THE WORLD'S FAIR
Or, Children's Prize Gift Book of the Great Exhibition of 1851
Describing the Beautiful Inventions and Manufactures Exhibited Therein; with Pretty Stories about the People Who Have Made and Sent Them; and How They Live When at Home
London: Thomas Dean and Son 35, Threadneedle-Street, and Ackermann and Co. 96, Strand.
What a pretty picture we have in the first title page, of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park! This gigantic structure is built of iron, glass, and wood; but as, at a distance, it seems to be made entirely of glass, it is called the "Crystal Palace." Does it not look like one of those magnificent palaces we read about in fairy tales?
The Great Exhibition is intended to receive and exhibit the most beautiful and most ingenious things from every country in the world, in order that everybody may become better known to each other than they have been, and be joined together in love and trade, like one great family; so that we may have no more wicked, terrible battles, such as there used to be long ago, when nobody cared who else was miserable, so that they themselves were comfortable. Only look at the thousands of people who crowd the Park,—all so different looking, and so curiously dressed. Grave Turks,—swarthy Spaniards and Italians,—East Indian Princes, glistening with gold and jewels,—clever French and German workmen, in blue cotton blouses,—Chinese gentlemen,—Tartars, Russians, energetic Americans, and many more. I wonder what they all think of us, whose habits in many things are so different from their own?
And what charming things there are in the Exhibition itself! Fine porcelain wares, mirrors, books, statues, perfumes, and many more articles from various parts of the world,—beautiful fans, books, bronzes, and an infinity of other matters, from France in particular. Here is a model in miniature of the Crystal Palace itself, in glass.
Ah! talking of glass, what think you of an enormous French decanter, in which three persons, having gotten inside by a ladder, can sit and dine off a table a yard in circumference? This is quite an exhibition in itself, I think. In another part of the building, we have a looking-glass, from Germany, which is the largest that ever was made, and is encased in a splendid frame of Dresden china. But here is a darling little English steam-engine, so small that you could, after wrapping it up in paper, lay it very comfortably inside an ordinary-sized walnut-shell, while the plate on which it stands is not bigger than a sixpence!
In the very centre of the building, a gigantic crystal fountain diffuses a delicious coolness around, its bright clear waters sparkling, leaping, and playing, as if in delight and astonishment at the splendid and wonderful articles surrounding it. And there are two immense statues just beside it, looking mightily pleased with the agreeable coolness of the water. But here are two large bronze lions;—how terrible they look: they seem almost as if they were going to jump at us. There are animals of various kinds in different parts of the Exhibition; stags, horses, foxes, birds, cats, and even a ferocious-looking tiger.
There is a bundle of nails so diminutive you can hardly see them—another bundle of three thousand nails, one thousand gold, another silver, and the third iron; so light that the whole weighs only three grains,—a French watch, smaller than a fourpenny piece,—Hindoo stuffs, so thin you can scarcely feel them, yet are made from rejected cotton-husks,—a highly-finished model of a palace, from Italy; and a handsome carriage, from Prussia.
But among the curious articles we must notice this imitation of a camelia japonica tree in china, with buds, leaves, and blossoms, all perfect, which came from Germany;—and that painted oil-cloth from Manchester, covered with the most extraordinary mathematical ornaments, and which took eleven years to complete, and is worth 500 guineas. And that table, made of 38,000 pieces of wood, of twenty-eight different colours, looking like mosaic, which was sent from Switzerland. Nor must we forget to look at this piece of gold, on which is engraved "The Lord's Prayer," and is yet so small that a common pin-head covers it: that came from Portsmouth. And here is a German bed, which being wound up, like a clock, to a certain hour, throws the sleeper out on the ground, when the time comes; no lazy lie-a-beds with that, I fancy!
But here is an odd contribution, also from Germany; it is—what do you think?—a piece of lace, darned, and a fine table napkin, also darned! however, don't laugh, until I explain to you the reason why it has been mended in this way: an ingenious young lady, wishing to show industrious lasses that torn clothes may be made to look as if they had not been injured in that manner at all, got a piece of cloth, tore it for the purpose, and taking up the stitches neatly, worked thread after thread till she had darned it in such a way that nobody could tell where it had been torn; she then thought of sending a specimen of her industry to the World's Fair.
Here are snuff-boxes made of coal, which have been sent from Woolwich; and a beautiful little cannon of agate, from Germany; and two violins, worth a great deal of money, which have been contributed from America.
I know that the productions of India will delight you by their beauty and ingenuity: the costumes the natives have sent are even prettier than those of Turkey, Spain, or Persia, and their gold, silver, and mother-of-pearl ornaments, are enchanting; what splendid veils, dresses, shawls, carved ivory, and curiosities!
I would have you look very attentively at the contributions from India, they are so gorgeous; such superb muslins, baskets, and fans; with silks, cotton, cocoa-nuts, roots, woods, and such tempting fruits. I always like to see Indian articles, they are so magnificent. The persons who have sent these things must have worked very hard, to make so many beautiful specimens; but then the poorer people of India are exceedingly industrious; they live very simply, eating rice, boiled with milk and spices, as their principal food, for it is against their religion to touch meat of any kind. They would lead rather a sorry life, were it not that their tastes were so extremely simple, and their wants so few. A Hindoo village looks more like a gipsy encampment, than anything else, and bears a very strange appearance to a European, at first.
However, although the poor people live in this way, the princes and nobles lead a far different life; an eastern grandee could formerly do anything he chose, even to killing of his wives and slaves, and, only I do not wish to frighten you, I could tell you many stories about the cruelty of the Indian nobles. They live in great state, and are always surrounded by a throng of slaves, and attendants, who wait on them as they recline lazily on a pile of the softest cushions, which are covered with the skins of beasts, and with silks, velvets, and satins. When they go abroad they are carried in what is called a palanquin, borne on the shoulders of servants, if they do not choose to ride on a horse or an elephant.
Their houses are adorned with the utmost magnificence, while the gardens or approaches to them are delightfully cool and refreshing, being shaded by fragrant trees, and shrubs, perfumed by the most beautiful flowers, and cooled by fountains, playing in marble basins. The Indian machinery is very clumsy indeed, and the mills are the funniest-looking things imaginable: I must show you an oil-mill.
A very cruel custom prevails in many parts of India, which I know will shock you very much: when a Hindoo of rank dies, his widow is laid by his side on a pile of faggots, which being set fire to, the poor creature is suffocated, or else burnt alive, and they pretend that she likes to be so destroyed. The ceremony is called a "Suttee," and is conducted with great pomp, all the relations of the woman and her dead husband being present, in addition to an immense crowd; before getting on the pile, the widow divides all her jewels and ornaments amongst her friends. Here is a picture of a widow about to bathe in a "consecrated" river, before going to be burnt.
Here are lovely specimens of the manufacture of gold, silver, silk, jewellery, and Lebanon horns, from Syria, with seeds, fruits, oils, and woods; and even ornaments and marble from Jerusalem! Little did the Crusaders of old think, when they were fighting in Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, that the Infidels, as they very incorrectly called them, would be sending in such a friendly way to England.
What splendid caps, slippers, veils, and perfumes, with such picturesque guns and swords, from Turkey! The Turks are a fine, handsome race of people, and very grave and sensible, except when they are angry, when they grow raging and furious; they are fond of ease; and the chief delight of those who can afford it is to sit cross-legged on a low couch, drinking coffee, and smokeing a long curled pipe, called a hookah. They often sit by the side of a canal for a whole day, looking at children flying kites. Instead of sitting at a table to dine, they put the dishes on a carpet of Turkey leather, and sit round it on the floor, eating, with wooden spoons, meat and rice stewed together, called pilau. They are not allowed to drink wine, or eat pork. A favourite diversion with them is playing on a kind of lute, and sometimes they amuse themselves with chess, draughts, and other games; but their principal amusement, like some of my little friends, is to sit and listen to stories, told by men who earn their livelihood by relating entertaining tales and romances.
The Turks do not undress and go to bed at any time, but being seated on a sofa, they smoke till they are sleepy, then laying themselves down, their slaves cover them over for the night. The poor people of the cities carry water, cakes, loaves, and other things, through the streets for a living, or act as buffoons, musicians, tumblers and wrestlers, at the Sultan's and other of the rich people's palaces.
