the dangers which beset a state, none is so subtle, so destructive, or full of all the possibilities of evil, as this same civilisation. It is like the penetrating luscious air of a skilful poison, the perfumes of the Borgias. We must needs throw up our windows, open our breast to the winds of heaven, camp out in the fields,
and be wet with the dews, like the old Assyrian king, to defy the influences of this intoxicating malaria,— this fragrance and sweetness of death. Expansion, increase, growth, is our only preservation. It is better even to run into extravagances of enterprise, to waste life and time in vain researches, to pile upon each other labours as unprofitable as those of Sisyphus, than to yield to the ease, the comfort, and the prosperity of modern social existence, or give up to civilisation the noble discontent and restless power in which lies our life. It is not this idea which impels us to all our many exertions, and sends our explorers barefoot through the unknown world. Few people apprehend any dangers to themselves from civilisation; yet this principle of self-defence and natural compensation, running through a hundred intermediate channels, is the safeguard of Providence for our protection, while it is also the secret of that fashion which makes us all, whether pilgrims in the desert or tourists on a holiday ramble, give substance to our pleasures, and a value to our fatigues, by charging ourselves with a real or imaginary something to do.
For our wants increase, and our necessities expand along with our luxuries. We not only want a great many things which we had formerly no occasion for, but we long to see other people infected with the same requirements, and as full of wants as ourselves. We cannot afford to leave corners of the world fallow, uncultivated, unleavened by the commixture of our restless blood. The modern spirit of conquest stirs at the thought of miles of virgin soil, where flocks might feed, or corn grow, or timber fit for the masts of some high admiral fall beneath the axe of the pioneer; and Trade, an insatiate demon, burns with lofty indignation at the thought of tribes and nations who know none of its benefits, and who are still content with the beggarly elements of mere sustenance, unaware of all they might gain by the disinterested ministrations of the great buyer and seller of civilised life. Thousands of men and women, whose ambition aims no higher than
scanty milk and beef, or scantier maize-porridge, with an ox-skin or a yard of calico for all their wardrobe, startle the commercial soul into generous shame and yearnings of brotherhood. If we might but wrap those dusky forms in splendid prints of Manchester, in muslins of Paisley! if we could but wreath those ebon brows with glorious Glasgow kerchiefs, Turkey-red! and wake the slumbering soul of African womanhood with glimpses of unbelievable millinery, with ribbons white and red, with dazzling beads coloured like the rainbow! But the commercial Geni pauses with all his riches in his lap, and all his hungry over-productive children urging him on. It is grievous to let so many half-naked human creatures live and die in ignorance of all those provisions of art and civilisation - harder still, and ever harder, to lose crowds of customers, whose patronage might keep many a mill going, and many a town employed, and accumulate many a fortune. But how to get at them? there is the question. Trade, bold, ready, and full of expedients, stands upon the burning sands in doubt and hesitation, and sighs its inquiry to all the winds in vain; for Manchester cottons and Glasgow handkerchiefs nay, even beads and trinkets, guns of Birmingham and knives of Sheffield-cannot make their own way through a savage continent. They may keep up a doubtful and precarious barter along a coast-line -they may stimulate the primeval vanity to the length of kidnapping a neighbour's child, or selling a poor clansman; but they are not moral agents, and this amount of stimulation is about the highest they are capable of. Trade, where it goes alone, may create a slave-trade fatal to itself in the end, and brutalising to every intermediary concerned; but trade, which can cover the sea with ships, and the land with factories, cannot with all its united forces persuade an African chief to be civilised, to be industrious, to employ the bounty of nature which lies at his hand, to produce that he may con
It can teach him to appreciate the fabrics of our loom and the dyes of our printing-it may teach
him to sell his children or his dependants; but it is compelled to leave him as it found him, a savage, and consequently a half-unreasoning and wholly impracticable being, who will steal or cheat, or appropriate" the thing he covets, but is no more worthy of the title of customer than is the monkey in his woods, who appreciates the red handkerchiefs as much as he.
This same title of customer is about the first degree in social rank which our primitive kinsman can take, and it expresses no inconsiderable advance and progress. To be anybody's customer, a man must be a responsible and trustworthy being, able to reflect upon his own wants and means, and to exercise to some extent the qualities of foresight and of judgment. A flying bargain, or a sudden burst of barbarous extravagance, cannot qualify the man of the desert for this first relationship of civilisation. He must have a steady something to offer a proviso, which includes a steady means of acquiring the something-and certain distinct and obvious wants somewhat above the rank of vanities. No one needs to be told how these wants will increase and widen as the resources of civilisation open upon the uninstructed understanding, nor how the inevitable helplessness and dependence of social life will gradually take the place of that independence and absolute freedom which belong only to the man with whom a few yards of cotton and a pound of beef complete the amount of human necessities. But even at the threshold of social habitude, the change must be an important one. To be a customer, it does not require that our client should be fashionable or a fine gentleman, but it provides for the beginning of that development which, happy consummation! may end in both, and which at present advances the wandering chief to the dignity of a primitive patriarch, and justifies the humanity of the savage by an opening of higher instincts-the necessities of the man.
