CAPTAIN MARRYAT'S MONSIEUR VIOLET.
Monsieur Violet seems to us a fiction, though professing to be a narrative of facts, and offering, besides the interest of a story and the exhibition of character and manners, information about unex- plored countries, unknown tribes, and novelties in natural history. Whether this opinion be correct, or whether the work has some foundation in reality, we think it exceeds the legitimate province of fiction ; which ought to take existing truths for its basis, how- ever it may clothe them in new forms; for even the most imagina- tive work is grounded upon assumed truths as they exist in belief, if not in reality.
This critical canon Meattrex appears to have forgotten ; and hence his work suffers from the doubts of the reader in the truth of much that is related, as well as from the author's want of imagina- tion to vivify the wild and the remote, and to paint the manners which he has not seen. CATLIN appears to have furnished the facts of Indian home life ; many records exist of Indian speeches and Indian councils ; and several travellers have painted the stir- ring incidents of buffalo and other hunts, with the fearful hardships of the prairie and Rocky Mountains. The author's genius, and habitual observation of occurrences, with a military turn for con- cocting ambuscades or other unrealities that must yet seem real, give a matter-of-fact air to the narrative ; but the want of imaginative feeling prevents him from reproducing his materials in an easy and life-like way. The Indians are imitated and lame. They have none of that evident nature which characterizes the Red Men of COOPER or of the IRVINGS. Every thing seems made up : we have phrases instead of manners ; and even their customs are not always correctly presented—Red Men, for example, would not assault a fort in a dense mass by day. (Vol. I. page 162 ) It may be said that the Shoshones or Snake Indians are described by VIOLET as superior to the other tribes, and different from them : but the warriors who advanced in close array were not Snakes ; and if the Snakes differ in language from the other Indians, how come they to call the Deity " Manitou " ? The sketches iu Texas are better. MARRTAT has seen manners of the same kind in the rougher parts of the United States, and he describes them with effect ; though he probably exaggerates the pic- ture by attributing the behaviour and conduct of the lower Ame- ricans to a higher class of Texiaus.
While the general spirit of the work suffers from these causes, its plan prevents it front possessing the interest of a regularly connected story ; though more might have been accomplished in this way. The book is not only a mere succession of scenes and adventures, but is without the coherence of art, or the nature of what is called
chance—the incidents seem to spring from the head of the author. Monsieur Violet is the son of an adherent of Charles the Tenth, whom he has followed into exile. Violet the elder subsequently meets with an old friend, an Italian Prince Seravalle, banished for his Liberalism; who has sojourned among the Shoshones inhabiting the Northern parts of California, and has returned ;o Europe with the view of carrying out goods, settlers, and divines, to civilize the Indians. Old Monsieur Violet falls in with this scheme of his friend ; but a series of convenient misfortunes, by loss of property and eventually of the lives of the elderly people, defeat it ; and young Violet, who has been received as a chief of the tribe, is left almost alone. At this stage the more stirring parts of the narra- tive begin. Monsieur Violet plans campaigns against the Indian enemies of the Shoshones ; he wages war against the Mexicans in defence of the White settlers of California; and even contemplates uniting the scattered tribes of Indians, and making himself a great king over them and the Californians, when some Yankee traders invite him to dinner, and seize and sell him to the Mexicans. Rescued from impending death by a party of Indians, he travels through Texas and the country intervening between the Texan frontier and the more settled parts of the United States. On this journey he goes through many adventures of the wild and wonder- ful kind ; and the third volume closes with Monsieur Violet mak- ing some diplomatic communications to Joe Smith, the head of the sect called Mormons, in order to unite the entire of the Red Indian tribes in a grand confederacy.
Compared with MARRYAT'S better works, Monsieur Violet is a poor affair ; but it is readable, and not devoid of a certain interest, from the rapid succession of adventure, the minute and truthful air of the narrative, and the distinctness of the style, which is perhaps clearer than ever. In the preface, Captain MARRYAT intimates that Monsieur VIOLET'S facts, however surprising, are believed by the Captain to be correct. That MARRYAT may have received some late information concerning the state of Texas, is very likely : that the stories respecting the Snake and other Indians are derived from observation, we cannot believe—they have all the air of in- ventions, and of ignorant invention : as regards the Indian traditions about the peopling of America, and the facts in geology and na- tural history, the strongest argument in favour of their not being MARRYAT'S is that they look like the lucubrations of a French- man upon matters about which he knows nothing. The longer scenes and adventures, although readable, have little of generic novelty, and somewhat Of a melodramatic air besides: we will therefore take our extracts from the more miscellaneous
parts. THE RAC-TRADE OF TEXAS.
Each of our new companions had some little Texian history to relate, which they declared to be the most rascally but smartish trick in the world. One of -the lawyers was once summoned before a magistrate, and a false New Orleans fifty-dollar bank-note was presented to him as the identical one he had given to the clerk of Tremont House, (the great hotel at Galveston,) in payment of his weekly bill. Now, the lawyer had often dreamed of fifties, hundreds, and even of thousands ; but Fortune had been so fickle with him, that he had never been in possession of bank-notes higher than five or ten dollars. • • • * Of course, the lawyer had no remorse of conscience, in swearing that the note had never been his ; but the tavern-keeper and two witnesses swore to his having given it, and the poor fellow was condemned to recash and pay expenses. Having not a cent, he was allowed to go; for it so happened that the gaol was not built for such vagabonds, but for the Government-officers, who had their sleeping apartments in it. This circumstance occasioned it to be remarked by a few commonly honest people., Galveston, that if the gates of the gaol were closed at night, the community would be much improved. Three days afterwards, a poor captain, from a Boston vessel, was summoned for the very identical bank-note ; which he was obliged to pay, though he had never set his foot into the Tremont Hotel.
