THE BROTHERS ROBERTSON'S LETTERS ON SOUTH MERICA.
LEAVINGS are proverbially distasteful things, either from intrinsic causes, or the disregard that the offering them implies, or perhaps from both together. Fragments are thrown to dogs and beggars; most people prefer a plain dinner to the leavings of a banquet ; and there is a common saying among rustics and others, " Who is to eat your orts ? " In material matters a sense of this operates upon conduct : no host presents his guests with second-day dishes, at least without taking pains to disguise the fact. But bookmakers are not so scrupulous; they will serve up the leavings of their minds and matter more than once—not "old in new state," but old in a much worse state.
These Letters on South America are a book of leavings. They possess the literary faults of the writers' former works, with less matter, and a great deal of mere phrase-spinning reflection and remark. The materials are essentially the same as those of the Letters on Paraguay,—personal narratives of incident and adven- ture, accounts of manners and modes of doing business, sketches of
landscape, characters, amusements, and so forth, mingled with his- torical episodes, or at least accounts of public events. But there is no freshness—the same hind of thing was given to us upwards of four years ago; and the former things were more interesting, be- cause they had a generic novelty, and were the cream of the Messrs. ROBERTSON'S experience—the best of what they had suffered, done, and seen. It is a significant enough fact too, and might almost of itself bear testimony, that when they first wrote about a country hardly known to the reading public, and with their whole store of ideas to draw upon, two volumes sufficed for Paraguay—when they set down to bookmaking, they stuff out three volumes' and they might have doubled or tripled this number without difficulty upon their principles, of describing at length every incident, person, custom, or thing, a little out of the way, or perhaps commonplace on the banks of La Plata, often heading it by reflections and tailing it by ditto. It is not easy to give a specific account of a book which contains no particular plan, or very obvious chronology, and any part of which might change places with some other part without much perceptible injury. The form of the book, however, is that of a series of Letters, written from London, in 1842, to the once celebrated South American General MILLER; the brothers alter- nating a set of epistles, one taking up a subject of some kind, and when he has said his say the other appearing upon the scene. The professed object of the book is to give a continuous account of the residence of Messrs. ROBERTSON in South America : but if a person had not been informed of this in one of the four prefatory notices, he would hardly have found it out. The book is in fact a series of articles, written upon subjects native to Buenos Ayres and the banks of the Parana, including a couple of voyages home, with some lucubrations in London and Scotland ; and we suspect that some of the articles, like those on subjects furnished by the banks of the Thames, are occasionally a little heightened and improved for effect.
As among the leavings of a large banquet there are many tit- bits to be picked out, with now and then an uncut dish, so in the Letters on South America, characters, incidents, and sketches may be found, that are not devoid of interest and spirit. Had the book been considerably reduced by a free curtailment, especially of the authors' verbose literary stuffing, and published merely as sketches, there would have been a readable and pleasant enough c011ection. No purgation, however, could .have removed the taint of the original sin—that the work is a repetition, without essential novelty—that we had the cream of the authors' minds and matter some years ago ; so that, do what they would, they could only vamp up a secondhand article.
The most fresh and natural piece in the book is not by the Messrs. ROBERTSON, but by Mrs. CARTWRIGHT. This lady, when Miss POSTLETIIWAITE, resided at the inland town of Corrientes during an incursion of the Indians in one of the disturbances'of that disorganized country ; and she has furnished the authors with an account of her reminiscences of the event, in answer to their application. From this narrative we will take our extracts; re- marking, as we did on Mr. STEPHENS'S account of the capture of Guatemela, that an Indian army is much better to take a town than a civilized one—as Istalif may bear witness, to say nothing of Badajoz, St. Sebastian, &c.
INDIAN POSSESSION Or A TOWN.
"My father sent poor Lee, who was afterwards murdered in Corrientes, and another Englishman whose name I forget, with a letter to Andresito, requesting to know whether his (my father's) family and property would be protected in the event of his remaining. He received a very polite letter in reply, desiring him not to think of moving, as he should meet with no molestation ; Andresito begging at the same time to be placed at the feet of the Senora and Senoritas, and assuring theta there was not the least cause for alarm.
" I do not think with even this assurance we should have felt quite comfort- able, had we not been reassured by the presence of Don Pedro Campbell; note Comandante de Merinos, an especial favourite with Andres. Campbell ad- vised my father to take us into the square to see the Indians enter; for he thought Andresito would look upon it as a compliment to himself, and feel pleased by the attention shown him. We went accordingly, though not without some slight apprehensions ; for which, however, there was no cause. The Indian troops marched in very quietly and orderly ; were, after being drawn up in the square, dismissed to their barracks; and the General and his officers then at- tended high mass at San Francisco church.
