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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 446 Volume 18, New Series, July 17, 1852
CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


No. 446. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JULY 17, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._




WOLF-CHILDREN.


It is a pity that the present age is so completely absorbed in
materialities, at a time when the facilities are so singularly great
for a philosophy which would inquire into the constitution of our
moral nature. In the North Pacific, we are in contact with tribes of
savages ripening, sensibly to the eye, into civilised communities; and
we are able to watch the change as dispassionately as if we were in
our studies examining the wonders of the minute creation through a
microscope. In America, we have before us a living model, blind, mute,
deaf, and without the sense of smell; communicating with the external
world by the sense of touch alone; yet endowed with a rare
intelligence, which permits us to see, through the fourfold veil that
shrouds her, the original germs of the human character.[1] Nearer
home, we have been from time to time attracted and astonished by the
spectacle of children, born of European parents, emerging from forests
where they had been lost for a series of years, fallen back, not into
the moral condition of savages, but of wild beasts, with the
sentiments and even the instincts of their kind obliterated for ever.
And now we have several cases before us, occurring in India, of the
same lapses from humanity, involving circumstances curious in
themselves, but more important than curious, as throwing a strange
light upon what before was an impenetrable mystery. It is to these we
mean to direct our attention on the present occasion; but before doing
so, it will be well just to glance at the natural history of the wild
children of Europe.[2]

The most remarkable specimen, and the best type of the class, was
found in the year 1725, in a wood in Hanover. With the appearance of a
human being--of a boy about thirteen years of age--he was in every
respect a wild animal, walking on all-fours, feeding on grass and
moss, and lodging in trees. When captured, he exhibited a strong
repugnance to clothing; he could not be induced to lie on a bed,
frequently tearing the clothes to express his indignation; and in the
absence of his customary lair among the boughs of a tree, he crouched
in a corner of the room to sleep. Raw food he devoured with relish,
more especially cabbage-leaves and other vegetables, but turned away
from the sophistications of cookery. He had no articulate language,
expressing his emotions only by the sounds emitted by various animals.
Although only five feet three inches, he was remarkably strong; he
never exhibited any interest in the female sex; and even in his old
age--for he was supposed to be seventy-three when he died--it was only
in external manners he had advanced from the character of a wild beast
to that of a good-tempered savage, for he was still without
consciousness of the Great Spirit.

In other children that were caught subsequently to Peter, for that was
the name they gave him, the same character was observable, although
with considerable modifications. One of them, a young girl of twelve
or thirteen, was not merely without sympathy for persons of the male
sex, but she held them all her life in great abhorrence. Her temper
was ungovernable; she was fond of blood, which she sucked from the
living animal; and was something more than suspected of the cannibal
propensity. On one occasion, she was seen to dive as naturally as an
otter in a lake, catch a fish, and devour it on the spot. Yet this
girl eventually acquired language; was even able to give some
indistinct account of her early career in the woods; and towards the
close of her life, when subdued by long illness, exhibited few traces
of having once been a wild animal. Another, a boy of eleven or twelve,
was caught in the woods of Canne, in France. He was impatient,
capricious, violent; rushing even through crowded streets like an
ill-trained dog; slovenly and disgusting in his manners; affected with
spasmodic motions of the head and limbs; biting and scratching all who
displeased him; and always, when at comparative rest, balancing his
body like a wild animal in a menagerie. His senses were incapable of
being affected by anything not appealing to his personal feelings: a
pistol fired close to his head excited little or no emotion, yet he
heard distinctly the cracking of a walnut, or the touch of a hand upon
the key which kept him captive. The most delicious perfumes, or the
most fetid exhalations, were the same thing to his sense of smell,
because these did not affect, one way or other, his relish for his
food, which was of a disgusting nature, and which he dragged about the
floor like a dog, eating it when besmeared with filth. Like almost all
the lower animals, he was affected by the changes of the weather; but
on some of these occasions, his feelings approached to the human in
their manifestations. When he saw the sun break suddenly from a cloud,
he expressed his joy by bursting into convulsive peals of laughter;
and one morning, when he awoke, on seeing the ground covered with
snow, he leaped out of bed, rushed naked into the garden, rolled
himself over and over in the snow, and stuffing handfuls of it into
his mouth, devoured it eagerly. Sometimes he shewed signs of a true
madness, wringing his hands, gnashing his teeth, and becoming
formidable to those about him. But in other moods, the phenomena of
nature seemed to tranquillise and sadden him. When the severity of the
season, as we are informed by the French physician who had charge of
him, had driven every other person out of the garden, he still
delighted to walk there; and after taking many turns, would seat
himself beside a pond of water. Here his convulsive motions, and the
continual balancing of his whole body, diminished, and gave way to a
more tranquil attitude; his face gradually assumed the character of
sorrow or melancholy reverie, while his eyes were steadfastly fixed on
the surface of the water, and he threw into it, from time to time,
some withered leaves. In like manner, on a moonlight night, when the
rays of the moon entered his room, he seldom failed to awake, and to
place himself at the window. Here he would remain for a considerable
time, motionless, with his neck extended, and his eyes fixed on the
moonlight landscape, and wrapped in a kind of contemplative ecstasy,
the silence of which was interrupted only by profound inspirations,
accompanied by a slight plaintive noise.

