Page images

musical, but the sentiments and the thoughts it clothes are never at variance with what a woman should think and feel. Would that the healthy moral tone and the purity of feeling here exhibited, were more prevalent amongst our existing English poets ; Dobell, Smith, Gerald Massey, and James Bailey are more defective in this respect than they are even in Wordsworthian repose and Grecian chasteness and simplicity.

There are one or two points on which we will venture to give Miss Leslie a word of warning. We do this the more readily, because we fully recognize her merit, and believe that her faults are neither numerous nor ineradicable. Let her then, first of all, be careful in the use of adjectives. A poet, we are aware, can no more do without them than without flowers, stars and rhythm ; but, like many other things, they are good or bad according as they are used; now if they are used too frequently, or inappropriately, they greatly weaken style. In our younger days, we had a fellow-student who could not express his approval of the most ordinary things without declaring that the loaf before him was superb, the coffee magnificent, and the tea glorious ! Now if De Quincy is right-and no living writer has a deeper knowledge of the significance and fitness of words—in saying that he only knows one object on earth made by the hand of man which can appropriately be called sublime, then what an offence to good taste must that have been, of which we have just spoken! Had not its excess rendered it ridiculous, it would have grated on the ears with the offensiveness of fifty hackery wheels. We distinctly wish it to be understood that Miss Leslie is never guilty of the extreme inappropriateness to which we have alluded, but could she write the words “forehead” and “ brow” without appending the adjectives “pale,” or “white ?” Does not the word "fingers,” always suggest the other word, “ tapering?” Such iterations and common places are by all means to be avoided.

A similar tendency to that we have just indicated, is seen in the very frequent combination of words, which occasionally weakens her lines, and sometimes violates the usage of the English language. Such as the following are open to one objection or the other, “large-souled," "stiff-jewelled,” “Eden-land,”

“Soul-father," " gladly-guested,” “sigh-companioned,”

-“valelily," " fondness-full.”

, We think it more important still to caution Miss Leslie against too great a love of word-painting, lest it should weaken her inclination for originality of thought and conception. Words are often mistaken for thoughts, and by none so frequently as by young poets. It is a very natural and therefore a pardonable error; but yet it is an error. True poetry is found not so much


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in words as in ideas. Miss Leslie is sometimes beguiled from what she should say, by reflecting too much on the best manner in which she can say it; she is therefore occasionally too stiff and artificial, and her lines move onward, not with the free impulsiveness with which a child walks, but with the deliberateness of one who is obliged to pick his way, or who marches in some slow and stately procession. However, time will give her more thoughts, and experience will increase her power of varied expression. Her reading may have much to do with this attribute of her poetry. We suspect she has read much more extensively in the field of modern than of old English poetry. This is matter for regret. Our best recent poets have been the deepest students of the old masters of song, not of their cotemporaries. They have discovered where the gold mines are. Any one conversant with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Tennyson, cannot fail to perceive at whose feet they sat and learned,

learned, so far as genius admits of being taught. However much there may be that is admirable in the best modern poetry, we take it to be an important thing that a writer bring himself frequently into close converse with minds most diverse from his own, both in their forms of thought and of expression. The result is both instructive and invigorating.

We cannot close our remarks without a definite expression of our opinion. This volume contains indubitable proofs of considerable poetic power. It is full of promise for the future. She who can utter some of the fine and beautiful things here written, should continue to write. Its fair authoress has no small store of that wealth of language and imagery, and that enthusiasm in behalf of her noble art, of which true poets are made; may she live to fulfil the promise which her book justifies us in cherishing !

SEPT., 1857.


Art. II.-1. Report on the Jails of the Lower Provinces of the

Bengal Presidency for 1855-56. 2. List of Jail Manufactures executed in the Prisons of Bengal

and the North Western Provinces. 1856. 3. Report of the Committee on Prison Discipline, to the Governor

General of India. 1838.

NHE elaborate and able report which stands last in our list of

Prison Documents, may be said to have formed the groundwork of nearly all that has been accomplished, or attempted, in the reformation of Indian Jails. Occupying about four hundred folio pages, examining every detail and subject, from Transporta

, tion to Tobacco, and emanating from such men as Sir Edward Ryan, Mr. Macaulay, Mr. Cameron, and Mr. Grant, this valuable State Paper is well deserving of notice by those who take any interest in the important questions of criminals, their punishment and reformation.

It is not our intention in the present paper to discuss any portion of the general subject, other than that relating to the employment of prisoners under sentence in the Jails of India. The recent exhibition of Jail manufactures in the Town Hall of Calcutta, has been the means of bringing this mode of employing the inmates of our prisons so prominently before the public, and the objects there exhibited attracted so much attention from some portions of the community, that it is thought preferable to treat our Jail industry apart from the larger question of “crime and its repression." We believe it to be in contemplation to hold a second Jail exhibition towards the close of the present year : this alone would induce us to treat the matter as a separate question, having a care to consider in what manner such a public collection of Prison Industry may be susceptible of improvement, and how most likely to conduce to the end in view.

