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THE CHRISTIAN REVIEW.
Incidents of Travel in Greece, Turkey, Russia and Po
land. By the Author of Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petræa, and the Holy Land. In 2 vols. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1838.
MR. STEPHENS, the author of these Incidents of Travel, has, apparently without much effort, become very widely known to the reading public on both sides of the Atlantic. His work on Egypt, Arabia Petræa, and the Holy Land, —the first fruits of his Eastern wanderings, -has passed through at least four editions in this country, and almost as many in England and France. He writes in an easy, flowing, and somewhat piquant style, and, by a happy blending of personal incident with general description, seldom fails in making us interested in all that he describes. As we follow him along his devious route, we are always impressed with his good-nature, and feel that he is just the companion we should like to travel with, were we going to make a year of leisure and recruit ourselves amidst the storied scenes of the East. With sentiment enough to feel the power that comes from the decaying monuments of ancient glory, he is yet liberal-minded enough to avoid any useless laments over the wrecks of forier empires, or the rise of new ones in their place. He wisely looks upon the earth's surface as designed, by the wisdom of Providence, for the residence of man; and, VOL. IV.-NO. XIV.
though he is not unaffected by the mysterious events and sublime contrasts, which, in different ages, it presents, yet he never seems to consider any portion of it as perverted from its natural use, provided it in any way contributes to the happiness or improvement of the race. Accordingly, though we are conducted by our author, over regions that have been famous from the earliest periods of history, and on which have flourished cities the most renowned and states the most magnificent, yet the present is no where overlooked, or excluded from our attention, by vain rhapsodies upon the perished glories of the past. In truth, we may say, he gives us the impression of a gifted and good-natured man, who, wearied with the city of the Knickerbockers, went abroad, not to measure monuments and temples, nor to sentimentalize among the ruins of ancient empires, and the tombs of the mighty dead, but to be amused and instructed with seeing the world as it is, and communing with the living representatives of humanity.
To be a traveller of the highest order, a man must combine in himself many of the qualities of both the philosopher and the poet. He must be endowed not only with a power of observation, which seizes upon the features of nature and society, in the countries through which he passes, but with an intuitive perception, which discerns the pervading spirit that controls and animates the whole, and a gift of imagination which looks beneath the surface and covering, and reveals the hidden portions of the machinery, whose action gives rise to the daily phenomena that pass before him. That which a traveller actually sees, usually derives its main importance from its connection with that which he does not and cannot see. The incidents and the forms of individual and national character, which he meets, are mainly valuable and instructive, only so far as they are connected with the causes and influences that produced them; as they illustrate the principles on which they depend, and furnish an insight into the institutions of government, and the temper and condition of a people. Thus to observe, and to present the results of his observation, is the aim of the philosophical traveller,-an aim which can be fully accomplished only by a mind gifted with a power of quick and accurate perception, and liberalized and enlarged by reading and reflection.
Mr. Stephorder. He he characterion
Mr. Stephens, however, has not aspired to be a traveller of this order. He simply narrates the incidents he meets, and describes the characters and social or moral phenomena he observes, in the regions through which he travels, and then leaves the reader to his own reflections on the causes that may have produced them, or the consequences that may follow from them. But, though we consider him as belonging to the second class, yet the rank we would assign him is by no means a low one. In denying to his works a highly instructive, we would not be understood as denying to them a very entertaining character. Indeed, Mr. Stephens, in many respects, possesses admirable qualities for a traveller and a writer of travels. And we know not where we can turn to a book of the kind, which holds us more strongly bound to its pages, than the work on Egypt or the Holy Land. We identify ourselves with the traveller, and share in all the hopes and solicitude, the toil and repose, of his travel's history.
The work to which we now call the attention of our readers, though characterized by the same liveliness of style, and constant flow of good humor, is yet far inferior to the author's former work, both in interest and instruction. The travels which it narrates, in point of time, were accomplished before those in Egypt, Arabia, and the Holy Land; but they relate, as a whole, to a less interesting portion of the world, and are diversified with far less richness and variety of incident.