We have only to add, that by the anxious care of the physician, and a
thousand ingenious contrivances, the senses of this human animal, with
the exception of his hearing, which always remained dull and
impassive, were gradually stimulated, and he was even able at length
to pronounce two or three words. Here his history breaks off.

The scene of these extraordinary narratives has hitherto been confined
to Europe; but we have now to draw attention to the wild children of
India. It happens, fortunately, that in this case the character of the
testimony is unimpeachable; for although brought forward in a brief,
rough pamphlet, published in a provincial town, and merely said to be
'by an Indian Official,' we recognise both in the manner and matter
the pen of Colonel Sleeman, the British Resident at the court of
Lucknow, whose invaluable services in putting down thuggee and
dacoitee in India we have already described to our readers.[3]

The district of Sultanpoor, in the kingdom of Oude, a portion of the
great plain of the Ganges, is watered by the Goomtee River, a
navigable stream, about 140 yards broad, the banks of which are much
infested by wolves. These animals are protected by the superstition of
the Hindoos, and to such an extent, that a village community within
whose boundaries a single drop of their blood has been shed, is
believed to be doomed to destruction. The wolf is safe--but from a
very different reason--even from those vagrant tribes who have no
permanent abiding-place, but bivouac in the jungle, and feed upon
jackals, reptiles--anything, and who make a trade of catching and
selling such wild animals as they consider too valuable to eat. The
reason why the vulpine ravager is spared by these wretches is--_that
wolves devour children_! Not, however, that the wanderers have any
dislike to children, but they are tempted by the jewels with which
they are adorned; and knowing the dens of the animals, they make this
fearful gold-seeking a part of their business. The adornment of their
persons with jewellery is a passion with the Hindoos which nothing can
overcome. Vast numbers of women--even those of the most infamous
class--are murdered for the sake of their ornaments, yet the lesson is
lost upon the survivors. Vast numbers of children, too, fall victims
in the same way, and from the same cause, or are permitted, by those
who shrink from murder, to be carried off and devoured by the wolves;
yet no Indian mother can withstand the temptation to bedizen her
child, whenever it is in her power, with bracelets, necklaces, and
other ornaments of gold and silver. So much is necessary as an
introduction to the incidents that follow.

One day, a trooper, like Spenser's gentle knight,'was pricking on the
plain,' near the banks of the Goomtee. He was within a short distance
of Chandour, a village about ten miles from Sultanpoor, the capital of
the district, when he halted to observe a large female wolf and her
whelps come out of a wood near the roadside, and go down to the river
to drink. There were four whelps. Four!--surely not more than three;
for the fourth of the juvenile company was as little like a wolf as
possible. The horseman stared; for in fact it was a boy, going on
all-fours like his comrades, evidently on excellent terms with them
all, and guarded, as well as the rest, by the dam with the same
jealous care which that exemplary mother, but unpleasant neighbour,
bestows upon her progeny. The trooper sat still in his saddle watching
this curious company till they had satisfied their thirst; but as soon
as they commenced their return, he put spurs to his horse, to
intercept the boy. Off ran the wolves, and off ran the boy
helter-skelter--the latter keeping close up with the dam; and the
horseman, owing to the unevenness of the ground, found it impossible
to overtake them before they had all entered their den. He was
determined, nevertheless, to attain his object, and assembling some
people from the neighbouring village with pickaxes, they began to dig
in the usual way into the hole. Having made an excavation of six or
eight feet, the garrison evacuated the place--the wolf, the three
whelps, and the boy, leaping suddenly out and taking to flight. The
trooper instantly threw himself upon his horse, and set off in
pursuit, followed by the fleetest of the party; and the ground over
which they had to fly being this time more even, he at length headed
the chase, and turned the whole back upon the men on foot. These
secured the boy, and, according to prescriptive rule, allowed the wolf
and her three whelps to go on their way.

