THE YACHT AND THE CANOE.*
WE have classed these two books together, because they show us that the pleasure of a summer tour does not depend on the things seen so much as on the eyes with -.which they are seen, and that people with every facility for enjoyment may make little use of their time, and have little to tell us, while a man who has simply gone out of the ruts of travel finds his story run smoothly. One would think that a gentleman like Mr. Nihil, wielding a pen which he boasts is a practised one, conversant with all subjects, from the identity between De Porquet and Mary Wedlake to the pictorial supremacy of Mr. Whistler, and visiting Norway in the only enjoyable way in which Norway is to be seen, pught to have made a book of real interest. We might or might not expect much from a canoe voyage on the rivers and lakes of Europe, according as we remembered the log of the Waterlily, or thought of the journal in which Mr. MacGregor's chapters appeared. As it is, our expectations from Mr. Nihil are doomed to disappointment ; those from Mr. MacGregor are more than fulfilled. The adven- tures of the canoe are more exciting than those of the Waterlily, if the style of the paddler is not equal to the style of the oars- anan. And though we hold up our hands in surprise at the thought of these papers having appeared in the Record, for, to our minds, a B.ecordite canoer would most resemble the sardonic diver of whom 'Thackeray made such fun in his preface to The Kieldeburys, there are but two or three passages obviously inspired by our sanctimo- nious contemporary, and some which must have gone against his grain.
Mr. Nihil seems fully aware that he has no story to tell, and he has probably derived his name from that Latin proverb which tells us what is made ex nihilo. We should imagine that his book wan written in consequence of the success of Travels by Umbra, but nothing can be less substantial than the shadow of a shade. A long account of Mr. Nihil's monkey fills some pages. We are then warmed with the new excitement of seeing a large steamer. The yacht stays for a time at Gliickstadt as being probably the dullest place on the Elbe, and Mr. Nihil goat; off into politics, -telling us that the Holsteiners do not care twopence about their independence. When he gets to Hamburg, Mr. Nihil. says that no one will expect even a catalogue raisonne of all the sights, and therefore he quotes Bradihaw, the official account of St. Michael's Church, and the menu at Streit's Hotel. The most significant fact connected with Hamburg is that while there "we read the fact of the Lord Chancellor's deposition, which to my mind was one of the most honourable and becoming acts of homage to decency that we have insisted on for some time." It is something that " we " (which of course means Mr. Nihil and his party) should have insisted on Lord Weatbury's retirement, but a homage to decency in one line reads strangely when the next line recounts a vist to a sort of cheap Cremorne. All that " we " see of Norway is the hideously dull town of Christian- aand, and the waterfall some miles above it. The waterfall is well described, but the defence of Christiansand against the charge of dullness brought by every living traveller, merely shows that Mr. Nihil is not as good a judge of dullness as from the specimen he has produced he ought to be. It is true, he tells us that one of his companions finds no place dull. Another never finds a cruise dull. Yet he seems afraid of our finding his own work dull, for he quotes whenever he can get a chance. After taking a page and a half from Dr. Dasent, on the plea that "pathetic and manly writ- ing never loses by being quoted," he proceeds to pick out pathetic and manly passages from Bradshaw and a Norwegian gazetteer. And when he gets home from his trip he winds up with fifty-two pages about Yarmouth, Deal, Ramsgate, the Daily Telegraph, town in September, the cabbages of Covent Garden, and a clerk who lived in the suburbs.
There is something fresh and exhilarating in Mr. MacGregor's canoe voyage, though he only professes to narrate what he did, and does not describe what he saw. "It is not my purpose to describe the towns seen on this tour," he says in one place ; and in another he considers himself justly punished by an upset for a "stupid, lazy fit" of admiration for high peaks glowing in the light of the setting sun. But though he keeps thus resolutely to the subject actually before him and rejects all extraneous interest, he is not wanting in liveliness. One reason of this may be that he always goes with the stream, and never paddles against it. Going down a swift river, he tells us, gives the same pleasant sense as going forward smoothly on a lofty rope swing. And then he
• Up the Rllse anal on to .iformay. Ity Mr. NILS. London : Cassell, Putter, and Thousand Ifdes in the Rob Roy Canoe on Risers and Lakes of Europe. By J. Macgregor, M.A. Second EdAlon. London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston.
has learnt that secret of much good writing which lies in looking ahead, so as to see that your sentence does not hit on a snag of unfortunate rhetoric, and is not swept away by a cross current of bad logic. If these advantages to style and matter accrue from a canoe voyage, we counsel all the other writers in the Record to take a cruise with Mr. MacGregor.
