16 SEPTEMBER 1871, Page 16


THz two travellers whose books we have placed together, and of whom one is an American, the other an Englishman, went over the same ground during the latter part of their journey, but have very few features in common. The main difference in their routes is that Mr. Knox started on the Amoor River, while Mr. -Whyte began with the desert of Gobi ; but from Kiachta they took the same course through Siberia, and both books end with the arrival at St. Petersburgh. For the honour of our country, we regret to say that Mr. Whyte's book bears no comparison with Mr. Knox's. The American traveller, no doubt, enjoyed his trip more, and was generally more fortunate than the Englishman, but it is not this alone which makes his book by far the most readable. Quickness of observation, liveliness of style, and fund of national exaggera- tion and characteristic anecdote, keep us interested through 600 pages. Mr. Whyte's book is much shorter, but is tame and want- ing in colour. The dreary journey across the desert, with a furious wind blowing, the sufferings of the travellers in their miserable carts dragged by stubborn camels, the piercing cold, the want of food and sleep, can hardly inspire a very lively description. Mr. Whyte, however, says that he is glad to have made the journey, and Mr. Knox had originally intended to make it. Probably, if the two writers read each other's books, Mr. Knox will find sonic reason to rejoice that he did not venture across the desert, and Mr. Whyte will verify his own remark that American travellers have the advantage of Englishmen.

The chief incidents in Mr. Whyte's journey were his being left behind for a whole night in the desert of Gobi, and his meeting with one or two attempts at robbery. Mr. Knox's experiences were of a much lighter cast, but are marked by greater variety. Inetead of confining himself rigidly to what he saw, Mr. Knox borrows freely from everybody he met, and is always being re- minded of American stories which excel the points they are meant to illustrate. A propos of a Russian game of cards, Mr. Knox tells of a Western actor who went to Australia, and who found that the only drawback to his making a large fortune was the way in which all the receipts at the door were stolen by his treasurer. Not being able to get a more trustworthy man in the colony, the actor did not discharge his treasurer, but taught him an American game of cards, borrowed five dollars of him to start with, and then won back every morning the money taken the night before. Occasionally Mr. Knox's love of telling dories leads to a repetition, as in the case of the two adventures with wolves, which have a very strong family likeness. But there is no sameness in his running remarks on persons and things, or in the quaint comparisons that are thrown out when- ever he meets with anything novel. A few instances of the kind will show what is the nature of his book. Describing a night visit to a Mongol family, he says, "the lady of the house was * Overland thronyh Asia : Pictures of Siberian, Chinese, and Tartar Life. By Thomas W. Knox. Loudon: Trtibnor. Hartford F. E. Bliss and Co. 1871.

* A Land Journey from Amia to Europe: being an Account 0/a Camel and Sledge Journey from Canton to St. Peremburgh, through the Plains oe Mongolia and Siberia. By William Allonry Whyte, F.U.G.S. London: Low, Son, and Marston. 1871.

huddled under a coverlid about as large as a postage stamp, and did not appear encumbered with much clothing. The delay in admitting us was to permit the head of the house to dress in recep- tion costume, which he did by putting on his shirt." A somewhat similar spectacle was presented a few days later on the shores of the Amoor. Mr. Knox met with some natives belonging to a wandering tribe, and he thus describes their garb and appear-

ance One of the native gentlemen was near the bank of the river in the attitude of an orator, but not properly dressed for a public occasion. His only garments were a hat and a string of beads, and he was accompanied by a couple of young ladies in the same picturesque costume, minus the hat and beads." Both Mr. Whyte and Mr. Knox give us a description of a Russian bath, aud. neither seems to have enjoyed the steaming part of the process. But the reflection forced upon Mr. Knox's mind was that a lobster must be very unfortunate when it went to pot and exchanged its green for scarlet. As an American, accustomed to travel on the Western rivers, Mr. Knox was not struck by the alacrity of " wooding up" on the Arnoor. After describing the leisurely way in which each of the deck hands looped a piece of rope round a few sticks, shouldered the bundle and walked on board, twelve men taking an hour and a half to ship four cords of wood, Mr. Knox adds, " There was but one man displaying any activity, and he was falling from the plank into the river." The involuntary smartness of this movement, which was merely a tribute to the laws of gravity, shows the value of the exception. Probably Mr. Knox finds more affinity to American ideas, at least as they are typified. by Barnum, in the nature of the exports from the Amoor. One cargo of ice, he says, was sent to China, but it melted on the way from improper packing. A cargo of hams was consigned to a Hong Kong merchant, but when he opened the barrels he found they contained nothing but bones. "As the bone market was low at that time, he did not repeat his order." The purchaser of the wooden hams probably came to the same conclusion.

