16 MAY 1931, Page 19

A Hundred Years Ago in India and America Travels in

India, Ceylon, and Borneo. By Captain Basil Hall. (Routledge. 10s. 6d.)

The Aristocratic Journey. Edited with a Preface by Dame Una Pope-Hennessy. (Putnam. 21s.)

CAPTAIN AND Mas..Besn, HALL journeyed to America together in 1827, taking with them their little girl and her nurse. He Was a sailor, a grandson of Lord Selkirk, she was a daughter

Of Sir John Hunter, British Vice-Consul in Spain. Both of them recorded their " experiences," he for the Press (where they gave as great offence as Mrs. Trollope's), she for her family. Her letters . are now given to the world and very entertaining they are—she had the knack of telling " just What one wants to hear," of answering just the questions that intimate and intelligent relations would ask. Writing is, she says, a rest to her, and her letters still retain their refreshing quality. " A triumph of effortless observation," her letters are often reminiscent of Miss Austen though much more

censorious, for, as Dame Una Pope-Hennessy points out, " her understanding was limited by her disapprovals." Neither

she nor her charming husband were capable of justice towards a Republic. In their eyes all loyalties culminated in a crown and involved a graded society. He being an able man of the world was a bit of a philosopher, she being a clever and rather Wordly woman was a bit of a snob. A society which did not conform to her standard, in manner, voice, social regulations, turns of speech and thought, was a second-rate society, to be judged from above. All the same some delightful hours will be spent by the reader who will make himself at home with her, upon the exalted European shelf, whence she looks down on the home life of the coming people.

A voyage to America was in those days something to be got through with thankfulness ; no one thought of enjoying it.

Except the variety of being better or worse we have little to relieve the monotony of our lives." A ship, she reflects, " is a capital preparation for America if there is as much equality in society as we are told, for here are Mrs. Cownie (her nurse) and I, cheek by jowl, all day long, .always dining together, and pressing each other to a little bit of this or a little drop of that." Eliza (aged fifteen months) was " undoubtedly the most sick person on board. Not a thing remained in her stomach for days except a glass of ale. She does not eat anything, but the delight in her face as she leans back her head, closes her eyes, and applies her mouth like a leech to a mug of any kind of liquid, is amusing."

Once on land the Halls begin sightseeing and party-going !without delay. Mrs. Hall is intensely interested in the " institu- ,tions " which strangers are instantly taken to inspect and expected to admire. The prison system was evidently far In advance of ours at the time, and we find her astonished to hear of a mental hospital where the treatment is one of studied kindness. She is amazed and delighted at the eager way in which penal and educational and sanitary conditions are discussed. " But when you come to light 'ball room conversation nothing can be so ponderous." Where- ever she goes the same thing strikes her. The men pre- ponderate, " their jesting is coarse," by which she explains she means not improper but clumsy, and no one seems `" capable of generalizing on any subject." The women do not bear the test of evening dress." They " have no air." They " hold themselves ill." In spite of fine clothes and a profusion of ornaments " one could imagine oneself at a three shilling ticket ball." She ridicules the early hours kept even in the big towns, the shortness of the meals which 'leaves no leisure for talk and the rough simplicity of table :manners.

There is in America no impression of gaiety, indoors or 'out. As you walk in the streets she tells her sisters there is no " mirth " and far less " liveliness " than in England}; on the other hand there is also far less misery, " not a begger to be seen." She hears, she says, that the few holidays once observed are gradually falling into disuse. Everyone is serious about everything except, apparently, death l She has never heard people speak so lightly of the loss of their relations. The " Sects " amuse her, specially the " Shakers." Her religious sympathies are as much limited by disapproval as her social ones. The Unitarians attract, while they shock her. A Catholic service in Maryland is not to be borne. he comes away before the end having had " enough of such mummeries," though she admits the " superstitions " she scoffs at have had in the old world their pleasing side. Her heart, however, is a good deal broader than her mind. The treatment of the slaves in the Southern States distresses her much. The masters live in fear of a " rising,' the slaves in fear of the whip. The housemaid comes into her room with her face cut about by her mistress's " cow-hide," and though there are estates where conditions are very good, they are not numerous enough to relieve the general sense of depression. She gives a very striking account of a conversation she and her husband had with a " driver." He talked of himself with pride as " worth " such and such a sum in his youth and sighed to think that he would not fetch more than half that now, his natural force having somewhat abated with the years.

All through the letters trots the little figure of Elizabeth. Her parents were warned not to bring her with them and never cease to congratulate themselves that they scorned the advice. During the whole fourteen months' visit, even during long jolting treks across country in stage coaches, she is a ceaseless source of pleasure. She loves company and strangers, though " she is becoming so fond both of her Papa and myself." She will sit on anyone's knee in any public vehicle and is by far the most popular of the trio. Constantly asked out to meals, she behaves with perfect propriety, and is " quite the child to please gentlemen, so lively, so intelligent, frank and bold." Her mother's pleasure in her success is increased by the thought of how much better dressed she is than other children, some of whom arc most unbecomingly arrayed in " red flannel throughout."

" Basil " plays a less part than his daughter, but we get a very pleasant impression of him and welcome with pleasure a reprint of his Travels in India, Ceylon and Borneo, just published in abridged form with an introduction by Professor H. G. Rawlinson. The book contains very interesting pictures of life in India during the latter days of " The Company " and some remarkable scenes which Captain Hall witnessed at the court of the Rajah of Coorg and among the Sunnyasses he came across near Calcutta. The accounts of the self-torture of these devotees and their apparent indifference to their self-inflicted pain is of extraordinary interest—the Western world has completely changed its attitude towards such strange exhibitions of religious fervour. Disgust at the " degradation of the spectacle," the " strong desire to ameliorate the condition of people sunk so low " are sentiments belonging to the past. But Captain Hall wastes few words in comment. He gives his whole mind to his vivid narrative and offers his reader only too much to think about. The Coorg chaptei and the one describing a festival at Mysore are arresting. The pitiless ferocity which seems to form part of an Indian ruler's notion of an afternoon's enjoyment is again inconceivable to the Western mind. A bull fight is to this entertainment as a football match to a bull fight. The two books are in strong contrast to one another. The fact of their authors being husband and wife alone throws them into juxtaposition.