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Title: Ultima Thule; vol. 1/2 - or A Summer in Iceland
Author: Burton, Richard R.
Language: French
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ultima Thule; vol. 1/2 - or A Summer in Iceland" ***

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                             ULTIMA THULE;
                         A SUMMER IN ICELAND.

                      [Illustration: From a Photo

                  M‘Farlane & Erskine, Lithrs. Edinr.


                        Frontispiece, Vol. I.]

                             ULTIMA THULE;
                         A SUMMER IN ICELAND.

                          RICHARD F. BURTON.

        With Historical Introduction, Maps, and Illustrations.

                                VOL. I

                           WILLIAM P. NIMMO.
                            AND EDINBURGH.


                           ST JAMES SQUARE.


TRIESTE, _March 1875_.


Be pleased to accept this very inadequate return for the varied
information with which you have favoured me, and for all your
hospitality and kindness to me at Edinburgh and elsewhere.

You are so well known as a traveller in Iceland, and as a warm and
generous friend to the Icelander, that you will not be held responsible
for my over freedom of speech, nor for any unpopular opinions expressed
in the pages honoured by bearing your name.

                           Pray believe me,

                         Yours very sincerely,

                          RICHARD F. BURTON.

                      ROBERT MACKAY SMITH, ESQ.,
                           ETC., ETC., ETC.,

    “Signor, non sotto l’ombra in piaggia molle
       Tra fonti e fior, tra Ninfe e tra Sirene;
     Ma in cima al l’erto e faticoso colle,
       Della virtù riposto è il nostro bene:
     Chi non gela, e non suda, e non s’estolle
       Dalle vie del piacer, là non perviene.”
                   --TASSO, xvii. 61.

    “Not among nymphs and sirens, founts and flowers,
       Not in voluptuous herbage in the shade;
     But on the toilsome steep where valour towers
       Alone, O Prince, our supreme good is laid;
     Who from the paths of pleasure will not raise
       His thoughts; nor freeze nor sweat, arrives not there.”

     “In somma, ho avuto sempre mai d’avanti agli occhi quelle sante
     leggi della Storia, di non osar dire il falso, né temer di dire il
     vero; e mi lusingo di non avervi contravenuto.”



According to the fashion of the day, this volume should have been
published two years ago, shortly after my return from Iceland. The truth
is that before the second third had been written, I found a large fallow
of pre-historic study, the Castellieri of Istria, and I could not help
putting hand to the work at “Iceland’s” expense. But this much of delay
is, methinks, a disadvantage rather in popular prejudice than in point
of fact. The loss of freshness brings with it not a little gain. Whilst
all the scenes and events of a journey, during and immediately after its
progress, appear like an unartistic sketch, confused and without
comparative distance; time gives perspective, and relation of details,
and distinction of light and shade. Moreover, in treating of Iceland
there is present danger of misleading the reader, unless due reflection
correct hasty work. The subject is, to some extent, like Greece and
Palestine, of the sensational type: we have all read in childhood, about
those “Wonders of the World,” Hekla and the Geysir, and, as must happen
under the circumstances, we have all drawn for ourselves our own
Iceland--a distorted and exaggerated mental picture of what has not met,
and will not meet, the eye of sense. Moreover, the travellers of the
early century saw scenes of thrilling horror, of majestic grandeur, and
of heavenly beauty, where our more critical, perhaps more cultivated,
taste finds very humble features. They had “Iceland on the brain,” and
they were wise in their generation: honours and popularity await the man
who ever praises, the thorough partisan who never blames. But not the
less our revulsion of feeling requires careful coercion: it always risks
under-rating what we have found so much over-valued, of tinging
neutral-hued sobriety with an angry flush of disappointment.

I went to Iceland feeling by instinct that many travellers had
prodigiously exaggerated their descriptions, possibly because they had
seldom left home. “The most difficult and expensive country in the
world” would certainly prove cheap and easy after the Andes and the
Haurán. What could be made of “giddy rapid rivers” at most three feet
deep, and if deeper provided with ferries? Yet the “scare” had succeeded
in making a deep impression: one tourist came to Iceland prepared to
cross the streams “in buff,” and firmly determined on no account to
climb a scaur. “The ruts are only one danger of Icelandic travelling,
_the_ danger is crossing the streams,” says a modern author--how his
descriptions were derided by a couple of English officers who had ridden
about the Himalayas! What could I think of the “stupendous precipice of
Almannagjá,” of the “frightful chasm,” of the “dreadful abyss, causing
the most disagreeable emotions,” when also told that men ride up and
down the side? Yet another says, “rush for your life” from the
unfortunate Strokkr; whilst we are actually threatened with perils of
polar bears--half-starved wretches floated ashore upon ice-floes to be
slaughtered by the peasants with toy scythes before they can stretch
their cramped and numbed limbs. The “horrific deep chasms” of the
Reykjavik-Hafnafjörð road, and the popular sketches, affected me with
extreme incredulity. A friend described to me life in Iceland as living
in a corner, the very incarnation of the passive mood; and travelling
there as full of stolid, stupid risks, that invite you to come and to
repent coming, not like the swiftly pursuing or treacherously lurking
perils of tropical climes, but invested with a horror of their own--such
was not my experience.

Shortly after returning to England, I published, in the columns of the
_Morning Standard_ (October to November 1872), two letters for the
benefit of intending tourists and explorers. Written in the most sober
and realistic style, and translated into many of the languages of
Europe, they gained for me scant credit at home. “Old Identity” again
kicked against the goad of “New Iniquity,” and what could I expect?
Mackenzie and Henderson, who _would_ “feast wondering eyes” upon
everything and everybody, had set the example of treating Iceland as an
exceptional theme. They found followers: even the hard-headed Scot
gallops between Reykjavik and Thingvellir along the edge of a “dreadful
precipice,” where I saw only the humblest ravine; and travellers to the
age-weary, worn-out Geysir rise at midnight in their excitement to sing
those “grand old psalm-tunes, such as York and the Old Hundredth.” Need
it be said that Mr Cook’s pilgrim-tourists have done exactly the same
thing in the Holy Land?

My matter-of-fact notions were set down as the effects of “Peter
Porcupine,” over-“combativeness,” and the undue “spirit of opposition”
that characterises an Objector-General, with the “morbid object of
gaining popularity by stating something new”--a hasty judgment, which
justifies me in writing these volumes, and in supporting my previously
expressed views. I can appeal for confirmation to the dozen intelligent
English tourists who were in Iceland at the same time as myself: all
united with me in deriding their previous conceptions, and in forming
the estimate here offered to the public.

My plan throughout this volume has been as follows: The reader, not the
critic, is assumed to know as little about the island as its author did
before visiting it; and the first impressions are carefully recorded,
not only as a _mise en scène_, but for conciseness’ sake, so that only
differences, not resemblances, may require subsequent notice. Thus the
capital and its environs are painted at some length, whilst most authors
simply land at the little port, and set out at once for the interior.
The cruise to the north coast, and the “Cockney trip” to Hekla and the
Geysir are related with less circumstance, but I have added itineraries,
as such details have not yet appeared in English. The journey through
the eastern country claims considerable space. Critics tell us that
African travellers have so much trouble to reach the Unexplored Regions,
that they are apt to report all they see at wearying length, and to
empty the contents of their journals upon the public. But every mile of
new, or even comparatively new, ground deserves careful topographical
notices: let the general reader “skip” such photos if he likes, but let
them be written at least for the purpose of future comparison. Again,
the Icelanders may complain, like the Swiss, that, whilst their country
has become a touring-field to Europe, scant attention is paid to
themselves. I have endeavoured to remedy this grievance by ethnological
descriptions; and though it has been my desire to speak of things, and
states of things, not of persons, it has been impossible at times to
avoid personalities. And, whilst a wanderer knowing only enough of the
language to express his humble wants, whose travels have been limited to
a single fine season, has little right _ex cathedrâ_, to pronounce, even
in this scanty community, upon religion and politics, upon commerce and
civilisation; he is fully justified in quoting as his own the judgments
formed by consulting experts and authorities, upon whom his experience,
and that “sixth sense” developed by the life-long habit of observation,
have taught him to rely.

There is still much to be done in Iceland, and I flatter myself that the
fifteenth chapter, which shows my only attempt at actual exploration,
will supply adventurous men with useful hints. The geography, especially
of that huge white blot, the south-eastern part, is unknown; and a tyro
can be usefully employed there in collecting specimens of botany. The
meteorology, again, is highly interesting--does the cold in the “Insula
quæ glacialis dicitur” increase, as some have supposed, the effect of
the “precession of the equinoxes, the revolution of the apsides,
variations in the excentricity of the earth’s orbit,” etc.? Or has it
increased at all since Saga times? Evidently it would be most
interesting to compare the Icelandic glacier-formations with those of
Switzerland; and to determine if the rules laid down by the “De Saussure
of Great Britain,” the late Professor David Forbes, by Professor
Tyndall, and by Mr Whymper, the conqueror of the mighty Matterhorn, are
here applicable. As anthropologists, we ask why a people once so famed
for arms, if not for arts, has almost disappeared from the world’s
history--is the change caused by politics or religion; is it the logical
sequence of monarchy or “media,” of icy winters, of earthquakes and
volcanoes, of pestilence and famine? We are curious to learn why a noble
poetry should have ceased to sing. And as we have dwelt upon the past,
so we would speculate upon the future of the Scandinavian race, which is
supposed to be tending to reunion in its old homes, and which, as it
enlarges its education, will, like the Slav, take high rank in the
European family.

The main object of the book, however, has been to advocate the
development of the island. Sensible Icelanders freely confess that the
life-struggle at home is hard, very hard, and that the “Alma Mater” is a
“Dura Mater,” but they have not suggested any remedy for the evil. I
hold three measures to be absolutely necessary; the first is the working
of the sulphur deposits--not to mention the silica--now in English
hands; the second, a systematic reform of the primitive means and
appliances with which the islanders labour in their gold mines, the
fisheries; and, thirdly, the extension of the emigrating movement, now
become a prime need when the population is denser than at any period of
its thousand-year history. Concerning that “make-shift,” the pony
traffic, and the ill-judged export of sheep and black cattle, ample
details will also be found.

No care has been omitted in securing for these pages as much correctness
as the reader can expect. Mr Robert Mackay Smith, of Edinburgh, whose
name I have placed, with permission, at the beginning of this volume,
obliged me with the details of his own travels. Dr Richard S. Charnock,
whose extensive reading and access to libraries fit him well for the
task, assisted me in the Introductory Section, which treats of Thule. Mr
Gwyn Jeffreys kindly examined my little collection of shells; Mr Alfred
Newton was good enough to suggest hints concerning a possible “last of
the Gare-fowl;” and Mr Watts, of Vatna-, or rather Klofa-, Jökull fame,
gave me a list of his stages. My fellow-traveller, Mr Alfred G. Lock of
Roselands, kept me thoroughly well posted, at great trouble to himself,
in ephemeral literature concerning Iceland. When preparing my manuscript
for the press, I found that the notes showed various lacunæ and want of
details resulting from lack of time: Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín of the
Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, whose name is sufficient recommendation,
consented to become my _collaborateur_ in working up the Introduction;
and Mr A. H. Gunlögsen has revised the sheets in my absence from home.
Of the late Dr Cowie I shall speak in another place. Mr Vincent
courteously placed his paper on “Sulphur in Iceland,” at my disposal;
and Mr P. le Neve Foster, Secretary of the Society of Arts, allowed me
to borrow from it or to reprint it. Mr William P. Nimmo has brought out
the book in the most handsome and liberal form. I thank these gentlemen
from my heart, and, at the same time, I warn my readers that all sins of
commission and omission occurring in these pages, must be charged upon
the author, and the author alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Allow me to conclude this necessary preliminary ramble with the lines of
good “old Dan Geffry:”

    “For every word men may not chide or pleine,
     For in this world certain ne wight there is
     That he ne doth or sayth sometime amis.”




OF THULE                                     PAGE

Thule, Poetical and Rhetorical,                 2

Strabo, Mela, Pliny, Ptolemy,                   3

Thule, part of Great Britain,                  11

Thule = Scandia,                               23

Thule = Iceland,                               25

Thule (Etymology of),                          32



Genesis and Geology,                            35

Hydrography,                                    53

Climate,                                        55

Chronometry,                                    70

Summary,                                        75


HISTORICAL NOTES,                               78



General Considerations,                        113

Divisions,                                     116

Judicial Procedure,                            120



Statistics,                                    122

General Considerations,                        130

Personal Appearance,                           131

Character,                                     137

Society,                                       141

The Family,                                    148

Diseases,                                      151



Education,                                     155

Professions,                                   162



Animals Wild and Tame,                         169

Notes on the Flora,                            175

Agriculture and Cattle-Breeding,               179

Fisheries and Fishing,                         189

Industry,                                      198

Emigration,                                    208



Taxation,                                      209

Coins,                                         215

Weights and Measures,                          218

Communication and Commerce,                    219

Visit to the Store,                            225

Prices and Imports,                            230



Catalogue-Raisonné of Modern Travels
in Iceland,                                    235

Preparations for Travel,                       260


The Steam-Ship “Queen”--The Orkneys and Maes Howe--The Shetlands
   and the Færoe Islands,                  267-300

Note on Stone Implements,                  300-306


The Landfall--Fishing Fleet--To Reykjavik, 307-329


Reykjavik--The Suburbs--The Lodging-House--The Club and
   the Way we spend the Day,               330-347


Sunday at Reykjavik--Drinking in Iceland,  348-362


Visits--Convivialities--The Catholic View of the
    Home-Rule Party,                       363-380



Reykjavik, Capital of Iceland,               _Frontispiece_.

General Map of Iceland,                  _Introduction_, 1

The Dwarfie Stone, Hoy, Orkney,                        266

St Magnus’ Cathedral and Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall,      283

Stone Implements found in Shetland,                303-306

Cottage in Reykjavik,                                  337

The Anglo-Icelandic Host,                              345

The Lich-House, Cemetery, Reykjavik,                   349

Iceland Woman--Sunday Wear,                            354

Iceland Woman--Monday Wear,                            355

The Head Constable,                                    358

[Illustration: ICELAND.]






But is Iceland “Ultima Thule?”

The author hopes to make it evident that “Thule” was used according to
date in five several senses--a sufficient reason for the confusion which
has so long invested the subject. It has been well remarked that no
place is more often mentioned by the ancients than the “island hid from
us by snow and winter;” and yet, that no position is more
controverted.[1] There has been a “King of Thule,” and now there is a
“Princess of Thule,”--but where and what is “Thule?”

It will take some time to clear up the darkness which has been heaped by
a host of writers upon “Thule,” and we will begin by distributing the
debated word.

_Firstly_, It was attributed poetically, rhetorically, and per
synecdochen, to the northern “period of cosmographie,” and to its
people, real or supposed.

_Secondly_, It was applied to Iceland, and to Iceland only, from the
earliest ages of its exploration.

_Thirdly_, In the centuries when imperial Rome extended her sceptre to
the north of “the Britains;” it was given to the outlying parts,
Ireland, Scotland, the Orkneys, the Shetlands, and features known only
to fabulous geography.

_Fourthly_, The later Roman writers prolonged it to the “Scania Island,”
modern Norway, Sweden, and Lapland. This Thule should be called

_Fifthly_, Between the establishment of Christianity in England, and the
official or modern rediscovery, the term Thule was once more, as of old,
limited to Iceland.



The following are popular instances of Thule used in its first sense,
the remotest part of the septentrional world, when it was a “fabulosa
non minus quam famosa insula.” Virgil has only one allusion to it
(Georg., i. 30, 31):

              “Tibi serviat ultima Thule,
    Teque sibi generum Tethys emat omnibus undis;”

but his epithet has been consecrated by a bevy of succeeding poets.

Servius, commenting upon Virgil, explains:

     “Thyle insula est oceani inter septentrionalem et occidentalem
     plagam, ultra Britanniam, Hiberniam, Orcadas;”

which is vague enough. He is afterwards more precise:

     “At this island, when the sun is in Cancer, the days are said to be
     continuous without nights. Various marvels are related of it, both
     by Greek and later writers; by Ctesias and Diogenes among the
     former, and by Samnonicus among the latter.”

The work of Ctesias here referred to is little known: Thule would hardly
enter into Persica and Indica (B.C. 400). Of Diogenes presently.
Samnonicus Sorenus was a writer put to death by command of Caracalla
(Notes and Queries, t. ii., v. 119, p. 301).

L. Annæus Seneca (ob. A.D. 65) first re-echoes Virgil in the celebrated
“prophetic verses,” whose sense has been extended to the New World:

    “Venient annis secula seris,
     Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum
     Laxet, et ingens pateat tellus,
     Tethysque novos detegat orbes,
     Nec sit terris ultima Thule.”
                   --Medea, 375, et seq.

Ammianus Marcellinus (ob. circ. A.D. 390) uses (History, lib. xviii., 6,
31) the adage, “Etiamsi apud Thulen moraretur Ursicinus.”

Claudius Claudianus (flor. A.D. 395-408) sings:

    “Et nostro procul axe remotam
     Insolito belli tremeficit murmure Thulen!”
            --De Bell. Getic., 203, _et seq._


    “Te vel Hyperboreo damnatam sidere Thulen,
     Te vel ad incensas Libyæ comitatur arenas.”
            --_In Rufin._, ii. 240.

Finally, we find in Aurelius Prudentius (nat. A.D. 348):

                “Ultima littora Thules



Entering upon the second phase of the subject, it is advisable to
consider what has been written concerning Thule, by the four patriarchs
of classical geography. With Strabo Thule is Iceland; in Mela it is
indefinite; and to Pliny and Ptolemy it is part of Britain, with an
_arrière pensée_ of Iceland: of Pytheas and Eratosthenes we must also
say a few words.


Strabo (nat. B.C. 54; Introduction, vol. i., p. 99, Hamilton and
Falconer’s translation, Bohn, 1854) tells us, § 2:

     “Thence (_i.e._, from the Dneiper) to the parallel of Thule, which
     Pytheas says is six days’ sail north from Britain and near the
     Frozen Sea, other 11,500 stadia” [a measure which we will assume
     with Leake to be 700 = 1°].

Again, § 3:

     “But that the Dneiper is under the same parallel as Thule, what man
     in his senses could ever agree to this? Pytheas, who has given us
     the history of Thule, is known to be a man upon whom no reliance
     can be placed; and other writers who have seen Britain and
     Ierne[2](Ireland?), although they tell us of many small islands
     round Britain, make no mention whatever of Thule.”

In § 4:

     “Now from Marseille to the centre of Britain is not more than 5000
     stadia; and if from the centre of Britain we advance north not more
     than 4000 stadia, we arrive at a temperature in which it is
     scarcely possible to exist. Such indeed is that of Ierne.
     Consequently the far region in which Eratosthenes places Thule must
     be totally uninhabitable. By what guess-work he arrived at the
     conclusion that between the latitude of Thule and the Dnieper there
     was a difference of 11,500 stadia, I am unable to divine.”

In book ii., chap. 4, §§ 1, 2, he thus disposes of Pytheas (“by whom
many have been deceived”):

     “It is this last writer who states that he travelled all over
     Britain on foot, and that the island is above 40,000 stadia in
     circumference.[3] It is likewise he who describes Thule and other
     neighbouring places, where, according to him, neither earth, water,
     nor air exist separately, but a sort of concretion of all these,
     resembling marine sponge, in which the earth, the sea, and all
     things were suspended, this forming, as it were, a link to unite
     the whole together. It can neither be travelled over nor sailed
     through. As for the substance, he affirms that he has beheld it
     with his own eyes; the rest he reports on the authority of others.
     So much for the statements of Pytheas, who tells us besides, that
     after he had returned thence, he traversed the whole coasts of
     Europe from Gades to the Don. Polybius asks, ‘How is it possible
     that a private individual, and one too in narrow circumstances,
     could ever have performed such vast expeditions by sea and land?[4]
     And how could Eratosthenes, who hesitates whether he may rely on
     his statements in general, place such entire confidence in what the
     writer relates concerning Britain, Gades, and Iberia?’ Says he,
     ‘It would have been better had Eratosthenes trusted to the
     Messenian (Euhemerus or Evemerus) rather than to this writer. The
     former merely pretends to have sailed into one [unknown] country,
     viz., Panchæa, but the latter that he has visited the whole of the
     north of Europe, as far as the ends of the earth; which statement,
     even had it been made by Mercury, we should not have believed.
     Nevertheless Eratosthenes, who terms Euhemerus a Bergæan, gives
     credit to Pytheas, although even Dicærchus would not believe him.’”

In book ii., chap. 5, § 8, we have a further notice of Thule:

     “It is true that Pytheas Massiliensis affirms that the farthest
     country north of the British Islands is Thule; for which place, he
     says, the summer tropic and the Arctic circle is all one. But he
     records no other particulars concerning it; [he does not say]
     whether Thule is an island, or whether it continues habitable up to
     the point where the summer tropic becomes one with the Arctic
     circle. For myself, I fancy that the northern boundaries of the
     habitable earth are greatly south of this. Modern writers tell us
     of nothing beyond Ierne which lies just north of Britain, where the
     people live miserably and like savages, on account of the severity
     of the cold. It is here, in my opinion, the bounds of the habitable
     earth ought to be fixed.”

Finally, in book iv., chap. 5, § 5, we have the most important notice of

     “The description of Thule is still more uncertain on account of its
     secluded situation; for they consider it the northernmost of all
     lands, of which the names are known. The falsity of what Pytheas
     has related concerning this and neighbouring places, is proved by
     what he has asserted of well-known countries. For if, as we have
     shown, his descriptions of these is in the main incorrect, what he
     says of far distant countries is still more likely to be false.
     _Nevertheless, as far as astronomy and mathematics are
     concerned,[5] he appears to have reasoned correctly that people
     bordering on the frozen zone would be destitute of cultivated
     fruits and almost deprived of the domestic animals_; that their
     food would consist of millet, herbs, fruits, and roots; and that
     where there was corn and honey they would make drink of these. That
     having no bright sun they would thresh their corn and store it in
     vast granaries, threshing-floors being useless on account of the
     rain and want of sun.”

The whole question evidently hinges upon the credibility of Pytheas
Massiliensis, who travelled about the time of Alexander the Great. It
has been ably argued, pro and con, by a host of writers, and in our day
by the late Sir G. C. Lewis (Astronomy of the Ancients, p. 467, et
seq.), and by Sir John Lubbock (Prehistoric Times, p. 59). But the
dispute has not been settled. I would remark that the old traveller’s
account is consistent enough. He appears to place Thule under N. lat.
66° (assuming, as Strabo does, the tropic at 24°), a parallel which
would pass through the north of Iceland. He is quite right about the
absence of fruits. His spongy matter may have been ice-brash, Medusæ,
the German meer-lungen, or even pumice-stone, which modern travellers
have found floating in such quantities upon the sea, within reach of
volcanoes, that their movements were arrested. We read that about a
month before the eruption of A.D. 1783, a submarine vent burst forth at
a distance of nearly seventy miles in a south-westerly direction off
Cape Reykjanes, and ejected such immense quantities of pumice that the
surface of the ocean was covered with it to the distance of 150 miles,
and the spring ships were impeded in their course. Also when Herodotus,
a Greek--whose world embraced the Eridanus or Amber River, the Tin
Isles, the Arimaspians and the Hyperboreans--could confound snow with
feathers, Pytheas, a Marseillais, might be allowed some latitude in
describing glaciers. Poverty has not prevented the most audacious
journeys; and discovery has been mainly the work of individuals. Geminus
(Isagoge, etc., cap. 5) opines that Pytheas was taken to Iceland against
his will. The barbarians showed him where the sun set on the shortest
day, and rose again after a short interval. Then the sea began to
thicken “pulmonis marini (πνεὑμονι θαλαττἱῳ) simile.” He afterwards
heard that where the sun does not set, is the uttermost part of the
world, and cannot be travelled over. Greek _outrecuidance_ evidently
hated to be taught by a kind of Gaul like Pytheas. Strabo, with his
captious, bilious, and acrid criticism, is wrong, and Pytheas is right,
in a highly important part of the question, the inhabitability of the
island. In fact, sundry modern writers have declared that, as far as we
have the means of judging, Strabo’s predecessors, Pytheas and
Eratosthenes, were more correctly informed than he was concerning the
geography of the western parts of Europe.[6] The learned Isaac Casaubon
(Commentaries upon Strabo) thus decides the question clean against his
author: “Thule--non esse aliam quæ Islandia hodie dicitur, facile doctis
viris assentior.” He adds that Eratosthenes held Pytheas to be an
oracle, but when Polybius and others found his geography loose in points
familiar to the Greeks, they pronounced him a liar, and rejected all he

I must therefore conclude that Pytheas, with all his fables, by Thule
meant Iceland, and Iceland only; moreover, that he had acquired some
knowledge of the island. Indeed Gosselin opined that both Pytheas and
Eratosthenes had had access to the memoirs of some unknown ancient
people to whom Europe and its seas were as well known as to ourselves.
He argues that this people could not have been Babylonians, Phœnicians,
Carthaginians, nor Egyptians. Bailly (Hist. de l’Astr. An., 1-3),
entertaining a similar opinion, supposes them, after the fashion of the
day, to be Antediluvians.


Pomponius Mela (A.D. 41-54; De Situ Orbis, iii. 6) is our next
authority. After mentioning Britannia and Iverna, the thirty islands of
the Orcades, the seven Hæmodæ (Shetlands) fronting Germany,[7] and the
Scandinavian Isle held by the Teutons,[8] he says:

     “Thule fronts the seaboard of the Belcæ (alii Belgæ and Bergæ),[9]
     an island celebrated in the Greek poetry and in our own. There, as
     the sun rises to set afar off, the nights are indeed short; but
     during winter, as in other places, obscure; in summer they are
     light, because throughout that season (the sun), already raising
     himself higher (above the horizon), despite not being seen, yet
     illuminates the nearest parts by his approaching splendour. At the
     solstices there is no darkness, because then (the sun), becoming
     more manifest, shows not only his rays, but the greater part” (of
     his disc).


The next authority is Pliny (nat. A.D. 23, ob. A.D. 79), who makes Thule
the northernmost British island. Both he and Cæsar (Bell. Gall., v. 13),
placing Mona about N. lat. 66°, declare that the sun does not set in
summer, but perpetually disappears during the winter solstice. To the
former phase Cæsar assigns thirty days, Pliny six months (_senis
mensibus_). The great natural philosopher mentions the Massilian
traveller without abusing him:

     “Pytheas informs us that this is the case (_i.e._, the day lasting
     six months, and the night being of equal length) in the island of
     Thule, which is six days’ sail from the north of Britain” (Nat.
     Hist., vol. i., book ii., chap. 77, Bostock and Riley, Bohn, 1835).

In book iv., chap. 30, occurs:

     “The most remote of all that we find mentioned is Thule, in which,
     as we have previously stated, there is no night at the summer
     solstice, when the sun is passing through the sign of Cancer;
     while, on the other hand, at the winter solstice there is no day.”

Again (loc. cit.):

     “There are writers also who make mention of some other islands,
     Scandia, namely, Damna, Bergos, and, greater than all, Nerigos (or
     Nerigo, Noreg, _i.e._, Norway), from which persons embark for
     Thule. At one day’s sail from Thule, is the Frozen Ocean, which by
     some is called the Cronian Sea.”

Finally, in book vi., chap. 39, we find:

     “The last of all is the Scythian parallel,[10] which runs from the
     Riphæan range to Thule, in which, as we have already stated, the
     year is divided into days and nights alternately of six months’

With these passages before us, it is easy to understand why popular
writers generally assume Pliny’s Thule to be the Shetland Isles. But he
evidently confirms the account of Pytheas, and adds the significant
detail about the Cronian or Frozen Sea. It is well established that the
ocean south of Iceland is not icy, whilst the northern and western
shores are often frost-bound.


Claudius Ptolemy, the Pelusian (flor. A.D. 159-161) notices θούλη in
nine places. After correcting (book i., chap. 20, §§ 7, 8,[11] = p.
17[12]) the errors of Maximus of Tyre, he says (book i., chap. 24, § 4,
= p. 19): “Consequently also the parallel passing through Thule shall be
laid down as ν β’ (52) sections from η το ζ η, along the lines of
latitude ξ, ο, π.” The same chapter (§ 6, = p. 20) tells us, “Also shall
be comprehended the interval between ο and κ southwards, that is,
between the parallels passing through Thule and through Rhodes κ ζ (27)
sections.” Thirdly, the same chapter (§ 17, = p. 22) continues: “κ,
through which shall be described the line (of latitude) defining the
north, and falling on the island of Thule.” Fourthly, in the same (§ 20,
= p. 22), we find: “And as τὸ μῆκος (the longitude) is commensurable
with τὸ πλάτος (the latitude), since upon the sphere whose great circle
is five, of these the parallel passing through Thule is about β and δ´”

Book ii., chap. 3, § 32, = p.28, establishes the position of Thule:

     “And above them (the Orkades) is the (island of) Thule, whose--

Western parts are in      E. long. (Ferro?) 29°    N lat. 63°
The Easternmost being in     ”       ”      31° 40´    ”  63°
”   Northernmost  ”          ”       ”      30° 20´    ”  63° 15´
”   Southernmost  ”          ”       ”      30° 20´    ”  62° 40´
And the Mid Isle in,         ”       ”      30° 20´    ”  63° “

The sixth book (chap. 16, § 1, = p. 113) tells us:

     “Serica is bounded west by Scythia beyond the Imaus mountain,
     according to the line laid down; on the north by an unknown land on
     the parallel passing through Thule; on the east by regions also
     unknown, along the meridional line whose limits are:

“E. long. 180´´       N. lat. 63°
      ”    18°        ”      35°”

Again we find (book vii., chap. 5, § 12, = p. 125):

     “But the northern part is bounded by the parallel which is north of
     the equinoctial line 63 parts (_i.e._, N. lat. 63°), and this is
     described through Thule, the Island. So that the breadth of the
     known world is 76° 25´, or in round numbers, 80 degrees.”[13]

Lastly (book viii., chap, 3, § 3, = p. 131) we are told:

     “But the (Island) Thule has its greatest day of twenty equinoctial
     hours, and from Alexandria it is distant two equinoctial hours to
     the west.”[14]

Thus Ptolemy’s Thule is a long narrow island, 160 by 35 miles, and his
description, despite the times in which he wrote, is applicable rather
to North Britain and even to Iceland, than to Scandinavia. He is
consistent in his assertions: (1.) That Thule is an island; (2.) That
its northernmost point extends to 3° 17´ south of the Polar circle (66°
32´); (3.) That it lies north of the Orcades.[15] Manifestly we cannot
rely upon the longitudes, Ptolemy’s first meridian being still _sub
judice_. The late Mr Hogg suggested[16] that the zero of longitude was
not, as usually assumed, at Ferro in the Fortunate Islands (W. long.
(G.) 24° 23´ 40´´ to 24° 34´), but at “S. Antonio, Cape Verd Islands”
(read São Antão[17]) in W. long. (G.) 25° 2´ 40´´ to 25° 25´ 45´´--a
change which would give in round numbers a difference of fifty
miles.[18] Nothing more need be added upon this head. Pytheas and
Eratosthenes evidently referred to Iceland; Mela did the same in making
it front Bergen; Pliny heard of it when he relates that from Nerigos
persons embark for Thule; and neglecting Ptolemy’s latitudes and
longitudes, his description tallies best with Iceland.



Of Thule applied to some part of Great Britain we have a multitude of
instances, which are ably and lengthily brought together by Sir Robert
Sibbald.[19] Our writer begins by establishing the fact that the
ancients connected the idea of darkness with the north.

     “These places of Homer πρὸς ζόφον (ad caliginem), and οὐ γὰρ ἴδμεν
     ὅπου ζόφου (neque enim scimus ubi sit caligo), are by Strabo (ii. §
     6) interpreted of the north, “Nescimus ubi sit Septentrio” (We know
     not where the north is).

He quotes Tibullus (nat. circ. B.C. 54; iv. 1, 154):

    “Illic et densâ tellus absconditur umbrâ.”

And Pub. Papinius Statius (nat. circ. A.D. 61; Sylv., iii., Ad Claudiam
Uxorem, v. 20):

    “Vel super Hesperiæ vada caligantia Thiles.”

Again (Sylv., iv. 4, 62):

    “----aut nigræ littora Thule.”

And again (Sylv., v. 1, 90, 91):

            “----quantum ultimus orbis,
    Cesserit et refluo circumsona gurgite Thule.”

Strabo (book ii., chap. 4, § 8) is quoted to show by Pytheas, that Thule
is “one of those islands that are called British,” and we have seen
Strabo’s own opinion that it lies farther south than where the Massilian
placed it. He quotes Catullus (B.C. 87; Ad Furium Carm., xii.):

    “Sive trans altas gradietur Alpes,
     Cæsaris visens monumenta magni,
     Gallicum Rhenum, horribilesque ultimosque Britannos;”

and Horace (i. 35, 30):

    “Serves iturum Cæsarem in ultimos
     Orbis Britannos;”

to show that the Britons were the northernmost people then known. Due
use is made of Silius Italicus (nat. circ. A.D. 25; Punic, lib. xvii.,
417, 418):

    “Cœrulus hand alitur cum dimicat incola Thule,
     Agmina falcifero circumvenit arcta covino,”

for it appears from Cæsar’s Commentaries, that the bluish colour and the
fighting out of hooked chariots were in use among the inhabitants of
Britain. Pliny also (N. H., iv. 30) treats of Thule in the same chapter
where he treats of the British Isles, “ultima omnium quæ memoratum est
Thule.” Tacitus says (Agric. Vita, cap. x.) when the Roman navy sailed
about Britain, “dispecta est et Thule.”[20]

‘Ireland, properly so called, was the first of the British Isles which
got the name Thule, being the first that the Carthaginians met with as
they steered their course from Cadiz to the west; and hence it is that
Statius (Ad Claud. Uxor., lib. iii., v. 20) calls Thule ‘Hesperia,’ and
it seems to be the same that is said by (the pseudo) Aristotle (Liber de
Mirab. Auscult) to have been discovered by the Carthaginians when he
speaks thus (lxxxv.):

     “‘In the sea beyond the Pillars of Hercules, they say, the
     Carthaginians found a fertile island uninhabited, abounding in wood
     and navigable rivers, and stored with very great plenty of fruits
     (_fructibus_) of all sorts,[21] distant several days’ voyage from
     the continent.’

And Bochartus (Geog. Sac.) confirms this by what he observes, that an
ancient author, Antonius Diogenes,[22] who wrote twenty-four books of
the strange things (or Incredibilities) related of Thule,[23] not long
after the time of Alexander the Great, had his history from the Ciparis
Tables, dug at Tyre out of the tombs of Mantinea and Dercilis
(Dercyllides), who had gone from Tyre to Thule, and had stayed some time
there. But though this be the first Thule discovered by the
Carthaginians, yet it is not that mentioned by the Roman writers, for
they speak of the Thule which the Romans were in and made a conquest of,
but it is certain they were never in Iceland properly so called.

“That they were in Thule appears from Statius (Sylv., v. 2, 54):

                “‘----quantusque nigrantem
    Fluctibus occiduis fessoque Hyperione Thulen
    Intrârit mandata gerens.’

Now the father of Crispinus, to whom he writes, was Vectius Bolanus,
governor of Britain, A.D. 69, under Vitellius (as Tacitus informs us),
which is clearly proved by the same poet (Sylv., v. 2, 140-143):

    “‘Quod si te magno tellus frenata parenti
      Quanta Caledonios attollet gloria campos!
      Cum tibi longævus referet trucis incola terræ;
      Hic suetus dare jura parens.’

The words ‘Caledonios’ and’ trucis incola terræ’ clearly show that by
Thule is meant the north part of Britain, which was then possessed by
the Picts, designed by the name ‘Caledonios,’ and by the Scots, designed
as ‘trucis incola terræ,’ the same epithet that Claudian (De Bell. Get.,
416) gives to the Scots in these verses:

    “‘Venit et extremis legio prætenta Britannis,
      Quæ Scoto dat fræna truci, ferroque notatas
      Perlegit exsangues Picto moriente figuras.’

And of this north part of Britain that verse of Juvenal (Sat., xv. 112):

    “‘De conducendo loquitur jam rhetore Thule,’[24]

is also to be understood. Of this the best exposition is taken from
Tacitus (Agric., xxi.):

     “‘Jam verò principum filios, liberalibus artibus erudire, et
     ingenia Britannorum studiis Gallorum anteferre, ut qui modò linguam
     Romanum abnuebant, eloquentiam concupiscerent.’

“Claudian (De III. Consul. Honor., 52-56) yet more particularly gives
the name of Thule to the north part of Britain:

    “‘Facta tui numerabat avi, quem littus adustæ
      Horrescit Libyæ, ratibusque impervia Thule.
      Ille leves Mauros, nec falso nomine Pictos
      Edomuit, Scotumque vago mucrone secutus,
      Fregit Hyperboreas remis audacibus undas.’

And in these lines (De IV. Consul. Honor., 26-33):

    “‘Ille, Caledoniis posuit qui castra pruinis,
      Qui medios Libyæ sub casside pertulit æstus,
      Terribilis Mauro, debellatorque Britanni
      Littoris, ac pariter Boreæ vastator et Austri.
      Quid rigor æternus cœli, quid sidera prosunt?
      Ignotumque fretum? Maduerunt Saxoue fuso,
      Orcades: incaluit Pictorum sanguine Thule:
      Scotorum cumulos flevit glacialis Ierne,’

where, by placing the Moors and Britons as the remotest people then
known, and mentioning the Scots and Picts as the inhabitants of Thule
and Ierne, he demonstrates clearly that Thule is the north part of the
isle of Britain, inhabited by the Scots and Picts. For this Ierne, or,
as some read it, ‘Hyberne,’ can no way be understood of Ireland properly
so called; first, because Ireland can never deserve the epithet
‘glacialis,’[25] since, by the testimony of the Irish writers, the snow
and ice continue not any time there; secondly, the Romans were never in
Ireland, whereas, according to the above-mentioned verses, Theodosius
passed over the Friths of Forth and Clyde, called by him ‘Hyperboreæ
undæ,’ and entered Strathearn, which to this day bears the name Ierne;
in which Roman medals are found, and the Roman camps and military ways
are to be seen--the undoubted testimonies of their being there; and
therefore is so to be understood in the same poet’s lines upon Stilicho
(see De Laud. Stilich., lib. ii., 250-254), who was employed in the
British war:

    “‘Me quoque vicinis pereuntem gentibus, inquit,
      Me juvit Stilicho, totam cum Scotus Iernen
      Movit, et infesto spumavit remige Tethys.
      Illius effectum curis, ne tela timerem
      Scotica, ne Pictum tremerem.’

Now, Tethys in these verses, and the ‘undæ Hyperboreæ’ in the verses
before mentioned, cannot be understood of the sea between Scotland and
Ireland, for Ireland lies to the south of the Roman province, and the
situation of the Scots’ and Picts’ country is to the north of it; for
it was separated by the two Friths of Forth and Clyde from the Roman
province, which clearly shows it was to be understood of them: the same
thing that is also imported by the words ‘Hyperboreas undas’ and
‘remis;’ for these cannot be understood of the Irish Sea, which is to
the south of the Roman province, and is very tempestuous, and cannot so
well be passed by oars as the Friths of Forth and Clyde. And the same
poet has put this beyond all doubt (in the verses before quoted, De
Bell. Get., 416).

“For were it to be understood of the Irish Sea, then the wall and the
‘prætenturæ’ (_legio prætenta_) should have been placed upon the
Scottish shore that was over against that country, which is called
Strathearn now, and is the true Ierne not only mentioned by Claudian,
but also by Juvenal in these verses (I. Sat., ii. 160):

                        “‘Arma quidem ultra
    Litora Juvenæ promovimus, et modò captas
    Oreadas, ac minimâ contentos nocte Britannos.’

“That this Thule was a part of Britain, the Roman writers seem to be
very clear, especially Silius Italicus in the verses before quoted.

“But to make it appear which part of Britain the Thule was which is
mentioned by the Romans, it will be fit to see to which part of Britain
the epithets attributed by writers to Thule do best agree. First, then,
it was a remote part, ‘ultima Thule,’ as if this were the remotest part
of Britain; so Tacitus (Agric., xxx.) brings in Galgacus expressing it,
‘We, the uttermost bounds of land and liberty,’ etc. Then Thule was
towards the north, and so was this country with respect to the Roman
province; and, thirdly, it might deserve the name Thule (darkness),
because of its obscure and dark aspect, it being in those days all
overgrown with woods. Fourthly, the length of the day annexed to Thule:
and, upon this account, it must be the country to the north and to the
east of Ierne, by the verses of Juvenal before mentioned (V. Sat., xv.

“Another property of Thule given by Tacitus (loc. cit.) is that about it
is ‘mare pigram et grave remigantibus,’ which agrees indeed to the sea
upon the north-east part of Scotland, but not for the reason that
Tacitus gives, _i.e._, for want of winds, but because of the contrary
tides which drive several ways, and stop not only boats with oars, but
ships under sail.

“But Thule is most expressly described to be this very same country that
we treat of by Conradus Celtes:

    “‘Orcadibus quâ cincta suis Tyle et glacialis

“This same epithet Claudian (see p. 15) gives to Ierne, when he calls it
‘Glacialis Ierne;’ and this Thule he makes to be encompassed ‘suis
Orcadibus,’ which isles lie over-against it; and a little after he gives
it the like epithet with ‘mare pigrum.’

    “‘Et jam sub septem spectant vaga rostra Trionos
      Quà Tyle est rigidis insula cincta vadis.’

And afterwards he makes the Orcades to lie over-against this Thule, and
seems to have in his eye the skerries and weels in Pictland (Pentland?)
Frith in these lines:

    “‘Est locus Arctoo quà se Germania tractu
        Claudit, et in rigidis Tyle ubi surgit aquis,
      Quam juxta infamos scopuli et petrosa vorago
        Asperat undisonis saxa pudenta vadis
      Orcadas has memorant dictas a nomine Græco.”[26]

“But the clearest testimony of all we owe to Arngrimus Jonas (Specimen
Islandicum, A.D. 1593),[27] when he brings in the verses of Fortunatus
(lib. viii., cap. 1), who sings of St Hilarion (ob. A.D. 372):

    “‘Eloquii currente rotâ penetravit ad Indos,
      Ingeniumque potens ultima Thule colit.’

“And then reckoning up the several nations enlightened by him, he
mentions Britain amongst the rest:

    “‘Thrax, Italus, Scytha, Persa, Indus,
      Geta, Daca, Britannus.’[28]

“To which he adds, ‘From whence it may fairly enough be inferred that
either Britain or (as Pliny will have it) some island of Britain was the
_ultima Thule_.’ And afterwards, ‘To confirm the opinion of Pliny and
his followers, who will have some of the British Isles, or particularly,
that farthest in the Scottish dominions to be Thule, I must acknowledge
that the history of the kings of Norway says the same thing, in the life
of King Magnus, who, in an expedition to the Orcades and Hebrides and
into Scotland and Britain, touched also at the Island of Thule and
subdued it.’

“By all this, I think, it appears sufficiently that the north-east part
of Scotland, which Severus the emperor and Theodosius the Great infested
with their armies, and in which, as Boethius[29] shows us, Roman medals
were found, is undoubtedly the Thule mentioned by the Roman writers; and
this also, if we believe the learned Arngrimus Jonas, was meant by
Ptolemy, where he saith, that, to the twenty-first parallel drawn
through Thule by Ptolemy, the latitude answers to 55° 36´, so that our
country in those ancient times passed under the name of Thule and
Hibernia, and the ‘Hiberni et Picti, incolæ Thules’ are the same people
who were afterwards called Scots.[30]

“I shall only add one remark more, and that is, that we need not have
recourse for the rise of the name Scot, to the fabulous account of the
monks who bring it from Scota, Pharaoh’s daughter, married to Gathelus;
since without that strain, if it be granted that the country was once
called Thule, which in the Phœnician language signifies ‘darkness,’ we
have a very fair reason for the name Scotia, which signifies the same in
the Greek tongue. And it is very well known that it was usual with the
Greeks (who next to the Phœnicians were the best navigators) not only to
retain the Phœnician name of the place, but likewise to give one in
their own language of the same import; and since the learned Bochartus
has very ingeniously deduced the Greek name of the whole island,
Βρετανικὴ, from Bratanack and Barat anac,[31] in the Phœnician tongue
signifying ‘a land of tin’ (which the Greeks not only reduced to their
own termination, but likewise called the British isles[32] Κασσιτερίδες,
that is, ‘lands of tin,’[33] which is the signification of the
Phœnician and Greek names); we may take the same liberty to derive the
Greek name Scotia from Phœnician Thule;[34] but this is so fully treated
of in the ‘Scotia Antiqua,’ that I need say no more.”

To these authorities may be added Silius Italicus (lib. iii., 597), who
manifestly places “unknown Thule” about Scotland:

    “Hine pater ignotam donabit vincere Thulen
     Inque Caledonios primus trahit agmina lucos.”

R. Festus Avienus (Descr. Orb. Ter.), metaphrasing Dionysius, treats of
Thule when speaking of Britain, and yet gives “the unknown island” an
Arctic day:

    “Longa dehinc celeri si quis rate marmora currat,
     Inveniet vasto surgentem gurgite Thulen;
     Hinc cùm plaustra poli tangit Phœbeïus ignis
     Nocte sub inlustri rota solis fomite flagrat
     Continuò clarumque diem nox œucula ducit.”

We have also the testimony of Richard of Cirencester (Ricardus
Coronensis, ob. circ. A.D. 1401), who tells us (De Situ Britanniæ) that
in the time of the later emperors, “Thule” was applied to Valentia or
Valentiana, the district between the wall of Severus and the rampart of
Antoninus, including the south part of Scotland, Northumberland, and a
portion of Cumberland.

It might have been supposed that the distinct mention of the Orcades and
Hebrides[35] by Pliny (N. H., lib. iv., cap. 30), and by Ptolemy (lib.
ii., cap. 3, § 32, = p. 28), would have barred their claim to the
classic title. This is far from being the case. John Brand (A Brief
Description of Orkney, etc., Edin. 1701, Pinkerton, iii., p. 782), after
quoting Claudian and Conradus Celtes, with others who call Thule
“Britannicarum insularum septentrionissimam,” thus disposes of Iceland:

     “I greatly doubt if ever the Romans had the knowledge of Iceland,
     their eagles never having come and been displayed to the north of
     Scotland or Orkney. ‘Imperii fuerat Romani Scotia limes,’ saith the
     great Scaliger. Ptolemy will have it to be among the Isles of
     Zetland; and Boethius, our historian (Boethius, in p. 740, also in
     p. 755, which quotes from his life of Mainus, king of Scots),
     distinguisheth between a first and a second Thule, calling Ila the
     first, and Louisa the second, which are reckoned among the isles
     called Hebrides. ‘Ptolemæus inter Schethlandicas insulas, quæ ultra
     Orchades sunt, ant proxime Norwegiam sitam vult, haud quaquam
     propter immensam intercapedinem intelligi potest, nos autem Ilam
     (Islay?) primam Leuisam (Lewis) Hebridum præstantissimam secundam
     Thulen vocamus.’ But I am inclined to think that although some
     might design a particular place by the Thule, yet generally by a
     synecdoche, usual with the Roman authors, they might denote all
     those places remote from them to the north, and especially Britain
     and the northern parts thereof, whither their arms did come.”

The Shetland claimants take another line of argument. Eutropius (A.D.
330-375, lib. vii.) makes the emperor Claudius, during his invasion of
Britain (A.D. 43) annex the Orkneys: “Quasdam insulas etiam ultra
Britanniam, in oceano positas, Romano imperio addidit, quæ appellantur
Orcades.” Pliny, they say, endorses Pytheas Massiliensis, who writes
that Thule is six days’ sail north of Britain. Tacitus (loc. cit.)
declares that Agricola sailed round Britain, conquered the Orcades, and
saw Thule. The latter cannot be the Orcades or Hebrides, because both
are mentioned by Pliny, and as their northerly point is not so far north
as Cape Wrath, they could hardly be described as “ultra Britanniam.”
Caithness and other parts of Scotland are put out of court, since they
are all to the south of Orkney, and therefore not beyond it. The Færoes
and Iceland are excluded, because they were both too distant to be
visited by the frail galleys of the Romans, unaided as they were, either
by the compass or the science of navigation, and they could not possibly
have been seen from Orkney. The same arguments apply to the Norwegian
coast, which also is not an island, and is not situated north of

By this “process of elimination,” we are compelled to conclude that
Shetland, and only Shetland, justifies the descriptions and allusions to
the “Ultima Thule” contained in the Latin classics. It consists of
islands which, viewed from afar, might be mistaken for one. It lies
north of the Orkneys, from some parts of which Foula the Fair Isle, or
the bluff of Fitfulhead, can be seen in clear weather. A passage of six
days would be a fair average in the primitive barks of the Romans, who
were never much distinguished for seamanship. The more positive proofs
are the Roman coins found in the country, according to Dr Hibbert
(Description of the Shetland Islands, Edin. 1822), and the ruins of a
fortification in the island of Fetlar, which the same authority declares
to be a Roman camp.

It need hardly be observed that all these arguments are insufficient,
and that the utmost they prove is the determination by Agricola and his
men, that the venerable Thule was part of the Shetlands. Probably they
saw only the loom of land to the north, and identified it with the
“period of earth.” Possibly they might have been swayed by the verbal
resemblance of Foula, which may be seen from the Orkneys: it is
evidently Fogla or Fugla-ey, and the same desire to clear up a foggy
point of geography, which made Abyssinian Bruce discover the sources of
the Nile in the fountains of the Blue River, found Thule in
“Fowl-isle.”[36] The opinion, however, has found supporters. Gaspar
Peucerus (De Terræ Dimensione) declares that the Ptolemeian Thule is to
be recognised in the Shetlands, which he heard “the sailors call
Thilensel” (Fugl-insel?). Cellarius (Geog. Ant., ii. 4) discovers Thule
in the island of Hjaltland (Shetland), or in the Færoe group, “quæ in
eâdem fere latitudinem sunt.” He is followed by Probus (Com. on Virgil,
ii. 358), who makes Thule the farthest of the Orcades; by the
philosopher Petrus Ramus (de la Ramée); by Johannes Myritius, who rather
cleaves to the end of Britain; by the learned Vossius, who prefers the
Hebrides or Orcades; by Buchner (Ad Tacit. Agric., cap. 10); by Camden,
by Gosselin, and others. Stephanus Byzantinus says: “Thule insula magna
in oceano sub Hyperboreas partes, ubi æstivus dies ex viginti horis
æqualibus constat, nox verò ex quatuor. Hyberna verò dies à contrario.”
This calculation would place Thule three degrees south of the Polar
circle, and would better suit the Færoe archipelago (N. lat. 61° 23´ to
62° 26´ 40´´). Forcellini understands Cellarius also to refer to the
Færoes; De Kerguelen Tremarec (Voyages) opines for Iceland.



It has been seen that Pliny (Nat. Hist., iv. 16) apparently separates
Norway from Thule; moreover, that Ptolemy (ii. 3) confirmed by
Agatharcides and Stephanus Byzantinus (lib. i., in extremis), whilst
pointing to North Britain and to Scandia, or Scandinavia, in his time
held to be an island,[37] and little known to the civilised world, adds
details which rather belong to Iceland. On the other hand, it is evident
that during the later Roman empire, Thule was applied to Scandinavia.

Procopius, the Byzantine historian (nat. circ. A.D. 500), leaves no
doubt upon this point. He devotes to it a considerable space (lib. ii.,
De Bello Gothico, c. 15), and his account will be little abridged. After
relating how a party of Heruli, when conquered by the Longobardi, passed
through the lands of the Slavini, the Varni (Οὐάρνοι, al. Harmi), and
the Dani (Δάνοι, al. Dacæ), till they reached the ocean, he makes them
take ship and settle at Thule:

     “The island is ten times larger than Britain, and far to the
     north.[38] The greater part of it is desert. The inhabited region
     contains thirteen great peoples, each governed by its own king. A
     curious phenomenon is reported from that place: every year, about
     the summer solstice, the sun remains forty days above the horizon.
     Six months after this there is a night of forty days, a time of
     sorrow, when all intercourse and business are at an end. I (says
     Procopius) was greatly desirous of seeing this marvel for myself,
     but the opportunity was ever wanting. I therefore asked those who
     had been there how the sun rises and sets. They told me that for
     forty consecutive days, the sun lights the island; sometimes from
     the east, at other times from the west; but that when he returns to
     the same point where he appeared, a single day is counted. During
     the season of forty nights, time is measured by the moon. When
     thirty-five of these long and lasting nights have passed, some of
     the people ascend the highest mountains, and give warning to those
     below that after five days more they will see the sun. The Thulitæ
     rejoice over the good news, and celebrate in the dark a festival
     which in ceremony exceeds all their others. Although this happens
     every year, still it would appear the inhabitants apprehend a total
     desertion of the sun.

     “Amongst the barbarian peoples of Thule, none are so savage as the
     Skithifini (Σκιθίφινοι, al. Scritifini). Like beasts,[39] they
     ignore clothes and shoes; they drink no wine, and they eat nothing
     which the earth grows. Both men and women, who will not take the
     trouble of cultivation, occupy themselves exclusively with hunting,
     and the forests and mountains supply them abundantly with game.
     They eat the flesh, and, being without flax and wool, they wear the
     skins, which they fasten with sinews, having no knowledge of
     sewing. Also, they do not bring up their offspring like other
     people. The children of the Thulitæ are fed upon the marrow of
     beasts, instead of being suckled by their mothers. When the woman
     has been delivered, she wraps her babe in a skin, secures it in
     another, places some brains in its mouth, and sets out with her man
     for the chase, in which both sexes equally excel. The Thulitæ adore
     several gods and demons, some of whom they believe to inhabit the
     sky, others the air; some are on the earth and in the sea, whilst
     others of the smaller kind, affect the rivers and springs. They
     often offer sacrifices and immolate all manner of victims, the most
     acceptable being the first man captured in war; he is sacrificed to
     Mars (Thor?), the most powerful of all their gods. On these
     occasions they do not simply slay the victim, they either hang him
     to a tree, or roll him over thorns, or put him to death in some
     other way, choosing the most cruel.

     “Such are the customs of the _Thulitæ_, amongst whom are the Goths
     (Γαυτοί), a fecund people that gave land to the Herulian
     immigrants. The remnants of this race who lived amongst the Romans,
     after slaying their king, sent their chief worthies to the island
     of Thule, for the purpose of finding if any of the royal blood
     there remained. The deputies were successful, and chose out of many
     one who pleased them the most. But as he died on the way, they
     returned (to Thule) and brought with them one Todasius (Τοδάσιος,
     al. Datis); this man was accompanied by his brother named Aordus
     (Ἄορδς) and by two hundred youths of the island.”

This description of Thule is evidently great Scandinavia, not little
Iceland. Hence Ortilius (Thesaurus sub voc.) D’Anville, who rejects
Iceland; Farnaby, Schœnning (Von Nordich. Land in Neue Allg. Welt-Gesch,
vol. xiii., p. 14, et seq.); Rudbeck, who understands Sweden; Murray
(loc. cit.); Wedel (Alhandlung über die “Alt-Scandinavische Gesch.,” p.
32, et seq.); Schlözer (Allg. Nordisch. Gesch, pp. 14, 16), Parisot, and
other geographers, have referred the descriptions of Procopius
especially to the Norwegian canton still called “Tyle-mark,” or
“Tile-mark.” Maltebrun (iii. 6) prefers Jutland, on the continent of
Denmark, part of which, he hears, is still termed “Thy” or “Thy-land.”
Calstron believed that all Scandinavia was meant. Celtes (Schardius,
Basil ed., p. 59) makes Iceland “one of the isles of the ocean,”
together with Scandia, Dania, Suecia, etc. Adelung (Mithridates)
supports the claims of Norway. Others go as far as Lapland, and even
Greenland has not been without claimants to the honour. Yet in the sixth
century, Jornandes (De Origine Actuque Getarum Liber, p. 393, Basle
edition of 1531), after mentioning the thirty-four Orcades, says, “Habet
et in ultimo plagæ occidentalis aliam insulam nomine Thyle, de quâ
Mantuanus, Italia, ‘tibi serviat ultima Thyle,’” and he carefully
distinguishes it from the “ampla insula nomine Scanzia.”[40]



It has been shown that the accounts of Pytheas, supported by details
from Pliny and Ptolemy, refer only to Iceland. They are confirmed by the
following authorities. In Caius Julius Solinus (A.D. 230; 2 vols. fol.,
Traj. ad Rhenum, 1689), we find Thule five days’ sail from Orkney, and
we cannot allow less than 100 knots for the δρόμος νυχθήμερος, or a
total of 500 direct geographical miles; the run from northern Orkney to
the south coast of Iceland being about this distance. The Polyhistor,
held an oracle in the Middle Ages, adds (chap, xx., lll):

     “Inter multas quæ circa Britanniam sunt insulas, Thylen ultimam
     esse commemorat. In quâ æstivo solstitio dicit esse noctem nullam.
     Brumali verò perinde diem nullum.”[41]

Orosius, whose history (London, 8vo, 1773) extends to A.D. 417, says:

     “Tylen per infinitum à cæteris separatam undique terris in medio
     sitam oceano vix paucis notam haberi.”

Isidorus Hispalensis (A.D. 600-636; Orig. Seu Etym., xiv. 6; Opera
Omnia, fol., Parisiis, 1601) appears to repeat Pliny:

     “Thyle verò ultimam oceani insulam inter Septentrionem et
     occidentalem plagam,[42] ultra Britanniam sitam esse describit, à
     sole nomen habentem, quia in eâ æstivum solstitium sol faciat, et
     nullus ultra eam dies sit. Ultra Thylen vèro pigrum et concretum

The last sentence of the bishop being emphatically true in winter. Other
authorities who identify Thule with Iceland, are Cluverius (Germ. Ant.,
ii. 39), Harduin and Dalechamp (Ad Plin.), Bougainville (c. 1, p. 152),
Hill (Ad Dionys.), Penzel (Ad Strab.), Pontanus (Chorog. Dan. Descrip.,
p. 74), Isaac Thilo (Dissert., Lips., A.D. 1660), Gerhard Mercator, and
Mannert (Geog., i., p. 78), to mention no others. Martin (Histoire des
Gaules, i. 159) takes the Gauls to Iceland.

In the ninth century we have positive evidence that Thule had returned
to its oldest signification, Iceland. The monk Dicuilus, who wrote in
the year 825,[43] relates that thirty years before that date (A.D. 795)
he had seen and spoken with several religious who had inhabited the
island of Thule between February and August. He asserts that Iceland and
the Færoes had been discovered by his countrymen; and his calculation of
the seasons and the days at different times of the year, together with
the assertion that a day’s sail thence towards the north would bring
them to the Frozen Sea, shows that “Iceland, and Iceland alone, could
have been the island visited by the anchorites.”

The Domesday Book of the north, the “Landnámabók,” whose lists of 1400
places and 3000 persons were drawn up by various authors in the twelfth
century, supported, according to Mr Blackwell (note, p. 189), “by other
ancient Icelandic documents,” simply states (Prologus, p. 2), “Before
Iceland was settled by the Northmen there were men there called by the
Northmen Papæ. These men were Christians, and are thought to have come
from the west, for there were found Irish books, bells (biöllur), staves
(baglar), and various other things, whence it is thought that they were
Westmen,” Irishmen--a name still preserved in the Vestmannaeyjar
archipelago. Moreover, we learn that these relics were found in Papey
(the Isle of the Papæ), a rock off the eastern coast, which still bears
the same name, and at Papyli, in the interior; and finally, that “the
Christians left the country when the Northmen settled there”[44]--the
latter being pragmatical pagans.

Mr Blackwell concludes that these people were probably fishermen from
the north of Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland, who may annually
have frequented the northern seas, and made Papey one of their winter
stations. Mr Dasent (i., vii.) more justly identifies them with the
Papar or Culdees (?), a class of churchmen who have left their traces in
almost every one of the outlying islands of the west. Under the name of
“Papar” we find them in the Orkneys and Shetlands, the Færoes and
Iceland; “and to this day the term ‘Papey’ in all these localities
denotes the fact that the same pious monks who had followed St
Columba[45] to Iona, and who had filled the cells at Enhallow and
Egilsha and Papa, in the Orkneys, were those who, according to the
account of Dicuil, had sought Thule or Iceland that they might pray to
God in peace.”[46] These Culdees were not likely to spread, as they
carried no women, but they left traces of their occupation in their
cells and church furniture.

The simple story told by Dicuil is eminently suggestive. Thus Thule
became, probably for a second time, one of the “Britanniæ,” the Isles of
Britain; and we may consider the discovery a rediscovery, like the
central African lakes, whence Ptolemy derived the Nile. When the rude
barks of the eighth century could habitually ply between Ireland and
Iceland, we cannot reject as unfit the Roman galleys, or even the
Phœnico-Carthaginian fleets. The Periplus of Himilco was not more
perilous than the Periplus of Hanno, and the Portuguese frequented the
northern seas long before they had doubled Cape Horn. Bergmann had
evidently no right to determine that Iceland was not “Ultima Thule,”
_because_--(1.) The Romans were bad sailors; (2.) They were in the habit
of writing “Rome--her mark” wherever they went, whereas no signs of
their occupation are visible in Iceland; and (3.) Because Iceland was
probably raised from the sea at the time when the Vesuvian eruption
buried Herculaneum and Pompeii.

It is true that Roman remains have not yet been discovered in Iceland,
but this is a negative proof which time may demolish; moreover, the same
absence of traces characterises the Papar occupation which we know to
have been a fact. On the other hand, Uno Von Troil speaks of a ruined
castle near “Videdal” (Viðidalr), some 200 perches in circumference, and
smaller features of the same kind on the glebe of Skeggestað, near
Langanes. Mr Henderson[47] declares of Hrutur’s cave, or rather caves--a
vast apartment 72 feet long by 24 broad and 12 high, within which is a
small recess 15 feet by 9, apparently a sleeping place--that both “are
said to have been cut by people in former times.”

We are, then, justified in concluding that we need no longer question
with Synesius, if such a place as Thule exists, or doubt with Giraldus
Cambrensis, whether it has yet been discovered. We may follow A. W.
Wilhelm (Germanien, etc., 1823), and believe with the Teatro Grande
Orteliano, “Islandia insula, veteribus Thyle dicta, miraculis si quæ
alia clarissima.” We may agree with Mannert that Iceland might have been
discovered by Pytheas the Phocæan, and even by the Carthaginians. We may
even support what appears to be rather an extreme opinion:

     “Pytheam præterà increpat Strabo ut mendacem, qui Hiberniam et
     Uxisamam (Ushant) ad occidentem ponit à Galliâ, cum hæc omnia, ait,
     ad Septentrionem vergant. Itaque veteres geographi Hiberniæ situm
     definiunt meliùs quam scriptoris seculi aurei Augusti, Himilco et
     Phœnices meliùs quam Græci vel Romani” (Rer. Script. Hib., prol.
     i., xii.).

Moreover, it appears certain that the old tradition of Thule, though
different ages applied the word differently, was never completely lost;
and that the Irish rediscovered the island before the eighth century, if
not much earlier, when the official rediscovery dates from the ninth,
and the earliest documents from the eleventh and twelfth.

The Venerable Bede (eighth century) speaks of Iceland under the name of
Thyle, more than a hundred years before its official discovery by the
Scandinavians; and Alfred (ninth century), in his translation of Orosius
(p. 31), assures us that the utmost land to the north-west of Ireland
was called Thila, and that it was known to few on account of its great
distance. Yet even after the occupation of Iceland by the Northmen, we
find in the literary world the same vagueness which prevailed in earlier
ages. For instance, Isaac Tzetzes (twelfth century), in his notes on
Lycophron, calls the fabled Fortunate Islands of the Greeks “the Isle of
Souls, a British island between the west of Britain and Thule towards
the east,” which is impossible. But in the fifteenth century Petrarch
has left us a valuable notice of the knowledge then familiar to men of
letters (De Situ Insulæ Thules, epist. i., lib. iii., De Rebus Fam.,
vol. i., pp. 136-141, ed. 1869, J. Fracassetti, Le Monnier. Florentia).
In reply to his own “Quæro quiânam mundi parte Thule sit insula?” he
quotes Virgil, Seneca, Boethius, Solinus, Isidore, Orosius, Claudian,
Pliny, and Mela. He could obtain no information from “Riccardo, quondam
Anglorum regis cancellario”--Richard de Bury was probably too busy for
such trifles. He learned something, however, from the “Libellus de
Mirabilibus Hiberniæ, à Giraldo (Cambrensi) quodam aulico Henrici
secundi, regis Anglorum.” And after quoting this “scriptorum cohors,” he
thus ends with “pointing a moral”--“Lateat ad aquilonem Thyle, lateat ad
austrum Nili caput, modò non lateat in medio consistens virtus,”

Icelandic Thule was advocated by Saxo Grammaticus; but his opinion was
strongly opposed by his commentator (Johannis Stephanii, Notæ Uberiores
in Hist. Dan. Sax. Gram. Soræ, ed. 1644, fol.). The words of the
latter’s preface are--“Ex opinione magis vulgari, quam rei veritate
_Thylenses_ ubique nominat Saxo, qui Islandi rectius dicerentur;” but he
relies chiefly upon the controvertible arguments of “Arngrimus Jonas.”
Iceland was opposed by Gaspar Peucerus (De Terræ Dim.), by Crantzius
(Præfatio in Norvagiam, borrowed from Nicolaus Synesius, epist. 148); by
Abraham Ortelius (Theatrum Orbis and Thesaurum Geographicum), and by
Philippus Cluverus (Germania Antiqua). The globe of Martin Behaim (A.D.
1430-1506) shows a certain knowledge of details: “In Iceland fair men
are found who are Christians. The custom of its inhabitants is to sell
dogs at a very high rate; while they willingly part with some of their
children to merchants for nothing, that they may have sufficient to
support the remainder. Item.--In Iceland are found men eighty years old
who have never tasted bread. In this country no corn grows, and in lieu
of bread dried fish is eaten. In Iceland it is the stock fish is taken
which is brought to our country.”


Perhaps the origin of “Thule” is ground more debatable and debated than
even its geographical position.

     “Some,” says Sibbald, “derive the name Thule from the Arabic word
     Tule (طول = Túl), which signifies ‘afar off,’
     and, as it were with allusion to this, the poets usually call it
     ‘Ultima Thule;’ but I rather prefer the reason of the name given by
     the learned Bochartus,[49] who makes it to be Phœnician, and
     affirms that it signifies ‘darkness’ in that language. Thule
     (צל) in the Tyrian tongue was ‘a shadow,’
     whence it is commonly used to signify ‘darkness,’ and the island
     Thule is as much as to say, an ‘island of darkness;’ which name how
     exactly it agrees to the island so called at the utmost point to
     the north is known to everybody.”

Others find Thule in the Carthaginian צל = “obscurity;” the Hebrew has
צלל, and the Arabic ظل = obscuravit.”

After using or abusing the Semitic tongues, we come to Greek, which puts
forth three principal claimants: θόλος = fuscus color, caligo; τέλος, a
goal; and τηλὲ, procul. Meanwhile Isidorus (Orig. Seu Etym., lib. xiv.,
6) derives Thyle, as has been shown, from the sun and its solstice. In
the twelfth century, Suidas (Lex. sub voc.) makes Thulis (θούλις) a king
who reigned over Egypt and the isles of the ocean, one of which was
called after his name.

Etymologists presently applied themselves to the Gothic languages and
their derivatives; and they did not reject geographical resemblances.
Pontanus (loc. cit., i., p. 746) asserts that the islands about the
Norwegian coast were generally called Thuyle. Ortelius (Thesaur. and
Theatr. Orbis, p. 103), relying upon Ptolemy’s latitudes and longitudes,
declares that “Thilir” was the term applied to the people of Norwegian
“Tilemark;” the latter word is also written “Thulemarchia” (Johannes
Gothus); “Thielemark,” “Thylemark” and “Tellemarck” (Pontanus).[50] Not
a few writers refer “Thule,” as has been said, to “Thy” or “Thy-land,”
the extreme point of Jutland. The commentator on Saxo Grammaticus,
before referred to, records a derivation of “Thule:”

     “Quod vel instar _Tholi_, cujusdam orbis terrarum sit imposita, vel
     quod eo navigantes ad ploratum (tothülen Belgæ dicunt)

In p. 175 he becomes still more vague:

     “Rectius itaque Velljus nostro, juxtà ac M. Christiernus Petri,
     primus Saxonis interpres, reddidere Blend aff Telløe vel Blend aff
     Tyløe. Quænam verò iste sint insulæ, juxtà scimus cum

Prætorius (De Orbi Goth., iii. 4, § 3) deduces “Thule” from the Gothic
“Tiel,” “Teule,” or “Tuole” (= τέλος, finis), meaning a long distance,
and denoting the remotest land; he doubts the existence of the place,
with D’Anville (Mem. de Paris, vol. xxxvii., p. 439). Reinerus
Reineccius (Reinech, Historiæ tam Sacræ quam Profanæ Cognitio, Frankf.
et Lipsiæ, 1685, and Methodus Legendi, etc., Historiam tam Sacram quam
Profanam, Frankf. 1670) advocates the Saxon “Tell,” meaning a
limit--limes septentrionis atque occidentis. Dr Charnock compares the
Saxon “Deel,” a part or portion, and quotes Wachter (Gloss. Germ.), who
gives amongst other meanings of “Teil” (hod. Theil), pars, portio,
segmentum, and “teilen,” _i.e._, dividere in partes.

Torfæus (Hist. Norwegiæ, i. 5, p. 12) proposes a variety of derivations.
Wilhelm Obermüller (Wörterbuch, etc., Williams and Norgate, Lond. 1872)
would explain “Thule Procopiana,” by Dal (a dale), or “Tulla,” also
written “Tolin” and “Tullin,” a meadow or pasturage; and he remarks that
Norwegian “Tellemark” or “Thilemark,” is of the same descent. The
Thracian Kelts had a kingdom of Tyle, which here probably signified
“Dail,” a fortress. When Pliny makes men sail from Nerigos to “Thule,”
the latter might have meant _Du-ile_, “the little island,” or perhaps
“the dark (‘dubh,’ cloudy and wintry) isle.”

Even the orthography of “Thule” is disputed, and there are sundry
variants--Thula, Thyle, Thile, Thila, Tyle, and Tila. The popular Greek
form adopted by Strabo, Ptolemy, Agathemerus, Isidorus, Jornandes (De
Reb. Get., cap. 1, 1), Procopius (De Bell. Goth., ii. 15) and Stephanus
Byzantinus, is θούλη, which in Romaic would be pronounced “Thúle;” the
ethnic being θουλαῖς (Thulæus), and θουλίτης (_plur._ θουλίται). The
Latins (Mela, Pliny, Tacitus, Anonymus Ravennæ, Martianus, Solinus,
etc.) seem to have preferred “Thule;” and Cluverius (Germ. Ant., iii.
39) rejects all others as barbarous. The learned and humorous Salmasius
(in Solin., cap. xxii.) declares that “Thyle” ought never to be written,
despite many good codices of Virgil, Pliny, Jornandes, Isidore, the
Anon. Ravennæ, and others, which give Thyle and even Tyle, θύλη and
θυλίτης; Æthicus (in Cosmog., p. 730), borrowing from Orosius, has
“Tilæ;” Boethius (xx. 11), “Tile” and “Ðyle.”

We here conclude the subject of Thule, “celebrata omnium litteris
insula.” To do it full justice, and especially to quote from the
“cohort” of modern writers, would require a volume.




“Iceland owns its existence wholly to submarine volcanic agency”--such
is the statement generally made by travellers and accepted by readers.
The genesis of this “Realm of Frost and Fire;” this “fragment of earth
white with snow, black with lava, and yellow with brimstone;” this
“strange trachytic island, resting on an ocean of fire in the lone North
Sea,” where the “primary powers of nature are ever at war with one
another,” is compared with the efforts, vastly magnified, which in 1811
threw up from the waters Azorean Sabrina to a height of 480 feet above
sea-level. And many have assumed as its exemplar the three-coned Nyöe
(Nýey) that rose during the Skaptár eruption (1783), some thirty miles
south-west of Reykjanes, and sank into a subaqueous reef before the end
of the same year.[52]

This is true, but not the whole truth. The basis of Iceland was
recognised by Baron Sartorius Von Waltershausen to be the Palagonite[53]
which forms the foundation of volcanic tufas on Etna, the Azores,
Tenerife, the Cape Verds, and other Plutonic regions. It is known to
the people as “Mó-berg,” the _saxum terrestre-arenosum_ of Eggert
Olafsson, translated by the dictionaries Clay-soil, but generally used
in contradistinction to Stuðlaberg,[54] hard stone, the basalts,
basaltites, dolerites, and others of their kind. By the
older travellers, as Henderson, it is termed sandstone, and
_conglomérat-basaltique_, while not a few have confounded it with
trachyte. In Iceland this mineral substance, rather than mineral, is a
far more important feature than even in Sicily.

By virtue of its composite character and different colour, this
hydrosilicate of alumina is a Proteus; massive and amorphous;
crystalline, muddy, sandy, and ashy; friable, porous, and spongy like
lava and pumice; granular, silicious, and arenaceous; heavy and compact
like slatey clays; vitreous and semi-vitreous with the lustre of
pitch-stone. It is as various in tint as in texture; usually ferruginous
brown, dark brown or dun yellow; grey and slate-coloured; dark with
hornblendic particles; pure white where it is converted into gypsum,
clay marl, and limonite with the aspect of chalk, by exposure to the
action of sulphurous acid; green tinged with olivine; garnetic-red;
ochreous, the effect of iron; and at times showing a ferreous coat of
pavonine lustre. Palagonite lava is often “of so deep a brick-red colour
that it resembles an iron slag, were it not for its superior lightness.”

