Cornish Miners

Miners &.c

The Cornish was once a peculiar language analogous I believe to their neighbours the Welsh – but I am told that since the death of a very aged female – not one in the County can speak the ancient language. In the room of an elegant and a copious original language, or of an accurate tho’ adopted one, the Miners and inhabitants of many parts use a dialect which is perfectly or nearly unintelligible to English. On one occasion when I went to visit a mine not many miles distant from I actually had need of an interpreter to explain. So also with our mining party, who employed such quaint uncouth phrases together with terms that I had never heard and spoke with such an accent that it was not at all times I could understand their meaning. I had collected a few of the words with which they had previously used or enriched their adopted language but I have somewhere mislaid the paper, which would I dare say have amused you much – All that at present I can remember, is that when they wished to express that they had just finished tea, they said they had been “taying” – when we had a fresh or favourable wind, they called it a “clever breeze.”  Ex G. “She & he” for her and him, “river” for coves [?] “wished” for melancholy. [2]

Amongst themselves and under those whom they had been accustomed to they Our Miners shewed a spirit of subordination, but as to submitting to any other jurisdiction that was quite out of the question. They seemed exceedingly jealous of their character, and any shew of contempt let loose all their wild passions at once. I verily believe that if left to themselves they would not scruple at having recourse to cruelty and murder, not assuredly for gain but when provoked or unrestrained. Being almost all stout resolute men and considering of their personal strength, they do not shrink from the argument of blows but they differ from the Irish in this that they do not ever fight for the love of fighting. They often quarrel amongst themselves and fight, but their disputes are generally followed by a sincere reconciliation. Their tempers are warm, mostly, but affectionate their attachments are apparently stout and lasting – in short with much in their character as deserving of reprehension, they combine more which is entitled to praise.

Remarks on Cornish Miners

All our party, with perhaps the exception of those who had formerly been abroad, were strict Methodists in form, altho’ even Charity could not enable us to say, that all were so in spirit. We had Psalm singing – bible reading – and the offering up of prayers – acts which when performed with the heart and the spirit, are acceptable in the sight of God, but which in the present case, judging from the language and lax morality maintained by some, only shewed that mere men after they have lost entirely the efficacy and power of religion in the heart, still fondly and inveterately cling to the dry and outward forms: I do not intend to assert that these men are worse than others – heaven forbid – I only recognise in them, as well as in others of inferior evangelical pretensions, the common principles of human nature, which often lead us for the sake of our own consciences & our own appearance in the eye of the world to cover our innate evil propensities and passions under the veil of austere virtue or strict religion. I have just excepted those who had formerly been abroad from the description of people now mentioned and I have the miners themselves observing that, before John or Samuel So and so left England, they were pointed out at home as patterns and examples to be imitated – but that after a short residence in a Popish country they had become exceedingly lax in their religious observances and by far too liberal in their theological opinions. As far as I observed myself this was certainly true – for the flame which had been kept brisk and vivid among neighbours and partial friends, too soon alas died away when far away from the con restraining observations of the strictest of their sect, and living among a people whose religion was more congenial & more indulgent to the corrupt nature of fallen man. This effect is by no means surprising and it required no inspiration to anticipate it.

It was amusing to remark the simplicity and ignorance of the world manifested by such of our company as had been all their lives accustomed to the narrow circle of a country village or limited society. If there had been among them any, of even moderate sensibility, I would have envied them their pleasurable feelings when so much novelty struck them on every side. The boundless ocean – the numerous and wonderful tribes of its inhabitants – the awfulness and majesty of a storm – the admirable government of a ship – when brilliant phenomenon of nature together with every other source of curiosity to be found by sea and land – all these must have excited wonder, pleasure, and admiration in their minds. Tis true that in coarse commonplace uneducated souls, no other emotions are produced than what arises from the gratification of a low curiosity which is satisfied with the surface, and never dives beyond – and whenever I see such I say with Horace “olli profanum vulgus,” tho’ I would not go so far as to add “et arceo.”

Many laughable instances occurred, which betrayed the ignorance of some of our party. They were also exceedingly credulous – nothing being too monstrous or absurd to Stagger their belief. One day I thought it necessary to prescribe a Soda Powder for one of the sick and after preparing it, we were on the point of giving it when a miner in great alarm begged us for heavens sake not to kill the patient by giving him boiling water.

My opinion, then, of the real Cornish miner, unacquainted with and uncontaminated by the vices of large towns or a residence abroad is that they are an honest hardworking race, deeply susceptible to religious feelings, and governing themselves accordingly – very irritable but readily appeased – not to be driven but without difficulty led – yielding a willingly obedience to the orders of their own Captains but resisting with pertinacity the interference of others.

Stay at Rio

It was expected by us that our stay in Rio would not exceed 24 hours – but we were detained four days. In the course of this time, altho’ not very well, I went several times on shore. My recollections of Rio were tolerably distinct and I easily recognised those streets which I had often traversed nearly more than two years ago. I observed no difference in the outward appearance off things – on the contrary I thought Rio had deteriorated, rather than improved. A few weeks before our arrival the Emperor, Empress & Queen of Portugal had gone to see the Mines, meaning thereby as I understand, the interior of the country without reference to any particular mine. He was not expected back for a considerable time and by some his going at all was censured as in the eyes of those, who professed great political sagacity, an important crisis was on the eve of breaking forth. Two or three days only previous to our coming, some disturbances had arisen, which were however easily repressed and complete order restored. During our stay no other particular occurred – the world wagged as usual – and at last on

Monday 17th January – we left Rio de Janeiro for Monte Video and Buenos Ayres, places as yet unvisited by me.

Of our passage to Monte Video I can say nothing, being confined to my Cabin by indisposition. I can merely note that we came to Anchor before Monte Video on Monday 31st Jan.ry at 1 A.M. and sailed at 9 A.M. for Buenos Ayres with a pilot. M.r Geach, our Master having been seized 1st with inflammation of the Stomach, which was followed by Enteritis.