Obrazy na stronie

tence of a Great and Invisible Spirit, whom they call Atna; but they fear his wrath rather than love his attributes. They have amongst them a set of cunning men, who practise on their fears by pretending to dive into futurity. The people hold public assemblies, on great occasions, at which eloquence is all-predominant. They listen to each speaker with the greatest attention. He generally rises from his seat on the ground, and proceeding into an oblong space reserved in the centre, he walks to and fro, flourishing his hatchet, and pouring forth his words in a rapid manner. Previous to rising, he throws a mat or blanket over his shoulders, which he arranges in the most graceful style. A great part of the figure is exposed, and forms a study for an artist which the author thought it well worth going many miles to witness, and invariably reminded him of the great models of antiquity.

After spending some time in New Zealand, which the author found extremely interesting, he returned to Sydney, where he made several drawings, which furnished Mr. Burford with designs for his panorama, recently exhibited in Leicester-square. He next proceeded to the Eastern Archipelago, the Manillas, Madras, and the Mauritius, where he executed a variety of estimable drawings. Upon his return to England, he was very properly employed as draughtsman to his Majesty's ship “Beagle, commanded by Captain Fitzroy, which has lately left our shores on a voyage of discovery.

[From “ The Penny Magazine, No. 21.”]

Art. IV. – A Memoir of Felix Neff, Pastor of the High Alps.

By William Stephen Gilly, M. A., Prebendary of Durham.
Rivington. 1832.

Tuis is a volume which no one can read without improvement. It contains the history of a young Protestant clergyman, Felix Neff, who devoted his life to the duty of preaching the divine word to the scattered inhabitants of the dreary regions called " The High “ Alps” of France * ; — and who, in the discharge of this sacred trust, felt that he was advancing his principal object while he was improving the physical condition of these poor people, and leading them to the acquirement of general knowledge. The difficulties which this wise and pious man encountered, could only have been overcome by the most ardent zeal. The labors which he underwent, and the privations which he sustained, ruined his health, and

* The High Alps were originally peopled by Christians who fled to these sterile and gloomy mountains and valleys to escape persecution for their religious opinions. They were a hiding-place for centuries.

consigned him prematurely to the grave. But his career, though short, was one of permanent usefulness to the mountaineers in whose service he perished : — and he has left behind him a new example of how much one man may accomplish for the benefit of his fellow-creatures, who goes forward in a good work with singleness of purpose, regardless of any other reward but the approbation of his own conscience.

Neff was not a man in whom book-learning constituted the only knowledge. He received a tolerable education from the pastor of the village near Geneva in which he was born; and the contemplative and devout qualities of his mind were called forth by the grand and beautiful scenery by which he was surrounded in his boyhood. But he had a strong love for what was practically useful, and he therefore learnt the trade of a nursery gardener ; he had a stronger passion for romantic adventure, and he entered as a private soldier in the service of Geneva, in 1815. At sixteen, when he was a gardener, he published a valuable little treatise on the culture of trees; and, within two years after he became a soldier at the age of seventeen, he was promoted to be serjeant of artillery, in consequence of his theoretical and practical knowledge of mathematics. His anxious desire, however, was to be a teacher of religion ; and he at length quitted the army to devote himself to the studies which would be necessary previous to his ordination as a minister. He first assumed the functions of what is called a pastor-catechist; and was ultimately called to the vocation for which he was so anxious, by one of those independent congregations of England, whose ministers are received in the Protestant churches of France. Neff adopted the resolution to be ordained in London, for the satisfaction of some religious scruples. This ceremony took place in a chapel in the Poultry, in 1823; and within six months after he was appointed authorized pastor of the department of the High Alps. To form an estimate of the labors which such an appointment involved, it may be sufficient to mention that, in order to visit his various flocks, the pastor had to travel, from his fixed residence, twelve miles in a western direction, sixty in an eastern, twenty in a southern, and thirty-three in a northern; and that Neff steadily persevered, in all seasons, in passing on foot from one district to another, climbing mountains covered with snow, forcing a way through valleys choked up by the masses of rocks that were hurled down by the winter's storm, partaking of the coarse fare and imperfect shelter of the peasant's hut, and never allowing himself any repose or relaxation, because the ignorance of the poor people who were intrusted to his charge was so great, that nothing but incessant activity on his part could surmount its evils. Mr. Gilly has justly observed (speaking in his character of an English clergyman), “it is well that we should see

how hard some of our brethren work, and how hard they live; " and that we should discover, to our humiliation, that it is not “ always where there is the greatest company of preachers that the “ word takes deepest root."