Here, this Palagonite degrades to the yellow sand which contrasts so
remarkably with the black Plutonian shore; there, in the lowlands it
shows fissile strata horizontal like sandstone, and at times marly
couches. It paves the soles of valleys and the floors of rivers; and it
rises on the surface of the loftiest Heiðar (highland heaths), where
earth is worn down to the very bone by rains, snows, and winds. Now it
towers in huge cliffs and scaurs, irregular masses of rock overlying or
underlying the traps; then it bulges into high belts of country, sierras
and detached mountains, like Herðubreið and others which will afterwards
be mentioned. Consolidated and in places crystallised by heat and high
pressure, this produce of submarine volcanoes was elevated by the long
continued action of quietly working forces, but it still displays its
subaqueous origin. Firstly, it is a hydrate containing 17 to 25 per
cent. of water; secondly, it is stratified as if formed of hardened
ashes and modified lavas; and, thirdly, it contains broken mollusks[55]
of marine types still existing, and the silicious skeletons of
infusoria: a negative proof is that we never meet with it among volcanic
tuffs subaërially deposited. In places it becomes an acute-angled
breccia, enclosing basalts and lavas varying from the size of a pin’s
head to that of a man, or rounded conglomerates suggesting that the
foreign matter was deposited in a shallow sea. The fresh appearance of
the shells and the presence of infusoria also tend to prove that it was
deposited in a heated, at least not in a gelid sea.

Professor Tyndall finds in Palagonite the first stage of the fumarole:
“If a piece be heated with an excess of aqueous sulphuric acid, it
dissolves in the cold to a fluid, coloured yellow-brown by the presence
of peroxide of iron. On heating the fluid, the peroxide is converted
into protoxide; a portion of its oxygen goes to the sulphurous acid,
forming sulphuric acid, which combines with the basis of the rock and
holds them in solution.” But the resultant springs show no trace of
oxide of iron which has been dissolved and has disappeared. “The very
rock from which it was originally extracted, possesses the power of
re-precipitating it, when by further contact with the rock, the solution
which contains it has its excess of acid absorbed, and has thus become
neutral. In this way, the aqueous sulphurous acid acts as carrier to the
iron, taking up its burden here, and laying it down there; and this
process of transference can be clearly traced to the rocks themselves.”

Upon this Palagonite floor, the “Protogæa,” or oldest formation, were
laid immense tracts of sand and stratified ejections of “trap.”
According to Macculloch, “the word is a cloak for ignorance which saves
the trouble of investigation.” But it is still a general term for the
older, lighter, less earthly and basic, and more crystalline forms than
the basalts, containing intercalated pumice-tuffs deficient in shells,
whilst the cavities abound in zeolites and amygdaloids.[56] Concerning
the strike and dip of the trap-strata, which rise sheer from the sea, in
grades and layers, steep, angular, and bare, and which outline the mural
copings and stepped cones of the old coast and the jaws of the
river-gorges, there are many conflicting opinions. Some hold that the
strata all incline gradually and quaquaversally, more or less, towards
the centre of the island; whilst others find that as a rule, they are
horizontal. The expedition led by Prince Napoleon (1857) recognised
convergence, and often a slope of 15° towards the grand foci of eruption
that form the respective systems; for instance, the _inclinaison
rayonnante_ towards Snæfellsjökull. The author could lay down no rule,
except that the steps, viewed in profile, especially from the gashes and
torrent-beds, appear to recede rather than to project, to dip inland
rather than seawards. The strata vary in number to a maximum of fifty;
they are perpendicular courses separated by débris, and sometimes footed
by déblai and humus, disposed at the natural angle--this regularity
again suggests submarine deposition, and everywhere attracts the
stranger’s eye.

Professor Bunsen divides the rocks of Iceland, and probably those of
most other volcanic systems, into two great groups: (1.) _Normal
Pyroxenic_, the basalts and dolerites, whence silica is almost absent;
and (2.) _Normal Trachytic_, abounding in that mineral. The basalts[57]
are of two kinds, the true, rich in, and the basaltite, which notably
wants, olivine. Both are either honey-combed with drusic cavities, or
perfectly compact and fine-grained; the water-rolled pieces are soft,
and smooth as marble. The basalts pass by almost imperceptible degrees
into dolerites (green-stones) coloured by admixture of chlorite, and
often containing iron pyrites. Of less importance as a geological
feature, are the masses, veins, and crests of trachyte which pierce the
Palagonites, the traps, and the basalts. The rock which is compared with
the chain of the Puys (Auvergne), occurs, however, in an altered form at
many places unsuspected by old travellers, and every explorer adds to
its importance. From Reykjavik appear two gold-yellow and white-streaked
peaks, associated with jasper and other forms of quartz. The
Snæfellsjökull peninsula is also for the most part trachytic. The
celebrated Baula (the cow), a cone rising 3000 feet high, contrasts the
mechanic neatness of its whitey-grey pillars[58] with its red neighbour,
Little Baula, and with the surrounding chaos of darkness; and
heat-altered trachytes are found about Hekla and the Geysir. The green
trachyte of Viðey, apparently tinted by chlorite, was found to contain
silica, alumina, iron, and traces of magnesia. Daubeny, and a host of
writers, assumed that a trachytic band, disposed upon a rectilinear
fissure 200 kilometres long, bisects the island from south-west
(Reykjanes) to north-east (Langanes), and represents the original
Iceland, as the Longmynd and Stiper Stones are the nucleus of England.
Moreover, the great centres of eruption, igneous and aqueous, were
disposed upon this diagonal, flanked by the earlier Plutonic masses.
Lastly, the modern volcanic chimneys were all theoretically opened in
the old and new trachytic domes. M. Robert (1835) especially sought and
failed to find the “trachytic band,” and, since Von Waltershausen’s
visit, it has been determined that the material is the Palagonite floor
traversed by the Geysir and by most of the active volcanoes.

The peculiar contrasts of the island are thus noticed by an old writer:
“The king of Denmark is still master of Iceland, which is supposed to be
the _Ultima Thule_ of the ancients. The surface, though it is covered
with snow, nevertheless contains burning mountains, whence issue fire
and flames, to which the Iceland poets compare the breasts of their
mistresses. It has also smoking lakes, which turn everything thrown into
them to stone, and many other wonders which render this island famous.”
Iceland, like Tenerife, owes its present general contour to subaërial
volcanic action of the post-Tertiary period, the secular growth of the
detached regions overlying the pockets and foci of eruption, as
explained by Von Buch, together with the gradual accretion, the gift of
exit-chimneys and dejections from the Plutonic cauldrons. The normal
pyroxenic was followed by the felspathic formations, trachytic, acid and
pumiceous, which, though comparatively modern, still date from immense
antiquity. The distribution into fire-vents (true volcanoes) and
sand-vents (pseudo-volcanoes), will be noticed in a future page.

The lava is composed of trachytic (silicious) and doleritic (basic)
ejections, varying in weight;[59] the stone averages about half the
specific gravity of granite, and in a molten state it flows at the rate
of 50 to 100 yards per diem. When first cooled, the ejections are
lamp-black; they are then tarnished by oxygen to brown; they become grey
with lichens; and finally, the lapse of ages converts them into humus.
To the latter process, Brydone, on Etna, assigned 14,000 years, and
greatly scandalised our grandsires, who held sound opinions upon the
date (B.C. 4004) empirically assigned to creation. We can hardly forget
poor Cowper’s poor verse, and poorer sense:

                          “Some drill and bore
    The solid earth, and from the strata there,
    Extract a register, by which we learn
    That He who made it, and revealed (!) its date
    To Moses, was mistaken in its age.”[60]

The following is a list of the principal orographic features,
Jökulls,[61] Fells (mountains), volcanoes, masses of Palagonite,
snow-peaks, and true glaciers, which are rare. Gunnlaugsson’s
astronomical positions are given in Danish feet, and the former are
reduced to the meridian of Greenwich by assuming Copenhagen to lie east
12° 34´ (Rafn, 12° 34´·7). The Danish foot is calculated at 12·356
inches English, or about 67:69.

The north-eastern quarter numbers fifteen points, ranging from 1000 to
3000 Danish feet, and the following ten exceed the latter:

                    Dan.   Eng.
                    feet = feet.   N. lat.    W. long. (C.)=Greenwich.

Lambafell,          3459   3562  64° 58´ 28´´  26° 39´ 19´´    14°  5´
Herðubreið,         5290   5447  65° 10´ 39´´  28° 58´ 55´´    16° 25´
Gagnheiðarhnúkr,    3009   3098  65° 13´ 35´´  26° 53´ 42´´    14° 20´
Beinageitarfjall,   3517   3621  65° 27´ 37´´  26° 42´  2´´    14°  8´
Dyrfjöll,           3606   3713  65° 31´ 20´´  26° 35´ 17´´    14°  1´
Smjörfjall,         3859   3973  65° 36´ 40´´  27° 24´  6´´    14° 50´
Heljarfjall,        3991   4109  65° 48´ 26´´  31° 31´ 56´´    18° 58´
Rimar,              4020   4139  65° 52´ 45´´  31°  7´ 33´´    18° 33´
Ólafsfjarðarfjall,  3272   3369  65° 58´ 34´´  31° 31´  8´´    18° 57´
Kaldbakr,           3699   3810  66°  0´ 24´´  30° 48´ 58´´    18° 15´

In the south-eastern quarter, nine heights range from 1000 to 3000
Danish feet, and eleven rise higher, viz.:

                    Dan.   Eng.
                    feet = feet.   N. lat.    W. long. (C.)=Greenwich.

Stórhöfði,          4509  4643  63° 55´ 34´´  29° 17´  7´´ 16° 43´
Staðarfjall,        3782  3894  63° 57´ 55´´  29° 12´ 51´´ 16° 39´
Öræfajökull,[62]    6241  6426  64°  0´ 48´´  20° 20´ 16´´ 16° 46´
Thverártindsegg,    3668  3776  64° 11´ 14´´  28° 46´ 12´´ 16° 12´
Birnudalstindr,     4300  4428  64° 14´ 54´´  28° 34´  1´´ 16°  0´
Bakkatindr,         3316  3414  64° 20´ 50´´  28° 50´ 22´´ 15° 47´
Afrèttartindr,      3842  3956  64° 31´  4´´  27° 33´ 54´´ 15°  0´
Búlandstindr,       3388  3488  64° 41´ 54´´  27° 3´   4´´ 14° 31´
Snæfell,[63]        5808  5964  64° 48´  1´´  28° 11´ 43´´ 15° 38´
Kistufell,          3499  3602  64° 51´ 18´´  27° 11´ 16´´ 14° 47´
Lambafell,          3459  3561  64° 58´ 28´´  26° 39´ 19´´ 14°  5´

In the north-eastern quarter, twenty points range from 1000 to 3000
Danish feet, and only three rise higher, viz.:

                   Dan. feet=Eng. feet.    N. lat.  W. long. (C.)=Greenwich.

Illviðrahnúkr,     3476  3579       66°  8´ 14´´    31° 37´  4´´   19°  4´
Hvammsfell,        3785  3897       65° 39´ 18´´    31° 48´ 21´´   19° 14´
Mælifellshnúkr,    3476  3579       65° 23´ 30´´    31° 59´ 10´´   19° 25´

In the south-western quarter, thirteen points range from 1000 to 3000
Danish feet, and again only three rise higher, viz.:

                   Dan. feet=Eng. feet.   N. lat.       W. long. (C.)=Greenwich.

Snæfellsjökull,        4577     4713      64° 48´ 4´´   36° 25´  8´´    23° 51´
Hekla,[64]             4961     5108      63° 59´ 2´´   32° 19´  2´´    19° 45´
Eyjafjallajökull,[65]  5432     5593      63° 37´ 2´´   32° 16´ 18´´    19° 42´

From these tables we see that the north-eastern and south-eastern
quarters contain not only the greatest number of heights, respectively
twenty-five and twenty, exceeding 1000 Danish feet, but also the apex of
Iceland. The north-western, though generally a high level, has only
three master peaks, and the traveller’s eye soon determines the
south-western to be the lowest of all. It may here be remarked that the
islanders have names for the mountains, peaks, and even blocks, as well
as for the valleys, whereas the Arabs, as a rule, name only their wadys.

Upon the points above named,

    “Nix jacet et jactam nec sol pluviæque resolvunt
      Indurat Boreas, perpetuamque facit.”

The snow-line above the tableland (1500 to 2000 feet) varies according
to position and formation of ground from 2000 to 3500[66] feet over
sea-level. The mean has been laid down at 2830 feet. Iceland, as far as
it is known, contains few true glaciers. The best known of the
Skriðjöklar, _glaciers mouvants_, the “vacillating jökuls” of Henderson
(i., pp. 237, 265), protruded by the thrust from behind and above, are
the southern offshoots of the great Klofajökull. Two have been often
described--the Skeiðarárjökull and the Breiðamerkrjökull. Concerning
these ice masses, which are confined, as far as is known, to the
southern and the south-eastern shores, and which slope gently to the
sea, it is generally believed in Iceland that the congealed tracts are
diminishing. Professor Tyndall observed the same in the Mer de Glace,
and Mr Freshfield on the Caucasus, where the excess of consumption over
supply threatens to make the “gletchers” mere spectres of their former

We now approach the modern formations, the volcanic tracts which overlie
the plateaux of Palagonite, trap, and trachyte, and the valleys of
elevation and erosion which cleave their masses. As usual throughout the
world, the fire-vents are confined to the neighbourhood of the sea and
lakes: the centre of Iceland is the Sprengisandur (bursting sand),[67] a
black “Ruba’ el Kháli.” In many places the trap terraces have become a
wall, over which great gushes of modern lavas have poured down towards
the ocean--stone models of the waters which stream down the valleys, and
which spring in cataracts from step to step.

Again, it is asserted, with premature generalisation, that the volcanic
vents trend, as a rule, from north-east to south-west--a corollary of
the “trachytic-band” theorem. The principal systems, which are the
following, do not bear out this disposition, and it is probably true
only of the south-western part of the island, which was first examined
by travellers. Beginning from the north-west, we have the following list
of eight great systems.

1. The Dranga[68]-Glámu system in the great palmated projection, the
former lying north-east of the latter.

2. The Leirhnúkr, Krafla, and Heiðarfjall, near the Mý-vatn Lake. They
anastomose, by the Ódáða-hraun, with the Vatnajökull and the
Skaptár--the direction being north to south.

3. The Snæfellsjökull (Western Jökull) runs distinctly from west to
east, ending at the sea-shore.

4. The Hofsjökull, including the Arnarfells branch to the east, and the
Blágnýpujökull to the south-west. Occupying the centre of the island, it
approaches the Túngnafellsjökull, an outlier of the Vatnajökull system
to the south-east; and westward, it almost touches the north-eastern
extremity of the long Reykjanes line.

5. The Hekla system, which the old theory of fissures connected with
Etna. It lies on a parallel, a Palagonite ridge about 2000 feet high,
extending from west to east through the Torfajökull, to the banks of the

6. The Vatnajökull, whose apex is Öræfa, the whole measuring some 330
miles in circumference, and occupying an area of 3000 to 4000 square
geographical miles: stretches upon a parallel, and is connected by a
meridian of lava-run with No. 2.

7. The Katla, or Kötlu-gjá system, again, is not linear, but disposed in
a group at the southern extremity of Iceland. The principal items are
the Mýrdals, Eyjafjalla, Merkr, Goðalands, and Tindfjalla Jökulls. This
great mass is generally known as the Eastern Jökull, opposed to the
Western or Snæfells.

8. The Reykjanes system is apparently the only diagonal which extends
from the Fire Islands north-eastwards to Skjaldbreið, and to the snow
mountains, whose northernmost point is Eyriksjökull. Its items are the
Láng, the Ball, the Bláfells, the Geitlands, and the Ok.

Mr Keith Johnston, sen., and other authorities, give the following list
of volcanic eruptions which have occurred during the present

1. Aust-Jökull (an indefinite term for the great Eyjafjalla system), in
December 1820 to June 1822, and January to June 1823.

2. Mýrdals Jökull (or rather Kötlu-gjá) in 1823, from 26th June, covered
about a hundred square miles with sand and ashes.

3. Skeiðar Jökull began to erupt February 13, 1827, and did considerable
damage. No record of this outbreak is to be found.

4. The submarine eruption off Cape Reykjanes took place in 1831.[70]

5. Hekla, in September 2, 1845 (-46), broke out the twenty-sixth time,
according to popular writers, throwing up ashes, which fell in the
Orkneys, and which gave the first intelligence of the event.

6. Kötlu-gjá again was slightly active, vomiting ashes and water in May
1860, its thirteenth eruption.

7. It has been generally assumed that on March 23, 1861, the Öræfajökull
broke its long rest, and the smoke is said to have tarnished silver at
the distance of fifty miles. But Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín, who was in Iceland
during that year, denies having heard of any convulsion, nor was it
mentioned by the island papers. He adds, “What is spoken of in
Metcalfe’s book was a ‘Jökul-hlaup.’”

An ash-eruption from Trölladýngjur is recorded in 1862, but accounts of
it greatly vary. Mr Keith Johnston chronicles nine eruptions extending
through nearly five centuries and a half--namely, the submarine volcano
in the middle of Breiði Fjörð (A.D. 1345), Trölladýngjur (1510),
Herðubreið (1716-17), “Krabla” (1724-25), Leirhnúkr (1730), Síðu Jökull
(1753), Öræfajökull (1755), Hnappafellsjökull (1772), and Skaptárjökull
(1783). And he further informs us that two great groups are
active--Leirhnúkr, “Krabla,” Trölladýngjur, and Herðubreið,[71]--all
nearly on a parallel of latitude to the north-east; and Hekla, Aust
Jökull, Mýrdals, and Öræfa, placed in a right-angled triangle to the

Concerning the unvisited volcano in the snows of the Vatnajökull, all
procurable details will be found in the Journal. The author was
surprised to find that not one of the known centres was in a state of
activity, although every preconceived idea suggested that the summer of
1872 would be one of unusual perturbation.[72] Two days before the
outbreak of Vesuvius (January 1, 1872), shocks began in the north-east
of Iceland. On the afternoons of 16th and 17th April, Húsavík, a small
comptoir to the east of Skjálfandi Fljót, suffered severely, as will
appear in a future page. This immediately followed the fearful cyclone
at Zanzibar (April 15), a phenomenon unknown in former times, which
destroyed part of the town, and which sank most of the foreign and
native craft,[73] doing damage estimated at £2,000,000. The earthquake
at Húsavík also took place only thirteen days after the earthquake at
Antioch (morning of April 3), which shook down two-thirds of the houses,
and killed nearly one-third of the people. Moreover, shocks were
reported at Accra on the Gold Coast, a town which had been almost
destroyed some ten years before.[74] Followed (May 1) by the cyclone at
Madras, which breached the pier, severely injured the city and suburbs,
and wrecked eleven merchantmen, drowning many of the crew. Lastly came
the report that the unseen crater in the untrodden snows of the
Vatnajökull, whose smoke was first seen in August 1867, had again begun
to “vomit flames.”

Meanwhile the eruptions of Vesuvius continued till April 26, when a new
crater built a hill in the Atrio del Cavallo, where only a fissure
before appeared. Professor Palmieri, who stuck staunchly and gallantly
to his observatory on the banks of the new Styx, reported that the
mountain was sweating fire at every pore, and that after the showers of
ashes and red-hot stones, and the discharges of lava and “boiling
smoke,” storms not less dangerous had begun to rage. These meteors, as a
rule, occasion great floods, which, sweeping down the ashes and
_rapilli_ that cover the slopes, complete the ruins of the lands spared
by the lava. During this eruption, a report was spread that the crater
of Vesuvius had become an electric pile; that strong currents,
generated by the violent ejections of the crater, showed themselves in
lightnings, flashing with a dry and hissing sound from the great trunk
of smoke and ashes; and, finally, that an earthquake might at any moment
shake Naples to its foundation. This abnormal electricity may explain
the meteorological peculiarities of the spring of 1872, even in England,
where May behaved itself with the leonine violence of March. The great
Pacific earthquake (August 1867) and the tremendous and unusual storm
which simultaneously visited the eastern coast of South America, to
quote no other instances, showed that, whilst similar effects usually
are of limited extent upon solid ground, they stretch to great distances
at sea, and they may influence the atmosphere in the furthest regions of
the world. Though we may accept only as provisional the geological
theory which places volcanoes upon fissures or solutions of continuity
in the earth’s surface,[75] we must remember that on October 17, 1755, a
fortnight before the earthquake which shook down Lisbon, the Kötlu-gjá
fissure began the terrible eruptions that lasted for a year: at the same
time the waters of Loch Ness were agitated; the British Isles were
rocked by repeated oscillations, and shocks extended to Asia and to
America. Again, in 1783, the Upper Calabrian earthquake (February 5 and
7, and March 28) was closely followed by the fearful phenomena of the
Skaptárjökull.[76] Thus Nature appeared to have made in the summer of
1872 every possible arrangement for a grand pyrotechnic display; yet the
author can positively assert that during the whole of his stay in
Iceland not one of the twenty-seven to thirty great vents showed a
symptom of activity. Indeed, only one was ever reported to be in
existence, and that one has never been visited.

Professor Bunsen has shown that active volcanoes whose temperature is
high, discharge sulphurous acid, whilst the dormant give forth
sulphuretted hydrogen; hence the irregular and simultaneous appearance
of these two gases which play a most important part in Iceland. “Let a
piece of one of the igneous rocks be heated to redness, and permit the
vapour of sulphur to pass over it. The oxide of iron is decomposed; a
portion of sulphur unites with the iron which remains as sulphuret; the
liberated oxygen unites with the remaining sulphur, and forms sulphurous
acid. Let the temperature of the heated mass sink just below a red heat,
and then let the vapour of water be passed over it: a decomposition of
the sulphuret before formed is the consequence; the iron is reoxydised,
and the liberated sulphur unites with the free hydrogen to form
sulphuretted hydrogen. Thus the presence of two of the most important
agents in volcanic phenomena is accounted for. These are experimental
facts capable of being repeated in the laboratory, and the chronological
order of the gases thus produced is exactly the same as that observed in

The most remarkable features of the island, after the volcanic, are the
Fjörðs,[77] or firths proper, conducting streams and admitting the sea;
opposed to Víks and Vágrs, bights and bays, mere indentations of the
coast. Though of igneous origin, they are compared with the granitic
features of Norway, where a volcano is unknown, and yet where the shape
becomes that of an _arête_, a fish’s dorsal bone with regular ribs on
both sides: this flat snow-capped ridge is “the keel” of the maritime
population. The popular theory (Students’ Manual of Geology, Jukes and
Geikie, Blacks, Edin. 1872) is that the Fjörðs are glens once submerged,
raised above water, and hollowed out by glaciers and by the various
influences which come under the name of “weather.” Glacial action is, we
must own, distinctly traced in most parts of the island. But in many
places, Berufjörð for instance, there is no room at the head of the
dwarf amphitheatre for a glacier of any magnitude. As in the Færoe
archipelago, these ravines are the rents and fissures which divided and
fractured the first upheaval; and in Iceland they were bound together by
the action of earthquakes and eruptions, ice and snow, wind and rain.
The greater gorges are found chiefly on three sides of the island. The
south-western shore, like that of Ireland, is digitated by gales,
currents, and Greenland ice, and it abounds in “Út-ver,”[78] the
narrow-necked peninsulas of Norway. The Síða, or sea-“side” to the
south-east, is a long, narrow strip of habitable land between the
mountains and the waters: here the Fjörðs were obliterated by the
combined action of the Jökulls. Under the name “Fjörðs” are also
included immense bays, as the Faxa Fjörð, sixty-five miles across; the
Breiði Fjörð, forty-five miles wide; and the Húnaflói, into which the
Arctic Sea sends its unbroken swell, running forty-six miles deep and
twenty-seven in diameter. The western features are, as a rule, broad,
with shallow sag: here, according to some,[79] was deposited the
Surtarbrand[80] or lignite, and, like the driftwood of Kerguelen Island,
it escaped incineration by subsequent eruptions from causes analogous to
the operation of charcoal burning. The northern firths are long and
deeply indented, and the eastern are sharp and narrow, encased in walls
of Palagonite, trap, and basalt.

The archipelagoes and solitary islands outlying Iceland are invariably
small; and in places, as will be seen, the “stacks” and “drongs” form a
“skerry-guard,” almost a false coast.

Concerning a common feature of the interior, the Gjá (pron. _Geeow_, or
like _ow_ in fowl), rent, chasm, or fissure, details will be given in
the course of the Journal. Here it may be mentioned that it perfectly
resembles the “Ka’ah” of the Lejá and the Haurán, and the Lava Fields in
the Far West of North America, which lately sheltered the “Indians,” and
gave so much trouble to the Federal troops.

The surface of Iceland, where free from snow, and over which men travel,
may be reduced to four general formations.

1. Loose, volcanic ashey sand, grey above and black below; often mixed
with pulverised Palagonite; barred with white lines of salt and potash,
and either erupted subaërially or formed under water, as the rolled
stones and pebbles show. This feature is found best developed in the
central and the north-eastern parts of the island; the Sprengisandur and
the Stórisandur (Sahará or Great Sands) being the great examples. The
hills and terraces are utterly barren, because they will not hold water:
the lower levels, fed by percolation, bear the normal growth, and
especially the wild oat.

2. Stone; chiefly Palagonite, trap, basalts, trachyte, lavas, and
obsidians, the Μαῦρα λιθάρια of the modern Greeks. It is, however, far
safer travelling than the polished limestone of the Libanus, and an
hour’s ride over calcareous Kasrawán is more troublesome than a day in
Iceland. Its greatest inconvenience is perhaps the sun: during a clear
day it becomes, in Icelandic phrase, “hot enough to make a raven gape.”
A fair specimen of the stone-country may be found between Reykjavik and

3. Clay and humus, the former generally disposed in horizontal strata,
the latter deposited by decayed vegetation upon the surface. These
formations, the Geest-lands of Denmark, mostly extend round the hill
feet, dividing them from the deeper levels of bog. They form essentially
“rotten” ground; drilled with holes by frost, rain, and sun, and cut by
gullies of all sizes, a plexus of wrinkles or gashes and earth-cracks,
radiating from the highlands to the lowlands. When the path becomes a
hollow way, sunk too deep for riding, rut-tracks straggle, as in the
Brazil, over wide spaces and, after the vernal thaws, the traveller will
find the “corduroys” of America and the “glue-pots” of Australia; whilst
in places scattered stones are so many traps for careless horses. Yet
these clays and humus are the best paths and, after the sands, give the
fairest chance of a gallop.

4. Bog in Iceland clothes the hill-sides, as well as the bottoms and the
“flats,” that is, any low alluvial land: it is easily discovered from
afar by the dull-red tint of iron-rust and the snow-white spangles of
cotton-grass. There are two forms of profile: one lumpy, tussocky, and
what one traveller calls “hassocky,” like the graves of a deserted
churchyard; the other a plane, the swamp pure and simple; often flooded
after rains, and in the dries provided with two or three veins, into
which animals plunge, struggle, and fall. These channels change so
frequently that none but local guides are of use, and often the best
path leads to the place which has lately become the worst. Instinct and
experience do something, but not much, for man and beast: both naturally
prefer running water to stagnant, and when the foremost is bogged, the
followers seek a better place either higher up or lower down. On
frequented lines the impassable places are provided with “Brúr,” dykes
or causeways of peat or stone, traversed by rude arches and flanked by
shallow ditch-drains.

The Heiði, or high divide separating two river-valleys, is a “dry-land
wave” (κῦμα χερσαῖον), varying from 1500 to 2000 and even 3000 feet in
altitude. These ridges, especially during the mist and fog, snow and
hail, wind and rain, are the horror of native travellers, and few
venture upon the passage in foul weather. The profile is a harsh
caricature of our Scotch and Irish moors and mosses, bogs and swamps,
combining all the troubles of sand, stone, clay, and slush; whilst the
marshes and drains are most troublesome to cross. “Carlines,” or old
women (Vörður and Kerlingar),[81] are built in places where transit must
be made at all seasons; but they are often useless, as the streams shift
their bottoms, and permanent paths cannot be traced on what is neither
water nor good dry land. At the beginning and end of the travelling
season, snow-_fonds_ and veins, based upon compressed ice, streak the
slopes and dot the hollows, whilst natural arches and bridges, under
which savage torrents gnash and foam, must be crossed on horseback.
Concerning the behaviour of the snow, details will be found in the
course of the Journal.

Roads are made in Iceland, like those of Syria, by taking off, not as in
Europe by putting on, stones. In the more civilised parts of the island
they are represented by horse-paths, which are occasionally repaired,
and by sheep-paths, which are left to themselves: they humbly suggest
the “buffalo” track of the prairie, and the elephant tunnel of the
African forest. Not a few show worse engineering and tracery than those
of olden Austria; hence we find upon the map such pleasant titles as
Höfða-brekka[82] (head-brink or slope), Hálsavegr (neck-or-nothing
way), Íllaklif (evil cliff), and Ófæra or Úfæra, Úfærð (the
untravellable)--the latter often applied to short cuts over the
sea-sands where the wayfarer is exposed to a cannonade from the heights.


The hydrography of Iceland has several peculiarities. A glance at the
map shows that the Sprengisandur is the keystone of the flattened arch,
which, averaging 2000 feet in altitude, forms the centre of the island.
From this point the main lines diverge quaquaversally, except to the
south-east, where the huge white oval, denoting the Vatnajökull, bars
the way, and forms a drainage-system of its own. Hence none of the
streams are navigable above the mouth, and their magnitude, as well as
the dimensions of their basins, are out of all normal proportion to the
area of the island. The four head rivers--Hvitá,[83] Thjorsá, Jökulsá
(western), and Skjálfjandifljót (shivering or waving flood)--range from
100 to 160 miles in length. The Thjorsá is 150 miles long, and falls
2000 feet in twenty leagues, carrying more water than the Hudson of New
York. “White River” is a common local name, the effect of glacier
detrition giving the milky aspect familiar to every traveller in
Switzerland, and hence, probably, the muddy White Nile, as opposed to
the clear Blue River. A more unusual feature is the Fúli-lækr (foul or
stinking stream); the iron pyrites, where the stones are ground to
powder, part with their sulphur, and the latter, uniting with the
hydrogen, accounts for the unsavoury name. The Jökulhlaup, or
“Snow-mountain leap,” is the sudden débâcle and exundation which spring
from the congealed masses, often with the irresistible might and the
swift destruction of the true avalanche.

The streams in the south-eastern corner are the shortest and the most
perilous, rising full grown from the glaciers, and sweeping down
fragments and miniature floes of ice. Henderson is the first English
traveller who forded and described the Skeiðará and the network called
the Gnúpsvötn. We may here acquit him of excessive exaggeration: the
natives of the eastern coast, when travelling to Reykjavik, prefer the
immense round by the north to the short cut along the southern shore;
and when asked the reason, they invariably allege the dangers of the
snow-drains. In the course of the Journal we shall cross two of the four
head streams, and observe a water-power amply sufficient for the wants
of a first-rate European people. The principal cataracts are the Oxará,
the Seljaland Foss, the Goða Foss, and the Dretti Foss, first visited by
Baring-Gould. All have been described by travellers, and the highest is
the Hengi Foss which we shall pass on the road.

Of the lakes (Vötn), we shall inspect the two largest, the
Thingvalla-vatn[84] and the Mý-vatn; and we shall sight a multitude of
tarns and ponds, single and grouped. One peculiarity is noticed in many
of the minor waters. In Iceland it is emphatically untrue that lakes
without drains are salt or briny--a rule apparently applicable only to
the temperate and tropical zones. Whether the phenomenon in the north
arises from subterranean drainage through the fissures of the bed, or if
it be due to absence of saline matter in the area of drainage, which is
often modern lava too hard to be sensibly degraded, we have no means of
determining: perhaps there is a union of both causes.

A remarkable feature is the abundance of warm water laid on by the hand
of Nature; the map shows upwards of two hundred; and here perhaps the
hottest springs of the Old World are found. Suffice it to say at present
that they are divided into two main groups. The acidulous and
acid-silica, which redden litmus-paper, depositing gypsum and sulphur,
do not erupt: these are the “Öl-keldur” (ale springs) mentioned in the
“Royal Mirror” of the twelfth century, and they are still locally and
popularly distributed into three species. Some, like “martial” waters,
inebriate from the abundance of carbonic acid gas; others when allowed
to stand, part with their stimulating property; and others again when
filled in rise elsewhere. The second class is the alkaline-silica, which
restores the colour of litmus paper; it is often explosive, and it
contains chiefly sodium and silica. In the valley of the Yellowstone
River the springs are either (1.) Calcareous (alkaline), depositing
carbonate of lime with sulphates of magnesia and soda, chloride of
calcium, and a little silica; or (2.) Silicious (acid), containing
85:100 silica, chloride of magnesium, and only a trace of lime.

The Geysir (gusher)[85] is a spouting spring; the Reykirs (reekers) give
forth steam; the Laug is a warm fountain which may serve as a bath; the
Náma[86] (hole of hot water) is sulphurous and gaseous; the Hverr
(cauldron), like its smaller congener the Ketill (kettle), is a
tranquil, hot, and even boiling well or pool, it is also applied to mud
springs; and the Makkaluber (the Italian “Salsa,” or “Hofetta,” and the
American “Mud-puff”) is a miniature volcano of hissing, boiling bolus.
Further details concerning the names and natures of these features will
be given in the Journal.


The “cold of Iceland” is as proverbial as the “deserts of central
Africa,” and both sayings are equally based upon unfacts. “Iceland,
where the cold and winter are perpetual, and the cold scarce to be
endured,” is what we read. But those who travel in the island find--(1.)
that even in winter the temperature is rarely severe; (2.) that there
are two distinct climates, on the north coast and in the southern
country; and (3.) that the air, however unpleasant, is exceptionally

1. The isotherms by no means follow the circles of latitude. The cold
lines swerve away from, instead of passing through, Iceland, and show
none of that severity which characterises Greenland and the northern
parts of British America. As has long ago been observed,[87] the
isotherm of F. 32°, the freezing point of water, which is that of
Akureyri, varies 14° between southern Asiatic Russia (N. lat. 56°) and
northern Norway (N. lat. 70°).

The mildness of the insular climate, and that of the easterly winds,
which are too clear to come from warmer waters, are popularly attributed
to the “great Gulf Stream.” This sea-river, we are told, “sweeping up
from the south, brings with it a store of heat to bless the islanders,
and so materially affects the island that in the south of Iceland the
winter is not more severe than in Denmark.” The Gulf Stream is generally
supposed to strike the south-western angle, and to flow along the
southern shores; while others make it bifurcate off Reykjanes, hence one
part subtends the north-western point or Land’s End of Iceland, where it
meets the Polar and Arctic current, the other half embraces the southern
shore, and both meet in the north Atlantic arm separating Iceland from
Norway. Dufferin’s map shows the popular belief: the true Florida
current, sweeping past the southern shore of Iceland, forks about
Spitzbergen, sending off a branchlet to the west, and ends south of
Novaya Zemlja. On the other hand, Dr Carpenter contends that the real
“River in the Ocean” dies out in the mid-Atlantic. According to Dr
Joseph Chavanne of Vienna (Mittheilungen, No. vii., 1874), the northern
arm of the Gulf Stream, which flows between Bear Island and Novaya
Zemlja, touches the northern coast of Asia, and eastward of the New
Siberia Islands joins the western drift of the Kurosiwo. The other
northern branch, which subtends the western coast of Spitzbergen and the
Seven Islands, is submerged between the Polar currents, to reappear at
the surface farther northward, and thence to lave the shores of the
Arctic continent: the latter is thus washed by two warm streams,
rendering the existence of perennial ice a sheer impossibility.

We may fairly question the existence of the Gulf Stream along the
southern Icelandic shore, and doubt its bifurcation and subsequent
reunion. This is not the place to discuss the subject of ocean
circulation, a “discovery equal to that of the circulation of the
blood,” first made by Professor Lenz of St Petersburg in 1845, based
upon the second voyage of Kotzebue in 1823-26, and independently by Dr
Carpenter during the cruise of the “Porcupine” (1869). Their aqueous
movement corresponding with the aërial; and the mass of thermal
equatorial waters travelling towards the poles, whilst the counter
current sets in the inverse direction, would account for many phenomena
yet unexplained, but it is still _sub judice lis_.[88] We may remark
that the comparatively shallow seas between the British Islands and
Iceland must accumulate heat, and that this fact perhaps suffices for
what has been attributed to the Gulf Stream and to the general
circulation. Thomas Bartolin (Acta Medica Havn. ad annum 1673)
mechanically explains away the necessity of the former: “Aqua Insulas
Ferroenses allabens, quamquam per se frigida sit, salsitudine tamen suâ,
ex perpetuo motu, plerumque producit hyemem temperatam.” Hence the
waters of Niagara are colder above than below the falls, and the ocean
is warmer after a storm.

Practical men, especially mariners, in Iceland vigorously deny the
existence of the Gulf Stream.[89] Captain Tvede, an intelligent and
observing Dane whom we shall meet in the eastern regions, considers that
the theory, like judicial phrenology and a host of pseudo-sciences,
became popular because it generalises, formalises, and simplifies facts.
He declares that a Gulf Stream, if it existed, would entangle the
Greenland icebergs, and carry them to the southern coast of Iceland,
which never happens. He asserts that a few miles south of Ingólfshöfði
the Sea River is still warm, but that instead of striking the shore it
trends directly north-eastwards to western Norway, sweeps round the
continental North Cape, and here meets the icebergs from Spitzbergen and
Jan Mayen. He has found himself in an ice-dock floating in water which
showed 35° F.

Captain Tvede kindly gave me the following series of observations:

     1. June 19, 1867: thermometer in water 46° F. outside of
     Hrollaugseyar, 6 miles east of Ingólfshöfði, 48° F. 3 miles
     south-east of ditto, and 47° F. 20 miles west of ditto.

     2. June 20: thermometer 47° between Portland and the
     Vestmannaeyjar, 47° F. 12 miles west of the Vestmannaeyjar.

     3. June 23: thermometer 46° in the Breiði Fjörð, off Stykkishólm.

     4. June 24: 43° outside of the Dýrafjörð, and 43°-43°·50 outside of
     the Ísafjörð.

     5. June 25: 38° off the Húnafljói, and 43° off Cap Nord.

     6. July 1: 40° off the Axarfjörð.

     7. July 4: 39° off the Langanes (north-eastern point of Iceland).

     8. July 6: 40° off Viðivik, and 42° outside of Borgarfjörð.

     9. August 4: 46° 16 miles south-east of Langanes.

     10. August 6: 42° in the Testilfjörð, western side of Langanes.

     11. August 10: 38°·50 off Hornnes, and 39° same day off Gerpir, 4
     miles south of Hornnes.

     12. August 19: 44° off Dalataur, entrance of Sydisfjörð.

     13. August 21: 44° off Héradsflói.

     14. August 22: 42° to north, with Kollumúli bearing south-west, 44°
     at sea.

     15. September 1: 41° off Berufjörð.

The subjoined figures are the means of observations taken every fourth
hour on board the “Jón Siggurðsson” steamer, in which the author voyaged
(June 26 to August 5, 1872) between Hafnarfjörð and Grafarós:

            Air.                 Water.
1.  12°   (C.=53°·6 F.)  10°  (C.=50°   F.) at Reykjavik.
2.  11°   (C.=51°·8 F.)  8°·5 (C.=47°·3 F.) at Flatey.
3.  13°   (C.=55°·4 F.)  9°   (C.=48°·2 F.) at N. lat. 66°30´, W. long. (G.) 24°.
4.   9°   (C.=48°·2 F.)  5°·8 (C.=42°·4 F.) at N. lat. 66°10´, W. long. 23°12´.
5.  14°·5 (C.=58°·1 F.)  8°·8 (C.=47°·8 F.) at Borðeyri.
6.  14°·5 (C.=58°·1 F.)  8°·3 (C.=46°·9 F.) at Grafarós.
7.  11°   (C.=51°·8 F.)  6°·8 (C.=44°·2 F.) at Cap Nord.
8.  11°   (C.=51°·8 F.)  8°·5 (C.=47°·3 F.) at N. lat. 65°8´, W. long. 23°24´.

Both series tend to show the capricious variation of temperature (from
38° to 48° F., and from 48°·2 to 58°·1 F.), where the summer sea is
subject to the influx of a little snow-water, and none of the regularity
which might fairly be expected from a “gulf-stream.”

2. Every book of travels from Horrebow and Mackenzie to the present day,
has given notices of the climate of Iceland.[90] The mean temperature of
the Iceland year between 1828 and 1834, has been laid down at 3°·42
Reaumur (= 39°·7 F.). The annual average of Copenhagen is assumed at
46°·8 (F.); the maximum, observed in the shade, being 94°, and the
minimum about 19° (F.). That of Montreal stands at 6°·30 Reaumur (=
46°·2 F.). The winters in Iceland are colder than in Montreal in October
and November (both included); warmer from December to March, and again
cooler from April to December. Eyjafjörð (N. lat. 65° 40´) is more
genial than Cumberland House (N. lat. 53° 57´), and much warmer than any
place in its own parallel. The almost nightless summers from June to
August, which must affect the respiration of plants, gather caloric, and
the sun at that season fails to heat only at a very obtuse angle, when
the rays are intercepted by a thicker column of air. The equatorial
current which prevails in occidental England for eight or nine months
during the year, as the south-wester in Iceland, must greatly modify the
climate. Old travellers assure us that the sub-surface is frost-bound
throughout the year; this takes place only after a succession of hard
winters and ungenial summers--even the cellars are rarely frozen in
winter if care be taken to close the doors. Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (first
Report on Iceland, 1865-66), asserts that “the average temperature of
the earth is about 4½° Reaumur all the year round.”

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland (N. lat. 64° 9´), enjoys a more
genial climate than any place whose temperature is recorded between the
parallels of 55° and 85° (N. lat.), except only St Petersburg (N. lat.
59° 56´) and Sitka Sound (N. lat. 57° 3´). The mean of the year is but
1° (F.) less than that of St John’s, which lies 16° farther south. The
winter corresponds with that of Illukuk, 10° to the south, and the
summer is much hotter. Humboldt’s mean temperature, 40° F., is generally
adopted, although some reduce it to 39°·4, and even to 39°. He makes
February, the coldest month, average 28°·22, and July, the hottest,
56°·3--a difference of over 28°, which others reduce to 27°. He fixes
the winter mean at 29°·1; the spring at 36°·9; the summer at 53°·6 (in
Berghaus’ Atlas, 50°); and the autumn at 37°·9. Dillon (pp. 167, 168),
during the severest season of half-a-century, saw the mercury as low as
10° (F.), in February; and Pliny Miles (p. 55) declares that the
thermometer seldom falls below 12° or 18°.

It will be remembered that the annual mean of climates, where
civilisation is highest, represents in Europe 52° (F.), and the zone is
15° north and south of N. lat. 40°, an undulating belt of 30° arching
towards the equator and the poles. Including its protraction eastward
and westward, it contains 95/100ths of the white races, and almost all
the greatest development.

Certain valuable “notes on the distribution of animals available as food
in the Arctic regions,” compiled by Herr Petermann, and published in the
Journal of the R. Geog. Society (vol. xxii.), enable us to compare the
thermometer in the south and in the north of the island. “Reykiavig” (N.
lat. “64°·08´´) is placed between New Herrnhut and Fort Reliance, whilst
Eyjafjörð (N. lat. 66° 30´), stands between Fort Hope and Winter Island.

The figures are as follows:

                                                 Annual  Difference
                 Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter.  mean.  Sum. & Wint.
1. New Herrnhut, 26°·15  39°·28  26°·50  14°·30  26°·83   24°·48
_Reykjavik_,       37°·04  53°·54  37°·94  29°·18  39°·43   24°·36
Fort Reliance,     ”     12°·21    ”    -16°·97  16° (?)    “

2. Fort Hope,    -4°·73  39°·59  13°·93 -25°·09   5°·96   64°·68
_Eyjafjörð_,       28°·10  45°·80  34°·46  20°·84  32°·30   24°·96
Winter Island,    6°·35  31°·80  17°·58 -20°·47   8°·82   52°·27

Ranged according to seasons and months, the figures stand:


New Herrnhut in February (coldest), 22°·10 in March 21°·65 in April 24°·80
_Reykjavik_        ”                  28°·31   ”      29°·86      ”   36°·46
Fort Reliance    ”                 -18°·84   ”      -6°·14      ”    8°·23
Port Hope        ”                 -26°·68   ”     -28°·10      ”  -23°·95
_Eyjafjörð_        ”                  18°·50   ”      20°·66      ”   27°·50
Winter Island    ”                 -23°·99   ”      10°·72      ”    6°·48


New Herrnhut in May,  32°·0  in June, 40°·10  in July, (hottest), 40°·33
_Reykjavik_      ”      44°·80    ”     51°·58    ”                 56°·19
Fort Reliance  ”      36°·03    ”        ”      ”                   “
Fort Hope      ”      17°·88    ”     31°·38    ”                 41°·46
_Eyjafjörð_      ”      36°·14    ”     43°·52    ”                 46°·94
Winter Island  ”      23°·29    ”     23°·17    ”                 35°·36


New Herrnhut in August 37°·40  in September, 34°·03  in October, 32°·90
_Reykjavik_        ”     52°·86    ”           46°·45    ”         36°·91
Fort Reliance    ”       ”       ”             ”       ”         20°·70
Fort Hope        ”     46°·32    ”           28°·57    ”         12°·56
_Eyjafjörð_        ”     46°·94    ”           43°·16    ”         34°·34
Winter Island    ”     36°·86    ”           31°·61    ”         13°·25


New Herrnhut in November, 15°·80 in December 11°·75  in January  9°·05
_Reykjavik_         ”       30°·45     ”       29°·41        ”    29°·82
Fort Reliance     ”       13°·44     ”      -17°·07        ”   -25°·00
Fort Hope         ”        0°·68     ”      -19°·27        ”   -29°·32
_Eyjafjörð_         ”       25°·88     ”       18°·32        ”    25°·70
Winter Island     ”        7°·88     ”      -14°·24        ”   -23°·17

Dr Joseph Chavanne, before alluded to, gives the following table of the
wind temperature at Reykjavik, showing the deviations from mean:

WINTER.--Mean Temperature  -1·8.
N.    N.E.   E.   S.E.   S.   S.W.   W.   N.W.         Max.    Min.   Diff.
3·6  -2·2  +1·3  +4·1  +3·7  +1·1  -1·4  -2·9  E. 68, S. +4·4  N. -3·6  8·0
SUMMER.--Mean Temperature +11.0.

0·0  +0·5  +0·1  +0·2  +0·3  -0·7  -1·0  -1·3  E. 30, S. +0·7  W. 35,  N. -1·6  2·3

Thus the climate of southern Iceland is insular and not excessive. We
have a notorious instance of the same disposition in England. With us
Devonia represents the south-western coast of Iceland, and justifies
Carrington’s high praise:

                   “Thou hast a cloud
    For ever in thy sky; a breeze, a shower
    For ever on thy meads. Yet where shall man,
    Pursuing spring around the globe, refresh
    His eye with scenes more beauteous than adorn
    Thy fields of matchless verdure?”

The northern climate of Iceland, distant only 3° or 180 direct
geographical miles, is distinctly continental; the difference ranging
between 14° and 17° (F.). This is easily accounted for by the Arctic
current, by the proximity of Polar ice, and by the prevalence of
northern and north-western winds, which, in south Iceland as in
Palestine, drive away rain. Whatever discrepancy of opinion there may be
concerning the Gulf Stream, there can be none about the cold drift
which, between Greenland and Iceland, measures some fifty miles in
breadth, and many hundred feet in depth. Hence the north-western
digitations are more subject to floes and bergs than the Breiði Fjörð,
which again is oftener invested than the Faxa Fjörð, the latter being
rarely beset more than once during the century. According to Uno Von
Troil, the sea-ice, now so rare, came regularly in January with the
north-eastern gales, and was never far from the north-east coast. At
present the season is about April and even later.

In the north, according to Metcalfe (p. 152), the winter is much keener,
and the summer is proportionally milder than in the south; some
observers deny the truth of the latter part of the proposition, and make
the hot months average about the same figure. The snow often begins with
October and lasts till mid-May when the temperature stands at a mean of
35° (F.). For Akureyri Baring-Gould (quoting the Almanak um Ár 1863),
gives the year as 32° (F., freezing point = Eyjafjörð), the winter as
20°·7, and the summer 45°·5. He therefore determines that, while the
mean of Reykjavik is very nearly that of Moscow, Akureyri almost
corresponds with Julianshaab in Greenland.

At Stykkishólm on the mid-west coast (N. lat. 65° 4´ 44´´, and W. long.
(G.) 22° 43´ 17´´), observations have been taken by Hr A. O. Thorlacius
for nearly thirty years. The gross results are given in the following
table, taken from the Journal of the Scottish Meteorological Society,
iii. 148-304:

                     during the Years 1845-71.

                Jan. | Feb. | Mar. | April | May. | June
                28·1 | 26·9 | 27·8 | 33·1  | 39·8 | 45·6
Highest mean,   38·0 | 34·7 | 40·1 | 41·9  | 43·8 | 50·5
Lowest mean,    17·2 | 13·3 | 12·4 | 19·8  | 31·4 | 41·5

               July. | Aug. | Sept. | Oct. | Nov. | Dec. | Aver.
               49·1  | 48·2 | 44·0  | 37·7 | 33·1 | 30·4 | 37°·0
Highest mean,  53·1  | 51·8 | 48·7  | 43·9 | 38·4 | 37·4 | 39°·8
Lowest mean,   44·2  | 43·0 | 37·2  | 32·5 | 26·4 | 24·0 | 29°·7

Mr A. Buchan, the learned Secretary of the Scottish Meteorological
Society, has printed in the same Journal (1873, pp. 304-307), the
following highly interesting notice on the climate of Iceland, and
especially of Stykkishólm, which appear to have great differences of
temperature in the same months of different years.[91]

     “The mean annual temperature of the twenty-six years (1845-71) is
     37°·0. The highest annual mean of any of the years was 39°·8 in
     1847, and the lowest 29°·7, giving thus the enormous difference of
     10°·1. This very low annual mean of 29°·7 occurred in 1866 under
     very exceptional circumstances, which were detailed by Mr
     Thorlacius in a letter 15th October 1866. Spitzbergen ice
     surrounded Iceland on the north and north-east coast from January
     to the close of August in a greater or less degree, and did not
     wholly disappear till about the middle of September. Its effect on
     the temperature of the summer was therefore perceptible. What
     enormous masses of ice filled up the ocean north of Iceland may be
     conceived from the fact that, in clear weather, its gleaming
     appearance could be observed from Stykkishólm twenty geographical
     miles, not only during the day but also at night. The depression of
     temperature which followed was very great, amounting on the mean of
     the year to 7°·3; of the nine months from January to September to
     8°·1, and of February and March to 14°·5. Leaving, then, this
     exceptional year out of account, the next lowest annual mean was
     33°·6 during 1859. Hence the coldest year fell short of the mean
     annual temperature to the extent of 3°·4, and the warmest year
     exceeded it by 2°·8.

     “With 1859 began a marked diminution of temperature. For the
     previous thirteen years the annual mean was on each, except 1848
     and 1855, above the average--the mean of these thirteen years being
     38°·2, or 1°·2 above the average. For the next thirteen years the
     mean was only 35°·8. Thus the first half of the period was 2°·4
     warmer than the last half.

     “As regards the annual mean of temperature, the lowest (26°·9)
     occurs in February, and the highest (49°·0) in July--the difference
     between the coldest and the warmest months being thus 22°·1. The
     three coldest months are January, February, March, the mean
     temperature of which is 27°·6, that of December being 2°·8 higher.
     In the northern part of the British Isles, and at the western
     station of the Atlantic, these are also the three coldest months,
     but the difference between their mean temperature and that of
     December is comparatively small, whereas in the south-east and
     interior of Great Britain, December, January, and February are the
     three coldest months.

     “In the extreme north of the British Isles, the warmest month is
     August, and the temperature of September, if it does not exceed, is
     nearly equal to that of June. But at Stykkishólm, July is the
     warmest month, and the temperature of September is 1°·6 colder than
     that of June. Another point of difference between Iceland and
     Scotland is that at Stykkishólm, the mean temperature of April and
     that of November are the same, viz., 33°·1, whereas in Scotland
     April is 44°·7 and November 40°·3, or April is 7°·4 warmer than

     “Hence the striking peculiarity of the climate of this part of
     Iceland is: During the cold half of the year the seasons are longer
     delayed than in any part of Great Britain. At Greenwich the mean
     temperature of April, as compared with November, being 6°·5 warmer;
     at York, 4°·9; at Aberdeen, 3°·9; at Bressay, Shetland, 0°·8; but
     at Stykkishólm, 0°·0. On the other hand, during the summer months
     the seasons at Stykkishólm are not delayed as in Shetland and
     Orkney, but resemble in this respect the eastern district of Great

     “The great annual increase of temperature takes place from April to
     June--the increase of April being 5°·3, of May 6°·7, and of June
     4°·8, and the great annual decrease from September to November--the
     decrease of September being 4°·2, October 6°·3, and of November

     “But the most remarkable feature in the Icelandic climate is the
     great differences which occur in the temperature of the same month
     from year to year. This is seen in the highest and lowest
     temperature of each month during the twenty-six years. Thus, as
     regards March, the mean temperature in 1846 was 40°·1, but in 1866
     it was only 12°·4, thus showing a fluctuation of 27°·7 in the mean
     temperature of March. The mean monthly fluctuation in the first
     four months of the year amounts to 22°·9, and for the whole twelve
     months 14°·9. As regards Scotland, the largest difference for any
     month during the past fifteen years was 11°·4--the temperature of
     December 1857 being 44°·9, and of the same month 1870 being 33°·5.
     In Scotland, the average of the whole twelve months is only 7°·1,
     or less than half of Iceland. These singular fluctuations of
     temperature are readily explained by the position of Iceland with
     respect to the Arctic regions on the one hand, and to the Atlantic
     with its warm currents on the other. As more than usual prevalence
     of easterly winds rapidly and greatly depresses the temperature by
     bringing to its coasts the cold, if not also the frozen regions. On
     the contrary a prevalence of south-westerly winds disperses the
     cold, and pours over the island the genial warmth of the Atlantic.
     This fluctuating character of the season is frequently very
     disastrous, it being evident that such summers as that of 1866,
     whose mean temperature was only 42°·9, will well-nigh altogether
     prevent the growth of vegetation.”

The veteran observer Hr Thorlacius has laid down the following rule:
“The great and sudden diminution of pressure which characterises the
winter months is the outstanding feature of the meteorology of
Iceland.”[92] The barometric mean during twenty-five years at 37 feet
above the sea is 29·602. There are two annual maxima of pressure, the
greater in May and the lesser in November; whilst the minima are in
January and October. The average yearly rainfall closely agrees with the
lower parts of the Scottish Lothians--between 1856-68 the mean was 26·81
inches; the maximum (1868) being 34·23, and the minimum (1867) 21·28.
The greatest amount fell in autumn and winter--in October 3·16 inches,
and in May 1·41. The amount of melted snow, annually registered, ranges
from 4 to 12 feet; the mean of twelve years is 7·43; the maximum (1863)
is 12·21, the minimum (1867) 4·76. The snowy days average 82 per annum,
and the greatest falls are in January, 1·40; in February, 1·34; in
December, 1·24; and in March, 1·18. During seven of the twelve years no
snow appeared in June; during ten none in July; during eleven none in
August; and during five none in September. The severest storm remembered
was in 1868; snow began on January 15, and lasted till the end of March,
making 7·14 inches. With one or two exceptions, Greenland ice annually
showed itself at Stykkishólm between 1859-69. Thunderstorms were very
variable. None were registered between February 1860 and August 1861
(included), but sixteen during the six months between November 1853 and
April 1854. Of 111 thunderstorms in twenty-three years nearly half were
in December (twenty-five) and January (twenty-seven); two occurred in
May and July, none in June and August. In the Færoes, also,
thunderstorms are wintry, not summery: the reason seems to be that when
the peaks are bare, electricity is equally distributed; but when they
are invested with snow, a bad conductor, the local congestion relieves
itself by discharges. Thunder is said to sound, as we might expect,
unusually loud, the effect of rocky hill and stony dale.[93]

3. The climate of Iceland, if not pleasant, is assuredly one of the most
wholesome. All the English travellers upon the island in the summer of
1872 agreed that Anglo-Indians on “sick leave” should prefer a tour in
the north to the debilitating German Bäder, or to the fantastic
hydropathic establishments which are best suited to riotous health.
Consumptive patients, and those suffering from constitutional and
nervous debility, have of late years been diverted to the dry, cold, and
bracing air of Canada, instead of the parts preferred by their
fathers--Montpelier, with its dreadful _Vent de bise_; Pau, where the
people describe their year as eight months of winter and four of
_l’enfer_; Pisa, where Johannum and Barahút--the hot and cold places of
punishment--seem to meet; and bilious Madeira, with its enfeebling, warm
milk-and-water air, which may relieve the one-lunged, but is sadly
trying to those with two. In Iceland throughout summer the stimulus of
light is never wanting; rich, oily fish can always enter into the bill
of fare; and the evidence is in favour of “free ozone,” whose absence
has accounted for the presence of cholera.[94] Hence phthisis hardly
appears amongst the diseases of the islanders, although, when
transported to warmer regions, they are as liable to it as natives of
more genial climes. And whilst in Russia an overcoat may be necessary
during the height of summer, in Iceland tourists walk about bare-headed
at midnight.

There is a regular tide round the island, ebbing (Icel. fjara) and
flowing (Icel. flóð) according to the rule of six hours. It sets into
the Fjörðs, but in the offing it subtends the shore. According to old
observers, these movements are stronger at the full and change, and
strongest at the equinoxes. As every wind must blow more or less from
the sea, those which pass over the least expanse of land bring rain
condensed by the cold heights. Upon the coast there is a kind of daily
trade following the summer sun’s course, like that known in Norway.[95]
Cyclones are apparently wanting, but history records the most violent
volcanic hurricanes; mountain squalls are the rule, and the smoke-gale
of water-dust reminds us of the Continental Gauskuld, caused by the
Finn-Lapp Magician sending forth his fly. In Iceland, as all the world
over, the uplands are warmer than the lowlands--a fact well known to the
ancients, but apparently puzzling to the modern traveller. “What is
remarkable,” says Henderson (i. 104), “I found the temperature of the
atmosphere twelve degrees warmer in this hyperborean region than it was
below in the valley.” Yet it is easy to understand that whilst heated
air rises, cold sinks; moreover, that, as a rule, there is more water,
and consequently more evaporation, in lowlands than in highlands.

The mists (Mistar) are of the three kinds described by the Rev. G. Landt
(Færoe Islands, London, Longmans, 1810): (1.) Skadda, or white cumulus
on the hill-tops, supposed to show wet weather; (2.) Bolamjorkie, the
vapour-belt which girdles the mountain flanks; and (3.) Mokyer (Icel.
Thoka), the common fog of England.[96]

The Aurora Borealis, which the pagans held to be an emanation of the
Deity--a nimbus encircling some mighty brow--and in which Greenland sees
ghosts playing with walrus’ heads, is expected to appear in mid-August,
but of course not so splendidly as in winter. The author never saw
either streamers or zodiacal light. Uno Von Troil (p. 54) makes the
former show from all quarters, but especially from the southern horizon.
Metcalfe (p. 385) asserts that it ranges from north-east to south-west,
and there is a popular idea that the focus is more easterly than it was
a decade ago. In the Færoes it flashes either from west and north-west
to east, or from east and north-east to west. The streamers are
bluish-yellow, gold-coloured, and red; rarely blue, green, and scarlet.
The latter are called Lopt-eldr[97] or lift-fire, which shows the sky
aflame. It comes with strong winds and drifting snows, and, as in most
hyperborean parts, it betokens great carnage over the place where it
rises. Icelanders can no longer make the aurora draw nearer by whistling
to it.

The Alpen-glow, also called the evening aurora, is often a glorious
spectacle when the reflection of the blood-red west, showing that the
sun has just set, falls upon craggy hill and lowland slope, lighting up
every house and field to a distance of five or six miles, and washing
colour over the daguerrotyped outlines, usually so hard and sharp. When
distant objects seem near in most countries men predict rain, here the
rule apparently fails. The “Vetrar-braut,” or course of winter (Milky
Way), is by no means so bright as some travellers have described it. In
heathen times its appearance was used to forecast the hard months,
especially as fortune-telling was part of the great autumnal feasts and
sacrifices. The author never saw in Iceland the phosphorescent water
supposed to betray the presence of electricity and ozone, nor the
_fulgor brutum seu spurium_ of romantic meteorologists. The rainbow
(Icel. Regnbogi Nikuðs,[98] or of “Old Nick”) is of course common; the
twilights strike the stranger from the northern temperates as being
unimportant like those of the tropics; and there is a name for the
mirage or heat-reek, Hillingar, or Upp-hillingar, when rocks and islands
look as if lifted (“up-heaved”) from the level of the sea. The common
meteors are the Moorild or moor-fire of Norway (_ignis labentes seu
fatui_), here called Hrævar-eldr[99] and Snæljós. Castor and Pollux in
Christian times either became Saint Elmo’s (San Telmo’s) flames, or
connected themselves with Saints Nicholas and Clare; hence the Corpo
Santo, and hence our “corpusance,” frequently observed by the
circumnavigator Pigafitta (A.D. 1519-1522). The old English sailor
regarded them as Will-o’-the-wisps intimately related to a certain Davy
Jones. The others are the Gýgjar-sól (gow-sun) or Auka-sólir, mock sun
(parabolia); and paraselenæ or lunar halos, with Rosabaugr, or
storm-rings, literally “sleet-rings,” the effect of minute ice spiculæ,
or, perhaps, metallic particles, in the upper air refracting the light,
and producing rainbow-hued circles and ovals, which often bisect one
another. Water-spouts, the typhons of the Greeks, caused by the suction
of clouds highly charged with electricity, have been observed. We read
of fire-balls or shooting-stars (Viga-hnöttur or Stjörnuhrap); of
electric flames and red-hot globes (volcanic bombs) discharged with loud
detonations during eruptions; and the people still believe in the
“fire-vomiting” of their craters. Modern science explains the phenomenon
by the reflection of the brilliant, glowing, glaring lava and the
red-hot scoriæ, upon the dust and ash column, and upon the
“smoke-clouds,” which are really steam and other vapours. Yet M. Abich
declares that in the Vesuvian eruption of 1834, he distinctly saw the
flame of burning hydrogen, and this, indeed, might be expected.

As has been observed, the year of grace 1872 was exceptional. It opened
with the finest weather till the equinox, after which it broke and
strewed the ground with four feet of snow. Rain endured till the last
quarter of June, but the rest of the travelling season was absolutely
delightful. Mild east winds prevailed at Reykjavik, and the warmth of
the “sirocco,” as it was called, set the citizens speculating upon the
possibility of an eruption in the interior. After July 11th the sky was
that of Italy for a whole fortnight. The autumn was rough, with heavy
gales from north-east to east, and from south-east to south-west; there
were also hard frosts about mid-November, after which the weather became
as mild as in 1871. Dr Hjaltalín, Land-Physicus or Physician-General of
Iceland, was inclined to think that the summers were waxing warmer in
Snowland, as they are growing, or are supposed to grow, colder in

The travelling season of 1873 was very raw and dry. From the 20th of
June to the 20th of July strong north winds prevailed, and from the 16th
to the 18th of July there was a considerable fall of snow. August was
tolerably rainless, but cold, and winter set in in earnest about the
20th of September.


In these hyperborean regions the light season and the dark season
represent the “dries” and “rains” of the tropical zone. The gradual
changes from winter to summer, and _vice versâ_, known as spring and
autumn, can hardly exist when the frost often binds the ground till
mid-June, and reappears in latter August.[100] Thus the Edda of the old
Northmen (Vafthrûðnismál, Thorpe’s trans., st. 27) very rightly
distributes the year into only two parts:

    “Vindsval hight he
     Who Winter’s father is,
     And Svâsud Summer’s.”[101]

The ancient heathen year contained 364 days (12 × 30 + 4 Auka-nætr, or
Eke-nights):[102] the remaining day, with its fraction, was gathered up
into an intercalary week, called Summer-eke, or Eke-week, introduced by
Thorstein Surt (the black) about the middle of the tenth century. Of old
it was inserted at the end of summer every sixth or seventh year, which
then numbered 191 days. The Gregorian style inserts it every fifth or
sixth year. Thus 1872 is marked the “first year after Sumar-auki;” the
years 1860, 1866, and 1871 being years with “Sumar-auki.” New style was
not adopted till A.D. 1700.

The light months technically began with the Thursday preceding April
16,[103] O. S., = April 26, N. S. On that day children received their
Sumar-gjöf (summer presents), which take the place of our Easter gifts.
The season consisted of 184 days (30 × 6 + 4 Auka-nætr); the eke-nights
being inserted before midsummer, which parts the season into two halves,
each of three months. Thus in the Iceland almanac for 1872,
Sumar-dagr-fyrsti (first summer day) fell on Thursday, April 25; the
Auka-nætr ranged between July 24 to 27; Mið-sumar was on July 28; and
Sumar-dagr-síðasti (last summer day) happened on October 25. In modern
usage the time from April to October is reckoned by the Sumar-vikur
(summer weeks), the first, second, seventh, and twentieth; and the
calendars mark every Thursday, during the light season, by the current
number of the week. The “travelling time” extends from the Invention of
the Cross (May 3) to St Bartholomew’s Day (August 24). Meteorologically,
summer opens with July. The winter, or dark half of the year (Vetr),
began on the Saturday before St Luke’s Day (O. S.), or that Saint’s Day
if a Saturday; and, like the summer, lasted twenty-six weeks. The
Vetrar-dagr-fyrsti (first winter day) for 1872 and 1873 corresponds with
Saturday, October 26. The following are the names of the months (Mánuðr
or Mánaðr):

1. JANUARY--Icelandic, _Mörsugr_, “fatsucker;” Anglo-Saxon, _Æftera_
(second) _Giuli_ (Yule), from the turning or tropic of the sun; Old
Danish, _Julemaaned_.

2. FEBRUARY--Icel., _Thorri_; A. S., _Sol monath_, from offerings made
to the sun; O. D., _Blidemaaned_, or “blythe month.”

3. MARCH--Icel., _Gói_;[104] A. S., _Rhed-monath_, “travel-month,” or
“month of the goddess Rheda,” to whom warlike sacrifices were offered;
O. D., _Törmaaned_, or “Thor’s month”--hence Lucan (Phars., lib. i.):

     “Et Taranus Scythicæ non melior ara Dianæ.”

4. APRIL--Icel., _Einmánuðr_; A. S., _Eostre monath_, “Easter month,”
from the goddess Eostre; O. D., _Faaremaaned_, “fair month,” or “sheep

5. MAY--Icel., _Harpa_, or _gaukmánuðr_,[105] “cuckoo month,” or
_saðlid_, “sowing season;” A. S., _Trimilchi_, because the sheep were
milked thrice a day; O. D., _Maimaaned_, taken from the classics.

6. JUNE--Icel., _Skerpla_, or _egglið_, “egg-season,” or _stekklið_; A.
S., _Ærra_ (first) _Liða_, “serene sea;” O. D., _Hömaaned_, or “hay
month.” The 3d to 5th of June are called _Fardagar_, “flitting-days,”
because then householders change their abodes.

7. JULY--Icel., _Sólmánuðr_, “sun-month,” or _Selmánuðr_, “saeter
month;” A. S., _Æftera Liða_; O. D., _Ormemaaned_, or “worm (lumbrici)

8. AUGUST--Icel., _Hey-annir_, or “time of haymaking,” which ends about
the middle of next month; A. S., _Weide monath_, “pasture month,” or
_Wenden monath_, “tare month;” O. D., _Hoestmaaned_.

9. SEPTEMBER--Icel., _Tvímánuðr_; A. S., _Haleg monath_, or “holy
month;” O. D., _Fiskemaaned_.

10. OCTOBER--Icel., _Haustmánuðr_, “harvest or autumn month,” or
_Garðlagsmánuðr_, “the month for building fences;” A. S.,
_Winterfyllath_, or “winter-full;” O. D., _Sædemaaned_, “seed-month.”

11. NOVEMBER--Icel, _Gormánuðr_, “gore-month,” or “slaughter-month;” A.
S., _Bloth monath_, “sacrifice-month;” O. D., _Slagtemaaned_, “slaughter

12. DECEMBER--Icel., _Frermánuðr_, “frost month,” or _Ýlir_, “howler,”
from the howling storms; A. S., _Ærra Giuli_ (first Yule); O. D.,

There is a quaint way of numbering the month-days by the knuckles of the
closed fist, which denote the longer, while the intervals represent the
shorter divisions, a _memoria technica_, thus taking the place of our
mnemonic lines, “Thirty days hath September,” etc. This “Dactylismus
Ecclesiasticus,”[107] concerning which Bishop Jón Arnason wrote, is
possibly what Uno Von Troil means (p. 118), “They make use of an art to
discover the sun by their fingers.”

The heathen week consisted of “Fimts” (pentads), whence, probably, the
sacred pentagonal star of Odinism; and six of these formed the month.
Thus the year was composed of seventy-two weeks, a holy number (= 2 ×
36, or 6 × 12). This old style lingered long after the introduction of
the planetary heptad, and lasts in such expressions as “There are many
turns of the weather in five days (a fimt), but more in a month.” Yet
the week (vika) was already in use about the middle of the tenth
century. Bishop John, who died in A.D. 1121, induced Iceland to adopt
the hebdomadal division, and the ecclesiastical names of the days, as
they survive in Spanish and Portuguese, _e.g., Feria secunda_, etc. Here
we recognise, with the exception of the two first, the familiar Quaker

SUNDAY is _Sunnu-dagr_, or _Drottins-dagr_, “the Lord’s day.”

MONDAY--_Mána-dagr_, modern Icel. Mánu-dagr.

TUESDAY--_Thriði_, or _Thriðju-dagr_, “third day.”

WEDNESDAY--_Miðviku_, contracted to _Miðku-dagr_, the Germ. _Mittwoch_.

THURSDAY--_Fimti-dagr_, or “fifth day.”

FRIDAY--_Föstu-dagr_, “fast-day,” the O. Swed. _Vor Frudag_, “_le jour
de Nôtre Dame_,” who took the place of Freya.

SATURDAY--_Laugar-dagr_, “bath day,” as in the times of England before

The old Icelandic names of the week days were: Sunnudagr, Mánadagr,
Týsdagr (from Týr, Tuisco, the one-armed god of war), Óðinsdagr,
Thórsdagr, Frjádagr, and Laugar or Thvátt dagr (“washing-day,” _i.e._,

Both Iceland and the Færoes have preserved the classical and Oriental
system of dividing into watches (Icel. Dagsmark, _plur._ Dagsmörk,
“day’s marks”[108]), corresponding with the “Pahar” still used
throughout Hindostan. They ignored the hour, which would have been too
troublesome and minute. Wanting timepieces, they used sundials
(Sólskifa) and sand-glasses. The rudest form was the peak or cairn,
whose shadow noted the time: the same system still prevails amongst the
Bedawin. By the sun also they learned to calculate the periods of ebb
and flow, and the southern altitude of the luminary denoted the
meridian. In winter evenings time was marked by the position of the
Pleiades, called, _par excellence_, the Stjarna (star). The other
constellations found useful at night were Örvindals-tá (toe of Orwendel,
= Rigel Orionis?); Thjaza augu (the eyes of Thiassi, = Castor and
Pollux?); Reið Rögnis (Charles’ Wain, the Wain of Rögn or Odin; whence
also Ragna-rök, the twilight of the gods and doom of the world); and
Loka-brenna (Sirius, Loki’s fire, also referring to the final Odinic

The Færoese divide the day into eight öktur (Icel. eyktir) and sixteen
half-öktur, the word Okt being shortened from octava.[109] The
Icelanders reckon nine like our seamen, the additional one being a
“dog-watch,” formed by dividing the 180 minutes into two. Their names

1. _Nátt-mál_, or night-meal to 9 P.M.

2. _Miðnætti_, to midnight.

3. _Ótta_, from midnight to 3 A.M.: “hana-ótta” is cock-crow.

4. _Miður-morgun_, also called _Hirðis-rismál_, “the rising time of the
shepherd,” to 6 A.M.

5. _Dagmál_, day-meal to 9 A.M. (_hora tertia_.)

6. _Hádegi_, or _Hiðr-dagr_, “high-day” till noon.

7. _Mið-mundi_, first dog-watch from noon to 1.30 P.M.

8. _Nón_, in olden times also _Eykt_, second dog-watch from 1.30 P.M. to
“nona,” or 3 P.M.

9. _Miðr-aptn_, or mid-afternoon to 6 P.M.

The shortest day in the south averages five hours,[110] and the longest
is everywhere twenty-four.

As will appear in the Journal, Iceland preserves the Hebrew style of
beginning the civil day with evening, not with midnight like the rest
of Europe. So Tacitus (cap. ii.) of the Germans: “Nec dierum numerum, ut
nos, sed noctium computant;” and the older ecclesiastical law reckoned
the greater feasts from the nones or evenings of the preceding days. The
hours are fractioned after the English-Norwegian, not the German
fashion: thus 3.30 would be called “half (after) three,” instead of
“half (to) four” (halb vier). Similarly our seamen when heaving the lead
sing out, “And a half three,” _i.e._, three fathoms and a half.


