Rambles in Yucatan ; or Notes of Travel through the Peninsula, including a visit to the remarkable Ruins of Chi.chen, Sabah, Zayi,aud Unmal. With numerous illustrations. By B. M. Norman Wiley and Putnam; Langley, New Fork.
The Suburban Horticulturist ; or an attempt to teach the Science and Practice of the Culture and Mankgement of the Kitchen, Fruit, and Forcing Garden, to those who have bad no previous knowledge or practice iu these departments of Garden- ing. By J. C. London, F.L.S., H.S., &c. Author of " The Suburbau Architect and Landscape Gardener," &c. &c. Illustrated a ith numerous engravings on wood Smith. Ficriorr.
The Naval Club; or Reminiscences of Service. By M. It. Barker. Esq. (" The Old Sailor.") Iu three volumes Gabor*.
The Life of Robert Pollok, Author of The Course of Time." By his Brother. David Pollok, A.M. With Selections from his Manuscripts..Blackwood and Suns.
NORMAN'S RAMBLES IN YUCATAN.
ALTHOUGH not without interest from the freshness of its subject and the rapid style of its narrative, the most prominent feature of Mr. NORMAN'S hook arises from the national character of the author. Rambles in Yucatan exhibits in a remarkable manner the restless and roving propensities of the Americans, and the free and easy manner in which a thoroughbred United-Statesman will toss off a book. At the end of the New Orleans, sickly season of 1841, Mr. NORMAN, without any specific object that we have discovered, embarked on board a vessel bound for Havanna, intending to visit the Windward Islands. Not finding the communication between them and Cuba so great as he had expected, be chops right round more rapidly than the wind, whisks himself and valise on board a Spanish brig bound to Sisal in Yucatan, and in due time arrives there. Detained by the want of means of locomotion at the second port in Yucatan one day, or rather part of a day, Mr. NORMAN departs early on the morrow for Merida, the capital ; and hearing of other ruins than those of Palenque, he starts to see them. He de- voted a few days to an examination of the remains of Chi-chen ; made a sort of day-call at those of Kabah ; next paid another day's visit to Zayi, where STEPHENS had been before him ; "saw at a distance the ruins of Nohpat," but his " haste to reach Usmal would not allow him to stop "; and, after examining this city, whose remains WALuncic had elaborately described many years ago, he departed to the port of Campeachy by way of Merida, and embarked for home. The time he occupied in his Rambles was about five months. The only instrument of any kind which he possessed was a compass ; and that must have been utterly useless in investigating architectural ruins, beyond fixing the relative posi- tion of the buildings to the cardinal-points : not a book does be seem to have read or to have had, (though STEPHENS lent him WALDECK') till be began to read up or " cram " from BRADFORD and other writers on American antiquities. Yet, so qualified, he turns historian and archeologist, as readily as he would engage in -any other speculation.
It will be seen from this description that the work has two fea- tures—the narrative of the tour, and the account of the ruined mo- numents of a past people. The tour is rapid, both in the move- ments of the tourist and in his description of them : it is also read- able, for Mr. NORMAN gallops on, never pausing to puzzle himself or his readers with profundities or to penetrate below the surface, but tells what he sees or what he hears ; superficially indeed, though with animal spirits. In his narrative there is nothing of ad- venture, and he underwent little of what would be considered priva- tion by a person accustomed to the hardships of the back-woods, or used to an active colonial life ; but Yucatan does not furnish the conveniences of the grand tour, or even of travelling in Egypt or India. The journey for the most part must be made in the saddle : unless the traveller can procure an invitation from the clergyman in the villages or smaller towns, he must put up at the traveller's house, or hut, where he is generally exposed to all the elements, with nothing to eat but boiled Indian corn and a national dish of beans, and nothing to drink but a substitute for coffee in the form of a Yucatan "Hunt's patent roasted." This mode of excursionizing, with the novelty incidental to the country and the people, gives character and amusing power to the Rambles in Yucatan : but it is a book the reader may readily dispense with.
The discovery of Mr. NORMAN as an explorer is limited to a single point—he shows the dense population and the number of cities existing in this part of America at some remote period. The ruins of buildings quite as extraordinary as any thing which he has discovered, if not more so, were known to the world during the last century ; and an account of their remains was published by men more competent to the task than Mr. NORMAN : within these two years, his countryman, STEPHENS has again roused the attention of the public by his Travels in Central America; whilst as regards extent, magnificence, style of art and preservation, Palanque and Uxmal seem to us to excel any remains which Mr. NORMAN visited. One fact, however, he has established, and a very startling fact it is—that within one parallel of latitude, and between two seas not two hundred miles apart, the ruins of more than half-a-dozen cities are to be traced, which, if the description is to be trusted, excel in magnitude and mere material magnificence all the ancient cities of the old world, except Rome, Thebes, and Babylon.
