« PreviousContinue »
with a fellow-exile in whom traces of good education, better feeling, and once untarnished respectability, still remain, how cheering, how soothing, how sweet the recognition ! Its effect is like a grateful and reviving shower upon the parched earth, or like a ray of sunshine upon a ruin, discovering a remnant of that beauty which is now so defaced.
The unfortunate individual, who, it may be, from taking one false step, perhaps upon the impulse of the moment, becomes an outcast from society, is spurned by his bosom friends, and lies under the ban of his parents and the displeasure of his relatives, shut up in a charnel house of immorality and ignorance, where a tide of contamination is continually flowing, pants and groans as much for a restoration to educated, refined, and virtuous society, as for liberty and home. He looks around in vain for a kindred mind-one from whom he may receive a reciprocity of feeling and sentiment, and the melancholy pleasure arising from mutual sympathy and condolence.
Alas! sympathy and condolence are less seldom found in a prison than their disagreeable and galling contraries. One would think that among the suffering would be found a mutual sympathy and a fellow feeling, but they are less frequently seen in a prison than they are in the world at large, even among strangers to each other. This may appear strange to persons unacquainted with the tone and complexion of prison life, but not so to the reflecting portion of prison inmates.
It is a frightful fact, that amongst a great number of prisoners, whose common lot is one of suffering, callousness of feeling is most commonly manifested. It seems as though the very circumstances of their fate being similar, makes them less able to feel for each other's woes,
Some few exceptions are, however, occasionally met with, which stand out in bold and agreeable contrast to the mass.
These exceptions are chiefly to be found amongst the better educated and less vitiated class of prisoners. When two of this class meet, there is found an acceptable flow of kindred sentiment and feeling. They unbosom with confidence the full measure of their sorrows and misfortunes to each other, and thus obtain a temporary relief from their own sad thoughts
But, alas! it is a melancholy thing after all, for a well educated prisoner who may haply be still alive to good and tender impressions, to come in contact with a kindred mind in a fellow sufferer. It is melancholy, because one cannot but deplore that crime crushes alike the educated and the ignorant—the man who possessed the endearments of a home and the society of respectable relatives, and the pitiable object who unfortunately could boast of neither. Crime, ruthless monster !
age, rank, talents, nor the most binding ties of friendship. The fair moral structure, the work of years, is often destroyed in one unguarded moment. All the care and self-denial of parents to cultivate the mind of their beloved child, and make him such a one as their wishes would have him to be, are often exerted in vain, as many a ruined and heartbroken one can testify. A prisoner of this description, whose bosom has been lacerated by misfortune, cannot but sympathise with every one in a similar situation, and more particularly with those who have enjoyed similar advantages with himself.
Men of education and tender feelings quickly recognise in prison their counterparts, just as one mirror reflects the same objects with its opposite. In a moment, as if by instinctive and involuntary impulse, the painful yet pleasing recognition is made. Grateful changes are these in the monotony of long imprisonment. Would they were more frequent! say the better disposed class of prisoners; would they were less frequent! say mankind in general; and very natural is the wish on both sides.
[There is a vigour of thought and expression displayed in this production, which cause a feeling of regret that the same pen was not oftener employed. This is probably attributable to the fact that the writer, at his own solicitation, was appointed to perform the duty of cooking for the prisoners—a duty which required arduous labour and constant attention. It may appear strange that a man should voluntarily undertake an office involving a large amount of non-remunerating toil, and of exposure to the inclemencies of the weather; for the cooking apparatus was situated on the open deck, without any protection from the rain or spray. To account for his conduct, the only reasons descernible were, the imperative desire of occupation, the irksomeness of doing nothing, the opportunity of bringing himself into notice, the gratification arising from being selected from the common herd, and a partial exemption from the regulations by which the others were necessarily restrained. These may appear trifling inducements, but in reality they exercise an influence of immense importance when applied judiciously to persons in the situation of prisoners.
G. D. was a short, strongly formed man, born in Middlesex, thirty-five years of age, married, by calling a mariner, but probably very irregular in his industrial pursuits. While employed in a large mercantile establishment in London, he embezzled some of the property of his employers, and being convicted, was sentenced to seven years' transportation. This was the second time he had received a similar sentence, having previously undergone the punishment decreed by the first. Before he was embarked, he had passed ten months in "separate confinement,” and twenty on “public works." Being fully alive, to the advantages of meritorious conduct, and having a will sufficiently powerful to act according to his judgment, he had earned during his imprisonment a very favourable estimate of his character. This was fully borne out by his conduct on board, which was in the highest degree meritorious, and consequently obtained for him a domestic situation in one of the first families in Van Dieman's Land.
The education of this man did not probably extend beyond reading and writing, but in both of these he was proficient. His lively intelligence and judicious reasoning gave him the characteristics of a man of cultivated mind. What beyond the cravings of the habitual drunkard could have excited him to crime, is unknown. His did not appear an intellect imperfect in its formation, or perturbed by vicious indulgences. There was an amount of fire in his eye that indicated in a high degree a vigorous and intense cerebral development. That a person possessing such excellent promise and power should have squandered them all so ignobly, is one of those anomalies which society occasionally furnishes for our observation and instruction. It shows us plainly how useless are all mental accomplishments, unless they are duly regulated by submission to the dictates of a wakeful conscience.]
THE HEART SO TRUE.
LAND! land! 'tis Tasman's verdant isle,
The mountain tops appear in view ; I hail the scene with joyful smile,
Long pent upon the ocean blue. But doubts and fears, in sad turmoil,
Blend with my hopes of radiant hue; Oh, there I'll miss the friendly smile :
Alas! I'll miss the heart so true!
Tasmania's highly favoured isle,
If travellers’ gaudy tales be true,
Scenery enchanting,—ever new !
And youthful beauty's rosy hue,
The index to the heart so true.
Yet, hail! thou land of my exile !
Bursting in sunshine on the view ;
'Tis now too late to pine and rue. I'll strive, by unremitting toil,
My sterile fortune to subdue, Though far from Mary's friendly smile, The index to the heart so true!
J. G.* * Vide Note, p. 37.