Iceland has the general contour of Ireland with the eastern side turned
round to face the Arctic Pole. It is a square, cut, furrowed, and
digitated by the violence of the northern, the north-eastern, and the
south-western winds and waves; and its shape is regular, and unsupplied
with ports only in the south, where, like Sicily, it is least exposed to

The “little white spot in the Arctic Sea” is the epitome of a world
generated by the upheaval and the eruption; dislocated and distorted by
the earthquake, and sorely troubled and tortured by wintry storms,
rains, snows, avalanches, fierce débâcles, and furious gales. The far
greater portion, the plateau above the seaboard, has a weird and
sinister aspect; verging on the desolation of Greenland, and lacking the
sternness and grandeur of nature in Norway. And nowhere, even in the
fairest portions, can we expect the dense forest on the Alp, “up to the
summit clothed with green;” the warbling of birds, the murmurs of
innumerous bees, the susurrus of the morning breeze, or the melodious
whispering of the “velvet forest:” their places are taken by black rock
and glittering ice, by the wild roar of the foss, and by the mist-cloud
hung to the rugged hill-side. We may not look for that prodigality of
colour with which sun and air paint the scenery of the happier south.
The first impressions recorded by travellers are the astonishing
transparency of the atmosphere, the absence of trees, the metallic green
of the grass-fields, the pink and purple sheen of the mountain heaths,
the sharp contrast of Ossas and warts, of ice and fire-born rock; and
the prevalence of raw-white and dull-black hues, like gulls’ feathers
strewed upon a roof of tarred shingles, in fact the magpie suits of
snowy jökull and sable fell.

Despite the almost hyperborean latitude, the frequent oases--Wadys or
Fiumaras--of admirable verdure, soft and secluded from the horrors of
loose sand and black lava, have suggested reminiscences of the Arabian
wildernesses, whilst the caravans of ponies, the “dromedaries of the
glacial desert,” add a special feature of resemblance.

The “general glance” of southern travellers is perhaps too gloomy. It
was hardly fair of the ancient Icelandic poet (tenth century) to call
his native island a “gallows of slush,” or for the modern Icelandic
parson to describe it as “nothing but bogs, rocks, and precipices;
precipices, rocks, and bogs; ice, snow, lava; lava, snow, ice; rivers
and torrents; torrents and rivers.” Cleasby crudely assures us that “the
whole of Iceland may be said to be a burnt-out lava field, from
eruptions previous to the peopling of the country.” Henderson says
rudely: “The general aspect of the country is the most rugged and dreary
imaginable;” he quotes Jeremiah about a region “where all life dies,
death lives, and Nature breeds all monstrous, all prodigious things;”
and he dwells with apparent gusto upon the “doleful and haggard tracts,”
through which it was his “privilege” safely to pass. Baring-Gould
repeats: “The general aspect of Iceland is one of utter desolation.”
Forbes gives an even more gloomy picture of repulsive deformity. One
might be reading in these travellers a description of St Magnus’ Bay:

    “For all is rock at random thrown,
     Black waves, blue crags, and banks of stone;
       As if were here denied
     The summer sun, the spring’s sweet dew,
     That clothe with many a varied hue,
       The blackest mountain side.”

The harsh name “Iceland,” which took the place of the far more
picturesque and correct “Snæ-land,” predisposes the wanderer to look
upon this northern nature with unfriendly glance; but it is strange how
her beauties grow upon him. Doubtless the scenery depends far more upon
colour and complexion than in the genial lands of the lower temperates.
But, during the delightfully mild and pleasant weather of July and
August, seen through a medium of matchless purity, there is much to
admire in the rich meads and leas stretching to meet the light-blue
waves; in the fretted and angular outlines of the caverned hills, the
abodes of giant and dwarf; in the towering walls of huge horizontal
steps which define the Fjörðs; and in the immense vistas of silvery
cupolas, “cravatted” cones, and snow-capped mulls, which blend and melt
with ravishing reflections of ethereal pink, blue, azure, and lilac,
into the grey and neutral tints of the horizon. There is grandeur, too,
when the Storm-Fiend rides abroad; amid the howl of gales, the rush of
torrents, the roar of water-falls; when the sea appears of cast-iron;
when the sky is charged with rolling clouds torn to shreds as they meet
in aërial conflict; when the pale-faced streams shudder under the blast;
when grim mists stalk over the lowlands; and when the tall peaks and
“three-horns,” parted by gloomy chasms, stand like ghostly hills in the
shadowy realm. And often there is the most picturesque of contrasts:
summer basking below, and winter raging above; peace brooding upon the
vale and elemental war doing fierce battle upon the eternal snows and
ice of the upper world.

Finally, there is one feature in Iceland which assumes a grandeur of
dimensions unknown to Europe--the Hraun or lava stream. The “rivers of
stone,” like those of water, bear no proportion to the size of the
island. The western arm of the Skaptárfellshraun, for instance, is
nearly forty-eight miles long by ten of breadth at the lower end; and
there are thousands of square miles covered by the Ódáða-hraun or
Terrible Lava Stream. Every fantastic form, save of life, is there, and
we cannot wonder if the peasant peoples them with outlying men or
brigands. In a word, the student of Vulcanism must not neglect Iceland.



The author has no intention of troubling his readers with the normal
“historical sketch,” which is usually an uninteresting
abridgment--“compendium, dispendium,”--handed down from traveller to
traveller. But it may be useful as well as interesting to dwell upon
both extremes of the island annals; upon the beginning which is a
disputed point, and upon the end which is still causing so much

The Landnámabók (i. 1) briefly relates how, “according to some, Naddodd
the Víking, in the days of Harold Fairfax, when sailing from Norway to
the Færoes, was driven westward, and came upon the eastern coast of the
island which he called Snæland;” how the Swede Garðar Svafarson, after
the earliest circumnavigation, named it Garðarshólm, and established
Húsavík; how Flóki Vilgerðarson, a mighty corsair (hèt Víkingr mikill)
found ice investing the northern coast (A.D. 868) and gave the island
its present grim and grisly title--“Greenland” being more kindly treated
for advertising purposes, “a good name would induce people to settle
there;” how Flóki’s companion Thórólf, describing it as a place where
butter dropped from every plant, the northern equivalent of “flowing
with milk and honey,” gained the nickname of Thórólfr Smjör (Butter
Thorolf); and finally, how Ingólfr, banished for murder, accompanied by
his foster-brother and friend, Leifr, or Hjör-leifr (Leif of the sword),
Hróðmarsson, settling in A.D. 870-874, the latter was murdered by his
Irish thralls--an agrarian outrage which has since happened to many a
landlord in the Emerald Isle. This official occupation of Ultima Thule
took place shortly after King Alfred had defeated the Danes (A.D. 871):
thus 1874 is the Millenary of Iceland colonisation, as 1872 was the
Jubilee of Harold Fairfax, and as 1876 will be the Centenary of Freedom
in the U.S.

But the Landnámabók proposes to itself a subject, the emigration of the
pagan Northmen, who _nim’d_ (Icel. “námu”) the island,[112] and a few
sentences, short and vague, are deemed sufficient for the older
occupants. Later Scandinavian authors generally have satisfied
themselves with repeating its statements, and have clung to a tradition
which evidently does not date from ancient times. The argument relied
upon by Arngrímr Jónsson has been often quoted; yet it appears far from
satisfactory. The author is well aware of the difficulties to be
encountered when supplementing the imperfect relation, and the “weight
of tradition and historical circumstances” which lies in the way; he can
hardly flatter himself with having succeeded, but he hopes that he has
shown a case worthy of being taken in hand by some scholar who has
leisure and inclination for the task.

The first modern writer who presumed to differ from the Landnámabók was,
it is believed, Pontanus the Dane (loc. cit., Amstelodami, A.D. 1631,
folio, p. 754). He gives the following extracts from the Bull of Pope
Gregory IV., which he dates from A.D. 835, or thirty-nine years before
the official date of discovery

     “Ipsum filium nostrum, jam dictum Ansgarium et successores ejus
     legatos in omnibus circumquaque gentibus Danorum, Sueonum,
     Norvagorum, Farriæ, _Groenlandensium_, Helsingelandorum,
     _Islandorum_, Scritifindorum, Slavorum; necnon omnium
     Septentrionalium et orientalium nationum quocunque modo nominentur,
     delegamus et posito capite et pectori, super corpus et confessionem
     Sancti Petri Apostoli sibi suisque successoribus vicum nostram
     perpetuo retinendam, publicamque evangelizandi tribuimus
     auctoritatem,” etc., etc.

Presently Pontanus quotes the following words from the Præcept of King
Louis the Mild (regn. A.D. 814-840), son of Charlemagne, a document
bearing date the year before the papal Bull (_i.e._, A.D. 834):

     “Idcirco Sanctæ Dei Ecclesiæ filiis præsentibus scilicet et
     futuris, certum esse volumus, qualiter divinâ ordinante gratiâ,
     nostris in diebus, Aquilonalibus in partibus, scilicet, in gentibus
     Danorum, Sueonum, Norvagorum, Farriæ, _Groenlandorum_,
     Helsinglandorum, Scritofinnorum, et omnium Septentrionalium et
     orientalium nationum magnum cælestis gratia predicationis sive
     acquistionis pateficit ostium, ità ut multitudo hinc inde ad fidem
     Christi conversa, mysteria cælestia ecclesiasticaque subsidia
     desiderabiliter expetaret, unde Domino Deo nostro laudes immensas
     persolventes extollimus, qui nostris temporibus et studiis Sanctam
     Ecclesiam, sponsam videlicet suam, in locis ignotis sinit dilatari
     ac patefieri,” etc.

Here it is possible that “Greenland,” being mentioned with the islands
and terra firma of Europe, may be the name of some district in the
Scandinavian peninsula, and it has been suggested that “Iceland” may
occur under similar conditions. In the Zeni Voyages, the Shetlands are
called Estlanda, Eslanda, and Islande. But while a southern Shetland
kept its place, the Shetlands were moved up to the north-east coast of
Iceland, like the Orkneys to the south-east. He, therefore, who
discovered the northern Shetlands, would also discover Iceland.

Evidently the first point is to consult an official copy of the
Gregorian Bull referred to by Pontanus. The Very Rev. Father
O’Callaghan, Principal of the English College, Rome, obliged the author
with the following full extract:

     _From the First Volume of the_ BULLARIUM ROMANUM. _Printed at
     Turin_, 1857.

     Pages 279, 280.

     “Confirmatio Sanctæ Sedis Hamburgensis in ultima Saxoniæ parti
     trans Albiam; cui Ecclesiæ Anscharius præficitur Archiepiscopus,
     datoque ei pallio, sibi subjectis gentibus apostolicæ sedis legatus


     “Carolus Magnus Saxones ad Christi fidem perduxit--Hamburgensem
     sedem episcopalem constituit.--Anscharius[114] et successores
     Hamburgenses archiepiscopi legati sedis apostolicæ apud Danos,
     Sveones, Slavos, etc., delegantur.--Sedes Hamburg. vulgo d.
     archiepiscopalis efficitur.--Jus eligendi archiepiscopos penes
     Palatinos principes.--Anathema contra decreti hujus
     temeratores.--Pallium Anschario et successoribus.--Ad eundem
     Anscharium saluberrimæ adhortationes.

     [Sidenote: Carolus Magnus Saxones ad Christi fidem perduxit;]

     [Sidenote: Hamburgensem sedem episcopalem constituit.]

     [Sidenote: Anscharius et successores Hamburgenses archiep. legati
     Sedis Apostolicæ apud Danos, Sveones, Slavos, etc., delegantur.]

     [Sidenote: Sedes Hamburg. vulgo d. archiepiscopalis efficitur.]

     [Sidenote: Jus eligendi archiepiscopos penes Palatinos principes.]

     [Sidenote: Anathema contra decreti huius temeratores.]

     [Sidenote: Pallium Anschario et successoribus.]

     “Gregorius episcopus servus servorum Dei Omnium fidelium
     dinoscentiæ certum esse volumus, qualiter beatæ memoriæ
     præcellentissimus rex Karolus, tempore prædecessorum nostrorum,
     divino afflatus spiritu, gentem Saxonum sacro cultui subdidit,
     iugumque Christi, quod suave, ac leve est, adusque terminos Danorum
     sive Slavorum, corda ferocia perdomans docuit, ultimamque regni
     ipsius partem trans Albiam inter mortifera Paganorum pericula
     constitutam, videlicet ne ad ritum relaberetur Gentilium, vel etiam
     quia lucrandis adhuc gentibus aptissima videbatur, proprio
     episcopali vigore fundare decreverat. Sed quia mors effectum
     prohibuerat, succedente ejus præcellentissimo filio Hludewico
     imperatore Augusto, pium studium sacri genitoris sui efficaciter
     implevit. Quæ ratio nobis per venerabiles Ratoldum, sive Bernoldum
     episcopos, necnon et Geroldum comitem, vel missum venerabilem
     relata est confirmanda. Nos igitur omnem ibi Deo dignam statutam
     providentiam cognoscentes, instructi etiam præsentia fratris
     filiique nostri Anscharii primi Hordalbingorum archiepiscopi, per
     manus Drogonis Metensis episcopi consecrati, sanctum studium
     magnorum imperatorum, tam præsenti auctoritate, quam etiam pallii
     datione, more prædecessorum nostrorum roborare decrevimus; quatenus
     tanta auctoritate fundatus prædictus filius noster, eiusque
     successores lucrandis plebibus insistentes, adversus tentamenta
     diaboli validiores existant,[115] _ipsumque filium nostrum iam
     dictum Anscharium, et successores eius legatos in omnibus
     circumquoque gentibus Danorum, Sveonum, Northweorum, Farriæ,
     Gronlandan, Halsigolandan, Islandan, Scridevindum, Slavorum, nec
     non omnium septentrionalium, et orientalium nationum quocumque modo
     nominatarum delegamus, una cum Elbone Remensi archiepiscopo;
     statuente, ante corpus et confessionem Sancti Petri, publicam
     evangelizandi tribuimus auctoritatem_, ipsamque sedem
     Nordalbingorum, Hammaburg dictam, in onore Salvatoris, sanctæque
     eius, et intemeratæ genitricis semper virginis Mariæ consecratam,
     archiepiscopalem deinceps esse decernimus. Consecrationem vero
     succedentium sacerdotum, donec consecrantium numerus ex gentibus
     augeatur, sacræ Palatinæ providentiæ interim committimus. Strenui
     vero prædicatoris persona, tantoque officio apta in successione
     semper eligatur: omnia vero a venerabili principe ad hoc Deo dignum
     officium deputata, nostra etiam auctoritate pia eius vota firmamus:
     omnemque resistentem, vel contradicentem atque piis nostris studiis
     his quolibet modo insidiantem, anathematis mucrone percutimus,
     atque perpetua ultione reum diabolica sorte damnamus, ut culmen
     apostolicum more prædecessorum nostrorum, causamque Dei pio affectu
     zelantes ab adversis hinc inde partibus tutius muniamur. Et quia
     te, carissime fili Anschari, divina clementia nova in sede primum
     disposuit esse archiepiscopum, nos quoque pallio tibi ad missarum
     solemnia celebranda tribuimus, quod tibi in diebus tuis, uti et
     Ecclesiæ tuæ perpetuo statu manentibus privilegiis uti largimur.
     Idcirco huius indumenti honor morum a te vivacitate servandus est:
     si ergo pastores ovium sole, geluque pro gregis sui custodia, neque
     ex eis aut errando pereat, aut ferinis lanianda morsibus rapiatur,
     oculis semper vigilantibus circumspectant, quanto sudore, quantaque
     cura debeamus esse pervigiles, nos qui pastores animarum dicimur
     attendamus. Et ne susceptum officium in terrenis negotiis
     aliquatenus implicare debeas ammonemus. Vita itaque tua filiis tuis
     sit via; in ipsa si qua fortitudo illis inest, dirigant, in ea quod
     imitentur aspiciant; in ipsa se semper considerando proficiant, ut
     tuum post Deum videatur esse bonum, quod vixerint. Cor ergo tuum
     neque prospera, quæ temporaliter blandiuntur, extollant, neque
     adversa deiiciant; districtum mali cognoscent, pium benevoli
     sentiant. Insontem apud te culpabilem malitia aliena non faciat,
     reum gratia excuset; viduis, ac pupillis iniuste oppressis defensio
     tua subveniat. Ecce, frater carissime, inter multa alia ista non
     sacerdotii, ista sunt pallii, quæ si studiose servaveris, quod
     foris accepisse ostenderis, intus habebis. Sancta Trinitas
     fraternitatem tuam diu conservare dignetur incolumem, atque post
     huius sæculi amaritudinem ad perpetuam perducat beatitudinem.

Father O’Callaghan adds:

     “I have carefully examined the fourth volume of the Bullandists,
     and find that they agree with Mabillon in omitting mention of
     Iceland and Greenland in their version of the Bull.[117] The
     introductory commentary to the Life of St Anscharius (§ xii.),
     there given under the date of February 3, will suggest an
     explanation of the way in which the interpolation seems to have

The quotation of Mabillon (Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti, Sæculi
Quarti, Pars Prima, 123, 124, fol., Venetiis, 1738) is as follows:


     “Ipsumque filium nostrum, jam dictum Ansgarium Legatum in omnibus
     circumquaque gentibus Sueonum sive Danorum [_omitting the
     ‘Norvagorum, Farriæ, Groenlandensium, Helsingelandorum, Islandorum,
     Scritifindorum,’ of Pontanus_] nec non etiam Slavorum [_omitting
     ‘nec non omnium Septentrionalium et orientalium nationum, quocunque
     modo nominentur, delegamus et posito capite et pectori,’ of
     Pontanus_], vel in cæteris ubicunque illis partibus constitutis
     divina pietas ostium aperuerit, una cum Eboni Rhemensi
     archiepiscopo, statuentes ante corpus et confessionem Sancti Petri
     publicam evangelizandi tribuimus auctoritatem.”

Furthermore, the Acta Sanctorum thus shortens the “Præceptum Ludovici

     “Idcirco Sanctæ Dei Ecclesiæ filiis, presentibus scilicet et
     futuris, certum esse volumus, qualiter divina ordinante gratia
     nostris in diebus, Aquilonalibus in partibus, in gente videlicet
     Danorum sive Sueonum [_omitting the ‘Norvagorum, Farriæ,
     Groenlandorum, Helsinglandorum, Scritofinnorum, et omnium
     Septentrionalium et orientalium nationum,’ of Pontanus_] magnum
     cælestis gratia prædicationis sive acquisitionis patefecit ostium.”

It is curious to remark that the same tampering has been attributed to
the Præcept as to the Bull, and it is not easy to divine the mode in
which the double fraud was so successfully effected.

Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín, who owns to “grave doubts about the historical
value of Danish chronicles recording dates of this period,” supplies the
following excerpts from the “Vita Sancti Anskarii, a Rimberto”
(Archbishop of Hamburg) “et alio discipulo Anskarii conscripta” (before
A.D. 876), “edidit C. F. Dahlmann, Prof. Göttingen.” The editor’s
preface contains these words of


     “In edenda Anscharii vita hi codices et editiones subsidio fuerunt.

     “(1.) ...

     “(2.) Codex Vicilini ... textum exhibet ex eodem limpido quidem
     fonte manantem, sed consulta opera ita mutilatum et interdum
     interpolatum, ut facile suspiceris, ambitionem insatiabilem
     Adalberti archiepiscopi Bremensis, qui sub Henrico IV. imperatore
     patriarchatum septentrionis machinabatur, in hac fraude versatam.
     Recisa enim sunt, et ita quidem recisa, ut plane nihil deesse
     videatur, omnia, quæ de Ebonis, archiepiscopi Remensis, meritiis et
     legationis ejus in septentrionem susceptæ privilegiis verissime
     Rimbertus ex ore Anscharii excerpta scripsit, deest amissa cella
     Turholt, disceptatio interdioceses Bremensem et Verdensem unacum
     levamento damni quod Verdensis accepit, verbo omnia, quæ fideliter
     narrata ecclesiæ Bremensi detrimentum facere possent; contra addita
     dominatui Bremensi Islandia, quam Hibernicis quidem Anscharii ætate
     jam innotuisse nuper didicimus e Dicuilo, at plane tunc ignota
     Scandinavis et Germanis, æque ac Groenlandia, Færoeæ insulæ,
     reliquæque fraudulenter inculcatæ remotissimæ regiones.”


     “Cap. 13. Et ut hæc omnia perpetuum suæ stabilitatis retinerent
     vigorem, eum honorabiliter ad sedem direxit apostolicam, et per
     missos suos venerabiles Bernoldum et Ratoldum episcopos ac Geroldum
     illustrissimum comitem omnem hanc rationem sanctissimo papæ
     Gregorio intimari fecit confirmandam. Quod etiam ipse tam decreti
     sui auctoritate, quam etiam pallii donatione, more prædecessorum
     suorum roboravit, atque ipsum in præsentia constitutum legatum in
     omnibus circumquaque gentibus Sueonum sive Danorum, nex non etiam
     Slavorum, aliarumque in aquilonis partibus gentium constitutarunt,
     unacum Ebone Remensi archiepiscopo, qui ipsam legationem ante
     susceperat, delegavit: et ante corpus et confessionem Sancti Petri
     apostoli publicam evangelizandi tribuit auctoritatem.”

                        EDITOR’S NOTE.

     “Codex Vicilini hunc ita interpolatum exhibet locum, ut sublata
     plane Ebonis mentione, in majorem ecelesiæ Hammaburgensis gloriam
     nomina septentrionalium tunc inaudita adsuant, quæ fraus etiam
     latius serpsit interpolationibus ipsius bullæ papæ Gregorii:
     ‘Gentibus Sueonum, Danorum, Farriæ, Gronlondon, Islondon,
     Scrideuindun, Slauorum, nec non omnium septentrionalium et
     orientalium nationum quocunque modo nominatarum delegauit. Et
     posito capite et pectore super corpus et confessionem Sancti Petri
     apostoli, sibi suisque successoribus vicem suam perpetuo retinendam
     publicamque evangelizandi tribuit auctoritatem’ (Cod. Vicilinus).
     Manifesta utique interpolationum hujus loci et bullæ papalis fraus,
     quam ab Adalberto archiepiscopo, Adami Bremensi æquali, ad quem
     extremi venerunt Islandi, etc., profectam, cum Langebekio
     suspicamur” (G. H. Pertz, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica, tom. ii.,
     p. 699).

                VITA S. RIMBERTI (Ex Codice Vicilino).

                          Edidit G. H. PERTZ.

     “Imperator Hludowicus ... extremam plagam aquilonarem ejusdem
     provinciæ ad hoc reservaverit, ut ibidem archiepiscopalis
     construeretur sedes, unde prædicatio verbi Dei finitimis fieret
     populis, Suenonum, Danorum, Norweorum, Farriæ, Gronlandan,
     Islandan, Scridivindan, Slavorum, nec non omnium septentrionalium,”

                            EDITOR’S NOTE.

     “‘Norweorum--Scridivindan,’ hæc pro supposititiis habet
     Henschenius. Sed obstant diplomata ab imperatoribus summisque
     pontificibus ecclesiæ Hamburgensi concessa. 1. Hludowicus I. post
     Danos et Sueones etiam ‘gentes Norweorum, Farriæ, Gronlandon,
     Halsingalandon, Islandon, Scridevindan, Slavorum et omnium
     septentrionalium et orientalium nationum’ addit. 2. Gregorii IV.
     diploma eadem adjicit. 3. Charta Johannis X. pro Unni archiepiscopo
     a. 915 Norweos, Islandon, Scridevindon, Gronlandon. 4. Benedictus
     IX. in charta Adalberto archiepiscopo a. 1042 aut 1043 concessa
     ‘Hislandicorum et omnium insularum his regnis adjacentium.’ 5.
     Victor II. in diplomate a. 1055, Oct. 29, Islandon, Scridivindan,
     Gronlandon; et 6. Innocentius II., a. 1133, d. Maii 27, Farria,
     Gronlandon, Halsingaldia, Island, Scridivindan et Slavorem
     mentionem injecerunt. Hæc aliaque ejus ecclesiæ diplomata in
     codicibus diversis, uno, quem ante oculos habeo, Sæculi XIII....
     altero Philippi Cæsaris quem codici Vicelini valde similem fuisse
     constat, occurrunt; quorum de fide eo saltem non dubitare possumus,
     quod alia diplomata quæ hodie supersunt eorum exemplis hic
     adservatis congruunt. Igitur aut non unum sed quinque studio
     Adalberti archiepiscopi falsata credas, et tunc haud
     intelligeretur, cur Adalbertus multo majorem numerum reliquorum
     ecclesiæ suæ privilegiorum, ubi tantum de Danis, Sueonibus et
     Norweis aliisque septentrionalibus et occidentalibus barbaris
     nationibus sermo est, intactum reliquerit;--aut omnia sana, et
     locum hunc ex charta Hludowici I. sincera in posteras omnes
     emanasse statuendum est....” (G. H. Pertz, Monumenta Germaniæ
     Historica, tom. ii., p. 765).

Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín, who “admits that the subject is not fully cleared
up,” adds:

     “We have only to do with the three documents first mentioned. (_See
     note_ 1, p. 86.) Unless a copy of the letter of Ludvig and the Bull
     of Gregory, of a date anterior to the times of Adalbert, can be
     produced, I do not see any impossibility in all the copies
     mentioned, the earliest of which dates from the thirteenth century,
     being derived from a copy falsified by Bishop Adalbert; at any
     rate, if all the copies can be derived from a true one, as Dr Pertz
     seems to think, they can as well be derived from a false one. The
     Bullarium does not help us (we have only the older ones, not that
     of 834), as it does not state from what MS. the Bull is printed.
     But even if the Bull is proved true, which only can be done by
     producing the original, or at least a copy anterior to Bishop
     Adalbert, it would hardly establish the fact that Iceland was known
     by that name prior to its Norwegian discovery; for many of the
     names mentioned in these documents, such as Gronlondon,
     Scridevindon, and Halsingaldia, are perverted Norwegian districts,
     and I should be inclined to look upon Islandon in the same way.
     But, in my own mind, I am perfectly satisfied that Professor
     Dahlmann is right in pronouncing the interpolated passages as
     forgeries. In this case I prefer his judgment to that of Dr Pertz,
     as he has proved his intimate acquaintance with the subject in his
     eminently critical ‘History of Denmark.’”

The following quotation from La Peyrère’s “Account of Iceland.” dated
Copenhagen, December 18, 1644, and addressed to M. de la Mothe de Vayer
(Churchill’s Coll., vol. ii.), is quoted because it well expresses the
opinion adverse to that generally received. Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín remarks
of this amusing French traveller:

     “Peyrère is no authority, either in this or in other statements. He
     wrote what he had been able hurriedly to gather together from
     Arngrímr Jónsson and Blefkenius, aided by conversation with sundry
     learned men in Copenhagen, and he confesses that he had scarcely
     time to peruse the writings of ‘Angrim Jonas.’ Consequently his
     account abounds in inaccuracies and blunders. It is evident that he
     had never heard of the Landnámabók, as he complains of Arngrím’s
     not stating when Kalman and other Irish settlers came to Iceland. I
     have also grave doubts about his Danish chronicles. Arngrímr
     refutes Pontanus in his ‘Specimen Islandiæ Historicum;’ and
     Pontanus should have mentioned where he found his quotation,
     especially as it militates against everything that is known in the

We may, however, be certain that in the following extract La Peyrère
expresses the opinions popular at Copenhagen in the seventeenth century:

     “_Angrim Jonas_,[118] as it seems, would not be so averse, to allow
     that _Iseland_ is the same with the Ancient _Thule_, provided he
     could be convinced, that that Isle was inhabited before the time
     of _Ingulph_; wherefore, tho’ I have said enough upon this Head for
     the Satisfaction of unbyass’d Persons; yet will I not think it
     beyond the purpose, to alledge some undeniable Reasons for the
     Proof thereof, _viz._, That _Iseland_ was Inhabited before that
     time. I have by me two Chronicles of _Greenland_ written in
     _Danish_, one in Verse, the other in Prose. That written in Verse,
     begins with the year 770, when it says _Greenland_ was first
     discovered. The other assures us, That the Person, that went first
     from _Norway_ into _Greenland_ pass’d through _Iseland_, and tells
     us, expressly, That _Iseland_ was Inhabited at that time; whence it
     is evident, that _Iseland_ was not first of all Inhabited in the
     year 874.”

     “_Angrim Jonas_ will perhaps object, That my _Danish_ Chronicles
     don’t agree with that of _Iseland_, which says, That _Greenland_
     was not discovered till the year 982; nor inhabited till 986. But I
     must tell him, That my _Danish_ Chronicles are founded upon the
     Authority of _Ansgarius_, a great Prelate, a Native of _France_,
     who has been acknowledged the first Apostle of the Northern World.
     He was made Archbishop of _Hamborough_, by _Lewis the Mild_, his
     Jurisdiction extended from the River _Elbe_, all over the Frozen
     Sea; the Emperor’s Patent, constituting the said _Ansgarius_ the
     first Archbishop of _Hamborough_, are dated in the year 834, and
     were confirmed by Pope _Gregory_ IV.’s Bull in 835. The true Copy,
     both of the Patent and of the Bull, are to be seen in the 4th Book
     of _Pontanus_ his _Danish_ History of the year 834, where it is
     expressly said in the Patent, That _the Gates of the Gospel are set
     open, and that Jesus Christ had been revealed both in_ Iceland
     _and_ Greenland; for which the Emperor gives his most humble Thanks
     to God.”

     “Two Inferences are to be made from thence: First, That _Iseland_
     was inhabited by Christians in the year 834, and consequently 40
     years before the arrival of _Ingulph_ there: Secondly, That
     _Greenland_ was inhabited by Christians in the same year, 834.
     Which agrees with my _Danish_ Chronicle, where the first discovery
     of _Greenland_ is fix’d to the year 770.[119] _Angrim Jonas_ being
     put to a _nonplus_, tells us, That he questions the authority of
     the Bull of Gregory IV. alledged by _Pontanus_, which he would fain
     make us believe, is supposititious; but to be plain with him, I
     think he has taken a Notion of maintaining the Credit of his Native
     Country, by adhering too strictly to the Authority of its
     Chronicles; whereas it would have been more for his Reputation, not
     to have insisted so much upon that Authority, than to rob this Isle
     of the glory of its Antiquity; who is so ignorant, as not to know,
     that the Age wherein _Ingulph_ lived, was not very barbarous? The
     _Goths_ having carried the same together with their Arms throughout
     all _Europe_; whoever should go about to persuade me, into a Belief
     of all what is inserted in the Ancient Chronicles of these
     barbarous Ages, might as soon make me believe the Romances of
     _Oger the Dane_, or the Four Sons of _Aymon_, of the Archbishop of
     _Turpin_, and other such like nonsensical Stories relating to the
     same time.”

A fair collateral testimony is given by that conscientious writer, Uno
Von Troil (p. 224):

     “Thus I go further back with regard to the eruptions of fire in
     Iceland than the common tradition among the vulgar people there,
     who believe that the first inhabitants of the country, whom they
     suppose to have been Christians and Irishmen, were so much
     oppressed by the Norwegian colonists, that they were forced to
     leave the country, to which they first set fire to revenge

And Iceland still contains many traces of its old colonists--Welsh,
Hebridian, and Irish. The places occupied by the former are known by the
general term Kumbravágr. Arngrím Jónsson mentions one Kalman from the
Hebrides (Land. II. i. 51), who first settled in Kalmanstunga or “Doab”
of Kalman, the western part of Iceland; and Patrick (Patrekr Biskup,
Land. I. xii. 23), a Hebridian bishop, is known to history as having
sent the materials of a chapel, which was afterwards built at the base
of the Esja mountain; hence Patreksfjörð in the north-west. The signs of
the Irish are most numerous,[120] and possibly they supplied “Raven
Floki” with food during the two years which he passed in the far north.
Such are Briánn or Bran, Melkorka, Nial or Njáll, Konall (Connell),
Kormak and Kjartan, Íraá (Irish River); the Írafell, or Irish fell, in
the Kjósar Sýsla; and the Írarbuðr, or Irish booths, in the Hvammsfjörð.
Hence we can explain the fables of history which have been regarded as
simple fabrications. Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Prince Arthur, in A.D.
517, subdue Iceland with an army of 60,000 men. Hence, too, another
writer attributes its recovery to Malgo, king of Britain; whilst a third
alludes to the mixture of Finns and Scandinavians before the official
rediscovery of the island.[121]

Within sixty years after the first settlement by the Northmen, the whole
was inhabited; and, writes Uno Von Troil (p. 64), “King Harold, who did
not contribute a little towards it by his tyrannical treatment of the
petty kings and lords in Norway, was obliged at last to issue an order,
that no one should sail to Iceland without paying four ounces of fine
silver to the Crown, in order to stop those continual emigrations, which
weakened his kingdom.” The stock phrase of the Landnámabók (ii. 12, 92)
is, “Fyrir ofríki Haralldar Konungs”--“For the overbearing of King
Harold.” But posterity has done justice to Pulchricomus, the Fair-haired
Jarl, who, following the example of Egbert, brought under a single
sceptre the quasi-independent reguli and heads of clans: the latter
remind us of nothing more than the thousand kinglets, each with a family
all kinglets, the ridiculous King Boys and King Pepples of Western

Before the tenth century had reached its half-way period, the Norwegians
had fully peopled the island with not less, perhaps, than 50,000 souls.
A census taken about A.D. 1100, numbered the franklins who had to pay
Thing-tax at 4500, without including cotters and proletarians. The
chiefs, who were also the priests, lived each upon his own “Landnám,” or
lot, which perhaps he had seized from another. Once more like little
kings, they intermarried; they left their possessions to their families;
they assigned lands to new comers; and they raised revenue from their
clients and freedmen, serfs and slaves. They brought with their language
and religion their customs and records; they claimed all the influence
which could be commanded by strength and valour, birth and wealth; and
they had no common bonds of union save race and religion. The three
castes were sharply distinguished, like the four of the Hindús. The
first was the Goði, priest and lord, including a rare Jarl, and Hersir
(baron). The two latter, descended from _Hersir_ and _Erna_, are
described like our “Barbarians,” as having fair hair, clear complexions,
and fine piercing eyes: their duties in life were riding, hunting, and
fighting. Secondly came the progeny of Afi and Amma; the Thanes, Churls,
Karls, or free peasants: their florid, red-haired sons were Stiffbeard,
Landholder, Husbandman, and Smith; and their daughters, Prettyface,
Swanlike, Blithespeech, and Chatterbox. Last in the list were the
Thralls, begotten by Thræl, son of Ái and Edda, upon Thý: for offspring
they had Plumpy, Stumpy, Frousy, Homespun, Sootyface, and Slowpace, the
latter a very fruitful parent; and their daughters were Busybody,
Cranefoot, Smokeynose, and Tearclout.

But Iceland was already too populous for this “leonine” state of
society. In the brave old days when ancient mariners were ancient
thieves, the roving islandry throve by piracy and discovery; but the
settled Udallers (Óðalsmenn) must have felt that some tie was necessary
for the body politic. The Höfðingja-stjórn, or aristocratic republic,
was initiated by the establishment of the Althing,[122] and by the
adoption of Úlfljót’s oral law in A.D. 929-930. This annual assembly, at
once legislative and judicial, was supreme over the local “Things,”[123]
comitia or meetings which, independent of one another, and unchecked by
a supreme court, could not do justice between rival nobles and
franklins. With the Althing was introduced a kind of President, under
whom the Icelandic commonwealth at once assumed shape and form. His
title was Lögsögumaðr, or Sayer of the Law, and his functions resembled
in important points the commoner, who began in A.D. 1377, to speak to
(and not for) our Lower House.[124]

Still Justice walked _pede claudo_. All suits were to be pled in the
Thing nearest the spot where the cause of action arose, and plaintiffs
perforce sought redress in the enemy’s country, where violence was ready
to hand. Thord Gellir, about a generation afterwards, caused the island
to be divided into Quadrants, or Tetrads (Fjórðungr), and each of these
to be subdivided into Thriðjungr (“ridings”), three judicial circles
(Thing-sóknir), whose inhabitants were bound to appear at a common
meeting. Causes were set on foot at the Spring-Thing (Vár-Thing), thence
they were carried in appeal to the Quadrant-Thing (Fjórðunga-Thing),
which must not be confounded with the Quadrant courts (Fjórðungsdómar)
at the Althing; and, finally, if judged fit, to the Diet. Moreover, in
each subdivision were established three chief temples (Höfuðhof),
corresponding with our mother or parish churches, to which the most
powerful Udallers holding priesthoods (Goðorð) were appointed. We shall
presently find traces of this politico-religious supremacy of the
pontiff in the parson of the nineteenth century.

Thus three priesthoods made one local Thing, three local Things one
Quadrant-Thing, and four Quadrant-Things one Althing,--a grand total of
thirty-six tribunals recognised by the Respublica. Every franklin was
obliged to declare his allegiance to one of the priests, and to
determine the community of which he was a member.

The next step was to separate the judicial from the legislative and
executive attributes of the Diet. Hitherto there had been but one body
at the Althing, the Lög-rétta,[125] combining the three functions. It
now became exclusively legislative, the supreme power in the land,
presided over by the Speaker, and consisting of forty-eight Goðar, who
controlled all laws and licences. The judicial functions were
distributed amongst the four Fjorðungsdómar or Quadrant-courts of the
chief assembly. Each of these took charge of the suits which, belonging
to its division, were carried before the Althing.

Presently the State became master of the Church. The priesthoods being
limited to thirty-six, and new temples not being recognised by, nor
represented in, the assembly, the old institutions would look rather to
the central power than to their subjects. The Thingmen of the three
established priesthoods, by the orders of the Diet, were gradually made
to form one Vernal-court (Vár-Thing), and the Quadrant-Things became
obsolete. Thus there was more of justice for suitors than when they were
compelled to appear before a single priest and his dependants or

The Vernal Thing, though only a tribunal of first instance from which an
appeal lay, became an Althing on a small scale. Each had its
Thingbrekka, or Hill of Laws, whence notices were given; its
Lögmaðr,[126] lagman, or lawman, who “said” the law from memory, and its
general assemblies. Each also of the three priests, who presided in
turn, named three judges, after the recognised principle, “three twelves
must judge all suits;” and the three arbiters were bound to be
unanimous. In addition to these courts were the tribunals called Autumn
Leets (Leið),[127] held a fortnight after the dissolution of the Diet;
here the calendar of the current year, and the new laws and licences of
the past Althing, were published.

Under the new system the Court of Laws contained 39 priests (3 × 12, + 3
for the Northlanders’ Quadrant[128]); and, to counter-balance the three
clerical extras, three laymen were chosen from each of the other Tetrads
by the priests who represented it. Thus the whole number on the bench
was 48 (39 + 9), and each of the 48 had two assessors. The Law Court,
therefore, contained 144 (48 × 3) equal votes, and, including the
Speaker, 145 voices. In later times the two bishops were added.

The four Quadrant Courts of the Althing (Fjórðungsdómar) each numbered
thirty-six judges, named as usual by the priest out of the frequenters
of his Thing: thus we find again the law of three twelves, and the total
of 144. Finally, in A.D. 1004, about forty years after the institution
of the four, was added the Fimtar-dómr, or Fifth (High) Court of Appeal
or Cassation, suggested by Njáll Thorgeirsson, the hero of the

Such was the artificial and complicated system which sprung from the
litigious nature of the Northern man. It was a ponderous machine for the
wants of some 50,000 souls, and its civilised organisation contrasts
strongly with the rude appliances by which it was carried out, the
barren wart and the rough circle of “standing stones” on the hill-top
where the sessions took place.

A mighty change came over the island mind when Ólafr Tryggvason (Olaf
I., Trusty-son, killed during the same year at the battle of Svoldur)
induced, in A.D. 1000, the Althing to accept Christianity as the
national religion.[130] The old pagan creed had become age-decrepit.
After producing the Völuspá, a poem, grand, noble, and ennobling in
general conception, as it is beautiful and perfect in all its parts, it
engendered such monstrous growths as the Fjöllvinnsmál (Fiolvith’s Lay),
a mythological pasquinade abounding in _bizarreries_, and the Lokasenna
(Loki’s Altercation), all scoffs and sneers, an _epigramme moqueuse et
grossière_, a kind of hyperborean _Guerre des Dieux_. The “great Sire of
gods and men”[131] was dying or dead, a gloomy fate which equally awaits
superhuman and human nature. The decline and fall of Odinism only
repeated the religious histories of Palestine, Egypt, and India; of
Greece and of Rome, whose maximum of effeteness has ever been at the
period of the Christian invasion.

The faith of the Hindús, a modern people amongst whom we can best study
the tenets and practices of the ancients called “classics,” distinctly
recognises Pantheus, the All-God.[132] The worshipper of Bramhá, Vishnu,
and Shiva, still refers in familiar discourse to something above his
triad of world-rulers; to a Paraméshwar (Chief Eshwara or Demiourgos),
and to a Bhagwán or Giver of good, as if he were a Jew, a Christian, or
a Moslem. Even the barbarous tribes of Africa are not without the
conviction, as we see in the Nyonmo of the Gold Coast, and in the Nzambi
Mupunga (Great Lord) of the Congo. But the God of ancient as of modern
paganism was and is an unknown God--in fact, the UNKNOWABLE recognised
by our contemporary philosophy, which seems to be returning to the
natural instincts of its childhood. Moreover, in old Scandinavia the
several forms or eidola of the Deity, such as Oðin and Thor, Freyr and
Njördr, were confused as the systems of African Fetichism--a confusion
indeed by no means wanting in the civilised idolatries of Assyria, of
Egypt and India, of Greece and Rome, and of Mexico and Peru, the New
World representatives of our “classical regions.”

Curious to observe, however, the pagans had, like the modern Gaboons, a
form of baptism, water being probably the symbol of the Urðar-brunnr
(Weird or Fate-fount), and a regular system of national expiation
(Sónar-blót), annually performed by prince-pontiff and lieges.

Presently Christianity came with its offer of a personal God, an
anthropomorphous Creator who, having made the creature after His own
image, was refashioned by the creature; and the change from vagueness to
distinctness perfectly suited the spirit of the age. Yet, in Iceland,
Thor[133] died hard because he was essentially an Icelander; blunt,
hot-headed, of few words and of many blows. The red-bearded one was not
to be abolished at once; “they called Paul Odin, but Barnabas they
called Thor:” the latter was long invoked by the traveller and the
soldier before deeds of “derring do;” whilst Jesus was prayed to in
matters of charity and beneficence. “Hast thou heard,” said the mother
of Ref the Skáld, “how Thor challenged Christ to single combat, and how
He did not dare to fight Thor?” We find the same phenomenon in the
modern faith of the Persian, who adores Allah, and who reveres Mohammed
and Ali, whilst he looks back with regret upon the goodly days when his
Persian deities, the gods and demi-gods of Guebrism, gloriously ruled
the land of Iran.

The transition from the turbulent and sanguinary Odinic system, with its
Paradise of war and wassail, to a religion based upon mildness and
mercy could not fail to bear notable fruit. The blithe gods who built
Miðgarð vanished in the glooms of the sad “School of Galilee.” Of the
extreme craft and cruelty, the racial characteristics of the old
Scandinavian, only the craft remained. A nation of human sacrificers now
cannot bear to see a criminal hanged--he must be sent for execution to
Copenhagen. The new faith, also, was adverse to the spirit of a free
people: it preached over-regard for human life, and it taught fighting
men _propter vitam vivendi perdere causas_. It weighed heavily upon the
“secret and profound spring of society,” as Ozanam describes the laws of
honour in man, “which is nothing but the independence and inviolability
of the human conscience, superior to all powers, all tyrannies, and all
external force.”[134] In fact, we may repeat in Iceland what
Montalembert (The Monks of the West, p. 252) said of the ex-mistress of
the world: “There is something more surprising and sadder still” (than
all its pagan cruelty and corruption) “in the Roman Empire after it
became Christian.”

The first school, founded about the middle of the eleventh century,
began to divert the national mind from arms and raids to art and
literature. The Eddas and Sagas were committed to writing; and the
Augustan age extended during the two following centuries, ending with
the fourteenth. The islanders gave their own names, many of them very
uncouth, to the festivals of the Church. Saints arose in the land. The
best known to local fame was Bishop Thorlák (Thorlacius) Thorhallsson,
who died in A.D. 1193. Though uncanonised, he was honoured by the
dedication of a church at Mikligarð (the Great Fence), or
Constantinople, for the use of the Waring[135] Janissaries. The _vigne
du Seigneur_ was split into two bishoprics, Skálholt (A.D. 1057), and
Hólar (A.D. 1107). Hospitals were endowed, and no less than nine
monasteries and nunneries were founded by the regular canons
(Augustines), and by their most estimable brethren the Benedictines,
whose annals command all our respect.[136]

The following is a list of the religious houses built in Iceland:

     The foreign Bishop Rudolph (ob. 1052) established the first
     monastery in Iceland in Bær, Borgarfjörð. It never had any abbot,
     and soon disappeared.

     Bishop Magnús Einarsson (ob. 1148) bought the greatest part of the
     Vestmannaeyjar, and began to build a monastery there; after his
     death the institution came to nothing.

     A monastery was instituted in Hýtardalr (circa 1166), but was
     dissolved before the year 1270. During its existence it had five

     Jón Loptsson, the grandson of Sæmundr Fróði, built a house and a
     church at his estate Keldur (circa 1190), which he intended for a
     monastery; but owing to some quarrels with the bishop of Skálholt,
     it never was consecrated nor dedicated to its intended purpose.

     Bishop Brandr of Hólar instituted a monastery in Saurbær in
     Eyjafjörð (circa 1200). It had two abbots, but it is never
     mentioned after the year 1212.

     Of the monasteries permanently established, the earliest was


     Shortly after the installation of Jón Ögmundsson (1106) as bishop
     of Hólar, the season was so severe that no growth appeared when the
     people were assembled at the spring meeting (Vár-Thing, about the
     end of May) in Thingeyrar. The bishop made a vow to erect a
     monastery at the place, for monks of the Order of St Benedict. Soon
     after this there was a favourable change in the weather. It was
     not, however, until 1133 that the Benedictine monks fixed their
     abode there. The monks of Thingeyrar were celebrated for their
     learning, and several illustrious names are to be found among its
     abbots, _e.g._, Karl (ob. 1212), Oddr (ob. circa 1200), Gunnlaugr
     (ob. 1218), and many others. The twenty-third and last of the
     series died 1561.


     This monastery, famous for its old documents, was founded by Bishop
     Björn Gilsson of Hólar in A.D. 1155. Its monks also were
     Benedictines. The twenty-fifth of its abbots embraced Lutheranism
     in A.D. 1551.


     This monastery is also called the monastery in Ver or Álftaver. It
     was founded by one Thorkéll Geirason, by the authority of Bishop
     Klœngur Thorsteinsson of Skálholt, in A.D. 1168. Its tenants were
     under the rule of St Augustine. The nineteenth and last abbot of
     this monastery went to Copenhagen in 1550, and was there converted
     to the Lutheran persuasion. This house had a famous library.


     Bishop Klœngur Thorsteinsson of Skálholt instituted a monastery in
     the island Flatey, in Breiðifjörð, in 1172. His successor, St
     Thorlákr, removed it to Helgafell, and dedicated it to St John.
     Its tenants followed the rule of St Augustine. The twenty-fifth and
     last abbot died shortly before 1550.


     Founded by Thorvaldr Gissurarson, the father of Earl Gissur, and
     consecrated by his brother, Bishop Magnús of Skálholt, in the year
     1226. Its tenants followed the rule of St Augustine. The eighteenth
     and last abbot embraced Lutheranism, and died in A.D. 1568. Earl
     Gissur here ended his days.

     There were two priories in the island, viz.:


     Instituted by Bishop Jörund of Hólar in A.D. 1296. Its monks were
     Augustines. Seven of its priors are known, and the last died in


     Instituted towards the end of the fifteenth century. It only had
     four priors, who, it seems, followed the rule of St Augustine.

     There were two nunneries:


     Founded by one Bjarnharðr, at the application of Bishop Klœngur of
     Skálholt, and consecrated by him in A.D. 1186, on condition that
     its occupants should be nuns following the rules of St Benedict.
     The names of twelve of its abbesses are recorded.


     Founded by Bishop Jörund of Hólar in 1296. The sisters followed the
     rules of St Benedict. Ten of its abbesses are mentioned, and the
     last died in 1562.

The Skálds, or bards, who probably long retained their old paganism in
new Christianity, distinguished themselves by word and deed in every
northern court of Europe, and wandered as far as the Mediterranean
shores. But the heart of the people was dying, and the national spirit
had fled, never more to be revived. In A.D. 1024, the Althing bravely
refused all connection with Norway. But, presently, the clergy,
spiritually subject to foreign sees,--Bremen, Scania, and
Throndhjem,--listened to the voice of the annexor, and thus traitors
divided the island camp. They fostered jealousies between rival
Udallers, whose implacable hatreds and blood-feuds converted the annals,
like those of the Anglo-Saxons, into records of rapine and murder. The
Althing shortly after A.D. 1004 had abolished the duello, a northern
institution unknown to classic Greece and Rome; or rather, let us say,
it abolished itself, when “trial by point and edge” had lost its old
significancy as a formal and religious appeal to that God of Battles who
defends the right. The Court of Justice took the place of the
Hólm-gang; and at times it was silent in the presence of the sword and
the firebrand, which, in riotous frays, spared neither sex nor age. But
gradually it developed every form of chicanery and law-devilry, in whose
dark labyrinths it is hard to see any improvement upon the “wild justice
of revenge.” Its arts were jury-challenging; demurrers aided by the
jealousy of the judges, whose duty was to catch a man tripping; the
detection of flaws; attempts to split the court (að vèfingja dóminn) and
cause non-suits; false witness, and the breaking of oaths those “sports
of brave men and terrors of fools.” The law was made bankrupt by the
tricks of irrelevancy and by-play, by the special pleading, by the
quibbling, the bribery, and the corruption of the tribunals. When all
failed, a petty massacre was sure to succeed; and as these proceedings
arose from the captious litigiousness of the race, so they long
maintained the grievous trammels and shackles of so-called legal

Thus in the middle of the thirteenth century, Hakon V., king of Norway
(reg. A.D. 1217-1264), was able openly to treat for the surrender of
Iceland liberty. After some three hundred years of Udallism, the heroic
island passed into foreign dominion by a decree of the Althing under
“Catillus,” or “Catullus” (Kettill), the last of the independent
law-sayers or presidents. Modern Icelanders, copied by strangers,
stoutly and patriotically maintain that the relation of the two
countries was an alliance, a personal union, rather than a real union,
or _à priori_ a subjection. It is certain that treaties were formally
exchanged; that the ancient laws and rights of property were secured;
that free commerce was stipulated; that Icelanders were made eligible to
hold office in Norway; and that any infringement of conditions dispensed
with the incorporation. But the hard facts remain that a poll-tax, a
tribute of sixteen ells of homespun cloth, was imposed, and that a
viceroy was appointed to govern the island. Thus Liberty was palsied,
and Independence gave place to the _status pupillaris_. To dispute upon
this independent allegiance is only to debate a question of degree.

The eighth and last of the Crusades, movements which began in A.D.
1188-1190, and ended in A.D. 1260-1275, was the first preached in
Iceland (Hist. Eccles., i. 571), and it partially aroused the islandry
from their apathy and habitual law-contests. But the effects were
transient, save upon individuals. The physical history of the thirteenth
century is chiefly remarkable for the widespread ruin caused by its
terrible eruptions and desolating earthquakes. Now began the epidemics
and epizootics which, from A.D. 1306 to A.D. 1846, number 134--viz.,
seven in the fourteenth, six in the fifteenth, twelve in the sixteenth,
twenty-eight in the seventeenth, and forty-one in the eighteenth
centuries, with several during the present. An unreformed pagan would
have believed that the wrath of the olden gods weighed heavy on the

The same may be said of the fourteenth century, which also witnessed the
calamitous annexation to Denmark.[138] After the death of Knut (Canute)
in A.D. 1035, Magnús ascended the throne of Norway, and native
sovereigns ruled till A.D. 1319, when the male line became extinct with
Hakon VII. The Diet enthroned his daughter’s infant son, Magnús
Eiriksson, who, being already king of Sweden, had brought the
Scandinavian peninsula and its dependencies under a single sceptre. But
the union did not last. Magnús bestowed Norway upon his son Hákon, who
was married to Margaret, sole daughter of Waldemar III., king of
Denmark. The issue, Ólafr IV., succeeded to the throne of his
grandfather in A.D. 1376, and to that of his father four years
afterwards, thus incorporating Norway with Denmark. Dying a minor in
A.D. 1387, he left both kingdoms to his mother, Margaret, by whose
energetic rule the regency had been carried on, and she found no
difficulty in setting aside the feeble pretensions of Albert of
Mecklenburg. In A.D. 1397 the union or treaty of Calmar took place, and
Iceland, which still maintained its modicum of independence, was once
more transferred without opposition to the triple crown of Denmark,
Norway, and Sweden. The conditions of the annexation to Norway (A.D.
1264) were tacitly consented to by the Danish rulers when they succeeded
to Iceland by marriage and inheritance. Yet “the Semiramis of the north”
began by the usual contempt of stipulations: she repaid submission by
perpetuating a poll-tax of half-a-mark per head, and, worse still, by
establishing a royal monopoly of trade. The latter, confined to vessels
licensed by the Crown, nearly secured for Iceland the fate which befell
the lost colonies of Greenland. From this period till A.D. 1814, Denmark
and Norway remained united, each, however, governed by its own laws.

The fifteenth century was as disastrous as that which preceded it. The
Digerdoed, or Black Death, the Plague of the Decameron, had raged with
prodigious violence about A.D. 1348, and it was followed by a winter
which, destroying nearly all the cattle, left a purely pastoral country
permanently upon the verge of utter ruin. A second pestilence, the
Svarti Dauði, or Black Death, visited the hapless island; whilst English
and other pirates, plundering and burning on the main, fortified
themselves in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, despoiled the churches and
farms of the coast, held the franklins to ransom, and sold the poor into
slavery. And at last, in the middle of the sixteenth century, came the
crowning blow, the introduction of Lutheranism.

Catholicism had sat lightly upon the remote spot verging on the
hyperborean seas. The papal tithe (Páfa tíund) and Peter’s Pence,
imposed in A.D. 1305 by the king of Norway under pain of
excommunication,[139] did not weigh heavy. At first the tax was one
nagli (nail), or tenth of an ell, of Wadmal (Vað-mál) cloth, its
equivalent being two fishes; and it never rose higher than ten ells of
homespun per adult male. The sale of Indulgences, which accompanied the
last and first crusade, was abolished in A.D. 1289. Celibacy of the
clergy was introduced in Iceland by Thorlák Thorhallsson, who died in
the quasi-odour of sanctity in 1193. After that date ecclesiastics were
not formally married, but were not debarred from living with Frillur,
or Fryllas, concubines, then generally called by the laity “holy women.”
As in Charlemagne’s day, bigamy was not wholly unknown. A few took
second wives, “_non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem_; but the fierce temper
of the Húsfreya, or _materfamilias_, must have made the arrangement
uncomfortable. Thus it is said[140] Snorri Sturluson in A.D. 1212
married the daughter of Deacon Loptsson, who had a harem of concubines,
one the child of a bishop. Jón Geirriksson, the Dane, popularly written
“John Jerechini,” bishop of Skálholt, in A.D. 1430, is also accused of
being a buccaneer, a mere brigand, who could not write his name, which
little drawback, however, did not prevent an attempt to canonise him
after he was deservedly (?) lynched in A.D. 1433. Jón Arason, bishop of
Hólar, is charged with keeping a mistress at the age of eighty.[141] But
much of this may be sectarian exaggeration, and in after-ages
Protestant authors would not inquire too curiously if, as often happens
in the present day, the priest was married before he was ordained. And,
although we are told that a frequent entry at Councils was “Quoniam
Dominus A. Episcopus scribere nescit, ideo ejus loco subscripsit,
B.C.”--which reminds us of many nobles and gentles who could “nocht
write” in Scotland,--we must not forget that, in the thirteenth century,
the Augustines attempted a vernacular translation of the Bible.[142]

Thus all the glow of faith and the fervid belief in the deifications of
the family, in saints and martyrs raised above man’s estate by
supererogatory piety and virtue, and in the living and breathing _locum
tenens_ of the first apostle, was darkened by a system of
semi-rationalism, which allows reason too much or too little scope;
which arrogates to itself the unreasonable right of saying “Thus far
shalt thou go and no farther,” at the same time loudly professing its
own fallibility; and which has succeeded fatally well in splitting the
Church into a thousand fragments. A philosopher might have forecast the
result from his study. Men unwilling to believe were relieved of a great
load, and their energetic action was no match for the passive resistance
of the many honest and pious souls who embraced the new form of faith.
The Crown laid violent hands, as in England, upon the “Regalia Sancti
Petri” (temporalities), which it transferred to its favourites; the
religious houses were secularised, and the ecclesiastics had the choice
either of banishment, or of conforming to what they held the teachings
of a heresiarch.

Changes of religion seem to have been peculiarly unfortunate in
Iceland. The seventeenth century saw absolute monarchism extend from
Denmark under Frederick III. to her distant dependency. Encouraged by
the apathy and indolence of the islanders, the foreign pirates, English
and French, redoubled their exertions; even the Algerines made a
successful raid. The seventeenth century showed the epidemic of
superstition which distinguished the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers;
an ignorant and fanatical interpretation of Jewish history caused the
torturing and burning of many a witch and wizard, who probably were
often only natural media, and mesmerisers or odylic sensitives. The
eighteenth century (A.D. 1707) began with the small-pox, which killed
16,000 to 18,000 of the 50,000 islanders. In A.D. 1759, rigorous winters
brought on a famine equally fatal to man and beast; of the former some
10,000 perished. In 1762 about 280,000 sheep died, or were slaughtered.
In A.D. 1788 took place that first eruption of the Skaptárjökull, which
has been described as the most appalling and destructive since authentic
history began.

About the beginning of the present century, Iceland, under physical
evils, monopoly, and misrule, fell to its lowest point. Greatly to the
displeasure of the lieges, the two sees were reduced to one; the same
took place with the colleges, and finally the Althing was abolished
(A.D. 1800). The war between Great Britain and Denmark would inevitably
have caused actual starvation, but for a humane order in council,[143]
through the interest of Sir Joseph Banks, permitting the island to be
supplied with the necessaries of life. In A.D. 1843, brighter days
dawned. After a disuse of nearly half a century, the Althing was
re-established; but it was only a shadow of its former self--a body of
representatives whom the Home Government deigned to consult. Still, it
roused the people to take interest in their own affairs. Finally, the
proclamation of a constitution for Denmark (1848) produced effects which
now are being matured.

The benefits of free and popular rule were offered by the Danish
Government to Iceland. But the offer was based upon the supposition,
indignantly repudiated in the island, that she was subject to the
Rigsdag;[144] and it was repeatedly refused, as falling short of the
royal promise made in 1848. Hence arose the Radical party, whose extreme
left, though disclaiming the idea of separation, is distinctly
republican. The author has compared it with the Home Rule movement in
Ireland, warning his readers, however, that there are salient points of
difference; while the absence of social and religious complications is
all in favour of the Scandinavian. The head of the party was and is the
highly distinguished scholar Hr Jón Sigurðsson; there is none beside
him, but “proximè accesserunt” Ex-Justice Benidikt Sveinsson, Professor
Haldór Friðriksson, Rev. Eiríkr Kuld, and Jón Sigurðsson of Gautlönd, a
farmer in the north. They complained that the king, whose rule at home
was limited by the Chambers, remained absolute in Iceland; that the
constitution did not place them on an equal footing with their
fellow-subjects; that they were governed by men living in Copenhagen,
who knew little of local requirements, and of a _doctrinaire_ clique
which has done abundant harm. They described paternal rule as equivalent
to the rule of red tape; they distrusted the Danes even _dona ferentes_,
and they declared that there is still “something rotten” in a certain
state. It was, indeed, evident that the national Liberal party of
Denmark, with the usual liberality of “Liberals,” aimed only at
subjecting their Icelandic fellow-subjects.

In vain the ministers of Frederick VII. offered what appeared to the
outer world the fairest terms--the establishment of an Upper and a Lower
House, and a settlement of all claims by a perpetual allowance of
$60,000 per annum.[145] The Home-Rulers “totted up” all that the Danes
_stole_, such is the mild word used,[146] from chalice to landed estate,
with interest, simple and compound, for the last three centuries. These
pretensions exceeded those of the United States in the Alabama affair:
everything was placed to the debit of Denmark, nothing to her credit.
But Hr Sigurðsson, the opposition leader, sensibly said, “The money
claims are the most awkward to the Liberals, and pressing them is the
best lever when moving for self-government.” The Danes laughed at the
idea of holding a constitutional country liable for the debts of
absolute kings, contracted in A.D. 1550-1800, when Denmark herself was
plundered, as well as Iceland, by irresponsible rulers. There was,
however, this difference, that while Iceland was plundered to enrich
Danes residing in Denmark, Denmark was plundered to enrich her own
citizens. And Hr Sigurðsson was fated to win. Important events have
happened since the author left the island. A public meeting, attended by
delegates from every district, was held (June 26, 1873) at Thingvellir.
Here it was resolved to use every effort either to end Danish rule in
Iceland, or to obtain an extended constitution which should give the
island a government of her own. Correspondents assured the writer that
the movement passed off without undue excitement. “Hereditary bondsmen”
know in those days that no physical blow need be struck, and that “every
institution,” to use the words of a well-known separatist, “can be
modified or destroyed by the weapon of agitation, under the guidance of
popular opinion.”

At this preliminary to the opening of the Althing it was decided to send
three delegates to Denmark, and to submit to the ministry a draft
constitution, drawn up with the view of developing the island and its
inhabitants. The two principal provisions were (1.) That Iceland should
be connected with the home country by a “personal union only;” and (2.)
That it should be governed by a Jarl, earl, or viceroy, with a minister
or ministers responsible to the House of Representatives.

After the close of the meeting the Althing assembled at the usual place.
Some of the more advanced kept, it is said, their seats when the usual
cheers were given for the king; but no disloyal manifestation was made
beyond rejecting almost all the bills brought in by the local
government. The draft constitution was referred to a committee, which on
July 28, 1873, reported in its favour, and added a resolution that the
king should be requested to concede the following temporary arrangements
as soon as possible, and not later than the next year:

1. That the Althing be at once invested with full legislative powers,
and a new budget be submitted for its approval once in every two years,
on the principle that no tax or impost shall be levied in Iceland for
defraying expenditure incurred by the Danish Government.

2. That a special minister be appointed for Icelandic affairs, and that
he be responsible to the Althing.

3. That this arrangement be valid for six years only, after which the
entire constitution shall be laid before the Althing for its

On January 5th, 1874, after a struggle of thirty years, the new
Icelandic constitution was signed by the king, and came into force on
August 1st of the same year, the millenary festival commemorating the
occupation of the Northmen. The original plan of the two houses has been
carried out. The biennial Althing will consist of thirty members voted
in by the people, and of six nominated by the Crown. The Upper House
will contain the six royal nominees, and six others elected by the
general body of the Althing from its members, duly returned by their
constituencies; while the Lower House will number the remaining
twenty-four. The vote is confirmed to officials, to ecclesiastics of
every grade, to all university graduates, and even to students who sign
themselves “Candidat” (B.A.). It is extended to citizens who lease
farms, to those who pay a minimum of eight crowns a year in government
taxes, and to the country people that contribute either cess or parish
rates--evidently universal suffrage, excluding only women and minors,
paupers and criminals. Every voter must be twenty-five years old, and
of unblemished character; and he must have resided at least a
twelvemonth in his electoral district. Any person who has a right to the
franchise, who is thirty years of age, who has been domiciled in Iceland
or Denmark for five years, and who is not in the employment of a foreign
state, is qualified for election to the Althing. The session may not
outlast six weeks without special royal assent, and provisions are made
for extraordinary sessions.

The new constitution, which purports to regulate only home affairs, is a
distinct improvement upon the old platform. The Secretary for Iceland is
independent of the Danish Cabinet and Rigsdag, and becomes responsible
to the king and to the Althing. This minister will be answerable for the
maintenance of the constitution, and he will nominate for royal approval
the chief local functionary. The governor’s functions will be determined
by his majesty, and constitutional complaints against him will be
investigated by the Crown. Thus the Althing will enjoy certain
legislative rights, and have some control over the administration of its
country. Finally, as Iceland has no representative in the Rigsdag, and
as she has never taken part in the legislature, nor in the general
government of the empire, she will not contribute to the home

But the power of passing laws is not granted absolutely; it is subject
to royal confirmation. The relative position of the Secretary for
Iceland to the people, represented by the Althing, remains to be
defined. Even less satisfactory are the arrangements concerning the
local governor; his power and duties are not settled, and the Althing
will have no voice in settling them. Hitherto he has mostly acted as a
mere channel of communication between the island and the Copenhagen
Cabinet, and the new constitution does nothing to remedy this evil. On
the contrary, the king makes a special reservation concerning the
expenses of the “highest local government of the island,” meaning that
the governor’s salary will be dependent upon the Crown, and will not be
discussed by the Althing with the rest of the budget. Thus the ruler
becomes wholly independent of the ruled, and dependent only on the
Secretary for Iceland. Again, the nomination of six members by the king
will have the effect, in case of disagreement between the Upper and
Lower Houses, of enabling the royal commissioners to frustrate
legislation simply by absenting themselves from the debates. This is
perhaps the weakest point of the new constitution; it may be necessary
in Denmark where the tone of the middle classes is distinctly democratic
and republican, but it is looked upon and is protested against in
aristocratic and conservative Iceland as an affront to their loyalty.
And it can serve for nothing but to create an artificial opposition and
to strengthen any minister or governor in anti-national or Danising
measures. The provision that the governor may sit in the Althing and
speak as often as he pleases, is distinctly unconstitutional; nor is the
paragraph concerning the fixed contribution and the sinking contribution
at all satisfactory.

The author ventures to predict, with due diffidence, that, however
liberal this constitution may appear, it will not satisfy local
requirements--it grants too much or it gives too little. The next demand
will be for the governor to be invested with the full powers residing in
the heads of British colonies, supported by a local ministry, the latter
virtually independent of the Home Colonial Minister. Denmark is,
perhaps, not yet sufficiently advanced in political education to grant
the gift; yet the experiment is worth trying. If the demand be rejected,
the persuasion that Iceland has never thriven since Icelanders lost
their privilege of self-rule will steadily increase, and probably attain
abnormal dimensions. A school of politics has now been opened to the
people, and the new study will produce special students. Irrepressible
malcontents, _intransigentes_, and irreconcilables, who have trodden the
path of separation, are never easily brought back to the sleepy old
highway of routine rule; and the constitution has provided them with
many grievances, especially the doubts cast upon Icelandic loyalty and
good faith. There are not a few European revolutionists who, urgent for
the general derangement of affairs, will hardly disdain to “keep their
hands in,” even so far north. An Icelander in England flatly
contradicted the assertion that a republican or separatist feeling
exists in Iceland.[148] The “great public meeting” of 1873 expressed the
latter, and what could a separated Iceland be or become except a
republic? Not only “subversive philanthropists” but well-meaning and
patriotic men will find subjection to a foreign secretary and a foreign
governor intolerable when they wish to manage themselves. The “little
bill” will still be a strong lever for raising popular passions. In the
days when Ireland continues to “write and speak of ‘98,” when Norway
“strikes” as heavily as Great Britain, and when the Socialists breed
troubles in Denmark where the International has been interdicted by the
courts of justice, as a branch of the English society, the Icelandic
Home Ruler is not likely to sit still--perhaps it is not desirable that
he should.

Since the unhappy Dano-Prussian war we have heard little of Scandinavia
in England, and we are apt to conclude that the Pan-Scandinavian idea is
dead. It is not dead but sleeping; and while Pan-Slavism affects to
slumber that it may gather vis and energy for decisive movements when
the time for action comes, we still live in hopes of seeing a federal
union of the great northern kingdoms, and to find Iceland taking her
place as a minor but not an undistinguished member of the family.
Scandinavian liberty, says Montesquieu, _est la mère des libertés de
l’Europe_, and her free-born children have not lost and will never lose
respect for the parent.


Since these lines were written, Christian IX., the first crowned head
that ever sighted her shores, has visited Iceland upon the well-chosen
occasion of her millenary festival. The courteous and parental bearing
of the king has made its due impression. The lieges have taken a
sensible view of the situation; they spoke in a conciliatory spirit, and
satisfaction with the change from the former state of things seems to
have been general. Even the anti-government party is thankful for what
it has won, and hopes in course of time to win what it wants. “This is
a good beginning,” said a prominent member, “and, since we have got
legislative powers, it is our own fault if we cannot get more.”

The following statement was sent to me by Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín, who is
responsible for his assertions. The paper thoroughly expresses the
Icelanders’ view of their financial relations with the Danish

“The budget of Iceland for 1867-68 was:
  REVENUE.                    EXPENDITURE.
$48,345 21 sk.              $79,682 56 sk.
$44,675 21 sk.              $63,929 8 sk.
$51,222 21 sk.              $77,361 24 sk.
$44,787 21 sk.              $65,865 72 sk.

     “This is the Danish statement of the annual budget for Iceland.
     Consequently it has been commonly said by Danes and travellers who
     have not been able to dive below the surface, that Iceland was the
     receiver of Danish bounty to the tune of something like $30,000
     annually. It was, however, acknowledged by the Danish Chancellor of
     the Exchequer in 1845 that such was not the case, for in his report
     he said: ‘It is perhaps doubtful whether we really contribute
     anything towards the support of Iceland.... It is true, certainly,
     that an annual sum is paid to the Icelandic treasury.... This
     payment cannot, however, properly be called a subsidy, because _the
     whole of the Icelandic revenues has not been paid into the
     Icelandic treasury_ (but into the Danish treasury).... _The
     Icelandic treasury has also disbursed several sums_ (at the command
     of the Danish Government), _which cannot be set down as expenses
     for Iceland_.’ This is the gist of the whole dispute. Sums are not
     entered on the credit side of the Icelandic budget which Iceland
     has really paid into the Danish treasury. Thus an annual deficit is
     easily made out.

     “Down to the middle of the last century the accounts of Iceland
     were kept clear and separate from those of Denmark. Then the
     Icelandic budget showed an annual surplus which found its way into
     the Danish treasury. After that date, the accounts of both were
     mixed up together, and for three quarters of a century (till 1825)
     the annual revenue and expenditure of Iceland cannot be properly
     ascertained. It is, however, known that several large sums, above
     the annual revenues of the island, were paid into the Danish
     treasury during this period. On the other hand, it cannot be shown
     that the annual expenses had risen above the former yearly average.
     When a separate account was again opened with Iceland, no notice
     was taken of the extraordinary sums paid into the Danish treasury
     on behalf of Iceland.

     “To show the reader the chief items of the Icelandic budget, we
     will take the budget for 1870-71:

          REVENUE.                      |  EXPENDITURE.
  I. From the trade,     $12,600 0      |  I. Expenses of the
 II.  ”  Crown property,  12,080 0      |     administration and
III.  ”  Royal tithes,     3,750 0      |     medical staff of
 IV.  ”  Repayment of                   |     Iceland,         $34,653 0
         loans,            8,192 15 sk. | II. Expenses of the
  V.  ”  Sundries,         8,165 6      |     bishop and the
 VI. Deficit,             21,078 51     |     educational
                        --------------- |     establishments,   27,212 72 sk.
                         $65,865 72 sk. |III. Sundries,          4,000 0
                                        |                     ---------------
                                        |                      $65,865 72 sk.

     “It will be seen from the above that one of the chief items in the
     Iceland revenues is derived from Crown property in the island,
     which in round numbers now amounts to $12,000. This is entered in
     the annual budget to the credit of Iceland. In 1866, $175,037 had
     been paid into the Danish treasury for Crown property sold in
     Iceland at different times. Neither this sum nor its interest is,
     however, mentioned in the annual statements of Icelandic finances.
     But if Iceland has a right to the revenues derived from the Crown
     property still unsold, it has an equal right to the interest of the
     money paid for that which is sold. This sum, amounting to about
     $7000, ought to be added to the annual revenue, thus making the
     annual income from the Crown property $19,000 instead of $12,000.
     There are also several smaller items which ought to be entered on
     the credit side of the Icelandic budget.

     “No. II. of the expenditure, viz. the salaries of the bishop and
     the professors of the colleges, and other expenses connected with
     the colleges, form a heavy item in the expenditure of Iceland, or,
     in round numbers, $27,000 annually. It is, however, not correct to
     charge this sum against Iceland unless an equal sum is entered on
     the credit side of the budget, because all the property supporting
     the two bishops and the two colleges of Iceland was sold according
     to a royal command of 29th April 1785, and the proceeds of the sale
     were paid into the Danish treasury on the understanding and implied
     promise of the king, that the expenses of these institutions were
     to be defrayed by the Danish treasury for the future. This sum is
     nevertheless annually charged against Iceland as if Denmark never
     had received any equivalent for it.

     “The budget arranged according to the foregoing observations will

       Revenue.                         |      Expenditure.
  I. From the trade,    $12,600 0       |  I. Expenses of the
 II.  ” Crown property,  19,080 0       |     administration and
III.  ” Royal tithes,     3,750 0       |     medical staff of
 IV.  ” Repayment of                    |     Iceland,           $34,653 0
        loans,            8,192 15 sk.  | II. Expenses of the
  V.  ” Sundries,         8,165 6       |     bishop and the
 VI.  ” No. II.                         |     educational
        Expenditure,     34,212 72      |     establishments,     34,212 72 sk.
                        --------------  |III. Sundries,            4,000 0
Total,                  $78,999 93 sk.  | IV. Annual surplus,     13,134 21
                                        |                        --------------
                                        |Total,                  $78,999 93 sk.