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The course of Neff's life, and the affection which he inspired, will be better understood from the following extract:

“When his arrival was expected in certain hamlets, whose rotation to be visited was supposed to be coming round, it was beautiful to see the cottages send forth their inhabitants, to watch the coming of the beloved minister. “Come take your dinner with us.' Let me prepare your supper.'

- Permit me to give up my bed to you, were reëchoed from many a voice; and though there was nothing in the repast which denoted a feastday, yet never was festival observed with greater rejoicing than by those whose rye-bread and pottage were shared with the pastor Neff. Sometimes, when the old people of one cabin were standing at their doors, and straining their eyes to catch the first view of their guide to heaven,' the youngsters of another were perched on the summit of a rock, and stealing a prospect which would afford them an earlier sight of him, and give them the opportunity of offering the first invitation. It was on these occasions that he obtained a perfect knowledge of the people, questioning them about such of their domestic concerns as he might be supposed to take an interest in, as well as about their spiritual condition, and finding where he could be useful both as a secular adviser and a religious counsellor. Could all • their children read ? Did they understand what they read ? Did they offer

up morning and evening prayers? Had they any wants that he could re• lieve? Any doubts that he could remove? Any afflictions wherein he 6 could be a comforter?'

“ It was thus that he was the father of his flock, and master of their affections and their opinions; and when the seniors asked for his blessing, and the children took hold of his hands or his knees, he felt all the fatigue of his long journeys pass away, and became recruited with new strength. But for the high and holy feelings which sustained him, it is impossible that he could have borne up against his numerous toils and exposures, even for the few months in which he thus put his constitution to the trial. Neither rugged paths, nor the inclement weather of these Alps, which would change suddenly from sunshine to rain, and from rain to sleet, and from sleet to know ; nor snow deep under foot, and obscuring the view when dangers lay thick on his road ; nothing of this sort deterred bim from setting out, with his staff in his hand, and his wallet on his back, when he imagined that his duty summoned him. I have been assured by those who have received him into their houses at such times, that he has come in chilly, wet, and fatigued; or exhausted by heat, and sudden transitions from excessive heat to piercing cold, and that after sitting down a few minutes bis elastic spirits would seem to renovate his sinking frame, and he would enter into discourse with all the mental vigor of one who was neither weary nor languid.

“When he was not resident at the presbytery, he was the guest of some peasant, who found him willing to live as he lived, and to make a scanty meal of soup-maigre, often without salt or bread, and to retire to rest in the same apartment, where a numerous family were crowded together, amidst all the inconveniences of a dirty and smoky hovel.”

We have already stated that the benevolent pastor of the High Alps was intent upon improving the condition of his people as to physical comfort, at the same time that he proclaimed to them the hopes and consolations of religion. Let us see how he set about this work:

“ His first attempt was to impart an idea of domestic convenience.

Chimneys and windows to their hovels were luxuries to which few of them had aspired, till he showed them how easy it was to make a passage for the smoke, and admittance for the light and air. He next convinced them that warmth might be obtained more healthily than by pigging together for six or seven months in stables, from which the muck of the cattle was removed but once during the year. For their coarse and unwholesome food, he had, indeed, no substitute, because the sterility of the soil would produce no other; but he pointed out a mode of tillage, by which they increased the quantity: : and in cases of illness, where they liad no conception of applying the simplest remedies, he pointed out the comfort which a sick person may derive from light and warm soups and other soothing assistance. So ignorant were they of what was hurtful or beneficial in acute disorders, that wine and brandy were no unusual prescriptions in the height of a raging fever. Strange enough, and still more characteristic of savage life, the women, till Neff taught the men better manners, were treated with so much disregard, that they never sat at table with their husbands or brothers, but stood behind them, and received morsels from their hands with obeisance and profound reverence."