The further advantages of a canoe are that the calmer has a much greater command over his course than an oarsman has, can "steer within an inch in a narrow place, press through reeds and weeds, branches and grass, hoist and lower his Bail without chang- ing his seat, shove with his paddle when aground, or jump out in good time to prevent a decided smash. He can wade and haul the light craft over shallows, or on dry ground, through fields and hedges, over dykes, barriers, and walls ; can carry it by hand up ladders and stairs, and transport it over high mountains and broad plains in a cart drawn by a horse, a bullock, or a cow." All these things in turn are exemplified by Mr. MacGregor—We see him calmly mounting the rollers off the digue at Ostend, and steer- ing through the midst of a herd of cattle which were swimming the Meuse. In one picture he is represented as dragging his canoe through a hayfield, astonishing the haymakers by English speeches and MacGregorian chants, or he would push it point foremost through a hedge, finding out afterwards to his regret that he had got into the wrong field. We see him "shirking a fall" by climbing down the rocks and lowering his boat with him, or "flied on a fall," when the depth of water proved too little, and the canoe, after stopping and swinging round slowly, would tumble over sideways. His most exciting adventures were with rapids, and he has skilfully chosen the worst of them for his frontispiece. He is shooting the rapids of the Reuss. Right in front he sees a wave about six feet high, very thin and sharp- featured, and always stationary in position, though the water composing it was going at a tremendous pace. His canoe plunges headlong into it, "and before she could rise, the mass of solid water struck me with a heavy blow full in the breast, closing round my neck as if cold hands gripped me, and quite taking away my breath." Then he shoots the rapids of Rheinfelden, "some hundreds of acres all of water in white crested waves, only varied by black rocks resisting a struggling torrent." But he finds a middle channel, and goes through with ease. The lower rapids are worse, and so he gets astride the stern, with his legs hanging in the water. When the boat grounds his legs receive the shock, and on his stand- ing up the boat slips from under him without an injury. Of course the greatest decision and promptness are needed ; the channel must be chosen in a moment, and it must be the right one. But Mr. MacGregor became gradually so experienced in the look of currents and sunken rocks that he could choose his course without hazard, and in his appendix he gives diagrams for the use of beginners.
One thing, however, which will be found most essential by any men following Mr. MacGregor's example, is an unfailing fund of good humour. And this must make us more cautious in recom- mending his example to his collaborateurs. The traditional John Bull would have been shot at, arrested, stoned, cut down by scythes, or burnt as a wizard before he had accomplished the smallest part of Mr. MacGregor's journey. He would have quarrelled with the railway officials for refusing to take his canoe in the luggage van. When asked on a French canal to show his pass for the locks he would have knocked down the querist. lie would certainly not have received the curiosity of whole towns as a compliment, or have delayed his start to accommodate a bed- ridden old man who particularly wished to see it. He must have lost his temper at having to paddle through a forest of thick grass four feet high, and would probably have remained there to this day. For a canoe voyage has its drawbacks, and paddling through a jungle is one of them. When Mr. MacGregor gets soused in a rapid, or tumbles sideways over a weir, he does not mind, because it is all in the day's work. But there are other things which really ought not to count. The barriers on the Marne are evidently unfair, a series of steps, with a row of iron posts along each step, and chains fastened diagonally from the top of one post to the bottom of another. Mr. Macgregor got a ducking on one of these barriers under the eyes of a dozen navvies, and though the navvies cheered him he felt humiliated. Our own experience of canoes on the Cherwell certainly leads to the conviction that the legs are apt to be cramped, but Mr. Macgregor seems to have been more fortunate. He talks of sitting ten or twelve hours at a time, and dissuades you from towing as much slower progress than paddling, even when the arms are tired, and even though the canoe is so light that it can be drawn for miles by the little finger. But then Mr. MacGregor's canoe was built for him, was "not prepared until after much cogitation," and was "the very boat I wanted." Here is its ignalement:—
"The Rob Roy is built of oak, and covered fore and aft with cedar. She is made just short enough to go into the German railway waggons, -that is to say, fifteen feet in length, twenty-eight inches broad, nine inches deep, weighs eighty pounds, and draws three inches of water, -with an inch keel. A paddle seven feet long, with a blade at each end, and a lug sail and jib, are the means of propulsion ; and a pretty blue -silk Union Jack is the only ornament. The elliptic hole in which I sit is fifty-four inches long and twenty broad, and has a mackintosh cover 'fastened round the combing and to a button on my breast; while between my knees is my baggage for three months, in a black bag one foot square and five inches deep."
No wonder he looked upon her with affection, and was gratified at all the tributes paid to her by English tourists or by natives. The Prince of Wales saw him. Readers of the Record passed him in a steamer on the Lake of Lucerne. Labourers ran panting along the banks to help him in an emergency. Breathless youths saved him from certain destruction by shrieks of "Wasserfall, fitnf Minuten r and we are convinced that the young child whom he in turn rescued from a watery grave by spitting him in the rear and running him up on a barge, will never sit down again without remembering the Rob Roy, long after its coxswain has ceased wearing the spare jib as a shawl, and has returned into "the harness of polite society, the hat, the collar, the braces, the gloves, the waistcoat, the latch-key—perhaps the razor—certainly the lumbrella."