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LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.-No. 281.-6 OCTOBER, 1849.
From the North British Review.
1. Narrative of the United States Expedition to the
disenchanted :-every creek and cranny has been explored; and we have long ceased to expect the accounts of newly-discovered islands and continents, which ever and anon gladdened the hearts of our ancestors with something new and marvellous. Even if we had that expectation, it would cease to be exciting. We should be sure that the unknown would be like something we know. There is really nothing new under the sunnothing even in expectation. Even the interior of Africa, still unexplored—and from whose gates Dr. Bialloblotzky now returns bootless home-is regarded with but languid interest by all but the one in ten thousand who has some zeal for geographical discovery. There is sure to be some sand. But what do we want to know of more sands, and sand-storms, and camels, and all that sort of thing? There is perhaps a lake. Well,
less utterable jargon-a somewhat more hideous buggaboo? There is no bracing wonder here. We do not expect a new animal-scarcely a new plant: and when lately we were authentically told of a real wonder, in the shape of a sea-serpent, one half the world arose in its wrath at the attempt upon its organ of wonder, and at the assault upon its firm purpose not to wonder at anything the world contains; and the other half turned lazily upon its side, grunting-" Pshaw, what is there wonderful in a sea-serpent? An eel is a sea-serpent-a conger is a sea-serpent—and one somewhat bigger than a conger-eel is no great matter."
So, the disenchantment of the world goes on! The world's gray fathers were content with seven wonders. Thirty years ago, we might learn by books that there were at least a hundred wonders of the world; but where now is there one to be found? No sooner did the phrenologists find out the whereabouts of our faculty of "wonder," “marvellousness," than straightway there there is nothing wonderful in that—we know all ceased to be anything in the world to wonder at. about lakes. There are perhaps new tribes of About a hundred years ago, almost everything blacks. Nay, spare us—what do we want of any beyond our own islands, and even much that was more blacks? We know all about them through in them, was wonderful to us. The world was so and through; and what signifies some trifling adunknown-men and nature were so little under-dition to their variety—a darker or lighter shade stood that all things beyond the range of every--a stronger or laxer twist of wool-a somewhat day experience were marvellous; and where so much regarded as strange was known to be true, unthought-of and endless wonders were supposed to lie hid in the unascertained portions of the world. Hence the imaginary voyages of Robinson Crusoe, of Philip Quarll, of Richard Davis, of Peter Wilkins, and of Captain Lemuel Gulliver, were scarcely beyond the bounds of human credulity, and were by not a few received as true accounts of true voyages. Indeed, it might have been thought to require some hardihood to distrust even the immortal Captain, seeing that his "true effigies," in a very respectable peruke, were, as we happened lately to notice, prefixed to the early editions of his work. Who shall indeed set bounds to the possibilities of pleasant wonder, when the learned of the land were convinced by the daring impudence of George Psalmanazar, and were eager to send missionaries and Bibles to the interesting people to whom he professed to belong, and for whom he invented a language, the grammar of which seems to us the most daring attempt ever-why, fifty years ago we were ourselves not tailmade to throw dust into learned eyes. But, that learned eyes are not always the keenest, seems to be shown by the temporary success of that most astonishing experiment upon human credulity. O! happy people, who lived in days when there was something to wonder at-when the fountains Then, look at the results which the existing faof marvellousness, now, in these latter days, dried cilities of intercourse have produced upon our estiup, played in full stream, and sprinkled some re-mate of places which it was once an untiring freshing excitements over this dreary life. But wonder to talk of, and a life-adventure to visit. what have we now left? All the world has been Rome and Naples are as well known to us as LIVING AGE. VOL. XXIII. 1
Now-a-days, we know the Persians, the Turks, the Arabs, the Hindoos, better than our grandfathers knew the French, the Italians, the Spaniards, or the Germans. The North American Indians, the South-Sea Islanders, the Esquimaux, we know far better than the Russians, Danes, and Swedes were known a hundred years ago. Even the Chinese have ceased to amaze us. Their tails
less;-their edible bird-nests turn out, when seen and explained, to be nothing very strange. Cats may be, after all, not bad eating ;—and the small feet of the ladies may, for aught we know, be a salutary domestic institution.
