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DEATH OF HER HUSBAND, IN 1776. (Upon this story Miss Starke founded her Tragedy of the Widow of Malabar.) As this practice, the origin of which is lost in antiquity, has been the admiration and regret of so many ages, I have thought proper to bring forward one instance, respecting which an English gentleman, at that time of authority in the district, has kindly furnished me with authentic documents.
The ladies of Hindostan are allowed to marry once only; but, on the death of their husbands, they are ļegally entitled to a considerable share of his fortune, and may survive him without incurring any reproach; the contrary practice is rare; yet there are still found victims of a false but heroic enthusiasm, who still prevent it from falling into disuse.
Seen by no other man but their husband, and confined within the walls of their apartments, ambition and vanity can only act on things of little import. The applause of the multitude, or future fame, would be faint inducements to such a sacrifice. The Hindoo women are pot influenced either by those considerations, or entirely by affection or despair. Their law assures them, that this act ensures not only their own and their husband's salvation, but that of the children and parents of each. The heat of the climate makes it necessary to bury the same day on which a death happens. The widow who has formed this resolution, and repents before she has left the house and been exposed to public view, may be allowed to draw back; but when this is once done, the severity of their inanners will not permit it.
Bowanny had been married about twelve years, and had three children. She had been tenderly attached to her husband, insoinuch that she chose to dress his food with her own hands, and perform many duties, from which her rank exempted her. She attended him during his illness with the greatest solicitude, and her health and spirits seemed to fluctuate with his. About two months before his death, on his disorder increasing, he asked her, if he died, whether she would accompany him, which she promised, and never swerved from this resolution. As his fate grew more certain, her assiduities became more constant; she did not even withdraw at the entrance of his brothers, or hide her face from them. “ For whom,” said she, “ should I now conceal myself ?” On his death, in the morning of the 12th of March, 1776, she immediately declared her intention to burn with hiin, went and took out her bridal vestments for the occasion, and ordered other necessary preparations with the greatest calmıness. Her temper was so mild, that she would never resent an injury or an affront, but would say “ it was the will of heaven she should suffer it.” For the last two months she had never been seen to shed a tear.
As soon as they were acquainted with her determination, her family, relations, and friends, persuuded het to break it; and particularly the mother and brothers of the deceased. They brought her children before her, and said they would want her care; but she replied, that “ her soul was already gone; that she lived but for him she had lost; and that she was bent upon a great business.” She attended the body all the day, frequently looking at the countenance with smiles, and pressed for dispatch, saying, “ she would go before night, and view the world on leaving it.” Messages from the English chief were answered in the same way as the others had been, and when at length opposition ceased, she expressed the highest joy. She offered, if the family doubted her resolution, or feared she should disgrace them by timid behaviour, to give any proof, by suttering any torture, as a trial ; but nothing of this kind was permitted. She refused to see her children; but a speech she made to her mother-in-law, bespoke her interest in their welfare. “You have excited disputes against my husband,” said she, “ and of course against me; but when we are gone, be kind to my children; they have not offended you. You see how this world passes away, act, then, with reference to a future state." The other wept; but did not speak a word in answer.
About an hour before sunset, the procession began. Bowanny was carried on a litter upon men's shoulders. She sat upright, by the side of her husband's body, which was covered with a linen cloth. She scattered about pieces of the money of that country, and some red powder. As they drew nearer the spot, the curtains of the litter were opened ; and though the sun had been some time set, the strong illumination presented her distinctly to view. She kept one hand upon a tassel, which hung from the top of the litter, whilst with the other she held a fan over the corpse. Her figure was graceful, and rather larger than that of the generality of Ilindoo women.
She was dressed in the fashion of the country, in a red gauze striped and edged with gold, and had various gold and silver ornaments. The whole of her forehead was stained with vermillion, as is customary on the day of marriage. By this she was rather disfigured; but the lower parts of her face had some marks of beauty: while a placid countenance, bordering on melaucholy, shewed a mind steads and collected. She was talking in a pleasant tone of voice to the bramins who walked beside her; and frequently raised her eyes to look around, without the least sign of confusion or disquiet at the sight of the numbers by whom she was surrounded. She once stayed the litter, to bless the English chief and his company, who from curiosity and interest had joined the train--and prayed at intervals, till they arrived at the burning place of the family.