'They took the boy to the village,' says Colonel Sleeman, 'but had to
tie him, for he was very restive, and struggled hard to rush into
every hole or den they came near. They tried to make him speak, but
could get nothing from him but an angry growl or snarl. He was kept
for several days at the village, and a large crowd assembled every day
to see him. When a grown-up person came near him, he became alarmed,
and tried to steal away; but when a child came near him, he rushed at
it with a fierce snarl, like that of a dog, and tried to bite it. When
any cooked meat was put near him, he rejected it in disgust; but when
raw meat was offered, he seized it with avidity, put it upon the
ground, under his hands, like a dog, and ate it with evident pleasure.
He would not let any one come near while he was eating, but he made no
objection to a dog's coming and sharing his food with him.'

This wild boy was sent to Captain Nicholetts, the European officer
commanding the 1st regiment of Oude Local Infantry, stationed at
Sultanpoor. He lived only three years after his capture, and died in
August 1850. According to Captain Nicholetts' account of him, he was
very inoffensive except when teased, and would then growl and snarl.
He came to eat anything that was thrown to him, although much
preferring raw flesh. He was very fond of uncooked bones, masticating
them apparently with as much ease as meat; and he had likewise a still
more curious partiality for small stones and earth. So great was his
appetite, that he has been known to eat half a lamb at one meal; and
buttermilk he would drink by the pitcher full without seeming to draw
breath. He would never submit to wear any article of dress even in the
coldest weather; and when a quilt stuffed with cotton was given to
him, 'he tore it to pieces, and ate a portion of it--cotton and
all--with his bread every day.' The countenance of the boy was
repulsive, and his habits filthy in the extreme. He was never known to
smile; and although fond of dogs and jackals, formed no attachment
for any human being. Even when a favourite pariah dog, which used to
feed with him, was shot for having fallen under suspicion of taking
the lion's share of the meal, he appeared to be quite indifferent. He
sometimes walked erect; but generally ran on all-fours--more
especially to his food when it was placed at a distance from him.

Another of these wolf-children was carried off from his parents at
Chupra (twenty miles from Sultanpoor), when he was three years of age.
They were at work in the field, the man cutting his crop of wheat and
pulse, and the woman gleaning after him, with the child sitting on the
grass. Suddenly, there rushed into the family party, from behind a
bush, a gaunt wolf, and seizing the boy by the loins, ran off with him
to a neighbouring ravine. The mother followed with loud screams, which
brought the whole village to her assistance; but they soon lost sight
of the wolf and his prey, and the boy was heard no more of for six
years. At the end of that time, he was found by two sipahis
associating, as in the former case, with wolves, and caught by the leg
when he had got half-way into the den. He was very ferocious when
drawn out, biting at his deliverers, and seizing hold of the barrel of
one of their guns with his teeth. They secured him, however, and
carried him home, when they fed him on raw flesh, hares, and birds,
till they found the charge too onerous, and gave him up to the public
charity of the village till he should be recognised by his parents.
This actually came to pass. His mother, by that time a widow, hearing
a report of the strange boy at Koeleapoor, hastened to the place from
her own village of Chupra, and by means of indubitable marks upon his
person, recognised her child, transformed into a wild animal. She
carried him home with her; but finding him destitute of natural
affection, and in other respects wholly irreclaimable, at the end of
two months she left him to the common charity of the village.