Paris was some fifty years ago. Constantinople we can account for everything. Gases, vapors, is better known to us than Rome was then; and and electric fluids are familiar things. We not with Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus, we have now long ago looked upon their spontaneous operations a far better acquaintance than we had twenty in nature with awe and wonder. But by and by years ago with Petersburgh, Lisbon, or Madrid. we grew bold in the presence of those awful powPalestine once afforded rich material for the players. We ventured to lay our hands upon their of the associative faculty upon the organ of won- manes, we vaulted upon their backs, and soon der; but presently came that great inconoclast, bowed down their terrible strength to our service. Dr. Robinson, of New York, who, by disproving one thing and doubting another, has left but little even there, in that cherished corner of the world, for the wonder of which entire belief is a most essential condition.
Besides, this in which we have lived has been in all respects a most extraordinary age. It has been full of all kinds of wonders-social, moral, historical, physical, scientific-so vast, so prodigious, as to render familiar to us, as matters of Wonder belongs to a time of ignorance, and we present interest and daily thought, results and say that the days of ignorance have passed. What facts, greater, intrinsically more strange, than any is there to wonder at? We know everything; that past ages, or any that distant countries offer and that which we understand ceases to be won- to our notice. This has tamed down the sense of derful. Look at the map of the world. There wonder. We can wonder at nothing; for nothis not a spot on which we can lay the finger whose ing is so wonderful as the things that have become inhabitants are not well known to us. They are our daily food. Even history is disenchanted. The differenced by small matters-dress, habits of life, strangest things have become comprehensible, posshades of color, climatic influences. Strip them sible, commonplace. The great conquerors of anof these, and we come by a swift process to our cient days have in our own times been surpassed. brothers—the sons of a common father-like our- The revolutions—the changes of past times-each selves in all that is essentially the man; moved one of which was a subject of curious speculation, by the same impulses, subject to the same pains have been exceeded in our own days. Subverand the same pleasures, subdued by the same sions, any one of which was erewhile good talk dreads, and nourished by the same hopes. The for a century, have been crowded upon us by the psychologist who dissects their souls finds them dozen within the space of a few weeks. If the all as like to one another, and all as like to us, sense of wonder in civilized man has not been as does the anatomist who explores their bodily wholly destroyed, we cannot doubt that this age frame. So with animals. All the most remark- in which we live will be looked back upon by our able creatures of the world have been brought to children's children as more replete with wonders us from the uttermost parts of the earth; and than any which the world's history has hitherto existences which to our grandfathers were all recorded. but fabulous, we now regard as familiar things.
But what has all this to do with the Dead Sea? Our zoological gardens and menageries; our it may be asked. Much every way. Amid the Penny Magazines" and "Museums of Animat-general diswonderment of the world, we could feel ed Nature," have quite disenchanted this branch that at least the Dead Sea, with all its mysteries, of the world's life. Its strangest things have its horrors and marvels, was left to us. It bepassed from the realm of wonder; and the dis- came a sort of safety-valve for the fine old faculty covery of a really new beast, or bird, or reptile, the source of so much innocent excitement, would now awaken out a languid interest in the which was smothered everywhere else under general mind. So of plants. Where are their heavy masses of dull facts and circumstances. wonders now? Within thirty years, thousands But gradually, and with aching hearts, we have of plants from all parts of the globe, most of which seen this retreat cut off from us. One traveller had not even been heard of, and many of which after another has stripped off some one of the horwere examined with wonder, have become the rors which overhung its deeps, or rested on its well-known inmates of our stoves, our green-shores; and now at last it stands naked before us houses, and even our gardens. A morning's walk, -a monument, indeed, of God's wrath against or a short ride, will take any inhabitant of London the sins of man, but invested with none of the and other large towns among the most remarkable supernatural horrors ascribed to it, or exhibiting forms of transmarine vegetation. Here are the palms and bananas of tropical climes, breathing an atmosphere by which you are almost suffocated; there a thousand whimsical shapes of the cacti and As the books now before us bring all the quesof the unearthly orchids meet the view; and here tions with respect to this lake into their final the singular pitcher-plants distil their waters. De- condition, they afford us a favorable opportunity part now, wonder-proof! Travel where you will, of stating the question as regards the past hisyou will see, you can see, nothing to astonish-tory of the Dead Sea horrors, and of showing nothing more wonderful than that which you have what has been really done by the expedition in seen with your own eyes at home.
And even in the phenomena of nature, the age of wonder has passed. We know everything;
any of the features which are not the natural and inevitable effect of the peculiar condition into which it has been brought.
advancement of our knowledge. In this we must rely chiefly upon our own resources; for the commander of the expedition helps us very little
further than by stating what he saw, and what he | by hearing of the proposed publication of a Nardid. He appears to have had a sincere zeal in rative of the Expedition, said to be by a member the enterprise, which originated in his suggesof the party. The permission asked was granted tions, and he exhibited much energy and consid-by the Hon. J. G. Mason, Secretary of the Navy, with the remark-"I give this assent with the more pleasure, because I do not think that you should be anticipated by any other who had not the responsibility of the enterprise.”