No preparation had been made there for the ceremony; and when it was begun, a fearful time! Bowanny appeared still calm, but sometimes rather faint, as if from weakness, when she was supported by the bramins and her husband's brothers, and retired into a temple, where her mother-in-law constantly resided. During this time her husband's body was uncovered. He was a handsome man, about thirty, and dressed in his bridal habiliments. An hour was employed in bringing wood and materials for the pile. It was made of large beams and moist plantain wood, laid cross-wise, over which was spread dry rushes, and a quantity of small billets of wood. While it was preparing, Bowanny sent twice to complain of the delay. After it had been raised about two feet from the ground, the litter, with the husband's body, was laid upon it, and soon afterwards she came froin the temple, supported by the brainins, her husband's brothers, and four female attendants. peared weak, and often reclined her head. She repeated prayers dictated by the bramins, when near the pile,
with her eyes lifted up to heaven. When close to it, she sate down upon the ground; they gave her the liquor of a cocoa-nut, and read over some ancient writing. She went only once round the pile, instead of three times, on account of her extreme weakness; and, when seated upou it, laid her hands upon the heads of those who crouded round, to bless them ; but what she said was drowned by the hum of the people, and the noise of the music, which accompanied the procession. For a few moments, she appeared in a state of suspence, either affected with what she was going to suffer, or trying to recollect if more was necessary to be done. She then began to give away her ornaments, arranged the pillows of the bed, and, without the least discomposure, laid down on the left side of her husband, throwing one arm around hiin, and striving to support his head with the other. A sheet was then spread over them-on which rushes and sticks, sprinkled with ghee and oil, were laid to the height of two or three feet; when her son, a pretty boy about nine years old, lighted a taper, and, after walking round the pile, set fire to it, just beneath his mother's head. This signal being given, it was lighted on every side. At least ten minutes must have passed, after she lay down, before this took place, during which the pile appeared to heave; but the people who were near affirmed, she had not spoken one word or moved since she lay down; and that the motion was occasioned by people passing round it.
At first a thick black smoke arose, from the oil and moist boughs, which, perhaps, was humanely contrived to suffocate the victim. All remained steady; and when her death was certain, a general shout was raised by her attendants, who boasted of her fortitude to one another.
Some persons, from the superstitious idea that people near death have foresight into events, asked her, on the way to the burning place, to inform them of something they wished to know ;-to which she meekly asked, if they took her for an astrologer?
When distributing her ornaments at the last, her husband's brother observed that a division of them at that time inight create confusion ; and that she had better finish what she had to do, when they inight be taken out of the ashes by any who would search for them, * Very well,” said she, “ then I will lie down."
REVIEW OF BOOKS.
The Reign of Charlemagne, considered chiefly with reference to Religion, Luws, literature and Manners, by Henry Card, 4. M. of Pembroke College, Oxford. In One Octavo Volume, price 7s. Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme. 1807.
This is a work which has long been a desideratum among the readers of history. " The name of Charlemague," observes the author, who is already known to the public by his history of the Revolutions of Russia, and other valuable perforinances, " is not less familiar to the learned, than to the unlearned reader: yet his reign has been exposed to great, and I will venture to add, undeserved neglect.'
Which defect of curiosity respecting the life and character of a man, of whose faine the annals of Europe are full, is rightly attributed by Mr, Card, to the remoteness of the period in which Charlemagne flourished. Indeed with the sole exception of Gibbon), (and he has only viewed the reign of Charlemagne in such a manner as io provoke, rather than satisfy our curiosity,) no other writer has manifested any desire to render the English reader familiar with the inilitary and political operations of that renowned hero. To produce then a work, which, in a popular and elegant style, should delineate Charlemagne in his public and private character, and trace the line of policy pursued by him to impart knowledge, and to create a spirit of improvement, among his people, bas been attempted, and we may safely add, in most respects performed by Mr. Card.
The book is divided into five chapters: and the first contains an eloquent but summary account of the warlike achievements of Charlemagne ; for Mr. Card has expressedly stated in his preface, “that the chief, or rather, sole object of his research, has been to reflect some light on the legislative acts of Charlemagne, the least known, though the most loudly extolled." The