He taught the people of the valleys low to irrigate their lands, so as to increase the crop of grass, which is exceedingly small. He found the utmost difficulty in explaining to his hearers that the water might be made to rise and fall, and might be dammed up and distributed accordingly as it might be required for use. The labor and expense appeared to them insuperable difficulties. In spite of their prejudices he accomplished his object, working with the people as a common laborer, and applying his knowledge as an engineer for their exclusive advantage. By thus teaching them how to double their crops he saved them from some of their most severe privations. He taught them also how to cultivate the potato with advantage. But he did more even than this. He incited the people to build a school-house in one of the districts where knowledge was most wanted : and that proper teachers might be spread throughout these regions so shut out from the ordinary means of education, he persuaded a number of young persons to assemble together, one or two from each community, during the most dreary of the winter months, when they could not labor in the fields, and during that time to work hard with him in the attainment of that knowledge which they were afterwards to spread amongst their uninstructed friends and neighbours. The perseverance of these young people was worthy of their zealous pastor. To accomplish this good work perfectly he ohtained the assistance of a studious young friend, who was preparing himself for a great public school. Neff's own account of his progress as a schoolmaster is so interesting that we are sure our readers will not complain of its length:

56 • The short space of time which we had before us, rendered every moment precious. We divided the day into three parts. The first was from sunrise to eleven o'clock, when we breakfasted. The second from noon to sunset, when we supped. The third from supper till ten or eleven o'clock at night, making in all fourteen or fifteen hours of study in the twenty-four. We devoted much of this time to lessons in reading, which the wretched manner in which they had been taught, their detestable ac

cent, and strange tone of voice, rendered a most necessary, but tiresome duty. The grammar, too, of which not one of them had the least idea, occupied much of our time. People who have been brought up in towns can have no conception of the difficulty which mountaineers and rustics, whose ideas are confined to those objects only to which they have been familiarized, find in learning this branch of science. There is scarcely any way of conveying the meaning of it to them. All the usual terms and definitions, and the means which are commonly employed in schools, are utterly unintelligible here. But the curious and novel devices which must be employed, have this advantage, that they exercise their understanding, and heip to form their judgment. Dictation was one of the methods to which I had recourse: without it they would have made no progress in grammar and orthography; but they wrote so miserably, and slowly, that this consumed a great portion of valuable time. Observing that they were ignorant of the signification of a great number of French words, of constant use and recurrence, I made a selection from the vocabulary, and I set them to write down in little copy-books, words which were in most frequent use; but the explanations contained in the dictionary were not enough, and I was obliged to rack my brain for new and brief definitions which they could understand, and to make them transcribe these. Arithmetic was another branch of knowledge which required many a weary hour. Geography was considered a matter of recrealion after dinner: and they pored over the maps with a feeling of delight and amusement, which was quite new to them. I also busied myself in giving them some notions of the sphere, and of the form and motion of the earth; of the seasons and the climates, and of the heavenly bodies. Every thing of this sort was as perfectly novel to them, as it would have been to the islanders of Otabeite; and even the elementary books, which are usually put into the hands of children, were at first as unintelligible as the most abstruse treatises on math matics. I was consequently forced to use the simplest and plainest modes of demonstration ; but these amused and instructed them at the same tiine. A ball made of the box-tree, with a hole through it, and moving on an axle, and on which I had traced the principal circles; some large potatoes hollowed out; a candle, and sometimes the skulls of my scholars served for the instruments by which I illustrated the movements of the heavenly bodies, and of the earth itself

. Proceeding from one step to another, I pointed out the situation of different countries on the chart of the world, and in separate maps, and took pains to give some slight idea, as we went on, of the characteristics, religion, customs, and history of each nation. These details fixed topics of moment in their recollection. Up to this time I had been astonished by the little interest they took, Christian. minded as they were, in the subject of Christian missions ; but, when they began to have some idea of geography, I discovered that their former ignorance of this science, and of the very existence of many foreign nations in distant quarters of the globe, was the cause of such indifference. But as soon as they began to learn who the people are who require to have the gospel preached to them, and in what pirt of the globe they dwell, they felt the same concern for the circulation of the gospel that other Cbristians entertained. These new acquirements, in fact, enlarged their spirit, made new creatures of them, and seemed to triple their very existence.

“ • In the end, I advanced so far as to give some lectures in geometry, and this too produced a happy moral developement.

"'Lessons in music formed part of our evening employment, and those being, like geography, a sort of amusement, they were regularly succeeded by grave and edifying reading, and by such reflections as I took care to suggest for their improvement.'” VOL. I. - NO. I.


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