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Memoirs of Mr.Brooke - 1847

Memoirs of Mr.Brooke - 1847

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Published by Martin Laverty
J.A.St.John gives some extracts from Brooke's voyage in the Mediterranean in 1837, and introduces his life in Sarawak
J.A.St.John gives some extracts from Brooke's voyage in the Mediterranean in 1837, and introduces his life in Sarawak

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Martin Laverty on Dec 13, 2011
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11/03/2013

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MEMOIRS OF MR. BROOKE, GOVERNOR OF LABUAN,AND RAJAH OF SARAWAK.
BY JAMES AUGUSTUS ST. JOHN
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AUTHOR OF “THE MANNERS, ETC., OF ANCIENT GREECE."
Until very recently comparatively little was known of Mr. Brooke, or of the Indian Archipelagoitself, the scene of his labours and success. The Dutch, no doubt, had long been established invarious parts of it, and numerous European navigators, from the period of Magellan's voyage in1520, had traversed its narrow seas in all directions, and given descriptions, more or less interesting,of its infinitely varied groups. During the latter half of the eighteenth century, the East IndiaCompany obtained a transient footing on a small island to the north of Borneo, from which itsservants were expelled by the Sulus, and driven to take temporary refuge in Labuan. Afterwards, inthe course of our last great struggle with France, we became masters of all the Dutch possessions inthe East, Sumatra, Java, the southern extremities of Pulo Kalamantan
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,the Moluccas, and the few points they possessed in Celebes.At that period an enterprising gentleman in the service of the East India Company, Sir StamfordRaffles, began to comprehend the importance of that insular division of Asia, and endeavoured, byhis writings and representations to government, to give a proper direction to the policy of thiscountry. His exertions may, upon the whole, be said to have been almost rendered fruitless by theignorance or apathy of the ministers, who understood neither the political nor the commercial valueof the Archipelago. By laying, however, the foundation of Singapore, which he did without ordersand at his peril, this able and judicious man, linked us involuntarily to the Archipelago, made it atonce our duty and interest to acquaint ourselves with its condition, and obtain at least a share of thatimmense commerce which it has been the constant aim of Holland, ever since we restored her colonies, to check rather than to develope. The rapid growth of Singapore may be said to havedisclosed to the world the secret of that part of Asia, which only requires the touch of European policy and commerce to be quickened into active life.Of course there has always been a certain amount of trade between the various islands, because itis impossible to maintain even that degree of civilisation which they possess without theinterchange of commodities, not only among themselves, but with the neighbouring countries on thecontinent. But, up to this hour, the trade may be said to exist in its simplest rudiments. It is onlylately that square-rigged vessels have been engaged in it, in very small numbers, the far greater  portion of the traffic being still carried on in native prahus of a few tons' burden. Nevertheless it has been fully ascertained, that no part of the earth produces richer or more abundant materials for commerce, consisting of gold and precious stones, odoriferous gums, edible birds'-nests, rice,cotton, coffee, and coals, together with a multitude of other articles, the enumeration of whichwould be beside my present purpose.Some time after the disappearance of Sir Stamford Raffles from the scene, another gentleman,who had likewise been in the service of the East India Company, conceived the design of directing public attention to the Archipelago. This was Mr. Brooke, a slight sketch of whose career may not,at the present moment
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, be uninteresting to the world, since he has probably laid the foundation of one of the most lucrative trades and valuable settlements possessed, or to be possessed, by GreatBritain in the East. It is very rarely that men who acquire distinction by their daring spirit of enterprise have time to render themselves masters of those acquisitions which would place them ona level with statesmen and politicians at home. Living perpetually in the midst of danger, exposed to
 
the machination of savages, and habituated to strife and contention, they themselves naturally growfierce and impetuous, and instinctively acquire a contempt for the arts and manners of civilised life.Relying on their courage and their energy, they set no value on the cultivation of the mind, or any of those accomplishments which constitute the charm of social intercourse. Mr. Brooke belongs in nosense to this class of men, except in possessing like them great intrepidity, and the prudence bywhich it should be guided to useful ends. In his original profession, which was that of a soldier, hewould probably have attained high rank, and, had he made literature his profession, he would in thatway have risen to eminence in more than one of its most popular departments.Mr. Brooke, descended by both parents from ancient families, was born on the 29th of April,1803, at Coombe Grove, his father's seat in the neighbourhood of Bath
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. It is an observation whichhas often been made, that most men who render themselves remarkable in life by the developmentof their moral or intellectual qualities discover the first germs of their success in the earlyinstruction of their mothers. Mrs. Brooke was a woman of great strength and delicacy of mind, whowas not only mistress of the knowledge usually possessed by ladies, but of that vivifying sympathywhich, when it operates on a proper object, is sure to kindle a laudable ambition. Fond as a mother should be of all her children, she would yet appear to have conceived peculiar hopes of this son,whom she lived to see Rajah of Sarawak, though the happiness was not permitted her of greetinghim with a mother's blessing on his recent return to England.Intended for the military service of the East India Company, Mr. Brooke received an educationsuitable to his rank and expectations and went out at a very early period to Bengal, in which presidency he spent the first years of his youth. On the breaking out of the Burmese war, heaccompanied his regiment to Assam, where in the vicinity of Rungpoor, the ancient capital of the province, he was shot through the lungs while attacking a stockade, and hovered for some time between life and death. The tranquillity of home, and the benefit of his native air having been judged necessary for his recovery, he returned to Europe, where, as soon as his improved healthwould permit, he resumed the studies of his boyhood, and rendered himself master of severalmodern languages, which he still speaks with fluency. He travelled also through France,Switzerland, and Italy, and in the last-named classic land acquired a strong taste for antiquarianresearches which, up to the present hour, have occupied a portion of his leisure. It was at this time,also, that he became acquainted with the poetry and romantic literature of Italy, and translated passages from Tasso
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, which, for fidelity and elegance, have not, perhaps, been surpassed.Having remained in Europe the full time allowed by his leave of absence, he prepared to returnto India and pursue the military profession. The ship, however, in which he embarked, was wreckedon the Isle of Wight, and he had therefore to undergo the trial of a second separation from hisfamily. The Castle Huntley, the next ship in which he sailed, was more fortunate; there werenumerous passengers on board, many of them well educated and talented; and, to beguile thetedium of the voyage, it was proposed to publish a weekly periodical, of which, by universalconsent, Mr. Brooke was made editor. This task he undertook upon one condition, namely, that allthe contributions should be in verse, and that no one should indulge in personalities. The publication was called the “ Nautilus” and it came out at first on Friday, but afterwards the day of itsappearance was changed to Saturday. The “Nautilus” always commenced with a contribution fromthe editor, who usually wrote under the formidable signature of “Cholera Morbus.” Of these short poems some are light and satirical, originating in fugitive circumstances, and designed solely to promote me amusement of the hour; others, on the contrary, are so serious and full of thought, soelevated in sentiment, so pervaded by the power of imagination, and so conformable in their structure to the strictest rules of art, that they would have done no discredit to Lord Byron himself,whom the youthful poet regarded with high admiration. I have the “Nautilus” now before me; it bears every mark of being the record of an agreeable voyage. All the contributors seem to havetasked their powers to the utmost to have amused their fellow-passengers; and, whatever may be thedefect of some of the pieces, it is impossible to peruse the whole without forming a highlyfavourable conception of the entire party. In some we find the idea of home mixing itself up with all
 
