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21st of November, 1836, a small vessel from Gambier's Island brought to Tahiti two Frenchmen who were Roman Catholic priests. They were not put on shore at the usual anchorage, but were landed clandestinely at the opposite side of the island. They were detected by the native police, and their conduct being in contravention of a long-established law, which stated that • No master or commander of a vessel is allowed to land any passenger without special permission from the Queen and governors'--the strangers were requested to leave the island. This, however, they refused to do, and were, consequently, conveyed back to their vessel, but without the slightest injury either to their persons or property. There was no occasion, therefore, for the authority or the speeches of the missionaries-even if they had the one, or were base enough to make the other—to send away Messieurs Laval and Caret. They violated the law_of the existence of which their secret landing proves them to have been informed and for that violation they were removed from the island by the proper authorities.
authorities. We trust that Mr. Melville will bear this in mind, should Omoo' reach another edition. As the matter stands we cannot acquit him of having wilfully suppressed and perverted the truth.
In dealing with evidence, we cannot be too careful in the investigation of the character and competency of the deponent. Knowing this, our readers may ask, who is Mr. Herman Melville? and what opportunities had he of forming a judgment on the
missionary operations' in Tahiti ? Before replying to these questions, we beg to premise it as our opinion, that whatever object Mr. Melville had in view when he sought to damage or ruin the character of the Protestant missionaries, we have no reason to suspect him of giving an unfair description of himself. Our information respecting him is solely derived from his own works-so he cannot take exception to our authority—and we are bound to admit the force of the supposition that his own account of himself is most likely to be the best that could possibly be given. But if so, the best is exceedingly bad!
In his Preface, he speaks of the advantageous position which he occupied as an observer of the operations of the missionaries, and of the state of the native population. These are his words: ‘As a roving sailor, the author spent about three months in various parts of the islands of Tahiti and Imeeo, and under circumstances most favourable for correct observations on the social condition of the natives.' What the character of this 'roving sailor' is, and how he spent the three months' in Tahiti and · Imeeo,' he shall himself inform us, We derive the following statements from the volume before us, and from another work by him, entitled 'Typee; a Peep at Polynesian Life,' &c., of which
"Omoo' professes to be a continuation. According to these, Mr. Herman Melville, as a sailor before the mast,' visited the Marquesas in an American 'South-Seaman,' in the summer of 1842. After being six months at sea, the vessel put into the harbour of Nukuheva, where a portion of the French fleet was then lying under the command of Rear-Admiral Du Petit Thouars. The anchor was dropped within a convenient distance from the shore, a number of native women came on board, and our self-elected censor-general of the Protestant missions in Polynesia, the fore-mast man,' Mr. Herman Melville, and his shipmates, threw the reins on the neck of their lusts, and abandoned themselves to their control. To quote his own words, the ship was now wholly given up to every species of riot and debauchery. The grossest licentiousness, and the most shameful inebriety, prevailed, with occasional, and but short-lived interruptions through the whole period of her stay."
Enamoured with the island and the ladies thereof, and disgusted in the same ratio with the whaler and its hard work, accompanied by another seaman, who sympathized both in his likings and dislikings, Melville deserted from the ship. After many mishaps in endeavouring to avoid being captured and brought back, when wandering in the interior, he fell in with • a tribe of primitive savages.' They dwelt in the valley which he calls Typee. With this tribe he remained about four months, during which he cohabited with a native girl, named Fayaway. We shall not pollute our pages by transferring to them the scenes in which this wretched profligate appears, selfportrayed, as the chief actor. Suffice it to say, that about the expiration of the period above mentioned, a whaler, in want of hands, appeared in the offing,-a boat came ashore, and, satiated to the full with the pleasures of the vale of Typee, he bade adieu to his indulgent captivity,' and shipped himself' on board the Julia. In this vessel he remained several months, cruising about in the Pacific. At length the captain steered for Tahiti, to obtain provisions. When the vessel entered Papeetee harbour, Melville and the rest of the crew mutinied. The captain sought the assistance of the English consul, Mr. Wilson, then acting for Mr. Pritchard, who at that time was in Europe. The English squadron being at Valparaiso, Mr. Wilson solicited the aid of the commander of the French frigate, the Reine Blanche, then in the harbour, which was at once accorded. The cutter was manned by about eighteen or twenty armed men, who proceeded on board the Julia. Mr. Herman Melville and the rest of the mutincers were put in irons and conveyed to the
• Typee, p. 10, Routledge's Edition.
frigate, where they were kept for five days. On the afternoon of the fifth day, as the Reine Blanche was about to sail for Valparaiso, they were sent ashore to the English prison under a guard of the Tahitian police. As they still refused to return to their duty on board the Julia, they remained in confinement for nearly a month, when the whaler, having obtained a fresh crew, left the harbour, and, consequently, Melville and his companions were liberated. Thus the author of Omoo’ made his acquaintance with Tahiti and its people, and spent his first month among them!
