A VOYAGE TO THE MOON: WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS, SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY, OF THE PEOPLE OF MOROSOFIA, AND OTHER LUNARIANS.
BY GEORGE TUCKER (JOSEPH ATTERLEY)
"It is the very error of the moon, She comes more near the earth than she was wont, And makes men mad."—Othello.
Atterley's birth and education—He makes a voyage— Founders off the Burman coast—Adventures in that Empire—Meets with a learned Brahmin from Benares.
The Brahmin's illness—He reveals an important secret to Atterley—Curious information concerning the Moon—The Glonglims—They plan a voyage to the Moon.
The Brahmin and Atterley prepare for their voyage— Description of their travelling machine—Incidents of the voyage—The appearance of the earth; Africa; Greece—The Brahmin's speculations on the different races of men—National character.
Continuation of the voyage—View of Europe; Atlantic Ocean; America—Speculations on the future destiny of the United States—Moral reflections— Pacific Ocean—Hypothesis on the origin of the Moon.
The voyage continued—Second view of Asia—The Brahmin's speculations concerning India—Increase of the Moon's attraction—Appearance of the Moon —They land on the Moon.
Some account of Morosofia, and its chief city, Alamatua —Singular dresses of the Lunar ladies—Religious self-denial—Glonglim miser and spendthrift.
Physical peculiarities of the Moon—Celestial phenomena —Farther description of the Lunarians—National prejudice—Lightness of bodies—The Brahmin carries Atterley to sup with a philosopher— His character and opinions.
A celebrated physician: his ingenious theories in physics: his mechanical inventions—The feather-hunting Glonglim.
The fortune-telling philosopher, who inspected the finger nails: his visiters—Another philosopher, who judged of the character by the hair—The fortune-teller duped—Predatory warfare.
The travellers visit a gentleman farmer, who is a great projector: his breed of cattle: his apparatus for cooking—He is taken dangerously ill.
Lunarian physicians: their consultation—While they dispute the patient recovers—The travellers visit the celebrated teacher Lozzi Pozzi.
Election of the Numnoonce, or town-constable— Violence of parties—Singular institution of the Syringe Boys—The prize-fighters—Domestic manufactures.
Description of the Happy Valley—The laws, customs, and manners of the Okalbians—Theory of population —Rent—System of government.
Further account of Okalbia—The Field of Roses— Curious superstition concerning that flower—The pleasures of smell traced to association, by a Glonglim philosopher.
Atterley goes to the great monthly fair—Its various exhibitions; difficulties—Preparations to leave the Moon—Curiosities procured by Atterley—Regress to the Earth.
The Brahmin gives Atterley a history of his life.
The Brahmin's story continued—The voyage concluded —Atterley and the Brahmin separate—Atterley arrives in New-York.
Appendix: Anonymous Review of A Voyage to the Moon, reprinted from The American Quarterly Review No. 5 (March 1828)
APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC.
Having, by a train of fortunate circumstances, accomplished a voyage, of which the history of mankind affords no example; having, moreover, exerted every faculty of body and mind, to make my adventures useful to my countrymen, and even to mankind, by imparting to them the acquisition of secrets in physics and morals, of which they had not formed the faintest conception,—I flattered myself that both in the character of traveller and public benefactor, I had earned for myself an immortal name. But how these fond, these justifiable hopes have been answered, the following narrative will show.
On my return to this my native State, as soon as it was noised abroad that I had met with extraordinary adventures, and made a most wonderful voyage, crowds of people pressed eagerly to see me. I at first met their inquiries with a cautious silence, which, however, but sharpened their curiosity. At length I was visited by a near relation, with whom I felt less disposed to reserve. With friendly solicitude he inquired "how much I had made by my voyage;" and when he was informed that, although I had added to my knowledge, I had not improved my fortune, he stared at me a while, and remarking that he had business at the Bank, as well as an appointment on 'Change, suddenly took his leave. After this, I was not much interrupted by the tribe of inquisitive idlers, but was visited principally by a few men of science, who wished to learn what I could add to their knowledge of nature. To this class I was more communicative; and when I severally informed them that I had actually been to the Moon, some of them shrugged their shoulders, others laughed in my face, and some were angry at my supposed attempt to deceive them; but all, with a single exception, were incredulous.
It was to no purpose that I appealed to my former character for veracity. I was answered, that travelling had changed my morals, as it had changed other people's. I asked what motives I could have for attempting to deceive them. They replied, the love of distinction—the vanity of being thought to have seen what had been seen by no other mortal; and they triumphantly asked me in turn, what motives Raleigh, and Riley, and Hunter, and a hundred other travellers, had for their misrepresentations. Finding argument thus unavailing, I produced visible and tangible proofs of the truth of my narrative. I showed them a specimen of moonstone. They asserted that it was of the same character as those meteoric stones which had been found in every part of the world, and that I had merely procured a piece of one of these for the purpose of deception. I then exhibited some of what I considered my most curious Lunar plants: but this made the matter worse; for it so happened, that similar ones were then cultivated in Mr. Prince's garden at Flushing. I next produced some rare insects, and feathers of singular birds: but persons were found who had either seen, or read, or heard of similar insects and birds in Hoo-Choo, or Paraguay, or Prince of Wales's Island. In short, having made up their minds that what I said was not true, they had an answer ready for all that I could urge in support of my character; and those who judged most christianly, defended my veracity at the expense of my understanding, and ascribed my conduct to partial insanity.
There was, indeed, a short suspension to this cruel distrust. An old friend coming to see me one day, and admiring a beautiful crystal which I had brought from the Moon, insisted on showing it to a jeweller, who said that it was an unusually hard stone, and that if it were a diamond, it would be worth upwards of 150,000 dollars. I know not whether the mistake that ensued proceeded from my friend, who is something of a wag, or from one of the lads in the jeweller's shop, who, hearing a part of what his master had said, misapprehended the rest; but so it was, that the next day I had more visiters than ever, and among them my kinsman, who was kind enough to stay with me, as if he enjoyed my good fortune, until both the Exchange and the Banks were closed. On the same day, the following paragraph appeared in one of the morning prints:
"We understand that our enterprising and intelligent traveller, JOSEPH ATTERLEY, Esquire, has brought from his Lunar Expedition, a diamond of extraordinary size and lustre. Several of the most experienced jewellers of this city have estimated it at from 250,000 to 300,000 dollars; and some have gone so far as to say it would be cheap at half a million. We have the authority of a near relative of that gentleman for asserting, that the satisfactory testimonials which he possesses of the correctness of his narrative, are sufficient to satisfy the most incredulous, and to silence malignity itself."
But this gleam of sunshine soon passed away. Two days afterwards, another paragraph appeared in the same paper, in these words:
"We are credibly informed, that the supposed diamond of the famous traveller to the Moon, turns out to be one of those which are found on Diamond Island, in Lake George. We have heard that Mr. A——y means to favour the public with an account of his travels, under the title of 'Lunarian Adventures;' but we would take the liberty of recommending, that for Lunarian, he substitute Lunatic."
Thus disappointed in my expectations, and assailed in my character, what could I do but appeal to an impartial public, by giving them a circumstantial detail of what was most memorable in my adventures, that they might judge, from intrinsic evidence, whether I was deficient either in soundness of understanding or of moral principle? But let me first bespeak their candour, and a salutary diffidence of themselves, by one or two well-authenticated anecdotes.
During the reign of Louis the XIVth, the king of Siam having received an ambassador from that monarch, was accustomed to hear, with wonder and delight, the foreigner's descriptions of his own country: but the minister having one day mentioned, that in France, water, at one time of the year, became a solid substance, the Siamese prince indignantly exclaimed,—"Hold, sir! I have listened to the strange things you have told me, and have hitherto believed them all; but now when you wish to persuade me that water, which I know as well as you, can become hard, I see that your purpose is to deceive me, and I do not believe a word you have uttered."
But as the present patriotic preference for home-bred manufactures, may extend to anecdotes as well as to other productions, a story of domestic origin may have more weight with most of my readers, than one introduced from abroad.
The chief of a party of Indians, who had visited Washington during Mr. Jefferson's presidency, having, on his return home, assembled his tribe, gave them a detail of his adventures; and dwelling particularly upon the courteous treatment the party had received from their "Great Father," stated, among other things, that he had given them ice, though it was then mid-summer. His countrymen, not having the vivacity of our ladies, listened in silence till he had ended, when an aged chief stepped forth, and remarked that he too, when a young man, had visited their Great Father Washington, in New-York, who had received him as a son, and treated him with all the delicacies that his country afforded, but had given him no ice. "Now," added the orator, "if any man in the world could have made ice in the summer, it was Washington; and if he could have made it, I am sure he would have given it to me. Tustanaggee is, therefore, a liar, and not to be believed."
In both these cases, though the argument seemed fair, the conclusion was false; for had either the king or the chief taken the trouble to satisfy himself of the fact, he might have found that his limited experience had deceived him.