“Thus it will be seen that the Icelandic budget, instead of showing a
deficit of $21,078, 51 sk., has, when properly stated, a surplus of
$13,134, 21 sk. The claims of Iceland arising out of these financial
misstatements were partly recognised by the Danish Government in the Act
of 2d January 1871, by which it was provided that $30,000 per annum
should be paid perpetually from the Danish treasury to Iceland; and, in
addition, an annual sum of $20,000 for ten years, after which period
this latter sum is to decrease by $1000 per annum until it is

“In conclusion, I will present the reader with the ‘little bill’ of the
Icelanders against the Danish treasury. The rent of the Crown farms was
always paid in kind, and the present money value of the articles paid as
yearly rents for these farms at the time they were seized by the Crown
is $41,055, 40 sk. When the rents of the still unsold farms are
subtracted, there remains,

I. An annual claim against the Danish treasury for the balance,
amounting to                                                   $27,855 40 sk.

II. The Icelanders’ claim for loss of interest of money paid into
the Danish treasury for sold Crown property, the annual
sum of                                                           6,900  0

III. For the rent of farms belonging to the bishop sees, and sold for
the benefit of the Danish treasury, calculated in the same
way as the rent of the Crown farms, the annual sum of           31,769 52

IV. For movable property belonging to the episcopal sees, and appropriated
by the Crown, the annual sum of                                  2,400  0

V. For the trade monopoly, the annual sum of                    50,800  0[149]
               Total annual sums,                             $119,724 92 sk.

“Thus the Icelanders consider themselves to have good claims on the
Danish treasury for the annual sum of $119,724, 92 sk., or a round sum
of $3,000,000.

“On the other hand, the Icelanders consider themselves bound to pay
$20,000 annually towards the general expenditure of the Danish state
(Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Financial
Affairs of Iceland, 1861, as communicated in the Thjóðólfr newspaper,
xvii., pp. 101, 107).”




Iceland, we have seen, is the largest island in the North Atlantic, and
one of the most considerable known to the Old World. Lying 130 direct
geographical miles east of Greenland, 500 north-west of Scotland, and
850 west of Norway; distant 1000 miles from Liverpool, 1300 from
Copenhagen, and 3000 from Boston, it is claimed as an Eastern dependency
of the American continent which the Icelander first colonised. It has
also been called a “singular fragment of Scandinavian Europe.” Yet,
geographically considered, it belongs neither to the Old nor to the New
Hemisphere; it is a little continent of itself.

Formerly a considerable part of the island was made to enter the Polar
circle, which, in some maps, passed through the northern third. On the
other hand, the eastern coast was curtailed of its due proportions,
being thrown too far west even in charts still used. Hooker, for
instance, makes the longitude range from 10° to 12° west of
Greenwich,--an extreme error of some two to three degrees.

Iceland extends from Portland, in N. lat. 63° 22´, to the North Cape, in
N. lat. 66° 44´, covering 3° 22´ = 202 direct geographical miles of
depth. The extreme longitudinal points are laid down between the
north-eastern projection of Eskifjörð, in W. long. G. 13° 38´ (33´?),
and the Point of Breiðavík, in 24° 40´ (36´?), or 11° 25´ of length, the
degrees in this latitude being greatly reduced.[150] Thus the maximum
depth would represent 186 geographical miles, which some writers
increase to 190 and 192; and the length 308, which are again extended
to 313. The circumference, measured from naze to naze, is variously
given at 752 to 830 miles. The superficial area has also been variously
calculated. Whilst Ólafsson gives 56,000 square geographical, and Egger
29,838 Danish, miles (15 = 1°), modern calculations have reduced it to
37,000, 37,388, and 40,000, the latter being generally assumed in round
numbers.[151] Thus Iceland is about five times instead of double, as
certain writers supposed, the size of Sicily (7700 sq. geog. miles);
about one-sixth larger than Ireland (32,511); nearly equal to Portugal
(37,900); approaching the state of New York (46,000); two-ninths the
extent of Sweden, and one-fifth the size of France.

The parallel of N. lat. 65°, which, roughly speaking, bisects Iceland,
would pass westwards through Southern Greenland, cross Davis Straits,
Fox-land and Fox-channel; the northern apex of Southampton Island, the
Back River, the Bear Lake, and entering Eskimo-land, formerly Russian
America, would leave Norton Sound to the south, and Prince of Wales Cape
a few miles to the north. Thence travelling over Behring’s Strait, it
would enter Asia a little south of East Cape, cut the two Siberias, the
Tobolsk River, the Urals, the White Sea, and the Bothnian Gulf, and
issue from Europe about Vigten Island, somewhat north of mid-Norway. The
antæcious oceans of the Old World contain no corresponding feature: the
New Hemisphere shows immense uninhabited tracts--Graham’s Land,
Enderby’s, Kemp’s, and the Antarctic continent, which are probably
continuous; with, their outliers--South Shetlands, South Orkneys, and
Sandwich Land.

The estimate of the habitable area was fixed at one-eighth by older
writers.[152] It is now assumed, with Paijkull, at one-tenth
(4000:40,000). Human life is confined to the larger islets, to the
vicinity of the more important sub-maritime lakes, to the sheltered
valleys and river courses, below the plateau, and to the false coast.
The latter, _eluvie mons deductus in æquor_, is formed by the débris and
alluvium of the mountain walls washed down by rains, torrents, débâcles,
and glacier-exundations, and subsequently elevated by earthquakes, which
are supposed to be still raising the southern coast.[153] According to
Gunnlaugsson and Ólsen, one-third is green or agricultural; there is a
similar proportion of Heiðiland; and the remainder is Úbygð (hod. Obygð)
or desert--a chaos of sand-tracts and peat-swamps, lava-runs, and the
huge masses of eternal congelation called Jökulls.[154]

The population was laid down by Barrow (1834) at 0·2 per whole area, and
by Paijkull (1865) at 1·6: being now assumed at 70,000, it would be
1·75. Paijkull makes 6·2 head the average of habitable ground, and for
the reclaimed tracts he gives 17·5. The latter figure exceeds the mean
of Africa, which is 16 to the square mile (viz, 192,000,000 head to
11,556,000 square statute miles), and it is three times greater than in
the whole Western Hemisphere.


In early Norwegian days (A.D. 965) Iceland was distributed, like
Ireland, into four quadrants, tetrads, or fourths (Fjórðungar), named
after the points of the compass. These were--

Austfirðinga-fjórðungr,      Eastern Quarter.
Vestfirðinga-    ”           Western    “
Norðlendinga-    ”           Northern   “
Sunnlendinga-    ”           Southern   “

Before A.D. 1770. one Amtmaðr governed the whole of Iceland; in that
year it was divided into two Amts (rules), the north-eastern and the
south-western. Thus the northern and the eastern quadrants, whose
population was scanty, were placed for administrative purposes under a
single Amt, the headquarters being at Fríðriksgáfa, of old Möðruvellir,
near Akureyri, on the western shore of the Eyjafjörð. In 1787 the
south-west Amt was divided into two, the southern and the western. In
1872 it was proposed to unite the western with the southern tetrarchy,
and to transfer the amtship of Stykkishólm to Reykjavik, the capital.
Thus there will again be only two Amts under the governor, and this
simplification may act well.

The official title of the highest official was Stiptamtmaðr; in Danish,
Stiftamtmand.[155] It has lately been changed, without, however, any
other advantage of rank or pay, from High Bailiff to Governor-General
(Landshöfðingi). Formerly the military and naval services had a
preference, and titled names were not rare: at present the post is given
to civilians.[156] The salary of this high official was $500 in 1772; it
afterwards became $2000, and now it is $4000.

The four quarters were divided into Sýslur[157] (Dan. Syssel), which
are ever changing. For instance, the Gullbróngu and Kjósar have lately
been united, politically as well as ecclesiastically; the same has
happened to Mýra Sýsla and Hnappadals, whilst the vacancies have been
filled up by the Vestmannaeyjar. Under the twenty-one Sýslur, cantons or
counties, prefectures or sheriffdoms, are the 169 Hrepps or poor-law
districts,[158] which are not like our ecclesiastic divisions. We have
preserved in England the word,_e.g._, Rape of Brambor.

The following is a list of Sýslur and Hreppar, taken from the official
documents which show the movement of Iceland in 1868.[159]

The Suður-umdæmið, or southern jurisdiction, contains 7 Sýslur and 48
Hreppar, viz.:

1. Austur-Skaptafells Sysla, }      with 7 Hreppar.
2. Vestur-Skaptafells   ”    }
3. Vestmannaeyjar       ”             ”  1    “
4. Rángárvalla          ”             ”  8    “
5. Árnes (not Arness)   ”             ” 13    “
6. Gullbríngu and Kjósar”             ”  9    “
7. Reykjavik            ”             ”  1    “
8. Borgarfjarðar        ”             ”  9    “

The Vestur-umdæmið contains 6 Sýslur and 55 Hreppar, viz.:

1. Mýra and Hnappadals Sýslur,      with 10 Hreppar.
2. Snæfellsnes(not Snoefells) Sysla, ”    7    “
3. Dala                              ”    8    “
4. Barðastrandar                     ”   10    “
5. Ísafjarðar                        ”   14    “
6. Stranda                           ”    6    “

The Norður og Austur Umdæmið contains 7 Sýslur and 66 Hreppar, viz.:

1. Húnavatns                 Sýsla,   with 12 Hreppar.
2. Skagafjarðar                ”       ”   12    “
3. Eyjafjarðar(Grimsey, etc.), ”       ”   10    “
4. Suður-Thingeyjar            “}      ”   12    “
5. Norður-Thingeyjar           “}
6. Norður-Múla[160]            ”       ”   10    “
7. Suður-Múla                  ”       ”   10    “

When the author visited Iceland (1872), the Bæarfógeti, or mayor of
Reykjavik, was Amtmaðr for the southern quarter. Hr Christián
Christiánsson ruled the north and east at Fríðriksgáfa, and Hr Bergur
Thorberg, knight of the Dannebrog, had his headquarters at Stykkishólm
on the western fourth. Now (1874), Hr Bergur Thorberg governs the
southern and western quadrants, and Hr Christían Christiánsson, with the
title of Justitsráð, the northern and the eastern. These officers are
addressed as Hávelborni, and they receive the reports of the several

The Sýlumenn, or sheriffs, are the civil staff, the tax-gatherers and
stewards as it were of the king; and appointed by the Crown. In order to
obtain this office they must be graduates of the University of
Copenhagen; they wear uniforms, a gold band round the cap, frock coats,
waistcoats, and vests of blue broadcloth, with the royal button, and
they may become ministers of state. They preside at the Hèraðthings[161]
or annual county courts; they watch over the peace of their
shrievalties; they officiate as public notaries; and they maintain the
rights of inheritance. The Sýslumaðr in his judicial capacity, and
chiefly when land-questions are to be determined, is occasionally
assisted by four Meðdómsmenn (_concessores judicii_), who give suffrage
and register proceedings; decisions are pronounced according to the
vote of the majority.[162] He superintends elections. Formerly he could
compel the lieges to repair the highways, and the law still obliges each
landed proprietor to keep the rough fences upon his estate in good
condition. A small sum called Vegabótargjald is also taken by the
Sýslumaðr to pay for the necessary expenses of roads; unfortunately the
_corvée_ or robot of peasants has been abolished, and the means of
transit are much neglected. A law compelling all sturdy vagrants and
able-bodied paupers to work upon the highways is as much wanted in
Iceland, as useful and productive employment for the hordes of soldiers
who now compose the standing armies of Europe.

Under the Sýslumenn and appointed by the Amtmenn are the Hreppstjórar or
Hreppstjórnarmenn, bailiffs and poor-inspectors with parochial
jurisdiction. It is hardly to be doubted that the division into Rapes
existed in heathen days, and Dr Konrad Maurer believes that they had
organised poor laws and rules for vagrancy which the Christian bishops
afterwards amended and expanded. In these days the Rape-stewards assist
their civil and ecclesiastical superiors to manage the business of the
Rape, to preserve public order, and to estimate cessable property
according to the ancient custom of the island. They fix the poor-rate
for each land-holder, and they especially attend to the condition and
maintenance of paupers (Úmagar), who are no longer subject to the pains
and penalties of that ancient code the Grágás (grey or wild goose).[163]
Where the parish exceeds 400 souls, these minor officials usually number
two to five. They are substantial yeomen who wear no distinctive dress.
They and their children are exempt from taxation, and this is their
only salary. The functions of the Amtmenn, Sýslumenn, and of the
Hreppstjórar especially, will be greatly modified when the law of May
4th, 1872, comes into operation during the present year. A standing
Hreppsnefnd, or a committee of three, five, or seven, is to be elected
in each Hreppr. This body is to have charge of the poor, the sanitary
conditions, and the general business of the Hreppr, including the repair
of roads. It is also to levy the poor-rates and other cesses of the
Hreppr. The Hreppstjórar will be retained, but their functions are not
defined. A Sýslunefnd is also to be elected in each Sýsla, consisting of
six to ten members; and the Sýslumaðr is _ex officio_ a convener or
foreman of this committee. It is to have charge of the roads, to manage
the general business of the Sýsla, and to exercise supervision over the
Hreppsnefndir. Thirdly, Amtsrað, Amt-Councils, consisting of the Amtmaðr
and two elected members, will audit and control all the accounts of the
Amt; will act as trustees of all public institutions and public
legacies, and will have supervision over the Hreppsnefndir and


It is well known that trial by jury, the bulwark of Englishmen’s rights,
though fathered by English legal antiquaries upon King Alfred, is a
purely Scandinavian institution. According to the Landnámabók (II., ix.,
note, p. 83), the Kviðr plays a considerable part in the republican
history; and the form of trial like our juries _de vicineto_ appears in
the thirteenth century. As Mr Vigfússon remarks (Cleasby, sub voce
Kviðr): “From the analogy of the Icelandic customs, it can be inferred
with certainty that, along with the invasion of Danes and Norsemen, the
judgment by verdict was also transplanted to English ground, for the
settlers of England were kith and kin to those of Iceland, carrying with
them the same laws and customs; lastly, after the Conquest, it became
the law of the land. This old Scandinavian institution gradually died
out in the mother countries[164] and ended in Iceland, A.D. 1271-1281,
with the fall of the Commonwealth and the introduction of a Norse code
of laws, whereas it was naturalised in England, which came to be the
classical land of trial by jury.”

Modern Iceland utterly ignores it, but, as in the United States, all
freemen are familiar with judicial procedures, and public opinion, not
to speak of the press, is a sufficient safeguard for a small community.

In criminal cases the Crown prosecutes, and the king must ratify capital
sentences. Like the Cives of Rome, and very unlike the subjects of
civilised Europe, Icelanders are not confined before trial, there being
no houses of detention; but a criminal is kept either by the sheriff or
the hreppstjóri, who is responsible for his being brought to judgment at
an order from the court. By way of checking the litigiousness of the
lieges, a regular system of arbitration is in force. The parish priest
_ex officio_ and one of his parishioners are the Forlíkunarmenn
(reconciliators), and act as umpires; and a previous investigation of
causes often quashes them.

It is only in administrative cases, _e.g._, about paupers, etc., that
there is an appeal from the decisions of the sheriff to the Amtmaðr.
From the Sýslumaðr’s court civil causes go for cassation directly to the
Supreme Court (Konunglegi-Landsyfirrettur) of Reykjavik, which was
instituted in A.D. 1800, when the Althing, which then had judicial as
well as legislative and administrative functions, was abolished. The
Royal Court consists of a Chief Justice (Justiciarius) and two
assessors; the governor presides, but takes no part in the judicial
proceedings. All three votes are equal, and the majority decides, thus
making the judge and assessors jury as well as judges. The actual
dignitaries are Hr Thórður Jonasson, Hr Jón Pétursen, and Hr Magnús
Stephensen; the salaries are, $2816, $2016, and $1416. There are also
two procurators (the English barrister and the Scotch advocate), Hr Páll
Melsted and Hr Jón Guðmundsson, who edits the leading newspaper. Hr P.
Guðjónsson, the church organist, is not a procurator although he
occasionally conducts cases before the superior court.

At this Royal High Court of Judgment the evidence and pleadings of both
parties are heard, and the Justiciarius, after taking the opinions of
his assessors, pronounces his decision. For cassation, causes must then
go to the Chancellerie, or Supreme Court of Judicature at Copenhagen.





The constitution of society and the physical features of Iceland are
peculiarly favourable to numbering the people. The island has no object
either to diminish her total in order to avoid recruiting, and has scant
interest in exaggerating it with a view to urban concessions and civic
privileges. Between A.D. 1840-60 the census was quinquennial; since that
time every decade has been deemed sufficient.

The following numbers are taken from various sources, and especially
from the latest official figures in the Skýrslur of October 1, 1870:


               S. Qr.  W. Qr.  N. & E. Qrs.   Total.

In A.D. 1703,  18,728  15,774   15,942       50,444
 ”      1769,  17,150  13,596   15,455       46,201

In A.D. 1770 Uno Von Troil (p. 25) estimated the population at 60,000
souls, or about 10,000 more than sixty years after the Norwegian
colonisation. In 1783 the total fell to 47,287, and in 1786 to 38,142
(Preyer and Zirkel, p. 483). Since the beginning of the present century
we have exact and minute computations:


                S. Qr.   W. Qr.   N. & B. Qrs.                     Total.
In A.D. 1801,   17,160   13,976     16,104                      46,240(47,207?)
   ”    1806 (Preyer and Zirkel, whereas Mackenzie assigns it
                to 1804),                                       46,349
   ”    1808 (Preyer and Zirkel; and Mackenzie, p. 280),        48,063
   ”    1834, (Dillon, unofficial, evidently “round numbers”)   53,000
   ”    1835,   20,292   14,480     21,263                      56,035
   ”    1840,   20,677   14,665     21,752                      57,094
   ”    1842 (Meddel., ii. 70),                                 53,000
   ”    1845,   21,364   14,956     22,238                      58,358


               S. Qr.   W. Qr.   N. & E. Qrs.   Total.

In A.D. 1850,  21,288   15,112   22,757         59,157
  ”     1855,  22,810   16,362   25,431         64,603
  ”     1857 (Preyer and Zirkel),               66,929
  ”     1858 (   Do.   ),                       67,847
  ”     1860,  23,137   16,960   26,890         66,987
  ”     1865 (Vice-Consul Crowe),               68,000
  ”     1870,  25,063   17,001   27,699         69,763
  ”     1872 (estimated),                       70,000

while that of Madeira is 80,000.

The following table (Skýrslur um landshagi á Íslandi, v. 310, 1872)
shows the increase of population during the present century down to

From Feb. 1, 1801, to Feb. 2, 1835, increase 18·71 per cent.
 ”   Feb. 2, 1835, to Nov. 2, 1840,  ”        1·89
 ”   Nov. 2, 1840, to Nov. 2, 1845,  ”        2·55
 ”   Nov. 2, 1845, to Feb. 1, 1850,  ”        1·01
 ”   Feb. 1, 1850, to Oct. 1, 1855,  ”        9·21
 ”   Oct. 1, 1855, to Oct. 1, 1860,  ”        3·69
 ”   Oct. 1, 1860, to Oct. 1, 1870,  ”        4·14

The average rate of increase during the last century was very small:
between A.D. 1703 and 1758 it was about one-fifth of 1 per cent. During
the present age there has been, we observe, a tolerably regular progress
with only three exceptions (A.D. 1835-40, A.D. 1845-50, and A.D.
1860-70). During this decade (1860-70) there has been a considerable
failure, 4·14 per cent., or only 2·05 for each lustrum. In 1872, as will
be seen, the number of males was 33,102; of females, 36,660. But
throughout Iceland the fluctuations have ever been so great as to
reduce the value of “general considerations.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The following tables are compiled from the minute returns made to the
Danish Government, and published in vols. i.-vi· of 1852-61, of the
Meddelser fra det Statistishe Bureau, Copenhagen.

No. 1.--Table showing the Population of Iceland and its Distribution on
the 1st February 1850, and on the 1st October 1855.

|                                         |                 |                |           |
|Districts.                               | No. of Families.| Population.    |Increase,  |
|                                         +------+----------+-------+--------+      in   |
|                                         | 1850.| 1855.    | 1850. | 1855.  |hundredths.|
|     SOUTHERN AMT.                       |      |          |       |        |           |
|Reykjavik,                               |   219|   250    |  1149 |  1354  |  17·84    |
|Gullbríngu and Kjósar Sýsla,{*} exclusive|      |          |       |        |           |
|  of Revkjavik,                          |   783|   853    |  4519 |  4853  |   7·39    |
|                                         +------+----------+-------+--------+-----------+
|The same, including Reykjavik,           |  1002|  1103    |  5668 |  6207  |   9·51    |
|Borgarfjarðar Sýsla,                     |   329|   355    |  2097 |  2312  |  10·25    |
|Árnes Sýsla,                             |   723|   755    |  5018 |  5382  |   7·25    |
|Rángárvalla Sýsla,                       |   700|   717    |  4766 |  4917  |   3·17    |
|Austr and Vestr Skaptafells Sýsla,{*}    |   481|   529    |  3340 |  3545  |   6·14    |
|Vestmannaeyja{**} Sýsla,                 |    91|    98    |   399 |   447  |  12·03    |
|                                         +------+----------+-------+--------+-----------+
|    Total (Southern Amt),                |  3326|  3557    |21,288 | 22,810 |   7·15    |
|                                         +======+==========+=======+========+===========+
|                                         |      |          |       |        |           |
|     WESTERN AMT.                        |      |          |       |        |           |
|Mýra and Hnappadals Sýsla,{*}            |   379|   383    |  2410 |  2569  |   6·60    |
|Snæfellsness Sýsla,                      |   512|   526    |  2684 |  2825  |   5·25    |
|Dala Sýsla,                              |   267|   277    |  1923 |  2104  |   9·41    |
|Barðastrandar Sýsla,                     |   336|   347    |  2518 |  2703  |   7·35    |
|Isafjarðar{***} Sýsla,                   |   508|   545    |  4204 |  4589  |   9·16    |
|Stranda Sýsla,                           |   179|   190    |  1373 |  1572  |  14·49    |
|                                         +------+----------+-------+--------+-----------+
|    Total (Western Amt),                 |  2181|  2268    |15,112 |16,362  |   8·27    |
|                                         +======+==========+=======+========+===========+
|                                         |      |          |       |        |           |
|    NORTHERN AND EASTERN AMTS.           |      |          |       |        |           |
|Húnavatns Sýsla,                         |   556|    639   |   4117|   4637 |   12·63   |
|Skagafjarðar Sýsla,                      |   626|    622   |   4033|   4258 |    5·58   |
|Eyjafjarðar Sýsla,                       |   625|    638   |   3965|   4289 |    8·17   |
|Norðr and Suðr Thingeyjar Sýsla,{*}      |   640|    684   |   4453|   5108 |   14·71   |
|Norðr-Múla Sýsla,                        |   405|    473   |   3201|   3754 |   17·28   |
|Suðr-Múla Sýsla,                         |   391|    416   |   2988|   3385 |   13·29   |
|                                         +------+----------+-------+--------+-----------+
|    Total (Northern and Eastern          |      |          |       |        |           |
|          Amts),                         |  3243|   3472   | 22,757| 25,431 |   11·75   |
|                                         +======+==========+=======+========+===========+
|    Total for all Iceland,               |  8750|   9297   | 59,157| 64,603 |    9·21   |

{*} Separated on Ólsen’s map.

{**} Apparently combined with Rángárvalla Sýsla on Ólsens map.

{***} Sub-divided into north and west by P. and Z., p. 480; Mck., p.

No. II.--Distribution of the Population of Iceland according to ages in

Ages.                    | Per cent. | Ages.                    |Per cent. |
Under 20 years,          | 42·315    | Between 50 and 60 years, |   9·303  |
Between 20 and 30 years, | 19·485    | Between 60 and 70 years, |   5·413  |
Between 30 and 40 years, | 11·886    | Over 70 years,           |   2·463  |
Between 40 and 50 years, |  9·135    |                          |          |

No. III.--Table showing the Means of Support of the Population of
Iceland on the 1st October 1855.

M: Males.
F: Females.
T: Total.
P: Percentage of Population.

                    |                |             SUPPORTED.              |                    |
                    |                +--------------------+----------------+                    |
                    |   PROVIDING    |     Wives &        |    Servants.   |    TOTAL.          |
OCCUPATIONS.        |   SUPPORT.     |     Families.      |                |                    |   P
                    | M  | F  |   T  |  M   |  F   |   T  | M  | F  |   T  |  M   |  F   |   T  |
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Ecclesiastics and   |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
teachers,           | 196|   7|   203|   399|   623|  1022| 527| 613|  1140|  1122|  1243|  2365|  3·66
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Civil officials and |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
employés,           |  45|   2|    47|    74|   105|   179| 105| 123|   228|   224|   230|   454|  0·70
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Persons who live    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
on their means,     |  84|  89|   170|    40|    84|   124|  18|  44|    62|   139|   217|   356|  0·55
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Men of science      |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
and letters,        |  29|  --|    29|    20|    42|    62|  20|  29|    49|    69|    71|   140|  0·22
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Persons who live    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
by agriculture,     |7063| 618|  7681|11,835|19,354|31,189|6112|7493|13,605|25,010|27,465|52,475| 81·23
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Persons who live    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
by the sea,         | 980|  86|  1066|  1090|  1925|  3015| 465| 509|   974|  2535|  2520|  5055|  7·82
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Mechanics,          | 199|  27|   226|   133|   219|   352|  59|  73|   132|   391|   319|   710|  1·10
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Traders and         |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
inn-keepers,        |  87|   4|    91|   136|   231|   367| 117| 155|   272|   340|   390|   730|  1·13
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Persons who work    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
by the day,         | 172|  62|   234|    97|   168|   265|  13|  11|    24|   282|   241|   523|  0·81
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Others who pursue   |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
no definite         |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
occupation,         | 162| 123|   285|    67|   172|   239|  20|  42|    62|   249|   337|   586|  0·91
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Receiving alms,     | 497| 710|  1207|    --|    --|    --|  --|  --|    --|   497|   710|  1207|  1·87
                    |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
Prisoners,          |   2|  --|     2|    --|    --|    --|  --|  --|    --|     2|    --|     2|  0·00
  Total,            |9513|1728|11,241|13,891|22,923|36,814|7456|9092|16,548|30,860|33,743|64,603|100·00
Percentage of       |    |    |      |      |      |      |    |    |      |      |      |      |
population,         |14·7| 2·7| 17·4 | 21·5 | 35·5 | 57·0 |11·5|14·1| 25·6 |  47·8| 52·2 | 100·0|  --

The following are the latest returns:

Table showing the Population of Iceland on the 1st October 1860 and 1870.

                                   |  Number   |   Population.   |  Increase  |
          Districts.               |    of     |                 | & Decrease |
                                   | Families. +--------+--------+  per cent. |
                                   |           |  1860. |  1870. |            |
         SOUTHERN AMT.             |           |        |        |            |
Reykjavik,                         |   356     |   1444 |   2024 |            |
Gullbríngu and Kjósar Sýsla,       |   824     |   5001 |   5302 |   + 13·7   |
Borgarfjarðar Sýsla,               |   352     |   2251 |   2590 |   + 15·1   |
Árnes Sýsla,                       |   772     |   5409 |   5891 |   +  8·9   |
Rángárvalla Sýsla,                 |   689     |   5034 |   5201 |   +  3·3   |
Austr and Vestr Skaptafells Sýsla, |   490     |   3499 |   3484 |   -  0·4   |
Vestmannaeyja Sýsla,               |   885     |    499 |    571 |   + 14·4   |
   Total (Southern Amt),           |  3568     | 23,137 | 25,063 |   +  8·3   |
         WESTERN AMT.              |           |        |        |            |
Mýra and Hnappadals Sýsla,         |   373     |   2663 |   2765 |   +  3·9   |
Snæfellsness Sýsla,                |   471     |   2869 |   2799 |   -  2·4   |
Dala Sýsla,                        |   285     |   2223 |   2190 |   -  1·5   |
Barðastrandar Sýsla,               |   311     |   2727 |   2699 |   -  1·0   |
Ísafjarðar Sýsla,                  |   518     |   4860 |   4895 |   +  0·7   |
Stranda Sýsla,                     |   192     |   1618 |   1653 |   +  2·2   |
   Total (Western Amt),            |  2150     | 16,960 | 17,001 |   +  0·2   |
   NORTHERN AND EASTERN AMTS.      |           |        |        |            |
Húnavatns Sýsla,                   |   623     |   4722 |   4906 |   +  3·9   |
Skagafjarðar Sýsla,                |   614     |   4379 |   4574 |   +  4·5   |
Eyjafjarðar Sýsla,                 |   707     |   4647 |   5108 |   +  9·9   |
Thingeyjar Sýsla,                  |   715     |   5497 |   5746 |   +  4·5   |
Norðr-Múla Sýsla,                  |   487     |   4183 |   3885 |   +  0·5   |
Suðr-Múla Sýsla,                   |   442     |   3462 |   3480 |   -  7·1   |
Total (Northern and Eastern Amts), |  3588     | 26,890 | 27,699 |   +  3·0   |
 Total for all Iceland,            |  9306     | 66,987 | 69,763 |   +  4·1   |

The following is the official list of households for 1872:

In the Suðr-umdæmið (South Quarter) are 3568 households, with 11,835 men and 13,228 women.
    ”  Vestr  ”     (West      ”  )  ”  2150        ”          7,981  ”   ”   9,019   “
    ”  Norðr og Austr                ”  3588        ”         13,286  ”   ”  14,413   “
                                        ----                  ------         ------
Total,                                  9306                  33,102 men and 36,660 women.

According to Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (Report), during the average of ten
years (1855-65) there was annually--

1 marriage for every       143 persons.
1 birth for every           25     “
1 death for every           39     “
1 deaf and dumb for every  994     “
1 blind                    320     “

In 1855 there were 202 blind and 65 born surd-mutes. In 1870 the former
numbered 225 (160 men and 65 women), and the latter 50 (20 + 30).

       *       *       *       *       *

In table III. (1855), we see that of 64,603 souls, 52,475, about
three-fourths of the heads of families and those who provide support,
lived by farming, that is, by cattle-breeding, whilst more than
four-fifths of the entire population thus derived their maintenance. At
the same time, 5055 were fishermen, and only 703 were traders, showing a
primitive state of society. Mr Consul Crowe (Report, 1870-71) remarks:
“Somewhat more than the 75 per cent. of the total population were
engaged in sheep rearing and agricultural pursuits; and, notwithstanding
the steady and lucrative nature of the fisheries, only about 10 per
cent. were engaged in them.” The mechanics may be further distributed as

Bakers,    (in 1855)  1  proportion per thousand  0·01 in 1870 numbered 2
Coopers,          ”  35               ”           0·55       ”         17
Gold & Silver}
  Smiths,    }    ”  80               ”           1·24       ”         21
Blacksmiths,      ”  80               ”           1·24       ”         31
Carpenters,       ”  61               ”           0·94       ”         12
Masons,           ”   6               ”           0·09       ”          2
Millers,          ”   4               ”           0·07       ”          1
Turners,          ”   8               ”           0·13       ”          1
Boatbuilders,     ”  38               ”           0·59       ”         12
Tailors,          ”  27               ”           0·41       ”         10
Joiners,          ” 174               ”           2·69       ”         56
Saddlers,         ”  46               ”           0·71       ”         15
Weavers,          ”  20               ”           0·30       ”          4
Watchmakers,      ”   0               ”           0·00       ”          1
Other industries, ” 103               ”           1·59       ”         24

The following is a table of ages in 1870:

                 MEN                  |           WOMEN.
 Years.   Mar-  Unmar-  Wido-  Separ- |  Mar-  Unmar-  Wi-  Separ-
         ried.  ried.   wers.  ated.  | ried.  ried.  dows. ated.
     1           801                  |         777
   1-2          1530                  |        1570
   3-4          1814                  |        1798
   5-6          1828                  |        1768
  7-10          3073                  |        3090
 11-15          3713                  |        3715
 16-20      3   3693                  |   39   3706
 21-25    143   2374      2           |  350   2301    14    3
 26-30    843   1601     16      7    | 1031   1691    55    9
 31-35   1224    814     44     12    | 1384   1046   126   17
 36-40   1869    650     96     17    | 1867    916   226   31
 41-45   1377    307    107     18    | 1225    523   289   22
 46-50   1125    171    131     29    | 1067    350   343   23
 51-55    751    100    114     17    |  623    232   361   24
 56-60    501     83    111      4    |  456    204   359   10
 61-65    424     67    154      6    |  360    203   383    9
 66-70    341     64    208      7    |  282    208   494    8
 71-75    178     42    174      2    |  130    113   346    3
 76-80     70     10    126      1    |   50     60   206
 81-85     28      3     54           |   16     24    88    1
 86-90      5      1     12           |           7    15
 91-95             1      1           |    1      2     5
96-100                    1           |           2     3
 Above 100[165]       none.             |           none.
         ---- ------   ----    ---    | ---- ------  ----  ---
         8882 22,740   1361    120    | 888  24,306  3313  160
        {_________________________}   |{______________________}
                   33,103             |         36,660

According to Mr Consul Crowe (Report, 1870-71), the proportion between
births and deaths was:

| Year. | Births. | Deaths. | Computed Population. | Percentage. |
| 1861  |   2525  |   2391  |        66,973        |   + 0·20    |
| 1862  |   2693  |   2874  |        66,792        |   + 0·27    |
| 1863  |   2648  |   2115  |        67,325        |   + 0·80    |
| 1864  |   2760  |   2001  |        68,084        |   + 1·13    |
| 1865  |   2757  |   2100  |        68,741        |   + 0·96    |
| 1866  |   2662  |   3122  |        68,281        |   + 0·67    |
| 1867  |   2743  |   1770  |        69,254        |   + 1·42    |
| 1868  |   2449  |   1970  |        69,733        |   + 0·69    |
| 1869  |   2177  |   2404  |        69,506        |   + 0·33    |
| 1870  |   2276  |   1698  |        70,084        |   + 0·83    |
|       |---------+---------+----------------------+-------------|
|Total, | 25,690  | 22,445  |                      |             |

The tables of 1855 gave an excess of 2865 women. Mackenzie (1801) shows
21,476 males to 25,731 females, or 4255 out of a total of 47,207. In
1865 the proportion of men to women was 1000: 1093. In 1870 the
conditions had improved, the surplus being only 3554 out of 69,763, a
small percentage of waste labour.

It is easy to account for the preponderance of women, as well as their
superior longevity, without entering into the knotty subject of what
determines sex. They lead more regular lives, they have less hardship
and fatigue, and they are rarely exposed to such accidents as being lost
at sea or “in the mist.” According to Mr Vice-Consul Crowe, in 1865-66,
of every forty-two deaths one was by drowning.

There is a tradition that Iceland during its palmiest days contained
100,000 souls, but it seems to rest upon no foundation. On the other
hand, the old superstitious belief that some fatal epidemic invariably
follows an increase beyond 60,000, has, during the last few years, shown
itself to be equally groundless. It is probably one of the _post hoc,
ergo propter hoc_ confusions so popular amongst the vulgar; and,
unhappily, not confined to the vulgar.


“The first inhabitants of the northern world, Dania, Nerigos, and
Suæcia,” says Saxo Grammaticus, repeated by Arngrímr Jónsson, “were the
posterity and remnant of the Canaanites _quos fugavit Jesus
latro_--expulsed from Palestine about A.C. 1500 by Joshua and Caleb.”
Duly appreciating the ethnological value of this tradition, we may
remark that the occupation of Ultima Thule, which the ancients evidently
held to be inhabited--_tibi serviat_ must mean that there were men to
serve--has not yet been proved. But Mongoloid or præ-Aryan colonies in
ancient days seem to have overrun all the Old, if not the New World, and
we must not despair of tracing them to Iceland.

The modern Icelander is a quasi-Norwegian, justly proud of the old home.
His race is completely free from any taint of Skrælling, Innuit,[166] or
Mongoloid blood, as some travellers have represented, and as the vulgar
of Europe seem to believe. Here and there, but rarely, a dark flat face,
oblique eyes, and long black horsehair, show that a wife has been taken
from the land

    “Where the short-legged Esquimaux
     Waddle in the ice and snow.”

In the southern parts of the island there is apparently a considerable
Irish infusion; and we often remark the “potato face” and the peculiar
eye, with grey-blue iris and dark lashes so common in outer Galway, and
extending to far Tenerife.

It has been the fashion for travellers to talk of “our Scandinavian
ancestors in Iceland,” to declare that the northern element is the
“backbone of the English race,” and to find that Great Britain owes to
the hyperborean “her pluck, her go-ahead, and her love of freedom.”

That a little of this strong liquor may have done abundant good to the
puerile, futile Anglo-Kelt, and the flabby and phlegmatic Anglo-Saxon,
there is no doubt, but happily we have not had a drop too much of
northern blood. The islanders are by no means slow to claim descent from
the old Jarls of Norway and Sweden, whilst some of the peasantry have
asserted, and, it is said, have proved, consanguinity with the Guelphs:
this would make them Germans, like the Royal Family of Denmark, who
enjoy only poetical and laureated connection with the “Sea-Kings.” Those
who reject these pretensions reply that every noble house emigrating
from Scandinavia in the ninth and tenth centuries brought with it a
train of serfs and thralls; for instance, Njál headed nearly thirty
fighting men, serviles included, and Thráin led fifteen house-carls
trained to arms. And genealogical statistics prove that while the Jarl’s
blood dies out, the Carl’s increases and multiplies.

The Saga’s description of Gunnar Hamondsson is that of a well-favoured
Icelander in the present day: “He was handsome of feature and
fair-skinned; his nose was straight and a little turned up at the end
(‘tip-tilted’); he was blue-eyed, and bright-eyed, and ruddy cheeked;
his hair was thick and of good hue, and hanging down in comely curls.”
And Skarphèdinn Njálsson may stand forth as the typical “plain” Thulite:
“His hair was dark-brown, with crisp curly locks; he had good eyes; his
features were sharp, and his face ashen pale; his nose turned up, and
his front teeth stuck out, and his mouth was very ugly.”

The Icelander’s temperament is nervoso-lymphatic, and, at best,
nervoso-sanguineous. The nervoso-bilious, so common in the south of
Europe, is found but rarely; and the author never saw an instance of the
pure nervous often met with in the United States and the Brazil. The
shape of the cranium is distinctly brachycephalic, like the Teuton who
can almost always be discovered by his flat occiput and his projecting
ears. The face is rather round or square than oval; the forehead often
rises high, and the malar bones stand out strongly, whilst the cheeks
fall in. A very characteristic feature of the race whose hardness, not
to say harshness, of body and mind still distinguishes it from its
neighbours, is the eye, dure and cold as a pebble--the mesmerist would
despair at the first sight. Even amongst the “gentler sex” a soft look
is uncommonly rare, and the aspect ranges from a stoney stare to a sharp
glance rendered fiercer by the habitual frown. Hence probably Uno Von
Troil (p. 87) describes the women as generally ill-featured. The best
specimens are clear grey or light blue, rarely brown and never black;
and the iris is mostly surrounded by a ring of darker colour, the
reverse of _arcus senilis_. Squints and prominent eyeballs, in fact what
are vulgarly called “goggle eyes,” are common; and even commoner,
perhaps, are the dull colourless organs which we term “cods’ eyes.” The
“Irish eye,” blue with dark lashes, is still found in the southern part
of the island, where, perhaps, thralls’ blood is most common. A mild and
chronic conjunctivitis often results from exposure to sun-glare after
dark rooms and from reading deep into the night with dim oil lamps. The
nose is seldom aquiline; the noble and sympathetically advancing
outlines of the Mediterranean shores will here be sought for in
vain.[167] The best are the straight, the worst are offensive “pugs.”
Only in two instances, both of them men of good blood, I saw the broad
open brows, the Grecian noses, the perpendicular profiles, the oval
cheeks, and the chins full, but not too full, which one connects in idea
with the Scandinavian sea-king of the olden day. As a rule, then, the
Icelandic face can by no means be called handsome.

The oral region is often coarse and unpleasant. Lean lips are not so
numerous as the large, loose, fleshy, and _bordés_ or slightly everted,
whilst here and there a huge mouth seems to split the face from ear to
ear. The redeeming feature is the denture. The teeth are short,
regular, bright-coloured, and lasting, showing uncommon strength of
constitution. They are rarely clean when coffee and tobacco are abused,
and they are yet more rarely cleaned. Doubtless a comparatively scanty
use of hot food tends to preserve them. The jowl is strong and square,
and the chin is heavy, the weak “vanishing” form being very uncommon.
The beard is sometimes worn, but more often clean shaved off; it seldom
grows to any length, though the mustachios, based upon a large and solid
upper lip, are bushy and form an important feature. Thick whiskers are
sometimes seen, and so are “Newgate frills,” from which the small foxy
features stand sharply out.

The other strong points are the skin and hair. The former is almost
always rufous, rarely milanous, and the author never saw a specimen of
the leucous (albino). The “positive blonde” is the rule; opposed to the
negative or washed out blonde of Russia and Slavonia generally. The
complexion of the younger sort is admirably fresh, pink and white; and
some retain this charm till a late age. Its delicacy subjects it to
sundry infirmities, especially to freckles, which appear in large brown
blotches; exposure to weather also burns the surface, and converts rose
and lily to an unseemly buff and brick-dust red. It is striated in early
middle-age with deep wrinkles and it becomes much “drawn,” the effect of
what children call “making faces” in the sunlight and snow-blink. In the
less wholesome parts of the island the complexion of the peasantry is
pallid and malarious.

Harfagr (Pulchricomus) is an epithet which may apply to both sexes. The
hair, which belongs to the class Lissótriches, subdivision Euplokomoi,
of Hæckel and Müller (Allg. Ethnographie, 1873), seldom shows the darker
shades of brown; and in the very rare cases where it is black, there is
generally a suspicion of Eskimo or Mongoloid blood. The colour ranges
from carrotty-red to turnip-yellow, from barley-sugar to the
_blond-cendré_ so expensive in the civilised markets. We find all the
gradations of Parisian art here natural; the “corn-golden,” the _blonde
fulvide_, the incandescent (“carrotty”), the _flavescent_ or
sulphur-hued, the _beurre frais_, the _fulvastre_ or lion’s mane, and
the _rubide_ or mahogany, Raphael’s favourite tint. The abominable
Hallgerda’s hair is the type of Icelandic beauty; it was “soft as silk
and so long that it came down to her waist.” Seldom straight and lank,
the _chevelure_ is usually wavy, curling at the ends, when short cut, as
in England. The women have especially thick locks, which look well
without other art but braiding, and many of the men have very bushy
hair. As in the negro, baldness does not appear till a late age, and
perhaps the Húfa (cap) by exposing the larger part of the surface acts
as a preservative; old men and women, though anile beauty is very rare,
are seen with grey and even white locks exceptionally thick. Canities
comes on later than in Scotland and Sweden, yet scant attention is paid
to the hair beyond washing at the brook. The body pile is as usual
lighter coloured.

The figure is worse than the face, and it is rendered even more uncouth
by the hideous swathing dress. The men are remarkable for
“champagne-bottle (unduly sloping) shoulders,” “broad-shouldered in the
backside,” as our sailors say. They are seldom paunchy, though some,
when settled in warmer climates, develop the _schöne corpulenz_ of the
Whitechapel sugar-baker. They have the thick, unwieldy trunks of
mountaineers, too long for the lower limbs--a peculiarity of hill-men
generally, which extends even to the Bubes of Fernando Po. The legs are
uncommonly sturdy; the knees are thick and rounded, an unpromising sign
of blood; the ankles are coarse, and the flat feet are unusually large
and ill-formed, like the hands, a point of resemblance with the
Anglo-Saxon pure and simple. Hence they are peculiarly fitted for their
only manly sport, besides skating and shooting, “Glímu list:” this
wrestling has a “chic” of its own, though very different from the style
of Cumberland and Cornwall. The gait, a racial distinction, is shambling
and ungraceful, utterly unlike the strut of Southern Europe and the roll
of the nearer East; the tread is ponderous, and the light fantastic toe
is unknown. This “wabble” and waddle result from the rarity of
walking-exercise compared with riding and boating, and from the
universal use of the seal-skin slipper. The habit becomes a second
nature: all strangers observe the national trick of rocking the body
when sitting or standing to talk, and they mostly attribute it to the
habit of weaving, when it is practised by thousands who never used a
loom. The feminine figure is graceful and comparatively slender in
youth, like the English girl of the “willowy type,” but the limbs are
large and ungainly. After a few years the “overblown” forms broaden out
coarsely. Women do not draw the plough, as in Greece and parts of
Ireland, but they must take their turn at all manner of field-work. The
_Frauen-cultus_, said to be a native of Europe north of the Alps, has
not extended here, at least in these days.[168] Hence the legs and
ankles, hands and feet, rival in size and coarseness those of the men.
As wives, they would be efficient correctives to the “fine drawn”
framework and the over-nervous diathesis of southern nations. Cold in
temperament, they are therefore, like the Irish, prolific, which may
also result from the general fish-diet. Dr Schleisner, who resided in
Iceland under the Danish Government, has proved the temperature of the
blood to be higher than amongst other races. Assuming the average of
Europeans at C. 36°·5 (= F. 97°·7), nine persons out of twelve exceeded
C. 37° (= F. 98°·6): the maximum was C. 37°·8 (= F. 100°); the minimum
was C. 36°·5, and the average was C. 37°·27 (= F. 99°·09).[169]

Intermarriage is so general that almost all the chief families are
cousins; yet among several thousands the author saw only one hunchback,
two short legs, and a few hare-lips. It is almost needless to say that
the common infanticide of pagan days is now unknown, and that we must
seek some other cause for the absence of deformity. It may be found,
perhaps, in the purity of unmixed blood, which, mentioning no other
instances, allows consanguineous marriages to the Jews, the Bedawin
Arabs, and even to the Trasteverino Romans;[170] whereas composite and
heterogeneous races like the Englishman, the Spaniard, and especially
the New Englander, cannot effect such unions without the worst
results--idiocy and physical deformity.

As regards uncleanliness in house and body, it may be said that the
Icelander holds a middle rank between the Scotchman and the Greenlander,
and he contrasts badly with the Norwegian of modern days. Personal
purity, the one physical virtue of old age, is, as a rule, sadly
neglected. Concerning this unpleasant topic, the author is compelled to
offer a few observations. The old islander could rival the seal: his
descendant, like the man of Joe Miller, will not trust himself in water
before he can swim. The traveller never sees man or woman in sea, river,
or brook, though even the lower animals bathe in hot weather. It is a
race _abominantes aquam frigidam_, and, even as pagans, their chief
objection to Christianity was the necessity of baptism: they compounded
for immersion in the Laug or hot spring,[171] and the latter is still,
though very seldom, used. Washing is confined to the face and hands; and
the tooth-brush is unknown like the nail-brush: the basins, where they
exist, are about the size of punch-bowls. Purification by water, after
Moslem fashion, is undreamed of. Children are allowed to contract
hideous habits, which they preserve as adults; for instance, picking
teeth, and not only teeth, with dinner-forks. Old travellers, who
perhaps had not observed the cellarman in the wine vaults (London Docks)
bore a hole and blow through it to start the liquor, record a peculiarly
unpleasant contrivance for decanting the milk-pan into narrow-necked
vessels; the same, in fact, adopted by the Mexican when bottling his
“Maguey;” and “Blefkenius” alludes to a practice still popular amongst
the Somal: it is only fair to own that the author never saw them. The
rooms, and especially the sick rooms, are exceedingly stifling and
impure. Those who venture upon an Icelandic bed may perhaps find clean
sheets, but they had better not look under them. The houses, except in
the towns, or the few belonging to foreign merchants, have no offices,
and all that have, leave them in a horrible condition: there is no
drainage, and the backyard is a mass of offal. Such is the effect of
climate, which makes dirt the “poor man’s jacket” in the north; which
places cleanliness next to godliness in the sub-tropical regions, and
which renders personal uncleanliness sinful and abominable to the
quasi-equatorial Hindú. Nor must we forget that the old English proverb
“Washing takes the marrow out of a man,” still has significance amongst
our peasantry.


Appreciations of national character too often depend upon the casual
circumstances which encounter and environ the traveller; and writers
upon Iceland differ so greatly upon the matter, that perhaps the safest
plan will be to quote the two extremes.

The unfriendly find the islanders serious to a fault; silent, gloomy,
and atrabilious; ungenial and morose; stubborn and eternally suspicious;
litigious and mordant; utterly deficient in adventure, doing nothing but
what necessity compels; little given to hospitality; greedy of gain, and
unscrupulous in the _quocumque modo rem_. “Gaiety,” says one, “seems
banished from their hearts, and we should suppose that all are under the
influence of that austere nature in the midst of which they were born.”

Henderson (i. 34), who represents the bright side of the picture,
enlarges upon their calm and dignified, their orderly and law-abiding
character; he denies their being of sullen and melancholy disposition;
he was surprised at the degree of cheerfulness and vivacity prevailing
among them, and that, too, not unfrequently under circumstances of
considerable external depression. They are so honest that the doors are
not locked at night in their largest town; strangely frank and
unsophisticated; ardent patriots and lovers of constitutional liberty;
fond of literature, pious, and contented; endowed with remarkable
strength of intellect and acuteness; brimful of hospitality, and not
given to any crimes, or indeed vices, except drunkenness.

And, upon the principle of allowing the Icelander to describe himself,
we may quote as an exemplar of character the following model epitaph:
“To the precious memory of A., S.’s son, who married the maiden C.,
D.’s daughter. He was calm in mind; firm in council; watchful, active,
his friends’ friend; hospitable, bountiful, upright towards all, and the
affectionate father of his house and children.”

The truth is, that although isolation has, as might be expected,
preserved a marked racial character, the islandry are much like other
Northmen. During the pagan times, and indeed until the sixteenth
century, we read “their chief characteristics were treachery, thirst for
blood, unbounded licentiousness, and inveterate detestation of order and
rule;” but we shall hardly recognise the picture now. They are truthful,
and they appear pre-eminently so to a traveller from the south of
Europe, or from the Levant. They have a sense of responsibility, and you
may believe their oaths: at the same time, they look upon all men as
liars, and they are as _desconfiados_ (distrustful) as Paulistas or
Laplanders--a mental condition apparently connected with a certain phase
of civilisation. Compared with the sharp-witted Southron, they are dull
and heavy, stolid and hard of comprehension as our labouring classes,
without the causes which affect the latter. They cleave like Hindús to
the father-to-son principle, and they have little at home that tempts
either to invention, to innovation, or to adventure. They are a
“polypragmatic peasantry;” the love of lawsuits still distinguishes the
Norman in France after ages of separation from the parent stock. Even in
private debate they obstinately adhere to the letter, and shun the
spirit: an Icelander worsted in argument takes up some verbal
distinction or secondary point, and treats it as if it were of primary
importance. An exaggeration of this peculiarity breeds the _Querelle

Another peculiarity of the islandry is a bitterly satirical turn of
mind, a quality noted of old. We rarely meet with a “Thorkel Foulmouth,”
but we see many a Skarphèdinn who delights and who takes pride in
dealing those wounds of the tongue which according to the Arabs never
heal. An ancient writer gives a fair measure of what could be done by
Níðvísur[172] (lampoons), which never spared even the kings. They
threatened Harold the Dane to write as many lampoons upon him as there
were noses[173] in Iceland (Ólaf Tryggvason’s Saga, xxxvii.), and
escaped by magic from an invasion. Nor did they spare even the gods; for
instance, Hjalti sings (Burnt Nial’s Saga):

    “I will not serve an idle log,
       For one, I care not which;
     But either Odin is a dog
       Or Freya is a----.”

The term “Tað-skegglingar,” Dung-beardlings, applied by a woman to
certain youths whom she hated, caused a small civil war. When Dr Wormius
was Rector Magnificus of the Copenhagen University, an Icelandic student
complained of a libellous fellow-countryman. The poet, when summoned,
confessed the authorship; contended that it contained no cause of
offence, and, with characteristic plausibility and cunning, talked over
the simple Vice-Chancellor. Thereupon the plaintiff in tears told the
Rector that his fair fame was for ever lost, explaining at the same time
the “fables, figures, and other malicious designs under which the
malignity of the satire was couched;” and even the “spells and
sorceries” which threatened his life. Thereupon Dr Wormius took high
ground, and by citing certain severe laws against witchcraft, persuaded
the poet to tear up his satire and never to write or to speak of it
again. “The student was ravished with joy,” because he had made his
peace with a pest who could exceed in power of annoyance Aristophanes,
Horace, and Juvenal.

The courage, steadfastness, and pertinacity of the Icelander are proved
by his annals, and if he does not show these qualities in the present
day, it is because they are overlaid by circumstances. As regards the
relations of the sexes, we find nothing in the number of illegitimate
children which justifies the poet in singing of the “moral north.”[174]
Iceland in fact must be reckoned amongst the

    “Littora quæ fuerunt castis inimica puellis;”

and although she has improved upon the reckless licentiousness of the
Saga days, ichthyophagy and idleness must do much to counterbalance the
“sun-clad power of chastity.” The “unsophistication” of the race is
certainly on the wane; there are doubtless

    “Honest men from Iceland to Barbadoes,”

but the islander is pre-eminent for a “canniness” which equals, if it
does not exceed, that of the Yankee, the lowland Scotch, and the
Maltese. And what he gains he can keep with a most tenacious hold.

The statistics of crime in Iceland are peculiarly unsatisfactory. As the
Journal will show, many a man goes free who would be prosecuted and
severely punished farther south. Traveller after traveller has asserted,
“it is in a large measure to their widespread home education that we
must attribute the fine moral character of the Icelanders;” and capital
has been made of the fact that the old stone-prison became the
Government House. The Danish Parliamentary Reports (p. 255, vol. xlvii.
for 1837-1838) contain details concerning the number of persons
arraigned and convicted, sentenced, and acquitted by the tribunals.
During a period of seven years (1827-1834), there were but 292
indictments on the island; of these 216 ended in conviction; 20 cases
were suspended; 32 were dismissed, and 56 were acquitted. Of the 216
convictions, 79 were for “carnal offences;” 86 for larceny; 15 for
transgressing sanitarial laws; 5 for murder, and 31 for various
offences, such as false-witness and receiving stolen goods. The last
statistics in 1868 give 46 criminal cases (37 males, 9 females) for the
whole island, and in 37 conviction and sentence followed; 34 were for
theft, 1 for forgery, 2 for adultery, besides 29 were fined for
disturbance of the peace and for offences against public order. There
were also 57 cases of adultery and seduction; 24 of these were fined,
and in 33 cases the fine was remitted (Skýrslur um Landshagi, v. 193,

The suicide,[175] arson, and infant exposure of the republican and pagan
ages are no longer heard of; vagrancy is hardly an offence; the state of
the country prevents technical robbery; and forgery does not belong to
its present state of civilisation. It is peculiar that almost all
classes believe in and fear a tribe of outlaws or bandits who occupy the
deserts of the interior--these are the days of Robin Hood come again.


The social condition of Iceland has been compared with Lord Macaulay’s
pictures of the Highlanders a hundred and fifty, and of the English
three hundred years ago--the differences are more salient than the
points of resemblance. The proverb “Heimskt er heimaðlia barn” (homely
is the housebred child) produced a habit of voyaging and travelling; and
wide wandering made the homes centres of refinement: the same practice
in the Hebrides astonished Dr Johnson. Unhappily it is now no longer the
popular habit; it has gone the way of the manly exercises, bowls,
quoits, swimming, and practising weapons, which distinguished the heroic
age. With much aristocratic feeling there is no aristocratic order
properly so called; the earl, the baron, and the clan-chief are equally
unknown; whilst the parson, like the priest in Slavonic countries, is
the modern pattern to the Thane or Churl. As in the United States, there
is no gentlemen class except the liberal professions, and even the
clergy until the present generation were farmers and fishermen,
labourers, mechanics, and so forth, often poorer and shabbier than the
laity. The official circles are too small to form a _beamten-kreis_; the
squirearchy is represented by the franklins or peasant lairds, who no
longer correspond with the ancient Udallers; the merchants are chiefly

Under these circumstances we can hardly expect much general refinement,
nor the particular phase which produces men whose life consists in
adorning society, and women born to wear diamonds and to be beautiful.
Yet the Icelander, franklin or pauper, has none of the roughness and
rudeness which we remark in the manners of the Canadians and of the
lowland Scotch. “No tax is levied upon civility,” and their mutual
regard for one another’s feelings, though sometimes carried to an
inconvenient extent, is the essence of true politeness. The intercourse
is rather ceremonious than “free and easy,” and travellers deride such
quaint mixture as “You lie, my blessed (or beloved) friend!” The abuse
of mutual regard is a servile fear of making enemies; they often tamely
put up with injuries, as the Brazilian submits to be plundered by a
richer neighbour, and the Syrian swallows his wrath rather than offend
one who may some day become a Pasha.

The Icelander is a large-brained and strong-brained man, essentially
slow and solid in point of intellect, and capable of high culture, of
wide learning, and of deep research. This lesson is taught by the whole
of his literature; although the muse no longer sings of love and war,
she is by no means mute--her turn is now the theological, the
philological, and the scientific. Arngrímr Jónsson well describes his
countrymen as “Ad totius Europæ res historicas lyncæi.” But the islander
never attains his full development except out of his own country, and
this condition dates from past ages. Throughout the north, from
England[176] and Val-land (France and Italy), to Mikligarðr
(Constantinople),[177] he has distinguished himself and proved

    “That every country is a brave man’s home.”

Abroad, his emulation is excited, his ambition is roused, and his slow
sturdy nature is stirred up to unusual energy. At home he can command no
serious education, nor can he escape from the indolent and phlegmatic,
the dawdling and absolutely unconditioned slowness of the country, where
time is a positive nuisance, to be killed as it best can. In Iceland the
author met several Danes, but only two Icelanders, who spoke good
English, French, or German; it is far otherwise in Europe, and
especially, we need not say, in England.

As the notices of emigration will show, Iceland, like Ireland, is
instinctively seeking her blessing and salvation, the “racial baptism.”
One traveller records the “inexpressible attachment of the islanders for
their native country.” Their _Sehn sucht_ in a mountainless land, and
the time-honoured boast, “Hið besta land solin skínr uppá” (Iceland is
the best land upon which the sun shines).[178] So Bjarni Thorarensen
sings, “World-old Iceland, beloved foster-land, thou wilt be dear to thy
sons, as long as sea girds earth, men love women, and sun shines on
hills.” But all the people of all the poorest countries console
themselves in the same way, and geographical ignorance confirms an idea
which to the traveller becomes simply ludicrous: moreover, northerners,
it need hardly be said, gain more by removal, and therefore emigrate
more readily than southerners. The latter express themselves

    Ἀνδρὶ γάρ τοι, κἄν ῦπερξάλλῃ κακοῖς
    Οὐν ἔστι θρεψαντος ἤδιον πέδον.

And “Ulysses ad Ithacæ suæ saxa properat, quemadmodum Agamemnon ad
Mycenarum nobiles muros; nemo enim patriam amat quia magna, sed quia
sua” (Seneca), They are happy at home; why should they leave home?

The Icelander cannot be called degenerate. He is what he was. But whilst
the world around, or rather beyond him, has progressed with giant
strides, he has perforce remained stationary. His mother country forbids
him to decuple the human hand and arm by machinery; the enormous
water-power of his rivers is useless, and thinness of population bars
out the appliances of civilisation--how can he expect to hold a fair
place in the race of life? Moreover, like another small and heroic
kingdom, modern Greece, Iceland has suffered from ages of virtually
foreign dominion, not to say tyranny, and from restrictions of trade,
which, small as items, combined to form a system of grinding oppression.
His brightest days were those when, like the Goth and Hun, the Arab and
the Tartar, he devoted himself to plundering the wealthy weak. But the
times for these nomad incursions are past, until at least China can
renew them; and he hopelessly sank when no longer able to harry the
southern islands, to break down London bridge, to plunder and massacre
Luna, and to spread

    “Beneath Gibraltar to the Lybian sands.”

His future career is in his own hands, and improvement must be sought in
extended stock-breeding, in better use of the fisheries, and in
extensive emigration. With free institutions he will bring to the task
the same high and steadfast spirit which distinguished him in his prime.
Anthropologists justly object to the popular theory of a nation
degenerating, unless, indeed, there be a mixture of foreign and inferior
blood; but they see everywhere in history the decline and fall of races,
whenever the stronger neighbouring peoples rise to the same or to a
higher level of civilisation. The Roman and the Athenian still greatly
resemble the conquerors of Europe and Asia, but in those days the Gauls
and the Germans, the Scandinavians and the Britons, were mere
barbarians, uneducated and undisciplined. Now all are on a level, and,
as we saw in the late Franco-Prussian war, the physically strongest
wins--the north beats, and will ever beat, the south.

The islanders, like their brother Scandinavians and the Teutons, had no
idea of towns. We may apply to them the description of Tacitus (Germ.,
c. xvi.), “Nullas Germanorum populis urbes habitari satis notum est ...
colunt discreti ac diversi, ut fons, ut campus, ut nemus placuit.” In
Norway the first town, Níðar-ós, _par excellence_ called Kaupang, was
built by the two Olaves (Ó. Tryggvason or Trusty-son, and Ó. Helgi the
Saint) in A.D. 994-1030; the real founder of cities was Olave the Quiet
(1067-1093). Thus in old Norse codes the Town-law is an appendix to the
Land-law. As late as 1752, Reykjavik was a single isolated farm.

It is strange how little the style of Iceland life has altered since the
time (1767) when M. de Kerguelen wrote his short and lively sketch--it
seems to be fixed like the language. As now, the island was divided into
four provinces, of which each had eighteen to twenty counties, and every
county fifteen to sixteen parishes. The Sýslur were under bailiffs, all
subject to the grand bailiff (Governor), and to the sovereign council
(Althing). The chief civil officer and the royal seneschal (treasurer),
who collected the taxes, reported to a governor-general residing at
Copenhagen--he is now represented by the minister for Iceland. There
were two bishops, one for the south (Skálholt), and another for the
north (Hólar); there is at present only one in the capital, but the
people would willingly see, and will see, the older status restored.

The Iceland farm-house[179] was then, as now, a set of buildings
scattered over the “tún,” or infield. The abode was entered by a
passage (Bæjar-dyr) six feet wide, with a cross-raftered roof, and this
“Skemma” was lighted by windowlets (Skjágluggi) of “Himna” (membrane),
transparent parchment of cattle’s bladder; by Likna-belgur, ewe’s
chorion; by Vats-belgur, sheep’s amnion; or by Skæna, inner membranes of
the stomach, a little more opaque, or, rarely, by bulls’ eyes of glass.
They were not the only tenements in the eighteenth century which had no

    “Save one dull pane, that, coarsely patched, gives way
     To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day.”

Fronting the common entrance was the Baðstofa (public room, literally
meaning bathroom), measuring fourteen ells by eight, in which the
household worked at dressing wool and weaving cloth. It led to a
bedroom, where the house master and mistress slept, the children and
servants occupying the garrets and cock-lofts. On each side of the lobby
were two rooms, the kitchen (Eld-hús, opposed to the stofa or gynæceum),
and the store-room or Búr (our “bower,” and the Scottish “byre”); the
dairy and the guest-chamber (Gestaskáli). At present the entrance is
usually faced by the kitchen, and at right angles there is a covered
gallery or tunnel, upon which the doors open: thus the rooms are not
wholly dark, even when they lack glass, which is rare.[180] The
outhouses (Úti-hús) were the stables, the stores (Geymslu-hús), the
byres, the sheep pens (Fjár-hús), the forge, and, sometimes, the
carpenter’s shop. The house (Bæjar-hás or Heima-hús) was built of
planks, which, coming from Copenhagen, were too expensive to be used as
flooring. The only fire was in a stove; the fuel was of turf and
cow-“chips,” and the interior was never dry--the unrheumatic traveller
will not find that damp of which the many complained. The furniture
consisted of a table and chests acting chairs; Niels Horrebow, the Dane
who saw everything _en beau_, added wainscots, glasses, and a variety of
luxuries. Johann Anderson, afterwards burgomaster of Hamburg, by no
means wore the rose-coloured spectacles.

“The people appeared mild, good-natured, and humane, but distrustful and
_addicted to drink_. They were very fond of chess, and good coasting
sailors, _but not very courageous_”--no wonder, considering their craft!
They soon became infirm; they were old at fifty, and they rarely reached
eighty. “Landsarsak” (Landfarsótt[181]) was the name given to all fatal
illnesses usually arising from scurvy, wet feet, and want of exercise.
Their hay was not housed, but heaped in stacks two yards square, upon
raised mounds, at short distances, and covered with sloping turf to lead
the rain into surrounding ditches. In summer food was of cods’-heads,
boiled like all other provisions: in winter the peasants ate
sheeps’-heads kept in (fermented) vinegar of sour milk (Sýra), or in
juice of sorrel (Súra),[182] and other plants, the mutton being sold.
Bread was not the staff of life, being eaten only on high days and
holidays, that is, at births, marriages, and deaths: the richer sort
baked cakes, broad and thin, like sea biscuits, of black rye flour from

The men dressed like sailors in breeches, jackets acting coats, and
vests of good broadcloth, with four to six rows of buttons, always
metal, copper or silver. The fishermen wore overalls, coarse smooth
waistcoats, large paletots of sheepskin or leather, made water-proof by
grease or fish-liver oil; leather overalls, stockings, and native shoes.
The women were clad in jackets and gowns, petticoats and aprons of
woollen frieze, over which was thrown a “Hempa,” or wide black robe,
like a Jesuit frock, trimmed with velvet binding. The wealthy added
silver ornaments down the length of the dress, and braided the other
articles with silk ribbons, galloon, or velvets of various colours. The
ruff was a stiff collar from three to four inches broad, of very fine
stuff, embroidered with gold or silver. The head-dress was a cone like a
fool’s-cap or sugar-loaf, two to three feet tall, kept in place by a
coarse cloth, and covered with a finer kerchief. The soleless shoes of
ox-hide or sheep-skin, made by the women out of a single piece, were
strapped to the instep.

The wives were not so strong as the husbands, yet they had the hardest
work in haymaking. Their labour was difficult, and they “kept their beds
for a week.” At baptism a bit of linen dipped in milk was placed in the
babe’s mouth, and the child was breeched at the end of two years.


Population was checked by not allowing marriage to a man who did not own
a hundred of land or a six-oared boat in trim: this wholesome law,
however, is becoming obsolete as the ferocious old code which prevented
the propagation of paupers. The number of births is about 2940 to 2020
deaths per annum: thus the annual increase is 920, but the mortality of
children is, or perhaps we should say was, disproportionate. In 1858,
489 upon the island died between the ages of 1 to 5, and 68 between 5 to
10--a total of 557. During the same year the number of illegitimate to
legitimate births was 15:100: this figure appears pretty constant, but
rather on the increase than the reverse. In the early nineteenth
century, Hooker gives 383 illegitimates in 2516 births = 15⅕ per cent. =
nearly to 1:7--a high average, which he explains by the huddling
together of families. Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (1866) gives 1:6·9 of births.
Statistics of the years between 1860 and 1870 give 20:100, or 1:5. The
Consular Report of 1870-71 asserts that “in every 100 births there were
17 of illegitimate children,” and shows the following figures: 1866,
17·7; 1867, 16·7; 1868, 17·2; 1869, 16·2; 1870, 16·8.

Of 2937 children, only 48 were born (1858) of mothers under 20; 23 were
legitimate, and 25 were not: 458 had mothers aged 20 to 25: 933, of
whom 764 were born in wedlock and 169 were not, had mothers aged 25 to
30: the mothers of 703 new-born children were 30 to 35 years old; those
of 549, from 35 to 40; those of 221 from 40 to 45; and, lastly, those of
25, from 45 to 50.

In the same year, 3 men committed suicide; 65 were drowned; 17 perished
by accidents, and 1939 died of disease. The smallest number of deaths
(128) occurred in February, the coldest month; and the greatest number
(205) in July, the warmest.

There is little of novelty in the religious ceremonies accompanying
baptisms, marriages, and funerals, which are those of the Augsburg rite;
but there is something to say upon the subject of names. Until the
middle of the last century, the surnames, as in olden Kent, were all
patronymics or matronymics; such was the ancient fashion of Europe,
especially of England and Germany, a custom still preserved by the great
Slav race (_vich_ or _ich_), and by the modern Greeks, who
prefer-_poulo_ and who almost ignore the ancient-_ides_. It is notorious
how Linne (Linnæus), the prince of naturalists, was prompted by the
growing use of family names to devise the generic and specific
distinctions, which superseded a system cumbrous and intricate as that
of a Chinese dictionary. In very thinly populated countries, where every
man knew his neighbour, it was possible to be called Jón Jónsson[183]
and Caroline Jónsdóttir, but so rude a plan would not serve elsewhere.
We still find it in the country parts of Iceland, and, curious to say,
the people are returning to the old fashion of taking the paternal name
as surname. The matronymic, _e.g._, Sveinn Ástriðarson, in early times
was assumed when the mother outlived the father: it was never a mark of
base blood; as amongst the Spaniards, where El Hijo de ruin padre, Toma
el apelido de la madre.

In 1855, a curious official paper was published under the title “Um
Mannaheiti á Íslandi.” It shows that the island has only 63 native
surnames, and 530 men’s and 529 women’s Christian names: no wonder that
“nicknames” are common as amongst Moslems and Brazilians. Hence local
cognomens are also much used, as Peter of Engey, and Jón of the
“Strönd,” _i.e._, the coast from Hafnafjörð to Keblavik. The popular
address would be Herra Bonde (Mr Farmer), Herra Hreppstjóri (Mr
Constable), or “Good day, comrade!” sounding very republican, and
accompanied by a resounding kiss.

Every fifth man appears to affect, in one of five forms, the fourth
Evangelist. Jón (Johns, 4827), Jóhannes (498), Jóhann (494), Hannes
(154), and Hans (80), making a total of 5053. On the other hand, whilst
Odin has disappeared, Thór, in compounded shape, enters into 2010 male
and 1875 female “Christian” names = 3885. Guðrún[184] numbers 4363;
Marguerite, 1654; yet Marias, elsewhere so common,[185] are only 384;
and Rosas decline to 269. Amongst historical names, we find 122 Sæmundr;
of Biblical names, even the quaintest and the most Hebraical, such as
Samson, Samuel, and Solomon, Jael, and Judith, are here common as in all
Protestant countries: Catholics more wisely avoid them, leaving them to
their original Jewish owners. The western counties affect the strangest
terms, such as Petra, Petrea, Petrina, Petulína, and Tobía, a feminine.
And throughout the island there is arising a new fashion of combining
names almost as ingenious as that of the Latter-Day Saints. For
instance, the daughter of Brynjólfur by Thórdís will be called Bryndís;
the son of Sæmundr by Elina is named Elínmundr. Of course nothing can be
more barbarous, but what does “fashion” care for barbarism?

In pagan times the wife was often assisted by Friðlas or
supernumeraries, and, though she was liable to be exchanged or loaned,
as was the case amongst the polished Hindús, the Greeks, and the
Romans, she could put away her baron for so slight an offence as wearing
a chemisette, or any other article of feminine attire. The simple
process was to declare before witnesses that they twain ceased to be one
flesh. The marriage tie sat almost as lightly upon Icelanders as upon
Scandinavians generally, even in the Catholic days: since the
introduction of Lutheranism, it has, as we might expect, been still less
binding.[186] We may therefore conclude that a certain love of change is
in such matters a characteristic of the race. At present every _peine
infamante_ allows divorce; and incompatibility of temper, shown by three
years of separation, with the consent of the mayor, is a plea of
sufficient force to claim from the Minister of Justice at Copenhagen
freedom _a mensâ et thoro_. Both parties are able to remarry, and they
may be reunited, unless they have misconducted themselves whilst living
apart; in this case they must obtain a dispensation from the
chancellerie of the empire.


It is calculated that the yearly deaths at Reykjavik average 59-60, and
this figure, if correct, is high for the population, in 1870 only 2024,
now at most 2500. For instance, the mean of London being 19 per 1000,
and all England 20·8, to say nothing of Glastonbury, Reykjavik, with the
most favourable calculations, would be 24.[187] With more attention to
hygiene, the headquarter village should not show a death-rate exceeding
17:1000--the beau-ideal of the modern sanitarian.

