4 JUNE 1881, Page 17


Tnx magnitude of the work of M. Reclus, three volumes of• which are now before us in its English version, renders. it impossible to consider it in detail. The comprehensive,. ness of the author's finely-conceived plan, and the complete- ness with which he has carried it out, are worthy of his, supremely interesting subject ; and that the work is a unique• one, hardly needs to be said. It sounds paradoxical to say that the most extensive general Geography in existence makes us understand most fully how much of the world we live in is yet unknown to science, but such is the case ; and M. Reclus pro- duces this effect upon the student of his book by his introduc- tory remarks, which abound in the felicitous phrases and apt. illustrations that are qualities of the best French style of writing. He places the full knowledge of the Earth and its Inhabitants in the far-distant future, warning us to distinguish between exploration and definition, and reminding us that even. in these exploring days, vast regions remain shut against us, —some by the hand of Nature, others by the will of man. "To us who inhabit this atom in space, this star among stars," he says, "it is still without bounds, as it was in the time of our barbarian ancestors Thanks to the struggles of indomitable seamen, the pride of our race, the area of the mysterious regions around the North Pole has been reduced to something like the hundredth part of the earth's surface ; but in the south there still remains an unknown region, of such vast extent that the moon, were she to drop upon our planet, might disappear within it without. coming into contact with any part of the earth's surface already * The Universal Geography. By DWG Itrolus. Milted by E. Q. Beveustein. F.B.G.S., Ise. Volumes I., IL, and III. Loudon Virtue and Oct

known to us." He does not hold, with Dr. Primrose's scientific friend, that the world is in its dotage, but takes it, as regards both man and matter, to be in its youth. This amazing thought we can hardly take in, while contemplating the long results of time, as he puts them before us in dealing with Europe in detail, but we catch at it while reading his prophetic sketch of what the earth will be, when "the correlations existing between man and the land he lives in have been revolutionised " by the processes that he eloquently describes, when man, though subject to the conditions of his dwelling-place, shall have modified it to suit his own purpose, overcome Nature, and converted the energies of the earth into domesticated forces. Then, among other changes, "The elevated table- lands of Central Asia, which now separate the countries and peninsulas surrounding them, shall become the seats of human

industry, and will convert Asia into a real geographical unit, which at present it is only in appearance." Then, "Massive

Africa, monotonous Australia, and Southern America, with its forests and its falls, will be put 01.1 something like an equality with Europe, when roads of commerce shall cross them in all directions, bridging their rivers and traversing their deserts and mountain ranges."

In the meantime, Europe leads ; but we are not to be proud

of that fact, for it is not duo to Europeans, but to mother Earth. The superiority of the nations who inhabit Europe is not to be imputed to the inherent virtues of the races from which they sprang (" as.is vainly imagined by some," interjects M. Reclus, with the charming decision and finality of a French savant), but to the favourable influence of the central geographi- cal position of Europe upon them. We have no quarrel with

the theory of M. Reclus; but may it not, in the topsy-turvy of his prediction, be turned topsy-turvy too P The author's definition of geography and historical geography affords an example of the plan which ho has adopted in the treatment of his vast subject, and so carried out that this volu- minous work on a science which presents dull and uninviting aspects to readers for whom it does not possess special attrac- tions, becomes absolutely fascinating, adorned with the charms of art, history, travel, science, and picturesque eloquence combined :— "Geography," ho says, "strictly speaking, confines itself to a description of the earth's surface, and exhibits the nations in a pas- sive attitude, whilst historical geography and statistics show man engaged in the struggle for existence, and striving to obtain the mastery over his surroundings. A river, which to an uncultured tribe would constitute an insurmountable barrier, becomes a corn. xnercial high-road to a tribe farther advanced in culture, and in pro- cess of time it may be converted into a mere canal of irrigation, the course of which is regulated by man. A mountain range, frequented by shepherds and huntsmen, end forming a barrier between nations, may attract, in a more civilised epoch, the miner and the manufac- turer, and in course of time will even cease to be an obstacle, as roads will traverse it in all directions. Many a creek of the sea, which afforded shelter of yore to the small vessels of our ancestors, is deserted now ; whilst the open bays, which vessels dreaded formerly, have been protected by enormous breakwaters, and have become the resort of our largest ships."

