Ceylon : a General Description of the Island, Historical, Physical,
and Statistical. By an Officer, late of the Ceylon Rifles. (Chapman and Hall.)—The successors of a famous book labour under an unavoidable disadvantage. They are estimated by the standard of their fore. Tanner, and they must surpass it in some single respect, if they would not be held altogether inferior. Therefore such works ought to be regarded with fairness, which might be almost stretched to the point of indulg- ence,—that sentiment in which "hard-hearted critics" are popularly, but erroneously, supposed to be deficient. Only to look at, only to handle the two big volumes in which "An Officer, late of the Ceylon Rifles," proposes to supplement the late Sir J. Emerson Tennent's well- known works on' Ceylon, is to be moved to commiseration for the great amount of labour which he has expended on his task. To read them, is to be filled with regret that all this labour has been uselessly devoted to an utter failure. We heartily wish that we could record a more favourable judgment of so very big a book, but its unreadableness is in proportion to its size ; and for the promised novelties, the "latest information," we have searched its pages in vain. We have heavy tables of ,statistics, and elaborately divided topics, sections, and notes ; but the appearance of order is deceptive, the contents of the book are jumbled together in reality in a manner not merely fatigning, but distracting to the reader ; and beyond some contradictions of Sir Emerson Tennant, and a vast, heterogeneous mass of quotations of and extracts from other writers, the book contains -nothing which Sir Emerson Torment has not told us. The author has, no doubt, taken a deep interest in5 his manifold subjects, and has col- lected a mass of material in connection with it, but he is singularly deficient in literary skill, in appreciation of the sort of thing which people will read through for the sake of information, and the sort of thing through which, by no possible motive, could they be induced to read. We reluctantly Class two-thirds of his work in the latter category, and pronounce the remaining third to be a poor paraphrase of Tennent's "Ceylon." Close criticism of the author's style would be absurd. The fact is, he has no style. His concluding sentence is fearfully and wonderfully constructed as follows :— " This question [the former union of Sumatra and the other islands with Ceylon] principally put forward by Sir E. Tennent in his • Natural History of Ceylon,' a separate work, published after the other in 1861, together with recent speculations concerning the great south-eastern continent of which Ceylon is supposed to have formed a part, and the affinity believed to exist between the Australian aborigines and the hill tribes of India, of whom the Veddahs of Ceylon are a portion, necessi- tates, among other reasons, a new work on the island."
Considering that this example is not an extreme or spitefully selected one of the author's inability to write the English language intelligibly, but that confusion worse confounded is to be found on almost every page (in one place, we are introduced to thunder which "turns the stoutest heart pale "), we cannot but regret that the "Officer, late of the Ceylon Rifles," has been tempted to replace the sword by the pen.