The list of diseases is so extensive that little beyond the names can be
mentioned. They result mainly from the utter absence of hygiene; from
want of cleanliness; from bad living, hardship, and fatigue; and from
exposure to cold, especially after living in close and heated rooms. The
latter is a fertile source of ill-health: so at St Petersburgh the
higher classes suffer from the maladies of Calcutta, hepatalgia,
jaundice, and spleen-enlargments; and, after a certain number of
“seasons,” they must seek health in the Crimea, or in Southern Europe.
Hence the fondness of Icelanders for sour food which equals that of the
acid-loving citizens of Damascus. The pudding of the island is Skyr,
which the Dictionary wrongly translates “curdled milk, curds,” and which
Rafn derives from the Sanskrit Kshira (milk): it is the Khir of Sind and
Belochistan; the Laban of Arabia; the Dahin of Hindostan; the
Saure-milch of South Germany; the Kisalina of Styria and Slavland, and
the Hattelkit or Corstorphine Cream of Scotland.[188] Icelanders eat it
with sugar, which gives it a sickly taste. Hence the use of acid butter;
of Mysuost, or whey cheese, brown, and not unlike guava cheese; of
Valle, fermented whey, somewhat like Koumiss; of Sýra, or sour whey,
acting small beer, and used in pickles like vinegar; of Súr mjólk, or
sour milk; and of Blanda, the favourite drink, half whey and half water,
into which blueberries, and black, crake, or crow berries (Icel.
Krækjuber, _Empetrum baccis nigris_) are sometimes infused. And hence,
finally, the use of Korn-súra (_Polygonum viviparum_), _Cochlearia_
(_officinalis_ and _Danica_), trefoil (_T. repens_), _Sedum Acre_ (house
leek), and other social plants, which are considered antiseptic and

The skin diseases are alopecia, herpes, and psora inveterate as on the
Congo River. “St Anthony’s fire” was cured by binding live earth-worms
upon the part afflicted. Scurvy (Skyrbjúgr) results from “thinness of
blood,” induced by want of proper nourishment, especially by the overuse
of salt and dried meat and fish: the increased growth of vegetables, not
to speak of medicines, has much modified its malignancy. Measles and
scarlatina are rare, but periodical attacks of smallpox, which often
appear in history,[189] still compel the capital to convert one of the
best houses into an hospital. In 1872, it was occupied by French
fishermen only; there was no case among the natives. The author did not
see a single instance of the protean and the most cosmopolitan of
diseases, whose various phases are known as Lepra Arabum, Leuce, and Mal
Rouge; Leontasis, or Facies leonina; Elephantias, Elephantiasis, and
Barbadoes Leg. It is known to old writers as “Icelandic scurvy,” to the
islanders as Lík-thrá-sótt, or corpse-pang, which Henderson translates,
a rotten, rancid corpse;[190] Holdsveiki, or flesh-weakness, and
Spitalska (’Spital sickness), the latter being the biblical term. When
the extremities drop off, the term generally applied was Limafallsíki.

In the ninth century, leprosy required some 19,000 hospitals in Europe;
and it has perhaps lingered longest in the Færoes and in Iceland. Here,
curious to observe, its very headquarters were about Skagi and
Reykjanes, the best and mildest climates. A few cases still remain, but
the establishments built in Catholic days have not been kept up by the
Reformation, perhaps showing the want to be less urgent. The horrid
malady is evidently dying a natural death, like others which have
yielded their places to new comers, or which are gradually disappearing,
without leaving issue. The best authorities explain the change by the
use of bromide of potassium and the increase of vegetable diet. And to
the question of Aretæus, “Sed quænam medela excogitari poterit, quæ
Elephantem, tam ingens malum, expugnari digna est?” Iceland answers,
fearless of Cobbett, the potato. The latter has taken the place of the
old-fashioned simples, the tops and berries of juniper (_J. communis_),
of _Dryas octopelata_, of _Vaccinium myrtillus_ (bilberries), of
Sanguisorbs, and of similar sub-acid tonics.

It is impossible to enter into a subject which has filled many a volume,
but it may briefly be stated that no cosmical cause of leprosy has ever
been discovered; and that what seems to account for its origin in one
place, completely fails in another. India, especially Malabar,
attributes it to biliary derangements, caused by fish and milk diet. The
Brazil, like the Jews, the Moslems, and other pig-haters, refers it to
pork; Syria and Palestine, ignoring the “impure,” declare it to result
from atavism and inheritance. Iceland remarks that it was worst when men
wore woollen garments; and similarly Sir George Staunton assigns the
modern exemption of Europe to the general use of linen.

Peirce declares that syphilis (introduced, according to Uno Von Troil,
about A.D. 1753), chlorosis, mania à potu, caries of the teeth and
intermittent fevers are unknown, or almost unknown. He is certainly
incorrect with respect to the latter complaint; typhus and various
febrile affections are very common in the finest and warmest months,
when many of the peasantry show signs of “malaria.” Pleurisy is
popularly supposed to be infectious. Rachitis, called in Norway the
“English sickness,” because it is supposed to have passed over in late
years from Britain to France, Holland, and Germany; scrofula and
consumption are rare. Chiragra is attributed by old writers to “handling
wet fishing tackle in cold weather.”[191] The trismus infantium seu
neonatorum, called “ginklofi” when opisthenous, and “klums” if
emprosthonous, has raged like a plague, especially at Heimaey, one of
the Vestmannaeyjar. The children, contrary to the practice of all wild
peoples, were weaned after the first week, and were fed upon the flesh
of the foul mollie, or fulmar-petrel: the same was once the case at St
Kilda, with similar results. At Heimaey, 64 per cent. of babes have died
between the fifth and the twelfth days after birth: since a medical man
was stationed there, the tetanus has been arrested; and of 20 births,
only a small proportion has been lost.

The other complaints are catarrhs, influenzas (where the stars have
little “influence”), and chronic rheumatisms, the latter an especial
plague; hysteria, gout, and arthrites, constipation and diarrhœas, very
prevalent during spring. The endemic echinococcus and cysticercus,
affecting one-seventh of the population, are subjects of remarkable
interest, which have been treated at considerable length. No less than
seven species of hydatids have been detected in dogs. An able analysis
of writings upon these internal cysts, causing “liver-complaints” and
“staggers,” will be found in Schmidt’s Jahrbücher der in-und
Ausländischen Gesammten Medecin (No. V., Band 134 of 1867, and No. X.,
Band 152 of 1871). The principal northern authorities quoted are
Hjaltalín, Jón Finsen, Krabbe, Thorarensen, and Skaptason.




All Icelanders can read and write more or less, they learn the three R’s
to say nothing of the fourth R(evolution); but this alphabetic state of
society may consist, as in the Paraguayan Republic under Dr Francia and
the two Presidents Lopez, with a profound state of barbarism. In
Iceland, however, the press is not trammeled; and the newspaper, as will
appear, holds its own. During the last generation it was otherwise.
Education, a domestic growth, ignored modern science and especially
mechanics; reading, indeed, was confined to Saga-history and theology,
both equally detrimental to mental training and to intellectual
progress. It is still of home manufacture: the high school exists but
not the school, and in so thinly populated a country we can hardly
expect the latter. At Reykjavik private tuition may be found; and
throughout the country some clergymen prepare scholars. But the pursuit
of knowledge is evidently carried on under difficulties; “their learning
is like bread in a besieged town, every man gets a mouthful, but no man
a bellyful.”

Christian III., the Reformer, ordered a school to be built near each
cathedral church--a Moslem action which did him honour. Skálholt had
forty, and Hólar thirty-four students when the high school, which, as in
the United States, is called the “Latin school,” was removed to
Reykjavik in 1801; in 1805 it was transferred to Bessastaðir, and in
1846 it again returned to the capital. Bishop Pètursson (p. 365, et
seq.) gives the fullest account of the establishment till 1840. In 1834
Dillon found the whole number reduced to forty, of whom some received
stipends of $33, and others of $60 per annum. In 1872 the total of
scholars was sixty-three; the maximum being eighty-eight and the minimum
fifty-eight; of these forty are distributed amongst the dormitories, and
board with different families in the town; twenty-three are day scholars
residing with their families or friends. The lads matriculate after
confirmation, if from the country; and the usual ages are fourteen to
seventeen. They are separated into four classes (Icel. Bekkur; Dan.
Classe), but No. 3 is subdivided into A and B; thus making the total
five. No. 4 also demands similar treatment, but room is wanted and also
money to fee extra professors. No. 1, which is the junior class, studies
Icelandic, Danish, Thýsku[192] (German), and Latin, as far as Cæsar and
Phædrus; Bible history and theology, general history, geography, and
zoology. No. 2 continues these items and introduces the student to
mathematics, Greek, and English. No. 3 adds geology, mineralogy, and
botany; and No. 4 French and general information. The course lasts six
years, ending with the maximum age of twenty-three; after which the
scholar is “demissus” and can become a “candidat” of theology, or devote
himself to law or physic. The shorter holidays are from December 23 to
January 3, and from Holy Wednesday to the Wednesday after Easter Sunday.
The long vacation is that of our venerable universities, originally
designed for allowing poor scholars to beg and to take part in the
all-important labours of ingathering the harvest; between July 1 and
October 1 being the busy time at home: moreover, the lads have a long
and a hard way to travel. The high school year is thus of nine months.

The students are known by their “signums,” a lyre in circle borne upon
the cap-band, but some appear to prefer the cross as a badge. In the
college they rise at 6.30 A.M., and if not dressed and ready by 7 A.M.
they are reprimanded. At that hour they drink coffee with sugar and
milk, and fifty minutes afterwards they go to chapel, which lasts till 8
A.M. The morning lectures now begin, and at 10.45 A.M. they are
dismissed to a breakfast of coffee, bread and butter, cold fish, and
sometimes meat.[193] The pupils do not take their meals in the school
building, but at the different houses where they board. No stimulants
whatever are allowed, nor must the pupils smoke, snuff, nor chew in or
about the buildings, but of course they can indulge outside it. The
second lecture then continues from 11.15 to 2 P.M., after which two
hours are given to recreation and dinner of hot fish or meat. Till 7
P.M. the studies for the next day are prepared; and supper, cold like
the breakfast, leads to more private reading between 8 P.M. and 10 P.M.,
at which time all boarders must be in college. The day ends in the
chapel, hymns accompanying the prayers; and all are in bed at 10.45, or
11 P.M. on Sundays and festivals. Thus there are five and a half hours
of lectures; five of preparation for the next day, and seven hours
thirty minutes for sleep. Punishments are confined to degradation in the
class and, in extreme cases, to expulsion; of course there is no
flogging, and the prison and unsalutary semi-starvation of the French
college are equally unknown. Fasts are not kept, even after the fashion
of Oxford, which, in the author’s day, noted “abstinence” by the
addition of fish.

Public examinations take place every year about mid-June; they are held
in the first-floor front hall of the building where the Althing meets.
They begin with writing, a professor walking about to prevent
“cribbing,” and they end in _vivâ voce_. These determine the students’
claims to the stipendia, of which there are three grades. There are
twenty-six Heil-Ölmusa[194] (whole scholarships), each of $100 per
annum; twenty-four Hálf-Ölmusa of $50, and four Quarter-Ölmusa, the
latter often not distributed. Moreover, those who proceed for study to
the University of Copenhagen are entitled to $15 per mensem.

The Latin school (Latínuskóli i Reykjaviki) publishes yearly
transactions, in a short yellow pamphlet, Icelandic and Danish (Skýrsla
um hinn Lærðaskóla Reykj. Einar Thorðarson). In that of 1871 we find the
following names:

The Rector is the only official who lives in the college, and he
receives a salary of $1816 per annum. The actual tenant (1872)[195] is
Hr Jens Sigurðsson, brother to Jón, the O’Connell of Iceland, and he has
made himself eminent by his historical studies.

The Yfirkennari, or head-master, lectures the fourth, or highest class,
in Greek, Latin, and French, with a salary of $1192. The present
occupant is Hr Jón Thorkelsson.

Of the following professors (Skólakennari, Dan. Adjunct), three receive
a total of $3756 per annum = $1192, including house-rent; the
theological lecturer (Prestaskólakennari, Dan. Docent) about the same
sum; while the two assistants receive something more than half ($612).
Their names and duties are:

1. Haldór Kr. Friðriksson, who lectures all the classes in Icelandic,
Danish, German, English, and geography.

2. Gísli Magnússon, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; the Hebrew, formerly so
much affected, is now become almost obsolete; there are only eighteen
pupils at the priests’ seminary, and a single Oriental student on the
island, Rev. Thorwaldr Björnsson, whom we shall presently meet. It is
curious how those who hold to “the Bible and nothing but the Bible,”
neglect the Oriental text for translations, which are so far from being
correct that the best often utterly pervert the meaning; and, stranger
still, that the vast stores of exegetical and hermeneutical learning
should still lie locked up in the forbidden Talmud,[196] and in the
pages of Jewish commentators.

3. Jónas Guðmundsson, in Latin, Danish, and theology.

4. Haldór Guðmundsson, in arithmetic, physics, mathematics, and botany.

5. Hannes Árnason, in geology and minerology.

The three extra professors are:

1. Procurator P. Melsteð, in Danish history and geography; he is a
Tímakennari (Dan. Timelærer) paid by the hour, 40 skillings.

2. Saungkennari (Dan. Musiklærer), the organist, P. Guðjónsson, who
receives annually $250, without house-rent.

3. Kennari i leikfimi (Dan. Gymnastiklærer), C. P. Stunberg, said to be
a retired officer in the Danish Army; his salary is the same as No. 3.

And, finally, there is the inspector with a pay of $220 per annum.

The only unequivocal success of an Iceland education appears to be the
hand-writing; it is caligraphic as in the Brazil and Paraguay; probably
for the same reason, namely, that time is not money. As will appear in
the Journal, a smattering of modern languages has been allowed gradually
to usurp the place of Latin, which few even of the priests now speak
fluently--the traveller frequently regrets the change. The Rob Roy
canoeist finds the classical tongue a meagre vehicle for intercourse; he
would not do so if he knew the neo-Latin languages, and would give an
hour per day for a few weeks to the colloquies of Erasmus, pronounced
Italianistically, and to conversation with a foreign priest. Professor
Blackie proposes Greek as the language of the future; we shall next
expect to see Sanskrit or Chinese[197] advocated: the difficulties of
the ancient dialect, with its duals and middles, are enormous, and no
such thing as modern Greek yet exists.[198]

The Icelandic pronunciation of the Latin vowels is Italian rather than
French, _e.g._, _Dominum_ (like “room,” not Dominom) and _náútá_, a
sailor, not nota: _j_, after vernacular fashion, is equivalent to _y_
(ejus = eyus); and _g_ in _gener_, _regio_, and _gymnast_ are hard
(_get_, not _George_). The stranger must carefully conform to these
peculiarities or he will not be understood.

Icelanders have two grievances connected with the Latin school, one not
unreasonable, the other urgent. They complain that youths learn bad
habits at the capital, and parents prefer the days of the “schola
Bessestadensis.” Moreover, they declare that the suppression of the
northern school has caused loss of time and money--families being
obliged to send their children from the eastern quarter almost round the
island viâ the north to Reykjavik. The Danish Government could hardly do
better than to restore the northern centre of learning, and, perhaps,
transferring the southern to Thingvellir would improve the present state
of things.

Art simply does not exist in Iceland, and, to judge from the little
museum of Reykjavik, it was always rude as that of Central Africa: the
only attempt appears to be on the part of the goldsmith. There is a
single painter at Reykjavik, and his career has been cramped by
inability to study in lands where the sun shines. The sculptor and the
architect have no business here. Even music and dancing, especially the
latter, which reminds us of that “accursed thing,” the dancing-master
lately denounced in Argyleshire, have hardly passed, except at
Reykjavik, from the savage to the barbarous stage. We read of the Fidla
or violin, and of a Lang Spil like that of the Scoto-Scandinavian
islands, an oblong box about two feet three inches wide, and ending in a
“fiddle-head;” the three steel wires were either scraped with a bow, or
were scratched with the forefinger, the instrument being placed upon a
table. But local colour has departed and we hear only that piano which
civilised men just prefer to the guillotine, an occasional flute, and
some form of “musical bellows,” harmonium, or accordion. The traveller’s
ears are never regaled with the Norwegian Ranz des Vaches, nor the
plaintive airs which have struck earlier visitors. And the people appear
to be deficient both in time and tune; their lullabies are horrible;
“Hieland Laddie” is painfully distorted, and the snatches of song are in
the true “rum-ti-tiddy” style, grateful, perhaps, to Dan Dinmont, but
assuredly to none but he.

A little volume of 180 pages published by the Icelandic Literary
Society, at Copenhagen (Islenzk Sálmasaungs og Messubók), and costing
$1, suggested that there might be some remnants of music handed down
from the past. But it proved to be merely a collection of old German
hymns well-known throughout the Lutheran world; and the only specimens
worth reproducing were these.

_No. I. (82b in original)._

Túnga mín &c. (Sá krossfesti Kristur lifir).

[Illustration: musical notation

Sá kross-fest-i Krist-ur lif-ir, krist-inn eng-an skalthví mann dauðans
fall-a ott-i yf-ir, eng-in gröfhann skelf-a kann;]

[Illustration: musical notation theim, sem lú-inn threyr, upp-bú-in thæg
er sæng, að hvil-ist hann.]

_No. II. (in Book No. 83)._

Um dauðann gef thú, drottinn, mèr.

[Illustration: musical notation

Um dauð-ann gef thú, drott-inn, mèr dag-leg’ að hugs-a og að mín æf’ á
end-a fer, eg víst thvígleym-i]

[Illustration: musical notation

meg-i, upp-lýs mitt hjart-a, herr-a minn! að hræð-ast eig-i;]

[Illustration: musical notation

kynn’ eg dóm-inn thinn, á efsta’ er upp kveðst deg-i.]

_No. III. (in Book No. 90)._

Thèr thakkir gjörum.

[Illustration: musical notation

Ljós ljóm-ar dag-ur, lífs kæt-ist hag-ur, sjá, ljós sveít]

[Illustration: musical notation

vek-ur, sól nótt burt hrek-ur. Enn föð-ur aid ald-]

[Illustration: musical notation

a ei-líf-um gjald-a thökk skal thre-fald-a.]


The army and navy being unknown to Iceland, the liberal professions are
confined to three--Church, Law, and Physic.

The Church is a favourite profession, and we shall soon see the reason
why. “Magnam, quæ in templa eorumque ministros ante viguerat,” says
Bishop Pètursson, “munificentiam post Reformationem evanuisse et ex eo
inde tempore conditionem sacerdotum Islandicorum miserrimam fuise
constat.” The ecclesiastical division was formerly into two
bishoprics--Skálholt, established in A.D. 1057; and Hólar, in A.D.
1107.[199] The dignitaries were originally under the jurisdiction of
the Archbishop of Bremen-cum-Hamburg. In A.D. 1103-4 they became subject
to Azerus (Aussur or Össur), first Archbishop of Lund; and, lastly, in
A.D. 1152, they were made suffragans of the Bishop of Throndhjem. In
A.D. 1797 the sees were united; a single bishop appointed by the Crown
was stationed, as now, at Reykjavik; and the cathedral lacked, as it
still lacks, a chapter. Since Norway was divided from Denmark, the chief
dignitary was placed under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the
Seeland Bishopric, but this authority is sometimes questioned. It was
proposed by a pragmatical innovator of late years that the present
bishop should be consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the
attempt failed before the indignation of the clergy and laity; it aimed,
in fact, at yielding the question of apostolic succession. The
machinator took refuge in England.

The clergy are also appointed by the bishop, subject to the confirmation
of the Crown. They were divided into Hèraðsprófastr (Dan. Stiftprovest),
or archdeacons (now obsolete); Prófastur (præpositus), provosts or
deacons, ranking between rector and bishop; Prestar, rectors or curés;
and Aðstoðarprestur, alias Kapellán, corresponding with our curates.
There is no expression equivalent to “vicar,” and it must be coined for
purposes of translating him of Wakefield.

In 1772 the island had 189 parishes (Presta-köll), namely, 127 under the
see of Skálholt, and 62 under Hólar; in 1834 there were 194 livings or
parochial churches; and in 1872 the number had fallen to 171. A yearly
report, published at Copenhagen (Anglýsing um Endurskoðað brauðamat á
Íslandi), gives a sufficiency of details. According to the last issue
(1872), the island contained 171 ecclesiastics, or 1:456, a strong
contrast with the 7000 priests at Rome; there were 301 churches and
chapels (Annexja = Annexe) to 305 in 1818; consequently 130 were not
filled, and service was confined to about once in three weeks.[200] The
revenues, however, are appropriated to the incumbents of other livings.

There are twenty Profástdæmid (deaconries), viz.:

    Norðurmúla,         numbering     9
    Suðurmúla,                ”      11
    Austurskaptarfells,       ”       5
    Vesturskaptarfells,       ”       7
5.  Rangárvalla, including
    the Vestmannaeyjar,       ”      12
    Árnes,                    ”      14
    Gullbringu[201] and Kjósar, ”       8
    Borgarfjarðar, including
    Reykholt,                 ”       6
    Mýra,                     ”       7
10. Snæfells,                 ”       7
    Dala,                     ”       5
    Barðastrandar,            ”       8
    Vesturísafjarðar          ”       6
    Norðurísafjarðar,         ”       7
15. Stranda,                  ”       4
    Húnavatns,                ”      13
    Skagafjarðar,             ”      13
    Eyjafjarðar,              ”      13
    Suðurthingeyjar, including
    Thing,                    ”      11
20. Norðurthingeyjar,         ”       5
                             Total, 171

The smallest living is that of Sandfell í Öræfum = $111·89; the highest
that of Hof í Vopnafirði = $1545·33: in Dillon’s day, “Breiðabólstaðr”
was the most lucrative benefice. The bishop’s salary is now $3416; and
the rector of Reykjavik draws $1524·77. Seven livings pass $1000 per
annum; three, $900; six, $800; six, $700; eleven, $600; twenty-four,
$500; twenty-seven, $400; thirty-three, $300 (below which sum pay is
considered poor); thirty-nine, $200; and twelve, $100. Mr Vice-Consul
Crowe (Report, 1865-66) makes the priest’s honorarium average about 300
rixdollars annually, or £34. When Henderson travelled (1818), the
richest living, if he be correct, which is open to doubt, was of $200;
many were of $36, and some of $5 per annum. Other old travellers speak
of $33, and even $30. They justly term these incomes “miserably
limited,” but they neglect to add rent-free manse and glebe-land, often
some of the best in the county, besides various minor sources of gain.
It became the fashion to pity the Icelandic clergy, who were compelled
to be farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen after the fashion of St Dunstan.
The latter in 1834 are represented to have been especially numerous; but
as every man in Iceland is more or less a blacksmith and a carpenter, we
may again suspect involuntary misrepresentation. This life of labour is
still the case with the Maronites, whose Church is far from being a
_refugium, peccatorum_. The “Prestr,” who had an industrious wife, and
no taste for fine wines and tobacco, was better placed than his kinsman
the Bóndi,[202] who had to pay, instead of receiving, tithes. And
considering the relative value of money, we may doubt if he was ever so
severely pressed by the wolf Poverty as many an English ecclesiastic, a
scandal which is only now being removed.[203] In 1810 the bishop
received, with the contributions of the school-fund, $1800 per annum;
this £200 was fully equal in those days to £2000 in modern England. The
author, when in Iceland, never saw a parson shoe a horse or take money
for his hospitality.

The bishoprics of Skálholt and Hólar at first followed the
ecclesiastical regulations drawn up by St Ólafr of Norway. In A.D. 1097
they adopted the tithe laws, which Sæmund the Wise had compiled, which
were sanctioned by Bishop Gizur Isleifsson, and which were proclaimed by
the President of the Icelandic Republic (Lögsögumaður), Markus
Skeggjason. An order of the Althing (A.D. 1100-1275) divided this Tíund
into four quarters, paid respectively to the bishop (Biskups-tíund), the
priest (Prests-tíund), the church (repairs, etc., Kirkju-tíund), and the
poor (Fátækra-tíund); and this division still obtains in the case of
tithes from properties exceeding a certain value. After April 16, 1556,
the bishop’s portion was appropriated by the sovereign under the name of
“Crown tithes.” This form of tax is obsolete in Europe, but it can
hardly be altered for the better in a sparsely populated country like
Iceland, attached to the _mos majorum_, where the state of society
differs little from that which originated the impost.[204]

In 1810, the Tíund of twelve head of fish, or an equivalent of 27
skillings, then = 1 shilling, was required from every person possessing
more than five hundreds,[205] and it increased in uniform ratio with
property. The subject of tithes has become a mass of intricacies, and
only the outlines of the system can find room. The Tíund (Teind of the
Shetlands) is now an impost of one per cent. on the value of all
assessable property, viz., on land, boats, horses, cows, and sheep. The
tithes of properties not exceeding five “hundreds,” or about $150, are
applied undivided to supporting paupers; above that sum, they are
quartered, as before mentioned.

Tithes may also be divided into two classes--the first, taken upon all
the hundreds of immovable property, land, and houses; the second, levied
after the fifth hundred, upon movable goods, money, horses, cattle, and
fishing boats with their gear. Formerly every fisherman contributed one
share of one day’s fishing to the hospitals; now he pays ½ ell, or 12
skillings, of every 120 heads of fish, and 1 ell, or 24 skillings, for
every barrel of shark liver oil (Law 12, Feb. 1872). Church and Crown
estates are exempt. Hospital lands, like the property of the governor,
the bishop, the amtmenn, and the priests, pay only the “few-taking,”
quarter-tithe or poor-tax.

The clergyman also adds to his temporalities by fees for baptisms,
marriages, and burials. Each farmer is bound to feed an ecclesiastical
mutton from mid-October to mid-May. This is a relic of Catholicism, when
the “lamb of SS. Mary and Joseph” was intended as a feast, given by the
priest to his parishioners after they had communicated. Now the latter
graze the mutton, but do not eat it. The Prestr can also command a
_corvée_ of the poorer peasantry for at least one day to get in his
hay-crop. And what distinguish his position in Iceland are the high
proportion and the comparative value of Church property.

In 1695 the distribution of the 4059 farms upon the island was as

Crown lands,      718}
Church lands,    1494}  2212
Freehold lands,  1847

Uno Von Troil (1772), quoting the Liber Villarium, or Land-book of 1695,
thus distributes the Church property:

Bishopric of Skálholt,               304 farms.
    ”         Hólar,                 345   “
Church glebes,                       640   “
Clergy glebes,                       140   “
Glebes of superannuated clergymen,    45   “
For the poor,                         16   “
For hospitals,                         4   “
Total,                              1494   “

Here, out of a total of 4059, the sovereign, the clergy, and the poor
whom they represented, monopolised a total of 2212. And in the present
day the whole number of farms being 4357,[206] the clergy still hold the
best properties. The total of 87,860 hundreds may now be divided as

Crown hundreds,                8,886⅓
Priest hundreds,              15,309-5/12
Hospitals and poor hundreds,   1,099½
Farmers’ hundreds,            62,363

The proportion has declined from half to little more than a third, but
it is still abnormal.

The power of landed property, combined with superior education and the
facility of evicting tenantry, makes the Iceland parson a “squarson” of
purest type, as the witty compounder of the word understood it. He
inherits, moreover, not only the respect, but even the political power
of the old pagan Goði. He commands elections as a rule,[207] and can
return himself, as well as his friends, to the Althing. Indeed, nothing
in Iceland struck the author more than the despotism of the Lutheran
Church. It is like the state of Bavaria, where the priests manage the
polling by threatening the well-known “Fire of Heaven.”

Nothing need be said of legal studies in Iceland, as the course is
relegated to Copenhagen.

The island being divided into medical districts, gives a certain impulse
to aspirants. The head physician, or surgeon-general (Land-physicus) of
Iceland, who, after being passed by the Faculty of Copenhagen, lectures
at Reykjavik, is Dr Jón Jónsson Hjáltalín: his publications are well
known throughout Europe, and he will often be mentioned in the following
pages. His salary is $1766 a year, and he supervises the eight, formerly
seven, district Doctores Medicinæ. These at present are:

1. Dr Thorgrímr Ássmundsson Johnsen, stationed in the eastern part of
the Southern Quarter.

2. Dr Thorsteinn Jónsson, in the Vestmannaeyjar, where his treatment has
been most successful.

3. Dr Hjörtur Jónsson, in the southern part of the Western Quadrant.

4. Dr Thórvaldur Jónsson, in the northern part of do.

5. Dr Jósep Skaptason, in the Húnavatn and Skagafjörð Sýslas.

6. Dr Thórdur Tómásson, in the Eyjafjörð and Thíngey Sýslas.

7. Dr Fritz Zeuthen, in the eastern districts.

8. The Candid. Medic. Ólafr Stephánsson Thórarensen, in the north-east,
Hofi and Eyjafjörð Sýslas.

These gentlemen must prescribe gratis, but they are allowed to sell
drugs. Their salaries are about $900 per annum, and under the most
favourable circumstances their incomes do not exceed $1000 to $1200. The
only apothecary on the island is M. Randrŭp, a Dane, who is also Consul
de France. He distributes medicines without taking fees, and draws an
annual salary of $350.

The number of midwives[208] (Icel. Yfirsetu-konur, oversitting wives) is
about a score. That devotion to homœopathy recorded by travellers in the
early nineteenth century, appears to be going the way of all systems,
after a short but not a wholly useless career.




Iceland, which is an exaggeration of Scotland, whilst Greenland
exaggerates Iceland, is supposed to number seven families and
thirty-four species of mammals, but of these twenty-four are “water
creatures.” Two quadrupeds have been considered indigenous, though
evidently imported, the first is the mouse of many fables, the second is
the fox. An old Iceland tradition asserts that Reynard was spitefully
imported by a king of Norway, as magpies were sent to Ireland by the
hated Saxon. Some are still floated over on the ice, but they seldom
appear upon the east coast. A premium upon vulpecide dates from olden
days, and increased demand for the robe has made the animals
comparatively rare. Formerly they did immense damage amongst the
newly-dropped lambs, and the farmers ignored the Scotch “dodge” of
applying a streak of tar to the shoulder or to any part of the
youngling. The people divide foxes into tame and wild: the latter
grapple the sheep by their wool and never loose them till they fall

Horrebow the Dane (Nat. Hist. of Ice.) mentions dark-red foxes, but
Hooker neither saw nor heard of them. Kerguelen refers to red as well as
to black,[209] blue, and white foxes. Uno Von Troil declares that some
of the animals ate called “Gras tóur” (or grass-eating tod);[210]
usually two varieties are recognised, _C. lagopus_ (Mel-rakki) and _C.
fuliginosus_; but the _Isatis_ or white Arctic and the sooty-brown are
probably the same animal at several seasons. Some assert the former to
be white all the year round, but no hunter ever pretends to have found a
white cub. The blue fox, which haunts certain places, very seldom comes
to market, because the chief chasseur is dead. The white coat is cheap,
the fine brown is rare and dear. Iceland, of course, abounds in
folk-lore and Æsopian tales of Skolli (the skulker), as well as of mice,
gulls, and ravens; the string of foxes hanging over the cliffs, and the
contrivance of the vixen to escape from the hounds, show ingenuity in
the inventor.[211]

The history of the imported reindeer (_C. tarandus_) is well known. In
1770 Hr Sörensen, a merchant, embarked thirteen head from Norway; of
these ten died on the passage, and three fawned before 1772. They were
never used for sledges: as the mule is the familiar of the Latin family,
and the camel of the nearer East, so the reindeer can be developed only
by the Lapps, Finns, and Tungusians. Moreover, the reindeer is fitted
only for a snowy country; the skin and hair do not readily throw off
water, and the animals suffer severely from wet--hence Iceland proved
anything but the expected paradise. The average life of the Havier
(stag) is said to be sixteen years. The young horns were eaten by the
old Norwegians, and, when hard, they were cut into cramp-ring like those
of the elk (_Alce equicervus_)--a _curatio per contrarium_. Some of
these attires are grand as those of the Canadian Wapiti. There are now
only two known herds upon the island, and details concerning them will
be given in the Journal.

The Fjárhundr or shepherd-dog (_C. Islandicus_), according to Mackenzie,
is of the Greenland breed; the “prick-eared cur” certainly resembles the
Eskimo, sometimes with a dash of our collie. Formerly they were far more
numerous than men; and old authors mention several breeds--“lubbar” or
shag-dogs; dýr-hundar, deer or fox hounds, and dverg-hundar, dwarf
hounds or lapdogs. Foreign animals are now rare; the common sort is a
little “pariah,” not unlike the Pomeranian; stunted, short-backed, and
sharp-snouted, with ruffed neck and bushy tail, or rather brush, curling
and recurling. The colour is mostly brown-black, some are light-brown,
deep-black, white, and piebald. Those brought to Reykjavik appear shy,
savage, and snappish as foxes. Formerly they were trained to keep
caravan-ponies on the path; now they guard the flocks, loiter about the
farms, and keep cattle off the “tún.”[212] Good specimens easily fetch
$6; a horse may be exchanged for the most valuable, those which, they
say, can search a sheep under nine ells of snow. They are accused of
propagating amongst their masters, hydatic disease and intestinal worms
(_Tænia echinococcus_); and this consideration induced the Althing, in
1871, _magno cum risu_ of the public, who asked why the cats were not
assessed, to impose an annual dog-tax of $2 per head upon all exceeding
a certain number on each farm--it will cause the premature death of many
a promising pup. Half of the amount is the perquisite of the
Hreppstjórar, the other moiety goes to the Treasury. The danger would be
less if the dogs were not so often allowed to lick the platters clean,
and to perform other and similar domestic duties.

Cats are common, especially in the capital, showing that defence is
necessary against rats and mice. Herds of swine are alluded to in the
island Sagas; and Iceland, like the Færoes, is full of such names as
Svína-fell, Svína-dalr, and Svína-vatn. Not a single head is now seen
except at Reykjavik, where a few are annually imported for immediate
slaughtering. The peasants cannot afford to rear such expensive animals,
which, moreover, damage the “tún.” A few goats are said to linger about
the northern parts of the island; formerly they were common, but about
1770 they began to be proscribed for injuring the turf-roofs--where they
can find no vines.

There are six families and some ninety species of birds, fifty-four of
the latter being water-fowl. A valuable list of the air-fauna may be
found in Appendix A. to Baring-Gould’s volume, “Notes on the Ornithology
of Iceland,” by Alfred Newton, M.A. Almost every traveller has dipped
into the subject, but Mr Newton has twice visited the island to study
his specialty. His conclusion is thus stated: “The character of the
avi-fauna of this country, as might have been expected from its
geographical position, is essentially European, just as that of
Greenland has American tendencies.” Of course many are emigrants from
the south, and, treating of this subject, we should not forget the
poetical, and apparently practical, theory of Runeberg the Skáld of
modern Sweden. He makes the object light, not merely warmth: “The bird
of passage is of noble birth; he bears a motto, and his motto is ‘_Lux
Mea Dux_.’”

The most interesting of the game denizens is the ptarmigan (_Tetrao
lagopus_). The people recognise only one species, but in these matters
they are of no authority, and foreigners suspect the existence of two as
in Norway. The small mountain-ptarmigan (_Lagopus vulgaris_) of the
Continent is white in winter and grey speckled black at other times; its
note is compared with the frog’s croak, the sheep’s cough, or the harsh
cry of the missel-thrush. The Danish Skov or Dal-rype (wood or dale
ptarmigan) is some seventeen inches long, white-plumed in winter, and
during the rest of the year clad in warm yellow-brown, like the red
grouse; the “cluck” can be heard a mile off. Metcalfe recognised in
Iceland a modified cluck, while Faber and Yarrell believe the islander
to be a new species. The cock is locally called Rjúpkarri, and the hen
Rjúpa (Reb-huhn), evidently from the cry. It carries the young on the
back, and is said to be stupid as the Touraco; this was not the author’s
experience. Mackenzie appears to be in error when he makes the Scotch
ptarmigan haunt the hills, and the Icelander prefer the lowlands. The
bird enters largely into folk-lore: the fox of fable blinds it by
throwing the snow in its eyes; and when the ger-falcon pierces its
heart, he screams for sorrow to find that he has slain a sister.

Flocks of geese, also mentioned by the Sagas, are now found, like swans,
only in the wild state; yet there is little apparent reason for the
change. The raven will be treated of in another place; there are no
crows except stragglers blown to sea by the southern gales. Poultry is
still bred in small numbers about the farms, and, if the proportions
were greater, they would be useful in clearing the ground of the
injurious lumbrici. But the traveller observes that gallinaceous birds,
originally natives of the tropics and of the lower temperates, though
easily acclimated to the higher latitudes, will not thrive beyond the
habitat of the civilised cereals. At any rate in Iceland their
productiveness is limited.

It is generally known that there are no snakes in Iceland as in Ireland.
Islands disconnected from continents by broad tracts of sea like Annobom
and St Helena, notably lack venomous reptiles; the latter, however, have
passed over the nineteen miles between Fernando Po and the Camarones
mainland. Papilios and sphinxes, newts and lizards, frogs and toads,
also shun the cold damp air. Mackenzie found a coccinella near the
Geysir; and Madame Ida Pfeiffer secured two wild bees which she carried
off in spirits of wine. The pests are gnats, midges, and fleas; the
pediculus is well known, but the cimex, as in older England, has not yet
become naturalised.

Mr J. Gwyn Jeffreys kindly obliged the author with the following note
concerning a small collection forwarded to him.

_5th October 1872._

     “MY DEAR SIR,--.... The Iceland shells are as follows:


     1. Littorina obtusata, Linné; var. = L. palliata, Say. = L. limata,


     2. Helix arbustorum, L.

     3. Succinea putris, L.; var. Groenlandica, Beck.


     4. Pisidium nitidum, Jenyns; var. Steenbuchii, Müller.

     5. Limnæa peregra, Müller; var. Vahlii, Beck.

     “Most of the land shells of Iceland are usually thin, from a
     deficiency of lime or calcareous material. This is not the case
     with the succinea, or with the fresh-water shells, and much less
     with the marine.

     “Nearly all your shells were broken.--Yours truly,

(Signed)  “J. GWYN JEFFREYS.”

Baring-Gould (p. 114) found “fossil fresh-water shells on the sand
formations between the trap-beds.”

The sportsman must not expect to see in Iceland that “abundance of
game,” promised by old and even by writers of the last decade; he may
content himself with No. 5 shot--No. 1, or swan shot, being now useless.
Fur is hardly to be had; no foreigner has yet brought down a reindeer;
and the seals belong to the owner of the shore. The people kill Reynard
with “fox-shot”--but vulpecide will scarcely commend itself to the
Englishman. Feather is nearly as rare. Eider ducks are defended by law,
and the author, after visiting the most likely places, can count the
ptarmigan flushed; they are generally “potted” sitting in the snow when
they approach the farms. Only four whoopers showed themselves _dulcibus
in stagnis_; these singing swans, whose music is mentioned by every
winter-traveller, are becoming strangers as in the Orkneys and
Shetlands. The great auk is gone--for ever gone; all his haunts have
lately been ransacked in vain. Eight or nine years ago the lakes and
ponds swarmed with duck; now their places know them no more. Sandpipers,
common and purple; malingering golden plover,[213] oyster-catchers,
curlew, and whimbrel, and the characteristic whimbrel (_Numenius
phæopus_, Icel. Spói), all of them detestable eating, with an occasional
snippet or snipe, especially the Hrossa-gaukr[214] (“horse-snipe,”
_Gallinago media_), so called from its neighing cry, and, perhaps, from
the popular idea of its throwing somersaults in the air, can hardly be
called inducements--except to a Cockney gun. The one sufficient reason
for this disappearance of birds is the systematic robbery of their
nests; an ever-increasing population with decreasing means must eat up
everything eatable.


The vegetation of Iceland, like Greenland, is that of Scandinavia, which
Dr Hooker has shown to be one of the oldest on the globe. The popularly
adopted computation gives 407 species of Phanerogams, of which
one-eighth are grain-bearing; one-eighth leguminous; one-ninth
cyperaceæ; one-seventeenth composite, and about one-eighteenth

That the present poverty of bread-stuffs is comparatively modern, may be
proved by such names as Akrey, Akureyri, Akranes, Akra-hverar, and a
host of others, all derived from Akr, a corn-field; the Aker of Lappland
(ἀγρός, ager, acker, acre). We have also the distinct testimony of
ancient literature. The Landnámabók (p. 15) mentions the Arðr[215]
(aratrum) and ploughing with cattle. The Njála says, “Bleikir akrar en
slegin tún”--the corn-fields are bleached (to harvest) and the tún is
mown. Though the island is now placed north of the barley-limit, crops
of barley and rye have apparently been grown.

Forbes and other writers attempt to explain away the significance of
“akr,” by suggesting that the indigenous wild oat might have been
cultivated in former days, and hence the traces of tilled and furrowed
fields which have been allowed to relapse into the savage state. This
grain of many names (_Avena arenaria_, _Elymus arenarius_, _Granum
spicatum_, _secalinum maritimum spicâ longiooe_, and _arundo foliorum
lateribus convolutis acumine pungente_) is popularly called Melr;[216]
and old authors divide the “sea-lyme grass” of Iceland into two
species--(1.) _Avena arenaria_, and (2.) _Avena foliorum lateribus
convolutis_. The opinion is untenable for two reasons. Firstly, the
cereal is a local growth, nourishing chiefly in the Skaptarfells Sýsla
and in the Mýrdals and Skeiðarár Sandur; it exists in the north-east of
the island; but it does not yield food. Secondly, transplantation has
often been tried during the last few years, for instance, to the
Borgarfjörð, and other highly favourable spots, with one effect--like
Kangaroo grass in Australia, the grain refused to ripen. Finally, we may
observe, Ólafsson and Pállsson on their journey through Iceland, nearly
a century ago, mention wheat growing in the southern districts.

The cause of the change, sometimes attributed to oscillations of
temperature, is simply disforesting, which has promoted the growth of
bog and heath now covering half the island, which allows storm-winds to
sweep unopposed over the surface, and which, since the Saga times, has
necessarily rendered the cold less endurable to cereals. A number of
local names, beginning with Reynir, the sorb apple (_Sorbus
edulis_),[217] proves that groves of the wild fruit-tree, whose
pomaceous berries, rich in malic acid, were munched by the outlaw, once
flourished where there is now not a trace of them. The Landnámabók
(chap, i., p. 7) expressly declares that Iceland was wooded from the sea
to the mountains, or inner plateau (var thá skógr milom fjalls og
fjöru); and tells us how, as in Madeira Island, the woods were destroyed
by fire. Vain attempts have been made to remedy an evil which is now all
but irreparable; without nurseries and walls, the young plants are
always wind-wrung. As in the Orkneys and Shetlands, the only trees now
growing wild are rowans; birches (_Betula alba_, _nana_, and
_fruticosa_), and ground-juniper (_J. communis_, Icel. Einir); the
dwarf red, grey, and green-grey willows (_Salix Lapponum_, etc., Icel.
Grá-Víðir), of which sixteen species have been collected, hardly ever
exceed the size of sage, which, indeed, the Selja (_S. caprea_) greatly
resembles. The twiggy birch-thickets seldom surpass six feet in height,
the northern part of Iceland being the extreme limit of the growth; and
a tree whose topmost leaves rise fifteen feet excites general
admiration. The verdant patches labelled Skógr (forest), and scattered
in the map, especially about the Lagarfljót, the Thjórsá, and the Hvítá,
denote this scrub. Yet the bogs supply tree stumps a foot and more in

The wild flora of Iceland is small and delicate, with bright bloom, the
heaths being especially admired; and the traveller is at first surprised
to find no difference in the vegetation of the uplands and the lowlands.

Baring-Gould (Appendix C.) gives of Dicotyledons, Ranunculaceæ (14
species), Papaveraceæ (2), Cruciferæ (22), Violaceæ (4), Drosereæ (2),
Polygalaceæ (1), Caryophyllaceæ (25), Linaceæ (1), Hypericaceæ (1),
Geraniaceæ (3), Leguminosæ (8), Rosaceæ (20),[218] Pomeæ (2), Onagraceæ
(9), Haloragaceæ (2), Portulacaceæ (1), Crassulaceæ (17), Saxifragaceæ
(19), Umbelliferæ (7), Araliaceæ (1), Cornaceæ (1), Rubiaceæ (10),
Valerianaceæ (1), Dipsacaceæ (2), Compositæ (26), Campanulaceæ (2),
Vacciniaceæ (4), Ericaceæ (7), Pyrolaceæ (3), Gentianaceæ (15),
Polemoniaceæ (1), Boraginaceæ (6), Scrophulariaceæ (18), Labiatæ (8),
Lentibulariaceæ (2), Primulaceæ (3), Plumbaginiæ (2), Plantaginaceæ (6),
Chenopodiaceæ (3), Sceleranthaceæ (1), Polygonaceæ (13), Empetraceæ (1),
Callithrichaceæ (2), Ceratophyllaceæ (1), Urticeæ (2), Betulaceæ (3),
Salicaceæ (17), and Coniferæ, only one J. Communis.

The Monocotyledons are Orchidaceæ (13), Trilliaceæ (1), Liliaceæ (1),
Melanthaceæ (3), Juncaceæ (11), Juncaginaceæ (2), Typhaceæ (1), Naidaceæ
(7), Cyperaceæ (47), and Gramineæ (50). The Acotyledons are Polypodiaceæ
(13), Ophioglossaceæ (2), Lycopodiaceæ (8), and Equisetaceæ (6).

The traveller refers for details to his own pages, to Hooker’s Journal
(1813), to Zoega’s “Flora Islandica,” to Preyer and Zirkel’s “Reise nach
Island,” to Dr W. L. Lindsay’s “Flora of Iceland” (Edinburgh New
Philosophical Journal, July 1861), and to Dr Hjaltalín’s “Grasafræði”
(Handbook of Icelandic Botany, 8vo, 1830).

Building-wood is wholly imported. Fuel, here used only for the kitchen,
is supplied by the Argul of the Tartar, “chips” (_fimo bubulo pro lignis
utuntur_); by peat, which varies in depth from two to twenty-seven
yards; and by driftwood, which adds considerable value to the shores
receiving it. There are two chief deposits, the northern supplied by
Septentrional Europe, and the western by the New World; the latter has
of late years so much diminished that the islanders expect soon to see
it cease.

Concerning the origin of that miocene growth, Surtar-brand,[219] or
Iceland lignite, there are two conflicting opinions. Older writers
believe it to be a local production, a growth like that which created
the coal of the carboniferous period. The more modern support the theory
that it is accumulated driftwood, semi-fossilised like Zanzibar copal,
by heat and pressure. The question is still open to new light; but as
fossil leaves of plants were brought from Disco by Sir Edward Belcher’s
Expedition; as we have convincing proofs that those latitudes were once
inhabited by forests presenting fifty to sixty species of arborescent
trees, elm, oak, pine, maple, and plane; and, what is more remarkable,
by apparently evergreen trees and quasi-tropical flora, showing that
these regions must have had perennial light; we must incline to the old
opinion. Early in this century, the Danish Government promised rewards
to “persons who shall find out easier methods of breaking and using
Surtar-brand from the rocks” (Hooker), but we do not hear that any one
has deserved such generosity.

The greatest deposits of Swart-brand are on the north-western Fjörðs,
where it has been mined to a small extent, and whence specimens have
been sent to England. It is mostly found bedded in layers three or four
inches thick, alternating with trap. The surface is usually black and
shiny, flaking, and otherwise behaving like lignite; burning with a weak
flame and a sour smell like wet wood. The smiths formerly preferred it
to sea-coal, “because it did not waste the iron;” when powdered, it
preserved clothes from the moth, and, being an antiseptic, it was used
internally against colics. The author was shown a specimen of true
pitch-coal from the Hvítá valley; it is mentioned by Mackenzie (p. 368),
who describes it as highly combustible, but not existing in large
quantities. This source of wealth, as well as Iceland spar, Iceland
moss, cryolite, and especially the sulphur fields, will be noticed in
future pages; further details about the interesting Surtar-brand will
also be given in the Journal.


At present the grass lands are the wealth of the island, as they pasture
the flocks and herds, which form the chief means of subsistence, and the
most important articles of industry and commerce. The meadows are
grassed over by nature, not ploughed nor harrowed, such implements being
rarely used. Nor are they seeded, although Dillon (p. 125) speaks of the
weedy grass crop being _sown_ in May, growing about June in weedy
pastures where, shortly before, no vegetation had been, and being fit
for mowing in later August, when the snow is off the hills,[220] and
when garden-stuff is ripe. The grass is soft and thick, much like our
red-top, and about six inches high; only in rare places the ponies wade
up to their knees in through the rich meads. The hay is carefully
“sheared,” and is exceedingly sweet. White clover (_Trifolium repens_,
Icel. Smári) flourishes; and on the streams it is found growing
spontaneously with carraway (_Carum carui_); the red species wants, they
say, the fructifying insect.

Mackenzie, and other old travellers, assure us that the island requires
nothing but active and intelligent men, able to combat the prejudices
and to stimulate the exertions of the peasantry. The latter complain of
the neglect of the Danish Government, and call upon Hercules, but will
not help themselves. It is conceded that draining, ploughing, and
manuring would improve the soil. But the question still remains, Is the
short summer sufficient to ripen grain? Late experiments with seed-corn
have proved failures, one quarter of a barrel yielded only half a
barrel; this suggests that in the older day seed was imported. Moreover,
the taxes and the tenure of land militate against improvement; whilst
the excessive labour and expense required for the first steps, such as
levelling the soil, place the preliminary operations beyond the reach of
most Bændr. Governor Thodal (1772) sowed barley, which grew very
briskly: a short time before it was to be reaped, a violent storm
scattered the grains from the ears (U. v. Troil, p. 47). Governor Finsen
tried oats in his compound, but they stubbornly refused to ripen. Many a
summer will pass before an island poet will again sing the “Georgics of
Iceland,” and before the island can bear the motto, “Cruce et Aratro.”

At the close of the eighteenth century the Crown of Denmark established,
in the northern district of the Húnavatn, model farms, chiefly directed
by foreigners. The grains experimented upon were mostly oats, barley,
and rye, autumnal and vernal (_Secale cereale, hybernum et æstivum_).
When protected by walls, the rye almost ripened, but the ears were
seldom fecund. Still remain for trial various German ryes
(_Johanniskorn_ or _Studentenkorn_); spelt (_Triticum spelta_); the
buckwheat of Tartary (_Polygonum Tataricum_); the _Triticum monococum_,
and sundry kinds of barley, the square autumnal (_Hordeum vulgare
hybernum_); the square vernal, so useful to middle Europe (_H. v.
æstivum_); and, above all, the Lapland barley, which Linnæus says may be
planted at the end of May, and reaped on July 28. Abyssinia and the
Western Hemisphere will supply the island with edible meadow-grasses
and millet-grasses, Poas, and Festucæ (_Ovina_ and others),[221] and
especially with the Quinoa (_Chenopodium quinoa_) of the Peruvian Andes,
which ripens where no other corn grows. And let us hope that the
indigenous cereals have not yet had a fair chance.

In the last century Hr Haldorsen introduced the potato, which has now
extended over the island. Dillon calls it a pigmy, and compares it with
a tennis ball; but it has improved since his day. Turnips would
flourish, especially upon the warmer coasts, where the sub-soil is
palagonitic sand, and where manure of seaweed abounds. Radishes, as now
cultivated, are hard, coarse, and woody: spinach is a success, and much
might be done to fatten the indigenous sorrel. The Stranda Sýsla to the
north-west has attempted with various fortunes, sundry kinds of caules;
the broccoli, which grows quickly; the turnip-cabbage (_Brassica
oleracea gangloides_), eaten in summer; the curled cole-wort (_B. o.
sabellica_), kept for winter use; the red cabbage, strong to resist
cold; the large growing white variety (_B. o. capitata alba_), and the
cauliflower, which hardly exceeds the size of a man’s fist--it is found,
however, that the two latter refuse to seed. The other pottage-plants
are lettuces, common in gardens; beetroot, red and yellow; carrots;
onions, garlic, and shalots (_Al. asculonicum_); chervil (_Scandix
cerefolium_); black mustard, which, considering the climate, attains
unusual dimensions; water cress; radishes; horse radish (_Raphanus
niger_); and parsley, the latter taking six to seven weeks before it
rises above ground. In 1865, there were about 7000 garden plots.

The tenure of land is either by lease from the Crown and the Church, or
held in fee simple; the latter is the old Óðal,[222] preserved in modern
Norway. Since ancient times, there has been a fourfold division of
estates: (1.) King’s land, bearing a succession duty of 1 per cent., and
assigned to a family as long as it pays its rent; (2.) Church land; (3.)
Freehold, held by contributing land-tax; and (4.) Land charitably
bequeathed to the poor. Crown property may be granted either by the
Sýslumaðr, whose income is often eked out by a temporary tenure gratis;
or by the Umboðsmenn,[223] of whom there is generally one for every two
Sýslas. They are also paid by grants of Government farms; they receive a
percentage upon those they lease, and they report to the Land-fógeti
(treasurer). Church property is under the Amtmaðr, controlled by the
bishop, but, as a rule, it is sub-leased by the parish priest in whose
living it is. A large proportion of farms is thus held. The poor lands
are let by the rector and the Hreppstjórar, superintended by the
Sýslumenn. The tenant, besides agreeing to support one or more paupers,
pays ground-rent for all buildings upon the farm, and he can underlet it
in parts, the sub-tenant paying, perhaps, a barrel of rye per annum.

Mackenzie compares the tenure of land leased to the farmer with the
Scotch “steel-bow;” the rent is paid in two ways:

1. Landskuld, lease-money or rent owed by the tenant to the Crown, the
Church, or the landowner. It is taken in specie or in kind, at the rate
of $2 to $3 per $100. The latter is supposed to be fixed by ancient
valuation; practically, it is very unsettled; and in Iceland, as
elsewhere, the landlord will strive to obtain the terms most favourable
to himself.

2. Lausa-fè, the rent on movable property, especially kine and sheep,
opposed to land, or even land with its cattle. It is generally levied in
butter, one of the articles of currency. Each tenant is bound to take
over from his predecessor the permanent stock on certain conditions, and
to leave the same number when he quits.

Property cannot be entailed. The estates of those dying intestate are
distributed amongst the children; formerly, whole shares fell to sons,
half shares to daughters--all now share equally. This process justifies
De Tocqueville, who, expressing his surprise that ancient and modern
publicists had paid so little attention to succession laws, regarded
them as the most important of political institutions.

Dufferin seems to think (pp. 141, 142) that almost perpetual leases are
the rule in Iceland: the contrary is the case; and the small proportion
of freehold is a crying evil. Many farms are let to tenants at will from
year to year, with six months’ notice: evictions are allowed by law for
neglect or misconduct, easily proved by the rich against the poor; and
the ejected farmer’s only remedy is to disprove the charges by a survey
of the Hreppstjórar, and of two respectable neighbours. The instability
of landed tenure, the undefined state of the tenant-right,
and the certainty of rents being raised by the parson or the
Umboth-superintendent, if profits increase, for instance if minerals be
discovered, are potent obstacles to regular and energetic improvement.
The remedy evidently lies in the sale of Crown property, and in the
secularisation of Church lands, with due compensation to the actual

The farms are all named, mostly from natural features. There are,
however, not a few which have borrowed from the outer world, for
instance a Hamburg in the Fljótsdalr: even “Jerusalem” is not
unknown--the result of Crusading days. The best are on the north side of
the island; yet the three most generally cited as models are Viðey off
the west coast, and Hólmar and Möðrudalr, to the east. The south-western
(not the southern) shore supports a fishing rather than a pastoral or
agricultural population. The non-maritime people live in scattered
homesteads, which nowhere form the humblest village: this is the unit of
the constitutional machinery of Iceland, as the township was amongst the
Anglo-Saxons. The only settlements are the trading-places on the

Drainage and fencing are not wholly neglected. In 1856 there were 40,202
fathoms of ditching, and 44,671 fathoms of railing, these improvements
being all modern work. Each farm has, besides the “tún,” a bit of
lowland upon which grass is grown, and a large extent of barren hill and
moorland, where the sheep graze during the fine season; this is always
assumed to belong to the property. Hence the Shetland phrase, “fra the
heist off the hill to the lawest off the ebbe” (milli fjalls og fjöru).
The “Bær” is divided from its neighbours by Vörður (“warders”), or
landmarks, natural and artificial; the latter are stone heaps, the
former some marked limit, as a hill, a rock, or a stream. The boundaries
are a perpetual cause of dispute, and some of the most complicated
lawsuits have thus arisen. Not a few of the wilder peasantry live in a
chronic state of land-feud; they “make it up” over their cups, and they
return to the natural belligerent condition when sober.

The tenants of an Iceland farm usually number six classes.

1. Bonders (Bændr),[224] the Shetland Boonds, franklins, farmers, or
yeomen; the “upper ten.”

2. Húsmenn, or tómthúsmenn, who have houses upon the farm, but are not
allowed pasturage or haymaking. They have been confounded by travellers

3. Kaupamenn, labourers working for hire.

4. Hjáleigumenn (crofters), those who occupy the hjáleiga, or a small
farm, an appendage to the larger establishments.

5. Servants (Icel. Vinnumenn).

6. Paupers (Icel. Ómagar or Niðursetningr).

Much harm is done by the multitude of lazy loons that gathers round the
farmer, a practice dating from ancient days, all striving to live upon
the best of the land, with the least amount of work.

Thus we see that “agriculture,” being absolutely confined to haymaking,
is a mere misnomer in Iceland, nearly three-quarters of whose population
is pastoral, though not nomad. The wealth of the country consists of
sheep, horses, and black cattle; goats are spoken of in the north, but
the author did not see a single head.

Since the first third of the nineteenth century, Iceland has witnessed a
gradual and regular increase of population, and a proportionate decrease
of live stock.[225] The following are the numbers of animals given by
Mackenzie for 1804:

Cows,              15,595
Heifers,            1,556
Bulls and oxen,     1,132
Calves,             2,042
  Total of cattle, 20,325

Milch ewes,         102,305
Rams and wethers,    49,527
Lambs,               66,986
  Total of sheep,   218,818
  Total of horses,   26,524

In 1834-35, according to Mr John Barrow, jun., repeated in 1854 by Mr
Pliny Miles, the total of sheep, the chief staple of the land, was
500,000. M. Eugène Robert gives 617,401 for 1845. But in 1855 appeared
the disease (_scabies_) which, according to the “Oxonian” (p. 389), in
two years killed off 200,000 head: in many parts of the island it still

In 1863 Paijkull assigned 350,000 sheep and 22,000 head of black cattle
to 68,000 souls. In 1871 the official numbers are:

Milch ewes and lambs,                173,562
Barren ewes,                          18,615
Wethers and rams above one year old,  55,710
Yearlings,                           118,243
      Total,                         366,130

or a falling off of 134,000, where the population has gained since
1834-35 upwards of 13,700.

The next source of profit in Iceland is breeding black cattle. According
to the same traveller, the total in 1834 was 36,000 to 40,000 head. The
official tables for 1871 give:

Cows and calves,                          15,634
Bulls and bullocks above one year old,       828
Yearlings,                                 2,649
      Total,                              19,111

or a falling off of nearly half, when the population has increased about

The following table shows the comparative numbers:

1855 there were of sheep, 489,132 of horned cattle,  (?)  of horses,  (?)
1860        ”             309,177       ”            (?)      ”       (?)
1866        ”             393,295       ”           20,357    ”     35,241
1867        ”             368,591       ”           19,003    ”     33,768
1868        ”             351,167       ”           17,968    ”     31,796
1869        ”             356,701       ”           18,342    ”     30,835
1870        ”             352,443       ”           18,189    ”     30,078
1871        ”             366,130       ”           19,111    ”     29,688

Thus, not including 1871, the number of horses since 1855 has decreased
upwards of 25 per cent., horned cattle 23 per cent., and sheep a little
more than 31 per cent.

Black cattle, according to Mackenzie, resemble the largest Highland
breed; the author thought them far more like our short-horns in general,
and especially Alderneys. Dillon makes them generally hornless,[226] and
the breed has remained unchanged. The cows yield an abundance of milk,
sometimes ten to twelve quarts a day. There has been no disease amongst
the “slaughter-creatures,” as Icelanders call black cattle, but the gold
of California and Australia has affected even Ultima Thule. In 1830-40
the price of a cow, $4, had increased to $28 in 1870; in 1872 it had
risen to $50-$80, and the animal often cost $100 to $120 in rearing.
Twenty years ago the pound of beef fetched eight to ten skillings
(farthings); now it averages one mark (fourpence) to one mark three
skillings. Few householders own more than eight head of cattle, and
probably half that number would be a high average. The community lives
chiefly upon milk and fish; hence the sale of a cow is to the children
the death of a friend, causing tears and lamentations.

The large but scattered flocks of sheep are the chief support of the
islandry. The peasants pay rent and debts in June and July by the wool
which is then washed and ready for sale; and in September and October by
wether-mutton smoked and cured; by grease and tallow, and by sheep-skins
and lamb-skins with the coat on. They reserve the butter and cheese
mostly for bargains and for household use. In 1770 the wether sold for
$1; in 1810 it had risen to $2, and even $5, and in 1872 to $9. Besides
supplying food, the animals yield material for local industries--coarse
cloth, clothes, frocks and jackets, mittens, stockings and socks, made
by the women, and used or exported. The fleece, which may average two to
four pounds,[227] is not sheared, but “roo’d,” or plucked when loose,
with little pain to the wearer. Though coarse it is long, while under
the hard outer coat (Icel. Tog or Thel) there is a fine soft tog, not a
little resembling the “Pashm” of Persia, Afghanistan, and Northern
India. The price varies considerably, the usual limits being tenpence to
a shilling. Of course it depends greatly upon the export, which in some
years has reached 1,750,000 lbs.; in 1868 about 625,000 lbs. were
shipped to England. The “scraggy,” long-legged animal suggests, on the
whole, the old Scotch breed. Intermixture of merino and other blood has
been partially tried, but it is a disputed point whether improved form
and quality of wool have or have not brought increased liability to
disease. The surest way to improve the island-sheep is to feed it
better, but the peasant is too lazy to shear the hills for hay not
absolutely necessary.

The exportation of live stock unaccompanied by proportional emigration
may end in a calamity. Fatal famines deform the island annals, and in
any year another may result from an inclement summer, producing scarcity
of grass. It would be justifiable to part with necessaries if the
profits were laid out upon improvements; but this is far from being the
case. The peasant sells his cattle and sheep to buy for himself vile
tobacco; “bogus” cognac; brennivín or kornschnaps, and perhaps even
“port” and “sherry;” and for his wife chignon and crinolines, silks and
calicoes, instead of the homely but lasting frieze cloth. His
grandfather infused Iceland moss; he must drink coffee, while raisins or
cassonade are replaced by candied or loaf sugar. Figs boiled with rice
and milk were then offered to guests, and angelica root was a _boccon
ghiotto_. And so with other matters. The Althing has attempted to curb
the crying evil of ever increasing drunkenness, the worst disease of the
island because the most general, by a tax which will be described under
the head of cesses; and sensible men would see it increased.

During the last forty years the number of horses has gradually fallen to
half; in 1871 the total was only 3164 over the 26,324 which Mackenzie
gave for A.D. 1804. In 1834, according to John Barrow, jun., a careful
observer, though apparently his figures do not come from official
sources, the census varied from 50,000 to 60,000; and the same is given
for 1835 by Mr Pliny Miles (1854), who may have copied his predecessor.
In 1845 the census numbered 34,584. In 1862 the late Professor Paijkull
counted 37,000, or 0·5 per head of population; during that year 828 (?)
were exported to Scotland viâ Belgium. The last census, for June 6,
1871, shows:

Horses and mares, four years old and upwards,   23,059
  ”          ”    under three years,             6,629
                                     Total,     29,688

The following figures denote only the exportation from the capital;
though many animals are bought in other parts of the island, they are
usually driven to Reykjavik, and the people complain that the west,
where horse-flesh is scarcest, sends out the most. Those embarked at the
chief port, sometimes in troops of 400, were either two-year olds or
upwards of ten-year old, and many appeared to the author fit only for
the knacker’s yard.

In 1861 (Consular Reports, 1865) were imported into Great Britain, 444 head.
 ” 1862 total export (Paijkull) 828 head; Parl. Rep. give          856  “
 ” 1863 Consular Report                                ”           345  “
 ” 1864        ”        and official figures on island ”           470[228] “
 ” 1869 official figures                               ”           507  “
 ” 1870          ”                                     ”           906  “
 ” 1871          ”                                     ”          1018  “
 ” 1872 a conjecture perhaps understated               ”          2000[229] “

For three years Dr Hjaltalín advised the Althing to impose a heavy tax
on exported horses, and to expend the income upon road-making: the plan
was too sensible to suit the majority. The theorists, who are not a few
in Iceland and Denmark, object to unfree trade, and look only at present
profits--when will nations learn that to imitate one another often
produces not a copy but a caricature? Upon the subject of horse-flesh,
further details will be found in the Journal.

To resume: Mr Consul Crowe (Report, 1870-71) gives the following
value-tables of farm-produce:

|                  |    1864.  |    1865.  |    1866.  |    1867.  |
|                  |-----------+-----------+-----------+------------
| Salt meat, brls. |     1,902 |       716 |     2,206 |     2,985 |
| Tallow, lbs.     |   453,279 |   461,193 |   452,261 |   556,254 |
| Salted  sheep-   |           |           |           |           |
|  skins, pieces,  |     8,438 |     2,870 |    11,552 |    14,592 |
| Sheep-skins, do. |     8,411 |    31,649 |    30,729 |    26,886 |
| White wool, lbs. | 1,215,162 | 1,393,161 | 1,547,169 | 1,223,580 |
| Black ”     ”    |    15,893 |    21,858 |    25,886 |     8,303 |
| Mixed ”     ”    |   109,538 |   116,241 |   132,394 |    96,881 |

|                  |     1868. |    1869.  |
|                  |-----------+-----------|
| Salt meat, brls. |     2,003 |     2,758 |
| Tallow, lbs.     |   530,798 |   451,655 |
| Salted  sheep-   |           |           |
|  skins, pieces,  |     8,861 |    14,746 |
| Sheep-skins, do. |    12,393 |    15,862 |
| White wool, lbs. | 1,423,392 | 1,218,067 |
| Black ”     ”    |     7,779 |     7,942 |
| Mixed ”     ”    |   122,456 |    97,618 |

Of which the annual exported value is--

|               |  S. AMT. |  W. AMT. |  N. & E. |        WHOLE ISLAND.      |
|               |          |          |   AMT.   |                           |
|               |----------+----------+----------+----------------+----------|
|               |  Value   |  Value   |  Value   |  Quantities.   |  Value   |
|               | Rix dols.| Rix dols.| Rix dols.|                | Rix dols.|
|               |----------+----------+----------+----------------+----------|
| Salt meat,    |    3,150 |   2,185  |  35,910  |     2,095 brls.|   41,245 |
| Tallow,       |   15,334 |   5,813  |  61,394  |   484,240 lbs. |   82,541 |
| Salted sheep- |          |          |          |                |          |
|  skins,       |      826 |     112  |   8,602  |    10,176 pcs. |    9,540 |
| Sheep-skins,  |      525 |     331  |     893  |    20,988 ”    |    1,749 |
| White wool,   |  121,218 |  65,847  | 205,354  | 1,336,755 lbs. |  392,419 |
| Black  ”      |    2,253 |     835  |   1,201  |    14,610 ”    |    4,289 |
| Mixed  ”      |    6,922 |   4,126  |  12,394  |   112,521 ”    |   23,442 |
|               |----------+----------+----------+----------------+----------|
| Total,        |  150,228 |  79,249  | 325,748  |      ...       | $555,225 |


Faber mentions forty-five species of fish, seven of them being
inhabitants of fresh waters; but the list is evidently incomplete. Of
Cetaceæ alone the Iceland seas produce thirteen varieties: we shall
visit the headquarters of whale-catching on the eastern coast. The
Hákall, or edible shark, is also an animal of importance far surpassing
the seal. The halibut (Spraka) is rare in the south, but it is found in
abundance in the north-west; the sole is wanting, and the herring (Síld)
is unaccountably absent, except in the north and east; the latter
sometimes enters the bays and gives a little work about Seyðisfjörð and
Akureyri, but it does not pay.[230] Mackerel, lobsters and oysters,
shrimps and prawns, are unknown; there are crabs which contain little
meat, and a variety of limpets (_Patella_), and mussels (_Mytilus
edulis_), eaten and used for bait. The principal fish upon the coast are
the true cod (_Gades morrhua_); the ling (_Lota morrhua_), with the long
dorsal fin; the hake (_G. merlucius_); the haddock (_G. æglefinnus_);
the coal-fish (Icel. Isa; _G. carbonarius_); the skate (_Raia_; Icel.
Skata), and the stinging-ray (_R. trygon_; Icel. Graðskata or
Tindabikkja). The rivers teem with salmon (_S. salar_); the lakes and
ponds with trout (Silungr) and char (_Salmo Alpinus_).[231]

Ichthyological study is everywhere in its infancy, and awaits its full
development, when the greatly increased density of earth’s population
will enhance the difficulty of supplying it with a sufficiency of food.
The late Professor Agassiz ably vindicated the superiority of fish-diet
for brain-workers, as well as for the poor classes of society,--it
abounds in phosphorus and “ohne Phosphor keine Gedanken.” The noble
fisheries of Iceland are still in the most primitive style of
development; the appliances are of the poorest, and the people display
neither energy nor intelligence, which must be aroused by an impulse
from without. The returns, as we shall see, are considerable, but they
might be indefinitely augmented if modern improvements and commercial
enterprise were enlisted to make the best of this generous source of

For the ocean is emphatically the poor man’s larder. With equal capital
and labour it is made far more productive than the earth, and the ratio
is ever increasing in its favour. Whilst land-animals give birth to one
or two young at a time, fish produce their millions, and the bulk far
exceeds anything that walks the earth. Whilst, at most, one-eighth of
Iceland is capable of yielding food in any appreciable quantities, the
circumpolar seas swarm with profuse life, tier upon tier extending
thousands of feet deep. “In hot latitudes the deep-sea temperature
diminishes till the mercury stands at 40° (F.); in the parallel of 70°
the ocean, many degrees warmer than the land-surface, is of the same
temperature at all depths.”[232] And as the voyager advances toward the
poles, the diffusion of animal life increases prodigiously. The waters
around Iceland, as about Greenland, produce endless forage for their
tenants, such as the squids (_Sepiadæ_), and the _Clio Borealis_, the
favourite pasture of the whale; whilst fine and nutritious grasses
occupying the shore and the shallows yield pasture for the seals.[233]
The rivers rolling glacier-water, and the white streams tinged by
_detritus_, are, it is true, barren; but they bear down the alluvium of
cultivated lands, and the drainage serves to augment the supply of food.

The abundant sea-harvests, especially of cod, soon attracted the
attention of foreign nations; and as early as A.D. 1412, thirty European
ships or crafts frequented the coasts of Iceland. Until 1872, the
maritime territorial limits of four Danish, or nearly twenty English,
miles, laid down by the law of 1787, were preserved with all its
wholesome provisions, pains, and penalties. The new retains the old
ordinance in case of necessity, but annuls certain objectionable parts;
for instance, it allows the necessary landing and warehousing of
fishermen’s stores on the payment of a moderate and conditional charge
to the local poor-box.

It has been shown that the fisheries of Iceland are worked by 3500
boats, manned by upwards of 5000 souls, only one-tenth of those employed
upon the farms. But this would give a false idea of the important
industry which, depending upon the peculiar character of the people, has
determined more than anything else the modes and the inspiration of
national life. Especially between February and May, the “fishing
peasants” flock to the shore; the seaboard farms and factories become
populous, and the whole energy and interests of the island are turned
to its characteristic occupation. Off the south-western county there is
perennial fishery--salmon in spring, and cod nearly all the year.[234]

Cod fishing is carried on along the coast generally, sometimes even in
the inner harbours. The western shores are peculiarly rich; and that
most favoured is the southern coast between Keflavík and Hafnafjörð.
Desolate in appearance beyond all other regions, excepting the giant
Jökulls to the south-east, the south-western peninsula has deserved the
name Gullbríngu Sýsla, “gold-bearing county,” from its sulphur diggings
and magnificent fisheries.[235] And a glance at the map will show the
admirable spawning-grounds off the western coast.

A royal decree, dated A.D. 1292, forbids the sale of dried cod to
foreigners on the ground of an expected famine. Before the Reformation,
England fished for herself; and as late as James I. the Iceland waters,
where few are now seen, employed 150 vessels. Little by little, France,
with patient and strenuous action, established a hold on, and afterwards
a monopoly of, the Iceland deep-sea fishery; thus securing, as in
Newfoundland, not only a source of national wealth, but a powerful
reserve of experienced seamen. Certainly, no better school for sailors
can be imagined than the dangerous and intricate navigation of the
Iceland Fjörðs. In 1859, there were 269 French smacks and ships, varying
from forty to eighty tons burden, and manned by 7000 fishermen; in 1872,
even after the Prussian-French war, these figures were 250, averaging
ninety tonneaux, and 3000 hands (_Revue Maritime et Coloniale_). They
are protected by two, formerly three, men-of-war, which cruise about,
repressing disorders, and aiding their compatriots with spars,
provisions, and medical comforts. Collisions between natives and
foreigners take place when the latter are driven, by the weather, the
currents, and the movements of the fish, within the prohibited limits,
now one league (= three miles) from the coast: also entanglement of gear
often ends in a free fight. Forbes (Commander, R.N.) tells us (p. 208)
that no such powerful reserve of trained seamen exists, except those
engaged in the same occupation, and under similar regulations, on the
cod-banks of Newfoundland.

Mr Consul Crowe (1865-66 and 1870-71), whose exhaustive Reports must be
consulted for details which cannot find room in these pages, divides the
Iceland “fisheries of the present day into three kinds, viz., the
cod-fishery, shark-fishery, and whale-fishery.”

