Book Review: And fell among thieves

“THE PUTUMAYO: THE DEVIL’S PARADISE.” W. hardenburgh. London: T. Fisher Umvin.

This is essentially a book of travel. In the hands of one with the least imagination in the world it might alao have been a book of adven­ture. The practiced hand would have found material enough in being captured by the foul cutthroat brigands and slave dealers of the Putumayo to have given us something stirring, but Mr. Hardenburg is content to relate this experience in the baldest and most unromantic manner. Much more interesting is the narra­tive of the journey that led up to this climax ; but still it lacks the spicy charm of Baker’s Nile journey as related in that wonderful book, “Ishmaelia,” or of Professor Vambery’s excur­sion in Turkestan, or of Burnaby’s “Ride to Khiya.”

This may be to some extent because the difficulties which confronted Mr. Hardenburg and bis companion were less—at all events until they fell into the hands of the angels of a “civilising” British company. It is no great aid to the ima­gination, certainly, to be condemned to travel among a people whose most extravagant piece of wickedness was to half empty the travellers’ liquor cask—though, at the same time, I should have thought that one so fond of the “tiddly” as Mr. Hardenburg appears to be, would have forgiven them in sheer fellow-feeling, and have said nothing about it.

However, if our author’s object was to show how very mild and unoffending are the native races upon whom these diabolical rubber atro­cities we have recently heard so much about have been inflicted, then he succeeds perfectly in his desire. He also lets a little light in upon the vaunted conquests of the Spanish adven­turers who first subdued the native races of Equatorial America, which, in the light of this book, resolve themselves, like most of the war­like achievements of the feudal nobility of all countries, into mere massacres of the harmless and defenceless.

Certain evidence of the cruel work—and as wontonly cruel as the work of those Victorian British captains who were wont to practice gunnery on unoffending niggers on the African coast—gathered by Mr. Hardenburg, and also the report of Consul Casement, are included in the volume, and, together with one awful pic­ture that by itself alone justifies the title “The Devil’s Paradise,” make one more gruesome record of the lengths capitalists are prepared to go in the scramble for profits. From this point of view this book takes a place beside the his­tory of the South African War.

A. E. J.

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