On their way through Siberia both the travellers naturally touch on the treatment of the persons sent there either for crimes or political causes, and here Mr. Knox is more favourable to the Russian Government than Mr. Whyte. The American writer says that the object of deportation to Siberia is to people the country, and that if the exiles were treated so cruelly that half of them died on the road the policy of the Government would be defeated. Mr. Whyte alludes chiefly to the labour imposed upon the exiles after their arrival, and to the absolute degradation of many people of good family whose only offence is hostility to the Russian Government. On this question we may fairly assume that each writer is guided by his own sympathies. Mr. Knox was treated with great courtesy at Irkutsk by the Russian GovernmeGeneral, and may have received his information from official and slightly interested sources. Yet we should have thought that the career of Ram. Piotrowski, which be narrates in this volume, would have produced a more marked effect upon his mind. Among matters connected with the Russian Government we may mention the case of a favourite actor who was arrested because the Emperor Nicholeta had spoken to him in the public garden. The police had orders to arrest anyone who spoke to the Emperor, and the actor being addressed by the Emperor could not help replying, so he came within the rule, The Emperor was much vexed at this stupidity, and wanted to make any amends in his power, but the only favour asked by the actor was that his Majesty would never address him again in the public garden. Mr. Knox was treated at Irkutsk as the representative of the United States, had to return thanks

for the President and Congress and to propose the Emperor's health at a dinner where the Governor-General was present. A- propos of this speech, which lasted only two minutes, we are told

that another American had made a much longer oration in the same hall in answer to a toast given by General Mouravieff. After the American had spoken for six or eight minutes, the General asked some one at table to translate what had beim said. "He thanks you," was the reply, The American spoke for six or eight minutes more, and a similar demand was made on the interpreter. He thanks you very much," was the reply. A closing period of the same length led to a third question, and the third reply was, " He thanks you very mucli indeed." It seemed to the American speaker that Russian muss be a very comprehensive language, if it reproduced an address of twenty minutes in three or four words. However, when Mr. Knox went to buy a sleigh for the journey from Irkutsk to Nijni, he found that brevity was not the rule in bargaining. He and hie friend talked for half an hour before the word "sleigh" was men- tioned, and in answer to an impatient remark, his friend said it was necessary to angle very cautiously and begin a long way from the desired subject. "If you want to buy a horse," Mr. Knox was told, "pretend that you want to sell a cow, but don't mention the horse at first. If you do, you will never succeed." Mr. Knox waited at Irkutsk till snow had fallen, but we presume he started earlier than Mr. Whyte, whose account of the cold he experienced is painful, even in the severity of the present summer. However, the Baikal lake was not frozen, so that the strange sensation of cross- ing it on a sleigh, which was described to Mr. Knox by a gentle- man in Irkutsk, was deaied to the English traveller. According to this account, the ice on the lake was six feet thick, but so transparent as to give the impression of driving over the surface of the water. Moreover, when the sleigh left the shore the opposite side of the lake was not visible. Mr. Knox mentions the violent snow-storms which sweep over the north.eastera parts of Siberia, and which sometimes bury whole parties of travellers. On one occasion, scene people were forced to take refuge in a hollow, but the snow drifted so rapidly that when two of the party dug their way out they found themselves unable to reach their companions, and before the storm was over the drift wae fifty feet deep. The bodies of the other travellers were not recovered till the snow melted again, and then the remains of men and dogs were found huddled together as if they had closed up for the sake of warmth and had perished of suffocation. We commend this instance to Mr. Whyte, who tells us that winter is the best time for crossing the desert of Gobi, and who seems to have been fortunate in not having snow with the wind that swept those regions.

It can hardly be thought that either of the books before us will tempt future travellers, or cause any vivid desire for the intense cold of Siberia and the journey in carts drawn by camels. The New York banker who had never heard of Irkutsk may gain some information from Mr. Knox's book, but is not likely to be tempted to set up a branch establishment in that town. Mr. Whyte does not regret having taken his trip, as it is over, but says nothing on earth would lead him to repeat the experiment. This is fair warn- ing, and it will scarcely be thrown away unless Mr. Kuox's lively Americanisms serve as an antidote.