22 JULY 1882, Page 18


Boons of travel may be divided into two classes, the literary and the business-like. The typical examples of the first class owe such value as they may have primarily to manner, and only secondarily to matter ; they belong to the artistic region, and their subject is an accidental rather than an essential thing, being chosen, it would often seem, less for its intrinsic interest than for the sake of its literary suggestions,—the picturesque descriptions, the shafts of satire, the strokes of humour where- with the practised craftsman can adorn any theme, just as Dean Swift, according to Stella, could write charmingly about a broom- stick. Mr. Helms' work belongs undoubtedly to the first of these classes. It has many literary merits of a solid, unpretentious order, but it is clearly not intended to be regarded as a contribution to literature, save in the general way in which any book may be so described. Mr. Helms did not visit the countries in which he has sojourned for the purpose of writing about them ; his various journeys have been undertaken as simple matters of business ; but having, in the pursuit of his vocation, made many observations which seemed to him to have mare than a merely commercial or personal interest, he has set them • Pioneering in thy Par East, and Journeys to. California in 1849 and to the White 130a in 1878. By Luslvig Verner Helms. London; W. H. Allen and Cu.

in order in this volume, and in so doing has undoubtedly con- ferred a real benefit upon those who are ready to welcome the information which he has to impart. Were his book as full of defects as it is of merits, the value and interest of the facts given in it would be denied by no person capable of appraising them.

The ground covered by Mr. Helms in his various voyages is so extensive, that any adequate account of his record of them is impossible in the brief compass of a newspaper review, and the critic is, therefore, compelled to leave untouched a good deal of matter that well deserves notice. We have chapters on the Island of Bali, on Cambodia and Siam, on Borneo, on California

iu 1850 and 1872, on a short visit made in the latter year to China and Japan, and on a mining expedition to the shores of Lapland, in addition to the elaborate account of pioneering work iu Borneo, which will, perhaps, at the present time, be

considered the most interesting portion of the volume. The story told in the pages devoted to California, or rather to San Francisco, which Mr. Helms made his head-quarters, is a curious episode in the history of Western civilisation ; and the author's, account of his first experiences of the city of the Golden Gate, which has all the interest of romance, proves how solid is the

substratum of fact in Mr. Bret Harte's fascinating studies of life in those early days of feverish and reckless excitement. At the date of Mr, Helms' first visit, but three years had elapsed

since the time when the district had been an all but unin- habited waste, the Jesuit Mission at Dolores, five miles from the present city, being almost the only settlement; and, as he says, " the traveller might gallop across the plains for days without seeing any sign of human life, except, per- haps, a half-savage Mexican, with his broad-brimmed sombrero long spurs, and lasso ; or it might be, a stray trapper or Indian, for these latter still hold their own in Upper California." The discovery of gold had almost in a day peopled the region with,

probably, the most curious throng which the world. has ever seen ; and Mr. Helms had the good-fortune to assist—in the ecclesiastical sense of the word—at the laying of the corner-

stones of what was for years a unique civilisation. Every one was mad with the thirst for wealth, and until wealth had been secured, so important a matter as comfort was not to be thought of. Fancy prices were paid for the luxury of a blanket upon the floor, and innumerable fleas and rats of a most sociable dis- position were thrown in for nothing. In one of the best hotels it was found necessary to lie in bed under the protection of an umbrella, and the traveller who took his walks abroad waded through deep, soft sand, or through equally deep and still softer mud. The human figures were in harmony with the background. All countries seemed. to have contributed to the new settlement the citizens they could best spare, and some of Mr. Helms' plea-

santest acquaintances were, lie afterwards discovered, ex-convicts from Australia. Of such a place, at such a period, the baldest

account could not but be interesting, and the story, as told here, is very vivid and realisable ; but one naturally hastens on to those chapters in which Mr. Helms has newer and more special

information to communicate.

The number of facts crowded into the account of the author's residence and work in Borneo renders intelligible condensation difficult, and it will only be possible to present some induce- ment for inquirers to go to the hook itself. So little has been known of Borneo, that it may not be gratuitous to say that its importance is largely due to its mineral wealth ; and Mr. Helms, in the first instance, went out as the agent of a' commercial firm, to buy up antimonial ore, and generally to develops the trade of the country, which in 1852, the year of his arrival, was yet insignificant, the trading community con- sisting of a few Chinese and Klings, whose shops in native-

built huts made up the bazaar of Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. It was in the year 1839 that an English gentleman, Mr. James Brooke, afterwards known to all the world as "Rajah Brooke," had appeared. upon the scene, and, fired with the enthu- siasm of civilisation, had, to quote the words of Mr. Helms, attempted,—

" To stop and turn back the savagery and decay of centuries ; to step in between the oppressor and the oppressed, with a code of morals and ideas of justice hardly comprehensible to them ; to brave all the perils of open enmity and secret treachery, and of warlike expeditions in feverish jungles ; all the anxieties of pecuniary defi- ciencies for the wants of government ; and, almost worst of all, in his case, the persecution of countrymen, who, with pardonable in- capacity to appreciate the circumstances in which the Rajah laboured, combined the unpardonable assumption to judge him."