They cannot use wheel carriages in Turkey, the streets are so narrow, and the pavements in many parts so bad; everything is therefore carried by men, horses, mules, and donkeys, which is very inconvenient, as the mules and donkeys very often tumble down, and throw their burdens right in everybody's way; as for a horse, when heavily laden, it takes up the entire road; and when two loaded horses meet, the bawling and confusion is dreadful.
The markets in Turkey are called "bazaars," and there you can buy almost anything you want; and every trade keeps together in knots of shops, different from us, in particular quarters, so that you are not obliged to walk all over the bazaar in search of a hat or a pair of shoes. In these bazaars, it is customary for a dealer to ask much more than he means to take, and for a buyer to offer infinitely less than he means to give; it is, therefore, rather difficult to strike a bargain, and sometimes several days are occupied chaffering about a price.
The Turkish houses, above the ground floors, are usually built of thin laths, painted of different gay colours, and the roofs made of tiles, so that every few months a terrible fire takes place, and several thousand dwellings are burnt down; but the people are so accustomed to this that they do not mind it, and look on very contentedly while the fire rages, smoking their pipes, and drinking coffee.
The Turks are exceedingly charitable, and not only give alms to the sick and poor, but even to travellers and strangers; and some of them have exercised their benevolence so far that they have left a sum of money for digging wells, and for the support of several cats and dogs. A very great trade is carried on from many parts of the world with them, as their country is famous for its rich brocades, thick soft carpets, mattings, baskets, curiously-wrought gold and silver embroidery, and balsams. It is also remarkable for its attar of roses, spices, figs, and coffee; all very good things, I dare say, you will think.
Some things have been sent from China to our Exhibition; but the Chinese people do not seem to care much about it. Indeed, I wonder they sent at all, for they consider themselves as the only civilized nation in the world, and call China the "Celestial Empire," while they imagine that the Emperor is an intimate relation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars! They are a very industrious nation, however, and the Emperor encourages them by his example. The poor work in every way they can; and one of their occupations is carrying about water for sale, as they have not water brought by pipes into the houses, as we have here. Here is the picture of a Chinese water carrier.
They also make the most elaborately carved ornaments, in wood and ivory; their toys and lanterns are celebrated for their ingenuity and workmanship. Their fireworks are superior to all those of other nations; and they excel in tricks and amusing entertainments. The cultivation of tea is universal, and agriculture—which, you know is the art of tilling the earth—is held in high esteem; the principal products being rice, wheat, yams, potatoes, turnips, and cabbages. The dwellings of the peasantry too, are not in villages, as in old England, but are scattered through the country; and they have no fences, gates, or anything to guard against wild beasts, or robbers. The females raise silk-worms, spin cotton, manufacture woollen stuffs, and are the only weavers in the empire. The art of printing, though done in what I must confess is rather a clumsy manner, is much exercised amongst them, and gives employment to many people.
I do not think we should like to dine with a Chinese gentleman, or Mandarin, as he would treat us to strange dainties, as—a roast dog, a dish of stewed worms, a rat pie; or, perhaps, a bird's-nest. But the bird's-nest would be the best of the list, for it is not like the kind of bird's-nests which you have seen, but is made, I believe, of the spawn of fish, and looks something like isinglass. It is the nest of a sort of swallow, is about the size of a goose's egg, and is found in caverns along the sea shores; so it is not so bad as it seems at first. And the rats are as large and fat as some of our rabbits, being fed on fruits and grain, purposely for eating; as also are their dogs, for eating.
The people of the "Celestial Empire" are celebrated for their fondness for making beautiful gardens; but their houses and gardens are quite different from ours.
What a pretty scene! what a delicious cool walk is formed by the grove of trees leading to the porcelain tower. And those ladies walking towards the boat,—or hobbling, more likely; for the Chinese ladies have feet not much larger than your papa's thumb, which is there considered a great beauty.
The common women cannot afford to have little feet, as the feet of the rich girls are bandaged up in iron shoes, when they are two or three years old, to prevent their growing larger. These small feet are called "Golden Lilies;" but I am glad no such barbarous custom prevails in our own dear country. The Chinese ladies, however, are extremely accomplished, and can play on many musical instruments, paint, and embroider. The merchants of China are not at all remarkable for their honesty, though a few of them are very scrupulous. Many of them amass great fortunes.
The Chinese have sent in embroidered shawls, table-covers, teas, curious and intricate toys, and specimens of handicraft.
Why, we have even specimens of Russian industry, in the Great Exhibition; and very good specimens they are, too. Russia is not such a pleasant country, in some respects, as any of those I have been telling you of; for in the winter the frost is so severe that many of the poor Russians die from cold. The rich wrap themselves up in warm furs, and ride in fur-lined sledges, instead of the usual carriages; but the poor people are forced to continue working out of doors at their various employments, being very careful, however, to cover their legs, hands, and head with fur, lest they should be bitten with the frost, which sometimes seizes those parts and turns them white. Though many of the poor women stand for hours together, washing their linen in holes cut in the ice, without getting frozen, yet it often happens that coachmen and other servants have been frozen to death in the streets at night, while waiting for their masters.
At the end of every year, the Russians keep a long fast, and as soon as it is over, lay in their store of winter's provisions, at a market held once a-year on the river Neva, which is then frozen over. I should like you to see this market, it is so full of gaiety and singularity, while the high piles of frozen provisions look so picturesque along the ice. The Russians are remarkable for their cheerfulness and contentment, and are so fond of singing, that they are always enjoying a song when at work. Russian songs are very different from ours, and sound rather odd to us.
The food of the common people is black rye bread, sometimes, by way of treat, stuffed with onions, carrots, or green corn, and seasoned with sweet oil. They use eggs, salt fish, bacon, and mushrooms, of which last they have a great plenty. The men are ordinarily dressed in loose trousers; short coats of sheep-skin, tied with a sash round their waists, and folds of flannel, fastened round with pack-thread, on their legs, for stockings. The women are dressed just as oddly, in short gowns, and with their hair plaited and hanging down their backs, if they are unmarried; or a cap and cotton kerchief round their heads, if they are married. The peasants' houses are built of wood, and have one or two rooms only; they are miserably furnished, with no beds, as the family sleep on benches in summer, while nearly one-fourth of the principal apartment is filled by an enormous stove, or rather oven, upon which they sleep in winter; for the smoke of which, there is no chimney beyond a hole in the wall. I don't think you or I would much like to spend a winter in Russia.
Many useful things, you may observe, have come from Spain—cheeses, honey, dried fruits, salt, lime, wool, oil, flax, and cotton; with guns, swords, and also beautiful ornaments; with some precious stones, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. The Spaniards are not either a very active or a very cleanly people, but they are exceedingly proud, honest, and hospitable; they are skilful workers in woollen and silk stuffs, and manufacture sword-blades of a very fine kind; while their leather is celebrated for its superiority. They also work beautifully in gold and silver; and trade in immense quantities of those oranges you like so well, lemons, citrons, grapes, raisins, olives, nuts, and wines.
The chief amusement of both high and low is one which neither you nor I would be pleased with, I hope, for it is bull-fighting; which cruel entertainment they learned from the Moors, who once had possession of Spain, and built all the beautiful castles and palaces that are in it. The manners of the rich people are merely like those of our own gentry, but the common people are very peculiar; and all classes delight in playing on the guitar, and singing, both of which they perform charmingly. They have also two favourite dances, called a fandango, and a bolero, both extremely lively and graceful. The mode of conveyance in Spain is by mules, and these beasts are surprisingly obedient to their masters, and answer to their own names just like our own pet dogs. The tails of the mules are oddly decorated, by cutting the hair into stars, flowers, and other fanciful designs.
The villages are mostly mean, and the roads narrow; but Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a large city, with long, straight streets, many of them cooled by noble fountains. The houses in Madrid are built of brick, and even the grandest of them have only lattices, instead of glass windows, most of which have, however, handsome balconies, supported on columns. In the churches, there are neither pews, benches, nor chairs; the ground is covered with matting, on which every one kneels together, from the grandee to the beggar. In the suburbs there are many woods of evergreen oak, vineyards, olive plantations, and orchards of mulberry, plum, and almond trees; and the flocks of black sheep and goats, grazing in the country meadows, have a pretty effect.