But alas for commerce standing vainly upon the fatal shores of that continent, where there are millions of people to trade with, and untold fortunes to be made, but no access
practicable to the tempting field. Who is to open up the closed realms of savagery, with all their undeveloped riches? Is it the sportsman, the lion-hunter, the man of science? Is it the trader himself, whose immediate interests are concerned? The question is important enough to justify full consideration. Conquests of arms are no longer the plain and natural mode of extending territory -new discoveries of unknown Americas are not to be hoped for. Who is to go forth first at the head of all the armies of civilisation, to open up new countries, tribes, and nations -to bring a new race into the social commonwealth? There are very special capabilities necessary for the office. Great consequences follow as it is well or ill performed, and no one can glance over the first history of such efforts, without feeling how powerful is the influence which they exercise over the future character and tendencies of the countries introduced by their means into the common brotherhood of the human race. Who, then, is the natural pioneer? It is not the sportsman-adventurer, though no one should depreciate the uses of that modern Nimrod, or his class. The sportsman, frank, friendly, liberal, and honourable the civilised man who magnifies all the savage virtues in the sight of those who know no better, and adds to these a revelation of the more exalted courtesies and honesties of life -is an auxiliary to be held in honour; but he is not the man for this office-partly because his very sport puts so serious a vocation out of his way, and partly because the savage understanding cannot and will not comprehend him, let it try ever so hard. Why he should be there in the first place, is a standing enigma to those sons of the desert. They ask, "Have these hunters, who come so far and work so hard, no meat at home?" and laugh with a savage superiority of wisdom at thought of being deceived by the pretence that this is for pleasure. These volunteer labours and hardships, which are a privilege of wealth and leisure to the English gentleman, are the most incomprehensible of follies to the wandering African. He can only
stare with contemptuous amazement, or suspect with natural cunning the motives of the extraordinary madman, who shares toil and fatigue in his own company for the glorious chance of an elephant hunt, or an encounter with a hungry lion. He respects the white man's gallantry, daring, and powers of endurance, but he gazes at him with mingled doubt and wonder. Is he a conspirator, plotting against the freedom of the barbarous soil he treads, and the barbarous tribes who surround him ?-or is he merely a fool?
Nor has the scientific traveller a much better chance. The same inadequacy of motive deprives the primitive man of all confidence in his learned visitor, who comes simply to track a river, or to explore a continent. What can science do against the calm imperturbable sublimity of perfect ignorance? The one 18 a restless, troublesome, unquiet spirit of its very nature-the other a profound, passive, unyielding power, whose momentum of resistance it is scarcely possible to over-estimate. A man who will come over seas and through storms, who will go barefoot and half-naked, who will run a hundred risks of his life, and separate himself from all his friends, in order to find out where a lake lies, how a stream runs, what weeds grow on the sandy plain, and what trees shade the rivers, is, if possible, a conception still more ridiculous and unbelievable than the sportsman. To the primitive intelligence his alleged motive is a farce and pretence too absurd to do more than smile at. The salvage man knows better. He can believe that the geographer has come to put spells upon his land, to divert the waters of his stream, to dry him up with droughts, and waste his substance with arts magic, to pinch and cramp him like Prospero. All this is reasonable, and within the reach of comprehension; but to persuade him of such an insane fiction as the other, is a mere scoff upon his supposed credulity, which he laughs and finds out with supreme contempt. The heroism of science is out of the range of things explainable to the sceptic of the deserts. It would be almost as easy to make it
apparent to the brutes themselves as to the nobler but scarce less ignorant animal who reigns over them, and yet flies before them. To him the highest mission of that inquisitive and restless spirit is worse than foolishness-a childish and incomprehensible play with the privations of his own hard life, or more likely the wiles of a deceiver more cunning than he, who thinks to blind his eyes by this pretence; and we doubt whether it is possible, spite of their magnificent exertions, that the Barths and the Vogels, any more than the sportsmen, can, however important their contributions to science, and however heroic their labours, be really effectual instruments for the opening of a new world to commerce, law, education, and all the influences of civilised life.
But there still are motives and inducements beyond mere personal profit, which even the mind of a savage, being human, is capable of comprehending he is still a man, however degraded his existence may be, and however limited his horizon. It is in him to comprehend in some far-off and dim degree what the missionary does in that parched and sunburnt land of his. It may be the merest waste of effort to teach his ignorance; yet, by right of his humanity, he is able to understand and believe somehow that it is reasonable the teacher should come, though from the end of the world. The motive is sufficient even to his blunted and dim capacity. It is not to shoot, nor to observe, nor to travel; it is to bring certain unbelievable wonders to his own ears, to teach him something which he did not know before, which possibly he will not receive now, but which his visitor believes and comes to tell. The message may rouse his most powerful prejudices, his strongest impulse of opposition. It is foreign to his customs, antagonistic to his germs of belief, condemnatory of his life; but the reasonableness of the errand approves itself beyond question to his judgment. He can comprehend it without explanation. It is not a matter of that artificial learning which is a blank to him, or of that civilisation which he neither knows
nor appreciates: both these unknown powers his savage self-esteem could laugh to scorn; but there is still and always a certain conscious humanity in him, able to respond to the perfect reasonableness of listening to a message from God.