When this boy drank, he dipped his face in the water, and sucked. The
front of his elbows and knees had become hardened from going on
all-fours with the wolves. The village boys amused themselves by
throwing frogs to him, which he caught and devoured; and when a
bullock died and was skinned, he resorted to the carcass like the dogs
of the place, and fed upon the carrion. His body smelled offensively.
He remained in the village during the day, for the sake of what he
could get to eat, but always went off to the jungle at night. In other
particulars, his habits resembled those already described. We have
only to add respecting him, that, in November 1850, he was sent from
Sultanpoor, under the charge of his mother, to Colonel Sleeman--then
probably at Lucknow--but something alarming him on the way, he ran
into a jungle, and had not been recovered at the date of the last
dispatch.

We pass over three other narratives of a similar kind, that present
nothing peculiar, and shall conclude with one more specimen of the
Indian wolf-boy. This human animal was captured, like the first we
have described, by a trooper, with the assistance of another person on
foot. When placed on the pommel of the saddle, he tore the horseman's
clothes, and, although his hands were tied, contrived to bite him
severely in several places. He was taken to Bondee, where the rajah
took charge of him till he was carried off by Janoo, a lad who was
khidmutgar (table-attendant) to a travelling Cashmere merchant. The
boy was then apparently about twelve years of age, and went upon
all-fours, although he could stand, and go awkwardly on his legs when
threatened. Under Janoo's attention, however, in beating and rubbing
his legs with oil, he learned to walk like other human beings. But the
vulpine smell continued to be very offensive, although his body was
rubbed for some months with mustard-seed soaked in water, and he was
compelled during the discipline to live on rice, pulse, and bread. He
slept under the mango-tree, where Janoo himself lodged, but was always
tied to a tent-pin.

One night, when the wild boy was lying asleep under his tree, Janoo
saw two wolves come up stealthily, and smell at him. They touched him,
and he awoke; and rising from his reclining posture, he put his hands
upon the heads of his visitors, and they licked his face. They capered
round him, and he threw straw and leaves at them. The khidmutgar gave
up his protégé for lost; but presently he became convinced that they
were only at play, and he kept quiet. He at length gained confidence
enough to drive the wolves away; but they soon came back, and resumed
their sport for a time. The next night, three playfellows made their
appearance, and in a few nights after, four. They came four or five
times, till Janoo lost all his fear of them. When the Cashmere
merchant returned to Lucknow, where his establishment was, Janoo still
carried his pet with him, tied by a string to his own arm; and, to
make him useful according to his capacity, with a bundle on his head.
At every jungle they passed, however, the boy would throw down the
bundle, and attempt to dart into the thicket; repeating the
insubordination, though repeatedly beaten for it, till he was fairly
subdued, and became docile by degrees. The greatest difficulty was to
get him to wear clothes, which to the last he often injured or
destroyed, by rubbing them against posts like a beast, when some part
of his body itched. Some months after their arrival at Lucknow, Janoo
was sent away from the place for a day or two on some business, and on
his return he found that the wild boy had escaped. He was never more
seen.

It is a curious circumstance, that the wild children, whether of
Europe or Asia, have never been found above a certain age. They do not
grow into adults in the woods. Colonel Sleeman thinks their lives may
be cut short by their living exclusively on animal food; but to some
of them, as we have seen, a vegetable diet has been habitual. The
probability seems to be, that with increasing years, their added
boldness and consciousness of strength may lead them into fatal
adventures with their brethren of the forest. As for the protection of
the animal by which they were originally nurtured becoming powerless
from age, which is another hypothesis, that supposes too romantic a
system of patronage and dependence. The head of the family must have
several successive series of descendants to care for after the arrival
of the stranger, and it is far more probable that the wild boy is
obliged to turn out with his playmates, when they are ordered to shift
for themselves, than that he alone remains a fixture at home. That
protection of some kind at first is a necessary condition of his
surviving at all, there can be no manner of doubt, although it does
not follow that a wolf is always the patron. The different habits of
some of the European children we have mentioned, shew a totally
different course of education. If, for instance, they had been
nurtured by wolves, they would no more have learned to climb trees
than to fly in the air. As for the female specimen we have mentioned,
hers was obviously an exceptional case. She was lost, as appeared from
her own statement, when old enough to work at some employment, and a
club she used as a weapon was one of her earliest recollections.