I don't think you would find the Spanish cookery much to your taste; for the Spaniards are very fond of rancid butter in their meals, and of oil that has a very strong smell and flavour; indeed, when they are going to cook anything that requires fat, they lift down the lamp from the ceiling, and take out what oil they want. Bread, steeped in oil, and occasionally seasoned with vinegar, is the common food of the country people. Their favourite wine is that which has a strong taste of the leather bottles or casks, in which they keep it; and they will hardly eat any thing that has not saffron, pimento, or garlic, in it. They have, however, even amongst the poorest, such fine grapes, ripe melons, and tempting oranges, as my little readers, I know, have seldom tasted. In summer, they use a quantity of ice, which is sold in glasses, in the streets, for a trifling sum. In place of candles, the poor people have a piece of cane, cut with holes through it, which is fixed to the ceiling, and from one of the holes a lamp is hung by a hook.
The dress of the lower orders is very pretty indeed, and they themselves are mostly tall and handsome, with black hair and eyes, and dark sun-burnt complexions. The climate is so warm and balmy, that they can grow their fruits in the open air.
Some pretty articles have been sent from Portugal, a country which is near Spain, and very like it in all respects. It is a very fine country, famous for wine, and oil; and the sheep are much prized for their superior wool. The ladies of rank still spin flax from a distaff, to show their industry. The peasantry are not very well off; their only luxury is tobacco, and their usual fare is bread, made of Indian corn, with a salted pilchard, or a head of garlic, to give it a relish. They are polite and hospitable; but the people of the towns have not the least scruple in stabbing any body that offends them; so that it is a dangerous thing to affront them.
What elegant tables, pictures, vases, marbles, statues, shells, woods, and perfumes, have been contributed to the Exhibition from Italy. Here is a table of a most beautiful material, called pietra dura, which took one hundred and twenty years to finish, and came from Naples.
Italy has always been celebrated for the beauty of the articles manufactured there; and the things it has sent us now are certainly worthy of its fame. It is one of the loveliest countries in the world, in the spring and autumn, and is ornamented with the richest foliage; vines, mulberry, olive, and orange trees; and with high hills and deep dales, towns, villas, and villages. The soil is extremely fertile, and produces abundance of grain, the finest fruits and vegetables, with flax, saffron, and manna. The climate is delightful, except in summer, when the weather is dreadfully hot, and the winters are so mild, that ice and snow are quite rarities, except in the mountains; I wonder what my little-boy friends would do there, for a skate on the ice, or a merry game of snow-balls?
Rome, the capital of Italy, is a splendid city, full of the remains of ancient temples, pillars, arches, and fountains; but many of them sadly ruinous and decayed. There are a great many Jews in it, who are forced to live in a particular part, called the ghetto, which means a place for Jews. The city of Rome and the surrounding country are very unwholesome during summer, in consequence of the land not being properly drained, as it used to be in the times of the ancient Romans, so that it is dangerous to dwell near them at that season of the year. The numerous vineyards in Italy, are not divided by hedges, but by rows of rather fine trees, the vines clinging in graceful festoons from one bough to another. In some parts of the country, there are various picturesque corn fields and meadows, bordered by olive trees.
The Italians are not a very industrious people, but they make silk stockings, soap, snuff-boxes of the lava of Mount Vesuvius, tables of marble, and ornaments of shells, besides gloves and caps of the filaments of a kind of muscle, which they get off the rocks, where it fixes itself by spinning a web from its own body, like the silk-worm or spider. These caps and gloves are actually warmer than those made of wool, and are of a fine glossy green colour.
There are a great many beggars, I am sorry to say, in fair Italy, who are called Lazzaroni, and they live on whatever they can get, sleeping under porticos, piazzas, or any place they can find, and are, as you may guess, excessively idle, like all other beggars.
There are also hordes of thieves, who are called Banditti, and who rob people in the most daring manner, for there are very few police. But there are also numerous persons who are quite well-behaved, and do all they can to earn their bread honestly. Among these is a set of men called Improvisatori, who tell stories, or repeat verses in the streets, and get a good deal of money from those who stop to listen to them. It must be very pleasant, on a cool summer evening, to sit under some magnificent old portico, listening to some interesting poem, or hearing a pretty story related.
Throughout Italy, one of the remarkable customs, is keeping of a grand festival, which begins some weeks before Lent, and is called the "Carnival;" on this occasion, every place is brilliantly adorned, and the people go about singing, dancing, joking, and masquerading. The most splendid Carnival is kept at Venice, a remarkable city of Italy, built upon a several islands, the sea, which runs every where among them, serving the inhabitants for streets.
The Italians are very handsome, and have jet black hair, dark roguish eyes, and fine figures. The dress of the lower orders is even prettier than the pretty Spanish costume. The men wear high-crowned hats, such as you may sometimes have seen on the organ-grinders in the streets of London, velveteen jackets, gaiters, and open shirt-collars, loosely fastened by a silk ribbon; while the women have short scarlet petticoats, and jackets of a darker colour, with exceedingly short sleeves, tied with bright ribbon, and their long black hair decorated with coloured bows of ribbon, and confined by a silk lace net, which falls partly over their shoulders. Instead of sending thieves to prison in Italy, they are sent on board the galleys, a large kind of rowing vessels, where they are chained to the decks, and obliged to endure every species of hardship.
What a number of things the Germans have contributed! Bracelets, articles of straw, beautiful household furniture, toys, wire, and many other manufactures. Here is a splendid tray of polished amber, with a little carriage, made according to a proper model, and a large chandelier of amber, capable of holding several thousand lights. There is a beautiful cabinet made of a collection of pieces of unpolished amber, intended to show the different kinds of that mineral, its various forms, its peculiarities, and its varieties. Here is a bedstead, worth it is said ten thousand pounds; and the most elegant furniture ever seen. And here is a piece of white silk embroidered with portraits of our Queen and the Prince of Wales, done in a thin kind of thread, called "hair thread."
You know a good deal about Germany itself, I dare say, already; but I must tell you something about the Germans themselves. They are grave and thoughtful, but highly romantic and full of enthusiasm. Their love for their country is most remarkable. All classes in Germany are well-educated, and many painters, poets, and musicians, have been born among them. The art of printing was first practiced in that country, and at present the number of books printed there is immense; while every year a book-fair is held at the city of Leipzig. The produce and manufactures of Germany are exceedingly numerous, and you see they are of great variety, such as clocks, watches, woollens, linens, toys, wines, ornamental work in iron and steel, worsteds, and silks. In the public walks and gardens, on Sundays, the people assemble in great crowds, dressed out in their holiday clothes, while ladies and gentlemen walk about without the least restraint among the working people.
The chase is a favourite amusement with the nobles and gentlemen, and is a sport in which they are lustily joined by the peasantry. The immense forests with which the country abounds gives shelter to wild boars, wolves, and many other ferocious animals. On grand occasions there is held what is called a battue, when a number of deer are driven into an enclourse, and shot at by the sportsmen. The habits of the peasants are extremely simple, but the people are industrious and ingenious. The villages and cottages are neat and comfortable. The peasants make many pretty toys and ornaments, and bring provisions to market from a great distance, in light roomy wheel-barrows, made for the purpose. The German people are in general fair, with blue eyes, flaxen hair, and full figures; but they do not wear any very peculiar dress.
In models of ships, in rosewood furniture, in silver embroidery, and silver cups,—besides linens, calicoes, and glass beautifully painted for windows; many contributions have been sent in by the Dutch. There are also soft thick blankets with scarlet borders, which make one warm merely to look at them.
The Dutch people are industrious, and cleanly. The women are the most active and nicest house-wives in the world; they scour and brighten, and rub not only the furniture and inside of their houses, but the outside as well; the houses in Holland, by-the-bye, look like painted baby-houses, and are roofed with glossy delft tiles, and the rooms are lined with smooth square tiles of delft, and the floors paved with marble. The people are never idle in Holland, but are always working at a great variety of manufactures, among which are leather, woollen, and linen articles,—also, paper, wax, starch, pottery, and tiles. Large quantities of gin are likewise made, and this liquor is in England called "Hollands" for that reason. Carts are not much used by the Dutch; their goods are carried on sledges, very light waggons, and boats. The reason of this is, that they are afraid lest the wheels of vehicles should injure the foundations of their cities, which are generally built on piles of huge trees, driven like stakes into the bog beneath. The common people are very humane to their cattle; they rub down the cows and oxen, and keep them as clean and sleek as our English horses. Canals run through the principal streets, and in winter they are frozen over for two or three months, when the whole country is like a fair; booths are erected upon the ice, with fires in them. The country people skate to market, with milk and vegetables; and every kind of sport is seen on the frozen canals. Sledges fly from one street to another, gaily decorated, and numberless skaters glide about with astonishing swiftness and dexterity. No people skate so well as the Dutch.
