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Art. I.—Memoir of the Life and Public Services of Sir Thomas Stam
ford Ruffles, F.R.S., &c., particularly in the Government of Java, 1811-1816, and of Bencoolen and its Dependencies, 1817-1824; with Details of the Commerce and Resources of the Eastern Archipelago, and selections from his Correspondence. By his Widow. 4to. pp. 823.
London : Murray. 1830. Sir Thomas Munro, the memoirs of whose life we noticed in our last number, might be said to have served as a prototype in many things for Sir Stamford Raffles. Each rose by the force of his talents and industry, in the service of the East India Company, from an obscure to a considerably exalted station; both were men of exceedingly energetic minds, fitted by nature for the organization and government of uncivilised communities, and so independent in their thoughts and modes of action, that it was with difficulty they even yielded to superior authority. Sir Thomas Munro, with some of that tact or pliancy which is supposed to characterise Scotchmen in general, contrived, however, to stand well with those who had the direction of his destiny, at the same time that he preserved his opinions. The Englishman had the misfortune to forget sometimes that he was a servant at all, and during the greater part of his career was looked upon with jealousy, if not distrust, by those who found it necessary to employ him. In Java, he sold the lands of the Company without consulting them, or any of their officers; he introduced reforms, and adopted measures, on a scale that was guited only to the permanent possession of that island by British power. His political measures in Sumatra drew down upon him the censure of the Court, particularly his emancipation of the Company's slaves, as also his establishment of a station for the suppression of the slave trade, both of which acts were not only unauthorised, but in direct opposition to the Company's interests. He was, in fact, too sanguine a man, too enthusiastic in his theories of public good; he had too benevoNO, LVI. VOL. X111.
that this a great boast bay be sai
lent a heart, and too strong a head, to be a thorough subaltern any where, but especially in a sphere fifteen thousand miles distant from the seat of controul.
In their attachment to literature and science, Sir Thomas and Sir Stamford also, in some measure, resembled each other. Here, however, the latter greatly outshines the former. The “ History of Java,” and the publication of Mr. Finlayson's account of the Mission to Siam, connect Sir Stamford's name with our literary annals; whereas Sir Thomas Munro has left nothing behind him but a mass of official documents, luminously framed indeed, and well expressed, but destined only for the lumber room. The fondness of the Governor of Madras for science, was limited to chemistry, in which he made no figure; while, to the Governor of Bencoolen's pursuit of zoology, we are chiefly indebted for the formation of one of the greatest ornaments of this metropolis, the gardens in the Regent's Park, which may be said already to rival the Jardin des Plantes, the great boast of Paris.
Considering that this Memoir is edited by Lady Raffles, we should wish to speak of it, in a critical point of view, with the greatest possible indulgence. We must, at the same time, observe, that she has not been well advised as to the plan which she has followed on this occasion. The paragraphs which are scattered through the work for the purpose of connecting the correspondence with which it is filled, are too few to deserve the title of a Memoir; the letters introduced are many of them mere repetitions of the same topics, addressed to different persons; and the pervading fault of the whole is, that they relate to possessions, the most important of which are no longer British, and all of which are at so great a distance from England, that they excite amongst us scarcely the slightest interest. When to these objections we add that all these letters are collected in a thick quarto volume, of more than eight hundred pages, costing two guineas and a half, at a period when we may literally purchase a cabinet library for that sum, we hope we may be allowed to say, that Lady Raffles' literary advisers did not much understand what they were about. The facts connected with Sir Stamford's life, which are found in this volume, might have been detached from the letters, and wrought into a highly interesting memoir; and if such a work had been well executed, and comprised in a single octavo, as it easily might have been, we have no doubt that it would have been popular; whereas in the form in which his life is now published, it will necessarily be confined to a very limited circulation.