The views and speculations of Mr. NORMAN on the nature and antiquity of the ruins he saw, or on the character of the people that erected them, are of slender value : his facts are drawn from very obvious sources, and not always with discrimination ; his reflections are those of an overgrown schoolboy engaged upon a theme. His account of the ruins themselves is of little value beyond such a ge- neral description as anybody might give on a general survey ; for he had neither time, instruments, nor ability to use them. The difficulty of measuring extensive ruins with accuracy is well known, even when the ruins are accessible, the measurers experienced, and the necessary implements at hand. Mr. NORMAN had no instru- ment—not even a draper's yard-stick ; the ruins, through the lux- uriance of a Tropical vegetation, are inaccessible till a path is cut by the axe ; time, matter, and vegetable luxuriance, have sur- rounded the remains with fallen fragments, planted them with trees, and destroyed equality of surface-level. Yet despite of all this, Mr. NORMAN proceeds to give the dimensions of buildings, which he could not even have tried by the rule of step, sometimes with only an approach to accuracy—as about so and so ; at other times with exactness—" the distance between these two extremes is four hundred and fifty feet." This circumstance renders us ex- tremely distrustful, not of Mr. NORMAN'S veracity, but as to how far his statements can be safely received. And this seems to be a national failing—not untruth so much as want of correctness. Part of this, as is sometimes alleged, may arise from their Demo- cratic institutions, which, enabling every ill-informed and un- scrupulous man to address an ill-informed and consequently a credulous public, renders strictness of statement not necessary ; but some of it is probably caused by the social position of America—the habit or necessity of living upon the shift, and making one thing do for another : a system all very well in the daily work of the thinly-settled districts, but which must not be applied to mathematical or other sciences.
The ruins of Chi-then, Kabah, and Zayi, do not strike us as pos- sessing any novelty either of principle or of detail: they consist of a pyramid or pyramids duly adjusted to the four cardinal points, but, like those of Egypt, without any obvious purpose, and of so-called palaces—structures of great extent and magnificence, and erected at a vast expense of labour, but not offering a convenience or utility in the slightest degree proportioned to their cost, the chambers being small and dark—more like tombs than rooms. Having, however, upon two late occasions* entered into the subject of these Transatlantic Pelasgi, or Etruscans, or Antidelu- vians, we shall not again go into it ; especially as Mr. STEPHENS is engaged in exploring the province of Yucatan, not merely in order to describe its remains, but with a view, we believe, to the removal of the most characteristic and transportable specimens to the United States to form an American museum. We will, how- ever, take a few quotations from Mr. NORMAN, as a sample of his Rambles in Yucatan.
THE FIRST COACH IN YUCATAN.
I left Merida by coach for Campeachy. It started at five o'clock in the morn- ing, with three passengers ; an elderly woman and man and myself composing the load. The team galloped off at the rate of ten miles the hour, and changed horses every hour during the route. The coach was one of four which were im- ported from Troy ; and, as a sample, was well worthy of the high reputation the Trojan carriages enjoy throughout the United States ; but the horses and harness were in shocking bad keeping. The driver was an Indian ; besides whom were two other attendants, who were needed, for the unskilful hands of the Indian, and the wildness of the horses made the vehicle go on all sides of the road. It was no uncommon oc- currence to he brought up against a stone wall at the side of the road; and, in one instance, we were foul of an Indian hut, which frightened the inmates to such a degree that they ran out, supposing it to be an earthquake. By com- bining the skill and strength of our whole party, we succeed in getting the horses and coach again upon the high way.
We stopped at a village to take breakfast, and passed through several towns on the road, but they afforded nothing worthy of remark. The country through which our route lay, presented the same aspect as other parts we had visited. The fields were still covered with weeds, to burn which the proprietors of the SOU were only waiting for dry weather. This is the only preparation the soil receives prior to sowing it. The progress of the coach afforded us much amuse- ment, by the fright which it appeared to occasion to all animated nature in our way. This line of coaches had been only a short time established, and its whirling along among people and cattle, had a similar effect that a locomotive has among the animals and their owners in the wilds of the far West. Nothing would stand before it. Away went horse and rider, mule and packs, to secure a safe retreat in the bushes, at the alarming sound of our approach. Our ar- rival in the town brought out the whole population, and the Indians would come round the coach aching with curiosity, their countenances expressive 1 o'h of fear and admiration.