Holland was once a quagmire, almost covered with water; but by making canals higher than the land, and pumping the water out of the fields into them, the land was drained. The bogs are numerous, and supply so much turf that little else is burned. There are no beggars; and the people are in general pretty warmly clothed, and comfortable looking, with ruddy faces. The townspeople are dressed almost like the Londoners, or Parisians; but the costume of the country folks is rather funny. A farmer's wife, when out for a holiday, wears a large kind of gipsy hat, like a small umbrella, lined with damask; a close jacket with long flaps; and full short thick coloured petticoats. Her slippers are yellow, her stockings blue, and her cap is without a border, being made to fit her head exactly, and gaily ornamented with gold filagree clasps; while her costume is finished by a pair of earrings and a necklace. The farmer himself wears a hat without a rim, and huge silver buttons on his coat; and keeps whiffing away at his pipe, which he is seldom without. The Dutch are most excellent gardeners, though they sometimes ruin themselves by their love for flowers.
Among the articles that have been sent here from Switzerland, are several well worth looking at, they are so wonderfully ingenious. Of this kind are two boxes, one of white wood, and the other of brown; the white has a lovely Alpine rose, with garlands of flowers upon the sides, the rose and lid being cut out of one piece of wood, and so beautifully made to imitate nature, that the slightest touch with the point of a knife or a needle, makes the leaves move and quiver without spoiling the flower. This was made by a Swiss peasant. The people of Switzerland are very remarkable for their industry, contentment, and ingenuity.
Among the villagers, their chief occupations are the management of dairies, and the breeding of cattle; and many of the peasantry make a living by hunting the chamois, as the wild goat is called. This is rather a dangerous employment, yet the chamois-hunters delight in it; they carry a long hook pointed with an iron spike, and with the help of this, they leap from rock to rock, over frightful chasms and precipices; yet such is their surprising activity, that they are never killed. Other peasants earn a livelihood by fattening and preparing snails for market; for these creatures are considered a great delicacy in many parts of Switzerland. In another part of the country the inhabitants almost exclusively follow the trade of watch-making, and polishing the crystals and pebbles that are found in the mountains, Geneva, a city of Switzerland, is celebrated for the watches that are made there.
The women are extremely domestic, delighting in their children; and all the Swiss are remarkable for their passionate love of home. In every village there is a school, established by the Government for the instruction of poor children. The Swiss are the most graceful of all peasants, and wear very smart costumes. The men wear large hats, and their dress is generally a brown cloth jacket without sleeves, and puffed breeches of ticking. The women have short blue petticoats, a cherry-coloured boddice, full white sleeves fastened above the elbow, and a muslin kerchief thrown round their necks; while their hair is plaited, and twisted about their heads. They also wear pretty flat straw hats, ornamented with bows of ribbon.
The scenery of Switzerland is of the most charming and romantic description; there are towering mountains, craggy rocks, steep precipices, with foaming torrents dashing down their sides, and dizzy heights, which I should be sorry any of my little friends were looking down. But these are delightfully intermixed with beautiful valleys, adorned with groves of fir, beech, and chestnut trees; clear lakes, rapid rivers, cataracts, and bridges of one arch reaching an immense distance from rock to rock. Portions of the mountains are covered with villages and scattered cottages; and the inside of the dwellings are so neat and look so comfortable, that you could almost wish to live in one of them, if you were not told that there is a perpetual danger of their being buried under one of the enormous masses of snow that frequently roll from the tops of the mountains, and destroy everything in their way. These masses are called Avalanches.
Between the summits of the highest of the mountains are valleys of ice, frozen into many fantastic shapes, formed by one crust of ice growing hard over another; but what is more extraordinary, is that the borders of these glaciers, as they are called, are fertile: strawberries, wild cherries, nuts, barberries, and mulberries, grow there; and goats browse on the most inaccessible parts of the rocks, and bound with the most surprising agility from one cliff to another.
Several contributions have been sent by the Prussians and Austrians; woollens, minerals, linens, china, and other things.
The Prussians are a very polite and well-educated people, and nowhere are there more schools than in their country.
Prussia itself is an extremely pleasant place, and the towns are fine, with wide, regular streets, and high antique-looking houses; the streets are mostly lined with trees, which look pretty enough while their leaves are green, but rather prevent the free circulation of air. The Prussian ladies delight in fine clothes, and would be much vexed if they were obliged to go out without them. The gentry speak French, but the common people talk German. The beautiful Dresden china we see at the Exhibition, cames from the town of Dresden.
Austria is a very fine country, and contains a great variety of people. The principal artizans are tanners, furriers, boot makers, lace workers, and cabinet makers. There are also workers in iron, copper, alum, saltpetre, besides many others. The general habits of the Austrians are like those of the Germans, so I do not think I need tell you anything about them.
The Poles and Hungarians have also sent their industrial productions to the Great Exhibition; cloth, lace, furniture, brooms, linens, woollens, and other articles. I dare say you have heard a good deal lately about the Hungarians, when they were fighting against the Austrians and Russians. The Hungarian peasants are very hard-working; indeed, they cannot help being so, for as the nobility and gentry are not taxed, the poor people are forced to pay all the taxes, besides being obliged to give money and provisions to their masters, the Lords of the Manor, who, I am sorry to say, are excessively tyrannical. They are also compelled to pay tithes to the clergy, the magistrates, and the soldiers, and to work for nothing on the public works; against which bad laws they fought. Agriculture, and the breeding of cattle, are carried on to a considerable extent.
Hungary is occupied by a variety of people, with entirely different habits; it contains Frenchmen, Sclavonians, Turks, Jews, Spaniards, Gipsies, Germans, and Greeks. The Magyar language, the original Hungarian tongue, is spoken by the peasants; but in the cities the people mostly use German and French.
The Poles live in a cold, flat, marshy country, in the north of Europe. The peasantry are in a miserable state, very dirty and frequently drunken; and their land is in a wretched condition.
The Swedish and Danish people have made many things to be exhibited in the World's Fair. Sweden is in the north of Europe, and the climate is very disagreeable, for it is extremely cold in winter, and intolerably hot in summer. The people do not live very luxuriantly; their bread is not only black and coarse, but so hard that they are sometimes obliged to break it with a hatchet; and this, with dried fish, and salt meat, forms the chief part of their food. Yet they are very hardy and contented. At Michaelmas, they kill their cattle and salt them, for the winter and spring. Their favourite drink is beer, and they delight in malt spirits; some of them have tea and coffee. Their houses are generally built of wood, and their cottages are made of rough logs; the roofs are covered with turf, on which the goats browse. The Swedish women do everything that men are employed to do in other countries; they plough, sow, and thresh, and work with the bricklayers; the country women, as well as the ladies, wear veils to shade their faces from the glare of the snow in winter, and from the scorching rays of the sun reflected from the barren rocks in summer.
The iron mines of Sweden are exceedingly useful; they furnish great quantities of metal, to be exported to England, for the use of our steel manufactories. The extensive forests supply numerous pine trees, which are cut down and sent to foreign countries, for ship and house building; while pitch and tar are made from the sap,—a preparation which gives employment to many of the inhabitants.
The Swedes contrive to make things from materials we should throw away as good for nothing; they twist rope from hogs'-bristles, horses' manes, and the bark of trees; and form bridles of eel-skins. The coarse cloth they wear they make themselves, for the women are continually busy spinning or weaving. Sweden is the birth-place of the famous botanist, Linnaeus, and the charming singer, Jenny Lind.
