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ON MACKENZIE'S TRAVELS
In the interior of North America.
The general interest, with which travels are read, may perhaps be caused by the inconstancy and satiety of the human heart. Tired of the society with which we live, and of the vexations which surround us, we like to lose ourselves in the contemplation of distant countries, and among unknown nations. If the people, described to us, are happier than ourselves, their happiness diverts us; if more unfortunate, their afflictions are consolitary to us. But the interest, attached to the recital of travels, is every day diminishing in proportion to the increase of travellers. A philosophical spirit has caused the wonders of the desert to disappear,
“ The magic woods have lost their former charm,” as Fontanes says.
When the first Frenchmen, who investigated the shores of Canada, spoke of lakes similar to
seas; cataracts which fall from Heaven, and forests the depth of which could not be explored, the mind is much more strongly moved than when an English merchant, or a modern Savant tells you that he has penetrated to the Pacific Ocean, and that the fall of Niagara is only a hundred and forty-four feet in depth.
What we gain in knowledge, by such information, we lose in sentiment. Geometrical truths have destroyed certain truths of the imagination, which are more important to morality than is supposed. Who were the first travellers of artiquity? The legislators, poets, and heroesmans Jacob, Lycurgus, Pythagoras, Homer, Hercules, Alexander. The “ dies peregrinationis” are mentioned in Genesis. At that time every thing was prodigious without ceasing to be real and the hopes of these exalted men burst forth in the exclamation of “Terra ignota ! Terra immensa!”
We naturally dislike to be confined within bounds, and I could almost say that the globe
* Oh land unknown, oh land of vast extent !
is become too small for man since he has sailed round it. If the night be more favourable than the day to inspiration and vast conceptions, it is because it conceals all limits, and assumes the appearance of immensity.' The French and English travellers seem, like the warriors of those two nations, to have shared the empire of the earth and ocean.
The latter have no one, whom they can oppose to Tavernier, Chardin, Parennin, and Charlevoix, nor can they boast of any great work as the “ Lettres Edifiantes ;” but the former, in their turn, possess no Anson, Byron, Cook, or Vancoaver. The French travellers have done more than those of the rival nation towards making us acquainted with the manners and customs of foreign countriesvoor sysw-mores cognovit ; but the English have been more useful as to the progress of universal geography— TOUTW Tæbsv,* in mari passus est. They share with the Spaniards and Portuguese the honour of having added new seas and new
continents to the globe, and of having fixed the limits of the earth.
The prodigies of navigation are perhaps those, which afford the highest idea of human genius. The reader trembles, and is full of admiration when he sees Columbus plunging into the solitudes of an unknown ocean, Vasco de Gama doubling the cape of Tempests, Magellan emerging from a vast ocean to enter one vaster still, and Cook flying from one pole to the other, bounded on all sides by the shores of the globe, and unable to find more seas for his vessels.
What a beautiful spectacle does this navigator afford, when seeking unknown lands, not to oppress the inhabitants, but to succour and enlighten them ; bearing to poor savages the requisites of life ; swearing, on their charming banks, to maintain concord and amity with these simple children of nature; sowing among icy regions the fruits of a milder climate, and thus imitating Providence, who foresaw the fall and the wants of man !
Death having not permitted Captain Cook to complete his important discoveries, Captain
Vancouver was appointed by the British Government to visit all the American coast from California to Cook's River or Inlet, as it is sometimes called, and to remove all doubts, which might yet remain concerning a passage to the North West of the New World. While this able officer fulblled his mission with equal intelligence and courage, another English traveller, taking his departure from Upper Canada, proceeded across deserts and through forests to the North Sea and Pacific Ocean.
Mr. Mackenzie, of whose travels I am about to speak, neither pretends to the honour of being a scientific man, nor a writer. He was simply carrying on a traffic with the Indians in furs, and modestly gives his account to the public as only the journal of his expedition. Sometimes, however, he interrupts the thread of his narrative to describe a scene of nature, or the manners of the savages; but he never pos. sesses the art of turning to his advantage those little occurrences, which are so interesting in the recitals of our missionaries. The reader is „scarcely informed who were the companions of