It is unquestionably true, that if travellers sometimes impose on the credulity of mankind, they are often also not believed when they speak the truth. Credulity and scepticism are indeed but different names for the same hasty judgment on insufficient evidence: and, as the old woman readily assented that there might be "mountains of sugar and rivers of rum," because she had seen them both, but that there were "fish which could fly," she never would believe; so thousands give credit to Redheiffer's patented discovery of perpetual motion, because they had beheld his machine, and question the existence of the sea-serpent, because they have not seen it.
I would respectfully remind that class of my readers, who, like the king, the Indian, or the old woman, refuse to credit any thing which contradicts the narrow limits of their own observation, that there are "more secrets in nature than are dreamt of in their philosophy;" and that upon their own principles, before they have a right to condemn me, they should go or send to the mountains of Ava, for some of the metal with which I made my venturous experiment, and make one for themselves.
As to those who do not call in question my veracity, but only doubt my sanity, I fearlessly appeal from their unkind judgment to the sober and unprejudiced part of mankind, whether, what I have stated in the following pages, is not consonant with truth and nature, and whether they do not there see, faithfully reflected from the Moon, the errors of the learned on Earth, and "the follies of the wise?"
Long-Island, September, 1827.
VOYAGE TO THE MOON.
Atterley's birth and education—He makes a voyage—Founders off the Burman coast—Adventures in that Empire—Meets with a learned Brahmin from Benares.
Being about to give a narrative of my singular adventures to the world, which, I foresee, will be greatly divided about their authenticity, I will premise something of my early history, that those to whom I am not personally known, may be better able to ascertain what credit is due to the facts which rest only on my own assertion.
I was born in the village of Huntingdon, on Long-Island, on the 11th day of May, 1786. Joseph Atterley, my father, formerly of East Jersey, as it was once called, had settled in this place about a year before, in consequence of having married my mother, Alice Schermerhorn, the only daughter of a snug Dutch farmer in the neighbourhood. By means of the portion he received with my mother, together with his own earnings, he was enabled to quit the life of a sailor, to which he had been bred, and to enter into trade. After the death of his father-in-law, by whose will he received a handsome accession to his property, he sought, in the city of New-York, a theatre better suited to his enlarged capital. He here engaged in foreign trade; and, partaking of the prosperity which then attended American commerce, he gradually extended his business, and finally embarked in our new branch of traffic to the East Indies and China. He was now very generally respected, both for his wealth and fair dealing; was several years a director in one of the insurance offices; was president of the society for relieving the widows and orphans of distressed seamen; and, it is said, might have been chosen alderman, if he had not refused, on the ground that he did not think himself qualified.
My father was not one of those who set little value on book learning, from their own consciousness of not possessing it: on the contrary, he would often remark, that as he felt the want of a liberal education himself, he was determined to bestow one on me. I was accordingly, at an early age, put to a grammar school of good repute in my native village, the master of which, I believe, is now a member of Congress; and, at the age of seventeen, was sent to Princeton, to prepare myself for some profession. During my third year at that place, in one of my excursions to Philadelphia, and for which I was always inventing pretexts, I became acquainted with one of those faces and forms which, in a youth of twenty, to see, admire, and love, is one and the same thing. My attentions were favourably received. I soon became desperately in love; and, in spite of the advice of my father and entreaties of my mother, who had formed other schemes for me nearer home, I was married on the anniversary of my twenty-first year.
It was not until the first trance of bliss was over, that I began to think seriously on the course of life I was to pursue. From the time that my mind had run on love and matrimony, I had lost all relish for serious study; and long before that time, I had felt a sentiment bordering on contempt for the pursuits of my father. Besides, he had already taken my two younger brothers into the counting-house with him. I therefore prevailed on my indulgent parent, with the aid of my mother's intercession, to purchase for me a neat country-seat near Huntingdon, which presented a beautiful view of the Sound, and where, surrounded by the scenes of my childhood, I promised myself to realise, with my Susanna, that life of tranquil felicity which fancy, warmed by love, so vividly depicts.
If we did not meet with all that we had expected, it was because we had expected too much. The happiest life, like the purest atmosphere, has its clouds as well as its sunshine; and what is worse, we never fully know the value of the one, until we have felt the inconvenience of the other. In the cultivation of my farm—in educating our children, a son and two daughters, in reading, music, painting—and in occasional visits to our friends in New-York and Philadelphia, seventeen years glided swiftly and imperceptibly away; at the end of which time death, in depriving me of an excellent wife, made a wreck of my hopes and enjoyments. For the purpose of seeking that relief to my feelings which change of place only could afford, I determined to make a sea voyage; and, as one of my father's vessels was about to sail for Canton, I accordingly embarked on board the well-known ship the Two Brothers, captain Thomas, and left Sandy-hook on the 5th day of June, 1822, having first placed my three children under the care of my brother William.
I will not detain the reader with a detail of the first incidents of our voyage, though they were sufficiently interesting at the time they occurred, and were not wanting in the usual variety. We had, in singular succession, dead calms and fresh breezes, stiff gales and sudden squalls; saw sharks, flying-fish, and dolphins; spoke several vessels: had a visit from Neptune when we crossed the Line, and were compelled to propitiate his favour with some gallons of spirits, which he seems always to find a very agreeable change from sea water; and touched at Table Bay and at Madagascar.
On the whole, our voyage was comparatively pleasant and prosperous, until the 24th of October; when, off the mouths of the Ganges, after a fine clear autumnal day, just about sunset, a small dark speck was seen in the eastern horizon by our experienced and watchful captain, who, after noticing it for a few moments, pronounced that we should have a hurricane. The rapidity with which this speck grew into a dense cloud, and spread itself in darkness over the heavens, as well as the increasing swell of the ocean before we felt the wind, soon convinced us he was right. No time was lost in lowering our topmasts, taking double reefs, and making every thing snug, to meet the fury of the tempest. I thought I had already witnessed all that was terrific on the ocean; but what I had formerly seen, had been mere child's play compared with this. Never can I forget the impression that was made upon me by the wild uproar of the elements. The smooth, long swell of the waves gradually changed into an agitated frothy surface, which constant flashes of lightning presented to us in all its horror; and in the mean time the wind whistled through the rigging, and the ship creaked as if she was every minute going to pieces.
About midnight the storm was at its height, and I gave up all for lost. The wind, which first blew from the south-west, was then due south, and the sailors said it began to abate a little before day: but I saw no great difference until about three in the afternoon; soon after which the clouds broke away, and showed us the sun setting in cloudless majesty, while the billows still continued their stupendous rolling, but with a heavy movement, as if, after such mighty efforts, they were seeking repose in the bosom of their parent ocean. It soon became almost calm; a light western breeze barely swelled our sails, and gently wafted us to the land, which we could faintly discern to the north-east. Our ship had been so shaken in the tempest, and was so leaky, that captain Thomas thought it prudent to make for the first port we could reach.
At dawn we found ourselves in full view of a coast, which, though not personally known to the captain, he pronounced by his charts to be a part of the Burmese Empire, and in the neighbourhood of Mergui, on the Martaban coast. The leak had now increased to an alarming extent, so that we found it would be impossible to carry the ship safe into port. We therefore hastily threw our clothes, papers, and eight casks of silver, into the long-boat; and before we were fifty yards from the ship, we saw her go down. Some of the underwriters in New York, as I have since learnt, had the conscience to contend that we left the ship sooner than was necessary, and have suffered themselves to be sued for the sums they had severally insured. It was a little after midday when we reached the town, which is perched on a high bluff, overlooking the coasts, and contains about a thousand houses, built of bamboo, and covered with palm leaves. Our dress, appearance, language, and the manner of our arrival, excited great surprise among the natives, and the liveliest curiosity; but with these sentiments some evidently mingled no very friendly feelings. The Burmese were then on the eve of a rupture with the East India Company, a fact which we had not before known; and mistaking us for English, they supposed, or affected to suppose, that we belonged to a fleet which was about to invade them, and that our ship had been sunk before their eyes, by the tutelar divinity of the country. We were immediately carried before their governor, or chief magistrate, who ordered our baggage to be searched, and finding that it consisted principally of silver, he had no doubt of our hostile intentions. He therefore sent all of us, twenty-two in number, to prison, separating, however, each one from the rest. My companions were released the following spring, as I have since learnt, by the invading army of Great Britain; but it was my ill fortune (if, indeed, after what has since happened, I can so regard it) to be taken for an officer of high rank, and to be sent, the third day afterwards, far into the interior, that I might be more safely kept, and either used as a hostage or offered for ransom, as circumstances should render advantageous.
The reader is, no doubt, aware that the Burman Empire lies beyond the Ganges, between the British possessions and the kingdom of Siam; and that the natives nearly assimilate with those of Hindostan, in language, manners, religion, and character, except that they are more hardy and warlike.
I was transported very rapidly in a palanquin, (a sort of decorated litter,) carried on the shoulders of four men, who, for greater despatch, were changed every three hours. In this way I travelled thirteen days, in which time we reached a little village in the mountainous district between the Irawaddi and Saloon rivers, where I was placed under the care of an inferior magistrate, called a Mirvoon, who there exercised the chief authority.