Previous to the date of the Prison-Committee's Report, the only active occupation for the inmates of our Jails, with the exception of a few menial employments about the Prison, was road-work, either contiguous to, or at a distance from, the respective Jails, under Engineer officers. At that time, there were about thirteen thousand thus employed in Bengal alone, out of twentythree thousand six hundred criminal prisoners. These prisoners worked in fetters, guarded by one Burkandaz to every five convicts, supervised by Duffadars and Jemadars. Women do not

. appear to have performed any description of labour; whilst in the great Jails of the three Presidency towns none of the prisoners were called upon to work.

The report proceeded to shew that in the Bengal Presidency, there was, properly speaking, no system of in-door labor for male convicts, excepting for those sentenced to imprisonment for life. Of these, there were in 1838, one thousand and fifty-two committed for murder, attempt at murder, homicide, and gang-robberies with wounding and torture. The only labour exacted from these desperate characters, was spinning flax and jute-yarn for the manufacture of gunny bags, which seldom occupied the most indolent after mid-day, whilst the more active were engaged for a much shorter time. The productive result of this labour was not more than 2,500 rupees per annum. The life-prisoners in fact appear to have performed just as much work as suited them; the jailer having but little command over them, owing to their being congregated in one vast yard, and the few sepoys placed as a guard on them, having only unloaded muskets, a fact of which the prisoners were perfectly aware.

There were, however, even at that period, some few exceptional cases, where the Magistrates had, as mere experiments, put a certain number of prisoners to in-door labor. At Beerbhoom, a few were placed at cloth-weaving, with very questionable results as to profitableness. At Allahabad, sixty prisoners were employed in a similar manner without success. A small carpet manufacture had been attempted at Benares, but eventually abandoned. In like manner, the convicts of Gurruckpore, Hameerpore, and Meerut, were put to labor, but with somewhat better results.

The Committee reported that, so far from in-door labor being generally preferred by prisoners, they sought for work on the roads, with the knowledge that they could nearly always command intercourse with friends and relations by means of bribes to the guards, with the savings of their monthly allowance money. This however could only be done when they were employed under the civil authorities, for when transferred to the military, for work on the Grand Trunk Road, they were much more strictly kept and watched over.

“This system was commenced in the Lower Provinces on the ' Ist March, 1833, when every prisoner sentenced to labor, for

whatever crime, whose unexpired period of imprisonment

exceeded one year, was sent to Captain Thompson. But we • believe that, except on the first occasion, none but those

sentenced for murder, dacoity, highway robbery, burglary,

theft, receiving stolen goods, forgery, perjury, arson, rape ' and other offences, for which the term of imprisonment has been five years or more, have been sent.

By day, the prisoners in these road-gangs work in iron fetters, and at night, they sleep sometimes in huts, and sometimes in ' tents, secured in gangs,-secured by means of a long iron chain,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


passed through a ring in each man's fetters, or between the legs above the fetters, and fastened at each end. The executive officer has power to handcuff refractory prisoners, or to put extra irons on them, to stop one-third of their allowance, or to flog them on the spot with a ratan. There is no doubt, the prisoners dislike working under the executive officers away from their districts. The removal from ' the neighbourhood of their friends is greatly disliked, for when

on the roads in their own district, they are visited by them and receive money from them. The loss of this intercourse is parti. cularly felt by prisoners in good circumstances."*

The exposure to weather, and the frequent unhealthiness of certain localities, where road-making had to be carried on, induced a much heavier rate of mortality amongst the out-of-door gangs under the military than elsewhere. In some instances, the losses from disease were excessively severe. The average mortality amongst the in-door prisoners, was at that date 7.28 per cent., whilst the road-gangs showed losses averaging 11.16 per cent. “In one gang employed under Captain Thompson, Ramghur

division of the Trunk Road, the number of convicts who died whilst actually belonging to the gang, averaged for ten months, at the rate of 34.25 per cent. per annum. In one month, the deaths in that gang were ten per cent.”+

This mortality does not appear to have arisen in any way from defective clothing, or bad or insufficient food. They had ample clothing, and more rations than they usually consumed. An analysis of the comparative cost of Jail prisoners, and gang convicts on the roads in Bengal, shews that whilst the former cost the State, Rs. 32-13-2 each, per annum, the charge for the latter was, Rs. 46-4-6 a head: the principal increase was under the heads of clothing, and guards, the amount of which in the latter instance, was double that for in-door prisoners. The keep of a prisoner in Jail, without labor, and therefore not needing nearly so much overlooking, is not more than Rs. 24-2 a year.

The Committee went into very elaborate details to shew that the State were absolute losers by employing convict labor on the roads, and that it would be preferable to feed the prisoners in idleness in Jail, and to employ hired laborers for the roads. “The

extra cost of a convict, when he is put to work on the roads, ' is two rupees a month, whilst the work he does could be con

tracted for everywhere at considerably less, in some places at · two-thirds, and in some places, at one-half of that price.”I

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »