Page images

cosmetics. It should be known, that every kind of eruptive mark on the skin is a symptom of some species of disorder in the system, of which nature takes this means of relieving itself. All attempts, therefore, to banish marks from the skin, are exceedingly hazardous to health, and cannot be sufficiently reprehended. The disorder, whatever it be, ought to fall under regular medical treatment. The powder called rouge, which some ladies employ to give a delicate red tinge to the complexion, is very injurious to the skin, and always leaves a haggard appearance.

The dyeing of the hair, with the view, generally, of concealing grayness, is scarcely less objectionable. The dye is a chemical drug, of a mineral basis, and invariably injures the hair it is designed to improve. Much good sense is beginning to be shown by ladies wearing their own gray hair, instead of resorting to injurious dyes.

From these miscellaneous deformities of the person and "human face divine,” we turn to a class of voluntary distortions which demand a more detailed description; commencing with an account of the methods which have been adopted by certain nations to improve, as they imagine, the form of the head.

DISTORTION OF THE HEAD. The head is naturally spherical. From the eyebrows, the skull rises with a roundish swell towards the crown.

In some nations the brow recedes more than in others; but all participate in the general roundish character. According to the accounts of ancient authors, it appears that certain rude nations in western Asia were in the habit of compressing the skulls of their infants, in order to lengthen them in shape. Hippocrates, in speaking of a people living near the Euxine Sea, styles them Macrocephali, from the length of their heads.

6 At first,” says he, “ the length of their heads was owing to a law or custom, but now nature herself conforms to the usage, it being an opinion among them, that those who have the longest heads are the most noble. The custom stood thus: As soon as the child was born, they immediately fashioned its soft and tender head with their hands, and, by the use of bandages and proper arts, forced it to grow lengthwise, by which means the spherical figure of the head was perverted, and the length increased. This at first was the effect of custom, to make nature operate in this way; and in process of time it became so natural, as to render the practice useless."

Of the truth of the hypothesis, that nature in time sent the children into the world with long instead of round heads, we may be permitted to doubt; it is certain, however, as far as can be learned from concurrent testimony, that there were nations of antiquity with heads remarkably long in figure: such being the fashionable shape of the skull at the time. When the Spaniards settled in the West India islands and

South America, they found that certain tribes and nations practised the unnatural custom of compressing and lengthening the head. A practice so cruel and barbarous shocked the Spanish ecclesiastics; and in one of the synods of the diocese of Lima, in Peru, a decree was passed prohibiting the custom, and inflicting. punishments on those who should afterwards be found guilty of it. From the appearance of several skulls which have been found, it is put beyond a doubt that the custom was common in Peru previous to this ecclesiastical injunction.

In those parts of America not visited by the Spaniards, the practice continued longer in use; and till the present day, it is a universal usage among certain tribes of North American Indians. The district in which it is most common is within the Oregon territory, on the north-west coast, and in Vancouver's island. The tribes in this quarter have a great similarity in their habits, language, and appearance. Travellers describe them as living in miserable hovels, depending chiefly on fish for their food, and generally less bold and enterprising, though not less intelligent, than the tribes who inhabit the prairies.

In the course of a journey performed by Mr J. K. Townsend, an American naturalist, down the banks of the Columbia, in 1834, he visited a tribe of Klikatat Indians, who flatten the head in a very hideous manner. The following are his observations on this subject :

“ About two miles below the cataract [on the Columbia river) is a small village of Klikatat Indians. Their situation does not appear different from what we have been accustomed to see at the fort. They live in the same sort of miserable loose hovels, and are the same wretched, squalid-looking people. Although enjoying far more advantages, and having in a much greater degree the means of rendering themselves comfortable, yet their mode of living, their garments, their wigwams, and everything connected with them, is not much better than the Snakes and Bannecks, and very far inferior to that fine, noble-looking race, the Kayouse.

"A custom prevalent, and almost universal amongst these Indians, is that of flattening, or mashing in the whole front of the skull, from the superciliary ridge to the crown. The appear. ance produced by this unnatural operation is almost hideous, and one would suppose that the intellect would be materially affected by it. This, however, does not appear to be the case, as I have never seen (with a single exception, the Kayouse) a race of people who appeared more shrewd and intelligent. I had a conversation on this subject, a few days since, with a chief who speaks the English language. He said that he had exerted himself to abolish the practice in his own tribe; but although his people would listen patiently to his talk on most subjects, their ears were firmly closed when this was mentioned: they would leave the council fire, one by one, until none but a few squaws and children were left to drink in the words of the chief.' It is even considered among them a degradation to possess a round head; and one whose caput has happened to be neglected in his infancy, can never become even a subordinate chief in his tribe, and is treated with indifference and disdain, as one who is unworthy a place amongst them.

“The flattening of the head is practised by at least ten or twelve distinct tribes of the lower country: the Klikatats, Kalapooyahs, and Multnomahs, of the Wallammet and its vicinity; the Chinooks, Klatsaps, Klatstonis, Kowalitsks, Katlammets, Killemooks, and Chekalis, of the lower Columbia and its tributaries ; and probably by others, both north and south. The tribe called Flat-heads, or Salish, who reside near the sources of the Oregon, have long since abolished this custom.

“The mode by which the flattening is effected, varies considerably with the different tribes. The Wallammet Indians place the infant, soon after birth, upon a board, to the edges of which are attached little loops of hempen cord or leather, and other similar cords are passed across and back, in a zig-zag manner, through these loops, enclosing the child, and binding it firmly down. To the upper edge of this board, in which is a depression to receive the back part of the head, another smaller one is attached by hinges of leather, and made to lie obliquely upon the forehead, the force of the pressure being regulated by several strings attached to its edge, which are passed through holes in the board upon which the infant is lying, and secured there.