Norway is united to Sweden, but it is still colder in winter and hotter in summer. The people live very simply, mostly on milk, cheese, and dried fish; and sometimes they have slices of meat, sprinkled with salt and dried in the wind. In some parts of the country, the people make bread of the bark of the pine tree; and in winter, for want of hay, they are obliged to feed their cattle on dried fish. The houses are built of wood, and many of the roads are made of the same material; while wooden fences are used instead of hedges. The Norwegians send metals, minerals, salt, butter, dried fish, and furs, to other countries.
Denmark is a very fine country, perfectly level, except a single ridge of mountains. Its chief products are grain, tobacco, flax, madder, and hops. There are a great many mines, but few manufactures carried on; though the Danish gloves are much esteemed. The climate is generally rather warm, but very wet. The Danes are mostly well-educated; they are like the Swedes in their manners and customs. They have sent many specimens of their industry to the Great Exhibition.
Why, who would have thought of seeing Persian and Egyptian contributions at the Exhibition?
And such splendid articles as they are! Persia, you know, is a rich and fertile country, near Russia, in Asia; but although it has many beautiful flowers and fruits, yet is there very little timber; owing to which they have no shipping. The Persians delight in fine clothes on which they lavish the greater part of their money, and they are fonder of scarlet, or crimson, than of any other colour. They are very skilful in dyeing, in making silks, shagreen, morocco, gold and silver ornaments; and they form excellent swords and weapons. Their commerce with Turkey, China, Arabia, and other places, is carried on by means of what they call "caravans," which are large companies of merchants, who travel together for the sake of security from thieves, by whom however, they are often robbed; these companies have frequently more than a thousand camels, to carry their luggage and their goods; and in consequence of the excessive heat, they are obliged to journey mostly in the early morning, and rest during the day. The Persians live chiefly on rice, fruit, and coffee, and eat very little meat; they luxuriate in baths, and the poorest amongst them endeavour to have a horse. They use the Turkish language, and are nearly all Mahometans; they used to worship the sun and fire, though very few continue to do so still. The Persian ladies never appear in the streets or any other public place, without having long veils, in order to conceal their faces, as the Turkish ladies do. The Persians are very like the Turks in their manners and customs, which I described to you before.
Egypt was, formerly, a mighty empire, and had rich and haughty kings, who adorned it with magnificent temples and palaces. I dare say you remember what you have read of it in the history of Joseph and his brethren, and in that of Moses. It was here that Solomon built his magnificent and gorgeous Temple. It is now, however, an exceedingly mean country, and is governed by a Turkish Pacha, whose grandfather contrived to make himself master of Egypt, as well as of Syria and Palestine. The climate of Egypt is excessively hot,—in fact, the nights in spring are the only pleasant part of the year. The nights in autumn are also very fine,—even delicious; and the rays of the moon are so bright that the natives, who sleep in the open air, cover their eyes to prevent their being injured by the brilliancy. The greater portion of the land is covered with burning sands; but wherever the waters of the river Nile have been conducted by canals, and allowed to flow over the country, the earth becomes fertile, and fruits thrive luxuriantly. There are but few garden flowers, but roses are extensively cultivated, the attar of roses forming an article of commerce.
There are many valuable minerals found in the earth; and beautiful marble, alabaster, salt, alum, and other useful things. The woods, marshes, plains, and rivers supply a variety of animals, most of them wild and ferocious. It was in Egypt that the Hippopotamus was found. The people devote themselves to agriculture, the rearing of bees, and poultry; they also carry on an important trade with other countries. Most of the Egyptians are strong, of a tawny complexion, and of a gay disposition. They luxuriate in water; and esteem it the height of enjoyment to sit by a fountain, smoking their pipes; they are excessively fond of bathing. Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is a large city, with irregular unpaved streets, and brick houses, with flat roofs. There are a good many small manufactories; and some schools, a printing-office, and a large library. There are numerous magnificent fountains in the city, which are indispensable on account of the intense heat; and more than a thousand shops for selling cups of coffee, of which the Egyptians are very fond; these coffee shops are called rahwehs. All along the river Nile the banks show signs of industry; cotton, tobacco, and other produce being grown down to the water's edge. The Pyramids of Egypt, the time of the building of which is not known, are considered one of the wonders of the world.
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The Greeks have sent some fine stuffs; their silk manufactures are really beautiful, and their sculptures and feather-fans are splendid. Greece was a famous country long, long ago, in ancient history, but it has undergone many sad changes, and was for a long time ruled by the Turks. The English, French, and Russians rid it from Turkish hands; but its present government is weak and imperfect, for the numerous petty chiefs pursue a wicked system of robbery, fighting, and tyranny. Indeed, many of these chiefs have fitted out vessels as pirate ships, in order to seize and plunder any other vessels weaker than their own with which they may fall in. There are, however, many wealthy Greek merchants; and a number of rich Jews live in various parts of Greece. The Greek people are beautiful and graceful. The women have fine oval faces, their eyes are large and dark, their eyebrows and hair are of deep shining black, and their complexions are mostly pale. They are very splendid in their dresses; the costume of the men is extremely like that of the Turks. From having been so long subject, however, to their Turkish rulers, the Greeks have become artful and cunning.
The rich ladies and nobles of Greece have fine young slaves to wait upon them, and amuse them by singing or dancing. These slaves are bought from the Tartars, who steal them from Russia, Circassia, or Georgia, and are taken great care of, being taught to embroider, sing, dance, and deport themselves with elegance and grace. Their masters or mistresses scarcely ever sell them, but when they are tired of them, either give them to a friend, or set them free. When they do sell them, it is as a punishment for some crime, or for being useless.
There are numerous brigands, or thieves, in Greece, who are divided into bands, and rob with the utmost impunity. They manage to hide themselves very artfully in the roads where they expect to meet travellers, doubling their bodies up behind stones and bushes, or else lying flat on their faces on the ground, when they suddenly all start up and surround any unfortunate individual who may happen to pass that way. There are also honest, industrious people in Greece; and among them are the guides, men who show strangers over the curious portions of the cities for a trifling sum of money; and there are the cabmen of Athens, who are usually very intelligent and well-informed; there are a number of cabs in Athens.
The Greek houses have only one story; but there are generally large gardens, carefully tended, attached to them. The climate is generally mild, but not so much so as formerly, on account of the cutting down of the forests. The spring and autumn are delightful; but the summer is too hot, and the winter is almost a succession of storm and rain. The earth is extremely fertile, and produces corn, wine, and fruits, besides the honey and figs you like so much. The people manufacture silks and cottons, and export quantities of small raisins, which grow very luxuriantly in and about the city of Corinth. Corinth is one of the most charming places that you can fancy to yourself, and is surrounded by beautiful views and the remains of ancient temples, columns, and statues; groves of fine olive trees border the city, and the waters of two bays meet near the entrance. The ruins of the ancient temples and buildings in Athens, the capital of Greece, are still to be seen; but so little do the ignorant and foolish people, who have lived in the city in modern times, value these great works, that they have for hundreds of years used the greater part of the splendid marbles to build their houses, which are only ordinary and common-looking.
The inhabitants of Bavaria and Belgium have sent almost numberless articles of industry to the Exhibition; furs, lace, machinery, corn, books, furniture, and metals.
Belgium was formerly called Flanders, and the people produced superior cloth, hats, cutlery, and other useful things, a very great many years before the English could make any thing better than the most common sort of goods. The Belgians are still celebrated for their ingenuity in making toys, lace, cloth, silk, satin, velvet, and other useful articles. They are also famous for the culture of flowers, in which they excel even the Dutch. Every house has a garden attached, which is frequently surrounded by a moat. The country is small, but every part of the land is made fertile by the industry of the farmers, of whom there are a great number; many of them grow flax, which is woven into linen by the women. There is a weekly market for linen, held at Ghent, whither the peasantry carry their products for sale, and both men and women may be seen standing in two long lines, with benches before them.
The farms in Belgium are cultivated with great care and attention, and much resemble the market gardens round London; they all have gardens, and grow an ample supply of fruit and vegetables. The food of the peasants, is rye-bread and milk, for breakfast and supper; potatoes and onions, with bacon and beer, for dinner; they eat off pewter; and although their fare is simple, it is good and plentiful. Their dress is somewhat coarse, but it is neat and clean, the men wear blue linen frocks; and the women have printed cotton gowns, linen caps, and woollen petticoats.