This place, named Mozaun, was romantically situated in a fertile valley, that seemed to be completely shut in by the mountains. A small river, a branch of the Saloon, entered it from the west, and, after running about four miles in nearly a straight direction, turned suddenly round a steep hill to the south, and was entirely lost to view. The village was near a gap in the mountain, through which the river seemed to have forced its way, and consisted of about forty or fifty huts, built of the bamboo cane and reeds. The house of my landlord was somewhat larger and better than the rest. It stood on a little knoll that overlooked the village, the valley, the stream that ran through it, and commanded a distant view of the country beyond the gap. It was certainly a lovely little spot, as it now appears to my imagination; but when the landscape was new to me, I was in no humour to relish its beauties, and when my mind was more in a state to appreciate them, they had lost their novelty.
My keeper, whose name was Sing Fou, and who, from a long exercise of magisterial authority, was rough and dictatorial, behaved to me somewhat harshly at first; but my patient submission so won his confidence and good will, that I soon became a great favourite; was regarded more as one of his family than as a prisoner, and was allowed by him every indulgence consistent with my safe custody. But the difficulties in the way of my escape were so great, that little restraint was imposed on my motions. The narrow defile in the gap, through which the river rushed like a torrent, was closed with a gate. The mountains, by which the valley was hemmed in, were utterly impassable, thickly set as they were with jungle, consisting of tangled brier, thorn and forest trees, of which those who have never been in a tropical climate can form no adequate idea. In some places it would be difficult to penetrate more than a mile in the day; during which time the traveller would be perpetually tormented by noxious insects, and in constant dread of beasts of prey.
The only outlet from this village was by passing down the valley along the settlements, and following the course of the stream; so that there was no other injunction laid on me, than not to extend my rambles far in that direction. Sing Fou's household consisted of his wife, whom I rarely saw, four small children, and six servants; and here I enjoyed nearly as great a portion of happiness as in any part of my life.
It had been one of my favourite amusements to ramble towards a part of the western ridge, which rose in a cone about a mile and a half from the village, and there ascending to some comparatively level spot, or point projecting from its side, enjoy the beautiful scenery which lay before me, and the evening breeze, which has such a delicious freshness in a tropical climate.
Nor was this all. In a deep sequestered nook, formed by two spurs of this mountain, there lived a venerable Hindoo, whom the people of the village called the Holy Hermit. The favourable accounts I received of his character, as well as his odd course of life, made me very desirous of becoming acquainted with him; and, as he was often visited by the villagers, I found no difficulty in getting a conductor to his cell. His character for sanctity, together with a venerable beard, might have discouraged advances towards an acquaintance, if his lively piercing eye, a countenance expressive of great mildness and kindness of disposition, and his courteous manners, had not yet more strongly invited it. He was indeed not averse to society, though he had seemed thus to fly from it; and was so great a favourite with his neighbours, that his cell would have been thronged with visitors, but for the difficulty of the approach to it. As it was, it was seldom resorted to, except for the purpose of obtaining his opinion and counsel on all the serious concerns of his neighbours. He prescribed for the sick, and often provided the medicine they required—expounded the law—adjusted disputes—made all their little arithmetical calculations—gave them moral instruction—and, when he could not afford them relief in their difficulties, he taught them patience, and gave them consolation. He, in short, united, for the simple people by whom he was surrounded, the functions of lawyer, physician, schoolmaster, and divine, and richly merited the reverential respect in which they held him, as well as their little presents of eggs, fruit, and garden stuff.
From the first evening that I joined the party which I saw clambering up the path that led to the Hermit's cell, I found myself strongly attached to this venerable man, and the more so, from the mystery which hung around his history. It was agreed that he was not a Burmese. None deemed to know certainly where he was born, or why he came thither. His own account was, that he had devoted himself to the service of God, and in his pilgrimage over the east, had selected this as a spot particularly favourable to the life of quiet and seclusion he wished to lead.
There was one part of his story to which I could scarcely give credit. It was said that in the twelve or fifteen years he had resided in this place, he had been occasionally invisible for months together, and no one could tell why he disappeared, or whither he had gone. At these times his cell was closed; and although none ventured to force their way into it, those who were the most prying could hear no sound indicating that he was within. Various were the conjectures formed on the subject. Some supposed that he withdrew from the sight of men for the purpose of more fervent prayer and more holy meditation; others, that he visited his home, or some other distant country. The more superstitious believed that he had, by a kind of metempsychosis, taken a new shape, which, by some magical or supernatural power, he could assume and put off at pleasure. This opinion was perhaps the most prevalent, as it gained a colour with these simple people, from the chemical and astronomical instruments he possessed. In these he evidently took great pleasure, and by their means he acquired some of the knowledge by which he so often excited their admiration.
He soon distinguished me from the rest of his visitors, by addressing questions to me relative to my history and adventures; and I, in turn, was gratified to have met with one who took an interest in my concerns, and who alone, of all I had here met with, could either enter into my feelings or comprehend my opinions. Our conversations were carried on in English, which he spoke with facility and correctness. We soon found ourselves so much to each other's taste, that there was seldom an evening that I did not make him a visit, and pass an hour or two in his company.
I learnt from him that he was born and bred at Benares, in Hindostan; that he had been intended for the priesthood, and had been well instructed in the literature of the east. That a course of untoward circumstances, upon which he seemed unwilling to dwell, had changed his destination, and made him a wanderer on the face of the earth. That in the neighbouring kingdom of Siam he had formed an intimacy with a learned French Jesuit, who had not only taught him his language, but imparted to him a knowledge of much of the science of Europe, its institutions and manners. That after the death of this friend, he had renewed his wanderings; and having been detained in this village by a fit of sickness for some weeks, he was warned that it was time to quit his rambling life. This place being recommended to him, both by its quiet seclusion, and the unsophisticated manners of its inhabitants, he determined to pass the remnant of his days here, and, by devoting them to the purposes of piety, charity, and science, to discharge his duty to his Creator, his species, and himself; "for the love of knowledge," he added, "has long been my chief source of selfish enjoyment."
Our tastes and sentiments accorded in so many points, that our acquaintance ripened by degrees into the closest friendship. We were both strangers—both unfortunate; and were the only individuals here who had any knowledge of letters, or of distant parts of the world. These are, indeed, the main springs of that sympathy, without which there is no love among men. It is being overwise, to treat with contempt what mankind hold in respect: and philosophy teaches us not to extinguish our feelings, but to correct and refine them. My visits to the hermitage were frequently renewed at first, because they afforded me the relief of variety, whilst his intimate knowledge of men and things—his remarkable sagacity and good sense—his air of mingled piety and benignity,—cheated me into forgetfulness of my situation. As these gradually yielded to the lenitive power of time, I sought his conversation for the positive pleasure it afforded, and at last it became the chief source of my happiness. Day after day, and month after month, glided on in this gentle, unvarying current, for more than three years; during which period he had occasionally thrown out dark hints that the time would come when I should be restored to liberty, and that he had an important secret, which he would one day communicate. I should have been more tantalized with the expectations that these remarks were calculated to raise, had I not suspected them to be a good-natured artifice, to save me from despondency, as they were never made except when he saw me looking serious and thoughtful.
The Brahmin's illness—He reveals an important secret to Atterley— Curious information concerning the Moon—The Glonglims—They plan a voyage to the Moon.
About this period, one afternoon in the month of March, when I repaired to the hermitage as usual, I found my venerable friend stretched on his humble pallet, breathing very quickly, and seemingly in great pain. He was labouring under a pleurisy, which is not unfrequent in the mountainous region, at this season. He told me that his disease had not yielded to the ordinary remedies which he had tried when he first felt its approach, and that he considered himself to be dangerously ill. "I am, however," he added, "prepared to die. Sit down on that block, and listen to what I shall say to you. Though I shall quit this state of being for another and a better, I confess that I was alarmed at the thought of expiring, before I had an opportunity of seeing and conversing with you. I am the depository of a secret, that I believe is known to no other living mortal. I once determined that it should die with me; and had I not met with you, it certainly should. But from our first acquaintance, my heart has been strongly attracted towards you; and as soon as I found you possessed of qualities to inspire esteem as well as regard, I felt disposed to give you this proof of my confidence. Still I hesitated. I first wished to deliberate on the probable effects of my disclosure upon the condition of society. I saw that it might produce evil, as well as good; but on weighing the two together, I have satisfied myself that the good will preponderate, and have determined to act accordingly. Take this key, (stretching out his feverish hand,) and after waiting two hours, in which time the medicine I have taken will have either produced a good effect, or put an end to my sufferings, you may then open that blue chest in the corner. It has a false bottom. On removing the paper which covers it, you will find the manuscript containing the important secret, together with some gold pieces, which I have saved for the day of need—because—(and he smiled in spite of his sufferings)—because hoarding is one of the pleasures of old men. Take them both, and use them discreetly. When I am gone, I request you, my friend, to discharge the last sad duties of humanity, and to see me buried according to the usages of my caste. The simple beings around me will then behold that I am mortal like themselves. And let this precious relic of female loveliness and worth, (taking a small picture, set in gold, from his bosom,) be buried with me. It has been warmed by my heart's blood for twenty-five years: let it be still near that heart when it ceases to beat. I have yet more to say to you; but my strength is too much exhausted."