When they left the jail, no captain in the harbour would have anything to do with them on account of their desperate character. They were leagued with a reckless gang of seamen, known in the Pacific as · Beachcombers. These fellows derive their name from never attaching themselves permanently to any vessel, but ‘ship’ now and then for short voyages, on the sole condition that they shall receive their pay, and be put ashore the first time the anchor touches the ground after they embark. They are a terror to the respectable residents in the ports where they congregate, and, by their example and appalling licentiousness, they oppose a formidable barrier to the progress of the gospel among the natives, by disseminating the worst of European vices and the most dreadful of European diseases. With such companions, Melville prowled about Papeetee for a few weeks, living on the contributions of the seamen on boa the vessels in the harbour -upon the stores' which they stole for them, and dropped into a small canoe which Melville and another were wont to bring alongside’ at night, and upon such fruit as they could gather in the groves. He was then engaged by two seamen who had settled down as planters in the neighbouring island, Imeeo. With them he remained for a short time, and then, with an equally dissolute companion, who was hired by the planters at the same time with himself, Melville left the plantation to ramble about the island among the natives in quest of adventures. These he describes in a manner exceedingly attractive to every devotee of the sensual. At length, under the influence of similar feelings to those which led him to forego the pleasures of Typee, our hero prevailed upon a captain to ship’ him, and soon after he had signed the ship’s articles, he bid a final farewell to the scenes of the missionary operations, which he so eloquently denounces !
Our task is done. We have permitted Mr. Melville to paint his own picture, and to describe his own practices. By doing so, we have fulfilled our promise, and have proved him to be a prejudiced, incompetent, and truthless witness. We have thus contributed our quota towards the formation of a correct estimate of his character ; and we trust that our brethren of the press in North America—where he at present resides, and where his volumes have had an extensive circulation-will do justice to the Protestant missionaries and missions in Polynesia, by unmasking their maligner-MR. HERMAN MELVILLE.
ART. IV.-The Lyrical Dramas of Æschylus, from the Greek. Trans
lated into English Verse. By John Stuart Blackie, Professor of Latin Literature in Marischal College, Aberdeen. Two Vols.,
small 8vo. London: J. W. Parker. 1850. For a long time past, the English public has shown great apathy towards all attempts to reproduce Greek or Latin poetry in the English language; nor can we blame them for it. Any man of taste, who passes from the perusal of Spenser or Shakspere, Scott or Byron, Crabbe or Wordsworth, to the current translations of old classical poets, is at once sensible that he has lost all the raciness of nature. In Sotheby's or Pope's Homer, in Dryden's or Pitt's Virgil, in Potter's Greek Tragedians, even in Carey's Pindar, the reader finds little that he can imagine characteristic of the original. It may seem that the great object of translators has been to smooth away and conceal precisely that which the English student most desires to detect, till they have superinduced lassitude on a public which was once curious and eager. It is difficult to renew our ancient zest for good translations ; yet we trust it will be renewed. A most faithful, and generally very spirited, translation of Virgil has lately appeared, from the hand of Messrs. Kennedy (father and son); but we fear it is little known, since it is in no publisher's hands, and (we suspect) is never advertised. Perhaps, also, the type is too expensive for a wide circulation. Indeed, perfect of its kind as is the beauty of Virgil, his poems have too little variety, and too little human interest, to be adapted to revive a slumbering passion. A more powerful and stimulating poet is wanted.
Such a poet is Æschylus. In him the English reader may discern how the creed of Homer underwent incipient purification, deepening every moral element, while retaining, and even amplifying, its fantastic legends. In him we see the manly thought of Greece superinduced on its childish faith, before scepticism and doubt were awakened ; while the glorious attitude of self-devoting but triumphant Athens, who had not yet learnt to abuse her sudden exaltation, filled the patriot poet's soul with a pure ambition and a virtuous pride. But Æschylus, though influenced by the atmosphere of his nation's history, had a deeply-marked character of his own. Imagination and tender feeling, bold invention, pious reverence, and sober morality, combined in him with a musical ear and the full command of most musical language. His taste is somewhat gorgeous, and (as might be expected from such a mind) his metaphors are occasionally overstrained. But even these blemishes the English reader has a right to know: they will not, in the long run, lessen his pleasure in the perusal, any more than in Shakspere ; and every such proof of faithfulness in the translator increases the reader's confidence that he is obtaining a real insight into the heart of the old Grecian. The importance of this must never be forgotten. No translator can hope to rival the melody and equal the beauty of his original; but, to make up for this inevitable defect, his work borrows interest from another side, being intrinsically historical in character. Only, to make good this interest, it must be felt to be faithful.
Professor Blackie has approached his self-imposed task with great zeal, vigour, and long preparation. We judge, by some papers of his in the Classical Museum, that he would in theory agree with all that we have been urging; but it is probable that he would desire to interpret the term faithfulness, so as to save it from the idolatry of the letter. He would remind us, that, not only do Greek and English words, when seemingly identical, often involve different collateral associations, or present the same thought in different prominence ; but a metaphor, which was barely unusual in Greek, may be most offensively harsh, or even unintelligible, in English, and that, to translate such a metaphor literally, is not always a 'faithfulness. There are such cases, no doubt. When Æschylus says, that 'plunderings are near-kinswomen to runnings about, Blackie judiciously and cleverly approximates to it, by the phrase, ' Plunder, daughter of Confusion ;' which entirely fulfils our notion of faithfulness in such matters. More delicate questions, however, arise out of metrical peculiarities; and, in some parts of the question, we find ourselves more in agreement with Blackie's former views, as expressed in some earlier numbers of the Classical Museum,' than with those at which he appears finally to have arrived. But we must commence with the principles as to which we have entire harmony with him.
How mighty an influence on the whole spirit of a poem is exerted by metre, all thoughtful critics are aware; and those who have never before thought of it, will probably at once feel, that Milton himself could not have changed his · Paradise Lost' into a four-foot measure, without seriously altering the tone of