"There was really much merit due to the Indians for their good conduct; for they had been suffering great hardships from want of clothing and food. They had frequently been compelled to boil pieces of dried hides and live upon them, not being able to procure even horse flesh ; and their clothing was truly miserable, many having only chiripfis, (or kilts,) and those who had any far- ther clothing being still quite in tatters. Some were armed with muskets, some with spears, and others with bows and arrows; while, bringing up the rear, and armed with the latter weapons of a small size, came about two hun- dred little Indian boys. It appeared they had been carried off at different times by the Correntinos, and treated as slaves. Wherever Andres found any of these children, he liberated them, and seized upon a corresponding number of the children, of the men in whose service he found them. The parents of the children thus taken away, not knowing what was to be their fate, were of course throrn into a state of great mental distress and alarm. After keeping the children prisoners for about a week, Andres sent for the mothers : he forcibly pointed out to them the cruelty and injustice of which they had been guilty towards the poor Indians, appealing to their own feelings of anguish as the best corroboration of his charge. Take back your children,' concluded Andres, 'and remember in future that Indian mothers have hearts.' " We had scarcely been at home an hour when we heard a baud of music approaching, and which we found was followed by the General, his officers and Secretary, (the latter a terrible villain,) accompanied by the Governor and his attendants. The sala was filled in an instant. The General said he was anxious to lose no rime in placing himself at the feet of the Senora and Seno- ritas, and to assure them of his desire to show them every respect. We were rather nervous you may be sure; but we certainly were treated with marled respect and attention, not only by Andresito himself, but by his officers and men, during the whole time they occupied Corrientes. His visit, I think, lasted
about three hours ; after which he went on board the Capitana, lying off the customhouse. About an hour and a half afterwards, we saw him carried past on the shoulders of his men, the excitement and the wine be had taken having completely overpowered the poor little man. But he recovered in the course of the afternoon, and, to our no small surprise, made us a second visit in the even- ing; being accompanied by Admiral Peter Campbell, and the bad Secretary al- ready mentioned. "Andresito fortunately took a great fancy to my father, who obtained a con- siderable control over him ; so that whenever 'the General' became violent, which he sometimes did after having drunk too much, my father was always sent for, and he commonly succeeded in soothing the Indian chief.
" The night after he took the town, we beard all the poor Cabildantes march- ing past our house, as prisoners in chains; and we learned next day that they had been taken on board the Capitana. They all expected to be shot. Old Cabral, Alcalde de Primer Voto, nearly lost his senses from the fright. My father was besieged on all sides to make cmpeno • or interest with the Gene- ral; and after some time, and with much difficulty, he obtained the re- lease of all the prisoners. The fact is, the Correntinos, (and particularly the ladies,) could not so far conquer the habitual contempt with which they looked down upon the Indians as to take any pains, although at the absolute mercy of Andresito, to conciliate him. He bad fixed his head-quarters at Bcdoya's house; and after be had levied a contribution to clothe his men, and bad thus equipped them very respectably, he gave two or three entertainments, to which he invited all the respectable inhabitants. These entertainments consisted of a kind of religious plays or dramas, performed by the Indians, and taught them by the Jesuits. One of them was the representation of the Tencacion de San Ignacio '; in the course of which some of their dances represented words, such as enearnacion; each figure forming a letter in the word. The General being surprised and mortified at the nonattendance of the Correntinos, be in- quired into the reason of their absence ; and it was ill- naturedly reported to him in reply, that the Correntinos said, Who would be at the trouble to go and see a set of Indians dance?'
"Andresito had hitherto submitted to a great many overt acts of contempt from the town, and had really shown more forbearance thau could have been expected from him; but now being completely roused, he took an extraordi- nary way of punishing his enemies. " So they do not choose to come and see the Indians dance,' said he ; ' well, let us try.' So the following morning, a very hot day, the drums beat to arms; and every man of respectability of the place, excepting Dun Isidore Mar- tinez, old Duran, and my father, was marshalled into the plaza or square ; and there they were made to pluck up the grass and weeds, level and clean it from one corner to the other. They were kept at work the whole day, under the blaze of a scorching sun : and really, however sorry one might feel for the unfortunate labourers, there was something laughable in the Indian's whim. I suppose the square was never before, nor has ever been since, in such perfect order. While the men were thus employed, their wives and daughters were taken off to the barracks, and made to dance all day with the Indians ; a much more unpardonable affront than the manual 'about imposed on the males.
"I must not omit to mention, that for his funcioues or plays, Audresito begged as a great favour that we would provide dresses for two of the performers; to which we of course agreed. After the dresses (fancy ones) were finished, and which we made as gay as possible, the men were sent to us to be dressed, and Tuckerman and Lee acted as valets. The Indians were so delighted with their own appearance, that Tuckerman found it almost impossible to get them along the streets to the General's house. Each would walk behind the other, that be might have the pleasure of viewing his own dress, for they were both exactly alike. The General was equally delighted, and exclaimed on seeing them, Que nines de Plata! ' (what silver young ladies!) and be forthwith begged us to equip two more. These four performed the parts of the guardian angels of San Ignacio; although the wings put on for their performance did not well accord with the helmets, with which they would not part. When Andresito left Corrientes, the angels rode before him for about two leagues out of town, and then their dresses were laid aside."