The good old man here closed his eyes, with an expression of patient resignation, and rather as if he courted sleep than felt inclined to it: and, after shutting the door of his cell, I repaired to his little garden, to pass the allotted two hours. Left to my meditations, when I thought that I was probably about to be deprived for ever of the Hermit's conversation and society, I felt the wretchedness of my situation recur with all its former force. I sat down on a smooth rock under a tamarind tree, the scene of many an interesting conference between the Brahmin and myself; and I cast my eyes around—but how changed was every thing before me! I no longer regarded the sparkling eddies of the little cascade which fell down a steep rock at the upper end of the garden, and formed a pellucid basin below. The gay flowers and rich foliage of this genial climate—the bright plumage and cheerful notes of the birds—were all there; but my mind was not in a state to relish them. I arose, and in extreme agitation rambled over this little Eden, in which I had passed so many delightful hours.
Before the allotted time had elapsed—shall I confess it?—my fears for the Hermit were overcome by those that were purely selfish. It occurred to me, if he should thus suddenly die, and I be found alone in his cell, I might be charged with being his murderer; and my courage, which, from long inaction, had sadly declined of late, deserted me at the thought. After the most torturing suspense, the dial at length showed me that the two hours had elapsed, and I hastened to the cell.
I paused a moment at the door, afraid to enter, or even look in; made one or two steps, and hearing no sound, concluded that all was over with the Hermit, and that my own doom was sealed. My delight was inexpressible, therefore, when I perceived that he still breathed, and when, on drawing nearer, I found that he slept soundly. In a moment I passed from misery to bliss. I seated myself by his side, and there remained for more than an hour, enjoying the transition of my feelings. At length he awoke, and casting on me a look of placid benignity, said,—"Atterley, my time is not yet come. Though resigned to death, I am content to live. The worst is over. I am already almost restored to health." I then administered to him some refreshments, and, after a while, left him to repose. On again repairing to the garden, every object assumed its wonted appearance. The fragrance of the orange and the jasmine was no longer lost to me. The humming birds, which swarmed round the flowering cytisus and the beautiful water-fall, once more delighted the eye and the ear. I took my usual bath, as the sun was sinking below the mountain; and, finding the Hermit still soundly sleeping, I threw myself on a seat, under the shelter of some bamboos, fell asleep, and did not awake until late the next morning.
When I arose, I found the good Brahmin up, and, though much weakened by his disease, able to walk about. He told me that the Mirvoon, uneasy at my not returning as usual in the evening, had sent in search of me, and that the servant, finding me safe, was content to return without me. He advised me, however, not to repeat the same cause of alarm. Sing Fou, on hearing my explanation, readily forgave me for the uneasiness I had caused him. After a few days, the Brahmin recovered his ordinary health and strength; and having attended him at an earlier hour than usual, according to his request on the previous evening, he thus addressed me:—
"I have already told you, my dear Atterley, that I was born and educated at Benares, and that science is there more thoroughly understood and taught than the people of the west are aware of. We have, for many thousands of years, been good astronomers, chymists, mathematicians, and philosophers. We had discovered the secret of gunpowder, the magnetic attraction, the properties of electricity, long before they were heard of in Europe. We know more than we have revealed; and much of our knowledge is deposited in the archives of the caste to which I belong; but, for want of a language generally understood and easily learnt, (for these records are always written in the Sanscrit, that is no longer a spoken language,) and the diffusion which is given by the art of printing, these secrets of science are communicated only to a few, and sometimes even sleep with their authors, until a subsequent discovery, under more favourable circumstances, brings them again to light.
"It was at this seat of science that I learnt, from one of our sages, the physical truth which I am now about to communicate, and which he discovered, partly by his researches into the writings of ancient Pundits, and partly by his own extraordinary sagacity. There is a principle of repulsion as well as gravitation in the earth. It causes fire to rise upwards. It is exhibited in electricity. It occasions water-spouts, volcanoes, and earthquakes. After much labour and research, this principle has been found embodied in a metallic substance, which is met with in the mountain in which we are, united with a very heavy earth; and this circumstance had great influence in inducing me to settle myself here.
"This metal, when separated and purified, has as great a tendency to fly off from the earth, as a piece of gold or lead has to approach it. After making a number of curious experiments with it, we bethought ourselves of putting it to some use, and soon contrived, with the aid of it, to make cars and ascend into the air. We were very secret in these operations; for our unhappy country having then recently fallen under the subjection of the British nation, we apprehended that if we divulged our arcanum, they would not only fly away with all our treasures, whether found in palace or pagoda, but also carry off the inhabitants, to make them slaves in their colonies, as their government had not then abolished the African slave trade.
"After various trials and many successive improvements, in which our desires increased with our success, we determined to penetrate the aerial void as far as we could, providing for that purpose an apparatus, with which you will become better acquainted hereafter. In the course of our experiments, we discovered that this same metal, which was repelled from the earth, was in the same degree attracted towards the moon; for in one of our excursions, still aiming to ascend higher than we had ever done before, we were actually carried to that satellite; and if we had not there fallen into a lake, and our machine had not been water-tight, we must have been dashed to pieces or drowned. You will find in this book," he added, presenting me with a small volume, bound in green parchment, and fastened with silver clasps, "a minute detail of the apparatus to be provided, and the directions to be pursued in making this wonderful voyage. I have written it since I satisfied my mind that my fears of British rapacity were unfounded, and that I should do more good than harm by publishing the secret. But still I am not sure," he added, with one of his faint but significant smiles, "that I am not actuated by a wish to immortalize my name; for where is the mortal who would be indifferent to this object, if he thought he could attain it? Read the book at your leisure, and study it."
I listened to this recital with astonishment; and doubted at first, whether the Brahmin's late severe attack had not had the effect of unsettling his brain: but on looking in his face, the calm self-possession and intelligence which it exhibited, dispelled the momentary impression. I was all impatience to know the adventures he met with in the moon, asking him fifty questions in a breath, but was most anxious to learn if it had inhabitants, and what sort of beings they were.
"Yes," said he, "the moon has inhabitants, pretty much the same as the earth, of which they believe their globe to have been formerly a part. But suspend your questions, and let me give you a recital of the most remarkable things I saw there."
I checked my impatience, and listened with all my ears to the wonders he related. He went on to inform me that the inhabitants of the moon resembled those of the earth, in form, stature, features, and manners, and were evidently of the same species, as they did not differ more than did the Hottentot from the Parisian. That they had similar passions, propensities, and pursuits, but differed greatly in manners and habits. They had more activity, but less strength: they were feebler in mind as well as body. But the most curious part of his information was, that a large number of them were born without any intellectual vigour, and wandered about as so many automatons, under the care of the government, until they were illuminated with the mental ray from some earthly brains, by means of the mysterious influence which the moon is known to exercise on our planet. But in this case the inhabitant of the earth loses what the inhabitant of the moon gains—the ordinary portion of understanding allotted to one mortal being thus divided between two; and, as might be expected, seeing that the two minds were originally the same, there is a most exact conformity between the man of the earth and his counterpart in the moon, in all their principles of action and modes of thinking.
These Glonglims, as they are called, after they have been thus imbued with intellect, are held in peculiar respect by the vulgar, and are thought to be in every way superior to those whose understandings are entire. The laws by which two objects, so far apart, operate on each other, have been, as yet, but imperfectly developed, and the wilder their freaks, the more they are the objects of wonder and admiration. "The science of lunarology," he observed, "is yet in its infancy. But in the three voyages I have made to the moon, I have acquired so many new facts, and imparted so many to the learned men of that planet, that it is, without doubt, the subject of their active speculations at this time, and will, probably, assume a regular form long before the new science of phrenology of which you tell me, and which it must, in time, supersede. Now and then, though very rarely, the man of the earth regains the intellect he has lost; in which case his lunar counterpart returns to his former state of imbecility. Both parties are entirely unconscious of the change—one, of what he has lost, and the other of what he has gained."
The Brahmin then added: "Though our party are the only voyagers of which authentic history affords any testimony, yet it is probable, from obscure hints in some of our most ancient writings in the Sanscrit, that the voyage has been made in remote periods of antiquity; and the Lunarians have a similar tradition. While, in the revolutions which have so changed the affairs of mankind on our globe, (and probably in its satellite,) the art has been lost, faint traces of its existence may be perceived in the opinions of the vulgar, and in many of their ordinary forms of expression. Thus it is generally believed throughout all Asia, that the moon has an influence on the brain; and when a man is of insane mind, we call him a lunatic. One of the curses of the common people is, 'May the moon eat up your brains;' and in China they say of a man who has done any act of egregious folly, 'He was gathering wool in the moon.'"