Feeling that what may be said on the subject had better be rendered imperfectly by myself than by reader will decide whether the narrative which folanother, I have been necessarily hurried; and the lows was elaborately prepared, or written "currente calamo."-Pp. v. vi.
erable tact in carrying out his objects in spite of the obstacles he encountered. He also knew how to observe, at least as a sailor, and he states well | and clearly the process and results of his observation; but he scarcely knew what to observe, and certainly has not turned the rare advantages committed to him to all the account of which they would have been susceptible in the hands of a more literate traveller. Oh, that Dr. Robinson or Eli Smith had been of the party! Between their It would, however, have been much better that it should not have been so written. learning and deep studies in Palestine geography, The object and Lieutenant Lynch's practical energies, we was not adequate to justify the production of a might have had something far more worthy than very crude account-which this certainly is—of the book before us of being set forth as the result an expedition to which the public funds had been of this most praiseworthy and liberal enterprise, applied, and in the results of which all Christendom was interested. which is in every way most creditable to the After all, the rival account United States government, and contrasts advan- was produced before the authentic statement aptageously with the unutterable meanness of our peared; and the object of haste being thus frusown government in all things of the sort. What trated by a work which could satisfy no cultivated is there in our position which places the inevita- mind, more time might have been safely taken. ble mark of shabbiness, procrastination, and futil- Perhaps, indeed, our worthy sailor could not, with ity upon whatever our rulers do for the encour- any amount of time, have produced a much better agement () of literature, art, and scientific book; and we regret that he had not been advised investigation? Despotic powers act handsomely to put his materials into hands better qualified than Dr. Robinson might So, as we now see, in this and his own to do them justice. The lesser book, other instances, can a republican government, quite have made something of them. as amenable as our own to the people for the employ- however, appeared before the other, and was an ment of public money. Whence this unhappy peobvious and gross attempt to forestall the market. culiarity, for it is no less, of our position among On its appearance it was disavowed by Lieutenant the nations of the earth-with wealth more Lynch; and from the explanations which passed abundant-dominions more widely spread-and on both sides in the American papers, but which advantages far greater than any other nation ever do not appear in either of these volumes, it seems possessed? We hope to look into this matter that Mr. Montague is an Englishman, who held a some day; but must now keep to our text. petty officer's berth on board the "Supply." He was left ill of the small-pox at Port Mahon on the outward passage, and saw nothing of the expedition from the 1st of February, 1848, two months before it landed in Syria, until it reëmbarked at Malta on the 12th September following. It is evident, therefore, that he has no responsibility save of literary execution for that part which relates to this long interval, and which, he alleges (but not in the book) was prepared from the diary of
in such matters.
Before proceeding to state the results which have been promised, we may give the reader some notion of the books before us. The second and smaller of them has been procured with difficulty; and the accounts which fell under our notice in American papers might have been sufficient to prevent the desire to see it; but it occurred to us that the different position and point of view of the writer would induce him to state some particulars which might throw light on the other account, or furnish some points of comparison with, or contrast to it. We are bound to say, that in this case there has been discreditable haste even in the authentic account by the commander of the expedition, in taking advantage of the public curiosity, without proportionate regard to the real advantage of the public and the interests of science, by the preparation of a well-digested account of the explorations. The writer actually apologizes for the manifest defects of his book on that very ground.
all that he here states.
