« EelmineJätka »
the most agreeable for new-comers and the best for making collections. We arranged, therefore, to meet in London towards the end of March to study the collections at the British Museum, make purchases of books, collecting apparatus, and outfit, arrange with an agent to receive and dispose of our collections, and make inquiries as to our passage.
By a curious coincidence we found that Mr. Edwards, whose book had determined us to go to the Amazon, was in London exhibiting a very fine ivory crucifix of Italian workmanship. We called upon him in a street out of Regent Street, and we had an interesting talk about the country. He kindly gave us letters of introduction to some of his American friends in Para, among others, to Mr. Leavens at the Saw Mills, with whom we went on our short expedition up the Tocantins river. We also saw the crucifix, which was certainly a very fine work of art, carved out of an unusually large mass of ivory. Mr. Edwards, who, though a little older than myself, is still alive, writes to me (October 23, 1904) that the crucifix was the work of a monk of St. Nicholas, Genoa, and was purchased by Mr. C. Edwards Lester, United States consul in that city. A brother of our Mr. Edwards purchased it for ten thousand dollars, and exhibited it successfully in many American cities. He died, however, in 1847, and as it was necessary to sell it, our Mr. Edwards, who was his executor, brought it to London, and was exhibiting it with the object of finding a purchaser. But the Louis Philippe revolution in France occurred just at the time he arrived in London, and caused such disturbances and excitement throughout Europe as to be very unfavourable for the disposal of works of art, and he was obliged to take it back to America. In a year or two it was sold to the Catholics, and he thinks it is now in one of their churches at Cleveland, Ohio. Nearly forty years later I had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Edwards at his residence in Coalburgh, West Virginia, as will be referred to in its proper place.
Among the interesting visits we paid while in London was one to Dr. Horsfield at the India Museum, who showed
us the cases in which he had brought home his large collection of butterflies from Java. These were stout, oblong boxes, about three feet long by two feet wide and two feet deep. Inside these were vertical grooves, about two inches apart, to hold the boards corked on both sides, on which the insects were pinned. The advantages were that a large number of specimens were packed in a small space, and at much less cost than in store boxes, while any insects which should accidentally get loose would fall to the bottom, where a small vacant space was left, and do no injury to other specimens. It seemed such an excellent plan that we had a case made like it, and sent home our first collections in it; but though it answered its purpose it was very inconvenient, and quite unsuited to a travelling collector. We therefore returned to the old style of store box, which we got made in the country, while a very good substitute for cork was found in some of the very soft woods, or in slices of the midribs of palms.
We were fortunate in finding an excellent and trustworthy agent in Mr. Samuel Stevens, an enthusiastic collector of British Coleoptera and Lepidoptera, and brother of Mr. J. C. Stevens, the well-known natural history auctioneer, of King Street, Covent Garden. He continued to act as my agent during my whole residence abroad, sparing no pains to dispose of my duplicates to the best advantage, taking charge of my private collections, insuring each collection as its despatch was advised, keeping me supplied with cash, and with such stores as I required, and, above all, writing me fully as to the progress of the sale of each collection, what striking novelties it contained, and giving me general information on the progress of other collectors and on matters of general scientific interest. During the whole period of our business relations, extending over more than fifteen years, I cannot remember that we ever had the least disagreement about any matter whatever.
Mr. Bates' parents having kindly invited me to spend a week with them before we sailed, we left London early in April for Leicester, where I was very hospitably entertained, and had an opportunity of visiting some of my old friends. I also practised shooting and skinning birds; and as the ship
we were to sail in was somewhat delayed, I spent some days in the wild district of Charnwood Forest, which I had often wished to visit. At length, everything being ready, and our date of sailing being fixed for April 20, we left Leicester by coach a few days before that date, and stayed, I think, at Bakewell, in order to visit Chatsworth and see the palm and orchid houses, then the finest in England. The next day we went on to Liverpool, where we arrived late, after a cold and rather miserable journey outside a stage-coach.
The next morning we called upon Mr. J. G. Smith, the gentleman who had collected butterflies at Pernambuco and Para, at his office, and he invited us to dine with him in the evening, when he showed us his collection, and gave us much information about the country, the people, and the beauties of nature. During the day we got our luggage on board, saw our berths, and other accommodation, which was of the scantiest, and heard that the ship was to sail the next day. In the morning, after breakfast at our inn, we made a few final purchases, received a letter of introduction to the consignee of the vessels, and bade farewell to our native land.
At that time there were very few steamships, and most of the ocean trade was still carried on in sailing vessels. Ours was one of the smallest, being a barque of 192 tons, named the Mischief, and said to be a very fast sailer. We were told that she was ranked A i at Lloyds, and that we might therefore be quite sure that she was thoroughly seaworthy. We were the only passengers, and were to have our meals with the captain and mate, both youngish men, but of whom, owing to my deficient individuality, I have not the slightest recollection. Soon after we got out to sea the wind rose and increased to a gale in the Bay of Biscay, with waves that flooded our decks, washed away part of our bulwarks, and was very near swamping us altogether. All this time I was in my berth prostrate with sea-sickness, and it was only, I think, on the sixth day, when the weather had become fine and the sea smooth, that I was able to go on deck just as we had a distant sight of Maderia. Shortly afterwards we got into the region of the trade-wind, and had fine, bright weather all the rest of the voyage. We passed through part of the celebrated Sargasso Sea, where the surface is covered with long stretches of floating sea-weed, not brought there by storms from the distant shore, but living and growing where it is found, and supporting great numbers of small fish, crabs, mollusca, and innumerable low forms of marine life. And when we left this behind us, the exquisite blue of the water by day and the vivid phosphorescence often seen at night were a constant delight, while our little barque, with every sail set, and going steadily along day and night about ten knots an hour, was itself a thing of beauty and a perpetual enjoyment.
At length the water began to lose its blue colour, becoming first greenish, then olive, and finally olive-yellow, and one morning we saw on the horizon the long, low line of the land, and on the next, when we came on deck before sunrise, found ourselves anchored opposite the city of Para, twenty-nine days after leaving Liverpool. From this date till I landed at Deal, in October 1852, my adventures and experiences are given in my book, "A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro," a cheap edition of which is comprised in "The Minerva Library of Famous Books."
In order that no large gap may occur in these memories of my life, I will give here a general outline of my travels, with such incidental remarks or recollections as may occur to me. To begin with, I will give a short description of my impressions written to my old friend and schoolfellow, Mr. George Silk, about a fortnight after our arrival, to supplement the more detailed but less impulsive account in my published narrative.
“We have been staying for near a fortnight at the country house (called here Rosinha) of Mr. Miller, the consignee of the vessel and the captain's brother, about half a mile out of the city. We have just taken a house ourselves rather nearer the woods, and to-morrow expect to be in it. We have an old nigger who cooks for us. The city of Para is a curious, outlandish looking place, the best part of it very like