I was struck with these remarks, and told the Hermit that the language of Europe afforded the same indirect evidence of the fact he mentioned: that my own language especially, abounded with expressions which could be explained on no other hypothesis;—for, besides the terms "lunacy," "lunatic," and the supposed influence of the moon on the brain, when we see symptoms of a disordered intellect, we say the mind wanders, which evidently alludes to a part of it rambling to a distant region, as is the moon. We say too, a man is "out of his head," that is, his mind being in another man's head, must of course be out of his own. To "know no more than the man in the moon," is a proverbial expression for ignorance, and is without meaning, unless it be considered to refer to the Glonglims. We say that an insane man is "distracted;" by which we mean that his mind is drawn two different ways. So also, we call a lunatic a man beside himself, which most distinctly expresses the two distinct bodies his mind now animates. There are, moreover, many other analogous expressions, as "moonstruck," "deranged," "extravagant," and some others, which, altogether, form a mass of concurring testimony that it is impossible to resist.
"Be that as it may," said he, "whether the voyage has been made in former times or not, is of little importance: it is sufficient for us to know that it has been effected in our time, and can be effected again. I am anxious to repeat the voyage, for the purpose of ascertaining some facts, about which I have been lately speculating; and I wish, besides, to afford you ocular demonstration of the wonders I have disclosed; for, in spite of your good opinion of my veracity, I have sometimes perceived symptoms of incredulity about you, and I do not wonder at it."
The love of the marvellous, and the wish for a change, which had long slumbered in my bosom, were now suddenly awakened, and I eagerly caught at his proposal.
"When can we set out, father?" said I.
"Not so fast," replied he; "we have a great deal of preparation to make. Our apparatus requires the best workmanship, and we cannot here command either first-rate articles or materials, without incurring the risk of suspicion and interruption. While most of the simple villagers are kindly disposed towards me, there are a few who regard me with distrust and malevolence, and would readily avail themselves of an opportunity to bring me under the censure of the priesthood and the government. Besides, the governor of Mergui would probably be glad to lay hold of any plausible evidence against you, as affording him the best chance of avoiding any future reckoning either with you or his superiors. We must therefore be very secret in our plans. I know an ingenious artificer in copper and other metals, whose only child I was instrumental in curing of scrofula, and in whose fidelity, as well as good will, I can safely rely. But we must give him time. He can construct our machine at home, and we must take our departure from that place in the night."
The Brahmin and Atterley prepare for their voyage—Description of their machine—Incidents of the voyage—The appearance of the earth; Africa; Greece—The Brahmin's speculations on the different races of men—National character.
Having thus formed our plan of operations, we the next day proceeded to put them in execution. The coppersmith agreed to undertake the work we wanted done, for a moderate compensation; but we did not think it prudent to inform him of our object, which he supposed was to make some philosophical experiment. It was forthwith arranged that he should occasionally visit the Hermit, to receive instructions, as if for the purpose of asking medical advice. During this interval my mind was absorbed with our project; and when in company, I was so thoughtful and abstracted, that it has since seemed strange to me that Sing Fou's suspicions that I was planning my escape were not more excited. At length, by dint of great exertion, in about three months every thing was in readiness, and we determined on the following night to set out on our perilous expedition.
The machine in which we proposed to embark, was a copper vessel, that would have been an exact cube of six feet, if the corners and edges had not been rounded off. It had an opening large enough to receive our bodies, which was closed by double sliding pannels, with quilted cloth between them. When these were properly adjusted, the machine was perfectly air-tight, and strong enough, by means of iron bars running alternately inside and out, to resist the pressure of the atmosphere, when the machine should be exhausted of its air, as we took the precaution to prove by the aid of an air-pump. On the top of the copper chest and on the outside, we had as much of the lunar metal (which I shall henceforth call lunarium) as we found, by calculation and experiment, would overcome the weight of the machine, as well as its contents, and take us to the moon on the third day. As the air which the machine contained, would not be sufficient for our respiration more than about six hours, and the chief part of the space we were to pass through was a mere void, we provided ourselves with a sufficient supply, by condensing it in a small globular vessel, made partly of iron and partly of lunarium, to take off its weight. On my return, I gave Mr. Jacob Perkins, who is now in England, a hint of this plan of condensation, and it has there obtained him great celebrity. This fact I should not have thought it worth while to mention, had he not taken the sole merit of the invention to himself; at least I cannot hear that in his numerous public notices he has ever mentioned my name.
But to return. A small circular window, made of a single piece of thick clear glass, was neatly fitted on each of the six sides. Several pieces of lead were securely fastened to screws which passed through the bottom of the machine; as well as a thick plank. The screws were so contrived, that by turning them in one direction, the pieces of lead attached to them were immediately disengaged from the hooks with which they were connected. The pieces of lunarium were fastened in like manner to screws, which passed through the top of the machine; so that by turning them in one direction, those metallic pieces would fly into the air with the velocity of a rocket. The Brahmin took with him a thermometer, two telescopes, one of which projected through the top of the machine, and the other through the bottom; a phosphoric lamp, pen, ink, and paper, and some light refreshments sufficient to supply us for some days.
The moon was then in her third quarter, and near the zenith: it was, of course, a little after midnight, and when the coppersmith and his family were in their soundest sleep, that we entered the machine. In about an hour more we had the doors secured, and every thing arranged in its place, when, cutting the cords which fastened us to the ground, by means of small steel blades which worked in the ends of other screws, we rose from the earth with a whizzing sound, and a sensation at first of very rapid ascent: but after a short time, we were scarcely sensible of any motion in the machine, except when we changed our places.
The ardent curiosity I had felt to behold the wonderful things which the Brahmin related, and the hope of returning soon to my children and native country, had made me most impatient for the moment of departure; during which time the hazards and difficulties of the voyage were entirely overlooked: but now that the moment of execution had arrived, and I found myself shut up in this small chest, and about to enter on a voyage so new, so strange, and beset with such a variety of dangers, I will not deny that my courage failed me, and I would gladly have compromised to return to Mozaun, and remain there quietly all the rest of my days. But shame restrained me, and I dissembled my emotions.
At our first shock on leaving the earth, my fears were at their height; but after about two hours, I had tolerably well regained my composure, to which the returning light of day greatly contributed. By this time we had a full view of the rising sun, pouring a flood of light over one half of the circular landscape below us, and leaving the rest in shade. While those natural objects, the rivers and mountains, land and sea, were fast receding from our view, our horizon kept gradually extending as we mounted: but ere 10 o'clock this effect ceased, and the broad disc of the earth began sensibly to diminish.
It is impossible to describe my sensations of mingled awe and admiration at the splendid spectacle beneath me, so long as the different portions of the earth's surface were plainly distinguishable. The novelty of the situation in which I found myself, as well as its danger, prevented me indeed at first from giving more than a passing attention to the magnificent scene; but after a while, encouraged by the Brahmin's exhortation, and yet more by the example of his calm and assured air, I was able to take a more leisurely view of it. At first, as we partook of the diurnal motion of the earth, and our course was consequently oblique, the same portion of the globe from which we had set out, continued directly under us; and as the eye stretched in every direction over Asia and its seas, continents and islands, they appeared like pieces of green velvet, the surrounding ocean like a mirror, and the Ganges, the Hoogley, and the great rivers of China, like threads of silver.
About 11 o'clock it was necessary to get a fresh supply of air, when my companion cautiously turned one of the two stop-cocks to let out that which was no longer fit for respiration, requesting me, at the same time, to turn the other, to let in a fresh supply of condensed air; but being awkward in the first attempt to follow his directions, I was so affected by the exhaustion of the air through the vent now made for it, that I fainted; and having, at the same time, given freer passage to the condensed air than I ought, we must in a few seconds have lost our supply, and thus have inevitably perished, had not the watchful Hermit seen the mischief, and repaired it almost as soon as it occurred. This accident, and the various agitations my mind had undergone in the course of the day, so overpowered me, that at an early hour in the afternoon I fell into a profound sleep, and did not awake again for eight hours.
While I slept, the good Brahmin had contrived to manage both stop-cocks himself. The time of my waking would have been about 11 o'clock at night, if we had continued on the earth; but we were now in a region where there was no alternation of day and night, but one unvarying cloudless sun. Its heat, however, was not in proportion to its brightness; for we found that after we had ascended a few miles from the earth, it was becoming much colder, and the Brahmin had recourse to a chemical process for evolving heat, which soon made us comfortable: but after we were fairly in the great aerial void, the temperature of our machine showed no tendency to change.
The sensations caused by the novelty of my situation, at first checked those lively and varied trains of thought which the bird's-eye view of so many countries passing in review before us, was calculated to excite: yet, after I had become more familiar with it, I contemplated the beautiful exhibition with inexpressible delight. Besides, a glass of cordial, as well as the calm, confiding air of the Brahmin, contributed to restore me to my self-possession. The reader will recollect, that although our motion, at first, partook of that of the earth's on its axis, and although the positive effect was the same on our course, the relative effect was less and less as we ascended, and consequently, that after a certain height, every part of the terraqueous globe would present itself to our view in succession, as we rapidly receded from it. At 9 o'clock, the whole of India was a little to the west of us, and we saw, as in a map, that fertile and populous region, which has been so strangely reduced to subjection, by a company of merchants belonging to a country on the opposite side of the globe—a country not equal to one-fourth of it, in extent or population. Its rivers were like small filaments of silver; the Red Sea resembled a narrow plate of the same metal. The peninsula of India was of a darker, and Arabia of a light and more grayish green.
