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To the Geography of the Puranas, we earnestly wish that some of the members of the learned Society to which we have alluded, would devote their attention: but not merely by specifying the situation of countries incidentally mentioned in other works. Each Purana contains a chapter on geography, usually entitled "Bhuvana darsa,' or the mirror of regions. A similar work seems to have been current in antient Persia, which M. Anquetil du Perron translated from the Pehlevi, with the title of Bhaun deesh. If a Sanscrit scholar in India, taking for his text one of those Puranica chapters, would give a local habitation and a modern name to the countries, he would supply an important desideratum ; and might derive great aid from the Pandits, and from the strangers who now resort to Calcutta from all parts of India. The names of antient nations, of whom the Hindus have retained little besides, attest the authenticity of their traditions; as the Pehleva, the Sacæ, and, more recently, the Huna. Ptolemy places in northern Asia, a region which he terms Ottorcora. The Uttara Curu, or northern land of the Curus, is allotted to the same quarter in the Purana.
An inquiry of an extremely interesting nature might also be made into the doctrines of the different schools of Philosophy, with a view to ascertain whether the sects founded by Pythagoras, Epicurus, Zeno, Plato, and Aristotle, stand in the relation of parents or offspring, to the sects supporting similar opinions in the East,
With respect to Science, we certainly never supposed that the discoveries of Newton or of La Place had been anticipated by the Brahmans: nor that the existing boundaries of scientific knowledge were likely to be extended by our intercourse with India. We still think, however, that the history of science may derive important contributions from that source. The discussions to which the publication of the Indian Algebra gave rise, have elicited some valuable information. Before we determine that the knowledge existing in the East, and bearing the marks of originality by the peculiarity of its forms, ought to be attributed to the Greeks, it should, we think, be very distinctly demonstrated, that the Greeks themselves possessed what they are said to have communicated.
ART. VIII. A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland,
including the Isle of Man, comprising an Account of their Geological Structure ; with Remarks on their Agriculture, Scenery and Antiquities. By John MACCULLOCH, M.D. 2 vols. 8vo, and 1 vol. 4to. Plates. London and Edinburgh. 1819.
We have had frequent occasion to speak of Dr Macculloch
in terms of high commendation, in our Reviews of the Transactions of the Geological Society, the channel through which the chief part of his scientific labours has been communicated to the public, until the appearance of the present volumes; and we have great pleasure in again introducing him to the notice of our readers in a more extended work. It is very seldom that we find a person with such high qualifications for a scientific traveller; for, besides a strong natural understanding, and a thoroughly good education, he possesses a variety of accomplishment that is very rarely found combined in the same individual. He is, moreover, one of the few men of powerful mind and high cultivation, who have hitherto directed their attention to Geology; for it is unquestionably true that, with a very few exceptions, this branch of science has not yet attracted the higher order of intellects, but has been very much in the hands of a minor class of philosophers, who, at an easy rate, get that dig. nified title from the world by accumulating facts, without one idea of generalization having ever entered into their mind. We do not mean to deny the usefulness of that class of persons, because more powerful minds may afterwards turn to use the materials which their industry has heaped together; but he alone is fully qualified to investigate and describe the phenomena of Nature, who bears steadily in mind, that the facts he is collecting are valuable only in reference to some great general law. On the other hand, an accurate acquaintance with the minute details of the subject is of the highest importance; and it is to be regretted that some of the distinguished persons who have led the way in the higher departments of the science, have not been sufficiently familiar with its more minute branches: a deficiency in this respect has very often given an appearance of inaccuracy to their observations, and has afforded a petty triumph to those cavillers, who, while they are incapable of understanding the great views of the author, exult over these little flaws, and magnify their importance-very often, indeed, when they do not in the least degree affect the general conclusion that has been drawn. It is this rare combination of general views, with accurate information in all the elementary branches of his subject, which places Dr Macculloch so high above most of his cutemporaries as a Geologist. No work descriptive of the physical structure of an extensive range of country, that has appeared since the invaluable Travels of Saussure, possesses such high merits as that now before us. We discover in it the same patient industry of observation, directed by a powerful and well regulated understanding, and controuled by a candid and unprejudiced philo
sophy, which so eminently distinguishes the great Geologist of the Alps. We wish that we could carry the parallel a little further, and say that the reader of Dr Macculloch's work will be as insensibly carried along by the charms of the style: But in this respect we must allow that he has not equalled his great predecessor.
We have now been speaking only of the geological part of these volumes, which indeed forms the leading feature, and occupies the chief space in the work; but the author has not been unmindful of the various subjects of general interest which present themselves to an intelligent traveller, in the very remarkable countries which he describes. There are dispersed, throughout both volumes, much valuable information, and many very interesting remarks upon the habits and condition of the people in the islands,—the state of population, the agriculture and fisheries, the antiquities, superstitions, and peculiar customs. Before entering upon our examination of the geological part of the volumes, we shall offer a few remarks upon some of the most interesting subjects of general information which they contain : But it is impossible for us, within any reasonable limits, to notice even slightly all the objects to which the attention of the author was directed; and, among so many of equal interest, we have some difficulty in deciding which to leave out.
