15 JULY 1876, Page 18


THE book before us is the most complete guide that has hitherto been published to the knowledge of one of the most important dependencies of Russia, the province that she snatched from Sweden at the close of the war of 1808. Finland has never made itself heard with the same distinctness as Poland, for it has spoken, and not shrieked, yet its patriotism is quite as vivid, and its in- dependence of sentiment quite as sincere. The efforts of the con- quering Power to impress its own language on its dependencies have been met with impotent rage at Warsaw and with a quiet smile at Helsingfors. Poland, by dint of successive revolts and ceaseless mutiny, has succeeded at last in almost destroying its own individuality; Finland, always loyal and always suave, has been able to preserve its own language, its own religion, and a * Boken om Wart Land. At Z. Topetine. Helsingtora: Zdland.

modified version of its own laws. In the present book, a poet of some eminence and a patriot of the first water gives a detailed sketch of his people and its history, the land it lives in, the men it has produced, and the threads of culture and progress that interpenetrate it. There can be no more suggestive or instructive reading than such a chronicle of successful struggles against a poor, frost-bitten soil, a foreign and overpowering ruler, a forbidden language, and almost every other hardship that can threaten the individuality of a nation.

The country comprised in the subject of this book is vast in area, though thin in population. Consisting virtually of the northern and eastern shores of the two great arms of the Baltic, the Gulls of Finland and of Bothnia, it embraces within its politi- cal limits a huge strip of Lapland, extending almost from the Arctic Ocean to the Baltic ; and farther south, a singular tract of mountain and forest, reticulated by an endless maze of fantas- tically winding lakes. Far in the north lurks the great inland sea of Enare, to whose mysterious waters few living things have ever penetrated ; far in the south, the apple-orchards of Abo tempt the fancy to believe in a far more genial latitude than Fin- land can in truth boast of. The very lowest points are but on a parallel with our own Shetland Isles, while the highest clusters of civilsation, the villages around Uleaborg, lie but little below the Arctic Circle itself. The scenery of the coast is finer than that of Sweden, which faces it; the shore is fretted into iron-bound bays and romantic headlands, while one archipelago, the Aland Isles, long since made famous to us by the siege of Bomarsund, are sprinkled over the sea in a myriad forms of whimsical beauty. Far inland there winds among the pine-forests Lake Saima, the fourth in size of the inland waters of Europe, and from a height among the woods the spectator glances over such a labyrinth of tortuous lakes and massive forests as he must go to the Canadian border, and look down on the Lake of a Thousand Isles, fairly to match. Such is the land which has called out such a wealth of love from its children, a love of which the book under notice is, in some measure, the final blossom.

The author divides his subject into six divisions. The first of these is concerned with the land itself. In prose, frequently diversified with descriptive poems, in the writer's best manner, he gives a general sketch of the geography of Finland. So vast and trackless are the romantic tracts at the back of the inhabited districts, that these are scarcely known even to the aborigines. Hence the author dwells at length on the characteristics of Lapp- mark and the lake-valleys of Tawastland,—the one so mountain- ous and rugged, the other preserving in its windless silence a thousand magical panoramas. It is doubtless with a grain of salt that we accept the raptures of a patriot geographer, and permit him to persuade us that "you may search in every country far and wide, and you will never find anything lovelier than Tawastland." Of all this, or of the blue translucency of the ubiquitous Lake Saima, the ordinary tourist knows nothing, for his route to St. Petersburg from Stockholm takes him through the archipelago of Aland, to the walls of Abo, round the rugged promontory of Hango (specially celebrated in verse by Professor Topeius), to Helsingfors, the capital ; and on proceeding once more, he steams away from the Finnish coast, past Cronstadt, to the mouth of the Neva, the utmost eccentricity extending no further than a visit to the ancient city of Viborg. The description of the interior, then, is of special interest to Northern travellers, and suggests that much might yet be very pleasantly done in exploring these central lake-valleys and romantic glens.