The sun's rays striking obliquely on the Atlantic, emitted an effulgence that was dazzling to the eyes. For two or three hours the appearance of the earth did not greatly vary, the wider extent of surface we could survey, compensating for our greater distance; and indeed at that time we could not see the whole horizon, without putting our eyes close to the glass.
When the Brahmin saw that I had overcome my first surprise, and had acquired somewhat of his own composure, he manifested a disposition to beguile the time with conversation. "Look through the telescope," said he, "a little from the sun, and observe the continent of Africa, which is presenting itself to our view." I took a hasty glance over it, and perceived that its northern edge was fringed with green; then a dull white belt marked the great Sahara, or Desert, and then it exhibited a deep green again, to its most southern extremity. I tried in vain to discover the pyramids, for our telescope had not sufficient power to show them.
I observed to him, that less was known of this continent than of the others: that a spirit of lively curiosity had been excited by the western nations of Europe, to become acquainted with the inhabited parts of the globe; but that all the efforts yet made, had still left a large portion almost entirely unknown. I asked if he did not think it probable that some of the nations in the interior of Africa were more advanced in civilization than those on the coast, whose barbarous custom of making slaves of their prisoners, Europeans had encouraged and perpetuated, by purchasing them.
"No, no," said he; "the benefits of civilization could not have been so easily confined, but would have spread themselves over every part of that continent, or at least as far as the Great Desert, if they had ever existed. The intense heat of a climate, lying on each side of the Line, at once disinclines men to exertion, and renders it unnecessary. Vegetable diet is more suited to them than animal, which favours a denser population. Talent is elicited by the efforts required to overcome difficulties and hardships; and their natural birth-place is a country of frost and snow—of tempests—of sterility enough to give a spur to exertion, but not enough to extinguish hope. Where these difficulties exist, and give occasion to war and emulation, the powers of the human mind are most frequently developed."
"Do you think then," said I, "that there is no such thing as natural inferiority and differences of races?"
"I have been much perplexed by that question," said he. "When I regard the great masses of mankind, I think there seems to be among them some characteristic differences. I see that the Europeans have every where obtained the ascendancy over those who inhabit the other quarters of the globe. But when I compare individuals, I see always the same passions, the same motives, the same mental operations; and my opinion is changed. The same seed becomes a very different plant when sowed in one soil or another, and put under this or that mode of cultivation."
"And may not," said I, "the very nature of the plant be changed, after a long continuance of the same culture in the same soil?"
"Why, that is but another mode of stating the question. I rather think, if it has generally degenerated, it may, by opposite treatment, be also gradually brought back to its original excellence."
"Who knows, then," said I, "what our missionaries and colonization societies may effect in Africa."
He inquired of me what these societies were; and on explaining their history, observed: "By what you tell me, it is indeed a small beginning; but if they can get this grain of mustard-seed to grow, there is no saying how much it may multiply. See what a handful of colonists have done in your own country. A few ship-loads of English have overspread half a continent; and, from what you tell me, their descendants will amount, in another century, to more than one hundred millions. There is no rule," he continued, "that can be laid down on this subject, to which some nations cannot be found to furnish a striking exception. If mere difficulties were all that were wanting to call forth the intellectual energies of man, they have their full share on the borders of the Great Desert. There are in that whitish tract which separates the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean from the rest of Africa, thousands of human beings at this moment toiling over that dreary ocean of sand, to whom a draught of fresh water would be a blessing, and the simplest meal a luxury.
"Perhaps, however, you will say they are so engrossed with the animal wants of hunger and thirst, that they are incapable of attending to any thing else. Be it so. But in the interior they are placed in parallel circumstances with the natives of Europe: they are engaged in struggles for territory and dominion—for their altars and their homes; and this state of things, which has made some of them brave and warlike, has made none poets or painters, historians or philosophers. There, poetry has not wanted themes of great achievement and noble daring; but heroes have wanted poets. Nor can we justly ascribe the difference to the enervating influence of climate, for the temperature of the most southern parts of Africa differs little from that of Greece. And the tropical nations, too, of your own continent, the Peruvians, were more improved than those who inhabited the temperate regions. Besides, though the climate had instilled softness and feebleness of character, it might also have permitted the cultivation of the arts, as has been the case with us in Asia. On the whole, without our being able to pronounce with certainty on the subject, it does seem probable that some organic difference exists in the various races of mankind, to which their diversities of moral and intellectual character may in part be referred."—By this time the Morea and the Grecian Archipelago were directly under our telescope.
"Does not Greece," said I, "furnish the clearest proof of the influence of moral causes on the character of nations? Compare what that country formerly was, with what it now is. Once superior to all the rest of the habitable globe, (of which it did not constitute the thousandth part,) in letters, arts, and arms, and all that distinguishes men from brutes; not merely in their own estimation, (for all nations are disposed to rate themselves high enough,) but by the general consent of the rest of the world. Do not the most improved and civilized of modern states still take them as their instructors and guides in every species of literature—in philosophy, history, oratory, poetry, architecture, and sculpture? And those too, who have attained superiority over the world, in arms, yield a voluntary subjection to the Greeks in the arts. The cause of their former excellence and their present inferiority, is no doubt to be found in their former freedom and their present slavery, and in the loss of that emulation which seems indispensable to natural greatness."
"Nay," replied he, "I am very far from denying the influence of moral causes on national character. The history of every country affords abundant evidence of it. I mean only to say, that though it does much, it does not do every thing. It seems more reasonable to impute the changes in national character to the mutable habits and institutions of man, than to nature, which is always the same. But if we look a little nearer, we may perhaps perceive, that amidst all those mutations in the character of nations, there are still some features that are common to the same people at all times, and which it would therefore be reasonable to impute to the great unvarying laws of nature. Thus it requires no extraordinary acuteness of observation, no strained hypothesis, to perceive a close resemblance between the Germans or the Britons of antiquity and their modern descendants, after the lapse of eighteen centuries, and an entire revolution in government, religion, language, and laws. And travellers still perceive among the inhabitants of modern Greece, deteriorated and debased as they are by political servitude, many of those qualities which distinguished their predecessors: the same natural acuteness—the same sensibility to pleasure—the same pliancy of mind and elasticity of body—the same aptitude for the arts of imitation—and the same striking physiognomy. That bright, serene sky—that happy combination of land and water, constituting the perfection of the picturesque, and that balmy softness of its air, which have proved themselves so propitious to forms of beauty, agility, and strength, also operate benignantly on the mind which animates them. Whilst the fruit is still fair to the eye, it is not probable that it has permanently degenerated in fragrance or flavour. The great diversities of national character may, perhaps, be attributed principally to moral and accidental causes, but partly also to climate, and to original diversities in the different races of man."
Continuation of the voyage—View of Europe; Atlantic Ocean; America— Speculations on the future destiny of the United States—Moral reflections —Pacific Ocean—Hypothesis on the origin of the Moon.
By this time the whole Mediterranean Sea, which, with the Arabian Gulf, was seen to separate Africa from Europe and Asia, was full in our view. The political divisions of these quarters of the world were, of course, undistinguishable; and few of the natural were discernible by the naked eye. The Alps were marked by a white streak, though less bright than the water. By the aid of our glass, we could just discern the Danube, the Nile, and a river which empties itself into the Gulf of Guinea, and which I took to be the Niger: but the other streams were not perceptible. The most conspicuous object of the solid part of the globe, was the Great Desert before mentioned. The whole of Africa, indeed, was of a lighter hue than either Asia or Europe, owing, I presume, to its having a greater proportion of sandy soil: and I could not avoid contrasting, in my mind, the colour of these continents, as they now appeared, with the complexions of their respective inhabitants.
I was struck too, with the vast disproportion which the extent of the several countries of the earth bore to the part they had acted in history, and the influence they had exerted on human affairs. The British islands had diminished to a speck, and France was little larger; yet, a few years ago it seemed, at least to us in the United States, as if there were no other nations on the earth. The Brahmin, who was well read in European history, on my making a remark on this subject, reminded me that Athens and Sparta had once obtained almost equal celebrity, although they were so small as not now to be visible. As I slowly passed the telescope over the face of Europe, I pictured to myself the fat, plodding Hollander—the patient, contemplative German—the ingenious, sensual Italian—the temperate Swiss—the haughty, superstitious Spaniard—the sprightly, self-complacent Frenchman—the sullen and reflecting Englishman —who monopolize nearly all the science and literature of the earth, to which they bear so small a proportion. As the Atlantic fell under our view, two faint circles on each side of the equator, were to be perceived by the naked eye. They were less bright than the rest of the ocean. The Brahmin suggested that they might be currents; which brought to my memory Dr. Franklin's conjecture on the subject, now completely verified by this circular line of vapour, as it had been previously rendered probable by the floating substances, which had been occasionally picked up, at great distances from the places where they had been thrown into the ocean. The circle was whiter and more distinct, where the Gulf Stream runs parallel to the American coast, and gradually grew fainter as it passed along the Banks of Newfoundland, to the coast of Europe, where, taking a southerly direction, the line of the circle was barely discernible. A similar circle of vapour, though less defined and complete, was perceived in the South Atlantic Ocean.