The towns and villages of Belgium are numerous, and thickly peopled. Brussels, the capital, is a fine city, and is celebrated for its manufactures, particularly for lace, camlet, and carpets. Ten thousand people are employed there in making lace. It is also famous for its pottery and porcelain. The other articles made there, are cotton and woollen stuffs, silk stockings, and earthenware. The carriages built there, are superior to even those of London or Paris; there is a specimen of Belgian carriages at the Exhibition.
There are numerous silk manufactories in Brussels; and the beautiful linen, called damask, is exported in great quantities. There are innumerable breweries, too; for no people in the world are so fond of drinking beer as the Belgians. The people carry on a considerable trade with foreign countries, by means of the various canals, on which a vast number of steam-boats are constantly passing and re-passing.
The upper part of Brussels is magnificent, and has a splendid park laid out with shaded walks, and surrounded by the palaces, private houses, and public offices; but in the lower part, the streets are narrow and crowded, though the market-place is very beautiful. There are twenty superb fountains in the city, ornamented with sculpture. The Belgians delight in music, and they hold musical festivals every year. In the Horticultural Gardens at Ghent, during summer, there are several concerts performed in the open air; and even among the labouring people, the songs and pieces of music sung together by groups of peasants and working people are often delightful to hear; for in Belgium, as in Holland, Prussia, and over a great part of Germany, even the poorest children are freely taught to sing in harmony at school. There are several railways in Belgium, which is a very great convenience to travellers. The climate is good; and, in winter, snow does not fall deeply.
Bavaria is in Germany also, and is celebrated for its manufactures of iron, glass, paper, hardware, clocks, linen, woollen, and fire-arms. The people are industrious and careful, excepting in smoking tobacco, of which they are very wasteful. Industry is encouraged; and several schools have been established for teaching young men agriculture and gardening, with the usual branches of education.
We must not forget to see what has come from America. Our Great Exhibition has been almost as much talked of there, as it has been at home, and an immense number of contributions has been sent from that country. Machinery, sculptures, stuffs, carriages, minerals, boots and shoes, iron-work, and wines, have been dispatched over to the Exhibition.
America was formerly inhabited by numerous tribes of Red Indians,—a wild, warlike race,—of whom but few now remain, and those not at all civilized; but the greater number of the white people of America are the same in their dress, manners, and language, as ourselves.
A large portion of America is called the United States, which is a Republic; that is, it is governed by the people themselves, without a king, queen, and a royal family; they appoint a President every four years. Long ago, the United States belonged to the English, but the natives gradually grew more powerful than they had been, and threw off all foreign control.
America produces every kind of grain and fruit, as well as spices, dye-woods, and balsams. The people export quantities of natural productions to Europe, but their manufacturers are not as yet able to compete with those of what are called the old countries. The principal manufactures are of cotton, woollen, iron, and leather; which they exchange with the Red Indians for prepared bark, skins, and birds' feathers. Mines abound, particularly for gold and silver; and there is abundance of precious stones. The farmers are a very industrious and intelligent class, and display much taste and neatness in their management.
The finest timber for ship-building is abundant, and easily obtained; and there are many excellent harbours. Numerous fishing stations are situated along the coasts, and are very valuable; for fishing is there a very good employment, and engages many of the natives of the Northern States. As these fishermen get accustomed to a sea-faring life, and inured to fatigue, they soon become excellent sailors, and furnish men for the navy.
The whale fishery is also a valuable pursuit, but it requires uncommon bravery and skill.—In the United States there are numerous schools and academies, wherein the children are educated free.
The rich people in America are free from haughtiness, awkwardness, or formality, but they do not display the elegance and refinement of the higher classes in England or France. As for the common people, they are serious, shrewd, and industrious; but often seem rude and uncourtly to strangers, for they wish to show their independance by an annoying surliness of behaviour. A great number of turnpike roads, railways, canals, and bridges, have been formed, and improve the country very much, as you may imagine.
The Americans make works in iron and wood, articles of machinery and of husbandry, tanned leather, and dressed skins. They are famous for ship-building.
Peru, which is in South America, is a very fine country, and produces many useful things, such as tobacco, pepper, jalap, Peruvian bark, and indigo.
There are numerous valuable gold and silver mines, which make the inhabitants so rich, that at one time, long since, they paved several streets with ingots of silver, in proof of their wealth. There are whale fisheries on the coasts. Only one specimen of industry has been sent from Peru!
Mexico is another portion of South America. Its products are numerous, but the country suffers much for want of water, though the dew falls heavily every night. The soil is rich, and well cultivated, although not so carefully as with us. Indian corn is the principal food of the natives, and is cultivated so generally, that when the crop fails, there is a year of famine. A drink is also made from it, called chicha. Sweet potatoes, yams, and quantities of red pepper, together with vegetables, and fruits, and tobacco, are grown. A kind of plant, called a cacao, is so highly prized that the grains are used for money.
For want of streams, of which the country is sadly deficient, the mills are mostly worked by animals, and are very inferior; and the machinery is so bad, that the cotton is separated from the seed by the hands of workpeople. The principal manufactures are cigars, cottons, soap, tanned leather, gunpowder, pottery, and hats.
The rich people use a number of silver vessels, and a quantity of plate, on account of the want of manufactures of china and glass, so that the trade of a silversmith is rather good. Boots, saddles, and coaches, are well made: but the furniture, which is mostly of pine and cedar, is coarsely and clumsily put together.
The streets of Mexico are rather wide and well paved; the houses are ornamental, and the churches and public buildings are magnificent.—The rich people pass the greater part of the day on their sofas, in darkened rooms; but in the evening, they appear arrayed in the most elegant costume, for they are particularly partial to parties and brilliant assemblies.
There are numerous beggars, called Leperos, who are very drunken and dishonest; but lively, voluble, and extremely civil; though they will pick any body's pocket. There are also innumerable Indians, who make earthen pots very neatly, and use them instead of iron or copper vessels.
You have heard of Canada, which is a part of North America, and all that now remains to England of her vast American colonies.—Well, we have an enormous canoe from Canada!—I wonder who can have sent that? A canoe, as you know, is a kind of boat, which uncivilized people, who live near rivers, use. The canoes of Canada are of a very thin material, and so light, that the boatmen, in passing overland from one river to another, generally carry them on their heads. The canoes are mostly covered with bark, the pieces of which are sewed together with a particular kind of grass; the bark being usually not more than a quarter of an inch in thickness.
The people of Canada, who are called Canadians, are rather industrious; they make very fine fans, they hunt, fish, and collect sugar from a tree called the Sugar maple. Their houses are built of stone, and are plastered, but seldom are higher than one story, except in the towns, and are made very warm by means of stoves. The furniture is usually made by the Canadians themselves, and is exceedingly simple.
The chief article of food is peas soup, with a small piece of pork boiled in it, and a dish of thick sour milk. The women and children scarcely ever drink other than milk and water, but the men are particularly fond of rum.
Winter lasts six months, during which time the greater part of the day is devoted to amusement, principally dancing. Most of the women can read and write, but the men can hardly do either; and the manners of both are very gay and light. There are a few lead mines in Canada, in which silver is also found. Their exports are timber, furs, potash, grain, and pearl-ash.
Australia has also sent her contributions to the Exhibition. Among them are specimens of the skins of animals, dried plants, fine woods, and other things.
In Australia, there are scarcely any extensive manufactures, but the natives make some useful things, from the various and curious trees which abound. For instance, they form the most durable furniture and weapons from the casuarina or club tree; they make cloth from the finest bark of the paper-mulberry tree, and cord from a peculiar kind of flax. There are sago and cocoa trees, which grow to the height of one hundred and fifty feet, and are thirty feet round. Figs, lemons, oranges, sugar-canes, gum-trees, bread-fruit, and a kind of pepper, from which a drink, called ava, is made, are very useful to the natives. There are mines of a very rich quality, but they are as yet scarcely attended to. The original natives are very idle, and not very well off; those who live near the sea shore, catch fish; and those in the woods, eat such animals as they can get; or climb up trees, for honey, squirrels, and opussums.
The settlers, who are the people who have gone out from England and other countries, to dwell there, live in a very comfortable manner; they have large farms, with flocks of sheep and herds cattle, fields of waving corn, rice, and wheat; pretty huts, or shanties, as they are called, and a profusion of the most beautiful plants and creepers. In some parts of the country there are thriving towns, with good streets, elegant shops, and fine houses, such as there are in London.