These volumes open, with their author on board a Greek cutter, sailing among the “Isles of Greece," bound from Zante to Padras, but actually arriving at the port of Missolonghi. From this town, which has been rendered famous by its connection with the events of the Greek revolution, he pursues his course, along the Gulf of Lepanto, to Lepanto, Padras, Ægina, and Corinth, whence, after lingering over its classic ruins, he proceeds to Athens. Here he remains long enough to observe all that the city contains, either of present or of past glory. Having fully satisfied a traveller's curiosity among the mouldering monuments of Athenian greatness, and made excursions to the plains of Argos and Marathon, to Mount Hymettus and the ancient Mycænæ, he embarks at the Piræus, and, touching at the beautiful islands of those classic
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waters, anchors in the harbor of Foggi, in Turkey, beneath the blood-red flag of the Mussulman. From Foggi, he makes his way to Smyrna, and thence, in a steam-boat, along the shores of the Grecian Archipelago, in almost constant sight of the fields of Troy, and the scenes of the Homeric story, to Constantinople. He lingers in this magnificent city of the Eastern Cæsars, where the old and the new, the Christian and the Moslem, are so strangely mingled; and at length takes passage across the Euxine, and arrives at Odessa, the southernmost port in the dominions of the Czar. While in Russia, he observes many interesting features in the condition of that gigantic and rapidly increasing empire. He visits Moscow and St. Petersburgh, and thence travels across the boundless steppes of Western Russia, to Warsaw and Cracow, and takes leave of the reader at the mouth of the salt mines, on the banks of the Vistula, in Poland.
The route which, in this general manner, we have traced, it will be seen, is one that presents many objects of great interest, and is, withal, in some of its portions, almost entirely new. Greece and Turkey, with their innumerable objects of rich historic association, have often been visited and described. But we seldom meet with travellers, who have roamed the wide extent of European Russia, or who have had so fair an opportunity to survey the condition of the Poles, now that the foot of the conqueror is upon their neck. Though Mr. Stephens has furnished us less plentifully than we could wish, with the means of comprehending the social condition of these several countries, and the materials for speculating upon their future progress, yet we cannot but acknowledge the interest which holds us to his pages, while he narrates merely the incidents of his intercourse with their varied population. It is not our intention to follow him through his entire route, but simply to present an occasional extract, as a specimen of his manner.
Missolonghi, the first Greek town which he visited, derives its principal interest from being the place where Lord Byron died, and where Marco Bozzaris was buried, and his family still reside. During the Revolution, the people and their chiefs were so split by factions and discords, that the sense of gratitude, and even of justice,
seems nearly to have been extinguished. Byron had committed the unpardonable fault of allying himself to one of the great parties which at that time divided the country; and so implacable is party feeling, that, even at Missolonghi, the scene of his labors and his charities, his noble sacrifices are now considered as but questionable proofs of friendship for Greece. Bozzaris seems to be held in far more honored remembrance than the noble Englishman. Mr. Stephens visited his tomb, and was received into the dwelling of his brother, who is now the protector of the widow and family of Bozzaris. It was in this patriot family, that he heard the warmest expressions of interest in America, and gratitude for her timely assistance; and he delighted to tell the daughters of the Suliote chief, that the nanie of their father was almost as familiar here, as among the hamlets of his own Greece.
At Athens, Mr. Stephens mentions, as among the objects of his earliest and deepest interest, the Missionary Schools established in 1830, by our countrymen, Messrs. Hill and Robinson, under the direction of the Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church. We extract one of the passages which relates to these schools, as a testimonial of respect to the gentlemen who established them, as well as to the cause of Missions—the more valuable, as it comes from a traveller, who, before leaving this country, had plainly known but little of the extent or the influence of missionary labors, and who may, therefore, be considered as no partisan witness :
“ The first thing we did in Athens was to visit the American missjonary school. Among the extraordinary changes of an overchanging world, it is not the least that the young America is at this moment paying back the debt which the world owes to the mother of science, and the citizen of a country which the wisest of the Greeks never dreamed of, is teaching the descendants of Plato and Aristotle the elements of their own tongue. I did not expect among the ruins of Athens to find any thing that would particularly touch my national feelings; but it was a subject of deep and interesting reflection that, in the city which surpassed all the world in learning, where Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle taught, and Cicero went to study, the only door of instruction was that opened by the hands of American citizens,* and an American missionary was the only schoolmaster; and I am ashamed to say that I was not aware of the existence of such an institution, until advised of it by my friend, Dr. W.
“In the middle of the summer of their arrival at Athens, Mrs.
* Athens has now a flourishing university, after the German model. The city has undergone great changes since it has become the royal residence.-ED.