When the coast of my own beloved country first presented itself to my view, I experienced the liveliest emotions; and I felt so anxious to see my children and friends, that I would gladly have given up all the promised pleasures of our expedition. I even ventured to hint my feelings to the Brahmin; but he, gently rebuking my impatience, said—
"If to return home had been your only object, and not to see what not one of your nation or race has ever yet seen, you ought to have so informed me, that we might have arranged matters accordingly. I do not wish you to return to your country, until you will be enabled to make yourself welcome and useful there, by what you may see in the lunar world. Take courage, then, my friend; you have passed the worst; and, as the proverb says, do not, when you have swallowed the ox, now choke at the tail. Besides, although we made all possible haste in descending, we should, ere we reached the surface, find ourselves to the west of your continent, and be compelled then to choose between some part of Asia or the Pacific Ocean."
"Let us then proceed," said I, mortified at the imputation on my courage, and influenced yet more, perhaps, by the last argument. The Brahmin then tried to soothe my disappointment, by his remarks on my native land.
"I have a great curiosity," said he, "to see a country where a man, by his labour, can earn as much in a month as will procure him bread, and meat too, for the whole year; in a week, as will pay his dues to the government; and in one or two days, as will buy him an acre of good land: where every man preaches whatever religion he pleases; where the priests of the different sects never fight, and seldom quarrel; and, stranger than all, where the authority of government derives no aid from an army, and that of the priests no support from the law."
I told him, when he should see these things in operation with his own eyes, as I trusted he would, if it pleased heaven to favour our undertakings, they would appear less strange. I reminded him of the peculiar circumstances under which our countrymen had commenced their career.
"In all other countries," said I, "civilization and population have gone hand in hand; and the necessity of an increasing subsistence for increasing numbers, has been the parent of useful arts and of social improvement. In every successive stage of their advancement, such countries have equally felt the evils occasioned by a scanty and precarious subsistence. In America, however, the people are in the full enjoyment of all the arts of civilization, while they are unrestricted in their means of subsistence, and consequently in their power of multiplication. From this singular state of things, two consequences result. One is, that the progress of the nation in wealth, power, and greatness, is more rapid than the world has ever before witnessed. Another is, that our people, being less cramped and fettered by their necessities, and feeling, of course, less of those moral evils which poverty and discomfort engender, their character, moral and intellectual, will be developed and matured with greater celerity, and, I incline to think, carried to a higher point of excellence than has ever yet been attained. I anticipate for them the eloquence and art of Athens—the courage and love of country of Sparta—the constancy and military prowess of the Romans—the science and literature of England and France—the industry of the Dutch—the temperance and obedience to the laws of the Swiss. In fifty years, their numbers will amount to forty millions; in a century, to one hundred and sixty millions; in two centuries, (allowing for a decreasing rate of multiplication,) to three or four hundred millions. Nor does it seem impossible that, from the structure of their government, they may continue united for a few great national purposes, while each State may make the laws that are suited to its peculiar habits, character, and circumstances. In another half century, they will extend the Christian religion and the English language to the Pacific Ocean.
"To the south of them, on the same continent, other great nations will arise, who, if they were to be equally united, might contend in terrible conflicts for the mastery of this great continent, and even of the world. But when they shall be completely liberated from the yoke of Spanish dominion, and have for some time enjoyed that full possession of their faculties and energies which liberty only can give, they will probably split into distinct States. United, at first, by the sympathy of men struggling in the same cause, and by similarity of manners and religion, they will, after a while, do as men always have done, quarrel and fight; and these wars will check their social improvement, and mar their political hopes. Whether they will successively fall under the dominion of one able and fortunate leader, or, like the motley sovereignties of Europe, preserve their integrity by their mutual jealousy, time only can show."
"Your reasoning about the natives of Spanish America appears very probable," said the Brahmin; "but is it not equally applicable to your own country ?"
I reminded him of the peculiar advantages of our government. He shook his head.
"No, Atterley," said he, "do not deceive yourself. The duration of every species of polity is uncertain; the works of nature alone are permanent. The motions of the heavenly bodies are the same as they were thousands of years ago. But not so with the works of man. He is the identical animal that he ever was. His political institutions, however cunningly devised, have always been yet more perishable than his structures of stone and marble. This is according to all past history: and do not, therefore, count upon an exception in your favour, that would be little short of the miraculous. But," he good-naturedly added, "such a miracle may take place in your system; and, although I do not expect it, I sincerely wish it."
We were now able to see one half of the broad expanse of the Pacific, which glistened with the brightness of quicksilver or polished steel.
"Cast your eyes to the north," said he, "and see where your continent and mine approach so near as almost to touch. Both these coasts are at this time thinly inhabited by a rude and miserable people, whose whole time is spent in struggling against the rigours of their dreary climate, and the scantiness of its productions. Yet, perhaps the Indians and the Kamtschadales will be gradually moulded into a hardy, civilized people: and here may be the scene of many a fierce conflict between your people and the Russians, whose numbers, now four times as great as yours, increase almost as rapidly."
He then amused me with accounts of the manners and mode of life of the Hyperborean race, with whom he had once passed a summer. Glancing my eye then to the south,—"See," said I, "while the Kamtschadale is providing his supply of furs and of fish, for the long winter which is already knocking at the door of his hut, the gay and voluptuous native of the Sandwich and other islands between the tropics. How striking the contrast! The one passes his life in ease, abundance, and enjoyment; the other in toil, privation, and care. No inclemency of the seasons inflicts present suffering on these happy islanders, or brings apprehensions for the future. Nature presents them with her most delicious fruits spontaneously and abundantly; and she has implanted in their breast a lively relish for the favours she so lavishly bestows upon them."
The Brahmin, after musing a while, replied: "The difference is far less than you imagine. Perhaps, on balancing their respective pleasures and pains, the superior gain of the islander will be reduced to nothing: for, as to the simplest source of gratification, that of palatable food, if nature produces it more liberally in the islands, she also produces there more mouths to consume it. The richest Kamtschadale may, indeed, oftener go without a dinner than the richest Otaheitan; but it may be quite the reverse with the poorest. Then, as to quality of the food: if nature has provided more delicious fruits for the natives of tropical climates, she has given a sharper appetite and stronger digestion to the Hyperborean, which equalizes the sum of their enjoyments. A dry crust is relished, when an individual is hungry, more than the most savoury and delicate dainties when he is in a fever; and water to one man, is a more delicious beverage than the juice of the grape or of the palm to another. As to the necessity for labour, which is ever pressing on the inhabitants of cold countries, it is this consequent and incessant activity which gives health to their bodies, and cheerful vigour to their minds; since, without such exercise, man would have been ever a prey to disease and discontent. And, if no other occupation be provided for the mind of man, it carves out employment for itself in vain regrets and gloomy forebodings—in jealousy, envy, and the indulgence of every hateful and tormenting passion: hence the proverb,—'If you want corn, cultivate your soil; if you want weeds, let it alone.'
"But again: the native of those sunny isles is never sensible of the bounty of Providence, till he is deprived of it. Here, as well as every where else, desire outgoes gratification. Man sees or fancies much that he cannot obtain; and in his regret for what he wants, forgets what he already possesses. What is it to one with a tooth-ache, that a savoury dish is placed before him? It is the same with the mind as the body: when pain engrosses it in one way, it cannot relish pleasure in another. Every climate and country too, have their own evils and inconveniences."
"You think, then," said I, "that the native of Kamtschatka has the advantage?"
"No," he rejoined, "I do not mean to say that, for the evils of his situation are likewise very great; but they are more manifest, and therefore less necessary to be brought to your notice."
It was now, by our time-pieces, about two o'clock in the afternoon—that is, two hours had elapsed since we left terra firma; and, saving a few biscuits and a glass of cordial a-piece, we had not taken any sort of refreshment. The Brahmin proposed that we now should dine; and, opening a small case, and drawing forth a cold fowl, a piece of dried goat's flesh, a small pot of ghee, some biscuits, and a bottle of arrack flavoured with ginger and spices, with a larger one of water, we ate as heartily as we had ever done at the hermitage; the slight motion of our machine to one side or the other, whenever we moved, giving us nearly as much exercise as a vessel in a smooth sea. The animal food had been provided for me, for the Brahmin satisfied his hunger with the ghee, sweetmeats, and biscuit, and ate sparingly even of them. We each took two glasses of the cordial diluted with water, and carefully putting back the fragments, again turned our thoughts to the planet we had left.