According to him (p. 30), the large cod, here not a migratory fish,
remain during the winter near the island, and from February to March
approach the south and west coasts to spawn, their course being from the
west and south. The earliest and best fishings begin with early spring
in the more temperate waters, and farther northwards about latter June
or early July, ending with August. The fish, where it keeps close to the
bottom, is landed by small drift-nets; it is “more squat and plump, with
smaller head,” than those caught on the hook. Fishing with the ordinary
long lines, and deep-sea or hand lines, opens about mid April; the
little extension given to it arises from the poverty of the people. From
one to four lengths of a strong thick line, each measuring sixty
fathoms, are spliced together; and hanging lines six feet long are
fastened at distances of from six to nine feet: the French can afford to
use lines measuring 1500 to 2000 fathoms. The hook is the ordinary
tinned English (No. 5), baited with mussels. “In order to obtain a white
flesh, the first operation is to rip up the belly, the head is cut off,
and the body is gutted, the liver and roe being separated and carefully
kept. The backbone (blód-dalkr) is next extracted, as far as the third
joint below the navel, after which the carcase is washed in salt water,
and salted, one barrel (about 224 lbs.) being used to 352 lbs. After
lying in salt for three or four days, the fish is washed and laid out
singly on the rocks to dry; it is protected from dust and damp, and is
frequently turned by the women, that both sides may be alike.” For home
consumption, the cod is split and hung up unsalted in the “wind-house.”
It is known by its shrivelled appearance, and, like the refuse heads, it
is eaten uncooked. Although Hamburg pays 12s. 6d. per cwt. for fish
guano, Iceland neglects this exportation. Finally, the cod-fish is sent
in great part to Northern Europe (Denmark and Hamburg), and at least
one-half to Spain and the Mediterranean; in fact, wherever the old world
keeps Lent, and eats “baccalá.” The French, although great consumers, of
course supply themselves.

Details concerning the whale and the shark will be found in the Journal
(chap. xiii.). The supply of salmon from the northern and western coasts
has been pronounced “literally inexhaustible;” yet mismanagement of
rivers shows that they can greatly be damaged. The Laxá, near Reykjavik,
in Mackenzie’s day (1810), yielded from 2000 to 3000 lbs. per annum; in
1872, the catch was nearly nil, although in the summer of 1873 it
somewhat improved. Salmon was exported as early as 1624, but in small
and irregular quantities, till taken up by Messrs Ritchie of Peterhead
and Akranes. The house still employs nine Scotch hands to preserve the
fish caught in the Borgarfjörð, the embouchure of the great Hvítá. But,
although salmon began to appear in the returns as a regular article of
export, the 22,000 lbs. of 1858 fell to 4000 in 1868, on account of the
river being overworked. During the early season of 1872, the take was
small, but it afterwards so increased that tins were wanting for
preserves: the superintendent at Akranes pays thirteen skillings (3¼ d.)
per lb. to the Borgarfjörð fishermen.

Iceland lacks the _Otaria_ or eared seals, sea lions, elephants, and
wolves, of which one species, the _O. Falklandia_, supplies such
valuable pelts; all its Phocæ are inauriculate. Naturalists give six
species, viz.:

1. _Phoca fœtida._

2. _Callocephalus vitulinus_ or _Phoca littorea_, the common land-seal.

3. _Phoca barbata_, the great seal.

4. _Phoca Grœnlandica_ or _oceanica_, the harp-seal.

5. _Cystophora cristata_ or _leonica_, hooded or hood-cap seal

6. _Phocula leporina_, haaf-fish or open-sea seal.

Old authors mention four kinds, viz., Rostungr (walrus), Vöðruselr,
Blöðruselr, and Gránselr. Modern Icelanders preserve, like the
Scotch,[236] three great divisions: 1. The land-seal, which keeps near
the shore, and breeds there in spring; 2. The open-sea seal, that
affects the distant rocks and reefs; and 3. The Greenland seal, which,
during winter, haunts the Fjörðs. Further details will be found in the

The Iceland waters show four porpoises, viz.:

1. _Delphinus phocœna_, the common porpoise, smallest of the Cetaceæ.

2. _Delphinus bidens_ or _bidentatus_, Baleine à bec, the bottle-head or
bottle-nosed whale; the “ca’ing whale” of the Scoto-Scandinavian

3. _Delphinus orca_, the grampus.

4. _Albicans_ or white Beluga.

The following are approximate returns for fish and their products
exported from Iceland in--

                        1806                   1849              1870
Fish,              650,000 lbs. (Danish)        ...              ...
Dried fish,        750,000 lbs.           938,080 lbs.       527,040 lbs.
Salt cod,              150 barrels      5,248,000 lbs.     7,507,840 lbs.
Cod oil,               807   ”  }
Shark oil,           1,663   ”  }       3,259 barrels      9,424 barrels
Seal oil,               24   ”  }
Fish liver,             12   ”             ...                ...
Salted salmon,          28   ”              5,810 lbs.       245,392 lbs.
Salted shark skins,  1,568   ”             ...                ...

The subjoined table shows what has been the export of cod and oil during
the last six years.

|                 |   1864.   |    1865.  |   1866.   |
|                 |-----------+-----------+-----------+
| Salt-fish, lbs. | 6,296,224 | 2,917,024 | 3,855,104 |
| Dried do.       |   139,040 |    13,728 |    79,904 |
| Salt-roe, brls. |     2,390 |       452 |       770 |
| Liver oil,      |     6,572 |     9,520 |     8,952 |

|                 |    1867.  |    1868.  |   1869.   |
|                 |-----------+- ---------+-----------|
| Salt-fish, lbs. | 8,026,656 | 3,916,000 | 5,243,744 |
| Dried do.       |   335,280 |   266,464 |   442,816 |
| Salt-roe, brls. |     1,962 |       578 |       977 |
| Liver oil,      |    13,083 |     8,757 |     7,744 |

The noteworthy point is the falling off of the salt-fish: perhaps the
reason may be the expense of imported salt. During the last century the
State established a saltern at Ísafjörð, but it was soon closed for want
of patronage--Mr Consul Crowe remarks, “The very high temperature of the
numerous hot springs which are quite accessible, would give an ever
ready heat applicable for evaporation, and, I believe, a fresh attempt
to utilise them would repay itself.” But salting is ever difficult.

It must be observed, of this table, that no account is kept of the
quantity reserved for home consumption, which is doubtless large--the
daily bread of some 70,000 souls. The general belief, however, is that
the greater proportion of the catch is exported. Mr Consul Crowe thus
calculates, according to the prices current during their respective
years, the value of the average year’s export.

|           |  S. AMT.  |  W. AMT.  |  N. & E.  |                             |
|           |           |           |    AMT.   |       WHOLE ISLAND.         |
|           |-----------+-----------+-----------+---------------+-------------|
|           |Value Rds. |Value Rds. |Value Rds. |Quantities     |Value in Rds.|
|           |-----------+-----------+-----------+---------------+-------------|
|Salt-fish, |   215,229 |    87,171 |       609 |5,078,898 1bs. |     303,009 |
|Dried do.  |    12,120 |     5,370 |       720 |  213,664  ”   |      18,210 |
|Salt-roe,  |     5,910 |        30 |      ...  |    1,188 brls.|       5,940 |
|Liver oil, |    33,352 |    65,890 |   101,068 |    9,105  ”   |     200,310 |
|           |-----------+-----------+-----------+---------------+-------------|
|Total,     |   266,611 |   158,461 |   102,397 |     ...       |Rds. 527,469 |

The following figures show the export of cod from the beginning of the
seventeenth century when the system of monopolies was introduced.

In A.D. 1624 it was of lbs. 2,273,440
            ”    1743     ”          2,057,680
            ”    1772     ”          3,091,200
            ”    1784     ”          2,845,920
In A.D. 1806 it was of lbs. 1,440,400
            ”    1840     ”          5,375,040
            ”    1855     ”          7,705,280
            ”    1868     ”          4,202,240

The peculiarity of this table is the immense irregularity of the

A few model establishments, like the Newfoundland, scattered round the
island would teach the best and cheapest way of curing fish--now a
barbarous process of turning, scraping, splitting, and housing, without
“stages,” “platforms,” or other necessaries. The substitution of
improved decked and half-decked smacks for the open row-boats actually
in use, would save the time and toil at present wilfully wasted:
improvement of the fishing lines is also urgently wanted. But the
initiative must come from Denmark or, at least, from abroad; Iceland has
remained so hopelessly in the background that she has not the means,
even if she has the will, to help herself.

Piscator in Iceland will do somewhat better than Venator: he will find
the lakes, lakelets, and rivers which do not issue directly from
snow-mountains, rich in fish. The salmon ascends the streams as far as
their cataracts; it is finer for the table than that supplied by our
home market. The trout, speckled and white-fleshed, is not worth eating:
the Forelle,[237] or red char (_Salmo Alpinus_), called “sea-trout” in
the Scoto-Scandinavian islands, and elsewhere “salmon-trout,” is coarse
and rank--too trouty, as the red mullet of the Levant is too mullety.
Some travellers limit the weight to four pounds; others increase it to
ten and even fifteen. At the outlet of the Thingvalla Lake the maximum
of twenty-five, brought to bank in a few hours, was seven pounds, and
only two were under six pounds; but the char does not give such good
sport as the white-fleshed. Fishing may be had within a few hours of
Reykjavik, and a day shadowed with dense clouds after a burst of sun
will soon fill the basket. But the sport is uncivilised like the land.
The fish either rush at the bait, “snapping at flies,” as Icelanders
say, and swallowing the food before it touches water, or they lie
sulking and will not be persuaded to rise. Some travellers curiously
assert that in a region full of gnats and midges, the fish, and
especially the trout, are “unaccustomed to flies.” The contrary is the
case, but the preference greatly varies; some find the only rule that
darker colours are usually bit at most greedily; while others declare
the fish fondest of artificial minnows, spoon-bait, or flies with any
kind of tinsel, when not to be tempted by the ordinary loch fly. The
author’s friends tried in turns the black midge; the grilse; the black
hackle, with silver wing; the Hofland’s fancy, red body and partridge
wing; the common cow-dung; the marsh brown; the red fly, with jay’s
wing; and the woodcock wing, with body banded red and orange. The
fisherman should bring out the ordinary trout-hook and salmon-bait which
he uses at home, always remembering that the spring in Iceland is a
month to six weeks later than that of Scotland. He must not neglect to
provide himself with gloves and face-veil to keep out the “midges”
which, under that humble name, sting as severely as the mosquitoes of
the tropics.


The principal occupation of the women is spinning yarn during the
summer, and knitting and weaving in winter. A rude loom fixed and
upstanding, not a little like that of ancient Egypt and of modern
Central Africa, and worked, as in negro-land, by both sexes, stands in
every farm.[238] A good hand can weave three yards a day. The
Vaðmál[239] is the Danish Vadmel, and the Wadmaal, Wadmal, or Shetland
Claith of the Scoto-Scandinavian archipelago; it much resembles the
tweeled cloth or frieze worn by the Leith fishermen and the Media-lana
of Northern Italy.

There is only one kind of Wadmal generally worn, but in most parts of
the island, and especially in the east, there are finer qualities used
for “store-clothes” and woman’s attire. The Ormadúkr is worked like
drill, the Einskepta like twill. It is sold by the ell, or two Danish
feet (= 2⅜ English feet), at the following rates--the breadths being 2
to 2·5 feet and the length indefinite:

Coarse or common,         $0 3 0 to $0 3 8 per ell.
Middling,                  0 4 8  ”  0 5 0    “
Fine and thin (skarlat),   0 5 0  ”  1 0 0    “

The manufacture varies in the several Quarters. The usual colours are
grey, black, light-blue, and murret (Icel. Mórautt), the moret or
russet-brown of the undyed wool; white is sometimes seen, but not the
red--now confined to tradition. It is excellent stuff, durable, and,
after a fashion, waterproof. The moderns prefer to this home-made
article the cheap broad-cloths and long-cloths of European machinery;
and so in West Africa we find the admirable “native” _pagnes_ becoming
too expensive for everyday work.

Details concerning the goldsmith’s trade will be found in the Journal.
The principal is silver filagree, which will compare with that of
Norway, but poorly with the work of Genoa, Malta, Delhi, and

A few hands find employment as pilots.[240] They are licensed without
fee by the Sýslumenn; and in the district of a professional pilot, men
cannot ply the trade without this permission. Found at all the
commercial establishments, they are generally farmers; he of Vopnafjörð
is a cooper: a flag hoisted at the fore is the usual signal. The pay is
not settled; upon the eastern coast they demand $2 per mast; the “Queen”
paid $6, her funnel, it is presumed, being counted as a mast. The
Reykjavik pilot may make £10 per annum. All these gentry come or stay
away as they please, even when the Danish steamer heaves in sight.

The post office, that best of standards for taking the measure of
civilisation, also employs a few hands. The postmaster-general resides
at Copenhagen; the departmental-chief at Reykjavik is Hr O. Finsen, an
Icelander, brother to the Amtmand of the Færoe Islands. He keeps a
book-store, and sells stationery, plain and fancy, in the Parson’s
Green, opposite the French Consul’s; he speaks English, and nothing can
exceed his civility to strangers. The tariff which he gave the author
was as follows: Ship letters weighing three Danish kvints, or
half-an-ounce English, pay 14 skillings for three postage stamps, one
of 8, and two of 3 skillings, a total of 3½d., which is exorbitant. A
similar sum is charged for every three additional kvints, or 8d. an
ounce. Newspapers pay 3½d. for eight kvints; parcels 1s. 6d., and larger
packages 9d. per cubic foot.

“Postal delivery” is of course unknown, even at the capital; the same
was the case at New York fifteen years ago. The inland post was very
poorly managed, but something was done in 1872 to remedy the main
grievance. At Copenhagen the ship-postage could be paid, not the land
transit; consequently the letters for the out-stations, unless re-posted
by a friend, lay for an indefinite time at the Reykjavik office. It was
common to see despatches written in January received on the eastern
coast in July. The Althing has now established branches at the several
stations where the steamers stop; and the sum of $30 per annum is paid
for an immense amount of work; perhaps Iceland is not singular in this
matter. There is a northern courier-road which takes five days viâ
Reykholt and Arnarvatnsheiði to Akureyri, but in winter it is
impassable. No regular overland communication connects the western with
the eastern coast, which the postman visits a few times during the year;
and if there be any duly prepaid letters for the dangerous southern
shore, the same courier will run that way.

A favourite occupation in Iceland is gathering the eider down
(Æðar-dún)--the _Édredon_ so celebrated as a non-conductor of heat. It
is best in the coldest climates, like Greenland; here it is good,
especially after a wet season, when the birds lay most. In the Færoe
Islands, and off the Northumberland coast, it is not worth collecting
for sale; and the same is the case in the Orkneys and Shetlands. For
instance, the people of Rousay, an island of some thirty square miles,
do not preserve their “dunters” (_Somateria dispar_?); they eat the bird
after the breeding season, in August or September, and they pickle the
eggs for winter use. The eider is found in the Pacific, but only on the
northern coasts of Asia and America.

The first lay of eggs, beginning in May and ending six or seven weeks
afterwards, is from four to six; the second from two to four, and the
third from two to three; if not carried off, they will accumulate from
ten to sixteen. The duck gives about an ounce of down each time the
house is robbed, or three nests yield a total of half-a-pound. After the
third _ponte_, the drake contributes an ounce and a half of whiter
material, easily distinguished; and if further outrage be offered, the
unhappy couple quit the bereaved home. Older authors speak only of eggs
(eggver), never of the down; and it is believed that the English trade
in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries brought the name and the
article into foreign markets. Jón í Brokey (born A.D. 1584), who learned
the art and mystery of cleaning in England, introduced it here; and the
rude process is still preserved. An open sieve is made of yarn stretched
over a hoop, and the feathers are stirred with a pointed stick. Thus the
finer material (gras-dún) remains above, the coarser stuff (thang-dún,
or seaweed down) and the heterogeneous matter fall through--this
operation reduces the yield to about half. The work is done by men and
women, in autumn and winter. The _Édredon_ taken from the dead fowl
loses elasticity, and is of little value.

The annual supply of Iceland was 2000 lbs. in 1806; it gradually rose to
5000 or 6000, valued at about £5000; and in 1870 it was 7909 lbs. The
two islets, Yiðey and Engey, off Reykjavik, have produced as much as 300
lbs. in a year. About 1½ lbs. are required for an average coverlet. The
clean lb. in 1809 cost $3; in 1854 (Pliny Miles), 50 cents = 2s. 2d.; in
1860 (Preyer and Zirkel), from $2·66 to $4·53; in 1862 (Shepherd), 12s.
to 15s.; and in 1872, $7 to $8. As the cleaned material sells in England
for 18s. to 19s. per lb., and the uncleaned for 8s., little profit can
be made out of it. In “Some Notes on Greenland, etc.” (Alpine Journal,
Aug. 1873), Mr Edward Whymper says still more: “At Copenhagen, eider
down is worth 20s. per lb., yet in London, quilts weighing 4½ lbs. are
sold for 36s. How much chopped straw and old feathers has the British
tradesman to insert in order to realise his honest profit?”

Eider down is the _haute volée_ of its kind. Most of the sea-fowl,
especially the Lundi or puffin (_Fratercula Mormon_), when purified of
its peculiar pediculus, supply feathers for exportation. Since 1866,
this branch of industry sent annually some 18,000 or 19,000 lbs.; and in
1870 it was 32,081 lbs. Almost every bed has its feather quilt; and the
Devonshire superstition that no one can die comfortable on a mattress
stuffed with goose feathers is quite unknown.

Iceland moss (_Lichen Islandicus_, _Cetraria Islandica_), by the people
called Fjalla-grös (neut. plur.), is still an article of export. As the
native name shows, it is the gift of the hills. We find it on the
Brocken, in the Carpathians, the dolomites of Tyrol and Italy (where it
is called “Lichene”), and in other parts of Europe. The brown-green
leaf, with deeply palmated edges, much resembles sunburnt and withered
dandelion. It must be washed in several waters, to remove the bitter
astringent taste, before it is eaten with cream and sugar. Of late
years, it has been partially superseded by the amylaceous “Carrigeen
Moss,” grown on the green terraces of the Ardmore Cliffs. This
succedaneum, after being sun-dried, and allowed to receive one or two
showers, is again dried, packed in bags, prepared for sale, and used to
make tea or blancmange. Uno Von Troil (p. 108), or rather Eggert
Ólafsson, gives a list of five lichens, each with its Icelandic name;
and Baring-Gould (p. 438) names eight lycopods. Peirce (p. 82)
distinguishes this “Fell-grass” from a “sort of fjall-grass, which is
used for making gruel.”

A small quantity of wild Angelica (_Archangelica_; Icel. Hvönn), though
held to be poisonous in the United States, is exported for comfitures;
in Iceland, it no longer, as of old, flavours ale, nor is it used as a
vegetable. The warm root is chewed, or put into soup; and when cut into
pieces, it is stored in bottles of brandy and schnaps, giving an
aromatic taste. The Umbellifer, grown near houses, is less valued than
the hill plant; animals seem to despise both. The Færoese “Quonn” has a
stem thick as a man’s wrist; the bitter, astringent rind is removed
before the plant flowers and becomes woody, and the stalk, preserved in
sugar, is eaten like the leaves, with sweetened milk.

The simples collected for use are the Holta-rót (_Silene acaulis_, or
moss campion); the Alchemilla or Burnet, a sanguisorb; the Geldinga-rót
(_Statice armeria_); the Speedwell (_Veronica officinalis_); and various
gentians. The “ptarmigan-leaf,” or mountain avens (_Dryas octopetala_,
the Holta-Sóley of older travellers, and the modern Rjúpa-lyng) makes a
tea good for jaundice; the root also is eaten. The half-digested
flowers of the blaeberry (_Vaccinium myrtillus_) and the bog-whortle
(_V. uliginosum_) are taken from the ptarmigan’s crop to make ptisane.
The reindeer moss (_Cenomyce rangiferina_), a small pale-green species,
with hollow stem, is gathered for sheep-feeding. The wild geranium also
produces a blue tint, of old called Odin’s dye.

Of late years, a little business has been done in women’s hair for the
European market. First three Jews came out, then two, and lastly one was
found sufficient to manage the trade--we shall meet him in the Journal.
They cleared about £300, exaggerated to £3000, especially by the _blond
cendré_, the most expensive item of the £300,000 annually imported by
England. As a rule, Iceland demands, instead of supplying, false hair;
in 1871 about 200 lbs. were introduced in the shape of chignons and

Another produce of the island is Iceland spar, which is mentioned in
Fortia’s “Sweden” as “calcareous spar which doubles the object.” This
“Silfr” or “Silbr-berg,” the “Calcite” of Dana, is crystallised
carbonate of lime, useful for polarising-instruments. The main axis
being disposed at a different angle from the minor or bi-axis, causes it
to be doubly refracting; moreover, the former expands, whilst the latter
contracts. Thus all blood-crystals, to specify no other rhombs and
hexagons, show two parallel lines where only one exists: the white
spaces receiving the light transmit it to the retina.

Calcite is produced chiefly on the eastern coast, but its existence is
reported in many places where the peculiar tenure of ground deters the
farmer from attempting to better his property. The author heard of it on
the slopes of the Esja and at Berufjörð. The principal mine is at
Reyðarfjörð--not at Seyðisfjörð as generally asserted. The present
contractor is a certain Hr Tullenius, who, by private arrangement, pays
one-fourth to the Crown and three-fourths of the lease to the Church in
the person of his father-in-law, pastor of the Hofs parish. His
establishment is at Eskifjörð to the north-west of Reyðarfjörð, and he
transports the material in winter by sledges to the coast where it is
shipped direct for England.

The spar is taken from calcined basalt, apparently infiltrated there in
small veins alternating with a green mineral supposed to be the plutonic
stone transformed; the surface is often rough with a zeolitic or
calcareous coat. Large pieces have been found: Paijkull mentions one in
the Copenhagen museum which was bought for $400 and weighed 176 pounds.
Till late years it was rare and expensive; the geological museum in
Jermyn Street contained (1872) only a shabby little bit, and a certain
professor bought for £6 what was worth £60. In these days Mr T. Tennant
(naturalist, the Strand) and Mr J. Browning (optician, Strand and
Minories) can produce hundreds of pounds lying useless. The smaller
pieces now cost one shilling to one shilling and sixpence per pound. The
best and most valuable specimens are the large prisms; the worst when
cut show spotted surfaces or prove full of flaws running right through;
some, like amber, contain red clay, drops of water, and other
heterogeneous substances. They can be tested only by the electric light,
and even that sometimes fails to detect faults which appear after
working. A friend commissioned the author to bring home a large
specimen, purchaseable after trial--he knew little of the islandry. It
is dearer, as usual, in Iceland than in London: the people think that
all the world wants their one popular mineral.

The following branches of industry still await development:

Iron-ore certainly exists, but it is hard to see, with the present
scarcity of coal and wood, what use can be made of it: should peat
companies prove a success, it may still appear in the market. Copper has
been reported to occur in the jasper formation, and cupriferous
specimens have, it is said, been brought to Reykjavik from the great
Hrauns of the Skaptárjökull, the centre of supply being at the Blængr
mountain in the Vestr Skaptár Sýsla. Professor Winkler of Munich found,
_on dit_, quicksilver at Möðruvellir on the way to Akureyri. The
Tindastóll Range, west of the Skagafjörð, has yielded galena embedded in
amethyst-quartz: and we shall see silver glance. The cryolite, so
abundant in Greenland,[241] is found here and in Norway: the late Mr
Anderson met with large blocks, they say, at Vestdalr; and the Abbé
Baudoin assured the author that he had seen it on the Seyðisfjörð, which
opens to the north-east, near a stream north of, and about twenty
minutes’ walk from, Vestdalr. There are large supplies of fine obsidian,
jasper, zeolites, and chalcedonies.

Mr Consul Crowe (Report, 1870-71) supplies the following statistics of
“domestic industry,” which, however, is confined to woollen articles:

|                            | 1864. | 1865. | 1866. | 1867. | 1868. | 1869. |
|Two-threaded guernseys,     |       |       |       |       |       |       |
|  pieces,                   |    85 |   143 |    50 |   134 |   185 |    85 |
|One-threaded do. do.        |    22 |   ... |   ... |   ... |   ... |    59 |
|Two-threaded stockings, prs.|41,561 |34,347 |37,422 |41,025 |60,976 |76,816 |
|One-threaded    ”       ”   | 1,008 |   298 |   412 |   884 |   908 | 1,092 |
|Socks,                      | 3,254 |37,101 |10,930 | 7,673 | 5,247 |28,431 |
|Mittens (one-fingered),     |14,672 |14,736 |26,904 |53,267 |29,873 |55,601 |
|  ”     (full-fingered),    | 1,623 | 1,325 |   744 |   825 |   976 |    69 |
|Wadmal, yards,              |   176 |   549 |   249 |   805 |   569 |   280 |

Of which the annual exported value is:

|                        |   S.  |   W.  | N. & E. |      WHOLE ISLAND.      |
|                        |  AMT. |  AMT. |  AMT.   |                         |
|                        | Value | Value | Value   |  Quantities.  | Value.  |
|                        |  Rds. |  Rds. |  Rds.   |               |         |
|Two-threaded guernseys, |   ... |  ...  |    $95  |    114 pieces |    $95  |
|One-threaded  ”         |    $6 |   $3  |    ...  |     14   ”    |      9  |
|Two-threaded stockings, |    57 |  120  | 14,024  | 48,691 pairs  | 14,201  |
|One-threaded  ”         |   ... |   32  |    112  |    767   ”    |    144  |
|Socks,                  |   ... |    9  |  3,554  | 17,106   ”    |  3,563  |
|Mittens (one-fingered), |    93 |  497  |  2,119  | 32,509   ”    |  2,709  |
|    ”  (full-fingered), |   ... |   23  |    286  |    927   ”    |    309  |
|Wadmal, yards,          |    15 |    9  |    188  |    657 yards  |    212  |
|                        |-------+-------+---------+---------------+---------|
|  Total,                |   171 |  693  | 20,378  |     ...       | $21,242 |

The same Report shows:

“Total value of collective exports,     Rds. 1,103,936
Equal to, for each individual,           ”          15·88

“The value, therefore, of an average year’s export of fish,
farm-produce, and domestic industry was in 1870 $1,103,936; to this may
be added the other known articles of export, such as”--

Eider-down,                                       Rds. 38,064
Feathers,                                          ”    9,848
Horses,                                            ”   10,472
Salmon and other fish, swan-down, fox-skins, etc., ”   96,064
Making the total exports from the island,          $1,200,000
                            Or, sterling,            £133,333
Equal to about £1, 18s. 4d. per head of population.

The conclusion to which the reporter arrives from these tables is, that
“nearly all the cod and roe is fished and exported from the western
districts, and that the shark fishery and export of liver-oil takes
place from the north side.

“On the other hand, the cattle and sheep-rearing, whose produce is
greater than that of the fisheries, centres in the northern and eastern
parts of the island, where the excellent natural grass pastures are
formed in abundance.”


Modern emigration was not attempted till fourteen years ago, and the
islanders chose the worst destination they could find--the Brazil. In
1862, the trial was renewed by some eighty head, with the same want of
success, except in two or three instances; and ten years later, about
fifty left to “plant man” in the tropical empire. The report is, that
they were decimated by cholera at Hamburg. A far more auspicious
movement was made to Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin: the head was a
retired trader, Einar Björnsson, who bought an island in Lake Superior.
Shortly before the author’s arrival at Reykjavik, a small party of
fourteen or seventeen had sailed, not 714, as asserted by certain
English papers. The later emigrants sent home glowing reports of the
country and, although those in the towns were not so successful, the
rural settlers did remarkably well. And the movement will be beneficial
to the islander, who, instead of dawdling away life at home, will learn
to labour and to wait upon a more progressive race.

In the summer of 1873, these pioneers were followed by 200 to 220
recruits, of whom a portion preferred Canada, and is said to be doing
well. The autumn of 1874 sent out 340; the men were employed on the
Toronto railway, and some 40 women went into service. As yet, emigration
has not had a fair trial; and Icelanders, a pastoral and fishing race,
are wholly unaccustomed to agriculture and manufacturing. At the same
time, they have the advantage of being to a certain extent mechanics as
well as labourers. The Norwegian papers, which are translated and spread
over the island, strongly recommended the movement; consequently the
authorities at Reykjavik, and the official class in general, as strongly
opposed it; but, it need hardly be said, their prejudices are not shared
by the distinguished Dr Hjaltalín. If this be, as we apprehend, the
movement of a people seeking, like the Irish and the Basques, a new
“racial baptism,” it may assume important dimensions. It might well be
worth while for the Dominion to secure a number of these sturdy and
strong-brained Northerners, who would form admirable advanced posts
along the valley of the Sasketchawan. The author’s companion in travel,
Mr Chapman, had the acuteness at once to see the use that might be made
of the movement, and proposed recommending the Government of New Zealand
to take advantage of it. The common order of Icelanders show the
greatest interest in America, and strangers are always subjected to
cross-examination on the subject. If the current be allowed to set that
way, efforts to arrest it will not be easily checked: for many years the
author has wondered how and why a poor man ever lives in Europe, or a
rich man in America.




The system has the serious drawback of being complicated and
troublesome; on the other hand, it dates from olden days, and is
familiar to the people. The island is not, and of late years never has
been, self-supporting. The whole revenue does not exceed $44,000, and
the expenditure for official salaries, ecclesiastical and legal
establishments, and education, being about one-third more ($62,000), the
Home Government must supply the deficiency.[242]

It has before been observed that property in Iceland, as in older
England, is measured not by extent, but by produce, the area in fact
never being ascertained. The basis of calculation is the ell of Wadmal,
or its equivalent, two heads of fish and a fraction bringing it up to
nearly 2·50. The hundred[243] was either tísætt hundrað (the decimal
hundred, 10 × 10), introduced with Christianity, and now chiefly used in
ecclesiastic and scholastic matters, or tólfrætt hundrað (duodecimal, 12
× 10), the latter being the root of the English system, which has
hitherto successfully resisted foreign innovations. Hence our farmers
long retained in selling cheese the great hundred (120 lbs.) and the
little hundred (112 lbs.) The old adage says--

    “Six score of men, money, and pins,
     Five score of all other things.”

And the “shock,” or half (60), is preserved in the German threat, “Shock
schweren noth” (You want five dozen)!

In old times, there was a double standard: (1.) The hundrað talið,
hundred (of wool, etc.) by tale = 120 ells; and (2.) The hundrað vegið
(weight) or sifrs (of silver), in rings, coin, and so forth, the latter
= 2½ marks = 20 ounces = 60 örtugar, the half örtug being probably the
unit. The phrase, “Six ells to an ounce” (_i.e._, 120 ells = 20 ounces),
refers to silver and Wadmal at par; but, as the coinage was debased, the
6 became successively 9, 10, 11, and 12.

In 1810, the absolute value of the hundrað represented:

One milch cow or two horses (each = 60 ells).

A proportionate number of sheep (= six to eight) and lambs (= eighteen);
each milch ewe = 20 ells in spring, and each wether = 10 ells.

One fishing-boat, with six oars, nets, and lines.

$46 in specie.

In 1872, the proportion was:

One bull, bullock, ox, or cow, calf-bearing or not.

Two horses or three mares, four years old or upwards; riding-horses =
two-thirds of the hundred.

Six milch or eight milkless ewes; six wethers, three years old, and
older; ten wethers, two years old; or eighteen sheep, one or two years

All boats, large and small:[244] the oars are not counted, but the nets
and lines which follow the boat are reckoned at half-a-hundred. The
half-decked vessel, with nets and lines, ranges from 100 to 1·50.

$40 in specie: $20 represent the half hundred, and nothing below it is

240 head of fish, which must weigh 2 lbs. In 1770, 48 head were = $1
(specie); the value often changes, but the modern rate of the Fiskvirði
(worth) may be assumed at about 12⅜ skillings (or in round numbers,

In 1770, 24 ells of Wadmal = $1: now the ell may represent 24¾

Former travellers represented the direct taxes to be tithes, church and
poor rates, with the Sýslumenn’s stipends ($1·50 specie, according to
Hooker). They also divided the items of taxation into five, viz.:

1. Skattr, Scat, or tribute,[245] originally the poll-tax levied by the
king on the franklins (Skattbændr), and afterwards more generally
applied. This cess is paid when movable property in hundreds (cows,
sheep, etc.) exceeds the number of individuals composing the household,
or to be maintained upon the form. De Kerguelen describes it as a “tax
of twelve francs contributed by heads of houses whose income surpasses
sixty francs.” In 1810 it was represented by 4·50 skillings per ell of
Wadmal, converted into specie, or so many fishes, twenty-four to thirty
head being = $4 to $5. In 1872 it is neither more nor less than forty;
for instance, a household of seven souls and eight hundreds pays forty
fishes, and the same sum would be levied upon seven souls and ten
hundreds. All officials, priests, and candidates of theology, are exempt
from this tax.

2. Gjaf-tollr (gift toll) was so called because at first it was supposed
to be, or rather it was, a voluntary payment to the Sýslumaðr and
Prófastr for overlooking or winking at small offences punishable by a
fine. It is said to have been paid as early as 1380. The French
traveller, who held it to be a voluntary contribution for supporting
legal establishments, lays it down at sixty centimes to six francs. The
rate of Gjaf-tollr, which also is levied only on movable property, now

 1 fish per    50
 2   ”        100
 3   ”        200
 4   ”        300
 5 fish per   400
10   ”        500 to 900
12   ”       1000 to 1200
20   ”       1200
And above 1200 nothing more is taken.

3. Lögmannstollr dates from the days of Icelandic independence, and,
representing the salaries of the Presidents of Things (assemblies), was
preserved in memory of the ancient grandeur of the island. Formerly, it
was thirty-five centimes per head of house. It is independent of
hundreds, and paid in money at the rate of 6¾ skillings per farm. In
case of sub-letting, it increases; for instance, if a proprietor leases
half his land to another man, both pay 4½ skillings. The Sýslumaðr
receives one-sixth for the trouble of collecting it, and the rest is
paid into the public Treasury of Reykjavik under the Landfógeti.

4. Althingistollr was a property tax paid, according to Cadastre, for
the support of the Diet. Each deputy formerly received nine francs per
diem, and now $3, besides his travelling expenses coming and returning

5. Tíund, or tithe, paid to the Crown: these have been discussed in the
ecclesiastical section.

The present complicated system will best be explained by a copy of the
Thinggjaldskvittunarbók or Receipt Book for the Thinggjald, the general
taxes. Each large farmer keeps one, and the forms are printed either at
Reykjavik or at Akureyri. The following will be filled up as the
specimen of cesses levied upon a large merchant who hires a farm from
the Church:

|  1868.   | (number of household),|(landed property), | (movable property), |
|          |         22.           |        none.      |     27 hundreds.    |
|                                  |           |             |               |
|                                  |  Fiskar   | Rixdollars. |   Skilling    |
|                                  | (fishes). |      $      | (estimated at |
|                                  |           |             |     96:$1).   |
| Skattur,                         |    40     |             |               |
| Gjaftollr,                       |    20     |             |               |
| Tíund (royal tithe),             |    16·2   |             |               |
|                                  |-----------|             |               |
|             Til Samans (total),  |    76·2   |      9      |     50½    |
|                                  |           |             |               |
| Lögmannstollr,                   |    ...    |     ...     |      4½    |
| Thinghústollr,                   |    ...    |     ...     |      4        |
| Jafnaðarsjóðsgjald,              |    ...    |      2      |     24        |
| Althingisgjald,                  |    ...    |      0      |      0        |
|                                  |           |-------------+---------------|
| Allt gjaldið samlagt             |           |             |               |
|                  (grand total),  |           |     11      |     83        |

The Skattur forms the chief item of the income of the Sýslumaðr.

The Lögmannstollr is still devoted to paying law taxes.

The Thinghústollr, or charges for provincial assemblies, is always four
skillings; the householder where the meetings take place pays the same
sum, and receives it back as part of the hire of the room. It directly
derives from the old Thingfarar-kaup (fee for travelling to the
Parliament, as judges, jurors, witnesses, etc.) levied upon every
franklin; and those who did not pay it could neither sit as arbiter nor
as “neighbour.” The Thingheyjandi (Thing-performer) received a sum
proportioned to the number of days’ journeys he and his retinue had to

The Jafnaðarsjóðsgjald is also called Sakamálatollr, _i.e._, a
repartition fund paid to the Amt or Quarter for public purposes, posts,
roads, criminal prosecutions, and other unforeseen expenses. All who
have one and a half hundreds in movable property must contribute, and
the Amtmenn settle every year the sum required, and the proportion
appertaining to individuals.

The merchant contributes no Althing-money, because he is not a landed
proprietor. This tax is taken from all landed property in the country,
except that belonging to the Crown and the Church; three-fourths are
paid upon immovable, and the remaining one-fourth upon all movable
possessions. Every year, the Hreppstjórar, aided by two landowners of
the parish, estimates how much Landskyld (rent) is paid either by the
owner of the farm or by his tenants and sub-tenants. The Stiftamtmaðr
(governor) having decided upon the sum required, the amount is duly
reparted on landed property.

In addition to these taxes the Iceland farmer pays three other
tithes--viz., to the priest, the Church, and the poor (16·2 ells, or $4
each)--besides a ljóstoll or light-tax = 4 lbs. of tallow, to illuminate
the church: its equivalent being seventy-two skillings. He feeds one
lamb for the priest (lambsfóður, or heytollur--hay-tax), or pays its
forage = $1, 48sk. Those who own property, movable or immovable, to the
amount of twenty hundreds, must also make offur (offertory) to the
priest, amounting to not less than $3. Those who own less property than
five hundreds, work one day for the priest during the hay-making season,
or pay an equivalent of $1, 4sk. By the law of 12th February 1872 an
annual tax is levied on landed property, 1½sk. per hundred. For the
money thus raised model farms are to be established and young men taught
farming. By far the heaviest item of taxation is, however, the poor-rate
(fátækra útsvar), over and above the poor tithes, for it is nowhere less
than equal in amount to all the other taxes put together, and in some
parishes it is even double the amount of all the other taxes. This tax
is levied by the Hreppstjóri at the autumnal parish meeting. The
pauperism is an evil fraught with imminent danger to the island, and
requires the immediate attention of the legislature. It need hardly be
suggested that emigration is the perfect cure for the sturdy vagrants
who infest the land, and that free passages to America, or elsewhere,
would be well laid out.

The taxes in kind (Wadmal, yarn, woollen stuffs, fish, butter, hay, oil,
cattle, sheep, tallow, hides, skins, and all vendibles) are estimated by
the Hreppstjóri, who transmits his account to the Sýslumaðr, and the
latter checks the report by referring to the mean value of the parish.
He then commutes what is paid to him into money, through some trading
firm; and, as he is liable to loss by the fluctuations of the market, he
is allowed to retain one-third by way of remuneration. A “crack
collector,” to use an Anglo-Indian term, may make as much as $3000 per
annum--though less than half that sum would probably be a high average.

The Sýslumaðr again reports to the Amtmaðr, who checks his accounts by
reference to the mean amount of previous revenue, whence results the
Kapitulstaxti verðlagsskrá, or chapter value. The specie is then
remitted to the Bæarfógeti,[246] or assistant treasurers. These officers
are three in number; at Reykjavik, where the holder is also the
Sýslumaðr, at Ísafjörð (west), and at Akureyri (north). Thence the total
revenue finds its way into the hands of the Landfógeti, or chief

The taxes on movable property are considered just and equal. Those on
land are not, because the meanest soil pays as much as the best. Another
grievance is the unequal distribution of the poor-tax, which is managed
differently in different Quarters. For instance, a clerk with a salary
of $300 per annum will be charged $10, whilst the priest of the same
parish with treble the revenue pays only $20.


Accounts in Iceland are kept in skillings, marks, and dollars
(rigsbankdaler or rixdollars, and specie). The following table shows the
comparative English value in

                1809.                             1872.
 1 Skilling = 1 halfpenny              = { 1 farthing and one-eighth, in
                                         {    round numbers a farthing.

16 Skillings or 1 mark = 8 pence, the  = { 4 pence and four-fifths, say
    local shilling                       {    fourpence halfpenny.

                                         { 2 shillings and 3 pence, or 60
 6 Marks or 1 Rigsbankdaler[247]         = {    cents (U.S.), the local
     = 4 shillings                       {    half-crown.

 2 Rigsbankdalers = 1 specie dollars   = { 4 shillings and 6 pence (the
     = 4 shillings and 6 pence           {    crown).

The silver mark originally was worth eight ounces (eyrir)[248] of pure
silver; and the eyrir = 6 peningar = 3 ertog. Each of the eight parts
represented six ells of Wadmal, and thus the total was = 48 ells. In old
times we read of the Örtug, a coin worth one-third of an ounce (eyrir)
or twenty peningar (pence). In these days the Ort is worth only
one-fifth of the specie dollar, and, being a Norwegian coin, it does not
circulate in Iceland. The traveller must beware of Norwegian money,
especially paper, which may be offered him by the Leith agent of the
Danish steamer--it is perfectly useless, and Hr Salvesen must know it.

The following is the coinage current on the island:

_Copper._--One skilling and a few old two-skilling bits.

_Base metal._--Two (the penny), three, four, and eight skillings, the
latter being half a mark. Of half-marks there are three or four issues.
The old is inscribed “2½-Skillings Schleswig-Holstein’s Courent;” the
second bears only “8 skillings,” and the third, or newest, has the
figure 8 above and 2 below.

_Silver._--One mark: of this coin also there are three issues; two old,
marked respectively 5 and 6 skillings, and one new, marked 16 skillings.
Two marks: now rarely seen. Three marks, or half the rixdollar: very
common and very useful. Four marks: an old coin almost obsolete, and
generally called “one-third specie,” because equal to eight rigsbank
skillings. One specie dollar: presenting our crown, and very cumbrous.

According to a royal proclamation of 25th September and 29th December
1873, a new coinage is to take the place of the old one next year. It
will consist of

                        SILVER MONEY.
 1 Króna (100 aurar)    = $4 3  0      £0 1 1½
 1 Eyrir                =  0 0  0½   0 0 0 ½ farthing.
 4 Krónur               =  2 0  0       0 4 6
 2   ”                  =  1 0  0       0 2 3
50 Aurar                =  0 1  8       0 0 6½
25   ”                  =  0 0 12       0 0 3½
 8   ”                  =  0 0  4       0 0 1¼
                    GOLD COIN.[249]
20 Króna peningur (20 }  =  $10 0 0      £1 2 3
     crown-piece)     }
10       ”               =    5 0 0       0 11 1½

In travelling through the island it is advisable to carry a few dollars
(specie), many half-dollars, and an abundance of marks and half-marks,
with smaller pieces useful to pay minor charges. And it is useless to
burden one’s self with a huge bag on board ship: silver can generally be
bought at Reykjavik, with a loss of some five per cent. The Danish
bank-notes with Icelandic words on the back are to be avoided, as the
peasants distrust an article which a wetting may reduce to a rag. In
Denmark there are $5 notes (grey paper, with blue border); $10 (yellow
paper, with brown border); $20 (light-green); $50 (brown paper, with
straight lines in the ground); and $100 (light-brown paper, with wavy
lines). For Iceland there are no bank-notes, but when Paraguay manages
to raise a loan, she need not despair of civilising her currency.

In July 1810, according to Mackenzie, the war had made the English
sovereign worth 15 paper rixdollars on ‘Change; and in 1812 it further
rose to $25 paper. The rixdollar at par was then worth four shillings
English; as has been seen, like all the smaller coins, it has fallen to
a little more than half. In 1872 the metallic value of the English
sovereign in Denmark was = $8, 5m. 0sk.; but at Copenhagen it was
readily exchanged for $9 to $9, 0m. 4sk. The pound sterling in English
silver was worth only $8, 1m. 11sk. At Reykjavik the merchants will not
hesitate to offer $8, 4m. 0sk., and some will even attempt $8, 2m. 0sk.
The author was once assured by one of the principal tradesmen that the
Exchange at Copenhagen was $8, 5m. 0sk; but on consulting the newspaper
it was found that this was the price of bills. Thus money-changing
becomes a profitable business, realising from five to ten per cent., and
strangers will call upon the traveller with the object of “turning” a
quasi-honest penny. Yet the simplest way is to take from England
sovereigns and ten-pound notes. The foreigner can hardly expect to have
a cheque honoured after what has lately happened. The last blow to the
English traveller’s credit was dealt in October 1871, when two yachtsmen
“did a little bill” with Hr Thomsen, converted their dollars into
sovereigns, and went their way. The names of the delinquents are well
known, but that is no reason for quoting them.

Weights and measures in Iceland are simply Danish:

 3 Kvints    = 1 Lod[250] (half-ounce avoird.).
32 Lods      = 1 Pund (= 1 lb. 1 oz. 8½ grs.).
16 Punds     = 1 Lispund[251] (roughly our stone).

Sometimes the Norwegian weights are used, viz.:

  2 Lods        = 1 Unze.
  8 Unzes       = 1 Mark.
  2 Marks       = 1 Skaalpund (10 per cent. more than the English pound
 12 Skaalpunds  = 1 Bismerpund.
  3 Bismerpunds = 1 Vog (36 lbs.).
 16 Skaalpunds  = 1 Lispund.
100 Skaalpunds  = 1 Centner (the hundredweight of Germany, Austria, etc.).
 20 Lispunds    = 1 Skippund (320 lbs.).

Of the length measures:

    12 Danish inches =  1 Foot (= Eng. meas. 12.356 in. or about 67 : 69 ft.).
     2 Feet          =  1 Ell (Alen).
24,000 Feet          = {1 Mile[252] (or 4 = 1° = 4½ English statute miles in
                       {   round numbers).

The Norsk measures are the same, but the foot is = 1·029 English, and
the mile is of 36,960 feet (= 13,320 English yards = 7½ English statute
miles). The only Icelandic measure of length is the Thingmanna-leið, or
journey of the Thingman, about twenty English statute miles.

The Danish Pot is = 0·300 gallons; the Kanne is about three quarts, and
the barrel of oil contains between twenty-five and twenty-six English


Export trade began in Iceland from the date of its official
colonisation. Long before the Norman Conquest, the Norwegian kings and
jarls trafficked with the island. Snorri Sturluson mentions that King
Ólaf Haraldsson (Helgi, or the Holy) made much profit by his
transactions with Hallur Thorarinsson of Haukdal; and an edict of King
Magnús Erlingsson (A.D. 1174) alludes to the annual cargoes of flour and
other merchandise sent by the Archbishop of Nidarós. Already in the
thirteenth century we find Iceland in commercial relations with England,
and a little later with Germany. This “free trade,” which was on a
considerable scale, presently fell before protection, and it did not
recover itself till about the middle of the present century.

In a historical sketch of the island trade, published in 1772, an
Icelandic author makes the following deductions:

  I. The native trade was most advantageous to the island.
 II. The Norwegian was honest.
III. The British was matchless; of every foreign trade it was the most complete
     and the most advantageous to the island.
 IV. The German trade was unjust; it was, however, more tolerable than the
  V. Danish trade, which took its place.

The union of Calmar (A.D. 1397) made it a royal monopoly, carried on
only in vessels belonging to, or licensed by, the Crown. This system
lasted till A.D. 1776, and, practically closing the country to all but a
few privileged Danes, it was injurious as unjust. The island was thus
threatened with the fate of Greenland, whose utter desolation probably
resulted from want of home-supplies rather than from Eskimo attacks.
English merchants were the principal interlopers, receiving fish in
barter for meal and clothes: and in A.D. 1413 one of the first acts of
Henry V. was to send five ships to Iceland with letters proposing that
the harbours be opened to British hulls.

In A.D. 1602, and again in 1609, Christian IV. prohibited intercourse
with the Hanse Towns, the powerful confederacy which had taken the
commerce from the hands of the Norwegians and Danes; and in 1620 he
bestowed it upon the guilds of Copenhagen, Malmoe, and other ports. They
established the first Iceland company, which lasted from A.D. 1620 to
1662. The concession was granted on condition of its paying a small sum
for the use of each haven, $2 to the governor for every ship that broke
bulk, and contributing to the royal magazines in the Vestmannaeyjar. But
when the great piratical irruptions in A.D. 1627 to 1630 proved them
unable to provide for, and to protect, the island, as they had
undertaken to do, the resentment of the Crown caused the shares of $1000
each to sink to half-price and eventually they fell to nothing.

After A.D. 1662 the trade of each haven was sold to the highest bidder
once in every six years. In A.D. 1734 arose the second Iceland company,
which paid an annual sum of $6000 to the Crown, and sent twenty-four to
thirty ships, frequenting twenty-two havens. This monopoly again was a
great grievance; it was injured by smugglers and interlopers, and, by
its working, the island fell to its lowest condition. In A.D. 1776 arose
the third Iceland company, nominally headed by the Crown, which directed
a fund of $4,000,000, provided by the country. At the end of ten years,
when the ships and stock were sold, the loss proved to be $600,000; the
residue was placed under commissioners, and the latter had the power of
lending money to those who embarked in the trade at the rate of 4 per
cent.; 10 per cent. being then the legal limit. In A.D. 1787 the
commerce, averaging $45,000 per annum, was exempted from all imposts for
a period of twenty years, afterwards prolonged for five (A.D. 1812). As
has been said, during the Danish war with Great Britain, a humane order
in Council (1810) saved the island from absolute starvation. At length,
after 250 years of a grinding monopoly, not, however, confined to
Denmark, Iceland was finally reopened to free trade by the law which
came into action in April 1854. At present there are no restrictions
beyond taking out a licence or maritime passport at a cost of two
shillings and threepence per ton of the ship’s burden. There are, or
rather till 1872 there were, no duties on merchandise outwards or
inwards, and foreigners now enjoy the same rights of trade, residence,
and holding property as the natives.

After April 1854 the imports rose within ten years to a million and a
half of rixdollars. Yet something remains to be done in facilitating
trade, and especially in the matter of communication, seven mails a year
being now utterly inadequate to local requirements.

Sea-passes are usually taken out by foreign ships from Copenhagen, after
submitting to medical examination if not provided with clean bill of
health, and paying all the legal shipping dues before bulk can be
broken, otherwise they must be bought at one of the six following

1. Reykjavik, in the south-west.
2. Vestmannaeyjar, south.
3. Stykkishólm, west.
4. Ísafjörð, north-west.
5. Eyjafjörð (Akureyri), north.
6. Eskifjörð, east.

Thus the “Queen” steamer, sent in 1872 for ponies to Berufjörð, could
not land cargo without going to Eskifjorð, and returning to her
destination--a useless or rather an injurious restriction. She had to
pay the Sýslumaðr $1 per ton register, for transmission to the Danish
treasury. This compensation for admitting goods duty-free, is a severe
tax upon a small charter, and it would certainly be better and fairer to
the merchant if the equivalent were levied upon the freight not upon the
bottom. Where trade is so poor, every form of nursing should be attended
to, and the minimum of protection is here the maximum of benefit.

The whole system of Iceland trade, like that of Shetland and the Færoes,
is the “Trust” of the West African oil rivers, so troublesome to consuls
and cruisers. The storekeeper must advance goods to the farmer, and the
latter refunds him when he can, especially in June and July, September
and October, when wool is pulled and wethers are killed. A few of the
farmers have money at the merchants, who do not, however, pay interest;
many are in debt, and the two classes hardly balance each other. Prices
are generally high, but the prohibition category is unknown.

Formerly it was the practice to hold fairs or markets at the chief
comptoirs upon the coast;[254] these “Markaðr” lasted for a week or ten
days in early July, a period known as Höndlunartið (Dan. Handelstid).
The peasants came, often after a week or more of riding, with their
goods carried in crates and panniers by pack-horses; pitched their
tents, and began the year’s business, which was enlivened by not a
little gross debauchery. The canniest of their canny calling, each party
sent forward some noted “knowing hand” to find out which merchant gave
the largest price, and all went to him _en masse_. Consequently the
traders were obliged to defend themselves by a counter-union, all
conforming to a certain tariff; and now, if one store pay a skilling
less than any comptoir within reach, the purchaser will claim to be

The fair system is becoming obsolete; many merchants have opened new
trading stations, and even the most secluded bays are visited by
market-ships. These “Spekulants,” however, are not allowed to visit the
out-havens where there is no comptoir--another scrap of protection to
the storekeeper which calls for abolition. They are limited, reasonably
enough, to four or five weeks of yearly trade at each place, but they
may divide the time at several bays. Moreover, they must sell and buy
only from the ships, and they cannot set up shops on shore.

Regular postal communication is perhaps the first want of the island;
there is hardly any for the three and a half months between November 29
and February 15. A steamer would take very few passengers at such
seasons, but a stout and ably handled schooner-rigged craft of 120 tons
(minimum), with a crew of seven men, should find no difficulty in
carrying the mails. Yet the history of such attempts is not encouraging.
The first postal packet, the “Sölöwen,” went down, “man and mouse,” off
Snæfellsnes, a dead horse cast ashore giving notice of the calamity:
about the same time another ship was lost with all on board. The first
steamer was the “old Arcturus,” Clyde-built, 280 tons register, and
eighty horse-power; the captain (Andresen) and crew were Danes, and the
engineers were Scotch. Messrs Henderson of Glasgow, who hazarded the
speculation, obtained from Denmark a subvention of $6000 per annum for
six years, besides an advance of $30,000 purchase money, at 4 per cent.
interest for outlay. This “cockle-shell” made four, then six, annual
voyages, the first in March, the last in October; and she touched at
Grangemouth when outward and homeward bound. Her charges were cheap--£2,
2s. for eight days, board, wine, and whiskey included. She is now, they
say, trading for the United Steam Company between Copenhagen and the

But private companies, though receiving a grant of $15,000 per annum,
did not thrive. The “Arcturus” was succeeded by the Danish “Póst-skip”
“Diana,” which was put upon the line in 1870. She is a converted
man-of-war, formerly stationed at the island, with flush decks for guns.
A “slow coach” and a fast roller, she formerly made five trips a year,
now increased to seven; and the Appendix (No. I.) will give all
necessary information about her movements. She offers the advantage of
touching at the Færoes, and at Berufjörð, but it has been proposed to
give up the latter station. On the other hand, she is exceedingly
inexact, often lagging behind her time at Granton, and other places.
During the season she is painfully crowded; “a state-room may be had
against payment for all the berths therein;” but unless the kind and
hospitable Mr Berry,[255] Consul-General for Denmark at Leith, or the
civil Vice-Consul, Hr Jacobsen, telegraph to Copenhagen, none will be
vacant. The food is greasy, and soaked in fat. As long as Captain Haalme
and Lieutenant Loitved commanded the “Diana,” there was little official
interference with passengers. Afterwards she fell into the hands of a
martinet, and matters changed for the worse. She seems cheap, but she is
really dear, as these figures show:

First-class cabin from Granton to Iceland,        £4  0  0
Table, without wines (at 3s. 9d. per day),         1 13  9
Wines, etc.,  .   .   .   .   .                    1  0  0
Baggage, only 100 lbs. free; overweight (say 100
    lbs.), at 9d. per 10 lbs.,                     0  8  0
Fees, etc.,                                        0  8  0
                                                  £7  9  9

She does not pay, and no wonder, when the Reykjavik traders sail their
own ships. But these gentry have also determined so to monopolise the
traffic, that often the smallest parcel, even of medium size, is
refused, under the pretext of there being no room. In fact, they have
made the “Diana” peculiarly unpopular. “It is difficult,” says a friend,
“to find any reason for such conduct, but that the Copenhagen merchants
who furnish the stores of Reykjavik with their poisonous liquors, which
they pass off for genuine, take every means to prevent anything like

In 1872, when the author visited Iceland, the export of ponies, sheep,
and meat cattle had caused a rapid development of communication. Already
the “Yarrow” of Granton had been run for three years by her owner Mr
Slimon, who had bought and floated her after she had been wrecked off
Burntisland. She at first refused, but afterwards consented, to carry
mails. With as many as 450 head of horses on board, and towing a sloop
with fifty more, she was terribly down in the stern; and a pooping sea
would have been no joke for her solitary passenger. The “Jón Sigurðsson”
was also sent in May by her owners, a private Norwegian company, and she
was followed by the “Queen.” Concerning these two, ample details will be
found in the Journal.


The present is an age of “manufactures and diffused wealth,” which calls
for as many observations on trade and business as the traveller can
make. Before visiting the stores, however, a few words must be bestowed
upon an interesting detail.

Foreigners are apt to complain that Icelanders are uncommonly “sharp
practitioners;” sleuth-hounds after money, and bull-dogs in holding it,
like Yorkshiremen. It has become the fashion to say that the islanders
are kind and hospitable at first, but succeed in jewing the stranger at
last; and, like most of such generalisations, it contains a partial
truth. Upon this subject an Englishman who knows the island well, wrote,
“So far as my experience goes, I have never met with an Icelander who
was a rascal; there are, however, men in Iceland, and especially at
Reykjavik, who are pretty specimens of that form of animal life.... I
have heard some travellers regard it as a swindle that horses are dear
when wanted to purchase, and cheap when sold; but they forget that in
early summer there is plenty of work for beasts, and the demand raises
their price by the natural law. At the approach of winter there is no
work for them and scanty food, consequently the value falls.”

The traveller, as a rule, will meet but little imposition, except in two
notorious cases, alluded to in many a page. One is the rapacious Rev. Mr
Bech, now Prófastur (archdeacon) of Thingvellir, who charged Prince
Napoleon 220 francs for camping ground, and who is said to have demanded
$47 from Lord Dufferin. The other is Pétur Jónsson, the farmer at
Mý-vatn, who has fleeced generations of tourists; he was made by nature
to keep an inn at Palermo, or lodgings at Dover. Against these and a few
other instances, may be set off many a small farmer who will declare
that he has been paid too much; and often the boatman seems surprised at
being paid at all. The people appear eminently honest in the country
parts. About the capital this can hardly be expected: a revolver and a
silver snuff-box if dropped will not be recovered.

In business the foreigner will fall into the hands of the Danish
storekeepers, who certainly have more than a “theoretical knowledge of
the value of money;” and he will be fortunate if he escape unscathed.
One of these gentry, attempting to extort 500 francs from the Capitaine
Le Timbre for throwing a seine, without taking a fish, into an
unpreserved part of his river, failed, as he deserved. The bad example
has to a certain extent infected the Iceland trader. Messrs Henderson &
Anderson were ruined by their agent. An English storekeeper came out in
1872, with the object of recovering certain debts from the present owner
of the “Glasgow House.” He had spent some years on the island, he knew
Danish well, and he was accustomed to treat with the people; yet he
wholly failed, and the worst part of his failure was, that no Procurator
(lawyer) would undertake the foreigner’s case against a brother
islander.[256] But if these two were disappointed, Messrs Ritchie and
Messrs Hogarth have been successful. And many of our countrymen who land
in Iceland for trade should certainly not throw stones at the islanders.
One of these clerks, a decidedly “sharp” young man, not to use the
comparative form of the adjective, attempted to make himself richer and
the author poorer by £25, on the pretext that he had bought ponies, for
which the hirer should be responsible.

The storekeepers at Reykjavik are called merchants (kaupmaðr = chapman),
and their establishments, which lack signs and names, are the
conspicuous buildings fronting the sea. Mostly, they are paid employés
of Copenhagen firms, who receive fixed salaries. The following is a
list, beginning from the west:

1. Hr Egill Egilsson (Icelander), of the Glasgow House, and agent of the
“Jón Sigurðsson” steamer.

2. Hr Fischer, a Dane, married to an Icelandic wife, settled at
Copenhagen, and occasionally visiting the island. He occupies the corner
tenement to the right of the Bridge House; and he has large stores
fronting his shop.

3. Hr Havstein (Dane), who has not long been established; his private
dwelling is attached to his store at the west end of Harbour Street, but
he usually lives at Copenhagen. This house charters two or three ships a
year to carry its goods.

4. Hr Hannes Jónsson, an Icelander, son of the former Bishop Steingrimur
Jónsson. His stock is furnished by Hr Jonsen of Copenhagen, who has also
establishments at Hafnafjörð, Papós, and Seyðisfjörð.

5. Hr Robb, the son of an English merchant, who settled at and was
naturalised in Iceland.[1] He speaks German, but not a word of English.
It is the smallest of all the establishments, and seems to do business
only in lollipops.

6. Hr P. C. Knutzen, a Dane, whose agent is Hr Sivertsen. He trades on
his own account, without a company; and, being young and wealthy, he
prefers Copenhagen to Reykjavik. At Hafnafjörð he has another
establishment, and an agent (Hr Zimsen).

7. Hr Möller. The Club is held at his house.

8. Hr Schmidt (Danish), who hires a house at Reykjavik, and passes the
winter at Copenhagen. He is Consul for Holland.

9. Hr Th. A. Thomsen, a Dane of Flensburg, born in Iceland. He passes
the winter at Copenhagen; and, besides being one of the principal
traders, he is well-known for his civility and kindness to strangers.

10. Hr Edward Siemsen, at the east end of the town. He is agent for his
brother and their nephew, and he also acts Consul for Denmark.

Including M. Randrŭp, Consul de France, the Consular Corps, none of them
belonging to _la carrière_, consists of three, England, of course, being
unrepresented, though she does the largest business in coal and salt.
Thus the tricolor is the only foreign flag seen in the island, the other
two staves bear Danish colours. As has been shown, most of the traders
pass only the summer in [257] Iceland, and they solace themselves with
frequent rides and picnics at the Laxá River.

Kerguelen has left us an excellent description of the Iceland trade in
A.D. 1767. It was managed by a Danish company (No. 2, before alluded
to), which had bought an exclusive privilege from the king, and which
kept factors and warehouses at the several stations. The only money was
fish and butter,[258] whilst one ell of pig-tail (tobacco) = one fish.
The fisheries were very extensive, and would require four frigates
thoroughly to protect them. Exports were included under salt meat, beef,
and mutton; tallow; butter, close packed; wool in the grease; skins of
sheep, foxes, and seals; feathers, especially eider down; oil of whales,
sharks, and seals; fine and coarse jackets of Wadmal, woollen stockings,
and mitts; stock-fish and sulphur. The imports were fishing-tackle,
horse-shoes, carpenters’ woods, coffee and sugar, tobacco and snuff,
beer, brandy, and wine, dry goods (calicoes, etc.), flour (wheat and
rye), bread and biscuit.

The imports of the present day, to mention only those of chief
importance, are timber, salt, coals, grain, coffee, spices, tobacco, and
liquor. The timber consists of pine and fir, mostly the latter; the
forms are beams for roofing and framing, twenty-two to twenty-four feet
long, one-inch boards for side-lining of houses, three-inch planks, and
finer woods for the joiner. Salt comes chiefly from Liverpool, which is
ousting the Spanish trade, and the average price may be $2 per barrel =
176 pots = 44 gallons. The people declare that they cannot afford the
expense of salt-pans, and that the sun is hardly hot enough for
evaporation: this was not the case a few years ago, but Iceland, like
Africa, finds it cheaper to import the condiment. English coals are
carried in British bottoms, either direct or viâ Copenhagen; from the
latter only small quantities come; birch wood, sawn and split for fuel,
is introduced for private use, not for the general market; and there is
no charcoal at Reykjavik, although birch “braise” is found inland. The
cereals, whose consumption ranges from twenty-four to thirty bushels a
head, are wheat and rye, in grain, flour, and biscuit; baking-ovens are
found only at the capital. The rice is more often cheap “Rangoon,” than
fine “Carolina;” the people, who are fond of rice-milk, do not appear to
know the difference, and the import quintupled between 1864-70. The
spices are chiefly cinnamon, generally mixed with black pepper;
pepper,[259] cloves, and nutmegs. Coffee,[260] whose consumption is 6·7
pounds per head, is chiefly the Brazilian growth; tea is very rare, and
a little chocolate is brought from Copenhagen. In hard times, for
instance after 1855, the consumption of these luxuries notably falls
off. The tobaccos are usually the common Danish article; foreign growths
are represented by twist, for chewing as well as smoking; by shag,
bird’s-eye, and some specimens of the thousand mixtures which have
become so popular of late. As may be expected, the cigars are dear and
bad; the best, or at least the most expensive, are the Hamburg
“Havannahs,” which are pretentiously wrapped up in a plaintain-leaf,
veritable “cabbage.” Perhaps the favourite form is snuff (= about $3 per
pound), which is loved by males of all classes and ages. There are few
men who “take nothing between their fingers;” the consumption of this
Tupi article is about two pounds per head of males.[261]

The list of wet goods in a general store is extensive, including port
and sherry, claret and champagne, rum and cognac, with liqueurs like
cherry-brandy. These are mostly dear and bad; the beer imported for
tavern use, and the Brennivín, Kornschnapps, or rye-spirits, are too
cheap to be adulterated, except for the peasantry. Not a few country
merchants can sell per annum of this liquor twenty barrels, each
containing thirty gallons. The Althing imposed an import tax, to come
into force on July 1, 1872, of $0, 0m. 8sk. (about 2½d.) per pot or
quart, upon every bottle of wine and spirits, beer only being
excepted.[262] But the law unhappily said “drinkable spirits,” and the
merchants were able to exempt pure and methylated alcohols from the
impost. Consequently “brandies” were made at Reykjavik and at other
trading stations, greatly to the detriment of public health as well as
of morality, and despite the exertions of sensible men like Dr
Hjaltalín, the “Land-physicus.” The duty upon twenty barrels would be
$200; it is paid into the Treasury under the charge of the Landfógeti,
superintended by the Stiftamtmaðr. The sooner an “Adulterations Act” is
passed the better, but in Iceland as elsewhere _magna est pecunia et
prevalebit_. The island is not cursed with a Manchester school and its
moral mildew, but commercial interests are amply sufficient for more
than self-protection.

It may be useful to compare the prices in 1810 by Stephensen (History of
Iceland), with those of 1872, on the western and eastern coasts:

                               In 1810.          In 1872.     On East Coast.
1 pair trade mitts,          $0  0  4--6        $0  2  0      $0  0 14--20
1 pair stockings             $0  0 12--18       $0  4  0      $0  2  0
1 pair fine socks,           $0  0 64 to $1     $1  0  0}
1 common Wadmal jacket,      $0  0 40--60       $3 to $4}     none made for
1 fine Wadmal jacket,        $2 to $3           $6  0  0}         sale.
1 lb. (Dan.) wool,           $0  0 12--20       $0  3  4      $0  2 to %0 4
1 lb. eider down,            $2  3  0 to $3     $7  3  0      $7  0  0
1 lb. feathers,              $0  0 17--20       $0  2  0      $0  2  0
1 lb. tallow,                $0  0 16--22       $0  1  4      $0  1  0
1 lb. butter,[263]           $0  0 10--28       $0  2  0      $0  1  0
1 Skippund (320 lbs.) “flat}
  fish,”[264]              } $12 to $20        $26 0  0       $20 0  0
1 Skippund klip-fish,[265]   $15 to $30        $30 to $40      none.
1 barrel sharks’ liver oil,  $12 to $20        $30 0 0        $25 0 0
1 skin, white or Arctic fox} $3 0 0            $1 4 6}
  (_C. lagopus_),          }                         }        none on East
1 skin, blue (_i.e._, deep iron} $3 0 0        $8 0 0}          Coast
  grey) fox,                 }                           }
1 brown (_C. fuliginosus_),  $5 0 0            $8 0 0}
1 Rein-deer skin,[266]       $5 0 0            $5 3 0
100 Swan-quills,             $2 to $3          $8 0 0         very rare.
A horse,                     $6 to $40  according to demand,  £3 to £10
A cow,                       $16 to $24        $50 to $80     and upwards.
A wether,[267]               $2 to $5          $9 0 0         $9 0 0
1 ewe and lamb,              $2 to $2½         $12 0 0        $9 0 0
A lamb,                      $1 2 0            $3 0 0         not for sale.

Details of imports for 1865, occupying nearly a page and a half, will be
found in the Consular Report of that year; the total importations
represented £21,468. The kind, weight, and value of the primary items
are thus tabled in 1870-71: the account applies to the whole island, but
only the principal articles are mentioned:

|                      |         |         |         |
|                      |  1864.  |  1865.  |  1866.  |
|                      |         |         |         |
|                      |         |         |         |
|                      |---------+---------+---------+
| Rye and rye-flour, } |  35,620 |  41,596 |  37,968 |
|  barrels,          } |         |         |         |
| Barley,              |  17,490 |  19,960 |  16,708 |
| Pease,     .         |   4,524 |   4,177 |   4,481 |
| Wheaten bread, lbs., | 317,216 | 339,511 | 252,511 |
| Rye bread, lbs.,     |  18,033 |  26,869 |  21,389 |
| Spirits, quarts,     | 567,675 | 608,864 | 529,426 |
| Coffee, lbs.,        | 393,164 | 462,227 | 483,852 |
| Chicory, lbs.,       |  87,864 | 120,602 | 108,753 |
| Sugar candy, lbs.,   | 347,745 | 429,467 | 385,942 |
| Loaf sugar, lbs.,    | 101,918 | 152,840 | 135,350 |
| Brown sugar, lbs.,   |  27,751 |  47,020 |  41,602 |
| Treacle, lbs.,       |  16,199 |  19,257 |  14,289 |
| Rice, lbs.,          |  80,946 | 127,304 | 251,201 |
| Snuff, lbs.,         |  72,422 |  69,172 |  83,625 |
| Leaf tobacco, lbs.,  |   5,449 |  11,619 |   8,448 |
| Chew tobacco, lbs.,  |  35,011 |  39,908 |  37,081 |
| Tobacco, lbs.,       |   9,953 |  14,854 |  14,865 |
| Cigars (pieces),     | 274,000 | 236,100 | 262,800 |

|                      |         |         |         | Average  |
|                      |  1867.  |  1868.  |  1869.  |  Yearly  |
|                      |         |         |         | Value in |
|                      |         |         |         |    £.    |
|                      |---------+---------+---------+----------|
| Rye and rye-flour, } |  29,426 |  27,973 |  28,905 |  40,044  |
|  barrels,          } |         |         |         |          |
| Barley,              |  12,992 |  10,463 |  10,455 |  24,463  |
| Pease,     .         |   3,158 |   3,173 |   2,775 |   4,953  |
| Wheaten bread, lbs., | 244,754 | 182,783 | 196,068 |   3,494  |
| Rye bread, lbs., |  18,844 |  13,754 |  20,714 |     210  |
| Spirits, quarts,     | 479,285 | 385,273 | 351,752 |  12,402  |
| Coffee, lbs.,        | 403,840 | 403,707 | 389,544 |  12,011  |
| Chicory, lbs.,       | 102,089 | 102,762 | 133,909 |   9,488  |
| Sugar candy, lbs.,   | 410,558 | 335,501 | 344,842 |   9,487  |
| Loaf sugar, lbs.,    | 118,229 | 113,960 | 111,229 |   3,087  |
| Brown sugar, lbs.,   |  36,456 |  34,268 |  32,043 |     786  |
| Treacle, lbs.,       |  12,100 |   9,972 |  12,807 |     208  |
| Rice, lbs.,          | 230,338 | 236,965 | 388,938 |   2,535  |
| Snuff, lbs.,         |  69,402 |  45,651 |  61,492 |   1,691  |
| Leaf tobacco, lbs.,  |   3,665 |   4,496 |   2,234 |     176  |
| Chew tobacco, lbs.,  |  34,727 |  30,617 |  34,527 |   2,972  |
| Tobacco, lbs.,       |  10,730 |  10,531 |  11,459 |     254  |
| Cigars (pieces),     | 191,900 | 170,000 | 301,000 |     266  |

The peculiarity of this table is that while the consumption of colonial
goods remains at the usual average, and while rice has nearly
quintupled, there has been a decrease in the import of rye, barley,
pease, and wheaten bread, a circumstance not easy to account for, with a
growing population in an island which produces no cereals.

The collective value of these imports is somewhat over $1,100,000 =
£122,222, which is but $100,000 less than the total value of the exports
of 1869 ($1,200,000 = £133,333); and, as only the most important items
have been mentioned,[268] we may conclude that the two totals almost
balance each other. The consumption of brandy, coffee, sugar, and
tobacco is alone equal to about $418,000, or one-third of the whole
value of the exports.

In 1869, the number of foreign vessels that visited the trading stations

From Denmark direct,         99 vessels, with 9,358 tons.
 ”   other countries,        50   ”           4,555  “
 ”   other island stations, 137   ”          13,913  “

Of the 149 direct foreign arrivals

Cleared in to Reykjavik,   31·1 per cent.
   ”          Akureyri,     9·3    “
   ”          Seyðisfjörð,  9·3    “
   ”          Ísafjörð,     8·2    “
   ”          Berufjörð,    6·4    “
   ”          Hafnarfjörð, 51·0    “

We will now enter the establishment, and see the stock-in-trade of a
general “merchant.” The usual dwarf entrance-hall, after the outer door
is passed, opens upon two rooms to the right and left: one is the public
shop, filled at the “fair season” with jostling boors and drunken
loafers; the other is the private store, mostly provided with railed pen
for the benefit of the clerk and account-keeper. Besides the mainstays
of commerce before mentioned, the rooms will contain the following
articles: Dry goods, broad cloths and long cloths, woollen comforters,
threads, and a few silks and satins. Hardwares of every description;
iron for the blacksmith’s use; hoop-iron and bar-iron (no pig), the
metal being preferably Swedish, for the best of reasons; a little steel
and brass wire, but neither copper nor zinc; farriers’ and carpenters’
tools; cooking utensils; spades and scythes; sewing machines; and
fish-hooks, the smaller sort for long lines, the cod-hooks large and of
tinned iron. The arms and ammunition, especially old military muskets
and muzzle-loaders, are fit only for the Gold Coast: Copenhagen weapons
are cheap and good, £2, 5s. being the average price of a breech-loading
single-barrelled rifle. Pistols are not seen, and there is a tradition
of the barrels being cut for alpenstock rings. Besides cereals, the
stores supply sugars, brown, candy, and white, refined at Copenhagen;
hams (rare, and no potted meats, so much wanted by travellers); sausages
and sardines; butter (foreign sometimes); figs, raisins, prunes, and
olive oil. The Quincaillerie consists of pots and pans, boxes, funnels,
kettles and watering-pots, lamps and lanterns. The walls are hung with
leather for saddles, thongs, straps, and raw hides for shoes. There is
an abundance of cheap crockery and glass ware. Paraffin and petroleum
have lately come into general fashion; stearine candles are kept mostly
for private use, and the peasants make their own farthing dips.