We have thus an office and a messenger fit for the purpose-a primitive and comprehensible ambassador to the primitive intelligence. Let us not ignore nor depreciate a personage whose uses are so manifold and important. With us, in our mode and stage of existence, secondary influences are all-powerful. So far as superficial life is concerned, we are altogether ruled by them. Those periods of our individual history into which a great primitive love or sorrow has leaped like a fiery angel taking possession, are but the crises and turning-points. They do not make up the common current, which is filled up by trivial interests and half purposes. But to a primitive existence the primary principles of nature still must be applied. To teach civilisation while we generously refrain from all attempts to "bias "the heathen mind in favour of Christianity, is a principle as false to nature as it is perfectly incomprehensible to the heathen himself, for whom we make this disinterested abnegation of faith. But we are bold to affirm that there is not a pagan in the world-wider than thatthere is not a savage, the wildest of all the hordes of the desert, who is not at the bottom of his heart man enough to comprehend one disinterested errand, and one alone-the errand of the man who brings him, not the refinements of an unknown society, or the gifts of an unappreciated education, but the first primitive distinction of his manhood and nature
that revelation from heaven, in the possibility of which every human creature has an instinctive and inherent belief.
This is the first and grand qualification of the missionary, as the pioneer of all practicable intercourse with the savage. The most barbarous of his clients is able to come to some comprehension of why he is there, and to recognise in a less or greater degree the sufficiency and reasonableness of the motive which brings him.
It is in this that his great advantage lies over all other philanthropic travellers. The people among whom he goes may, indeed, wonder at the disinterested character of his enterprise; but they do not wonder that, having really a communication from God to make, his country or his chief should send him to the ends of the earth to make it. It is, if it is true, a piece of news more marvellous and important that those which they themselves commission embassies to disclose to their neighbours. Their wonder is rather how the more enlightened race should have been so long of sending this startling information into their deserts. Your forefathers knew of these things, yet they suffered my forefathers to go away into the darkness without hearing of them," says Dr Livingstone's converted chief; and the complaint is as touching as it is natural. This is not by any means to presuppose a ready or eager adoption of the new religion, or a quick perception of all its Divine excellences. The spiritual view of the matter is not one which we feel called upon to enter into; but we repeat, that the motive of the missionary is the only disinterested motive-the only inducement perfectly distinct from personal profit and aggrandisement-which is comprehensible to the intellect of the savage; and that this possibility of understanding on their part gives to the religious teacher a vantageground and footing amongst them which nothing else can possibly be
Yet it is strange enough to add though few will be so bold as to deny these special advantages and privileges of the office of missionary-that the missionary is not an interesting nor an attractive personage to the general eye of the world. He is the hero of a limited religious circle, who chronicle his doings and his sayings in a missionary magazine--who applaud his name in Exeter Hall who can tell his converts off by roll, and are familiar with all the special signs of grace which accompany his ministrations. But the common world takes little note of the exiled preacher -the voice in the wilderness: as likely as not, the clever people cari
cature him when it happens to be worth their while, and pass him with the indifference of contempt when it is not. Nobody sees in his person the old mission of the apostles going forward to the end of all things. Nobody sees the foundation of new empires-the lowest round and groundwork of national reconstruction in that little house in the desert, which the civilised Christian builds among the savages with his own hands. Before the value of his work can be appreciated, generations must grow and blossom out of it, and through it, to discover at last that their germ of life was there. Perhaps, a thousand years hence, failing walls in the African plains will be sacred to the far-off children of an emancipated race, who have found out that these homely ruins cradled a new existence for their continent; but, in the mean time, we who profess to be of the superior classes smile a little, if we do nothing more decided, at all the blowing of trumpets in Exeter Hall. When a London May calls together crowded meetings in those favourite assembly-rooms of the "religious world," we do not contrast this "religious dissipation" over-favourably with the other kind of dissipation, not religious, which throngs the salons of Belgravia and Mayfair. We give the palm not only of elegance and refinement, which might be natural, but of importance and interest, to the crowded meetings of society where statesmen are to be found among the fine ladies--where the fine ladies themselves are personages of national importance, and where, under a show of social enjoyment, a lively fancy can imagine in secret action the great diplomacies which sway the world; and in sight of these brilliant crowds, the other crowds of pious fashion are quite discountenanced, and thrown into the shade. Civilisation and the Geographical Society, which two, between them, will have their fair share of martyrs, but will not win new kingdoms out of chaos, are on the sunny side, and may get credit for liberal views and enlightened principles; but the missionary societies cluster in a coterie of small details and narrow intentions, in a flutter of white neckcloths