one of the men. His claim to any peculiar qualification for this task is not very clear, unless it be that he performed part of the outward voyage with those who afterwards formed the exploring party-and to which very common run he devotes no less than ninety pages. Again, he was with them for several weeks on the homeward voyage, and might have picked up by questioning the men But we believe, from internal evidence, that he had, as he states, the diary of one of the men for his guidance. There is, indeed, in the part Montague might have furAs soon as possible after our return I handed in nished for his own observations, the same vile my official report, and, at the same time, asked per- taste, the same school-boy balderdash, and the mission to publish a narrative or diary, of course embracing much, necessarily elicited by visiting same wretched forecastle slang as in the rest; but such interesting scenes, that would be unfit for an it is only afterwards that we encounter the pecuofficial paper. To this application I was induced liar American crow which pervades the rest of
the volume, and continually starts up in such de- Dead Sea are of special and remarkable interest, licious phrases as-"We Yankee boys flinch not; and the costume figures are also striking and sugwe fear neither the wandering Arab nor the with-gestive, although with one or two exceptions very ering influence of disease; we fear neither the wretchedly engraved; and the effect of the Araheat of the sun nor the suffocating sirocco. We bian figures is spoiled by the stiff cable ropes have determined souls, enduring constitutions, plen- which are twined around the koofeyehs, or headty of provisions, lots of ammunition, swords, bowie shawls, in place of the soft twists of wool or knife, pistols, Colt's revolvers, and a blunderbuss camels' hair of which this head-band is really which is capable to scatter (sic) some fatal doses composed. But the sketch-map of the whole among any hostile tribe; we have officers as de- course of the Jordan between the lakes of Tibetermined, cool, and brave as—ourselves (!); and rias and Asphaltites, with its rapids and innumerfor a commander, one of the best, most humane, able bends, and that of the Dead Sea, through its thoughtful, and generous men in the world, who whole extent and in its true shape and proportions, lacks nothing in the sense of bravery,' and the are both invaluable; and their production, without resolute 'go-a-head' spirit of a real, true-born a word of letterpress, were well worth the whole American." Again—" We Yankee boys can cost and labor of the expedition. perform wonders, and are not yet out of spirits." Again" Such an accumulation of difficulties and disappointments are sufficient to cause any other than Americans to give up to despair.' Again" However, the true-born, undaunted American never flinches from his duty," and so on, "cock-a-doodle doo!" after the manner of Captain Ralph Stackpole, throughout. From this and other signs, we have no doubt that this account of the expedition was drawn from the notes of one of the American sailors (they were all picked native-born Americans) of the expedition; and though upon the whole a worthless, trashy book, one may pick up a notion or two out of it, seeing that it is at least real, when we are enabled to view the same object through the eyes of both the commander and of one of his men.
The larger and authoritative work will considerably disappoint expectation on the grounds at which we have already hinted. Notwithstanding the gallant author's disavowal of "author craft," the work has most visible signs of book-making. The information respecting the proceedings of the expedition is not advantageously exhibited, for wants of adequate information in the writer; and taking it as it is, it might, with great advantage, have been compressed within half the space over which it is spread; for there is much in the volume on common and exhausted topics and places before we come to the Jordan and after we leave the Dead Sea. It may also be added that the book is disfigured by much of a kind of uncouth and very commonplace sentimentality, which is fearfully out of keeping in the account of a scientific expedition. Perhaps, however, the very qualities which detract from the value of the work in the eyes of serious philosophers may help it much in the circulating libraries-and it is certainly a sufficiently readable book. In our esteem the value of the work is greatly enhanced by the engravings. These are from drawings by Lieutenant Dale, the second in command of the expedition, and who appears to have well merited the designation of a "skilful draughtsman," which is given to him. The interest of these lies in their representing subjects mostly new to the eyes of those who have been wearied with the five-hundredth repetition of the same scenes and objects. The views on the
The history of that expedition we may now state, before examining the results which it has realized.
After the surrender of Vera Cruz in May, 1847, when there was no more work for the United States' navy in these parts, Lieutenant Lynch applied to his government for leave to circumnavigate and thoroughly explore the Dead Sea. After some consideration, a favorable decision was given, and he was directed to make the requisite preparations. At the beginning of October the lieutenant was ordered to take the command of the store ship "Supply," formerly the "Crusader." This vessel was to be laden with stores for the squadron in the Mediterranean; and while preparing for this regular duty, the commander made the arrangements that appeared needful for the more special service. He had constructed, by special authority, two metallic boats, one of copper and the other of galvanized iron. These boats were so constructed as to be taken to pieces for convenience of transport across the land; but, as the taking the boats apart was a novel experiment, and might prove unsuccessful, two low trucks (or carriages without bodies) were provided, for the purpose of endeavoring to transport the boats entire from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. The trucks, when fitted, were taken apart, and compactly stowed in the hold, together with two sets of harness for horses. The boats, when complete, were hoisted in, and laid keel up on a frame prepared for them; and with arms, ammunition, instruments, tents, flags, sails, oars, preserved meats, cooking-utensils, the preparations were complete. Nothing that could conduce to the safety or success of the expedition seems to have been overlooked. Air-tight gum-elastic water-bags were even procured, to be inflated when empty, for the purpose of serving as lifepreservers to the crew, in case of the destruction of the boats. Great care was also taken in the selection of the crew intended for the special service. Ten " young, muscular, native-born Americans, of sober habits," were chosen, and from each of them was exacted a pledge to abstain from intoxicating drinks. "To this stipulation," says the commander, "under Providence, is principally to be ascribed their final recovery from the extreme