A narrow back passage, often connecting the public and the private shop,
will have a ladder leading to the usual cock-loft, scattered with boxes
and bales. Here a few skins and birds stuffed for sale, some of them
sadly damaged by rats, hang from the beams; and the following are the
chief items:

The falcon[269] (_F. islandicus_, Icel. Fálki, a foreign word, or
Veiðifálki); a good white, stuffed specimen costs $10. This bird, so
much valued during the Middle Ages, and considered the elder brother of
the gerfalcon (_F. gyrfalco_) or peregrine, was protected by kings and
bishops, who claimed the right of exporting it. A royal mews was
established at Reykjavik. In 1770, the falconers paid $7 for the grey
bird, $10 for the dark-grey, and $15 for the white, which was considered
the most beautiful and docile. Many were sent to England as late as the
seventeenth century: in 1871, a few birds were bought for the Hindostan
market. This falcon is very destructive to ducks, and ranges far, making
upwards of 1300 miles per diem.

Whoopers, hoopers, or wild swans (_Cycnus ferus_, Icel. Álpt or Svanr in
poetry, the Fær. Svener), are now, from the rarity of the skins, sold at
fancy prices.

The Iceland golden-eye (_Clangula islandica_, Icel. Húsönd) fetches,
according to quality, $0, 5m. to $1, 2m.

The gulls (_L. glaucus_, Icel. Hvít-máfur or Hvít-fugl) and the great
black-backed _L. marinus_ (Svartbakur) are cheap, and good specimens may
be bought for $0, 2m.

The great northern diver (_Colymbus arcticus seu glacialis_, Icel.
Himbrimi or Brúsi), if good, costs $1, 4m.; usually it is sold when the
coat is changing from winter to summer wear, and is not worth buying.

The red-throated diver (_Colymbus ruficollinus seu septentrionalis_,
Icel. Lómr or Therrikráka) is worth $1, 2m. when in good condition, with
red around the throat and about the breast.

The other skins are the whimbrel or curlew-knot (_Numenius phaeopus_,
Fær. Spogvi, Icel. Nefvoginn-Spói); the pretty red-headed pochard
(_Fuligula ferina_), extending from the Himalayas to North America, from
Italy to Greenland; the beautifully painted harlequin, or stone duck
(_Histrionicus torquatus seu Anas histrionica_, Icel. Straum-önd or
stream-duck); the white-breasted and crooked-bill’d goosander (_Mergus
castor_, Icel. Stóratoppönd or Gulönd), so different of robe in male and
female; the red-breasted mergander (_Mergus serrator_, Icel. Lilla
Toppönd), whose brick-hued bill, ending in a white horny nail, has
various serrations, according to sex; the shag, scarf, or cormorant
(_Phalacrocorax carbo_, _Carbo cormoranus_ or _Pelicanus carbo_, Icel.
Skarfur, Toppskarfur, and Dílaskarfur), never taught in Europe to fish;
the gannet (_Sula bassana_ or _Pelicanus bassanus_, Icel. Súla or
Hafsúla); the various skuas or Arctic gulls (_Stercorarius_ Icel. Kjói);
the Iceland gull (_L. leucopterus_, Icel. Hvít-máfur), white, with
ash-blue back; the guillemot (_Uria troile_, Icel. Svartlag, Langnefia,
or Langvia), whose flesh is eaten, and whose feathers sell for
twenty-eight skillings per lb.; the black guillemot (_Uria grylle_,
Icel. Tejsti); the grey-lag goose (_Anser ferus_); the scaup-duck
(_Fuligula marila_); the black scoter (_Oedemia nigra_); the long-tail
duck (_Harelda glacialis_); the pin-tail duck (_A. acuta_); the
red-necked phalarope (Icel. Óðin’s-hani, _Phalaropus hyperboreus seu
tringa borea_); the gadwall (_A. strepera_); the wigeon (_A. Penelope_);
the mallard (_A. boschas_); the teal (_A. crecca_).




And first a few words concerning Icelandic literature.

Iceland has been loudly proclaimed to be the “home of the Eddas,”[270]
which is emphatically not the case. The Elder or poetical Edda is
distinctly Continental; it abounds in uninsular ideas and similes: the
sun-stag, the high-antler’d deer, the wolf,[271] the strong-venom’d
snake, the mew-field’s bison or path of ship over the sea, the lily and
the pine forest, are poetical imagery, wholly unfamiliar to the
untravelled Icelander.

The authentic historical literature of Scandinavia opens about the
middle of the ninth century; that of Iceland with its Norwegian
discovery, when the copiously and irregularly inflected tongue, the
“delight of philologists and the traveller’s despair,” was apparently in
its highest form. The learned Bishop of Skálholt (Hist. Eccl. Isl.)
assigns four distinct ages to the classical productions of his native

I. Infancy: from the first colonisation (A.D. 874), when every man
appears to have been a Skáld[272] or bard, ending with the introduction
of Christianity in A.D. 1000. The Sturlunga (i. 107) asserts that all
the Sagas of that date were committed to writing before the death of
Bishop Brandr (A.D. 1201).

II. Youth: when colleges and schools were introduced, ending with A.D.

III. Manhood and zenith of splendour: from that time till A.D. 1350.

IV. Decline and fall between the mid-fourteenth century and the

Thus the Augustan age endured for the unusually long period of some two
and a half centuries.

The island, though scantily peopled, enjoyed immense advantages for
study. It had taken the first great step in civilisation, SLAVERY, and
while carl and thrall tilled the field, Jarl, clerk, and franklin found
ample leisure for literature. The long rigorous winters, when neither
farming, fishing, fighting, nor seafaring was possible, proved highly
favourable for reading, writing, and reciting; and hence the phenomenon
that the history of mediæval Iceland is more complete than that of any
European country. The extensive piratical wanderings of the race gave,
moreover, a cosmopolitan complexion to its compositions. Some modern
writers wonder to see such display of literary activity, especially
during the last fifty or sixty years of the Commonwealth, when society
was convulsed by sanguinary feuds, and when every man slept weaponed. As
we often find in history, it was this very turbulence which gave the
spur; after the union with Norway, the island became peaceful, and her
poets and historians found their occupation going or gone. The noble
Icelandic prose, which in terse, picturesque, and crystal-clear
expression, vied with Latin, and which equalled Greek in distinctness
and combination of words, was no longer written; and between the
fifteenth and the mid-sixteenth centuries men of letters contented
themselves with transcribing and annotating their classics.

The poetry of the Augustan age was, at first, simple and sufficient as
the prose--it reminds us of Firdausi’s Shah-nameh. But presently, as is
ever the case with a decaying literature, came the Skáld, whose highest
merit was that of calling nothing by the right name, of saying common
things in an uncommon or rather in an unintelligible way. Space forbids
even an outline of his system, the vast variety of quaint conceits, the
abuse of metaphor, of “Kenningar” (circumlocution), of simile, and of
allegory, and the prodigious complication of metres, which formed his
stock-in-trade; suffice it to say that he used 150 synonyms for an
island, fifty for a wave,[273] and a greater number for gold. Thus Rask
remarks that with a half-a-hundred terms for a ship there is no word for
“benevolence.” The Skáld’s vocabulary added to the copiousness of
Arabic, the polysynthesis of Sanskrit; his inversions and transpositions
of speech are so complicated, that modern commentators after quoting the
lines, mostly number the words or subjoin the construction.

It is interesting to observe the family likeness between the two
distant cousins, Persian and Icelandic. Hafiz, for instance, from Alif
to Ya, is one long example of Skáldic poetry; he sings the praises of
wine when he means, or is understood to mean, heavenly love, and his
verse, like that of Ultima Thule, requires for every line a
dictionary--not of words, but of the _double entendres_ which lurk under
words. Grimm, when pronouncing Icelandic to be the “true source of all
the Teutonic languages,” cannot but remark its Oriental turn. It is in
fact after the Slav, the purest type of the Indo-European, which has
been so modestly called the “Indo-Germanic” family.

The Reformation stirred up the popular mind, and the result, as usual,
was a revival of literary energy. But the produce--theology with poetry
religious and ethical; history, or rather continuations of the old
annals; criticism, exegesis, and grammatical studies--showed decline in
matter as well as in manner. The originality, the strong individuality
of the old pagan, was succeeded by the mechanical industry of the
copier, who had other models to work from. This modern period still
continues. The love of letters, inspired by soil and climate, even now
characterises the Icelander despite his poverty and isolation. During
the last century abundant good work has been done in editing and
publishing the classical literature, and some excursions have been made
into the regions of science, mechanics, and political economy.

The list given by Uno Von Troil contains the names of 120 works; and the
Reports of the Icelandic Literary Society between 1852 and 1871 show,
besides its yearly transactions (Skírnir), the titles of fifty-one
publications, some old but mostly modern. Bishop Pètursson (Hist. Eccl.
330) gives a list of six folio pages, containing the titles of Libri
Biblici, Catechetici, de Evangeliis, Precum, Conciones, et alii piis
usibus Libri. It is interesting, again, to compare this hyperborean
literature with that of the little Istrian peninsula. The latter,
despite such drawbacks as poverty and political excitement, and the
torments of plagues, droughts, famines, invasions, and intestine strife,
can point to a roll numbering about 3000 names:[274] England herself is
hardly richer in local literature.

Amongst the subjects which Icelandic has treated, we may number
proverbs, the “marrow of the language.” The first collection
(Orðskviðasafn) was made by Guðmundur Jónsson, and printed in octavo by
the Literary Society (Report of 1872). The Cleasby-Vigfusson Dictionary
also contains a considerable number which deserve separate publication,
for the benefit of those who appreciate this highly ethnological form of
literature. Even the Færoe Islands possess their _répertoire_
(Description, etc., by the Rev. J. Lundt: London, Longmans, 1810), and
some of them are _naïve_ in the extreme. For instance, “Calumny never
dies,” and “Seldom are pigeons hatched from a raven’s egg.” Some five
years ago Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín translated into English a collection of
Icelandic proverbs, adding to it those of the late Dr Scheving. His plan
was: (1.) to give the text; (2.) a literal translation; and (3.) a
common translation, _e.g._:

    Berr er hverr á baki nema bróður eigi;
    Bare is every on back unless brother have;
    Bare is back where brother is not.

Thus the Advocates’ Library has the largest and the most complete
collection of Icelandic proverbs ever made, whilst, _mirabile dictu_, it
is in MS., being unable to find a publisher.

Finally, the days are past since Sir Joseph Banks could collect the
three hundred rare and valuable MSS. which were deposited in the British
Museum. At present not a single article of literary worth is to be
bought on the island.[275]

We will now proceed to Icelandic travellers, and more especially to the
English travellers of the present century.[276]

1. Mr (afterwards Sir) William Jackson Hooker, F.R.S., L.S., and F.
Wern. Soc. Edin., produced his “Journal of a Tour in Iceland in the
Summer of 1809,” 2 vols. 8vo, London, Longmans and Murray, 1811. 2d
edition, 1813. The author had lost his notes with the ship which carried
him, and wrote much from memory, hence the extreme cacography of the
Icelandic words. Henderson (ii. 136, note) finds the work “intolerably
free-thinking”--times have changed. The botanical notes are valuable,
and the volumes will, despite all their disadvantages, take rank as

2. Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, Bart., President of the Physical Class
of the Royal Society, etc., published his “Travels in the Island of
Iceland during the Summer of the year 1810,” Constable, Edinburgh, 4to;
and the book reached a second edition in 1812. He took charge of the
geological and mineralogical departments, whilst Dr (the late Sir Henry)
Holland and Dr Bright (of Bright’s disease) studied the history and
literature, the zoology and botany. The illustrations and statistical
tables are highly valuable; and although the Geysir theory is now
utterly obsolete, literary Icelanders still consider the volume an
authority upon scientific matters.

3. “Iceland, or the Journal of a Residence in that Island during the
years 1814 and 1815.” By Ebenezer Henderson, Ph.D., M.R.S. Gottenburgh,
Hon. M. Lit. Soc. of Fuhnen, and Corr. M. Scan. Lit. Soc. of Copenhagen.
1st edition, 2 vols. 8vo, Oliphant, Edinburgh, 1818. 2d edition, 1819. A
notice of his book will conclude this Section.

4. “Statistisk Udsigt over den danske Stat i Begyndelsen af Aaret, 1825,
af Frederik Thaarup, Etatsraad,” 8vo, Kjöbenhavn, 1825, with Atlas.
Valuable for tables of figures.

5. F. Paully. “Topographie von Dänmark einschliesslich Islands,” etc.,
Altona, 1828.

6. Björnus Gunnlaugi, filius. “De Mensurâ et Delineatione Islandiæ
interioris,” etc. In Monasterio Videyensi, 1834.

7. John Barrow, jun. “A Visit to Iceland” (in 1834), published in 1835:
the volumes are highly useful, as affording an excellent comparison of
the past with the present.

8. The Hon. Arthur Dillon published “A Winter (1834) in Iceland and
Lapland.” 2 vols. Colburn, London, 1840. The season happened to be
especially rigorous, of course preventing long travels into the
interior: the studies of agriculture and fisheries have especial
interest. Mr Dillon has visited Iceland more than once.

9. “Lettres sur l’Islande,” par N. Marmier, 8vo, Paris, 1837.[277]

10. “Voyage en Islande et au Groenlande, exécuté pendant les années 1855
et 1856 sur la Corvette ‘La Recherche,’ commandée par M. Tréhouart,
Lieutenant de Vaisseau dans le but de découvrir les traces de la
Lilloise. Publié par ordre du Roi, sous la direction de M. Paul Gaimard,
Président de la Commission Scientifique d’Islande et de Groënland.” 8
vols. 8vo.

     Tome 1. Histoire de Voyage, par M. P. Gaimard, 8vo, Paris, 1838.

     “2. Histoire de Voyage, par M. Eugène Robert[278], 8vo, Paris,

     “3. Journal de Voyage, par M. Eugène Mequet, 8vo, Paris, 1852.

     “4. Zoologie et Médicine, par M. Eugène Robert, 8vo, Paris, 1851.

     Tome 5. Minéralogie et Géologie, par M. Eugène Robert, 8vo, Paris,

     “6. Physique, par M. Victor Lottin, 8vo, Paris, 1838.

     “7. Histoire d’Islande, par M. Xavier Marmier, 8vo, Paris, 1840.

     “8. Littérature Islandaise, par M. Xavier Marmier, 8vo, Paris,

This expedition was determined upon in the year 1835, and was followed
by another in 1836. The government of Louis Philippe, claiming to be in
the van of civilisation, resolved to give the voyage a scientific
aspect, and to publish it regardless of expense--the cost is about £21.
It is admirably got up, with every _luxe_ of printing; there is Gallic
discipline in the strict editorial control; and each contributor is
allowed full advantage of space and illustrations--what a contrast to
the shabby article which ultra-economical England would have produced!
But, though semi-official, it is an immense mass of undigested
information, greatly varying in value; and the President, who had
accompanied Captain Freycinet in the circumnavigating frigate “Uranie,”
is not generally over-appreciated in Iceland. His illustrations are so
exaggerated as to be simply ridiculous, and unfortunately they have been
transferred to the pages of succeeding authors. Thus Dufferin borrows
the two Needles off Snæfell and the Icelandic girl, and Paijkull takes
Hekla, whilst the cave of Surtshellir and the domestic interior are
reproduced by Forbes, who gives additional horrors to the Bruará.

11. “Historia Ecclesiastica Islandiæ ab anno 1740 ad annum 1840,”
auctore P. Pètursson. Havniæ: Bianco Luno, 1841. A continuation of the
learned Hannes Finsson’s well-known book, written in Danish and Latin by
the present Bishop of Iceland.

12. Lieutenant-Colonel North Ludlow Beamish, “Discovery of America by
the Northmen in the Tenth Century, with Notices of the Early Settlements
of the Irish in the Western Hemisphere” (1841).

13. Vol. 28 of the Edinburgh Cabinet Library. Edinburgh, 1840. A

14. “Physisch-geographische Skizze von Island mit besondere Rücksicht
auf Vulcanische Erscheinungen.” Von W. Sartorius von Waltershausen.
Göttingen Studien, 1847. Erste Abtheilung Seiten 321-460, Göttingen,
1847. The author visited the island in 1846; his scientific reputation
attracts readers, but he writes with a prodigious exaggeration on
general subjects, and especially on scenery.

Amongst books of Icelandic travel, again, we cannot include the “Letters
of Columbus,” edited by Mr R. H. Major, Hakluyt Society, 1847, and
recording the remarkable visit of the explorer in A.D. 1477 to the
country which in mediæval times discovered the New World. The fact had
already been established by Finn Magnússon in his “Nordisk Tidsskrift
for Old-Kyndighed.” This was followed by the even more interesting
“Voyages of the Venetian brothers Nicolò and Antonio Zeno to the
Northern Seas in the Fourteenth Century” (written out by Antonio Zeno,
and first edited in 1558 by their descendant Nicolò Zeno, junior. Mr
Major has identified “Frislanda” with Færöisland of the Danes;
“Estlanda” on the map, and “Estlanda,” “Eslanda,” and “Islande” in the
text, with the Shetlands; “Porlanda” with the Orkneys; “Engronelanda”
with Greenland; “Estotilanda” and “Drogeo” with parts of North America;
and the mysterious “Zichmni” with Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney and
Caithness. He has also “rehabilitated” Ivar Bardsen and the lost
Gunnbjarnarsker, the Skerries of Gunnbjörn, son of Ulf Kraka, who
reached them in A.D. 877.

15. Professor Robert Wilhelm Bunsen of Heidelberg (nat. 1811) visited
Iceland with M. Descloiseaux in 1846, spent eleven days at the Geysir,
and published two papers: (1.) Memoir on the intimate connection
existing between the pseudo-volcanic phenomena of Iceland (works of the
Cavendish Society, “Chemical Reports and Memoirs, edited by Thomas
Graham, V.P.R.S., London, Harrison, 1848); and (2.) On the processes
which have taken place during the formation of the volcanic rocks of
Iceland (from Poggendorff’s “Annalen,” part i., Nov. 1851, “Scientific
Memoirs, selected from the Transactions of Foreign Academies of
Science, and from Foreign Journals,” London, Taylor & Francis). The
great chemist’s article on Palagonite in the “Annalen der Chimie und
Pharmacie” (vol. lxi.) won for him the Copley medal of the Royal Society
of London; and his studies on Iceland are the basis of modern scientific
knowledge. It is to be regretted that his two admirable papers are
buried in bad translation amongst the voluminous transactions of obscure
societies, and their reproduction in a popular form would be a boon to
travellers not only in the island, but also throughout the volcanic
world. Mr B. Quaritch kindly allowed the author to make manuscript
copies of these two articles: they have afforded material to the able
lecture “On some of the Eruptive Phenomena of Iceland,” by Dr John
Tyndall, F.R.S. (Royal Institution of Great Britain, June 3, 1853).

16. P. A. Schleisner. “Island undersögt fra et lægevidenskabeligt
Synspunkt,” Copenhagen, 1849. The author, an employé of the Danish
Government, resided some time on the island, and made useful
physiological observations--one of them has before been alluded to.

17. Madame Ida Pfeiffer (“Reise nach dem skand Norden,” 1845), after
travelling in Syria and “the East,” visited Iceland in 1844, hoping
“there to find Nature in a garb such as she wears nowhere else.” She
laughs at the “dreadful dizzy abysses;” but the “dignified coldness” of
the popular manners and the selfishness, only too apparent to an
undistinguished foreigner, made her write what Mr Pliny Miles
ungallantly calls a snarling, ill-tempered journal. The American
traveller, also, is too severe when he says, “Where she does not
knowingly tell direct falsehoods, the guesses she makes about those
regions that she does not visit--while stating that she does[279]--show
her to be bad at guess-work.” Her translated volume, “A Visit to
Iceland,” etc. (London, Ingram, 1854) has been analysed in the
“Cyclopædia of Modern Travel” (Bayard Taylor, 1856).

18. “Bidrag til Islands geognostiske Fremstilling efter Optegnelser fra
Sommeren, 1850´´ (Contribution to the Geognosy of Iceland, from
Observations made in the Summer of 1850), by Theodor Kjerulf. Published
in the “Nyt Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne,” vol. vii., part 1,
Christiania, 1853 (New Magazine of the Natural Sciences, which records
the transactions of the Physiographical Society of Christiania), an
excellent equivalent of our “Annals of Natural History.” The author
differs from Von Waltershausen and Bunsen upon the genesis of Iceland
(Dr W. Lauder Lindsay).

19. “Norðurfari, or Rambles in Iceland,” by Pliny Miles, 12mo, New York,
1854. The author was the first American tourist who visited the island
(1852), and he attempts little more than an entertaining narrative of
his adventures. There is a fair amount of “spread eagle,” and the tone
is “England for ever, and America one day longer.” An officer nearly
cuts a shark in two with a sword. The whales can be heard from one to
two miles off, and spout every one or five minutes, throwing up water
from thirty to fifty feet--they must blow like himself!

20. “Tracings of Iceland and the Färoe Islands,” by Robert Chambers,
London, 1856. The author visited the island in 1855, voyaging on board
the Danish cruiser “Thór,” the first steamer--before his time the
dangers of the northern seas were faced by sailing craft. The little
book was translated into Danish, but the islanders affect to despise it.

21. “Voyage dans les Mers du Nord à bord de la corvette ‘La Reine
Hortense,’” par M. Charles Edmund. Paris: Levy, 1857. The author
describes Prince Napoleon’s tour in a volume which has all the
characteristic merits and faults of the average French traveller. In the
following pages it will be called the “Napoleon book.”

22. Messrs Wolley and Newton confined themselves, with an especial
object in view, to one particular parish in the southwestern corner of
Iceland. An “Abstract of (the late) Mr J. Wolley’s Researches in
Iceland, 1847, 1851, and 1852, respecting the Gare Fowl, or Great Auk;”
by Alfred Newton, M.A., F.L.S., appeared in the “Ibis” of October 1861.
The author’s name is sufficient warrant for the value of this excellent
paper. In Baring-Gould (Appendix, p. 400), Mr Newton quotes numerous
works upon the avi-fauna of Iceland.

23. “Letters from High Latitudes,” by Lord Dufferin, London, 1858. The
amiable author visited the island at the same time as Prince Napoleon,
and proposed to cross the unknown tract between Hekla and the
north-eastern coast; unfortunately the yacht “Foam” was carried away by
the attractions of Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen. The adoption of a
quasi-dramatic form has caused the book to be pronounced “most
entertaining and perhaps a little extravagant;” it is written in the
best of humours and in the most genial style, but it has failed to
please the islanders who do not understand _plaisanterie_.

24. J. Dayman. “Deep Sea Soundings between Iceland and Newfoundland,”
etc. (1858).

25. “A Hand-book for Travellers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and
Iceland,” with maps and plans. London: John Murray, 1858, and
republished in 1871. The island is dismissed in barely three pages,
which contain a vast variety of errors; for instance, the population is
preserved at 60,000; we are taught to write “Almannia Gja;” and we are
told that Henderson wrote before 1825--_connu_! The recondite blunders
may almost compare with the four pages on Istria in the “Handbook for
South Germany.” Happily for the traveller, Baedecker’s excellent series
is speedily consigning the cumbrous and tedious “Murrays” to
well-merited oblivion.

26. J. Hogg. “On the History of Iceland” (1859).

27. D. Streye. “Beskrivelse over den ø Islandia,” etc. Kjöbenhavn, 1859.

28. G. Thomsen. “The Northmen in Iceland,” etc. (1859).

29. “Iceland: its Volcanoes, Geysers, and Glaciers.” By Charles S.
Forbes, Commander Royal Navy (Murray, London, 1860). The volume was
kindly lent to the author by Captain Bedford Pim, M.P.; and its merit
has been acknowledged by the general regret that there is not “more of

30. C. Irminger. “Strömninger og Isdrift ved Island.” Kjöbenhavn, 1861.

31. “Reise nach Island im Sommer 1860.” Mit wissenschaftlichen. Abhängen
von William Preyer und Dr Ferdinand Zirkel. 8vo, Leipzig, 1862. The
statistical part is exceedingly valuable. The work also contains the
most complete notice of the birds that has been published after the
“Prodromus der isländischen Ornithologie,” by Friedrich Faber, better
known as “Fugl Faber;” but it is judged that “the writer has not shown
sufficient discrimination in its compilation.”

32. “A Tour in Iceland in the Summer of 1861.” By Edward Thurstan
Holland, A.M. Chap. i., vol. i., 2d series: “Peaks, Passes, and
Glaciers; being Excursions by Members of the Alpine Club.” Edited by
Edward Shirley Kennedy, M.A., F.R.G.S. London, 1862. The author
attempted in 1861 to ascend the southern side of the Öræfa Jökull, but
the mists prevented his enjoying the good fortune of Swend Paulsson and
of Henderson.

33. “The Oxonian in Iceland; or Notes of Travel in that Island in the
Summer of 1860.” By Rev. Frederick Metcalfe, A.M. 12mo, Hotten, London,
1861. This traveller crossed a bit of new country north-east of the
Sprengisandur, and thus deviated from the common line. He has preserved
the traditional exaggeration which characterises Icelandic travellers,
and the dangers which he faces on Mount Hekla must have been simply a
dream. His map, purporting to be reduced from Olsen’s, is peculiarly

34. W. Lauder Lindsay, M.D., F.L.S. “On the Flora of Iceland,” New
Philosophical Journal; and “On the Eruption, in May 1860, of the
Kötlu-gjá Volcano, Iceland.” Neill & Co., Edinburgh, 1861--valuable
papers which should accompany the traveller. They were kindly lent to
the author by Mr William Longman.

35. G. G. Winkler. “Island seine Bewohner,” etc. Bravansch, 1861.

36. M. Barbatier de Mas. “Instructions nautiques sur les Côtes
d’Islande.” Paris, 1862.

37. A. J. Symington. “Pen and Pencil Sketches of Färoe and Iceland.”
Longmans, London, 1862. Unpretending.

38. “Iceland: its Scenes and Sagas,” by Sabine Baring-Gould, M.A.
London: Smith & Elder, 1863. This handsome volume of 447 pages is
written with an object, to illustrate the Sagas and to represent their
_Mise en Scène_. The author sees the Icelander as he is; the topography
is that of a geographical traveller; and the book contains an immense
amount of useful information. Taking the realistic view, this excellent
work is not a favourite in Iceland; my only complaint is that it lacks
an index.

39. C. Irminger. “Notice sur les Pêches, etc., de l’Islande.” Paris,

40. Carl Vogt. “Nordenfahrt von Dr Berna” (1863).

41. “Notes on a Trip to Iceland in 1862.” By Alexander Bryson.
Edinburgh: Grant, 1864. The object of the livret (56 pages) was to gauge
and to determine the heat of the Geysir tube, by means of deversing
thermometers; and the author has sensibly questioned the “central-heat”

42. M. Thoyon. “Renseignements sur quelques Mouillages sur la Côte
d’Islande.” Paris, 1865.

43. “Travels by ‘Umbra’” (Clifford). Edmonstone & Douglas, Edinburgh,
1865. The author, by ascending the Jökull of Eyrikr, that northern
Cacus, reached eternal winter’s drear domain. He justly derides the
horrors and terrors of Búlandshöfði.

44. “The North-Western Peninsula of Iceland,” by C. W. Shepheard.
London: Longmans, 1867. This was the author’s second excursion, and he
ascended the Dránga Jökull in the north, where the mountains are lower
and accessible.[280]

45. W. C. Paijkull. “Bidrag till Kännedomen om Islands Bergsbyggnad.”
Stockholm, 1867. Translated by the Rev. M. R. Barnard, M.A. London:
Chapman & Hall, 1868. The author, now dead, was a Swede, and professed
geology at the University of Upsala; he travelled in 1865, and
unfortunately neglected to supply his volume with an index and a decent
map. Its merits are much debated, and, as a rule, its tone is greatly
disliked by the islanders. An excellent authority, Dr Hjaltalín of
Reykjavik, who has published several important studies of his native
land,[281] considers it of scant value; on the other hand, Mr Jón A.
Hjaltalín recommends it for its moderation to English travellers.

46. H. Mohn of the Institut Météorologique de Norvège. “Temperature de
la Mer entre l’Islande et l’Ecosse.” Christiania, 1870.

47. “A Report on the Resources of Iceland and Greenland.” Compiled by
Benjamin Mills Peirce, U.S. State Department, Washington Government
Printing Office. The author was charged by Mr Secretary Seward to
inspect the sulphur mines, 1868. He personally visited the island and
produced a useful paper, collating the accounts and the figures
published by his predecessors; but, like such compilations generally, it
abounds in errors, and it makes scanty attempt to discriminate the
various value of the information which it gleans.

48. “Six Weeks in the Saddle: a Painter’s Journal in Iceland.” By S. G.
Waller. London: Macmillan, 1874. An unpretending volume which has held
its ground at Mudie’s, and which carefully avoids disputed points and
exaggerated statements. The illustrations are very poor compared with
the charming studies of scenery and animals made by the author, and it
wants index and map, without which the home-reader will hardly follow
the line over the now rarely visited southern shore.

49. The _Alpine Journal_, No. 45 (Longmans, London, 1874), contains
“Interesting Notes on Mountain Climbing in Iceland,” by Dr James Bryce,
who also during the same year published his “Impressions of Iceland” in
the _Cornhill Magazine_. He justly remarks that the difficulty is not so
much to climb the peaks as to traverse the inhospitable desert
separating them from the inhabited parts.

Mr S. Baring-Gould (Intr., pp. xxxiv., xxxv.) gives a catalogue of the
fifteen books and manuscripts usually found amongst the priests and
farmers; and in Appendix D. a list of Icelandic published Sagas
(thirty-five), local histories (sixty-six), annals of bishops (twelve),
annals of Norway, etc. (sixty-nine), and romances translated into
Icelandic (nineteen), a total of 201; besides law-books, Bible stories,
and tracts on poetry, geography, astronomy, etc. The various editions of
the Bible and of the Testament, as well as the newspaper press, will be
noticed in future pages.

Miscellaneous general information concerning Iceland is found in the
following works: The _Foreign Quarterly Review_ (vol. ix., Jan.-May
1832) contains an excellent paper on the “Literature and Literary
Societies of Iceland.” The “Mémoires de la Société Royale des
Antiquaires du Nord” are a mine of information to the student. Mrs
Somerville’s “Physical Geography.” The “Progress of the Nation,” by G.
R. Porter, Esq., F.R.S. (“Institute of Natural Science,” Paris
correspondence. London, 1851). “Meddelelser fra det statistiske Bureau,”
vols. i.-vi. Kjöbenhavn, 1852-1861. In the fourth volume of the
“Description of the Coast of Iceland” (“Fierde Hefte af Beskrivelsen
over den islandske Kyst”) by P. de Löwenörn, is a paper which was
strongly recommended for translation to the author of these pages by
Captain Tvede of Djúpivogr. The various numbers of the “Mittheilungen
aus Justus Perthes,” etc. Herschel’s “Physical Geography,” 2d edition,
Edinburgh, 1862. Lippencott’s “Complete Pronouncing Gazetteer, or
Geographical Dictionary of the World,” 8vo, Philadelphia, 1866.
Chambers’ and other Cyclopædias. Bayard Taylor’s “Cyclopædia of Modern
Travel,” New York, 1856. “Cyclopædia Britannica,” vol. xii., 1856.
Knight’s “English Encyclopædia” (pp. 1333-1345) of 1873, has printed an
admirably condensed paper on Icelandic language and literature, by Mr
Jón A. Hjaltalín.[282]

As the “marking book” of the last century was M. Mallet’s “Antiquities,”
so there are three which distinguish the present age. The late Mr
Benjamin Thorpe’s “Edda of Sæmund the Learned”[283] (London: Trübner,
1866) is a text-book of Scandinavian mythology delighting Icelanders by
the literal rendering of their classical poem; it must be familiar to
the student before he can attack the difficulties of Skjáldic song. The
second is the “Story of Burnt Njal,” etc., by George Webbe Dasent,
D.C.L. (2 vols., Edmonstone & Douglas, Edinburgh, 1861). The
introduction is the work of a scholar; the translation rivals Lane’s
“Arabian Nights,” in fidelity, picturesqueness, and, withal, sound old
English style, and the maps and plans well illustrate the topography. It
has sent one, it will send many an English tourist to gaze upon the
Lithe-end; and it will serve as an example how such books should be
treated. But the _magnum opus_ of the day, the greatest boon to students
yet known, is the “Icelandic-English Dictionary” (3 vols. fol.,
Macmillan & Co., 1869, 1870, and 1874).[284] Based upon the MS. notes of
the late Richard Cleasby, under whose name, as is his due, it is
referred to in these pages, the work was enlarged and completed by the
first of Icelandic philologers, Mr Guðbrand Vigfússon, M.A., formerly
one of the stipendiaries of the Arna-Magnæan Library at Copenhagen. The
herculean task has been completed after the patient toil of nine years
(1864-1873), and all credit is due to the delegates of the Clarendon
Press, who “generously fostered this Icelandic Dictionary and made it a
child of their famous university.” The introduction, by Mr Dasent,
awards high praise to the work, but nothing that he can say is too high.

Iceland is not in want of maps; almost every traveller has contributed
his own, and hence the atlases have borrowed a variety of blunders. The
most interesting of the older sort are those of Hendries (Jodocuf, A.D.
1563-1611), which shows a curious acquaintance with certain _fodinæ
sulphureæ_; and of Pontanus (A.D. 1631) Auctore Giorgio Carolo Flandre.
The latter displays Hekla, the towering cone of our childish fancies,
vomiting a huge bouquet of smoke, while it ignores all other volcanoes.
The islands are especially incorrect: the “Westmanna seu Pistilia (for
Papyli?) Eijar,” fronted on the main by “Corvi Albi,”[285] are out of
form and measure; the archipelago called I. Gouberman (Gunnbjörn
Skerries?) off the north-western coast, does not exist; and Grimsey has
dimensions which are strange to it. As in all of them; the north is
placed too high; the Arctic circle traverses nearly the centre of the
island, the furthest septentrional point being N. lat. 68° 15´. The
eastern shore is also laid down too far west (E. long. Ferro, 10°):
hence, as Barrow shows, Arrowsmith’s map of 1808 was sixty-seven miles
wrong in the longitude. Henderson supplies Krísuvík with a non-existing
inlet upon which foreigners have counted for embarking their sulphur,
and reduces the vast Mýrdals Jökull to the Kötlu-gjá fissure.

Shortly before the time when Henderson travelled, several Danish
officers, detained in Iceland by the war with Great Britain, began an
exact trigonometrical survey, not only of the coast, but of the
interior; and their bench-marks still crown many a conspicuous point.
Their names, well remembered by all Danes upon the island, were the
“Herr Officeerer,” Major Scheel, Lieutenant Westlesen, and Landmaler
(surveyor) Aschlund. After 1820, the work was carried on by Captain
Born, Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) W. A. Graah,[286] R.N., an
adventurous sailor, and a scientific officer, who died about a dozen
years ago. Between 1820 and 1826 the following five sheets were

1. Snæfellsjökull to Cap Nord, in 1820, by Frisch, Westlesen, Smith,
Scheel, Born, and Aschlund.

2. North Coast, in 1821, by Majors Ridder and Scheel, and Captains
Frisch and Born.

3 and 4. South Coast, in 1823, by Scheel, Born, Graah, and Aschlund.

5. East Coast, in 1824, by Olsen, Born, Graah, and Aschlund.

The general chart of 1826, uniting these “trigonometrical, geographical,
and hydrographical surveys,” is, according to Mr Alexander Findlay,
F.R.G.S., carefully executed, and became the basis of all subsequent

Unfortunately, it is the local fashion to ignore these scientific
preliminary labours,[287] in favour of Professor Björn Gunnlaugsson’s
large map, which was executed after a comparatively running survey,
during the twenty years from 1823 to 1843, and which, after being drawn
up by the late Major Olsen, was printed at Copenhagen in 1844. The title
is Updráttr Íslands á fjórum blöðum (in four sheets) gjörðr að fyrirsögn
(executed under the direction of) Olafs Nikolas Olsen, gefinn út af enu
(published by the) Islenzka Bókmentafèlgi. The scale is 1/480000, about
six or eight miles to the inch. The four-sheet edition has three
different tintings--one physico-geographical, the second administrative,
and the third hydrographical, giving soundings, etc. In London it costs
£2, 2s.; at Reykjavik, $9 (=£1). There is a portable edition, a single
sheet (1/960000), of two kinds, physico-geographical and administrative,
costing six or seven shillings. The third or smallest size, prefixed,
with sundry alterations, to these pages, costs one shilling at

Of miscellaneous cartography we have the following: Dr Heinrich
Berghaus’s “Physikalisher Atlas,” Verlag von Justus Perthes, Gotha,
1852; Colton’s “Atlas of the World,” New York, 1855; Hr Kiepert’s
“Allgemeiner Hand-Atlas der Ganzgen Erde,” Weimar, in Verlage des
Geographischen Atlas, 1873; and the excellent “National Atlas” of Keith
Johnston (sen.).

The latest charts are English, French, and Danish--the latter being also
used by the Norwegians, who have none of their own.

(_a._) The English Admiralty chart, “Iceland Island,” was based upon the
Danish survey (1845; corrected, 1872).

The nomenclature of our hydrographic works greatly wants reform; even
the exact Raper adheres to “Reikiavig” and to “Sneefeldsyökell.”

(_b._) The Danish charts principally used are:

     1. Kaart over Pollen i Skutilsfjord, Isefjords Dybet, opmaalt fra
     Skrueskonnerten Fylla, Junii, 1865-67.

     2. Islands Vestkyst, Stykkishólmr med Grunder og Kolgrafa-Fjörðr,

     3. Kaart over Island, med omgivende Dybder, 1871.

(_c._) The French, as we might expect from their commercial activity,
had published before 1868 about a score more of charts and harbour plans
than all other nations. The principal are:

     1. Carte réduite des Côtes Septentrionales d’Islande depuis le Cap
     Nord jusqu’ à l’île Malmey, 1822.

     2. Carte réduite des Côtes Occidentales d’Islande, depuis
     Sneefields-Jokel jusqu’ au Cap Nord, 1822 (Cartes danoises de

     3. Carte réduite des Côtes Occidentales d’Islande, depuis
     Fugle-Skiærene jusqu’ à Huam Fiord, 1822 (Cartes danoises de

     4. Carte réduite des Côtes Septentrionales d’Islande, depuis l’île
     Malmey jusqu’ au Cap Langanaes, 1823 (Cartes danoises Löwenörn).

     5. Carte réduite des Côtes Meridionales d’Islande, depuis le Cap
     Ingolfs-Höfde jusqu’ au Cap Riekienaes, 1832 (Cartes danoises de

     6. Carte réduite des Côtes Orientales d’Islande, depuis Vopna-Fiord
     jusqu’ au Cap Ingolfs-Höfde, 1832 (Cartes danoises de Löwenörn).

     7. Carte réduite d’Islande et des îles Feröes, 1836. D’après les
     Cartes danoises de Löwenörn et de Born.

     8. Plan de la baie de Reikiavik, 1842 (MM. West; De la Roche,
     ingénieur-hydrographe; R. de Saint-Vulfran, et autres officiers de
     la Marine, 1840).

     9. Plan du Mouillage d’Onondar Fiord; Plan du Mouillage de
     Patrix-Fiord (Islande), 1845; corr. 1862 (MM. Brosset et Soyer,
     officiers de la Marine).

     10. Plan de l’entrée du Hyal-Fiord, 1855 (MM. Caraguel, Borius, et

     11. Plan du Mouillage d’Eské-Fiord. Croquis des Mouillages du Spath
     et de Svartas-Kiær, 1855 (MM. Duval, H. Lavigne, et Delville).

     12. Carte de Dyre-Fiord, 1856 (MM. de Rochebrunne, Mathieu, et

     13. Plan des Mouillages de Dyre-Fiords, 1856 (MM. Mathieu et
     Ternier, 1855).

     14. Plan du havre de Gröne-Fiord, 1855; corr. 1858 (Veron et autres
     officiers de la Marine, 1857).

     15. Plan de Faskrud-Fiord, 1858 (MM. Barlatier, De Mas et Pottier,

     16. Plan des passes de Rode-Fiord, 1858 (MM. Veron, Pottier, etc.,

     17. Carte des atterages de Reikiavik (Faxe Bugt) 1859. Houzé de
     l’Aulnoit d’après les travaux exécutés de 1853 à 1857.

     18. Plan-croquis du havre de Nord-Fiord, 1860 (MM. Veron, Launay,
     etc., 1858).

     19. Plan du havre de Kolgraver-Fiord, 1860 (Veron et autres
     officiers de la Marine, 1858).

     20. Plan de la partie de la Côte Sud du Brede-Bugt (Côte
     Occidentale d’Islande) 1861.

     21. Croquis du Mouillage de Hogdal dans Dyre-Fiord, 1861 (MM. West,
     lieutenant du vaisseau, et De Sédières, aspirant).

     22. Carte de l’entrée du Golfe de Berú-Fiord et de la baie de
     Hammard-Fiord. Carte du Breidals Bugt, 1862.

     23. Plan du mouillage d’Akureyré (Oë-Fiord), 1864 (Butter,
     lieutenant de vaisseau).

     24. Plan de Skutils-Fiord et du port de Pollen, 1867 (MM. Guérard
     et Petit de Baroncourt).

     25. Croquis du mouillage de Bildal dans Arnar-Fiord, 1867 (MM.
     Guérard et Petit de Baroncourt).

This section can hardly end more appropriately than with a notice of Dr
Ebenezer Henderson’s two volumes which, though published in 1818, and
although we no longer land in Iceland as in Africa (i. 9), are still
useful in 1874. The author died in 1829, but he is remembered by the
islanders; and his name, cut in Hebrew letters upon the “soft yellow
tufa” (Palagonite), the nafna-klettar (Wady el Mukattab) of Hýtardal,
nearly sixty years ago, is, and long will be, shown to travellers.
Lacking scientific training, and, probably, one of the _seri studiorum_,
for his learning, especially his Hebrew, reads like an excrescence upon
the simple journal, this writer has solid merits, and he enjoyed unusual
advantages. His style is respectable; he has an exceptional eye for
country, rare in the traveller as catching the likeness is in the
portrait-painter; his powers of observation are remarkable, as shown by
the observations upon the Skriðjöklar; he received every attention and
much information from the clergy, in those days even more powerful than
now; his employment as a colporteur of the “Sacred Oracles,” which, by
the by, were so faultily translated that they did not deserve to
supersede Bishop Guðbrand’s version, threw him much amongst the people;
and his extensive travels during three years enabled him to publish the
best, because the most general, book on Iceland known to the English

On the other hand, his pious expressions are so obsolete, that in these
days we look upon them as almost irreverent. He has all the
narrow-mindedness of the early nineteenth century--the Georgian era and
the golden age of the evangelical middle classes. His credulity is
astounding; he has a bulimia of faith; he eagerly records every
ridiculous tale he hears--if you disbelieve him, you are a sceptic with
a sub-flavour of atheism. He quotes without surprise the igneous vapours
attaching themselves to the persons of the inhabitants; the under
garments of a farmer being consumed when the outer suit was uninjured;
and the lightning which burned in the pores of a woman’s body, singeing
the clothes she wore (i. 311, 316), a tale frequently copied by others.
He borrows his natural history from Horrebow, and from Ólafsson and
Pállsson, who wrote in A.D. 1755. The weakest fox manages to secure all
the food (ii. 98). The silly bear deluded by the mitten, a fable so well
known to children’s books, is his. Upon the authority of a parson and an
old woman, he supplies the _Mus sylvaticus_ not only with a cow-chip
canoe, but also with a mushroom carpet-bag (ii. 185): it excels the
_animantia plaustra_ of Polignac’s Anti-Lucretius. His terrific
descriptions of the road and the ford, dangers mostly fanciful, and his
exaggerated horrors, must not be set down to want of manliness. An
earnest and pious man, he yearns in every page to pull off his hat, to
fall upon his knees, and to thank protecting and preserving Providence
for some imaginary hair-breadth escape. The French travellers made
observations for temperature and other matters in the floods which he
describes as the most dangerous; and his eight-miles-an-hour current (i.
181) is simply a delusion.

The book has one great element of success, and the string of initials
appended to the author’s name prove that it has been successful. To use
a popular phrase, all his “geese are swans”--a view highly flattering
and very agreeable to the good geese, but a process hardly likely to
leave a truthful impress upon the unprejudiced reader’s brain. He
complains that there _are_ free-thinking priests, but every clerk he
meets is a model of orthodox piety. He vaunts the hospitality of the
land, and only casually lets fall the remark that, although he was
employed on a highly popular mission, a single peasant refused to take
money from him. Critics are agreed upon his estimate of “J. Milton’s
Paradísar Missir,” by Jón Thorlakson.[288] “The translation not only
rises superior to any other translation of Milton, but rivals, and in
many instances in which the Eddaic phraseology is introduced almost
seems to surpass, the original.... Thorlakson has not only supported
its prevailing character, but has nicely imitated his (author’s)
peculiar terms and more refined modifications.” ... And “although
Thorlakson has found it impossible to give the effect of certain sounds,
yet this defect is more than compensated by the multiplicity of happy
combinations where none exist in the original” (vol. i., 98). All good
judges declare that the Icelander has recast Milton in Scandinavian
mould, and has produced a beautiful Icelandic poem upon
the English groundwork. The narrow bounds of the narrative measure
(Fornyrðalag[289]) could never contain the now sweet now sonorous
Miltonic verse; and the last sentence quoted from Mr Henderson, as well
as his own specimens of the work, clearly show his ignorance of what a
translation should be.

Mr William Longman, Vice-President of the Alpine Club, has done good
service to the Icelandic traveller by digesting Mr Henderson’s
Itineraries (Suggestions for the Exploration of Iceland, London:
Longmans, 1861), and by adding many useful items of information. But
the reader, however capable, must not expect to carry out the programme.
In page 30 the author seems to think ten days sufficient to attempt the
ascent or exploration of Kötlu-gjá, Kálfafell, Skeiðarárjökull, Öræfa,
and Breiðamerkr Jökull. Each of these “congealed Pandemonia,” with the
inevitable delays in travelling from one to the other, would probably
consume a fortnight. Iceland is no place for _dilettanti grimpeurs_; it
has neither comfortable inns nor Bureaux des Guides--these Alps are not
to be passed over _summâ diligentiâ_; and M. Jules Verne’s balloon has
not yet found its way there.


Icelandic travel is of two kinds--the simple tour and the exploration.
Most men content themselves with landing at Reykjavik, and with making
the Cockney trip to Thingvellir, the Geysir and Hekla, perhaps visiting
the Laxá, Langarnes Bessastaðir, Hafnarfjörð, Krísuvík, and Reykir.
Others add to this a run to the local Staffa, Stappa, a more or less
complete ascent of Snæfellsjökull, and a visit to Reykholt,
Surts-hellir, Baula, and Eldborg. If more adventurously disposed, they
cross the Arnarvatnsheiði and the Stórisandur to Akureyri, the northern
“capital;” they push from Hekla across the Sprengisandur and the centre
of the island; or they land at Vopnafjörð, and traverse the north-east
corner viâ the Mý-vatn to Húsavik.

For these and other beaten paths very scanty preparations are necessary.
Tourists usually exceed in their _impedimenta_. One party brought out
butter where “smjör” is a drug; a second imported the Peter Halkett
air-boat and wooden paddles, for crossing rivers three feet deep;[290] a
third carried a medicine-chest, where air and water are perfection; a
fourth indulged himself with a fine patent reading-lamp, where diamond
type is legible at the “noon of night”--a new edition of warming-pans to
Calcutta, skates to Brazilian Bahia, and soldiers’ pokers for stirring
wooden fires in Ashanti-land. The “Oxonian in Iceland” his advice was
taken by another tourist party, who invested £20 in presents for the
clergy and clergywomen, books, razors and pen-knives, scissors and
needles, ribbons and silk kerchiefs: on return to Reykjavik these
inutilities fetched a dollar per pound. The only gifts required are
silver specie; if you make a present, you are a _richard_, and your
bill, as all the world over, will be doubled. To the usual
travelling-dress add fishermen’s kit,[291] not the dandy Mackintosh,
which sops at once in the pelting and penetrating rain. The boots should
meet the waterproof: Mr Metcalfe objects that with such gear you cannot
walk, and that if your pony fall in one of the “giddy rapid rivers,” you
will be pounded to death by stones and water--but possibly you were not
“born to be drowned.” Perhaps the best wear for the nether man would be
long waterproof stockings, not the wretched stuff of West-End shops, nor
Iceland oilskins, which are never impermeable, but Leith articles made
for wear, drawn over common boots and overalls, fastened round the
waist, and ready to be cast off in hot and sunny weather, or when
preparing for a walk over lava. Horses and horse-gear, as well as tents
and mattresses, will be described in another place. A common canteen,
with iron plates and cups, lamp and methylated spirits, suffices for the
cooking department. Cigars, tobacco and snuff, must be carried by those
who are not likely to relish the island supply; also tea and cognac, if
coffee and Danish “brandy-wine” are not good enough. Sundry tins of
potted meat and soup and a few pounds of biscuit are the only other
necessaries, to which the traveller may add superfluities _ad
infinitum_. The fishing-rods and nets, the battery, instruments and
materials for writing and sketching, must depend upon the tourist. It is
as well for him to bear in mind that he will suffer from stinging gnats
and midges near the water as much as from thirst, the effect of abnormal
evaporation, upon the hills, and from dust and sand upon the paths
called roads.

Exploration in Iceland is a very different affair. In these days when a
country, apparently accessible, has not been opened, we may safely
determine _à priori_ that its difficulties and dangers have deterred
travellers. Here the only parts worth the risk, the expense, and the
hardships, are the masses of snowy highland thrown into one under the
names of Vatnajökull and Klofajökull, and the great desert, Ódáða Hraun,
subtending their northern face. To investigate these “awfully romantic”
haunts is a work of expenditure; and tourists arriving in Iceland know
nothing of what is wanted. A party of less than four, one being a Swiss
or Færoese mountaineer, would not be able to separate when necessary;
and each must have ten horses,[292] as food, forage, and fuel have all
to be carried. In the snow and the lava they will find nothing, and the
tent will be the only home. Provisions would be represented by barrels
of biscuits, bread, beef, and pork, with compressed vegetables, the
maximum weight of each keg being 40 lbs. For drink, whisky or other
spirits, the forbidden oil of whisky to be preferred if procurable.
Patent fuel and pressed hay can travel in Iceland crates. At least one
of the party should be able to shoe horses, so as not to rely upon the
guide, who may perhaps prick two hoofs in one day. A change, or better
still two changes, of irons for each nag, and four times the number of
nails, must be the minimum: the lava tears off everything in the shape
of shoes, and three hours without them lame the animal. The party might
set out about early June in a schooner hired at Copenhagen, and land
their impediments at Djúpivogr. After buying ponies and engaging native
servants, they would ascend the Fossárdalr, strike the lakelets called
Axarvatn and Líkarvatn, ford the Jökullsá near its head, and penetrate
into the great snow-fields. Or they might make the Lagarfljót at
Hallormstaðir, ferry over the river, establish a depot at
Valthjófstaðir, or Egilstaðir, the highest farm up the valley, and march

For the snowy range, the explorer needs all the “implements of Alpine
warfare,” with the addition of a pair of inflatable boats, each carrying
two--the reason will appear in the Journal. Ice-axe and spikes can be
bought from Moseley, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden; and ropes from
Buckingham, Broad Street, Bloomsbury: all these articles are also sold
by J. S. Carter, 295 Oxford Street, “under the patronage of the Alpine
Club.” Mr Whymper prefers the Manilla rope, though somewhat heavier than
Italian hemp; the former being 103, and the latter 93, oz. per 100 feet.
They should not break with a lighter weight than 2 tons, or 196 lbs.
falling 8 feet, or 168 lbs. falling 10. At least four 100-feet
lengths[293] should be taken; and the tyro, who had better stay at home,
should learn from “Scrambles among the Alps” (London: Murray, 1871), the
way to tie and not to tie. The knapsack and alpenstock must be light; Mr
R. Glover, Honorary Secretary of the Wanderers’ Club, kindly assisted
the author in applying to the War Office, Pall Mall, for one of the
“male bamboos,” now used as cavalry lances: it proved, however, somewhat
heavy. A cousin, Edward Burton, was also good enough to send for a pair
of _truviers_, or Canadian snow-shoes; but these rackets are not so
useful as those of country make.[294] Boots for riding, for walking, and
for wading, are absolutely necessary. Binoculars, French grey
spectacles, and sun-veils must not be forgotten, and when they come to
grief, the face, especially the orbits, can be blackened, after the
fashion of the Cascade Range Indians, with soot and grease--the
explorer will look like an Ethiopian serenader, but there will be no one
to see him. Watches and instruments must be in duplicate, or, better
still, in triplicate. The map should be in four sections, guarded from
the wet with copal varnish; and skeleton pocket-maps save trouble. Mr
Longman (Suggestions, etc.) supplies a copious list of explorer-tools:
the author travelled with two pocket aneroids, a larger one left behind
for comparison; three B. P. thermometers; Saussure’s hygrometer; a
portable clinometer; an _aréometre selon Cartier_; three thermometers
(max. and min.); two hygrometers, the usual wet and dry bulbs;[295] a
prismatic compass; and Captain George’s double pocket-sextant--almost
all supplied by Mr Casella. A six-pocket waistcoat, with an inner pouch
for money, is the handiest way to dispose of the aneroid, small field
thermometer, compass, clinometer, silver-sheathed pencil, pen-knife, and
strong magnifying glass. Mr Watts, a young law-student, of whom more
presently, suggested for crevasse crossing a ladder twelve feet long,
which, turned up at one end, might serve as a sledge: it reminded me of
Mr Whymper’s troubles. This, together with the bamboo alpenstock, the
snow-shoes, lamp, spirits of wine, kegs, and other small necessaries,
were left at Djúpivogr for the benefit of future travellers.

For the Ódáða Hraun, besides food, forage, and fuel, the explorer will
require to carry water. The sun’s heat is intense even after Syria; and
dust-storms, when not laid by sullen, murky sheets of mist, or the
torrents discharged by angry, inky clouds, are bad as in Sind and the
Panjáb. Native attendants must be carefully rationed: they will live, at
their own expense, on bread and butter, or rather on butter and bread;
but they will eat the best part of a sheep at the employer’s, and they
will drink, as the saying is, “any given quantity.” On the Hraun,
Rigby’s “Express Rifle” may be useful in case of meeting a reindeer, and
pistols and bowie-knifes will encourage the guide to defy the
Útilegumenn, _les hommes hors de la loi_, with whom their superstitions
people these solitudes. It is as well to carry glycerine for chafes and
sunburns, poor man’s plaister, and materials indispensable in case of
accidents. The holsters should contain lucifers, and the coat-pockets
metallic note-book and measuring tape, insect bottle with bran, and an
old magazine for carrying plants to camp.

The Reykjavik guides will assuredly refuse to accompany such an
expedition, and will declare that no Icelander can be persuaded to say
yes. This, as will be seen, is not the fact. But raw men who take scanty
interest in exploration, can hardly be expected to incur great risks.
About the end of July, somewhat late in the year, students _en vacance_,
speaking good Danish, a few words of English, French, and German, and
perhaps a little “dog Latin,” would be persuaded by three or four
rixdollars per diem to become “vacation tourists,” and something more.
They must not be treated like common guides, and they also should be
furnished with strong boots and bedding, for nights on the lava and in
the snow.

       *       *       *       *       *

This long Introduction may conclude with a pleasant quotation from Prof.
C. Vogt: “Plus je reporte mes souvenirs vers nôtre voyage accompli cet
été, plus je me sens attiré vers l’Islande, dont la nature, eminemment
sauvage, porte un cachet tout à fait particulier, et dont le sol
volcanique offre encore tant de questions à resoudre.” And the
traveller’s memory will in future days dwell curiously upon the past,

            “The double twilights rose and fell
    About a land where nothing seemed the same,
    At noon or eve, as in the days gone by.”







Adieu, O Edinburgh! whether thou prefer to be titled Edina, Dun-Edin,
Quebec of the Old World, the Grand Chartreuse of Presbyterianism, Modern
Athens--a trifle too classical--or Auld Reekie, good Norsk but foul,
fuliginous, and over familiar. Many thanks for the civilities lavished,
with one “base exception,” upon the traveller, who returns them in a
host of good wishes. _E.g._, May the little lads and lasses that play
ball and hop-scotch upon thy broad _trottoirs_ presently rise, like the
infantry of Ireland and the Cici of Istria, to the dignity of shoes and
stockings! May the odious paving-stones, which, under gigantic “busses,”
make thee the noisiest as thou art the most picturesque city in the
empire, disappear before the steam-roller and the invention of thine own
son Macadam: the former, after having long been used in the virgin
forest of the Brazil, has at length found its way to London, and why
should it not travel north? May unclean wynd and impure close, worse
than the Ghetto of Damascus, perish with krames and lucken-booths, and
revive in broad way and long square! May the railroad cars put in an
appearance amongst the open hackneys, whose reckless driving, like that
of the Trieste jarvey, seems to be connected in business with the
undertaker; and may the stands no longer be wholly deserted on the
Scoto-Judaic Sabbath! May there be some abatement and mitigation of the
rule, "Let us all be unhappy on Sunday”--when man may drink “whusky,” but
“manna whustle”--that earthly and transitory equivalent, as the
facetious Roman Catholic remarked, for the more durable, but haply the
not more unendurable, Purgatory! May thy beef lose its pestilent flavour
of oil-cake, thy dames look less _renfrognées_, and thy sons unlearn the
stock phrase which begins every answer “Eh! nae!” And lastly, St Giles
grant that so hospitable a city may condescend to set on foot a club
where the passing stranger, not only the “general commanding,” can see
his name enrolled for a month or two of membership, and no longer suffer
from the outer darkness of utter clublessness!

The spring of 1872 was tardy and dreary, and though I had left London
_en route_ for Iceland shortly after mid-May, June began before the
normal severity of a septentrional summer justified departure
northwards. Travellers of the last generation were still subject to the
sailing ship. Mr Chambers and his party are the first (1855) who had the
chance of a “smoky Argosy,” and the wild island-fishermen flocked to
save a ship which appeared to be on fire, whilst the country people fled
from the monster to their lava fastnesses. So in 1832 the first steamer
passing the Shetlands coast, greatly excited the unsophisticated
peasantry by suggesting witchcraft--I am not sure that some did not
expect Thor to be on board. So, finally, Captain Trevithick’s “puffing
devil” was held by Cornishmen to be the gentleman in black; and French
peasants shot at balloons, holding them to be monstrous birds.

During the summer of 1872 there was embarrassment in the wealth of
conveyance. The royal mail steamship (Danish Government) “Diana” touches
at Granton[296] and Lerwick once a month between March and November. The
Norwegian steamer, “Jón Sigurðsson,” visited the chief port of the
Shetlands with a certain irregularity, but the electric telegraph could
always give timely warning. The “Yarrow” of Glasgow, belonging to Mr
Slimon, ran during the season; and Mr Robert Buist of Edinburgh
chartered the “Queen” from the Aberdeen, Leith, and Clyde Shipping
Company. We shall see them all in due time.

Accompanied by my brother Stisted, I ran down to Granton betimes on June
4, along a road whose sides are coped walls, not rails and hedges,
through a country still showing early spring, although some six weeks
more advanced than Iceland. A couple of hours’ delay gave us time to
inspect Granton, and we owe it a debt of gratitude for saving us the
mortification of ancient Grangemouth. Scotch tourists in Iceland compare
its regularity with the irregularity of Reykjavik: it is regular as a
skeleton, this sketch-town, this prospectus, this programme-city with
its three piers--the Mineral, the Middle, and the Breakwater; and with
its square composed of two sides, the gaunt, grim hotel forming half the
whole. The staple trade appears limited to blue-green barrels of the old
“petreol,” which now seem to travel all round the world.[297] The
central quay--whose promenaders, though no longer fined threepence, may
not smoke--is remarkably good; and wind-bound ships affect the harbour,
because its bottom is soft mud, and because they are charged for shelter
only one penny per ton during the whole stay, discharging cargo for
sixpence instead of a shilling at Leith. The place is the property of
the bold Buccleuch, who, bolder this time than even at the British
Association, expended, ὡς λέγουσι, £1,200,000 for an annual
consideration of £15,000. Despite its stout-hearted progenitor, it is a
dull, young Jack of a settlement, all work and no play; but we shall
find it perfect civilisation, a little Paris in fact, on landing from

At 1.30 P.M. we cast loose, or, to put it more poetically with a modern
author, we assisted at the “chorus of sailors,” who are supposed to

    “The windlass ply, the cable haul
     With a stamp and go, and a yeo-heave-oh!”

The little knot of friends--T. Wright of the 93d and D. Herbert of the
_Courant_--wave farewell hats from the pier. It is an exceptional day.
The German Ocean wearing an imitation azure and gold robe, with the
false air of a southern sea, treacherously promises a yachting trip. The
smoke of many steamers forms a thin buff canopy, far-stretching over the
waste of pale sky-blue waters striped here and there with long bands of
yet milkier hue--_placidi pellacia ponti_. The Firth of Forth somewhat
reminded me of the fair entrance to Tagus; only here, instead of
obsolete windmills and huge palaces, we see red-tiled roofs and tall
stacks, artificial fumaroles vomiting pitchy vapours--the various
symbols of a very busy race. Along the populous shores of the Fifeish
“kingdom” whose _riant_ hills are loved by foxes that love lambs, where
the Lomonds give a _faux-air_ of resemblance to the Bay of Bombay, rise
successively Burntisland, Kinghorn, Kirkcaldy, Wemyss, and Leven with
gables facing the sea and fringing the main, “as lace embroiders the
edges of a lady’s petticoat.” After yet a little time there will be a
single line of habitation along what the late M. Alexandre Dumas, the
inventor of the “Lapin Gaulois,” called the “Fifth of the Fourth, or sea
arm running up to Edinburgh,” and its limits will be Dunbar and St
Andrews. In the rear rises the lumpy blue sofa that formed Arthur’s
Seat, a local Cader Idris, very like, under certain aspects, the Istrian
Monte Maggiore; here the husband of Queen Guenevere is what Wallace and
Auld Michael are to the rest of Scotland, ‘Antar to Syria, the Devil or
Julius Cæsar to Brittany, and Sæmund-the-Learned-cum-Gretti-the-Strong
to Iceland. The volcanic outcrop, famed by Huttonians, is flanked to the
north by the basaltic Salisbury Crags, whose billows of stone I had last
seen in the limestone cliffs of Marmarún or Dinhá (_vide_ Unexplored
Syria); and a thin white thread at the base denotes the “Radical Road”
(to Ruin), round which the ragged ruffians and rascals run.

And so we steam past Inchkeith; here a tall lighthouse is flanked
seawards by a pile of buildings which would have been better sheltered
on the other side, and which ought to be a mass of batteries like
Gibraltar. We cannot but remark the utterly defenceless state of the
northern capital, which lies literally at the mercy of a single
ironclad, commanded by any Paul Jones. But happily in these days we
battle with gold not with steel; we arbitrate instead of fighting.
Otherwise we might be tempted to propose torpedo stations, iron-rivetted
turrets, and other appliances of an art which the policy of the last
five years has made utterly antiquated, not to say barbarous. The
Westminster players of 1872 grumble--

    “Ah! minimè refert quid sentiat Anglia! Totam
       Mutandis sese mercibus illa dedit.
     Pacis amans quovis pretio, maris arbitra quondam
       Nunc ipsa externo pendet ab arbitrio--”

and grumble in vain.[298] However, “we have heard about that before.” We
have also heard of yon quaint pyramid on the starboard bow, concerning
which Mr Henderson says (i. 36), “The term ‘Law’ is still applied to
many hills in Scotland, as ‘Largo-Law,’ and so forth.” But the verbal
resemblance to the natural Lögbergs (law-mounts) of Iceland,[299]
Orkneys, and Shetlands, corresponding with the artificial moot-hills of
Scotland, is a trivial accident which has caused a philological stumble.
“Law” is simply the Anglo-Saxon Hlæw or Hlaw, primarily a low hill,
secondarily a tumulus, cairn, or sepulchral burrow (Bearw or Bearo),
heaped over the dead, as Lud-low the Low of Lude. Berwick-Law, though
shaped very like a Lögberg, means only Berwick Hill. Farther east is the
Bass, “sea-rock immense,” northwards steep-to apparently the rule of the
northern coast and the Orkneys, a broad-shouldered and misshapen stack
rising, like Ailsa Craig, sheer from the sea, and now very far from
being the “terror of navigators.”

During dinner, at the primitive and Viennese hour of four P.M., we had
passed Fifeness, _alias_ the East Neuk of Fife, not our “nook,” an
indention, but the Norsk Hnjúkr or Hnúkr, a knoll; the high, lone hill,
like Arthur’s Seat, occupies a long, blue tongue, which projects a
perilous reef some ten miles out to sea. The Firth of Tay--“firth,” from
Fjörð, is right; “frith,” from Fretum, is wrong--with its many
brethren, are foretastes of Iceland and Norway; the huge gapes of
dwarfish bodies, embouchures whose breadth promises a length of many
hundred miles, which the shortness of the watershed reduces to scores.
Such are the estuaries and giant mouths of the Gaboon, and, indeed, of
all the South African rivers save five--the Congo and Zambezi, the
Rufiji, the Limpopo, and the Orange; and we need hardly go so far to
study the feature, as the Mersey of Mercia is a first-rate specimen. We
peer from a distance at the “Geneva of the North” (_proh pudor!_), the
Faridon dé, the Donum Dei, famed in the days of terror as the abode of
the “reverend citizen Douglas,” where of late the mob-caps have had a
famous bout of “clapper-clawing” with the bonnets of bonnie Dundee; and
where, according to its own _Advertiser_, “there are heathens who read
newspapers during the Christmas holidays.”

Broad daylight blazed till ten P.M.; but fog, probably born of smoke,
and marring the effect of the pretty sail, obscured the outlines of
Fowls’ Heugh, in Kincardineshire. These are cliffs some 300 to 400 feet
high, where adventurous cragsmen still risk broken necks to plunder
birds’ nests. The Færoese hold that the unfortunates falling from great
heights burst in mid air; and it has been remarked by those who have had
ample opportunities of induction, that the many who have thrown
themselves off the London monument wear placid countenances, showing
none of the horrors of agonising death. It is possible, then, that the
sudden shock may cause asphyxia and apoplexy--we will hope that it does.

Before “turning in,” as the wheezing of the wind and the pelting showers
of blacks suggest, let us shortly survey the ship and our shipmates, a
process which travellers apparently despise as unworthy of their
high-mightinesses. The “Queen,” Captain William Reid, is a crowded
little thing of 280 tons register; a startling contrast to Messrs
Papayanni’s large and comfortable “Arkadia,” Captain Peter Blacklock, in
which I last sailed as _the_ passenger from Bayrút. She is licensed to
carry forty-seven miserables; her old-fashioned engines half-consume
twenty-three tons of coal in twenty-four hours; and her horse-power
(230) makes her bore through the water at the maximum rate of nine
knots. She has no bath; washing is at a discount amongst these
northerners; her offices are truly awful; and the berths are apparently
built for Arctic exploration, or for the accommodation of General Tom
Thumb and Commodore Nutt: the close vapours would generate nightmare,
but, happily, only the stewards sleep in the main cabin. The food is
profuse but primitive--giant tureens of oleaginous soup; fish which
cannot be kept quite fresh; huge junks of meat, of course carved at
table; mutton chops--not cutlets--all fat, or rather tallow; vast slices
of “polonies,” lard-speckled, and very like the puddings of sheep’s
blood farther north; marbled potatoes; graveolent cabbages; parsnips and
carrots, hateful to Banting; poor bread; good hard biscuit; excellent
butter, much enjoyed by Icelanders; rice puddings, and huge pies of
rhubarb, locally called overring or southern wood; tea which resembles
nothing that fancy can suggest; coffee much resembling a watery
decoction of senna; excellent whisky; the usual brandy, _not_ right
“Nantz,” and gin clean forgotten.

The passengers are all first-class, and those who should be seconds pay
somewhat less than the usual return fare, £6--board not included. In
these lands, the three R’s are the great levellers; and for a certain
roughness, moral as well as physical, we need hardly visit Canada or the
Far West; our Lowlander, emphatically opposed to the Highlander,
supplies us with an admirable specimen. Many of the travellers are bound
northwards on business, and their “Gentlemen, who says feesh?” reminds
us of Mr _Punch_ and his “pudden.” There is a laird of the parts about
Aberdeen, accompanied by an intelligent Scotch bailiff; an army man,
Major B., and his brother-in-law, Mr S.; a navy man, Captain H., much
addicted to fishing; another Piscator, popularly known as Johnny B.; and
a missionary, who will not walk the quarter-deck on “the Sabbath.” He
offers a tract to our parson--we can longer quote amongst British
proverbs, “Coals to Newcastle”--the Rev. R. M. Spence, originally of
Kirkwall, Orkneys, and now holding the manse of Arbuthnott. I must name
him; his local knowledge was most valuable to all on board; it was given
freely and without stint, and after his “parson’s week,” he was kind
enough to correspond with me during my stay in Iceland. Kirkwall has
produced much “good company,” but none better than the Reverend Spence.
There is a stewardess, who stoutly cleared for herself the ladies’
saloon. The steward and his mate are of the type often seen on board the
“leather-breeches mob of steamers”--an epithet, mind, which I do not
apply to the “Queen.” They are fond of bumping you, of spilling the
soup, of putting unclean towels upon your open books, of carrying a host
of articles in one hand, of charging the smallest and meanest items, and
of being peculiarly civil on the last day. The captain soon merits the
general description of a “regular brick;” he has no pilot who knows
coast or course, not a soul on board has ever been in Iceland, yet he
accepts all responsibility like a man and a seaman; and he will spend on
deck two successive nights of fog and wet. Finally, although the “Queen”
is not one of the floating coffins which have roused Mr Plimsoll’s just
indignation, she was sent out in a peculiarly reckless way,[300] and
without so good a sailor as Captain Reid, she--and we--ran the very best
chances of coming to a bad end.

       *       *       *       *       *

_June 5._

During the few dark, or rather chiaro-oscuro, hours, we ran along the
coast north-east and by east, turning the great shoulder north of
Aberdeen. As the raw and rainy morning dawned, high loomed on the port
bows Duncansby, popularly written Duncansbay, Head, whose castellated
and ruin-shaped rocks of yellow-brown sandstone, streaked with white
layers of guano, were new features to us; much resembling in form,
though not in formation, what Iceland will show. The steep and frowning
headland, sentinelled by needles, the Shetland “drongs,” the Færoese
“drengr,” and the Icelandic “drangar,” bluff to the sea, and sloping
backwards in long brown-green dorsa, is lit up by a sickly, pallid sun,
which picks out of the dark curtain the snowy wings of myriad sea-fowl.
The parallel strata supply the celebrated flags of Caithness, and the
softer parts are readily hollowed into “Devil’s nostrils,” Helyers,[301]
or sea-washed caverns, with pyramidal entrances which cause frequent

Beyond this point the coast is fretted into shallow bays of good soil,
fronted by sandy beaches of dwarf proportions, and here and there by a
small scaur; the chord is also pierced by long winding passages,
incipient Fjörðs, whose vistas end in yellow shingle. These
pasture-lands of Caithness are scattered with cots, “infield” and
“outfield,” but we look in vain for copse, wood, or forest. As a
northern writer said some hundred years ago, “A single tree does not
appear that may afford shelter to friendship and innocence” (why
innocence?), and fuel must be supplied by wreck-wood and drift-wood, by
peat and wrack, by cattle chips and bones. The cause is one from the
Prairies and the Pampas to the Carso of Trieste, and the rich uplands of
Spain, Syria, and the Haurán. Be the soil ever so fertile, its growth,
without the protection of walls or depressions in the level, is soon
blasted by the furious cutting winds. The experiment of planting
pitch-pines (_Pinus picea_ and _Pinus abies_) was tried by Governor
Thodal of Iceland, but the trunks never rose above two feet from the
ground, and, like Dean Swift, they died at the head. The scene already
suggests Thule without its Jökulls; scattered byes, greenish _túns_
(“towns,” or home-fields), brown distances, low stone walls, and big
bistre-coloured cliffs, black below where bathed by the flowing tide.