It is in the spirit of this division, and on the lines of these developments, that the author works, in the profoundly interest- ing sections which treat of the extent and boundaries, the natural divisions and mountains, the maritime region, the

,climate, the inhabitants, the hydrology, animal life, and corn- meree and navigation of Europe. To the physical geography

of the continent succeeds the historical geography, beginning with Greece, continental and insular. The whole of this section is delightful reading, especially a description of " General Aspects ;" and we find the same kind of introduction prefixed to each country, so that in every case wo begin the more serious and detailed instruction by a picture which charms the imagi- nation. The fullness of the details that follow is equalled by the convenience and precision of the arrangement of subjects, and the vivid interest lent by the author's extraordinary manysidedness. For instance, his account of Greece con- dudes with a few pages upon the present and future of that country, which tell us as much as many whole volumes of travel have told us. M. Reclus bears warm testimony to the general love of study among the Greeks, and gives statistics of education which to many will prove novel and sur- prising. He is strongly Philhellenic, and as he is a master of the facts of the Greek situation on all sides of it, his opinions,

even if they are a little too dogmatically expressed, are entitled to respect. lie will not hear of a Russo-Greek combination for ambitious purposes, because, "There do not exist between

Greece and Russia those natural ties which alone give birth to true alliances. Climate, geographical position, history, com-

merce, and, above all, a common civilisation, attach Greece to that group of European nations known as Greco-Latin. In tripartite Europe, the Greeks will never range themselves by the side of the Slav, but will be found among the Latin

nations of Italy, France, and Spain," Thracia, Macedonia, and Thessaly are grouped together as " Turkey of the Greeks;" and this section opens with a very fine description of the site " pointed out by Apollo," on which Constautiuople stands. The author packs his facts up in a curiously small space, but he never crushes them out of shape ; he is exhaustive, but not exhausting. Tho following passage is a fair, but not an ex- ceptional example of the style and method in which he puts a picture before the reader ; there are hundreds as good in these volumes :—

" Constantinople is one of the most beautiful cities in the world ; it is the ' paradisiacal city' of Eastern nations. As we approach the entrance of the Golden Horn, seated in a ertique more graceful than the gondolas of Venice, the vast and varied panorama around us changes with every stroke of. the oars. Beyond the white walls of the Seraglio and its masses of verdure rise, amphithontrically, on the seven hills of the peninsula, the houses of Stam- boul,—its towers, the vast domes of its mosques, with their circlet of smaller domes, and its elegant minarets, with their balconies. On the other side of the haven, which is crossed by bridges of boats, there are more mosques and towers, seen through a forest of masts and rigging, and covering the slope of a hill, whose summit is crowned by regularly-built houses and the palatial resid- ences of Pero. On the north, vast villa cities extend along both shores of the Bosphorus. Towards the east, on a promontory of Asia, there is still another city, cradled amidst gardens and trees. This is Scutari, the Asiatic suburb of Constantinople, with its pink houses nnd vast cemetery, shaded by beautiful cypress groves. Farther in the distance we perceive Midi-1(mi, the ancient Chaim- don, and the smell town of Prinkipo, on one of the Prince's Islands, whose yellow rocks and verdant groves aro reflected in the blue waters of the Sea of Marmara. The sheet of water connecting these various portions of the lingo city is alive with vessels end boats, whose movements impart animation to the magni- ficent picture. The prospect from the heights above the town is still more magnificent. The coasts of Europe and Asia are beneath our feet, the eye can trace the sinuosities of the Bosphorus, and far away in the distance looms the snow-capped, pyramidal summit of Mount Olympus, in Bithynia. But this enchantment vanishes, as soon as wo penetrate into the streets of Constantinople. There are many parts of the town with narrow and filthy streets, which a stranger hesitates to enter. It is perhaps a blessing, from a sanitary point of view, that conflagrations so frequently lay waste and scour large portions of the city. Scarcely a night passes without the watchman on the tower of the Seraskieriate giving the alarm of fire, and thousands of houses are dos-cured by that element every year. The city Gins renews itself by degrees. It rises from its ashes puri- fied by the flames. But formerly, before the Turks had built their city of steno on the heights of Pero, the quarters destroyed by fire were rebuilt as wretchedly as they were before. IL is different now. The use of stone has become more general ; wooden Fitrnotures are being replaced by houses built of a fossiliferous, white limestone, which is quarried at the very gates of the city ; and free use is made of the blue-and-grey marbles of Marmara, and of the flesh-coloured ones of the Gulf of Cyrica, in Asia Minor, in decorating the palaces of the great."