The people are the next subject of our author's discussion, and he appropriately opens this part of his work by an account of the labours of Castnn, whose linguistical and ethnographical studies among the aborigines of Finland won him a name throughout Europe. But for the energy of this one man, the race, one of the most interesting existing, might have died out unnoticed and unstudied. The characteristics of the two savage Oriental races, the Lapps and the Finns, that inhabit the outlying districts of the country, then occupy the author ; he gives long extracts from the myths and folk-songs of each. Besides these races, another, the Tavastians, a Sciavonic branch, inhabits the central province ; along the coast the cultivated classes are of Swedish origin, and use the Swedish tongue. A few Kavels, and still fewer Russians, com- plete the number of the inhabitants of Finland. It is a matter of course that the author does not leave this section without copious

extracts from the famous Finnish epic, the Kalevala. This poem, which was originally discovered and pieced together by Dr. Elias Lonnrot, was first given to the world in 1835 ; it is like no other collection of folk-songs in the world, and at once attracted im-

menae notice throughout Europe. It has already been translated into most of the greater languages. Its 22,800 verses contain a mythology wholly unique, and are besides occupied with the actions of a whole Walhalla of prehistoric Finnish heroes.

This mythology and these heroic legends are minutely discussed by Professor Topelius in his third section. Into all this, and into the progress of the history, which is elaborately treated farther on, we have no space to enter here, our object merely being to point out to readers interested in Scandinavia the publication of a book without a reference to which no forthcoming work on the people, history, or literature of the North can be said to be exhaustive. With regard to history, however, we cannot resist pointing to that passage which deals with that most difficult and delicate question, the occupation by Russia. Its piety, calm patriotism, and excellent good-sense might well be studied by the ill-advised inhabitants of another Russian dependency. The author comes to the conclusion that, after all, it is best for Finland, too poor and weak to defend itself, to be under the protection of Russia. The Finnish people, an Asiatic race, grew up under the shadow of Sweden into maturity, gaining all that culture could give it ; now it can stand alone, and has more real independence under a nation of another language and another character than if it had been merged into Sweden. The vehicle of the literature and art of Finland remains Swedish, but under the mild supremacy of Russia they have attained a flavour more completely original and independent. It must be remembered, in reading this implied laudation of Russia, that nowhere has the velvet so completely hidden the claws of the fierce Sclavonic power as in Finland, and that the University of Helsingfors has been left to regulate itself exactly after its own designs, as a centre of Finno-Swedish culture.

From Helsingfors has gone out some of the best of modern Scandinavian literature. In the venerable Runeberg, Sweden possesses not only her best living poet, but the greatest lyrist that her history has brought her. Of other great names that Finland has produced, we may mention Fredrika Bremer, the novelist ; the poet Franzen ; Padua, the musical composer; Porthan, who, in 1770, founded that Academy of Belles Letters in Abo, " Aurora," out of which so much of the present high culture has arisen ; Kellgren, the poet-laureate of Gustaf III., among many others that call, at least as loudly, for mention. All these are fully honoured in Professor Topeliva'a book, and we notice but one omission, a serious one, that of the author's own illustrious name. To supply this deficiency, we will close this notice with a short sketch of his career.

Zachris Topelius was born in 1818, and his life has been one of uneventful devotion to literature. Fourteen years younger than Runeberg, he grew up just when that poet was making his most brilliant successes. Of all the writers who have eat at Runeberg's feet—and that is equivalent to saying, of all the young Finland- Topelius is the one who has caught most of the pure elevation and ineffable freshness of the master. His lyrics are prized throughout Scandinavia. His best volume is that entitled Ljungidonamor, 41Heather-blossomis," but he has been also successful as a drama- tist and as a novelist. But perhaps he is most of all valued for the charming books for children which he has written, and which have been received with universal approvaL His modesty is best exemplified in the fact that in an exhaustive book about the country of which he is one of the ornaments, he has contrived to omit even the mention of his own name.