"The mode of the Chinooks, and others near the sea, differs widely from that of the upper Indians, and appears somewhat less barbarous and cruel. A sort of cradle is formed by excavating a pine log to the depth of eight or ten inches. The child is placed in it on a bed of little grass mats, and bound down in the manner above described. A little boss of tightly-plaited and woven grass is then applied to the forehead, and secured by a cord to the loops at the side. The infant is thus suffered to remain from four to eight months, or until the sutures of the skull have in some measure united, and the bone become solid and firm. It is seldom or never taken from the cradle, except in case of severe illness, until the flattening process is completed.

"I saw to-day a young child from whose head the board had just been removed. It was, without exception, the most frightful and disgusting-looking object that I ever beheld. The whole front of the head was completely flattened, and the mass of brain being forced back, caused an enormous projection there. The poor little creature's eyes protruded to the distance of half an inch, and looked inflamed and discoloured, as did all the surrounding parts. Although I felt a kind of chill creep over me from the contemplation of such dire deformity, yet there was something so stark-staring and absolutely queer in the physiognomy, that I could not repress a smile; and when the mother

coasting the desert. Her search for the raft was at first fruitless, and after cruising about for a number of days, she had turned helm to proceed to Senegal. It was while returning that the party on the raft had seen and lost sight of her. Having reached to within forty leagues of the river, the wind veered to the south-west, and the captain said that he would steer for a short time in that direction; he tacked accordingly, and was standing towards the raft for about two hours, when those on board descried the vessel on the horizon. This change of course, as we have seen, saved the fifteen unfortunate beings, who at the time did not expect they could hold out four-and-twenty hours longer; for the last two days had been spent without food, and only a small quantity of wine was left.

As soon as the party were removed to the Argus, that vessel steered for Senegal, which it reached next day. In the evening it moored close to the shore, and on the following morning, the 19th July, anchored in the roads of St Louis.

Thus were fifteen, all who remained alive out of a hundred and fifty individuals left on the wreck, rescued from the death which seemed to await them. Of the fifteen, five died in a short time of the injuries they had sustained; and the remainder carried on their wounded and emaciated bodies the lasting effects of their protracted sufferings on the raft.


It will be recollected that, at the disgraceful scramble in lear. ing the Medusa, seventeen persons, some of them in a state of intoxication, did not depart with their companions in the boats. Lachaumareys, on quitting the vessel at one of the port-holes, promised to send out succour to them as soon as he should reach the land. To fill up the measure of his depravity, the captain falsified this as well as all his other promises; and it is not less distressing to know that neither the party generally who escaped in the boats, nor those who afterwards were taken from the raft

, gave themselves any concern about their less fortunate brethren in the wreck. It does not appear, from the narrative of M. Corréard, that they would have been thought of, but for the governor Schmaltz wishing to save the specie and provisions which were on board. To secure these articles, a schooner was fitted out, commanded by a lieutenant, and manned by some negro traders and a few passengers. She set sail from Senegal on the 26th of July, that is, seven days after the party saved from the raft had been landed, and seventeen from the time the governor and captain had reached Senegal; but having provisions for only eight days on board, she was obliged, when that stock was exhausted, to return without having got sight of the frigate : she was afterwards furnished with a sufficiency for twenty-five days, but, being ill-found, she returned into port a second time, after

[ocr errors]

having been fifteen days at sea. A delay of ten days now occurred, when she made a third attempt, with a new set of sails, and reached the Medusa fifty-two days after it had been abandoned. From the time which had elapsed, it was confidently believed that all who had been left on board the frigate would be dead; what, therefore, was the astonishment of those in the schooner

, to find that three of the miserable beings had outlived all their sufferings, and now appeared like ectres to welcome the approach of their countrymen,

The following is the account which these unfortunate men gave of what had occurred on the wreck. When the boats and the raft had left the frigate, the seventeen had collected a sufficient quantity of wine, biscuit, brandy, and bacon, for their subsistence during a certain number of days. Whilst this stock lasted they were quiet; but forty-two days having passed without the arrival of the expected succour, twelve of the most resolute constructed a raft, and, endeavouring to make the land without oars or sails, and but a small quantity of provisions, were drowned. That this was their fate there is no reason for doubting,

as the shattered fragments of their raft were some time afterwards thrown on shore by the waves, and picked up by the Moors. Another seaman, who refused to trust for safety to the raft, adopted the strange resolution, a few days after, of placing himself on a hencoop, and in this way tried to reach the shore; at the distance of half a cable’s length, however, the coop upset, and he was drowned.

Four now remained on the wreck, resolved to await death or succour, rather than brave dangers which appeared to them insurmountable. One of them had lately expired when the schooner arrived, and the others were so weak and emaciated, that in a very short time death would have put an end to all their sufferings. They lived in separate corners of the vessel, which they never quitted but to look for food, and this latterly consisted only of tallow and a little bacon. If on these occasions they accidentally met, they used to run at each other with drawn knives ; so completely had selfishness and ferocity stifled that sympathy which fellow-sufferers are generally disposed to feel for one another. It is mentioned as a remarkable fact, worthy of being made known, that as long as these men abstained from strong liquor, they were able to support the hardships of their situation in a surprising manner; but when they began to drink brandy, their strength daily and rapidly diminished. How these unfortunate beings should have been driven to extremities for food, is not easily accounted for. The Medusa contained a large cargo of provisions, and why this store was not reached, is not explained in the original narrative. Perhaps the men did not know of there being barrels of provisions on board; or they might not have possessed sufficient strength to reach them below other articles in the hold.

« PreviousContinue »