their thoughts, and tinging them with melancholy; in others the wishes bound forward to thetermination of the voyage, and revel in all the enjoyments afforded or promised by Indian life. Tohigh poetical excellence few endeavoured to attain, but there is a profusion of imagery, sometimesoriginal, with much fertility and freshness of fancy.On arriving at Madras Mr. Brooke found that his period of furlough had expired, and that, inorder to reinstate himself in the position he had thus lost, a protracted and wearisomecorrespondence with the authorities at home would probably be necessary; he therefore resigned theservice at once, and determined on proceeding with the ship all the way to China. This step was, perhaps, the most important of his life, as it conducted him to the field of his future labours. It wasnow, in fact, that he saw for the first time the islands of the Indian Archipelago, with their naturalriches and incomparable beauty. By degrees, the idea of visiting and exploring them suggested itself to his mind, though it was not suddenly brought to maturity. On his arrival at Canton he enjoyedsome opportunities of studying the Chinese character, and, in the multiplied imports of that city, of forming some faint conception of the value and variety of the products of the Archipelago.Returning to Europe, still full of the design he had formed, he, in conjunction with another gentleman, fitted out a ship of large burden in order to make the experiment he had so much atheart, and proceeded once more into the China seas, where numerous circumstances concurred todefeat his purposes. The plan of acting in conjunction with another was abandoned, and he oncemore revisited Europe, his views continually acquiring greater maturity and development.Mr. Brooke now, by the death of his father, succeeded to a considerable fortune; and, after thelapse of some time, his project for opening up the Indian Archipelago to British commerce andenterprise was resumed. After much thought and investigation, he resolved upon making the attempton a scale of great magnificence for a private individual, purchased a large and handsome yacht,and, having manned it with a choice crew, left England on an experimental voyage up theMediterranean; experimental, I mean in this sense, that he wished to test the soundness and sailingqualities of his yacht, the “Royalist,” and the docility, courage, and attachment of his men. It would protract this notice to far too great a length to enter into a minute account of that voyage, in thecourse of which he landed in Spain, and traversed a large portion of its southern provinces. Amongthe things he saw was the Alhambra, his description of which I shall here lay before the reader, bothas a specimen of the vigorous and picturesque style in which Mr. Brooke was accustomed, to keephis journal, and as revealing in some degree his character and cast of thought.“The Moorish antiquities interest me more than anything else in Spain, for when we look back on their history we cannot but feel how nearly we might have been connected with them. Thevictory of Charles Martel saved the Christian world from the deluge which threatened its freedomand religion, and gave the first check to conquerors who had carried their conquests to, and their creed from, the deserts of Arabia to the fertile lands of Spain. Though the Moors from that periodceased to extend their territories, they consolidated and enriched what they had acquired. Inagriculture they stood unrivalled; science advanced amongst them. In astronomy, physic, botany,&c. they far outstripped the barbarians of chivalry, and their manufactures flourished in thenumerous cities which owned their sway. Their architecture, so original, so light, yet so rich, is stillto be seen within the walls of the Alhambra; and all who visit this palace must admit that it bearswitness of a people who had reached a high point of enlightened taste and civilised luxury. Itappears, too, as if the genial clime of Spain tended to soften the race who had become its possessors; for whilst their brethren extirpated the religion of the eastern empire, they caught notrace of the civilisation of Greece or of Rome, and the same tribes which from time to time recruitedthe kingdom of Grenada gradually reduced Africa to a state of barbarism, and obliterated everymark of the most subtle and disputatious Christian Church.“Far different was it with the Moors of Spain, for the very history and traditions of their enemies,corrupted by all the malice of religious hate, ascribe to them a degree of enlightenment they wouldwillingly, if possible, have denied.

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