The wild children of India, however, were obviously indebted to wolves
for their miserable lives; and it is not so difficult as at first
sight might be supposed, to imagine the possibility of such an
occurrence. The parent wolves are so careful of their progeny, that
they feed them for some time with half-digested food, disgorged by
themselves; and after that--if we may believe Buffon, who seems as
familiar with the interior of a den as if he had boarded and lodged in
the family--they bring home to them live animals, such as hares and
rabbits. These the young wolves play with, and when at length they
are hungry, kill: the mother then for the first time interfering, to
divide the prey in equal portions. But in the case of a child being
brought to the den--a child accustomed, in all probability, to
tyrannise over the whelps of pariah dogs and other young animals, they
would find it far easier to play than to kill; and if we only suppose
the whole family going to sleep together, and the parents bringing
home fresh food in the morning--contingencies not highly
improbable--the mystery is solved, although the marvel remains. It may
be added, that such wolves as we have an opportunity of observing in
menageries, are always gentle and playful when young, and it is only
time that develops the latent ferocity of a character the most
detestable, perhaps, in the whole animal kingdom. Cowardly and cruel
in equal proportion, the wolf has no defenders. 'In short,' says
Goldsmith--probably translating Buffon, for we have not the latter at
hand to ascertain--'every way offensive, a savage aspect, a frightful
howl, an insupportable odour, a perverse disposition, fierce habits,
he is hateful while living, and useless when dead.'

But what, then, is man, whom mere accidental association for a few
years can strip of the faculties inherent in his race and convert into
a wolf? The lower animals retain their instincts in all circumstances.
The kitten, brought up from birth on its mistress's lap, imbibes none
of her tastes in food or anything else. It rejects vegetables, sweets,
fruits, all drinks but water or milk, and although content to satisfy
its hunger with dressed meat, darts with an eager growl upon raw
flesh. Man alone is the creature of imitation in good or in bad. His
faculties and instincts, although containing the _germ_ of everything
noble, are not independent and self-existing like those of the brutes.
This fact accounts for the difference observable, in an almost
stereotyped form, in the different classes of society; it affords a
hint to legislators touching their obligation to use the power they
possess in elevating, by means of education, the character of the more
degraded portions of the community; and it brings home to us all the
great lesson of sympathy for the bad as well as the afflicted--both
victims alike of _circumstances_, over which they in many cases have
nearly as little control as the wild children of the desert.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] See 'The Rudimental,' in No. 391.

[2] A paper on this subject will be found in _Chambers's Miscellany of
Useful and Entertaining Tracts_, vol. v. No. 48.

[3] See 'Gang-Robbers of India,' in Nos. 360 and 361 of this Journal.
The title of the pamphlet alluded to is, _An Account of Wolves
nurturing Children in their Dens_. By an Indian Official. Plymouth:
Jenkin Thomas, printer. 1852.




THE LITERATURE OF PARLIAMENT.


The Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, in addition to
its other varied and important functions, fulfils, through one of its
branches, that of a great national book manufactory. Every session,
the House of Commons issues a whole library of valuable works,
containing information of the most ample and searching kind on
subjects of a very miscellaneous character. These are the Blue-books,
of which everybody has heard: many jokes are extant as to their
imposing bulk and great weight, literally and figuratively; and a
generation eminently addicted to light reading, may well look with
horror on these thick and closely-printed folios. But, in truth, they
are not for the mere _reader_: they are for the historian, and student
of any given subject; they are storehouses of material, not digested
treatises. True it is, that their great size sometimes defeats its
object--the valuable portion of the material is sometimes buried under
the comparatively worthless heap that surrounds it--the golden grains
lost amid the chaff. But in a case of this kind, the error of
redundancy is one on the safe side; let a subject in all its bearings
be thoroughly and fully brought up, and it is the fault or failing of
him who sets about the study of it, if he is appalled at the amount of
information on which he has to work, or cannot discriminate and seize
upon the salient points, or on those which are necessary for his own
special purposes.