Though we have spoken of Sir Stamford Raffles as an Englishman, yet, in point of fact, he was rather a West Indian, having been born on board the ship Ann, off the harbour of Port Morant, in the Island of Jamaica, on the 5th of July, 1781. His paternal grandfather held for a long time, with unblemished character, a situation in the Prerogative Office, Doctor's Commons; and his
father was one of the oldest captains in the West India trade out of the port of London. His family would appear to have come out of Yorkshire, but upon this point we have no certain intelligence; nor is it of much consequence how many generations we can count backwards in the pedigree of a man, who is indebted to his own exertions for his celebrity. At the early age of fourteen, having been then but two years in an academy at Hammersmith, he was placed as an extra clerk in the East India House. He always deplored the insufficiency of his education. Before and after office hours he endeavoured to make up for his misfortune in this respect, and contrived not only to make himself master of the
French language, but to “prosecute inquiries into some of the branches of literature and science.” Little, however, is known of the course of his studies at this period. Indeed the greater part of his history before leaving England is told in a few words.
• The early youth of Mr. Raffles was a period of obscurity and labour, without friends to aid hiin, as well as without the hope of promotion ; his family only searching for that mode of life in which he was most likely to acquire the greatest pecuniary success, without regard to the natural bias of his mind, or to the talents which he possessed. At fourteen he was chained down to the duties of an office; at this early age, and a friendless boy, it is not likely that he would at first be intrusted with much which was interesting; but his was a master mind, and soon burst its shackles, and manifested a high and noble resolve to devote itself to the good of others, and a yearning to obtain the station for which it felt itself best fitted.
• His attention to his dull routine of duty was unremitting; he worked early and late; he studied, as he himself says, in stolen moments; by his extra labour at his office he obtained an addition to his salary, which was not appropriated to any selfish purpose; but all he earned was carried home to his parents, as they were at this time in difficulties. His affection to his mother was always one of the strongest feelings of his heart. At this time, with that self-denying devotion to the happiness of others, which was his distinguishing quality through life, he deprived himself of every indulgence, that he might devote to her his hard-earned pittance: and in after-days of comparative affuence he delighted in surrounding her with every comfort.
Such a sedentary life of labour was, however, ill adapted to the delicacy of his frame; and it was feared that symptoms of consumption were becoming confirmed; he was ordered to relax his exertions, and to leave his office for a time; he obeyed, and obtained a fortnight's leave of absence. The use which he made of this short period of recreation is very characteristic: he seized on the moment to indulge that love of mountain scenery, so strong in most youthful minds, so happily undying and unfading in its exciting joyous feeling. He resolved to go into Wales, set off on foot, and walked at the rate of thirty and forty miles a day, accomplished his object, and returned to his desk with restored health. As a school-boy, his garden was his delight; to this was added a love of animals, which was perhaps unequalled. It has been observed, that it is one of the characteristic properties of a great mind, that it can contract as well as
dilate itself; and the mind which cannot do both, is not great in its full extent: this observation was forcibly realised in him; he spent hours in fond. ling and domesticating those objects of his care and attention. He entered with the most child like simplicity into occupations and pleasures which many would consider beneath their potice. A mountain scene would bring tears into his eyes; a flower would call forth a burst of favourite poetry. It was, perhaps, peculiar to himself to be able to remark, on his last return to England, that he had never seen a horse-race, never fired a gun.
• His facility in acquiring languages was extreme. He made himself master of French, with scarcely any assistance, on his first going into the India House ; and as he never forgot any thing which he had once attained, he always continued to speak this language with great fluency, though he had little opportunity of practice. As an instance, in the year 1818, during his government of Suinatra, a lady was singing in his house one of Moore's Melodies, “ Rich and rare were the gems she wore," when some French gentlemen present regretted that the beauties which he was so admiring were lost to them : he immediately translated the whole into French verse, much to the surprise of all present.
• His taste for drawing was shewn at an early age, though he never had leisure to indulge it as he wished. In music he was always fonder of nelody than of harmony; perhaps because he did not sufficiently cultivate this delightful science.