There is in Galveston a new-invented trade, called "the rag trade," which is very profitable. I refer to the purchasing and selling of false bank-notes, which are, as in the lawyer's case, palmed upon any stranger suspected of having money. On such occasions, the magistrate and the plaintiff share the booty. I may as well here add a fact which is well known in France and the United States. Eight days after the Marquis de Saligny's (French Chargé d'Affaires) arrival in Houston, be was summoned before a magistrate, and, upon the oaths of the parties, found guilty of having passed seven hundred dollars in false notes to a land-speculator. He paid the money; but as he never had in his possession any money, except French gold and notes of the Banque de France, he complained to his Government ; and this specimen of Texian honesty was the principal cause why the banker (Lafitie) suddenly broke the arrangement he had entered into with General Hamilton (Chargé d'Affaires from Texas to England and France) fur a loan of seven millions of dollars.
We met again with our old friends the Wakoes, and learned that there was a party of sixty or seventy Yankees or Texians roaming about the upper forks of the Trinity, committing all sorts of depredations, and painting their bodies like the Indians, that their enormities might be laid to the account of the savages. This may appear strange to the reader, but it has been a common practice for some time. There have always been in the United States a nume- rous body of individuals, who, having by their crimes been compelled to quit the settlements of the East, have sought shelter out of the reach of civiliza- tion. These individuals are all desperate characters, and, uniting themselves in small bands, come fearlessly among the savages, taking squaws and living among them till a sufficient period has elapsed to enable them to venture, under an assumed name and in a distant state, to return with impunity and enjoy the wealth acquired by plunder and assassination.
This is the history of the major portion of the Western pioneers, whose courage and virtues have been so much celebrated by American writers. As they increased in numbers, these pioneers conceived a plan by which they acquired great wealth. They united together, forming a society of land pri- vateers or buccaneers, and made incursions into the very beartof the French and Spanish settlements of the West ; where, not being-expected, they surprised the people and carried off great booty. When, however, these Spanish and French possessions were Incorporated into the United States, they altered their system of plunder ; and under the name of Border's Buggies, they infested the states of the Mississippi and Tennessee ; where they obtained such a dreaded re- putation that the Government sent out many expeditions against them, which, however, were useless, as all the principal magistrates of these states had con- trived even themselves to be elected members of the fraternity. The increase
of population broke up this system, and the " Buggies" were compelled to re- sort to other measures. Well acquainted with Indian manners, they would dress and paint themselves as savages, and attack the caravans to Mexico. The traders, in their reports, would attribute the deed to some tribe of Indians, probably, at the moment of the attack, some five or six hundred miles distant from the spot.
This land-pirating is now carried to a greater extent than ever. Bands of fifty or sixty pioneers steal horses, cattle, and slaves from the West of Arkansas and Louisiana, and sell them in Texas, where they have their agents ; and then, under the disguise of Indian warriors, they attack plantations in Texas, carry- ing away with them large herds of horses and cattle, which they drive to Mis- souri, through the lonely mountain-passes of the Arkansas, or to the Attalapas and Opelousas districts of Western Louisiana, forcing their way through the lakes and swamps on both shores of the river Sabine.
SOURCES OF AMERICAN SUPERSTITION.
At these confines of civilization, the American is always a hunter; and those who dwell on the smaller farms, at the edges of forests, often depend for their animal food upon the skill of the male portion of their community. In the fall of the year, the American shoulders his rifle and goes alone into the wilds, to "see after his pigs, horses, and cows." Constantly on the look-out for deer and wild bees, he resorts to the most secluded spots, to swamps, mountain- ridges, or along the bushy windings of some cool stream. Constant views of nature in her grandeur, the unbroken silence of his wanderings, causes a de- pression of the mind ; and, as his faculties of sight and hearing are ever on the stretch, it affects his nervous system. He starts at the falling of a dried leaf, and, with a keen and painful sensation, be scrutinizes the withered grass before him, aware that at every step he may trample upon some venomous and deadly reptile. Moreover, in his wanderings he is often pressed with hunger, and is exposed to a great deal of fatigue. " Fast in the wilds, and you will dream of spirits," is an Indian axiom, and a very true one. If to the above we add, that his mind is already prepared to receive the impressions of the mysterious and marvellous, we cannot wonder at their becoming superstitious. As children, they imbibe a disposition for the marvellous; during the long evenings of winter, when the snow is deep and the wild wind roars through the trees, the old people will smoke their pipes near huge blazing logs, and relate to them some terrible adventure. They speak of unearthly noises heard near some caves; of hairbreadth escapes in encounters with evil spirits, under the form of wild animals ; and many will whisper that at such a time of night, returning from some neighbouring market, they have met with the Evil One in the forest, in such and such a spot, where the two roads cross each other, or where the old oak bail been blasted by lightning. The boy grows to manhood, but these family traditions are deeply engraved in his memory ; and when slime in the solitude near the "haunted pUemi,- " his morbid imagination embodies the phantoms of his diseased brain.