From the West Indies, specimens of industry have also come. Rice, fruits, sugar, metals, and plants, are among the contributions.
The West Indians send us sugar rice, currants, raisins, cloves, nutmegs, cinnamon, allspice, and mace, for puddings; nice nuts, for our little boys and girls; coffee, cocoa, and chocolate, for our breakfast and tea; and fine silk, and cotton, for our dresses.
Under the name of the West Indies, there are many countries:—Cuba, Jamaica, Hayti, Porto Rico, Barbadoes, and others. In Cuba, are found mines of gold, copper, and different other metals; there is a quantity of sugar grown there; and the tobacco is finer than that of most other islands. The trees are principally ebony, cedar, and mahogany, which are hewed down, and sent to foreign countries, to be made into furniture of various sorts. Cedar wood is also used to scent clothes and papers, on account of its sweet perfume. The Cubans are fond of bull-fighting, and of cock-fighting, I am sorry to say. Balls and parties are also a favourite and more innocent amusement.
In Jamaica, the principal exercise of industry is in growing sugar, indigo, coffee, and ginger. These are cultivated in what are called plantations, which are attended to by negroes, who used to be slaves, and used to be lashed on to work unnaturally hard with whips; but they are now free in all the British colonies, as I hope they will be every where, long before any of my little friends, who read this book, may die. For not only were men and women kept in a state of slavery, but all their dear innocent little children, both little boys and little girls were treated as slaves.
The bread-fruit tree is one of the most useful productions of the country, it not only supplies food, but other necessaries. Of the inner bark is formed a kind of cloth; the wood, which is soft, smooth, and of a yellowish colour, serves for the building of boats and houses; the leaves are used for wrapping up food; some parts of the flowers are good tinder; and the juice, when boiled with cocoa-nut oil, is employed for making bird-lime, and as a cement for mending earthenware vessels. So you may guess how useful it is to the people of Jamaica, and yet it is not a native of the West Indies, but was first brought there by English people, within the last seventy or eighty years.
Hayti is now a much more flourishing island than it was; the Emperor, Faustin Soulouque, does every thing in his power to render it a civilized and polite country. He encourages all the arts and industrial sciences; and, in his court is kept up the grandeur of a great and powerful state; though the Haytians are black people, and were for the greater part negro slaves.
Barbadoes is an exceedingly warm country, and is unfortunately liable to dreadful hurricanes, which sometimes overthrow whole towns and villages. The products are sugar, cotton, ginger, and rum. The tall sugar-canes, which grow as high as five or six feet, are set in plantations and tended by negroes; and the cotton plants are also taken care of by the negroes, who are almost the only persons who can work in the open air, on account of the heat. The houses of the planters are numerous all over the country; and, with the green hills, and the luxuriance of the vegetation, make an extremely picturesque scene.
Since slavery has been abolished in our West India islands, schools for the children, and chapels for religious worship, have been erected at the expense of the negroes; numbers of whom have also become small landowners.
What a number of specimens have been despatched to the Exhibition from Algeria, Tunis, and the Cape of Good Hope: one, a model of a winged head, moulded in fine yellow clay, is really pretty; and the preserved fruits have quite a tempting look. And here are some boxes, made of most brilliant fancy woods; a few knives, soaps, cigars, herbs, and specimens of various woods, in blocks and in polished pieces. Here is also opium, paper made from the palm-tree, articles manufactured from native woods, with essences, perfumes, and splendid veils, slippers, caps, guns, and swords.
Algeria now belongs to France; it was formerly one of the Barbary States, in the north of Africa, and many very useful plants and trees flourish there; oranges, melons, cucumbers, cabbages, lettuces, and artichokes, grow in great luxuriance. The sugar-cane is cultivated with success; and everywhere may be seen quantities of white roses, from which a sweet essence is extracted. The stems of the vines, which the people tend, are sometimes so thick, that a man can hardly put his arms round them; and the bunches of grapes are a foot and a-half long. Only think of bunches of grapes half a yard long! they must be something like those which we read of in the Bible, that were brought to Joshua, to show him what a fertile country was the land of Canaan.
Acacia and cork trees grow in the woods of Algeria; the natives obtain gum from the acacia. There are many mines, but the Algerines make no use of them. The people themselves are strong in body, and of a tawny complexion.
Tunis is another of the Barbary States, and contains a great number of people,—Moors, Turks, Arabs, Jews, and Christians, merchants and slaves. All these carry on a large trade in Morocco leather, linens, gold-dust, oil, woollen cloth, lead, ostrich feathers, horses, and soap. There are the same variety of vegetable productions that there are in Algeria.
The Cape of Good Hope is in the south of Africa; it produces fine fruits and flowers, grapes, lemons, oranges, and figs, but no nuts. The aloe and myrtle grow to a great size, and the almond and wild chestnut are very plentiful. There are scarcely any manufactures, but the farmers keep immense flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle; and there is a vast quantity of fine wool sent every year to England; and ships provisions, such as beef, pork, and butter, are supplied to the vessels sailing to India, Australia, and many other parts of the world; their other chief export is Cape wine.
In some parts of this country are large herds of zebras, antelopes, and giraffes, which are usually preyed upon by lions, obliging the shepherds to watch their flocks, and the farmers to ride about with loaded guns. A strange mode, my little readers will think, of being shepherds.
There have been no scarcity of French contributions; rich silks, velvets, satins, linens, fruits, woods, herbs, statues, machinery, furniture, iron-work, glass, plate, and a heap more of industrial products; and such splendid carpets. In the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments" we read about the Palaces of Fairies and Genii, with the floors covered with the richest carpets, and divans and cushions or gorgeous tapestry, and we long to see these carpets in reality; and so we shall at the Exhibition, for there are some so magnificent, that I do not think the Princess Badroulboudour, or the Fairy Queen Pari Banou, ever sat on finer. And charming little models of ships; and such beautiful fans. Do you know how many persons it takes to make a fan? Fifteen; and although those fans at the Exhibition are each worth several guineas, yet, in France, tens of thousands are sold at not more than a halfpenny a-piece. The French fan-makers get two shillings and six-pence a-day each, for their labour. The people of France are our next-door neighbours, almost; and from being our bitterest enemies they have now become our most intimate friends, and exchange visits constantly with us; steam vessels and railways having made the journey one of only a few hours.
Paris is the capital of France, and it is the gayest city in the world; there are theatres, balls, processions, feast-days, fairs, and more amusements than I can remember. But there are also numbers of very poor people, who almost live in the streets, and get food and clothing as they best can. Some, who are called cheffoniers, go about with a fork and a basket, to pick up pieces of iron, rags, bones, or any stray valuables, if they can find them, from holes and corners in the streets, and from the dust heaps; others look for the ends of cigars, and sell them to be made into pieces of tobacco for the common people; and a number, I am very sorry to say, either beg or steal.
Among the peasantry there is a great deal of industry displayed. As they are all desirous of having a cottage and some land of their own, lads of fifteen or sixteen years of age, hire themselves as labourers to the farmers, and receive wages, out of which, and their mode of living, they save enough money in a few years, to buy a piece of land. If the land is fit for it, they plant it with vines; for the vineyards of France yield an abundant harvest, and well repay the labour bestowed on them. The French wines are among the finest and most expensive in the world.
The cottages of the peasantry are not remarkable for comfort, being very rude buildings, frequently having merely a hole in the roof for a chimney. They are mostly, however, extremely picturesque, completely covered with vines. The wines, called Bourdeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne come from France. From the fruit of the olive-trees, which grow in vast quantities, a fine clear oil is obtained, and this forms a large part of the commerce of the country. The rearing of poultry is carried on to a great extent; and most of the eggs sold in London, which are used by us at breakfast, for sauces, and for puddings, come from France. Most of the cottagers keep one or two small hardy cows, which their boys or girls, or old people, are usually leading about by a halter, to eat the rank grass in paths or road-ways between the fields. Their milk and butter form a good part of the people's food.
In Tours and Lyons, there are numerous manufactories for the most superb silks and damasks; some years ago, there were fifteen hundred pairs of silk stockings finished each day at Lyons.