The Illyrian Alps, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria, are all treated iu full and picturesque detail, and the summary of the government and administration of Turkey in Europe is a model of conciseness and lucidity. Roumania, Servia, and Montenegro follow ; and then the author passes on to Italy, through a chapter on the general aspects of the Italian penin- sula which is of the deepest interest. This is, indeed, to write geography in a novel manner, and to invest the subject with such a charm that it must conquer indifference, and inspire taste. The very tables of statistics, the measurements, the driest details, are so arranged that they do not puzzle unlearned, while we have no doubt they prove satisfactory to scientific, students of a work which is to be described rather as a course

of education than a book. The basin of the Po, Liguria, and the Riviera of Genoa, Tuscany, the Apennines, the Tiber, the Marches, the Abruzzi, Naples, Sicily (with a marvellous de- scription of Etna), Sardinia, and Corsica, are presented to

us with all the speciality of the geographer, and all the zeal of a lover of nature and art working in the favoured realms of

both. In the section devoted to Spain the portion which deals

with men and manners is of particular interest. We do not remember to have seen in any work of Spanish travel an

account of the Batuecas, a strange and barbarous people in the province of Salamanca, whom the author describes at page 387 of his first volume. Of Portuguese Estromadura, he says, " It suffers neither from northern frosts, nor from


or aridity, and can boast of a climate approaching that

fabled Islands of the Happy," and then he draws a picture of the vegetation which is fascinating indeed. His view of the prospects of Portugal is very similar to that of Mr. Crawfurd. The second volume is occupied with France and Switzerland, and we cannot imagine anything more thorough, complete, admirably arranged, and profouudly interesting than the his- torical geography of those countries, preceded by descriptions of their physical conditions. Into the ethnology of France M. Reclus goes deeply, and in the physical section of his sub- ject the great rivers have a very important place. This volume is so great a work in itself, that it seems almost an impertinence to do, what is, however, all we can do, acknowledge its excel- lence with thankful admiration.

Austria, Hungary, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands occupy the third volume, beyond which the translation of the Geographic Universellc into English has not yet gone. To the third volume, all that we have tried to convey respecting the others, and much that we would say if we could, equally applies. The task of translating this work is ono whose magnitude and seriousness the general reader will hardly be able to estimate, but which any one who has had to compare translations with originals, aini to wade through the mere transcripts that pass for equivalent renderings, can understand. Of the merit of its execution it would be impossible to speak too highly. Smoothness, accuracy, faultless idiom, and grace distinguish it ; the pleasure of reading the book is never marred by awkward- ness or abruptness in the text, and the singularly happy pictorial effect of the original is perfectly preserved. The work reflects the highest credit on Mr. Raveustein, whose inestimable maps contribute to the value of these volumes to an extent that oven a superficial examination will at once make evident. The author and the public are alike to be congratulated on the services of so accomplished an editor.

The profuse ill-nitrations add to the worth, the beauty, and the charm of the Universal Geography ; the architectural draw- ings, and those which illustrate nationalities and costumes, are particularly interesting.

We feel constrained to say, in conclusion, that it is much to be regretted that the price of this fine work should place it hope- lessly out of general reach. It contains such a vast amount of information, and it is so well calculated to inspire the taste for acquiring information, that it is a great pity it should not be a " popular " book,—a book for the people. We should like to see the Universal Geography in the school-rooms of the State schools, and those of private seminaries, and is use at all places where young people are learning a dry science, which might be turned into an elevating pleasure by this largo contribution to the constituents of " a liberal education."