• His studies, from his facility of acquirement, were desultory; but he was always acquiring something; and was never for one moment unoccupied ; later in life, if obliged by illness to relinquish his occupations, he covered his couch with papers on the first cessation of pain, and was immediately engaged, either in reading or dictating.
• Little is known of his religious feelings on first entering the world. Early religious instruction was not then, perhaps, so general as at present, and he was not one of the happy few who received it; but, as he advanced in life, prosperity warmed his heart towards the God who led him forward in his course of usefulness; adversity taught him to look to another state of being for the happiness which he felt himself capable of enjoying: perhaps his most prominent feelings on this subject were humility and faith. From his first setting out in life, he gave the praise to God for all the blessings which he enjoyed, and was deeply impressed with a sense of his own unworthiness. He constantly mourned over his owo weakness, and deplored his want of power to do that which he felt he ought to do, and his failure in the performance of every duty: from the earliest period he acquiesced in every privation, as the wise purpose of an Almighty Father working for his own glory, which, though mysterious to the limits of man's understanding, would be brightly and clearly known hereafter.
• Beginning life under the influence of such principles and feelings, it will not be matter of surprise, that his own exertions proved his best patron, and procured him friends, whose good opinion was at once honourable to his talents, and favourable to his advancement. Such friends, at a very early period of his connection with the East Iudia House, he had obtained; for a vacancy having occurred in the establishment, his peculiar qualifications were allowed to secure his accession to it, notwithstanding the claims of others who possessed an interest of which he could not boast.'—pp. 3–5.
The Court of Directors having, in an evil hour, determined, in
1805, to send out an establishment to Penang, or Prince of Wales's Island, Mr. Rafies was appointed assistant secretary, on account of the aptitude for business which he had already displayed. On his way thither he made such progress in the Malayan language, that he was enabled at once upon his arrival to enter efficiently upon his new duties. From the beginning he accustomed himself to converse as much as possible with the natives; a habit which he always pursued in the different islands in which he was subsequently stationed. In this manner, besides making himself well acquainted with the different dialects which prevail in those regions, he obtained an ascendancy over the native inhabitants which often inaterially facilitated his operatio!s. This trait of character he also possessed in common with Sir Thomas Munro, and it was at once a proof of his good sense, and of his zeal for the service in which he was employed. A great variety of laborious duties devolved upon him at Penang, in consequence of the indisposition brought on by the climate, which proved fatal to two governors, the whole of the council, and many of the new settlers. The prevailing disease, which had nearly numbered Mr. Raffles also amongst its victims, drove him to Malacca for better air; and it is most probably to this circumstance that the Company is now indebted for the retention of that station in the consolidated government of Penang and Singapore, as secured by treaty with the Netherlands. The inquiries and observations of the secretary while recovering his health at that place, pointed it out as infinitely preferable to Penang, in every respect, for an establishment, and in consequence of his reports, orders which had been sent out from the Directors for the demolition of Malacca,-in which one may see an edifying speciinen of the aptitude of such a body for the superintendence of such extensive possessions as they possess in Asia, -were recalled, and a point d'appui was preserved, now acknowledged to be of considerable importance.
The next appointment which Mr. Raffles obtained, shewed the great confidence which was reposed in his abilities. He was selected by Lord Minto to assist as his agent in the operations for the reduction of Java, in 1809, and thus eventually became connected with the island, upon which the chief portion of his celebrity is founded. The inost interesting incidents in his career at this period, and until the close of his administration in Java, having been already detailed in his excellent history of that island, we shall here only observe, that he appears throughout the whole business to have conducted himself with the best intentions. The soundness of his discretion in acting on several important occasions without authority, may indeed be questionable. But it does not appear to us that in relieving him in the manner they did of the government of Java, the Company made any thing like a reasonable allowance for the difficult circumstances in which he was placed. Such being the impression we have received, as well from