ZPPECTS OP DRESS.
This morning, at the usual breakfast hour, I left the " vestry " for the house. On the way thither I was met by the major-domo, who, I observed, was very polite indeed—unusually so. He took my hand and led me into the dwelling, where the best hammock was opened for my reception. I sat down and took a swing. Presently the lady of the mansion, who had arrived " by coach " the previous evening, made her appearance, dropping me one of her sweetest courtesies, and passed out at another door. The children all followed in slow procession, giving me a similar salutation ; until, eventually, I was left alone in silent astonishment. During this ceremony the Indians were peeping in at the doors, apparently awaiting their turn ; and, sure enough, it came. They ap- proached in single file, to the number of some thirty, and, as they marched past, partially knelt, and made all sorts of obeisances : which were acknow- ledged with as much form as my inexperienced greatness could command. I was lost in amazement. I began to survey the room in search of a mirror, to see what change had taken place in my person ; and the fact stared me in the face. It was my black suit that I had put on in the morning, Coot being on fatigue duty today,) that had given this first impression of my importance—having, heretofore, only appeared in my working guise before them. In my future rambles, I shall benefit by my experience in this little affair ; and would re- commend it to the careful consideration of all who may hereafter travel in these parts. After breakfast I stepped aside, and examined the coat more par- ticularly, to ascertain how long its newly discovered virtues might be expected to abide with it. I was delighted to find that it would probably supply me with all the dignity I should require during my residence in the country.
• Spectator, No. 684; Stephens's Travels in Central America No. 720; Bradford's Americas Antiquities.
The three days of masquerade before Lent, (Ash-Wednesday,) commenced on Sunday the 6th of February. The riband, or pole-dance, among the masqueraders, excited the most attention. A pole, about twenty feet long, was raised perpendicularly, from the top of which were fastened fifteen or twenty pieces of wide, variously-coloured ribands. Each dancer, laying hold of a piece and extending it, formed a wide circle around the pole. The dan- cing commenced at a given signal, all joining. They crossed each other with the greatest precision, and in such order as to form a beautiful lattice or net- work with the ribands, until they were wound up. The figure then suddenly changes, and the ribands, by a reverse movement, are unwound. This they continue until they are tired. The evenings of the three days were finished by balls at the house of some one of the citizens, where the moat respectable part of the population was to be seen.
THE LADIES OF YUCATAN,
The social condition of the sex in Yucatan, so far as my observation ex- tends, compares very favourably with that of females of the same rank in the other provinces of Mexico. The Yucatecos ladies generally attend to their household affairs, and to the education of their children ; but though their habits are rather domestic, the standard of virtue is not to be estimated as high as in the United States. Their personal attractions are quite inconsi- derable. In the absence of animation and intelligence, nothing is left to fasci- nate or to be loved. The brunette complexion, regular features, black hair, and eyes of the same colour predominate. They dress in the Spanish fashion— bright colours are generally preferred—with alight veil thrown over their heads, and a profusion of jewellery and other ornaments carefully arranged about their persons. They seldom walk out, except to church, where they appear to more advantage than at any other place. At their houses, their carelessness of dress amounts to slovenliness. They may be seen at almost any hour of the day, swinging in their hammocks, with cigars in their mouths, or making their toilet in the doorway of their dwellings. It is a general custom here for the ladies to sleep in this suspended apparatus. Those who are accustomed to the luxury of a bedstead, are not easily reconciled to this arrangement ; and I have in vain tried to discover a sufficient reason for the prevalence of these articles, to the exclusion of the bedstead. The gambling propensities of the ladies are as strong as those of the gentle- men ; which, however, they do not indulge in to so great an extent. They mingle at the public tables, but good order and decorum always prevail. A stranger is particularly struck with the apathy of the wife in her house- hold affairs. She is seldom seen in conversation with her husband. Being poorly educated, she has no literary resources whatever. She is rarely sem with a book in her hand. The common topics of her household form the only points of intellectual contact between herself and her husband. Sleep is her chief resource ; and, in the swing of the hammock, many of her best hours are lost in forgetfulness. Music, I found to my great surprise, was but little cultivated.
It should be said in fairness to Mr. NORMAN, that he makes no pretension to science, but distinctly and rather naively disavows it. Had he been the first to make these discoveries in a country where antiquities were unknown or forgotten, this fact would have been entitled to every weight. But the principal cities he visited have been explored already ; the others are in course of explora- tion by a countryman ; and the general, hasty, rule-of-thumb ac- count of Mr. NORMAN, seems rather like an attempt to forestall STEPHENS than called for as a necessity.