Few persons, we believe, who have not had occasion to consult these
parliamentary volumes in a systematic manner, are at all aware of the
immense labour that is bestowed upon them, and the care and
completeness with which they are compiled and arranged. Indeed, we
daresay few readers have any accurate notions of the actual number of
parliamentary papers annually issued, or of the nature of their
contents. From even a very cursory examination of the literary result
of a parliamentary session, the previously uninformed investigator
could not fail to rise with a greatly augmented estimate of the
functions of the great ruling body of the state--the guarding and
directing power in the multitudinous affairs of the British Empire--an
empire that extends over every possible variety of country and
climate, and includes under its powerful, yet mild and beneficent
sway, tribes of every colour of skin, and of every shade of religious
belief. Such a survey, in fact, tends to impress one more fully and
immediately than could well be fancied, with the magnitude of the
business of the British legislature, and the consequent weighty
responsibilities imposed upon its members. But, great as the burden
is, it is distributed over so many shoulders, that it appears to press
heavily, and really does so, only on a few who support it at the more
trying points.

The session 1851 is the latest of whose labours, as they appear in the
form of parliamentary records, an account can be given. By the
admirable system of arrangement we have referred to, each
parliamentary 'paper,' whether it issues in the shape of a bulky
Blue-book--that is to say, as a thick, stitched folio volume, in a
dark-blue cover--or as a mere 'paper'--an uncovered folio of a single
sheet of two or four pages, or several stitched together, but not
attaining the dignity of the blue cover--is marked as belonging to a
certain class; and when the issue of the session is complete, a full
set of 'Titles, Contents, and Indexes' to the whole is supplied, so
that they can all be classified and bound up in due order with the
utmost ease and celerity. The _Titles, Contents, and Indexes to the
Sessional Printed Papers of Session_ 1851 are at present before us, in
the shape of a folio Blue-book about an inch and a half thick, from
which we think we may pick some facts of interest.

It must be premised, that the session 1851 was considered by
politicians a peculiarly barren and unfruitful one, as the Great
Exhibition, in conjunction with ministerial difficulties, and the
monster debates on the Ecclesiastical Titles' Bill, tended greatly to
impede the ordinary business of the Houses, and gave an air of tedium
and languor to the whole proceedings. Nevertheless, the papers for the
year amount to no less than sixty volumes! Of these, the first six
contain Public Bills. A bill, as most of our readers must be aware, is
a measure submitted to the consideration of parliament with the view
of its being adopted into the legal code of the country, for which it
must receive the sanction of both Houses and the assent of the crown.
When a bill has 'passed' through the Lords and Commons, and received
the royal assent, it becomes an 'act'--that is, a law. A bill, in
passing through the Houses, is subjected to numerous amendments and
alterations in form, and is often printed, for the use of members and
other parties interested, three or four times after such alterations,
before it comes forth in its final and permanent form as an act. Thus,
the famous Ecclesiastical Titles' Bill is to be found in three several
shapes among the bills before it reappears for the fourth time as an
act. Again, the word 'public' prefixed to these six volumes of bills,
reminds us of the vast amount of business that comes before parliament
and its committees in the shape of 'private' bills, of which no record
appears here. These are bills of special and individual application,
such as when a public company seeks an act of incorporation, the
possessor of an entailed estate desires to sell a portion of ground,
a railway directory asks for powers of various kinds, and so on.

An examination of the contents of these six volumes would shew how
many and diverse are the subjects that turn up in parliament in the
course of a single and brief session; but to enter on it
satisfactorily would require a great amount of space, and might, after
all, be more tedious than profitable. A glance at those actually
passed may suffice. These were 106 in number: the first is, 'An Act to
amend the Passengers' Act of 1849;' and the hundred and sixth, 'An Act
to appoint Commissioners to inquire into the Existence of Bribery in
St Albans.' Besides the acts of an ordinary or routine character, we
find the following among the subjects legislated on:--The Marine
Forces, Leases for Mills in Ireland, Protection of Original Designs,
the Protection of Servants and Apprentices, the Sale of Arsenic,
Highways in Wales, Sites for Schools, Herring-Fishery, Prisons in
Scotland, Common Lodging-Houses, Window and House Duties, Marriages in
India, Ecclesiastical Titles, Smithfield Market, Settlement of the
Boundaries of Canada and New Brunswick, Highland Roads and Bridges,
Gunpowder Magazine at Liverpool, Management of the Insane in India,
Lands in New Zealand, Representative Peers of Scotland, Emigration,
Law of Evidence, Criminal Justice, &c.