In judging of the merits of this work, we are not to estimate the labour the author has undergone in collecting his materials, by the standard of most books of travels, descriptive of a country so near at home. It was not his lot to be carried over smooth roads in a well hung carriage, and to close the labours of the day with a comfortable meal and a soft bed; but it was the toilsome work of five successive summers, spent upon a boisterous sea, or a miserably poor comfortless land. He visited every rock that appears above the surface of the waters, from the Isle of Man to North Rona, and from the Mainland to St Kilda ; and has here given us a detailed description of nearly one hundred and twenty islands. He had to make his way through a most difficult navigation, in a sea that is scarcely ever free from tempest, committing himself very often to a frail bark, and the still greater danger of ignorant mariners: and when we consider that he travelled alone in that cheerless region, we cannot sufficiently admire thé ardour and constancy with which he persevered in his labours. We cannot, however, describe the difficulties he had to encounter, so
own words. • Some future geologist, will perhaps fill up the blank which I have unwillingly left, if indeed there be anything in those two islands but
what I have conjectured to exist. He will be fortunate if he is not compelled to leave much unseen, and to supply somewhat from conjectures. Though, like the philosopher in Rasselas, he were to find the winds and waves obedient to his word, he would still have much to encounter. He cannot ride in a land without roads, since his horse can neither tread the bogs, nor scale the rocks. Though he may walk with the strength of Antæus, and, like the Arab, live on the chameleon's diet,' it will avail him little, unless with the wild duck, the proper tenant of this amphibious region, he can also traverse the lakes and swim the friths. The dependence which he may place on the maritime habits of the islands, will be overthrown at every step by the mis-arrangements common in this country which display so strikingly some of the characteristics of the Highlander; an almost unsurmountable indolence, and a content which is either satisfied with an expedient, or submits to inconveniences of its own creating, as if they were part of the necessary career of his life. Poverty is not always the cause of these inconveniences. If the poor fisherman has no rudder to his boat, no yard to his mast, or no sheet to his sail, his richer neighbour is often equally in want of them. He who laas traversed these islands will easily recognise the truth of the subjoined picture.
• It was settled in the evening that we should visit Barra Head on the following morning. Unfortunately the laird's only boat had been left on the bcach without an anchor a few days before, whence it was carried away by the tide and dashed to pieces. But there was an expedient at hand, as there was another boat in the island, and it was borrowed for the occasion. In the morning, when ready to embark, it was discovered that the borrowed oars had been negligently left on the beach on the preceding evening, and had, like the former boat, been carried away by the tide. There was now a boat, but there were no oars. Oars could be borrowed, somewhere : they would be ready at some time in the day; at twelve or one o'clock; it would not be many hours too late ; we could only be benighted in returning. By the time the oars had been sent for, it was discovered that the boatmen and servants were all absent cutting peat in a neighbouring island. But it was possible to find another expedient for this, by procuring some of the islanders. A messenger was accordingly sent for four men. In the mean time, the borrowed oars of one fisherman were fitted to the borrowed boat of another; but, alas ! all the islanders were absent making kelp. Thus the day was spent in arranging expedients and in removing obstacles. Thus is life spent in the Highlands, and thus will it be spent by him who trusts to Highland arrangements for the accomplishment of his objects.' I. p. 86-7.
" I have on a former occasion described the nautical circumstances under which I did not reach Barra Head : it will not be useless to describe those under which I accomplished a first visit to Loch Sca. vig. The itinerary of a traveller is often of advantage to his succes
sors ; while a single anecdote is often more characteristic of a people than a laboured description.
" The expedition was to proceed from Gillan on the west side of Sleat ; and as a Highland boat is not soon set in motion, the crew was bespoke on the preceding evening. It was in vain that the or. ders were given for six in the morning; the men were not collected till nine--a Highlander being seldom ready, even for his harvest field, before ten o'clock. After the ordinary useless discussions we proceeded to the beach ; but the tide had ebbed, and the boat was dry : it could not be launched without further assistance. Before the requisite assistance was procured, an hour had elapsed. Being at length launched, it was discovered, that, out of the four oars required, only one was present. It was necessary to procure the complement from a neighbouring village, and this was scarcely accomplished in another hour. Some hopes at last appeared that the day would not elapse in preparations ; but, of the pins required for rowing, only two could be found, swimming in the water which filled half of the boat. Sky not being a land of wood, some time passed before this little but indispensable requisite could be obtained, for which the teeth of a harrow were at length procured. We were now fortunately under way: the first stroke of the oars had been given, when an unlucky breeze springing up, one of the crew proposed that we should return for a sail. It was in vain to oppose this motion, too favourable to the natural indolence of this people; although it was not easy to conjecture how a sail was to be rigged on a boat which had neither step for a mast nor provision for a rudder. It was wrong to wonder at the latter defect, as the use of this contrivance is quite unknown in many parts of these islands. In less than two hours the trunk of a birch tree was procured, which, being fastened to one of the thwarts with some twine, was converted into a mast worthy of the first navi. gator. A broomstick, secured to this mast in a similar manner, formed the yard, and the sail was composed of a pair of blankets pinned together by wooden skewers, and fastened to the broomstick by the
The want of sheet and tack was supplied by a pair of scarlet garters which one of the men stripped from his chequered stocking; and thus a ship was at length generated, not much unlike those of the heroic ages, of which memorials are still existing in the sculptures of Iona. It was two o'clock before this rigging was perfected and we were ready for sea.
• The want of a rudder being supplied by an oar, and the sail un. able to stand near the wind, we made no way except to leeward, and there was a prospect of reaching Rum instead of Scavig; neither arguments nor authority being of the least avail with a people who, in spite of their practice, are utterly ignorant of the properties and management of a boat. On a sudden a fortunate squall unshipped dhe helm ; brought the sail aback; and the whole apparatus, too fee. ble to upset the boat, was carried overboard, We reached our des