The middle of the Pacific now lay immediately beneath us. I had never before been struck with the irregular distribution of land and water on our globe, the expanse of ocean here being twice as large as in any other part; and, on remarking this striking difference to the Brahmin, he replied:
"It is the opinion of some philosophers in the moon, that their globe is a fragment of ours; and, as they can see every part of the earth's surface, they believe the Pacific was the place from which the moon was ejected. They pretend that a short, but consistent tradition of the disruption, has regularly been transmitted from remote antiquity; and they draw confirmation of their hypothesis from many words of the Chinese, and other Orientals, with whom they claim affinity."
"Ridiculous!" said I; "the moon is one-fourth the diameter of the earth; and if the two were united in one sphere, the highest mountains must have been submerged, and of course there would have been no human inhabitants; or, if any part of the land was then bare, on the waters retiring to fill up the chasm made by the separation of so large a body as the moon, the parts before habitable would be, instead of two, three, or at most four miles, as your Himalah mountains are said to be, some twenty or thirty miles above the level of the ocean."
"That is not quite so certain," said he: "we know not of what the interior of the earth is composed, any more than we could distinguish the contents of an egg, by penetrating one hundredth part of its shell. But we see, that if one drop of water be united with another, they form one large drop, as spherical as either of the two which composed it: and on the separation of the moon from the earth, if they were composed of mingled solids and fluids, or if the solid parts rested on fluid, both the fragment and the remaining earth would assume the same globular appearance they now present.
"On this subject, however, I give no opinion. I only say, that it is not contradicted by the facts you have mentioned. The fluid and the solid parts settling down into a new sphere, might still retain nearly their former proportion: or, if the fragment took away a greater proportion of solid than of fluid, then the waters retiring to fill up the cavity, would leave parts bare which they had formerly covered. There are some facts which give a colour to this supposition; for most of the high mountains of the earth afford evidence of former submersion; and those which are the highest, the Himalah, are situated in the country to which the origin of civilization, and even the human species itself, may be traced. The moon too, we know, has much less water than the earth: and all those appearances of violence, which have so puzzled cosmogonists, the topsy-turvy position in which vegetable substances are occasionally found beneath the soil on which they grew, and the clear manifestations of the action of water, in the formation of strata, in the undulating forms it has left, and in the correspondent salient and retiring angles of mountains and opposite coasts, were all caused by the disruption; and as the moon has a smaller proportion of water than the earth, she has also the highest mountains."
"But, father," said I, "the diameter of the earth being but four times as large as that of the moon, how can the violent separation of so large a portion of our planet be accounted for? Where is the mighty agent to rend off such a mass, and throw it to thirty times the earth's diameter?"
"Upon that subject," said he, "the Lunarian sages are much divided. Many hypotheses have been suggested on the subject, some of which are very ingenious, and all very fanciful: but the two most celebrated, and into which all the others are now merged, are those of Neerlego and Darcandarca; the former of whom, in a treatise extending to nine quarto volumes, has maintained that the disruption was caused by a comet; and the latter, in a work yet more voluminous, has endeavoured to prove, that when the materials of the moon composed a part of the earth, this planet contained large masses of water, which, though the particles cohered with each other, were disposed to fly off from the earth; and that, by an accumulation of the electric fluid, according to laws which he has attempted to explain, the force was at length sufficient to heave the rocks which encompassed these masses, from their beds, and to project them from the earth, when, partaking of the earth's diurnal motion, they assumed a spherical form, and revolved around it. And further, that because the moon is composed of two sorts of matter, that are differently affected towards the earth in its revolution round that planet, the same parts of its surface always maintain some relative position to us, which thus necessarily causes the singularity of her turning on her axis precisely in the time in which she revolves round the earth."
"I see," said I, "that doctors differ and dispute about their own fancies every where."
"That is," said he, "because they contend as vehemently for what they imagine as for what they see; and perhaps more so, as their perceptions are like those of other men, while their reveries are more exclusively their own. Thus, in the present instance, the controversy turns upon the mode in which the separation was effected, which affords the widest field for conjecture, while they both agree that such separation has taken place. As to this fact I have not yet made up my mind, though it must be confessed that there is much to give plausibility to their opinion. I recognise, for instance, a striking resemblance between the animal and vegetable productions of Asia and those of the moon."
"Do you think, father," said I, "that animal, or even vegetable life, could possibly exist in such a disruption as is supposed?"
"Why not?" said he: "you are not to imagine that the shock would be felt in proportion to the mass that was moved. On the contrary, while it would occasion, in some parts, a great destruction of life, it would, in others, not be felt more than an earthquake, or rather, than a succession of earthquakes, during the time that the different parts of the mass were adjusting themselves to a spherical form; whilst a few pairs, or even a single pair of animals, saved in some cavity of a mountain, would be sufficient, in a few centuries, to stock the whole surface of the earth with as many individuals as are now to be found on it.
"After all," he added, "it is often difficult in science to distinguish Truth from the plausibility which personates her. But let us not, however, be precipitate; let us but hear both sides. In the east we have a saying, that 'he who hears with but one ear, never hears well.'"
The voyage continued—Second view of Asia—The Brahmin's speculations concerning India—Increase of the Moon's attraction—Appearance of the Moon—They land on the Moon.
The dryness of the preceding discussion, which lay out of the course of my studies, together with the effect of my dinner, began to make me a little drowsy; whereupon the Brahmin urged me to take the repose which it was clear I needed; remarking, that when I awoke, he would follow my example. Reclining my head, then, on my cloak, in a few minutes my senses were steeped in forgetfulness.
I slept about six hours most profoundly; and on waking, found the good Brahmin busy with his calculations of our progress. I insisted on his now taking some rest. After requesting me to wake him at the end of three hours, (or sooner, if any thing of moment should occur,) and putting up a short prayer, which was manifested by his looks, rather than by his words, he laid himself down, and soon fell into a quiet sleep.
Left now to my own meditations, and unsupported by the example and conversation of my friend, I felt my first apprehensions return, and began seriously to regret my rashness in thus venturing on so bold an experiment, which, however often repeated with success, must ever be hazardous, and which could plead little more in its favour than a vain and childish curiosity. I took up a book, but whilst my eye ran over the page, I understood but little what I read, and could not relish even that. I now looked down through the telescope, and found the earth surprisingly diminished in her apparent dimensions, from the increased rapidity of our ascent. The eastern coasts of Asia were still fully in view, as well as the entire figure of that vast continent—of New Holland—of Ceylon, and of Borneo; but the smaller islands were invisible. I strained my eye to no purpose, to follow the indentations of the coast, according to the map before me; the great bays and promontories could alone be perceived. The Burman Empire, in one of the insignificant villages of which I had been confined for a few years, was now reduced to a speck. The agreeable hours I had passed with the Brahmin, with the little daughter of Sing Fou, and my rambling over the neighbouring heights, all recurred to my mind, and I almost regretted the pleasures I had relinquished. I tried, with more success, to beguile the time by making notes in my journal; and after having devoted about an hour to this object, I returned to the telescope, and now took occasion to examine the figure of the earth near the Poles, with a view of discovering whether its form favoured Captain Symmes's theory of an aperture existing there; and I am convinced that that ingenious gentleman is mistaken. Time passed so heavily during these solitary occupations, that I looked at my watch every five minutes, and could scarcely be persuaded it was not out of order. I then took up my little Bible, (which had always been my travelling companion,) read a few chapters in St. Matthew, and found my feelings tranquillized, and my courage increased. The desired hour at length arrived; when, on waking the old man, he alertly raised himself up, and at the first view of the diminished appearance of the earth, observed that our journey was a third over, as to time, but not as to distance. After a few moments, the Brahmin again cast his eye towards his own natal soil; on beholding which, he fetched a deep sigh, and, if I was not mistaken, I saw a rising tear.
"Alas!" said he, "my country and my countrymen, how different you are in many respects from what I should wish you to be! And yet I do not love you the less. Perhaps I love you the more for your faults, as well as for your misfortunes.
"Our lot," continued he, "is a hard one. That quarter of the world has sent letters, and arts, and religion abroad to adorn and benefit the other four; and these, the chief of human blessings and glories, have deserted us!"
I told him that I had heard the honours, which he claimed for India, attributed to Egypt. He contended, with true love of country, great plausibility, and an intimate knowledge of Oriental history, that letters and the arts had been first transplanted from Asia into Egypt.
"No other part of Africa," said he, "saving Egypt, can boast of any ancient monuments of the arts or of civilization. Even the pyramids, the great boast of Egypt, are proofs of nothing more than ordinary patient labour, directed by despotic power. Besides, look at that vast region, extending five thousand miles from the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope, and four thousand from the Red Sea to the Atlantic. Its immense surface contains only ignorant barbarians, who are as uncivilized now as they were three thousand years ago. Is it likely that if civilization and letters originated in Egypt, as is sometimes pretended, it would have spread so extensively in one direction, and not at all in another? I make no exception in favour of the Carthagenians, whose origin was comparatively recent, and who, we know, were a colony from Asia."