Following the six volumes of bills, are fifteen volumes of _Reports
from Committees_, which are again succeeded by nine volumes of
_Reports from Commissioners_. These two sections of the literature of
parliament form vast stores of material on an immense number of
subjects, into which he who digs laboriously is sure to be rewarded in
the end. They contain great masses of 'evidence,' extracted by the
examinations of committees and commissioners from the parties believed
to be best qualified to give correct and full information on the
various subjects on which they are examined, and these opinions are
supported by facts and authentic statements and statistics, invaluable
to the investigator. The first volume of last year's Reports from
Committees opens with that on the Edinburgh Annuity Tax, the fifteenth
contains that on Steam Communications with India. There are four
volumes on Customs, two on Ceylon, one on Church-rates, one on the
Caffre Tribes, one on Newspaper Stamps, &c.; while other volumes
contain Reports on the Property Tax, the Militia, the Ordnance Survey,
Public Libraries, Law of Partnership, &c. From commissioners, we have
Reports on Fisheries, Emigration, National Gallery, Public Records,
Board of Health, Factories, Furnaces, Mines and Collieries, Education,
Maynooth College, Prisons, Public Works, &c.

The fourth section of these parliamentary papers for 1851 amounts to
thirty volumes, and consists of _Accounts and Papers_. It is in these
that the statist finds inexhaustible wealth of material, long columns
of figures with large totals, tables of the most complicated yet the
clearest construction, containing a multiplicity of details bearing on
the riches and resources of the empire in its most general and most
minute particulars. Thus the first volume relates to 'Finance,' and
includes the accounts of the Public Income and Expenditure, Public and
National Debt, Income Tax, Public Works, and a vast variety of other
subjects. The second volume is made up of the 'Estimates' for the
Army, Navy, Ordnance, and 'Civil Services,' which includes Public
Works, Public Salaries, Law and Justice, Education, Colonial and
Consular Services, &c. The third volume is filled with Army and Navy
Accounts and Returns. The next six volumes refer to the colonies, and
consist of Accounts, Dispatches, Correspondence. The tenth is occupied
with the subject of Emigration; and the eleventh with the Government
of our Eastern Empire in all its vast machinery and complicated
relations. The remaining volumes--for space would fail us to enumerate
them in detail--treat of such subjects as the Census, Education,
Convict Discipline, Poor, Post-office, Railways, Shipping, Quarantine,
Trade and Navigation Returns, Revenue, Population and Commerce,
Piracy, the Slave Trade, and Treaties and Conventions with Foreign
States. Last of all, as volume sixty of the set, we have the
_Numerical List and General Index_, itself a goodly tome of nearly 200
pages, compiled with immense care, and arranged so perspicuously as to
afford the utmost facilities for reference.

These papers, as we have said, differ greatly in size. Some consist of
but a single page, others swell up to volumes two or three inches
thick, and of perhaps 2000 pages. As to the contents, the majority
display a mixture of letterpress with tabular matter; and while some
are wholly letterpress, others present an alarming and endless array
of figures--filing along, page after page, in irresistible battalions.
In many, valuable maps and plans are incorporated, with occasional
designs for public works, &c.

Besides these returns and papers of permanent value, there are daily
issued during the session programmes of the business of the day,
entitled _Votes and Proceedings_, and containing a list of the
subjects, the motions, petitions, bills, &c., that are to be brought
before the House, according to 'the orders of the day.' These, and all
the other papers issued by parliament, may be obtained regularly
through 'all the booksellers,' by any person desiring to have them.
Their prices are fixed; and in the case of the larger papers, the
price is printed on the back of each. Copies of bills and returns may
be had separately, on payment of these affixed prices; and indeed few
parties require complete sets. Some public libraries take them, as do
most of the London, and one or two provincial newspapers, by which the
gentlemen of the press are enabled to compile the numerous articles
and paragraphs with which all newspaper readers are familiar, and
which usually begin: 'By a return just issued, we learn,' &c.; or:
'From a parliamentary paper recently printed, it appears,' &c. The
public is often considerably indebted to the labours of newspaper men
in regard to these papers, for the exigence of space, and the
necessity of beating everything into a readable shape, require them to
condense the voluminous details of the returns; and their sum and
substance is thus given without any encumbering extraneous matter.