The plate-glass of Paris is now much better than that of Venice, which was formerly the finest in the world, the plates being of an immense size and extraordinary clearness. Their tapestry is beautiful; the tapestry of the Gobelin in particular, for it is just like splendid painting. Indeed, some of the designs, copied from pictures, surpass the originals, in point of beauty and brilliancy. There are many specimens of this tapestry at the Exhibition, both in draperies, and fitted to pieces of furniture.
The porcelain made at Sevres is exquisitely beautiful, and is used for numerous ornamental purposes; vases, tea services, chimney ornaments, figures, and other articles. The painted papers, which represent various ornaments in painting, sculpture, and architecture, serve to employ a great number of people. Watches, cutlery, shoes, dresses, bonnets, and jewellery, are also a good source of employment among numerous families. All these beautiful things we shall see at the Exhibition.
The forests, in France, are very extensive; and as wood is the general fuel used, great attention is paid to the growth of the trees. Cattle and domestic animals are rather scarce, and the sheep are ill-managed; in winter, they are fed on straw and hay, instead of green food, so that the French meat is not so good as the English; but they have a nice way of dressing it. The country people are very simple in their habits and manners, and very frugal in their way of living; they live for the most part on black bread, garlic, fruit, and milk. The costumes of some of the peasants are exceedingly pretty.
What a many thousand contributions have come from foreign countries, yet even a greater number have been sent in from all parts of our own dear islands, England, Ireland, and Scotland. Here is a silver tea-kettle, manufactured from a fourpenny-piece, by a working man. I think that would grace the diminitive tea-table of the Emperor of the Lilliputians. And a pair of boat-sculls, made of white ash, and only the size of writing-pens, which I dare say, the oars of the King of Blefuscan's barge resembled; these, with a magnificent oar, thirty-six feet long, are intended as presents for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
Here is a scarf, containing twelve miles and a-half of thread, three millions four hundred and seventy-five stitches, is nine feet ten inches long, three feet wide, and weighs only five ounces and a-quarter;—that came from Ireland. Look, too, at that beautifully embroidered dress; it came from Ireland, and is worth seventy-five guineas.
There are many little models of different buildings; and there is a colossal horse and dog; and two gigantic statues; and there is a nicely carved oak chair, made by an English ship-carpenter; and here are cotton stockings, manufactured so fine, that they look exactly like silk. There are also models of carriages, ships and machinery; a magnificient epergne of glass, with some large pearls, from Ireland. A beautiful piece of sculpture, representing the Scottish games, is the most remarkable contribution which has come from Scotland.
The English people are celebrated for their industry and perseverence; they manufacture numerous things, and carry on a alrge commerce with other countries. The industry of the peasants have made the soil produce wheat, barley, rye, oats, beans, potatoes, turnips, hops, hemp and flax. Nearly every variety, of vegetables, and a great number of fruits, are also grown. There is abundance of timber, which is used for many purposes; the oak tree is chiefly employed for building ships. The ships of war are called the "wooden walls of England."
The domestic animals are taken great care of; sheep and hogs, when killed, are made into mutton, pork, bacon, and ham. The English cheese and butter is superior to any other. There are abundance of mineral treasures found in various parts of the kingdom; indeed, the English people are greatly indebted to the well-worked mines for their wealth. At the Exhibition, are several specimens of ores.
In addition to the rich mines, and the vegetable productions, the English are celebrated for their superior manufactures, which fame they are enabled to enjoy by means of the most ingenious machinery, rail roads, and canals, by which they can easily and rapidly send their goods, and travel from one part of the country to another. Cottons, woollens, linens, silks, iron, jewellery, leather, glass, earthenware, paper, and hats, are manufactured in great quantities.
I dare say you would be much amused by a visit to Manchester, in Lancashire, where the art of spinning cotton is carried to a high perfection. There are more than a hundred and forty cotton factories in that city, where men, women, and children, are continually at work, minding the machines, which are about twenty thousand in number. When you first go into one of these factories, you hear a terrible noise of whirling and whizzing, and see an immense number of wheels flying round and round.
Halifax and Leeds, in Yorkshire, are the chief places for woollen cloth, the manufacture of which employs the greater part of the inhabitants. A weekly market is held in Halifax for the sale of woollens, in a spacious building called the Piece Hall; but in Leeds, the markets are held two days in the week, in the two Cloth Halls.
Staffordshire is famous for earthenware; the reason of this is, that there is such an enormous quantity of yellow clay suitable for that manufacture, found there. Indeed, there are several towns and villages formed into a district called "The Potteries;" and in consequence of the innumerable furnaces, which are always blazing, the place looks at night as if was on fire. Gloves, lace, and stockings, are mostly made in Nottingham, where there are several thousand machines for the manufacture of these things.
From Kidderminster, in Worcester, we have very fine carpets; from Gloucester, we have cheese and pins; Northampton is celebrated for leather; Shrewsbury, for flannel. The great mines are in Cumberland, Cornwall, Northumberland, Durham, and Derbyshire. However, if I were to tell you of all the places in England, that are famed for different manufactures, I am afraid I should both exceed our space, and wear out your patience, which I should be sorry to do. So I will now tell you something about London.
London, which you know is the capital of our own dear native land, is the greatest commercial city in the world; it has been reckoned that the value of the property shipped and unshipped on the river Thames, every year, is more than one hundred million pounds. An enormous quantity of property is laid in the London Docks, at Wapping; indeed, the warehouse for tobacco alone covers a space of nearly five acres, while the vaults underneath the ground are more than eighteen acres in extent.
More coaches, omnibusses, waggons, vans, and other conveyances, crowd the streets of London than any other city in the world. You will, perhaps, be a little surprised when I tell you that in one principal street, seven thousand vehicles pass to and fro every day. Almost every kind of manufacture is carried on in London; silk goods, jewellery, clocks, watches, ear-rings, hats, furniture, instruments of every kind, porter and ale, with many more that I cannot now remember. However, you must not think, from all this, there are no poor people in London; for, unfortunately, there are thousands. Some beg, others steal, and those who are honest and able to labour, work. But those who cannot obtain work are very badly off; and persons die from starvation.
The industrial manufactures of Scotland are like those of England; the exports are linens, muslins, woollen stuffs, cottons, iron, lead, glass, earthenware, leather, and other articles. The chief manufacture is linen: but manufactures of stoves, and grates, and many other things, from their immense iron works, particularly from those of Carron, are also a principal part of the industrial products.
The Scotch people are remarkable for their thrift and prudence; the lower orders are in general well-educated, and it is the height of ambition in a Scottish mechanic, to appear with his family in neat, clean dresses, on Sundays and other holidays.
The costume of the Highlanders is very picturesque; the plaid is made of woollen stuff, of various colours, with a jacket, and a short petticoat called a kilt, which leaves the knees bare; the stockings are also a plaid, generally red and white, and do not reach up to the knees, but are tied round the legs with scarlet garters. The head-dress is a flat blue bonnet, as it is called, ornamented round with scarlet and white plaid, and frequently adorned with eagle's feathers. The Highland women go without shoes or stockings, and wear short petticoats, a plaid jacket, and a plaid scarf.
Most of the Scotch people are intelligent, and so far advanced in education, that even the miners in the south have a library, where they read, and improve their minds; and yet these poor miners were little better than in a state of slavery two hundred years since. The favourite musical instrument, with the Scotch, is the bag-pipe; which does not, however, sound quite so well to our English ears, as it does to theirs. Their national dances are the Highland reel, and fling, which they perform with great agility and grace. The sheep and cattle are rather small, but give exceedingly good meat; and the sheep, in particular, are valued for their fleece, which is almost as fine as the best Spanish wool.
Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is, in the new parts of it, a fine clean city; the houses in the old town are excessively high, and the streets inconvenient; but the streets of the new town are very broad, and almost all in straight lines; some of them are a mile long. Most of the houses are built of white stone, which sparkles as if it was inlaid with diamonds when the sun shines on it.
The manufactures carried on in the city, are mostly cabinet-work, furniture, carriages, musical instruments, linens, shawls, silks, glass, marble, brass, and iron work. There are also many breweries, for Edinburgh has long been celebrated for its ale, large quantities of which are sent to London, and other parts of the kingdom, Glasgow, which is the principal manufacturing and trading town, contains extensive cotton factories.