When Mr. Helms took up his residence on the island, much

had been achieved, but the Commission of Inquiry into the Rajah's action in Borneo, which had been appointed by the English Government, was about to sit at Singapore, and a tem- porary gloom overshadowed the small English community at Sarawak, where it was naturally felt that the Rajah's prestige might be impaired. Mr. Helms, however, saw at once, and soon felt by practical experience, how much the thirteen years of Six James Brooke's rule had accomplished for the cause of civilisa- tion. Personal security had been attained ; the Dyaks, Malays, and Chinese had been trained to habits of peaceful industry ; and Mr. Helms found as few impediments in the way of his enterprise as be might have found in a long-established Euro- pean settlement. His business during the first two years spent by him in Sarawak was the working and shipping of the antimony ore, and though progress was slow, it was sure, every month witnessing some decided, though, per- haps, comparatively slight advance. In 1855, the commer- cial enterprise which Mr. Helms had been sent out to establish had grown to such an extent, that those interested considered that the time was ripe for enlarging their operations, and thereby assisting Sir James Brooke's efforts for the development of the resources of the country. The Borneo Company, which may some day be recognised as of hardly less importance than the great commercial organisation which laid the foundations of our Indian Empire, was thus established, and the business which Mr. Helms had founded was taken over by it. Its ultimate objects were, however, more extensive than the carrying-on of any single industry. Trade, mining, and agriculture were all included in its programme ; and a considerable measure of speedy, if not of immediate, success might reasonably have been expected, even by the least sanguine. Whatever hopes were entertained were, however, doomed to disappointment by the terrible catastrophe of the Chinese insurrection, in which lives were lost, property sacrificed, and civilisation indefinitely thrown back. For the causes of this calamitous rising readers must be referred to Mr. Helms' volume, where will also be found a pain- fully interesting record of its various incidents, as noted down in a diary kept by a friend of the author's, who was at once an actor in, and a spectator of, its terrible scenes, Slowly the Borneo Company recovered from a shock which threatened to be fatal to its existence ; but its real history as a potent factor in the cause of civilisation now lies wholly in the future, instead of, as it might have been, partly in the past. Much has doubtless been accomplished, but it has been in the way of laying found- ations rather than in the raising of a structure, though when the structure is really raised, it will be all the more permanent for the solidity and security of its base. That Borneo and the group of islands to which it belongs are destined to play an im- portant part in the history of the world, will hardly be doubted by any careful observer of the course of events.

The second of the two long chapters on Borneo is largely devoted to a discussion of the merits of the unfortunate mis- understanding between Sir James Brooke and his nephew, Captain Brooke; and in spite of Mr. Helms' well deserved re- spect and affection for the Rajah, he is clearly of opinion that, so far as the special question at issue was concerned, the right was clearly on Captain Brooke's side. Judging simply from the documentary evidence, which seems to be given in these pages with both fullness and impartiality, we should say that Mr. Helms is almost certainly right in his verdict; but we may doubt whether it was worth while to revive an unfortunate and now happily half-forgotten controversy, which is of interest only to a few, and which has value only as a particular illustration of the melancholy general fact that real nobility of nature and har- mony of aim do not hinder the very best of men from miser- ably misunderstanding each other. , The pages containing the greatest amount of perfectly novel information are, we think, those of the chapter entitled, " The White Sea," in which are to be found the particulars of an in- teresting though unsuccessful mining expedition to the east coast of Lapland ; but to give even a bare summary of Mr. Helms' adventures in this unfamiliar and inhospitable region would extend this review to an inordinate length. Pioneering in the Bast is a book which justifies its title, for the author has done good pioneer's work ; and it is a volume which may be recom- mended to the general reader, as well as to the student who is in search of special information. Mr. Helms' style is not per- fect,—we are now and then reminded that we are reading the English of a foreigner ; but in such a book one may easily par- don these lapses, when the writing in general is clear, fluent, and thoroughly business-like, with no naughtiness of superfluity which in literature is nearly as bad as a superfluity of naughti- ness. A word of praise must be given to the illustrations, which are simply admirable ; better lithographs we have never seen.