The cost of complete series of the papers varies from session to
session, according to the number issued, ranging usually about L.12 or
L.14.




LIGHTS FOR THE NIGHT.


Unquestionably, darkness is disagreeable. Whether to manhood
hoary-headed in wisdom, or to childhood yet in soft-brained ignorance,
darkness is an unpleasant fact, to be got over in the best way
possible--to be got over at all events, and at any cost, and to be
turned into luminosity by every expedient that can be used.
Wax-tapers, to throw their soft, luxurious light on my lady's delicate
face, as she lies like a beautiful piece of marble-work on her dreamy
couch; shaded lamps for the grave merchant, the virtual king of the
present, as he sits in his still office, ruling nations by bale and
bond, and guiding the tide of events by invoices and ship's papers;
Palmer's candles, under green pent-houses, for students and authors,
whose eyes must withstand a double strain; the mild house-light, with
a dash of economy in the selection, whether of oil, sperm, long-fours,
or short-sixes, for the family group; the white camphene flame for the
artist: strange mechanisms for the curious; the flaunting brilliancy
of the coloured chandeliers and cut-glass shades for our English
Bedouins in the gin-palace; the flaring jet of the open butchers'
shops; the paper-lantern of the street-stalls; the consumptive dip of
the slop-worker; the glimmering rush-light for the sick-room; the
resin torch for the midnight funeral: these, and countless other
inventions--not to mention the universal gas--assert man's
disinclination to transact his life in the dark, or to bound his
powers by the simple arrangements of nature. There are better lights,
though, than any of these, and a worse than mere physical night, be it
the blackest with which romancer ever stained his innocent paper, when
describing those dark deeds on desolate moors which all romancers
delight in, and which send young ladies pale to bed. The night of the
mind is worse than the night of time; and lamps which can dispel this
are more valuable than any which make up for the loss of the sun only,
though these are grand undertakings too.

Most people know what a Child's night-light is, and most people have
heard of Belmont Wax, and Price's Patent Candles, though few would be
able to explain exactly what the warrant guards. But who ever pretends
to understand patents? The 'Belmont' every one knows; it is a mere
ordinary wax-candle, which perhaps does not 'gutter' so much as
others, and with wick more innocent of 'thieves' than most, but with
nothing more wonderful in appearance than an ordinary candle. A
Child's night-light, too, has nothing mysterious in its look. It
greatly resembles the thick stumpy end of a magnificent mould, done up
in a coloured card-jacket, and with a small thin wick, that gives just
a point of flame, and no more, by which to light another candle, if
necessary--of admirable service for this and all other purposes of a
common-place bedroom. Eccentric sleepers, who write Greek hexameters,
and fasten on poetic thoughts while the rest of the world are in
rational slumber, might object to the feebleness of this point of
light; but eccentricities need provisions of their own, and comets
have orbits to which the laws of the stars do not apply. For all
ordinary people, this thick candle-end is a delicious substitute for
the ghastly rush-light in its chequered cage, which threw strange
figures on wall and curtain, and gave nervous women the megrims. But
nothing more is known of Belmonts or night-lights; their birthplace,
and the manner of their making, are alike hidden from the outer world;
the uninitiated accept the arcana of tallow only in the positive form.
It is generally presumed that candles, in the abstract, come from some
unknown place in 'the City;' but how they are made, or who is employed
in their making, or how the workmen live in the grease-laden steam of
the factory, not one in a thousand would know if he could certainly
none would give himself any trouble to find out. Neither should we
ourselves have known, had not a little pamphlet, bearing the heading,
_Special Report by the Directors to the Proprietors of Price's Patent
Candle Company_, fallen into our hands. Holding the Report open on the
desk before us, we will now give to our readers the net result of the
moral doings of the factory.

In the winter of 1848, half-a-dozen of the boys employed in the candle
manufactory used to hide themselves behind a bench two or three times
a week, when work and tea were over, to practise writing on useless
scraps of paper picked up anyhow, and with worn-out pens begged from
the counting-house.



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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 446 Volume 18, New Series, July 17, 1852