Eight Years' Wanderings in Ceylon.

by Samuel White Baker

1845 - 1853


EIGHT years' wanderings in Ceylon have created a love for this beautiful island which can only be equaled by my affection for Old England from which the independence of a wild life, combined with an infatuation for rambling into every unvisited nook and corner, sentenced me to a term of voluntary exile.

During this period my delight has been in tracing the great natural resources of the country, in observing the immense relics of its former prosperity, and contrasting the past grandeur and energy of an extinct race with the apathetic and selfish polity of our present system.

It is the false economy of our present government to leave untested the actual capabilities of its possessions. Thus, while Ceylon remains with ruined tanks, deserted cities and vast tracts uncultivated rice-lands, India, governed by the. Company, is advancing in cultivation.* New tanks are formed, new canals for irrigation penetrate through hitherto barren jungles, and arouse the soil to fertility. In fact, the vigilant eye of the Company is directed to the true resources. of the country, and every acre of. available land must yield its proportion to the revenue.

Without the statistical details which would render a de scription `laborious to the general reader, I shall endeavor to give an impartial picture of Ceylon as it is, touching lightly upon the past, in order to prove the possibility of improvement for the future. Having given an account of the sports of the country in the "Rifle and Hound," I shall not dwell at too great length upon this topic, how tempting soever it may be.

In these days, when the enterprise of Englishmen is exhibited on so large a scale by the stream of emigration to foreign shores, a few hints may not be uninteresting to the intending settler. We are all more or less sanguine, and, if unguided by the experience of age, we are apt to paint the future too brightly. This is an error which entails disappointment and regret upon the hasty emigrant, who may discover, when far from his deserted home, that the paradise which he had pictured to himself is but earthly after all, and is accompanied by drawbacks and hardships which he had not anticipated.

It is not every temperament that is fitted for the anxieties of a wild life in a strange land. This many persons who have left England confident in their own strength have discovered, unfortunately, when too late.

Englishmen, however, are naturally endowed with a spirit of adventure. There is in the heart of all of us a germ of freedom which longs to break through the barriers that confine us to our own shores; and as the newborn wildfowl takes to water from its deserted egg-shell, so we wander over the world when launched on our own resources.

This innate spirit of action is the mainspring of the power of England. Go where you will, from north to south and from east. to west, you meet an Englishman. Sail round the glob; and upon every point of strength the Union Jack gladdens your eye, and you think with wonder of the vast possessions which have been conquered, and the immense tracts of country which have been peopled, by the overflow of our little island.

Among the: list of possessions, Ceylon is but a speck; nevertheless the act of. settling in one colony is a fair sample of the general hardships of emigration. I shall therefore introduce a slight sketch of a settlement in Ceylon, which may give some insight into the little disappointments inseparable from a new enterprise. The reader will, I trust, wander with me in my rambles through this lovely country, and endeavor to pass an idle hour among the scenes portrayed.

* Since the, above was written, the government of India has been transferred from the East India Company to the Crown,


CHAPTER I. Colombo - Dullness of the Town - Cinnamon Garden - A Cingalese Appo - Ceylon Sport - Jungle Fever - Newera Ellia - Energy of Sir E. Barnes - Influence of the Governor - Projected Improvements.

CHAPTER II. Past Scenes - Attractions of Ceylon - Emigration - Difficulties in Settling - Accidents and Casualties - An Eccentric Groom - Insubordination - Commencement of Cultivation - Sagacity of the Elephant - Disappointments - "Death" in the Settlement - Shocking Pasturage - Success of Emigrants - "A Good Knock-about kind of a Wife".

CHAPTER III. Task Completed - The Mountain-top - Change in the Face of Nature - Original Importance of Newera Ellia - "The Path of a Thousand Princes" - Vestiges of Former Population - Mountains - The Highlands of Ouva - Ancient Methods of Irrigation - Remains of Aqueducts - The Vale of Rubies - Ancient Ophir - Discovery of Gold-Mineral Resources - Native Blacksmiths.

CHAPTER IV. Poverty of Soil - Ceylon Sugar - Fatality of Climate - Supposed Fertility of Soil - Native Cultivation - Neglect of Rice Cultivation - Abandoned Reservoirs - Former Prosperity - Ruins of Cities - Pollanarua - The Great Dagoba - Architectural Relics - The Rock Temple - Destruction of Population - Neglected Capabilities - Suggestions for Increasing Population - Progress of Pestilence - Deserted Villages - Difficulties in the Cultivation of Rice - Division of Labor - Native Agriculture.

