DR. DALTON'S ]IISTORIC' OF BRITISH GUIANA..
THE merits of this elaborate publication are not sufficiently great to struggle against the indifference with which colonial subjects are mostly regarded in England unless some peculiar circum- stance excites a temporary attention. Neither has Dr. Dalton, as it seems, sufficiently considered how much has already been done to elucidate the physical features, natural history, and of late years the social condition of British Guiana. Schomburgk not only exhibited the cultivated parts of the colony, but explored the teeming wilderness where the White man's foot has rarely or never trod, and presented its peculiarities with pen and pencil. He was preceded by several writers, who with less scientific know- ledge, perhaps with less graphic power, confined their attention to the inhabited districts and to some special subject. The economical struggle consequent on Emancipation threw out in various forms a great deal of information respecting the different classes of the colony, as well as of their past and present condition, with a ful- ness which only such a vital contest could produce. The political violence consequent upon West Indian distress and Colonial Office proceedings gave rise to further controversy, with its masses of information, though a little onesided. Undoubtedly all this is scattered or isolated, but it is accessible for those who want it; and the same may be said of the materials for the history of British Guiana.
The only mode in which the public apathy on such a subject could be overcome, would be by condensed weight or graphic power. If a large amount of information was presented in a well- arranged form and a terse diction, elucidating those principles of politics and political economy which every colonial story must con- tain, the book would become a standard. As the original disco- verers of a country or founders of a colony are mostly men with a marked character, and the West Indies are distinguished for natu- ral features of beauty, grandeur, or singularity, there are two ready elements for pictorial narrative. The struggles of the colo- nists with nature, or with enemies whether savage or civilized, if painted by a man of imaginative powers in the picturesque style of Macaulay, would attract readers by the mere brilliancy of exe- cution. This History of British Guiana cannot be said to ap- proach either mode. The author is fluent, but with a sort of com- monplace fluency, which often runs away with him. There does not appear to be any deficiency of inquiry on the part of Dr. Dal- ton, but he has not grasped his subject. He glides over it, rather than gets into it, and indulges too much in remarks—a fact and a reflection. He wants force of conception as well as of style.
The most satisfactory part of the work is that which relates to medicine, or its cognate topics, climate, temperature, &a. Dr. Dalton ascribes more virtue to the climate than do people in ge- neral; for Guiana has the repute of being nearly if not quite the worst of the West India colonies. This, however, was to be ex- pected. No practitioner decries: the spot he lives by. Here is a sketch of the first effects upon a new arrival. "To the stranger arriving from a temperate climate the augmented tem- perature is sensibly felt, and a stimulus is temporarily given to the organs of circulation, and to the akin; which latter, as indicated by the state of un- usual activity of the capillary vessels, is thrown into a state of morbid ac- tivity, a corresponding stimulus is given to the exhalant vessels, and the sensible perspiration is materially increased in quantity, inducing consider- able thirst. The function of the lungs, or inspiration, becomes exalted, and more respirations are taken during a minute than was usual before ; but this state does not last. The nervous system soon becomes exhausted by the general tendency to increased activity throughout the whole body, and lassi- tude and fatigue are soon experienced. The appetite for food, although at first increased, is more or less impaired, and the digestion is not so perfect as before ; thirst, and the inclination to drink, are early manifested, and a par- ticular craving for sour or acidulated fruits or beverages is manifested. The skin, already in estate of activity, becomes irritated by the bites of mosquitoes and other insects ; and, whether from the quantity of the blood, the active state of the absorbents, or other causes, in most constitutions a local inflammation follows, the part bitten becomes red, swollen, hot, and painful ; and if further irritated by scratching or more bites, has a tendency to ulcerate ; the feet and hands, indeed the whole body, assumes a temporary increase of bulk, which is singular, considering the augmented free perspiration : this does not continue very long, however, and most young persons become thinner after a short residence here. "From the increased temperature, it is no wonder that the individual tries to relieve himself by dressing as lightly as possible, by exposing himself to currents of cool air, and by drinking largely ; often, indeed, making use of spirituous or vinous drinks to stimulate the flagging nervous energy. It would surely be needless to explain the imprudence of these proceedings. It may appear strange to say that a person can dress too lightly in a climate where the Natives, Creoles, and Africans, are accustomed to go about in a state almost of nudity without inconvenience; but it should be remembered that previous habits render the European obnoxious to any such marked change in his clothing, whilst custom as a second nature has inured the aboriginal to his scanty apparel. On the other hand, it is not intended to recommend the utility or prudence of wearing only woollen clothes or simi- lar warm apparel; very often the vessels of the skin try to relieye themselves of their excited- or congested state by developing eruptions, or rather, the blood relieves itself in this way of any morbid element. Hence the stranger is sometimes annoyed at the appearance of boils, prickly heat, nettle-rash, or other cutaneous disorder. With caution and moderate living, frequent • The History of British Guiana. Comprising a General Description of the Co- lony; a Narrative of some of the principal Events, from the earliest period of its Discovery to the present time; together with an Account of its Climate, Geology, Staple Products, and Natural History. By Henry G. Dalton, 111.D., &e. &c. &c. in two volumes. Published by Longman and Co.
ablutions and cleanliness, and ordinary prudence, it is surprising how soon the system accommodates itself to the change during the process of acclima- tization. Very often in some individuals scarcely any of the above symptoms are experienced, and they settle down with as much comfort in this part of New World as they enjoyed elsewhere. It is not a little remarkable, that for the first few months, except during the presence of epidemics, it is rare for any individual to suffer from the effects of fever or ague, or, indeed, any other important disorder; whilst to most persons who practise cleanliness, temperance, and exercise, this country and climate may be considered as fa- vourable as man, others. It is not intended here to recommend a total ab- stinence from wine or malt. This, if not so erroneous as an improper abuse of stimulant, has also its evils. As the mind requires the stimulus of occu- pation, so does the body benefit by the moderate use of stimulants. A few glasses of wine, or one or two of malt, I can never believe to be injurious to health in this or any other climate. It renews to a proper degree of activity the important function of circulation, digestion, and nutrition. Indeed, good living appears essential to good health, and there is an intolerance of unsubstantial articles of food, such as vegetables, starches, grain, &c. Whilst, however, the diminution of nervous energy alluded to has its incon- veniences, it has also some advantages, one of the most marked of which is the general absence of severe constitutional symptoms attendant on some severe diseases, which elsewhere render the life of patients miserable. It would be going too far to say that there is a general absence of pain, but certainly it is remarkable that the most painful diseases to which human nature is subject are unknown here, or are greatly modified.
"Neuralgic affections are rare, acute inflammatory diseases uncommon, and it will hardly be credited that persons are often met who have laboured for years under the most aggravated forms of cancer, diseases of the bones, deep and large ulcers, eruptions of the skin, without any of that marked suffering which in other countries characterizes these distressing ailments. I have myself seen cases where extensive diseases of joints, of the eyes, of the rnammx, of the uterus, of bursm, &c., have slowly progressed without the patients losing materially either their appetites, their flesh, or their natural rest."