CHAPTER V. Real Cost of Land - Want of Communication - Coffee-planting - Comparison between French and English Settlers - Landslips - Forest-clearing - Manuring - The Coffee Bug - Rats - Fatted Stock - Suggestions for Sheep-farming - Attack of a Leopard - Leopards and Chetahs - Boy Devoured - Traps - Musk Cats and the Mongoose - Vermin of Ceylon.

CHAPTER VI. "Game Eyes" for Wild Sports - Enjoyments of Wild Life - Cruelty of Sports - Native Hunters - Moormen Traders - Their wretched Guns - Rifles and Smooth-bores - Heavy Balls and Heavy Metal - Beattie's Rifles - Balls and Patches - Experiments - The Double-groove - Power of Heavy Metal - Curious Shot at a Bull Elephant - African and Ceylon Elephants - Structure of Skull - Lack of Trophies - Boar-spears and Hunting-knives - " Bertram" - A Boar Hunt - Fatal Cut.

CHAPTER VII. Curious Phenomenon - Panorama of Ouva - South-west Monsoon - Hunting Followers - Fort M'Donald - River - Jungle Paths - Dangerous Locality - Great Waterfall - Start for Hunting - The Find - A Gallant Stag - "Bran" and Lucifer" - "Phrenzy's" Death - Buck at Bay - The Cave Hunting-box- "Madcap's" Dive - Elk Soup - Former Inundation - "Bluebeard" leads off - " Hecate's" Course -The Elk's Leap - Variety of Deer - The Axis - Ceylon Bears - Variety of Vermin - Trials for Hounds - Hounds and their Masters - A Sportsman "shut up"- A Corporal and Centipede.

CHAPTER VIII. Observations on Nature in the Tropics - The Dung Beetle - The Mason-fly - Spiders - Luminous Insects - Efforts of a Naturalist - Dogs Worried by Leeches - Tropical Diseases - Malaria - Causes of Infection - Disappearance of the "Mina" - Poisonous Water - Well-digging Elephants.

CHAPTER IX. Instinct and Reason - Tailor Birds and Grosbeaks - The White Ant - Black Ants at War - Wanderoo Monkeys - Habits of Elephants - Elephants in the Lake - Herd of Elephants Bathing - Elephant-shooting - The Rencontre - The Charge - Caught by the Tail - Horse Gored by a Buffalo - Sagacity of Dogs - "Bluebeard" - His Hunt - A True Hound.

CHAPTER X. Wild Fruits - Ingredients for a "Soupe Maigre" - Orchidaceous Plants - Wild Nutmegs - Native Oils - Cinnamon - Primeval Forests - Valuable Woods - The Mahawelli River - Variety of Palms - Cocoa-nut Toddy - Arrack - Cocoa-nut Oil - Cocoa-nut-planting - The Talipot Palm - The Areca Palm - Betel Chewing - Sago Nuts - Varicty of Bees - Waste of Beeswax - Edible Fungi - Narcotic Puff-ball - Intoxicating Drugs - Poisoned Cakes - The "Sack Tree" - No Gum Trees of Value in Ceylon.

CHAPTER XI. Indigenous Productions - Botanical Gardens - Suggested Experiments - Lack of Encouragement to Gold-diggers - Prospects of Gold-digging - We want "Nuggets" - Who is to Blame? - Governor's Salary - Fallacies of a Five Years' Reign - Neglected Education of the People - Responsibilities of Conquest - Progress of Christianity.

CHAPTER XII. The Pearl Fishery - Desolation of the Coast - Harbor of Trincomalee - Fatal Attack by a Shark - Ferocious Crocodiles - Salt Monopoly - Salt Lakes - Method of Collection - Neglect of Ceylon Hides - Fish and Fishing - Primitive Tackle - Oysters and Penknives - A Night Bivouac for a Novice - No Dinner, but a Good Fire - Wild Yams and Consequences -The Elephants' Duel - A Hunting Hermitage - Bluebeard's last Hunt - The Leopard - Bluebeard's Death - Leopard Shot.

CHAPTER XIII. Wild Denizens of Forest and Lake - Destroyers of Reptiles - The Tree Duck - The Mysteries of Night in the Forest - The Devil-Bird - The Iguanodon in Miniature - Outrigger Canoes - The Last Glimpse of Ceylon - A Glance at Old Times.