Behind Duncansbay Ness[302] we are shown the site of John o’ Groat’s
House; there is no need to walk there, as a stage coach now runs along
the fine broad road from the “(ex-) Herring Capital of the North”
(Wick). The old “Norwegian,” as some miscall him, left Holland with
Malcolm Cavin, and brought to Caithness a Latin letter from James II. of
Scotland recommending him to the northern lieges. It is still a disputed
point whether the Grotes of the Orkneys are the original stock, or
drifted there through Scotland. Strangers are taken to the
semi-historical ruin, a one-storied octagon, with its eight windows,
which appeased fraternal wrath--if, at least, there were eight, and not
two brothers. It is supposed to be a banqueting-hall, as there are no
bedrooms, and only the photograph for sale at Wick, probably taken from
some apocryphal sketch, caps it with a small look-out. A dull grey barn
is here fronted by a dwarf sand-streak, up which fisher boats are drawn,
whilst others, with stained sails, scud and toss over the unquiet
waters. The colouring matter is peat. In the Bahia de S. Salvador
(Brazil) the Piaçaba palm supplies the tannin-dye, while Venice and
Dalmatia assert superior claims to art by rough pictures in coloured
earths and oil. The object is everywhere the same--to make the canvas

And now with the rock ledges called “Pentland Skerries” on our right, we
dance over the tide-rip of the terrible “Pight-land Firth,”[303] which
has become classical in the north, like Pharaoh’s Ford in the Gulf of
Suez. Mýsing, the sea-king, according to the Elder Edda, ended the
“Peace of Fróði,” by slaying Fróði, king of Denmark; he also captured
the clattering hand-quern Grótti, and the two prescient damsels Fenia
and Menia. The victor ground white salt in the vanquished ships until
they sank in Pentland Firth, causing the main to become briny: there has
ever since been a vortex where the sea falls into the “well” or mill’s
eye, and the roar of the ocean is the grinding of the quern.[304] And
all this folk-lore because at times storm-wind meets tide running some
five to seven knots an hour with “waws” and “swelchies,” causing sore
grief to many a gallant ship. Yet there are men still young--Colonel
Burroughs of the 93d (Sutherland) Highlanders is one--who habitually
crossed this firth in open boats.

We had now turned the north-eastern end of Scotland, where Ben Dorrery,
a blue saddleback somewhat crater-shaped, rose supreme; and where Foss
or cascade water, anciently Fors, draining Lake Lunnery, suggested
Scandinavia. We presently passed the Paps of Caithness, and admired the
grand profile of classical Dunnet Head,[305] whose flanks are
horizontally streaked with broad golden patches, whilst a Cockney gun of
our party brought out a swarming colony of birds from their cliffy
homes. Behind it lay Thurso (Thjórsá, or Bull water), built with the
dull grey stone of Bath, not the picturesque red of Edinburgh, nestling
in the usual fertile bight, shallow withal and open to the northern
ocean. We halted for the first and last time off Holburn Head to take in
and deal out letters. Beyond it the picturesque Sutherland Highlands
ended in a long line of bluffs remarkably quoin-shaped. Dim in the slaty
and stormy sky rose Farout Head, not unlike the Elephant Mountain, the
classical Mons Felix that outlies the murderous Somali Coast. Ten miles
west of it rose the north-western Land’s End of Scotland, a mere
hummock low down upon the horizon. This was Cape Wrath, which some
understand literally, whilst others derive it from “Rath,” a conical
hill, or a fortified place: it is evidently Cape Hvarf, a common name,
as Hvarven, near Bergen, for a sudden turn of coast. “You should see it
in December,” said the steward, when we were disposed to deride its
anger: he had doubled it in a casual vessel from Liverpool to Dundee
carrying sugar and palm oil.

And now it is time to cast a look starboardways from Duncansbay Head.
The first feature is Stroma Island (Straumsey, corrupted to Stromey),
bluff to the north-west, and sloping gradually to the south-eastern sea;
the inner sound is a narrow channel, lately rendered safe by a red
beacon. The scrap of land--a small item of the two hundred inhabited
which form the British archipelago--is politically included in
Caithness, but, popularly speaking, it belongs to the Scoto-Scandinavian
race, the fourth great family of Great Britain, utterly dissimilar from
the Norman of the Channel Islands, the Kelt, and the Anglo-Kelt. Their
neighbours talk of the “poor sneaks of Stroma,” and these retort by the
opprobrious term “ferrie-loupers.” The memory of many a broken head and
bloody fray in bygone day is preserved in the couplet--

    “Caithness cabes (_i.e._, ticks), lift up your heads,
     And let the Orkney sheep go by!”

How soon will telegrams and steamers--there is a daily mail between
Thurso and Stromness--cause these local differences to share the fate of
the national garb?

Behind Stroma, and towering over it in the purple grey cloud, is South
Ronaldshaw, or Ronaldsha, in whose corrupted and degraded name we can
hardly trace the pure and classical Norsk termination.[306] Properly
Ronansey, from St Ronan, Ringan, or Ninian, it still preserves an
old-world flavour. Till the last thirty years wreckers were rife: it was
held “best to let saut water gang its gate;” in other words, uncanny, as
we find in “The Pirate,” to save a drowning sailor. Mariners lost all
their rights when keel once touched sand; whatever was cast ashore
became the lawful property of the people; Earl Patrick, who now is
cursed at Scalloway because “he hung the Shetlanders,” was blessed for
his wise laws against all that would help ships amongst the breakers; a
wreck was a sight to “wile the parson out of his pulpit in the middle of
his preaching,” and the blessing upon the shore was coupled with a wish
that the Lord would send “mair wrecks ere winter.” Men still remember
the old Orcadian minister’s prayer: “O Lord, I wish not ill to my
neighbours, but if wrecks be going, remember Thy poor island of
Sandey!”[307] The clergy feared to offend those sturdy pagans, their
“little ones,” by denouncing from the pulpit what the devoutest held to
be a “dispensation of Providence.” A pious fraud began by
excommunicating all who broke the Sabbath in such Satan’s work, and the
course of time did the rest.

But old ideas do not readily die. Lately a farmer in Orphir parish
(Ör-fjara, or Ör-fyri, “a reef covered by high tide”), having lost many
head of cattle by “witching,” applied to the “spae-wife,” who prescribed
the sacrifice of a bull-calf, probably by cremation, to Baal. The
practice is, of course, kept secret, yet the best possible authority at
Kirkwall told me he had reason to suspect that such offerings to the
sun-god are by no means singular. The late pugnacious Sir James Simpson
(Archæological Essays) also heard of a cow being buried alive as a
sacrifice to the spirit of murrain. The Yule bonfires and the games of
ball at that season were also in honour of the greater light.

Beyond South Ronaldshaw we had a fair profile view of Hoy (=Há-ey, high
isle), a three-hilled, long, narrow parallelogram which took us some
five hours to pass. The fierce south-westers which scoop and scallop
western Scotland, like western Iceland and the occidental coasts of
north Europe generally, render cultivation impossible except on the
leeward side, where the “links” are.[308] _En passant_, it may be
observed that the island capitals between Caithness and Iceland, as
Stornoway of the Hebrides, Kirkwall of the Orkneys, Lerwick of the
Shetlands, and Thorshaven of the Færoes, are all built upon the eastern
shore. We strained eyes in vain to sight the position of Walter Scott’s
“Dwarfie Stones,” so called _per antiphrasin_, says Brand;, and equally
vain was the “search for the great carbuncle” of Ward Hill, now
invisible as the gem of the Diamond Rock, and probably never seen save
by the eyes of faith. I heard of the same mysterious light in the far
Gaboon River. We were more fortunate with the Hill of Hoy, the tallest
part of the dorsum (1500 feet), whose “Old Man,” which farther north
would be called a “witch finger,” appeared first a dot, then a column,
and lastly a dome upon the summit of a huge cathedral. It is of the “Old
Red,” a pale, unfossiliferous sandstone, the normal material of the
western mainland, though some describe it as a slaty formation supported
by a base of granite, which also crops out near Stromness. According to
Bleau, the midnight sun can be seen from it in midsummer; Dr Wallace
qualifies the statement by opining that the true solar body cannot be
visible, but only its image refracted through some watery cloud upon the
horizon. The last glimpse of Hoy was Ronay Head, a glorious bluff at
least 1000 feet high, and beyond it lay nought save _pontus et aer_.

I will here step out of the order of my journey, which would more wisely
have been reversed. To begin with Iceland is to begin at the end,
neglecting the various steps and stages of Orkneys, Shetlands, and
Færoes, whilst to describe the climax and its anti-climax, would be
utterly uninteresting and bathetic. My three days (Sept. 10, 11, and 12)
at the Church-bay (Kirkjuvágr, vogr, vad, waw, wall) produced some
results, and these shall be briefly recorded.

The good ship “St Magnus” ran up “the String” to Kirkwall Roads, and
landed me after a ten hours’ passage from Lerwick. My first care was to
send my introductory letter, the gift of Mr Gatherer, to Mr George
Petrie, well known in the anthropological world. He kindly led me to the
little museum, which, like that of Lerwick, is far behind the order and
neatness of Reykjavik. The collection contains good specimens of netting
needles, cut out of rein and red deer bone: the former animal extended
to the Orkneys, as broken bones have been found in the burghs, and
suggest that they were continental. There were natural stone knives,
looking as if shaped by art--the Brazil shows heaps of celts equally
deceptive--pots of micaceous schist and steatite from Shetland; combs
conjectured to have been used for ornamenting pottery; a two-handed
scraper of whale’s bone; specimens of “bysmers” and “pundlers,” wooden
bars used as steelyards, the former three, and the latter seven, feet
long: they carried the Norwegian weights, “bysmars” and “lispunds,”[309]
which took root in the Shetlands. I noticed the huge Varangian[310]
fibulæ and torques; the querns still common amongst the islandry; red
“keel” or pigment of silicious hæmatite, showing that even the artless
dames did not ignore the art of rouge; rude beads of bone and clay; and
a human skull with four rabbit teeth, possibly bevelled by the “bursten
bigg,” coarse roasted bere or barley, even as the Guanches of Tenerife
ground down their molars with parched grain. My guide showed me his
ingenious plan for “squeezes,” and making casts of spearheads and
similar articles by means of warmed gutta-percha applied to the stone,
and lastly cooled in water.

Scapa (Skálpeið) Brock, the highly interesting ruin discovered by Mr
Petrie in 1870, was of course visited. At the Earl’s Castle, whose
approach is choked with trees like that of Baalbek, I remarked that the
kitchen and the banqueting-room had false and shouldered arches, which
might have been borrowed from the Haurán. We pitied poor St Magnus the
Martyr for the insult lately offered to him in the shape of a wretched
court-house--a similar affront has been inflicted upon York Minster. The
old cathedral, grand in its rude and ponderous Norman-Gothic, is made
remarkable by the red sandstone mixed with whitey-grey _calcaires_: it
shares with St Mungo the honour of being the finest remains of
Catholicism in the north, and it is unduly neglected by strangers. The
view from that eye-sore, the stunted spire, is charming. North-west
stretches the Bay of Firth, famed for oysters, backed by the dark
heights of Rousay (Hrólfsey); while north-east lies Shapinshay
(Hjápandisey),[311] smiling with corn and white houses, with the dark
hillocks of low-lying Edey in the distance. Amongst the smaller islets
may be mentioned castled Damsey (Daminsey); the Holm of Quanterness;
Thieves’ Holm (Thjófaholmr), where robbers, who were supposed not to
swim, found a safe prison, and often, too, a long home; and the
whale-back of Gairsey (Gáreksey), with the stronghold of that Sveinn
(Sweyn), who lost his pirate life when attacking Dublin--the Vikings
seem ever to have preferred these fragments of earth where the sea,
their favourite element, was never far distant. Nearer and rising from
the reniform “Mainland,” _alias_ Pomona, by the Sagas called Hrossey or
Horse Island, is Wideford (Hvitfjörð) Hill, backed by the Oyce or Peerie
Sea. The ground-wave is dark with bloomless gorse, and ruddy with fading
heath, whilst higher still

    “Earth clad in russet scorns the lively green.”

It is a progressive country: middle-aged men have shot grouse in the
mosses near Kirkwall where now the fields bear corn. The peasant’s
father despaired of growing grass: the son ploughs the bog, builds dry
walls with the larger stones that cumber the surface, cuts deep drains,
and top-dresses with sand and lime. Hands, however, are wanting; the
fisheries bring more money than agriculture; and the good landlord will
not part with his slow old tenantry, because he cannot replace it.


Vol. O. Page 283. ]

Two monuments in the cathedral are peculiarly interesting, and partly
relieve the desert and dismal appearance of all Catholic places of
worship converted to a “purer creed.” The first is that of the Irving
family, true Orcadians, who never changed their name since A.D. 1361,
and one lies murdered in A.D. 1614. Mr Petrie, the discoverer,
communicated with the great Washington of that ilk, who replied
courteously, forwarding at the same time a presentation copy of his
works. Mr Pliny Miles (Norðurfari) and others of his class are fond of
claiming all distinguished names for their own country; for instance,
Snorri Thorfinnsson, “the first Yankee[312] on record,” is the
forefather of Finn Magnússon and Thorvaldsen, whilst Captain Ericsson is
the descendant of Eric the Red. It would be easier far to trace all
American celebrities directly to Europe, and many of them would not be
sorry to see the process thus inverted.

The second tomb, much more interesting to me than those of King Hakon
and Maid Margaret, is the cenotaph of Dr Baikie, R.N., designed and
inscribed, I believe, by Sir Henry Dryden: certainly both design and
inscription deserve scanty credit. Not a word about the original
profession of poor “Hammie,” as he was called by a host of friends. And
why should it be a cenotaph? Why bequeath the explorer’s bones to the
ignoble “European’s grave,” S’a Leone? Worse still, the journals, once
so interesting, have been allowed to lie in obscurity for want of an
editor, and a decade in these days takes away almost all the value of an
African traveller’s diary. Dr Baikie is supposed also to have left a
valuable collection of Nigerian vocabularies--these, at least, might be
forwarded to the Anthropological Institute. I can only express a hope
that the bereaved family will bestir itself before the cold shade of
oblivion obscures the memory of a heroic name.

After a long spell of cloudy, misty, and rainy weather, Thursday, the
12th September, broke fine, with a clear sun and a high rollicking wind
which swept the rolling surface-water like a broom. In these islands,
July, August, and September are frequently wet; in October the “peerie
simmer”[313] of St Martin, the Indian summer of the United States, sets
in and gladdens the eye of man before the glooms of winter round off the
year. Mr Petrie proposed himself as guide to Wideford Hill, Ingishowe
(Howe of Inga), Maes Howe, Stennis, Borgar (Brúargarðr), and
Stromness--I need hardly tell the pleasure with which his kind offer was
accepted. He has not only admirably described these and other
antiquities (especially in his “Notice of the Brochs, or Large Round
Towers of Orkney,” etc., read before the S.N.A., June 11, 1866): he has
done far more important work by converting popular _insouciance_, and
even ridicule, into a something of his own enthusiasm. Nor should I
forget to say that in this great task he has been ably and efficiently
supported by the landlord-class, amongst whom Colonel Balfour of Balfour
Castle and Ternaby (Tjarnabær), the owner of Maes Howe, has especially
distinguished himself. We shall now hope to have heard the last of such
barbarism as breaking up the venerable “Odin’s Stone” into building
material. These acts are like the state of Uriconium, a national
disgrace; we only wish that Jarl Hakon had Mr M----’s leg in the
“Cashidawis,” or “Warm Hose”--a fitting reward for those who justify the

    “Quod non fecerunt Gothi
     Hoc fecerunt Scoti.”

It is also to be desired that the liberal proprietor of Maes Howe would
take active steps to defend the highly interesting central chamber from
the inclemency of the weather; the barrow was opened in July 1861, and
already the interior has suffered from exposure.

The most interesting event of the day was the inspection of Maes Howe,
which some one has lately suggested to be “simply a Norse fort.” It
would be mere impertinence to offer a general description of this
unique barrow after the studies of Mr Farrer (“Notice of Runic
Inscriptions discovered during Recent Excavations in the Orkneys,” made
by James Farrer, M.P.; printed for private circulation, 1862); lately
popularised by Mr Fergusson in “Rude Stone Monuments.” The three
mortarless _loculi_ of huge slabs and their closing stones reminded me
so strongly of the miscalled “Tombs of the Kings,” north of Jerusalem,
that I felt once more in the “Holy Land.” It is a glorious monument of
the great tomb-building race, or races whose animistic creed, the
essence of fetichism, expresses itself in tent-tombs (chambered cairns)
and cave-tombs (rock-cut chambers) upon the Siberian steppes, the
Algerian plains, the Wiltshire downs, and the Scoto-Scandinavian
islands. At Maes Howe we find all its characteristics--the stone circle
which drove away the profane; the long passage which keeps warm the cave
or hut; the vestibule for the funeral feast, and the various rooms for
the dead to live in. And at the first sight of the Branch Runes,[314]
otherwise called Palm Runes, I remembered having seen a similar alphabet
in northern Syria.

A ride to Hums, of old Emesa (February 27, 1871), and a visit to my old
friend the Nestorian Matrán (Metropolitan) Butrus, introduced me to the
alphabet known as El Mushajjar, or the branched, one of the many cyphers
formerly and, for aught I know, still current amongst Semitic races.
Returning to England, I sent a copy of it to the Anthropological
Institute, intending to illustrate a paper which was reprinted in
“Unexplored Syria” (vol. ii., Appendix, p. 241): unfortunately the copy
was lost.

According to the Matrán’s MS. there are two forms of El Mushajjar, one
applied to Arabic, and the other to Pehlevi. Both are read from right to
left, and the following is the Arabic form:

No. I.


The adjoined is the Pehlevi.

No. II.


No. III. is the Norsk-Runic alphabet, read from left to right, as
classified by Mr George Petrie, to decipher the palm-runes in Maes Howe.

No. III.


And the following are the inscriptions on the walls of Maes Howe:

No. IV.


The key to the cypher is here shown by the transverse stroke on the stem
of the first letter to the left (A or æ).

No. V.


forming an inceptive--“these runes.” In the word “Runar,” the left-hand
branches are turned down by way of variety; of course the number is the
same. Finally, it is interesting to compare this “Mushajjar” with a
similar system, the Irish letters, which bear the names of trees. They


And even in the common runes, we may observe that there is only one (R)
which is not composed of a rune-staff, supporting offsets disposed at
various angles.

No. I., the Arabic form connected by horizontal base-lines, contains two
sets of three, and four sets of four letters, read as usual in Semitic
alphabets; beginning with Alpha and ending with Tau: it is in fact the
Aleph-Tav of the Hebrews and of the older Arabs, as preserved in the
numeral and chronological syllabarium “El Abjad.” I need hardly note
that this was characteristic of the world-conquering Phœnician, that
glorious gift to Greece, usually attributed to Cadmus (El Kadim, or the
Ancient), and by us incongruously applied to our Aryan speech; a
comparison of the sequences _a_, _b_, _c_, and _d_ (Abjad), and _k_,
_l_, _m_, and _n_ (Kalaman) with any other system at once proves direct
derivation. In the Pehlevi Mushajjar the letters, it will be seen, are
not joined at the base, and sundry branches are formed in a different

Mr Farrer, who first “established the important fact of Runic
inscriptions existing in Orkney, where none had hitherto been found,”
gives both sets of palm-runes (Plates VIII. and IX.). He borrows the
following information (p. 29, referring to Plate VIII.) from Professor
Stephens, a good Norsk scholar: “The six crypt runes or secret staves
represent the letters A, Æ, R, L, I, K, R, and signify Aalikr or Erling,
a proper name, or perhaps the beginning of some sentence.” Professor
Munch observes, “The other characters in the third line are known as
‘Limouna,[315] or Bough-Runes.’ They were used during the later times of
the Runic period in the same manner as the Irish Ogham, but are not here
intelligible. The writer probably intended to represent the chief
vowels--A, E, I, O, U, Y. The Runic alphabet was divided into two
classes: the strokes on the left of the vertical line indicating the
class, and those on the right the rune itself.” And Professor Rafn
declares, “The palm-runes underneath cannot be read in the usual manner;
the first, third, and fourth of the runes being _a_, _o_, and _i_; the
writer probably intended to give all the vowels, but some of the letters
have been obviously miscarried, and have perhaps been altered and
defaced at a later period by other persons. In the first of these a
cross line has been added to show that the letter _a_ is intended.” Of
No. XVIII. (Plate X.), Mr Farrer notes, “The palm-runes are rarely
capable of being deciphered.” Professor Munch similarly declares, “The
boughrunes are not easy to decipher;” whilst Professor Stephens
asserts, “The palm-runes on the first line indicate Thisar Runar--‘these
runes.’” They are mentioned in the Elder Edda (Sigrdrífumál, stanza 11):

    “Lim-runes thou must ken,
     An thou a leech wouldst be,
     And know to heal hurts.”

The cryptogram, “El Mushajjar,” was forwarded to Mr Petrie, who replied
as follows: “I attempted by means of your tree-branched alphabet to read
the palm-runes of Maes Howe, but failed. It then occurred to me that
they might correspond with the Futhork, or Icelandic alphabet, and,
obtaining the key of the cipher, I completely succeeded after a few
hours’ trial. On referring to Mr Farrer’s copies of the translations
given by the Scandinavian professors, I find that Professor Stephens
appears to have put five runes in each of the first two classes, which
makes the third palm-rune (inscription No. I.) to be L instead of Y;
moreover, he does not give the key. My first attempt at classifying the
runes by means of the cipher turned out correct, and I have therefore
retained that classification in reading the second inscription. It is
evident that the classification could be altered at will of the person
using it, and this uncertainty of arrangement must constitute the
difficulty of interpreting such runes.”

In Nos. XIX. and XX. (Plate X.) we read “Iorsafarar Brutu
Orkhröugh”--the Jórsalafarar (Jerusalem-farers, _i.e._, pilgrim-visitors
of Jerusalem) broke open Orkhow (shelter-mound), probably in search of
treasure: the latter is an object especially Eastern. There are seven
crosses, and one inscription (No. XIII.) must be read from right to
left. We may therefore believe that certain old _Coquillards_, and
possibly Crusaders, returning from Palestine, whence they brought the
“hubby,”[316] violated the tombs, and left a single name and an
unfinished inscription to record their propensity[317] for

We visited the museum at Stromness, the amorpholites or “Standing
Stones,” and that “Mediterranean in miniature,” the Stennis Lake, whose
flora is partly marine and partly lacustrine. Hereabouts, the plain
shows distinct remnants of the two great epochs--Bruna-öld, the Age of
Burning; and Hauga-öld, the Age of Burial. We have no reason to believe
the tradition that Odin introduced cremation; doubtless, the “crematee”
was chiefly of the wealthy classes, while the poor were inhumed--they
were both synchronous in the days of the Twelve Tables: “Hominem mortuum
in urbe ne sepelito, neve urito.” Hence a valuable rule for tracing the
exact limits of old Roman cities, even of Rome herself: the cemetery was
always outside the city settlement, and, if possible, to the south.

The day ended happily, as it began, in meeting Colonel Burroughs of
Rousay, and Dr Rea of Arctic fame. My memories of Kirkwall are pleasant
in the extreme. It wants only a good modern hotel to deserve the
patronage of tourists, who, in these days, are told to “try Lapland,”
when they have ample inducement to pass a summer in the “storm-swept
Orcades,” and in other sections of the Scoto-Scandinavian archipelago.

On Friday, September 6, the “Jón Sigurðsson,” Captain Müller of whom
more presently, made with some difficulty the Shetland Mainland. Many
derivations are offered for the latter word, but, as the island is
larger than all the rest put together, the obvious signification
suffices.[318] A dark, thick fog had kept us drifting all night close
to the dangerous rocks called Hivda Grind, Havre de Grind, or
Hardegrind, originally Nafargrind, from Grind (a hedge-gate or sea-way),
and, perhaps, Höfða (a head or bluff). Our position, some seven miles
E.S.E. of Foula (Fugley) Island, explained the noise of the surf and the
shallowing of water to thirty-two fathoms--it is far easier in these
latitudes to hear than to see the land! The raw mist obscured the bold,
grand scenery of the western coast till noon, when a sickly sun sublimed
the vapours, reminding me of the Malabar coast after the Nilgherry
Hills. Very mild was the Roost[319] or Race of Sumburgh, a Euripus,
where nine currents are said to meet. We could distinctly sight
Fitful[320] Head, and

                    “We saw the tide
    Break thundering on the rugged side
      Of Sumburgh’s awful steep.”

Its flank of clay-slate showed vast rivas (clefts) and stone-slips,
while beyond it lay the skeleton of Jarlshof (Earl’s house), names now
world-known. It is curious to trace how the practised eye and the
wonderful memory which created our modern historical novel skimmed the
very cream of Hjaltland peculiarities during a few days’ visit in August
1814, the year in which he published the Eyrbyggja Saga;[321] and it is
fortunate for writing travellers that Sir Walter Scott did not visit the
Færoes and Iceland. See what he did for the “Waverley Line” of Railway!
Amongst the islanders he is a household word, but though the Troils of
Papa Westræ do not object to Magnus Troil, they are still incensed by
the portraiture of that “fiddling, rhyming fool,” poor Claud Halcro.

The approach to Bressey Sound, one of the finest ports in Great Britain,
is unusually picturesque. On the right is the “Wart of
Bressey”[322]--verrucose features are here common as in the Orkneys, but
the word is the Icelandic “Varða,” and the German “Warte,” a
watch-house. Its flanks are gashed for turf; and a goodly lighthouse is
as much wanted on the dangerous western coast as on the Mediterranean
shores of Africa. The island was lately sold, they say, for £20,000. On
the left is the historic Knap or Knab (Hnapp meaning a button) of
quartzose slate, backed by the quarries and the spreading town of
Lerwick--mud bay. The (Arthur) Anderson Institute and the Widows’ Asylum
reminded me of a Shetlander who began life as a clerk, became M.P. in
1847-52, and died the chairman of the great “P. & O.”--it is a pity that
these fine establishments were not better endowed. The capital stands
with its feet in the water; the houses, with their crow-stepped gables,
being so built for convenience of smuggling, and its sons fondly compare
it with cities on the Rhine. Half a dozen Dutch busses, riding in
couples, now represent the hundreds of bygone days, when the British
fisheries were called the “gold mine of Holland.” Certain features
suggested modern Tiberias, but the disproportionate number of the
churches soon weighed down that flight of fancy.

On the day after arrival, I set out with Captain Henry T. Ellis, R.N.
(of “Hong-Kong to Manilla”), to do the tour _de rigueur_--Scalloway[323]
Castle and Moseyaburgum, the Mousa (Mósey) Broch[324] or Pecht House.
We took the excellent northern road, begun during the famine, and
finished some four years ago (1870): formerly when a picnic was
intended, gillies were sent on to smooth the way for riders. After a few
yards, we left the fertile seaboard, whose skirts and smooths are, as in
Iceland, the only sites for agriculture, and entered the normal type of
country, which begins in Scotland and Ireland. There can be no better
description of bog and moor, of hill-land or commonty, and of “moss,
mount, and wilderness, quhairin are divers great waters,” than that
which opens the first chapter of “Lord Kilgobbin,” the last work of that
most amiable and sympathetic writer, whose unworthy successor I now am:
“Some one has said that almost all that Ireland possesses of picturesque
beauty is to be found on or in the immediate neighbourhood of the
seaboard; and if we except some brief patches of river scenery on the
‘Nore’ and the ‘Blackwater,’ and a part of Lough Erne, the assertion is
not devoid of truth. The dreary expanse called the Bog of Allen, which
occupies a high table-land in the centre of the island, stretches away
for miles, flat, sad-coloured, and monotonous, fissured in every
direction by channels of dark-tinted water, in which the very fish take
the same sad colour.” Similarly we read of Scotland: “The inland, the
upland, the moor, the mountain, were really not occupied at all for
agricultural purposes, or served only to keep the poor and their cattle
from starving.”

The surface of this Irish Sliabh and Icelandic Heiði, a true “black
country,” natural not artificial, rolls in low warty moors revetted with
moss, spangled with Fífa, or cotton-grass (_Epilobium_, or _Eriophorum
epistachion_), and gashed with deep black earth-cracks, showing the
substrata of peat; the tarns and flowing waters are inky as the many
Brazilian “Unas” (Blackwaters), and though strongly peat-flavoured, they
are not unwholesome. I could not find that they had been used for
tanning, nor have the people yet found out the value of the “peat-coal,”
macerated condensed[325] peat, so long appreciated by the Grand Trunk
of Canada and the railways of New England and Bavaria; even in the
Brazil a patent for the manufactory was taken out some years ago, and
Bahia now exports the article. Yet in Lyell’s “Principles of Geology”
(11th edit., vol. ii., p. 504) we meet the strange assertion, “No peat
found in Brazil.” The supply of the bog factories near Montreal costs
nine shillings to ten shillings per ton, or about one-fourth the value
of pit coal. The Torbite of Horwich (Lancashire) is even cheaper, and
experts have said that it gets up steam to 10 lbs. pressure in one hour
ten minutes, and to 25 lbs. in one hour thirty-two minutes--the figures
of Lancashire coal being two hours twenty-five minutes and three
hours--at any rate, we may believe that when water is excluded, its
heating power is about half way between wood and coal. Thus it becomes
an article of general value to brewers, distillers, and manufacturers;
and the Swedish iron, equal to Low Moor, as well as the yield of the
Bavarian, the Wurtemberg, and the Bohemian mines, are all treated with
condensed peat. It is now time to utilise the vast bogs of the finest
deep black fuel, in which Ireland and the Hebrides, the Shetlands and
the Orkneys abound, especially when perpetual colliery strikes, causing
coal famines and the immense rise in the value of the combustible, have
made steamers lie idle in our ports. Truly Torf-Einarr Jarl, who first
taught the art and mystery of “yarpha”-burning, deserves a memorial
statue on the Torf-nes.

In such “sea-girdled peat-mosses” as these, agriculture is a farce, and
only sheep can pay. The foundation of the rocks, snowy quartz veining
grey and chloritic slate, is that of Minas Geraes, and yet crushing for
gold has not, we were assured, been attempted. Dr Cowie informed me that
copper and iron are now successfully worked near Sandwich; and I hope
soon to hear of prospecting for the nobler metal. At present our
African California, the Gold Coast itself, is not more thoroughly

Shetland life is concentrated near the sounds and voes (the Vogr of
Iceland), where the dykes of Galway and Roscommon, dry or mortared
walls, enclose yellow fields of oats, barley, and potatoes black with
frost. Churches, and manses bigger than the churches; kilns burning kelp
and lime; substantial houses, thatched with barley-straw, upon “pones,”
or slabs of dried turf, the whole kept in place by “simmins” (straw
ropes), stones, and logs, dotted the lowlands. Here and there stood a
few willows and maple-planes, erroneously called sycamores,[327] under
the shelter of walls; and uncommonly pleasant after Iceland was the
twitter of the birdies. Many broken and unroofed cottages, some of them
leper-houses in bygone days, reminded us that the disease lingered
longer in Scotland than in England; in the Scoto-Scandinavian islands
than in Scotland; and in Iceland than in the “Eyjar.” The frequent
ruined home-steads of small tenantry, compelled, when their land was
“laid down to grazing,” to seek their fortunes elsewhere, are the
salient features. The “murid” (murret) coloured Shetland sheep have now
made way for Scotch intruders; the cattle are from Ayrshire; and English
horses, not “cussers from Lanarkshire,” have taken the place of
shelties. Ducks and geese are everywhere; skarfs and gulls are more
numerous than the speckled cocks and hens; and salt-fish, which here is
not sun-dried, lies piled, as in Iceland, upon the sands.

Much has been said in books[328] about the physical beauty of the
Shetlanders, but neither of us could see it. There is a greater variety
of race than in the islands farther north, but less, as might be
expected, than in the Orkneys and Caithness. The blue eyes are milder
than in Iceland, the long bright locks are the same, but the complexion
is by no means so “pearl and pink”--perhaps its muddiness may result
from peat-water. The blondes, as a rule, wear that faded and colourless
aspect, which especially distinguishes the Slav race. The look is shy
and reserved, and the voice is almost a whisper, as if the speaker were
continually nervous: strangers notice this peculiarity even in society.
_En revanche_, the women appear to be peculiarly industrious. They crowd
Commercial Street during the Monday markets, and even when carrying
their heavy “cassies,” “cassie-cazzies,” or crates of peat, which serve
for “Ronin the Bee,” they spin yarn and knit “tree-ply stockings,”
apparently not intended for their own naked feet. The Wadmel, or
Wadmaal, the North of England Woadmel, here better known as “Shetland
claith,” cannot, however, compare with that of Iceland; the texture is
loose, and the stuff in the shops is evidently meant to sell, not to

After seeing the humble wonders of Scalloway Castle, we struck
southwards and across the Mainland, where we could hire a boat for the
Whalesback of Mousa. The leek-shaped Broch has a pair of romantic
legends attached to it, but they are too modern for interest. This most
perfect specimen of the seventy round towers[329] has been often
described, but no one seems to have noticed the similarity of the double
walls of the vaulted and many-storied bee-hive chambers, and of the
other peculiarities, with those of the pre-historic Sardinian Nurhágghi.
The “stepped domes” of dry stone, and the “concealments,” also reminded
me much of similar features in outlying Syria. Some ill-conditioned
party of “cheap-trippers,” or “devil’s-dust tourists,” has lately fired
the secular moss which clothed the south-western wall. On the way back
to Lerwick there is another ruin in Clickamin (also written Chickhamin)
Lake: interesting as the means of comparison, it has an addition
evidently more modern of extensive outworks, which Mousa Castle wholly

Unfortunately for myself, I had not time to call upon the late Mr Thomas
Edmonston of Buness, whose philological labours are so valuable to
northern students;[330] and to tell unpleasant truth, I was somewhat
surprised by the success of the nineteenth century in abolishing all the
old hospitality. We inspected the contents of the dark little room, the
anthropological collection of the Shetlands, which deserves a catalogue,
and other comforts of civilised life. Many Hjaltlanders have never heard
of it. The most interesting articles are the steatite pots from Unst,
and the ceramic remains, guiltless of wheel, collected in the Brochs.
There are also some rough “thunderbolts”--here the stone celt is
considered, as by the ancient Greeks, to be an ἀστροπελέυς. Hence
Claudian (fifth century) sings:

                     “Pyrenæisque sub antris
     Ignea flumineæ legere ceraunia nymphæ.”

We ran into Thorshafn (Færoes) on September 4, when a shower of rain had
laid the fog. The “Isles of Sheep,” others say of “Feathers,” are
evidently built like Iceland, with submarine trap; and the deep narrow
“grips” between them, passages free from any danger except the
“vortices,”[331] which can be seen, suggest that they have parted into
long narrow fragments under the influence of subaërial cooling and
contraction. The deep black strata appear peculiarly regular, as those
of the western Fjörðs of Thule, streaked with lines of red ochre,
spotted with white guano, and not showing, in this part at least, any
signs of Palagonite or sea-sand. The leaf-shaped valleys, the
water-falls, and the natural arches, are familiar to us after
“Snowland;” the shallow turf lies upon the steepest inclines, and not
unfrequently it is torn off by the frantic wind with as much ease as a
rug is rolled up.


The course lay abreast of Mygganaes (Midge Naze),[332] with its head to
the south, and projecting a long low tail cut by a “coupé,” like that of
Sark. We then opened Waagoe (voe islet), so called because imbedded in
the greater Stromoe. At the southern end, where once whales abounded, as
may be seen in prints of 1844, many “Battles of the Summer Islands” were
fiercely waged. We pass Gaasholm, Tind-holm, or Peak Island, a slice of
rock with jagged uplifted edge, here a common feature, the Koltar
(Coulter), which passably represents its name, and Hestoe the
horse-eyot. The latter is a common Scandinavian name for a feature with
a long straight dorsum, ready as it were for the saddle--witness the
Horse of “Copinshay” (Kolbeins-ey): the hunchbacks are mostly called
“hogs,” and the smaller outliers “calves.” The normal shape is a quoin,
bluff to north or east, and sloping with a regular green incline to the
water. There is no snow; the hay crop has been got in, and the
settlements are villages, not Bærs or detached farms. We ran within easy
sight of Kirkjubæ, which stands well out from its adjacent hovels; it is
the last Roman Catholic building in the islands, and the “Reformation”
left its sturdy walls unroofed. Visitors speak of an iron plate imbedded
in its masonry, and supposed to denote treasure, which is not likely.
The old Church still keeps up a mission-house and chapel at Thorshafn,
but we found the building void of priests.

Whilst the “haaf,” or outer sea, was calm as a lake, a cold and furious
southerly wind, the gift of the funnel between Sandoe and Stromoe, blew
in our faces, and when we had turned the southern point of the latter,
it again met us from the north-east. The capital Thorshafn is a small
heap of houses, or rather boxes strewed “promiscuous” on the ground, and
a large white church, whose belfry is adorned with a gilt ball and a
profusion of crosses. It has, however, a literary dean, and, better
still, a library. The site of the settlement is a spit of rock dividing
the harbour into a northern and a southern “hop”--the latter being
generally preferred. A green flag floating over a shed near the fort
denotes the quarantine station; planked boat-houses figure
conspicuously, and the roofs are more grassy even than in Iceland.
Willows, elder-trees, and currant-bushes, looking gigantic after the
stunted vegetation farther north, flourish in sheltered spots,
especially near the well-bridged brook in the southern part of the city.
Along the dorsum of the spit runs an upper road with a small central
square, looking as if a single house had been pulled down to make room.
Huge boulders have not disappeared from the thoroughfares, and the
latter are the most crooked and irregular of any that claim to be in
Europe; narrow, steep, and steppy--- narrower than Malta, steeper than
ramps at “Gib,” and steppy like Dalmatian towns, for instance Curzola
and Lésina: in places they are supplied with hand-rails.

The people are remarkably English in appearance, and perhaps an easy
reason may be found for the resemblance. They appear rather shy than the
reverse, and they notably lack Hazlitt’s “Scotch stare.” The women show
the bloom of infinite delicacy that characterises the complexion of
Iceland. The men, who unwisely shave their faces, still affect the
picturesque island-dress, a peculiar-shaped cap of dark colour with thin
blue or red stripes, long brown jacket, knee breeches of Wadmal, long
stockings, and untanned spartelles, or “chumpers,” the wooden-soled
clogs of “Lankyshire.”

We called on Hr Sysselmand Müller, and we left the Færoes with a
conviction that its capital is one of the “slowest” places now in
existence: the only possible excitement would be to buy a 560-fathom
“fowl-rope,”[333] and to dangle like the samphire-gatherer of dreadful
trade over the bird-precipices. “In a rope’s end between earth and
heaven, with the blue sky above you, and below you the still bluer sea
tumbling, between which two you swing to and fro like a pendulum,” one
might secure a novel sensation to take the place of many an _illusion
perdue_. A St Bartholomew’s Day of a hundred and fifty whales, a
massacre headed by the parson and the schoolmaster, must also have its
charms, but these events are unhappily waxing rare.


Of the pre-historic weapons of warfare, or implements of domestic
economy, which have been found in the Shetland Islands, by far the most
numerous and important are the stone implements. These naturally divide
themselves into two classes, viz., the _polished_ and the _rude_. First
let us speak of the polished stone implement, celt, steinbarte,
battle-axe head, or “thunderbolt.” This implement has, for centuries,
been an object of search, not only for the antiquary and the collector
of curiosities, but for the native peasantry--the latter class regarding
it with superstitious awe, as a sort of household god, who brings luck
to the family that is fortunate enough to possess it. They term it the
“thunderbolt,” from a belief--everywhere found and dating from all
times--that the weapon has come down from the sky during a thunderstorm.
These “celts,” or steinbartes, as they are generally termed in
scientific language, again divide themselves into two varieties, viz.
(1.) the single-edged steinbarte and (2.) the double-edged steinbarte.

1. The single-edged steinbarte, which is by far the most common, is thus
very accurately described by Dr Hibbert, in his excellent work on
Shetland: “This variety of blade has one cutting edge, generally of a
semilunar outline, and tapering from opposite points to a blunted
extremity or heel. In some specimens both sides are convex; in others
one side only, the other being flattened. All the edges except the
broad sharpened margin are bluntly rounded off. The single-edged
stone-axes of Shetland vary much in their dimensions, being from four to
eight or ten inches in length; their breadth proportionately differing.
When the Shetland steinbarte was used in war, its blunt tapering
extremity may be supposed to have been introduced within the perforation
made into some wooden or bone haft, and afterwards secured by
overlapping cords, formed of thongs of leather, or the entrails of some
animal; twine of hemp not being then in use.”

From considerable personal observation, I can testify to the accuracy of
the above description, except that there appears to be in these
instruments greater variety in size than that indicated by the learned
Doctor; the largest single-headed steinbarte in the Lerwick Museum being
14½ inches long by 4½ inches at the broadest point, and the smallest 4½
inches long by 2½ inches at the broadest point.

Continuing the paragraph just quoted, Dr Hibbert says: “Another kind of
steinbarte has been said to occur in Shetland, the sharp edge of which
describes the segment of a circle, whilst the chord of the outline is
thickened like the back of a knife. Probably its blunt edge was fixed
within the groove of a wooden or bone handle, so as to form a
single-edged cutting instrument.” This peculiar variety must have been
very rare indeed, for no one appears to have seen it since the days of
the Rev. Mr Low of Orkney, who wrote exactly a century ago.

2. The double-edged steinbarte is described as follows by Dr Hibbert:
“The blade of this instrument is a stone completely flattened on each of
its sides, and not more than the tenth of an inch thick; it is of an
oblong shape, having one blunted margin perfectly straight, and, with
the stone in such a position that the dull edge is the uppermost, we
have the form of a blade presented, in which the two narrow edges are
irregularly rounded off at their angles, so that one edge is much
broader than the other. Every part of the margin but that which
constitutes the summit of the outline is sharpened; by which means there
is a great addition made to the extent of the cutting edge. The blade is
5½ inches long, and from 3 to 4 broad.” This description does not
correspond with the specimens I have been able to examine. If they are
to be considered fair specimens, I would describe the so-called
double-edged steinbarte thus: An oblong flat piece of porphyry,
serpentine, or some similar stone, 5 or 6 inches long by 4 or 5 broad,
and about a third or a fourth of an inch thick, with a thin sharp edge
all round.

These instruments, many of which are very beautiful both as regards form
and polish, are generally formed of a peculiarly compact green porphyry
or of serpentine. They have been found in most of the districts of
Shetland, particularly in the parishes of Unst, Delting, Wells, and
Sandsting. The situations and numbers in which they have been found,
also present great variety. Some have been taken out of ancient stone
coffins, others found inside of or near to old “burghs,” while many have
been dug up in the common--some near the surface and others several feet
beneath it.[334] Most of them have been found singly, but in many
instances large collections of such weapons have been discovered. Thus,
in one instance, twenty-four of them were found in one spot, in another
eight, and in a third seven, the last-mentioned series being arranged in
the form of a circle.

Polished stones having the shape of spear-heads have also been found in
Shetland, but very rarely. They are said to be about four inches long,
having a groove apparently for receiving a wooden shaft.

Flint arrow-heads, although frequently dug up in Orkney, have not yet,
as far as I can learn, been found in Shetland.


While the polished archaic stone implements have been known during a
long period of modern history, the rude or unpolished have only very
recently been discovered, or at all events recognised; and for this
discovery we are chiefly indebted to the late Dr James Hunt, London; Dr
Arthur Mitchell, Edinburgh; and Mr George Petrie, Kirkwall, who
conducted archæological explorations in Shetland in the summer of 1865.
Vast quantities of such articles must from time to time have been turned
up by the peasantry; but it is only about this period they appear to
have been recognised--a circumstance somewhat curious considering the
many searches during a long series of years, made for relics of
pre-historic times, by various accomplished antiquaries. These rough
instruments present great variety both as to shape and size. Let us
endeavour to indicate the chief types.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Stone Implements found in Shetland.]

1. We have the club-like form, which is well illustrated by the
accompanying copies of Dr Mitchell’s excellent paper on the
subject.[335] This implement is generally of large size; one specimen
measuring 21 inches by 2½ inches at the greatest breadth, and weighing
6¾ lbs.; another is 20 inches long, 5 or 6 in diameter, but attains the
great weight of 14 lbs. Many of the small forms found in the
collections to be described appear to be fragments of this larger

[Illustration: Fig. 2.]

2. Next in importance comes a long, narrow, flattish stone--“from 11
inches by 3 inches, to 6 inches by 1½--thinned and somewhat rounded at
each end.” Stones of this variety, which are very numerous in the
collections already made, present a remarkable similarity. (See Fig. 2.)

[Illustration: Fig. 3.]

(3.) The third type, which is illustrated by Fig. 3, is “a broad, flat
stone, showing a tendency to be pointed at one end.” Dr Mitchell
considers most of these stones fragments of larger implements; but two
entire specimens of this type are to be found in a good collection made
by Mr Umphray, of Raewick Shetland. The great majority of the rude stone
implements found in Shetland belong to one or other of the types above
briefly noticed; but we have still one or two less common varieties.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.]

(4.) The fourth type, of which I have not been able to see a specimen,
is described by Dr Mitchell as “a water-worn stone, 10 to 12 inches
long, more or less cylindrical, but tapering at the ends.”

(5.) The fifth variety, illustrated by Fig. 4, is a curious and very
interesting spud-like instrument, of which only a few specimens have
been yet found.

We next have three or four very rare and exceptionable varieties. The
first of these is a cylindrical and apparently water-shaped stone, well
worn at each end, as if it had been used as a pestle in crushing corn,
or for some such domestic purpose (Fig. 5); the second a “flat,
four-sided stone, 5 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 1½ inches thick,”
with a groove on each of the long sides, so as to give it a constricted
appearance; and the third a piece of sandstone, or some such stone, with
an oval cup-like hollow in it.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.]

[Illustration: Fig. 6.]

These curious implements, thus briefly enumerated, have been found in
various districts of Shetland, notably in the parishes of Sandsting,
Walls, Dunrossness, and Unst. It is interesting to note the different
positions in which they have been found--_e.g._, (1.) On the surface of
the ground; (2.) in curious subterranean structures; (3.) in the heart
of a large tumulus; (4.) on the outside of stone coffins with urns in
them; and (5.) in the inside of a Kistvaen with a skeleton and a
well-polished celt.[336]

Most of them are composed of sandstone, but a few of clay slate, or of
micaceous schist. They apparently have been shaped chiefly by flaking,
but in some instances also by picking.

In connection with these archaic implements, three questions naturally
arise: By _whom_, _when_, and _for what purpose_ were they formed? Were
I able, this is not the place to discuss such difficult and important
questions. On excavating “burghs” and opening tumuli, such pre-historic
remains as fragments of rude pottery, pieces of charred wood, and teeth
and broken pieces of bones of animals, are frequently discovered.

LERWICK, ZETLAND, _24th March 1873_.



After this interlude of Hysteron-proteron, we return to the steamer
“Queen,” which has pertinaceously bored through

    “The Pentland, where the furious tide,
     Runs white for many a mile.”

After sighting Cape Wrath, she bade adieu to “Earth’s proudest Isle,”
and dashed north-west into the Deucalidian or Deucalidonian Ocean, the
Mare Pigrum of the classics, the sea which Adam of Bremen terms
_jecoreum et pulmoneum_, because it has a heavy motion like those
troubled with asthma, in the same sense as Plautus speaks of asthmatic
legs--“pedibus pulmoneis mihi advenisti.” The Germans called it Libersê
(Adam Bremensis) and complained that the abnormal quantity of salt made
it a Mare Mortuum. Hence Hoffman von Fallersleben sings:

          “De lebirmere
    Ein mere ist giliberot
    In demo wentilmere westerot
    Sô der starche Wint
    Giwirffit die Skef in den Sint,” etc.

The portentous waves remarked by old Icelandic sailors between Iceland
and America, are termed by them Haf-girðingar, or Seafens, and the Polar
wastes between Norway and Greenland were known as Haf-botnar (deep-sea
bay) and Trölla-botnar, because here was the abode of Tröll-carl and
Titan. The mighty breakers of the North Atlantic are known to
picturesque and poetical tourists, not to seamen, as “Spanish waves.”
The sky, before clear, was all cirrus and cirro-cumulus, and the slaty
green seas made the too lively “Queen” dance and reel with excitement.
The cabin table was put into its straightest waistcoat, and men avoided
the deck--on shipboard, as in maritime Iceland, once wet, you cannot dry
again. Our numbers shrank at mess, and the passengers seemed to become
like the royal and feminine Legs of Spain. Ghostly sounds issued from
the cabin; one “Caledonian stern and wild,” attached to a black dog, big
as a donkey and hairy as a bear, made fierce attempts to violate the
toilette tables and glared hideously at expostulation. Our only consorts
were spirting whales and audacious troops of numerous gulls--these
escorted us with sundry reliefs of guard as far as Iceland.

Presently we sighted the “Stack,” a split rock with a bald white head,
and further to starboard the Bird Skerry, a low dome wholly unprovided
with lighthouse--how many a good ship, densely be-fogged, has run her
bows upon this Rock of Death, and melted away in the yeasty waves! At
6.30 P.M., we passed the “two solitary islands,” Ronan and Barra,
_alias_ Sulisker, of old Sulnasker, north-easternmost outliers of the
Hebrides. The former appears in hay-cock shape, the latter is a long
flat-backed “horse,” bluff as usual to the north, with a precipice 300
feet high. Both are uninhabited, and might serve for fancy eremites. To
starboard rises Fair Isle, half-way between the Orkneys and the
Shetlands, once belonging to the former, now to the latter. This rock
supplies the shops of Lerwick and Kirkwall with its peculiar hosiery;
and the primary colours, blue, red, and yellow, of the Etruscan tombs,
and the Temple of Ephesian Diana,[337] are those which Algiers, Morocco,
and the East, still know so well to blend. Mixed in the most daring way
they are never inharmonious, glaring, and grotesque. It is well worth
the artist’s time and trouble to investigate and determine the delicate
differences of proportion which can make the “Devil’s livery” so
brilliant and pleasing to the eye. “Ye Yle of Fare,” I need hardly note,
is supposed to have derived its art from the shipwrecked seamen of the
Spanish Armada. “Insula Bella,” says Buchanan; of which Brand remarks,
“I neither did see, nor was I informed of anything that affords us any
reason why this isle should be so appellatively taken and denominated
_bella_ or fair.” The Scandinavian name is Friðarey; otherwise we might
believe Fair Isle to be a congener of “Færoes,” from Fier, feathers, or
from Fær, a sheep, because _plena innumerabilibus ovibus_” (Dicuil).

       *       *       *       *       *

_June 6._

Still, as the weather waxed fouler, the aneroids rose higher and higher.
We had exchanged an angry Auster, which filled the raw air with damp,
for a wrathier Boreas that tore the clouds to tatters. All the northerly
winds, which rarely outlast the fortnight in this capricious and
treacherous climate, are cold and dry, consequently heavy, whilst those
from the rain-bringing south notably want pressure. We are now
approaching the region of paradoxes, a practical joke of Nature, where
the Rule of Reverse seems generally to apply. Travellers tell us that
presently we shall see nine suns, which do not give the light and warmth
of one; sub-glacial volcanoes; fire issuing from icebergs--is this not a
dream of old Uno Von Troil?[338]--a summer without thunder which is
confined to winter; stone crumbling soft under the touch; stalactites
and stalagmites of lava, not of lime, Pluto doing Neptune’s work; rivers
now bone-dry, then raging floods; forests sans trees; fuel thrown up by
the furious sea; deep swamps clothing the high hill-slopes; lakes
supplying ocean cod; and wild ducks swimming the almost boiling springs;
a land where the men draw and carry water, and a population which,
thriving in the worst weather, sickens and dies of malignant catarrh
(the Kruym of the Færoes) when the heavens deign to bestow a rare smile.

Our only _passe-temps_ is that of calculating successive positions on
the chart. There to starboard lies Foula, which some write Fowla and
Foulah, and is evidently Fogla-or Fugla-ey,[339] fowl’s or gull’s eyot.
The claims of the “stately headland” to represent

    “Thule, the period of cosmographie,”

have been discussed in another place. It belongs to Dr Scott (R.N.) of
Melby; it numbers about two hundred souls, and it rejoices in a revenue
of some £200 per annum--when fishing and crops are favourable. Like
other islands, it has its magic carbuncle. Beyond it lies Papa Stour;
Papey, the eyot of Culdees and anchorites: its natural arch will appear
familiar after Iceland. About noon we found ourselves off the Færoes,
and the rest of the day was spent upon the Ferry of the Northern Sea. We
steam all unconscious over the “Sunken Land of Bus,” in N. lat. 58° 2´
and long. 29° 55´; “Arctis,” a continent which has lately been revived,
and whose fragments are supposed to be Iceland, the Færoes, Greenland,
Spitzbergen, and Franz-Josef’s Land. This is a restoration, or
rehabilitation, of Unger’s Miocene Atlantis, which imitates Bailly’s “in
having taught us everything but its own name and existence.” Older
hydrographic books assure us that the western coast once “occupied many
leagues of extent, but that after being overflowed, it is now not more
than a league round when the sea is high. There was some years ago a
large island named Finsland here, which was full a hundred leagues in
circumference, and on which were many villages.” Similarly, Brasil Rock
(“Hy Brazile”) was placed in N. lat. 57° 10´ and long. 16°: we have also
the submerged land of Lionnesse (Leonnais) extending to the Scilly group
and the drowned city of Ys, for which mass was recited till the
beginning of the present century; the island of St Brandan, the
Masculine and Feminine Islands, the island Scoria with its archbishop,
and the island Antillia with the “Septem Cidade,” mythical features,
spawns of the old “Atlantis.” Hr Thorsteinnsson of Reykjavik showed me
the origin of Finsland, more generally called Friesland, upon a fragment
of vellum chart, dating from the sixteenth or seventeenth century,
almost “rotten with age,” and ignobly converted into a book-cover.
Evidently the “Isola Frislanda” of Messer Antonio Zeno, in A.D. 1380, is
a mere clerical or cartographic error for the Færoes appearing in the
shape of a large tract of ground close to and south-west of Iceland.
Every map of the period supports its existence.

       *       *       *       *       *

_June 7._

As we approach Snow-land the north wind seems to fall, or rather, to
judge from the cirrous sky, it blows high overhead. Sailors in these
northern seas believe that after passing beyond the “roaring Sixties”
they begin to sail “under the wind.” In other words, they hold that the
Polar current, rushing to supply the ascending atmosphere established by
solar action at the equator, and forming the upper trades, describes an
arc which touches the earth about lat. 60°; whilst in the higher
latitudes of both hemispheres, the greatest force of the draught is high
overhead. So, on the summit of Tenerife, we stand in a perpetual gale of
upper trades, which farther north sinks to the sea surface and overflows

Our situation was none of the most pleasant. An English vessel, also
unprovided with pilot and skilful crew, has lately been wrecked upon the
dangerous and inhospitable southern coast of Iceland. The clammy fog
enwrapping us like a wet blanket, made altitudes hopeless; the magnet is
here bewitched, seeming as if it forgot the pole; the old English
hydrographic charts used on board our ships are poor compared with the
French and the Danish; and we might have been drifted eastward or
westward under the influence of unstudied currents. We crossed the bows
of a big-sterned brig, but as she could not exchange a word with us, we
“Queens” could only say bitterly,

    “Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor illis!”

Under the circumstances we envied Víkingr Floki his consecrated ravens,
birds which, since the days of Genesis, are always supposed to make for
the nearest land. Perhaps I should say before, as the “croaker”[340] has
lately appeared in the mythical seven days’ deluge, related by Sisit
(Xisuthrus), and was a very cannibal from the beginning, as well as a
bird of augury and sagacity. Sir William Thompson has thus ably
discussed the question of raven _versus_ magnet: “We have no certain
information of the directive tendency of the natural magnet being known
earlier than the middle or end of the eleventh century (in Europe, of
course).... That it was known at this date and its practical value
recognised, is shown by a passage from an Icelandic historian, quoted by
Hanstien in his treatise of Terrestrial Magnetism. In this extract an
expedition from Norway to Iceland in the year 868 is described; and it
is stated that three ravens were taken as guides, for, adds the
historian, ‘in those times seamen had no loadstone[341] in the northern
countries.’ This history was written about the year A.D. 1068, and the
allusion I have quoted obviously shows that the author was aware of
natural magnets having been employed as a compass. At the same time it
fixes a limit of the discovery in northern countries. We find no mention
of artificial magnets being so employed or even known till about a
century later. In a curious old French volume by Givot de Provence, of
which the MS. is in the Royal Library at Paris, there occurs the
following very interesting passage, which is the first allusion extant
to the use of needles in place of the natural magnets for the compass:
‘This same (_i.e._, the Polar star) does not move, and mariners have an
art which cannot deceive by the virtue of the magnet, an ugly brown
stone to which iron _adheres of its own accord_. When they look for the
right point, and when they have touched a needle on it, and fixed the
needle on a piece of straw lengthwise in the middle, and the straw keeps
it above, then the point turns just against the star undoubtedly. When
the sea is dark and gloomy that you can see neither star nor moon, then
they bring a light to the needle, can they not then assure themselves of
the position of the star towards the point? By such means the mariner is
enabled to keep the proper course; this is an art which cannot deceive.’
This passage shows clearly that magnetised needles were actually
employed for nautical purposes as they are at present in the twelfth
century.” This interesting quotation concerning the Marinière or _La
Grenouille_, was obligingly sent to me by Principal D. M’Farlane of

About one P.M. the sea became unaccountably smooth, and as the wind drew
round to the north, we judged that we were under the lee of the land.
Presently it was whispered that a white gleam of shore had appeared and
disappeared over the weather-bow, and that we were running into shallow
water, rendering lead more necessary than look-out, whilst upon all ears
fell ominous sounds:

                        “the surf that sings,
    The bar that thunders, the shale that rings.”

The fog suggested the old traveller’s description, “subito collapsi
sumus in illam tenebrosam rigentis oceani caliginem, quæ vix oculis
penetrari valeret;” and the sea became a “mare tenebrosum” of the most
repulsive aspect. We had intended to make our landfall at the
southernmost extremity of Iceland, Portland Head, some forty-five miles
to the west. But at six P.M. the water, blackened by the uliginous
discharge of an unknown stream, and the dimly-seen pale-grey breakers
furiously lashing the low-lying strand, and blurring it with water-dust,
told us where we were. Immediately in front of us lay the carse, or
alluvial lands, the _déblai_ of those scarped walls that first issued
from the deep: here begins what is technically called the Siða, “side,”
or sea-shore, the long narrow strip of habitable land between the
mountains and the beach. Its western limit is the river Kuðafljót: this,
the broadest in the isle, and ridiculously termed “Nile of Iceland,”
derives its name from Kúði,[342] the little Norwegian boats which
ascended it in the olden day.

We now ran cautiously westward. The southern shore, harbourless as the
corresponding part of Sicily, has in many parts, like Norway, two
coasts, an inner and an outer; the latter composed of reefs and islands,
and somewhat resembling the true or old, and the false or new, shores of
tropical Africa, for instance, about Dahome and the Slave Coast. Slowly
rose on high, towering through the mysterious gloom, the grisly, black,
and scarped form of Hjörleifshöfði, a ghostly castle upon a Stygian
strand. But such weather would deform the fairest face that earth can
show--would reduce the approach of Venice and of Wapping to an absolute
level: as I afterwards saw it in clear sunny weather, Hjörleifs Head is
by no means without a certain grim beauty of expression. The huge
escarpment is a noble monument to him, who “fell by the basest of
slaves” (Irishmen) because he “did not sacrifice to the gods.”

The scene now develops itself and becomes imposing in its cruel
hideousness. We are off the eastern Jökull, so called in
contradistinction to the western Jökull, now best known as
Snæfellsjökull. It is truly Iceland, “everlasting frost,” as oft-quoted
Pindar sings, “and fountains of unapproachable fire.” Beyond the ghastly
greenish waves, and the low base of black, bleak, and barren shore,
appears a contorted _silhouette_ of broken basaltic blocks, a line of
“Kárá Bábás” (Black Papas), rising in towers and battlements, and
setting off the dead whiteness of the hogsbacks above, gleaming whiter
still from their background of angry, watery, purple cloud-rack. The
mighty mass starts from the south with the Mýrdals (mire-dale) Jökull, a
tract of eighty-four square miles, which often gives a name to the
whole; it then connects with the Goðalöndjökull, running east and west
about fifteen to twenty miles long, by twenty to twenty-four broad, and
utterly unexplored, save only the Kötlugjá;[343] thirdly, rising some
way to the westward, the Eyjafjalljökull floats in air, the mighty
beacon which guides to his landfall the sailor voyaging from the south.
Here the southern or warmer exposure, which Dr W. Lauder Lindsay saw
almost bare as late as June 13, shows snow only in the huge rifts
gashing its black tormented flanks; whilst its head is crowned with a
silvery aureole, possibly the reflection of the northern side, and
contrasting sharply with its canopy of slaty-blue sky. The aspect of all
this _nevada_ makes the discoverer’s heart beat fast, but the tremendous
chasms in the basalt suggest peculiar difficulties.

Still our weary skipper, indefatigable withal, was doubtful about his
position, when Professor Paijkull’s volume lying open upon the deck
enabled all to recognise the southernmost point, Portland Head (W. long.
G. 18° 54´; N. lat. 63° 22´). The broad and high escarpment is faced by
three diminutive outliers, and the largest of these is known as
Dýrhóla-cy, door-hill-isle; the Napoleon book translates Dýrhólar by
_tumulus des arches_. Except that the port-holes number two, it exactly
resembles the Doreholm of our Shetland Islands, prefixed by Pinkerton to
John Brand’s “Brief Description.” A little to the east lie the
Reynidrángar (rowan-needles), a sister formation of drongs, but curving
south-eastward and not south-westward.

The freezing wind evidently blew directly from the mighty mass of
snow-roofed glaciers lying immediately behind the shore, and it was
midnight before we had covered the thirty to thirty-four knots
separating Portland Head from the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. The only
sensible remark made about these “Irishmen’s islands” was by an ancient
seaman who, transferring his quid to the other side of his cheek,
declared that they were exactly like a “toon with ill-liggit sta-a-cks.”
A small but enthusiastic knot of passengers did not turn in before five
A.M.; they were rewarded by seeing sundry cockle-shell craft, the
Norwegian steamer making southwards, and a peak which they determined
satisfactorily, for themselves at least, to be Hekla.

       *       *       *       *       *

_June 8._

The morning, if we can so call it where night is negative, not positive,
broke clear and cold, the north-westward savouring strongly of
Greenland; and under the rosy sky the western horizon was a white
streak, as though the gleam of an iceblink,[344] adding a strange Polar
charm. After Eyjafjall there is a complete change of feature; the sea
faces a great alluvial plain cut by many broad streams, which breaks
inland into waves of rolling ground, with dots denoting hill and
hillock, and which ends northwards in blue-black ranges jagged with many
a detached peaklet. A host of gulls and terns[345] put in an appearance:
I afterwards passed twice along this line, and found it almost desert of
feather. Our Cockney gun again amused himself by slaughtering and
maiming as many unfortunates as he could--it is only fair to own that
this wanton cruelty was not looked upon with a favourable eye. The
sable-crested and silver-breasted eider ducks with their brown wives
fell easy victims. The same fate overtook the black diver (_Colymbus
Troile_) and the Lundi[346] or puffin (_Mormon Fratercula_ or _F.
Arctica_), called sea-parrot, probably from the disproportionate painted
beak which, however, does not lodge a talking tongue. They could hardly
rise in the smooth sea, for their wings are short as if they were a
transition to the penguins; but they scuttled away, paddling with their
web-feet as fast as we approached them. The feathers of the Lundi are
collected for stuffing, despite their prodigious growth of pediculi. It
is the Shetlanders’ Tommie or Tom Noddy, the Norie of the Orcades, the
Priest of Scotland, and the Pope of Cornwall. Some travellers strongly
recommend puffin-pie stuffed with raisin pudding and baked, but the oily
flesh has a bad name as diet: its chief uses are fuel and fish-bait. Yet
the “pope” or “priest,” the half-fledged bird, is pickled and eaten in
our islands. The Arctic Skúa (_Lestris Thuliaca_, Prey., or
_Stercorarius parasiticus_), the Shetlanders’ Bonxie, kept out of our
reach as it chased and plundered its feathery brethren. It derives the
opprobrious “_Stercorarius_”[347] from a mere scandal, and
“_parasiticus_” from its habit of harrying the tarroch (_Rissa
tridactyla_) and the “graceful sea-swallow,” which Mr P. Miles holds to
be game (_Sterna macrura_). The Icelanders call this “víking of birds”
from its cry, Kjói (pronounced _Kiowi_); and the Færoese Tyovi, “the
thief.” The white-robed Dominican, with its black scapular, has a strong
wing, and the sharp, crooked claws which garnish the web-feet, make him
a raptor addicted, they say, to attacking newly-dropped lambs. The
gannets or solan geese (_Sula Bassana_, whence probably Sulisker, the
Suleskerry or flat, insulated rock never awash) fell before the shot,
but after a short sickness they rose struggling, and winged their way
towards land. These interesting birds, made conspicuous by their
cream-coloured heads and black primaries, form Indian files or wedges
when travelling from place to place, and separate where the tide-rip
shows the sea to be unusually fishy. The “_Pelicanus Bassanus_,” though
connected by name with the Bass Rock, abounds about the Cape of Good
Hope and Madagascar. It is a fowl of many titles. Here it is termed Súla
or Haf-súla (deep-sea Sule); whence our solan, misnamed goose; and the
Dutch know it as Jan van Genter--whence our “gannet” (?) Its fine shape
and flight have probably given it a place amongst the “_singularia
naturæ et providentiæ_,” with which the good Bishop Pontoppidan has
supplied these northern regions. Hence, according to Meyerus (_de
volucri arborea_), the _conchæ avitificæ seu anatiferæ_, birds growing
like African oysters on trees: this fable finds a pendant in Los Pateros
of Manilla, duck-hatching establishments where men incubate the eggs. Mr
James Wilson, speaking of the Solan goose (_Sula alba_) of St Kilda,
computes that the 200,000 birds forming the colony consume between March
and September 214 millions of herrings. Jerome Cardan (Travels in
Scotland) found the “Soland, perhaps Pliny’s sea-eagle,” a bird of
general use. In spring they supplied the garrisons with fuel, to say
nothing of fish; they patiently endured their young to be taken from
them; they have quantities of fat under the skin used for dressing wool
(_hac lanas inficiunt_), and a “certain small gut” yields a grease which
is excellent for pains in the hip-joint. “The profit this bird gives is
manifold, viz., from sticks, feathers, fat, and young ones; and it is
said to amount to 500 golden crowns yearly”--an extinct industry!

We ran along the shore of Krísuvíkrberg, with precipices some 200 feet
high fronting the leprous splotch upon the conical and jagged highlands
that denote the Krísuvík Sulphur Mountain. This formation accounts for
the sandstrips, which look notably yellow after the black lowlands to
the east; and the colour is rendered brighter by quantities of
comminuted sea shells thickly spread on the shore. This south-western
projection is one vast “Hraun,”[348] or cold lava-field, a land
seemingly afflicted with “black death,” yet it rejoices in the title of
Gold-breast Canton (Gullbringu Sýsla); the plentiful fisheries
representing the precious metal. At nine _A.M._ we ran by the “Karl”
(carle or old man),[349] a detached mass standing boldly out from the
lava-crested coast; it has a ridge and steeple, which, especially when
seen from the west, justify the English “Church Rock.” Here, like the
great lava lip beyond, its flanks are white with the guano of the
Filungr or Fulmar[350] (_Procellaria glacialis_), foulest of sea-fowl.
Beyond it is a bunch of volcanic cones and tumuli, spiracles and
hornitos, all bare rock, or clothed with lapilli; one grass-clad crater
appears to be of considerable size, and we easily count four distinct
_coulées_ or discharges spilling over the Palagonite cliffs.

Behind the leprous Karl lies Reykjanes, or Reeky Naze, so named with a
reason. A puff of steam rose high in the air, suggesting, as I read with
astonishment in the _Scotsman_ (June 17th),[351] that “a new Geyser had
burst out at a point a short distance inland, and about twenty miles in
a south-westerly direction from Reikiavik, throwing up a vast column of
water to a height of at least a hundred feet.” The “same outburst was
observed in full play on the homeward voyage of the ‘Queen’” (June 11,
1874), and was held to be “premonitory of an eruption of Hecla.” Had the
writer looked at the large map of Iceland, he would have seen four blue
circlets placed behind Reykjanes to denote warm springs; they are
supposed to be the work of the Skaptarfells eruption, which, in 1783,
threw up Nyöe, “the new island.” The map of Iceland in Pontanus (1631)
shows at this place a “fons commutans lanas nigras in albas.” I may
observe that in the first place we saw only steam, not water, or rather
that we were too far off to distinguish anything but the former.
Secondly, the weather was exceptionally still and rainy; and the damp
air, deficient in barometric pressure, allowed vapours to rise high,
whereas, under opposite conditions, they would be dispersed, or hug the
ground. The Geysirs are said to rage more furiously in wet than in dry
weather; and on arrival at Reykjavik we distinctly observed the fumes of
Laugarnes, which suggested the name “Reeky Bay,”[352] standing up in a
tall, transparent column--it was not seen from the town during the rest
of my three months’ stay. I twice voyaged past the site of my friend’s
“new Geysir;” every glass was pointed shorewards, but none succeeding in
detecting the least trace of water or vapour. In 1862 Mr Symington (p.
46) observed “steam rising from a hot sulphur spring on the coast” near
Reykjanes. Finally, as will be seen, Icelanders who have visited the
spot describe the features as “Hverar,” caldrons, boiling fountains; or
as “Laugar,” baths, tranquil waters.

The Fire Isles being hidden by fog, our attention was drawn to the
mosquito flotilla of fishing-boats around us, each confined to its beat
by the various buoys and buckets. The general appearance of the craft is
that of the Shetlands; Mr Spence compared them with the “Westræ skips,”
but the Icelander is not nearly so solid as ours. The largest carry two
low masts, both strongly supported by backstays; they are clinker-built,
high at stem and stern, with a sharp projection for the rudder, which
fits loosely into two iron eyes, and which often proves worse than
useless. A transverse section forms the letter V; the planks belly out
little, probably for facility of hauling up: the latter process,
especially when the sun is hot, renders them exceptionally leaky, and
want of care causes them to last for a very short time. There is no such
thing as a decked boat in sight; the total of sixty-one to sixty-three
which exists in the whole island being almost confined to shark catching
on the north coast, whilst there are 3092 open boats, with from two to
twelve oars. Row boats are preferred on account of the number of hands
they feed; and hence the unusual loss of adult males, which is said to
average forty per cent. drowned. At all times the crews must run three
to six miles out before arriving at their ground, and repeat the task
after work--a vast waste of time and toil. The craft has plenty of what
the French call _pied_, and will not hesitate to cross the Faxa Fjörð,
some fifty miles broad. The ballast is composed of basalt blocks, and
the numerous sails are mere strips of cloth, for greater convenience of
lowering. The oars are remarkably narrow, the rule even in “The
Islands,”[353] a precaution rendered necessary, it is urged, by the
strong currents. I strongly suspect it to be the mere effect of
“father-to-son” principle. Below the handle, the shape is a heavy
square, on the principle of the Rhine and the Kaikjis on the Bosphorus.
The oars fit into coarse thwarts, lined with hoop-iron, or they play
upon rude wooden pins doubled to the fore. The stroke is very long and
slow, hardly to be recommended for Oxford and Cambridge; and of course
feathering is impossible. Iceland nets are ridiculously small, and are
floated by gourd-shaped bottles of Danish manufacture, closed at the
mouth: these glass balls are also used by Norwegian fishermen. At the
capital there are no lighters; farther north they will show themselves,
shaped like the fisher-boats, but many-ribbed as herrings. Evidently the
first want is a decked vessel of from twenty to thirty tons, which would
employ fewer hands, and show better returns.

The smaller craft are four-oared, and at the landing-place we shall find
two-oared boats: not a gig is to be seen, and the highest authorities
must embark and disembark, if they cannot borrow from a man-of-war, in
these receptacles of slime and filth. The seat is a mere perch,
decidedly not comfortable; baling with the little wooden scoup is hardly
ever thought of, and all are equally wet and greasy. We read in the
Sagas of “long ships,” of dragon ships, and of merchantmen, whose common
complement was some thirty oars: the figure-heads of the Vikings were so
frightful that they terrified the Land-vættir, or local genii; and the
decks were protected by awnings, and “girdled for war” by shield being
laid to shield on rims or rails.[354] Truly, the mariners of Iceland
have lost much by staying at home in ease; and piracy evidently had its

The crews of these outlandish “skips” are as degenerate as their craft.
Silken kirtles, gilded helms, and spears inlaid with gold, are as
unknown to them as the “Bisons” and “Serpents” which caused “a furore
Normannorum libera nos, Domine!” to be inserted into the monkish litany.
The men are good for fine weather, but in danger all become captains;
very different from the Danish sailor. The comfortable primitive costume
is gone; the Stakkr, hide blouse or jacket, extending from the neck and
fastened round the waist; the large Sæskór, or water-boots; and the
Leistabrækr, or stocking breeks, also lightly laced about the middle.
The moderns are clad much like our fishermen; they have, however,
sensibly preserved the long-flapped “sou’wester,” now “out of fashion”
in Great Britain. They seem to rejoice in wet feet, wearing three or
four pair of coarse woollen socks, which serve to retain the water. The
only peculiarity of their dress is the Iceland glove, which even the
shepherd and the mountain-guide will never doff. For the convenience of
a dry and clean side near the palm, it has two thumbs, one projecting
from the little finger, as if all were _sexdigitati_, like the Shaykhs
of the Fazli clan near Aden. Little or no provision is taken on board,
and the chief luxury is snuff, the pinch being spread in line from the
root of the thumb upwards, somewhat after the style of the original
Scotch “sneeshin’ mull;” at times the flask is raised to the nose, and
poured in till that member, which ought here to be placed bottom
upwards, is filled. These water-ousels reap golden harvests of cod
during the season, sometimes clearing per diem ten rixdollars a-head;
and if you hire a Reykjaviker two-oar for the afternoon, you will not
pay less than $5. They are rarely long-lived. Privations, fatigue, and
hardships, wet feet, poor food, and defective hygiene soon get the
better of the “_triste laboureur de l’ocean_:” weakened by psora and
ascarides; by obstinate coughs, measles, and hypochondria, he soon
becomes a victim to chronic rheumatism, which will bend the fingers
permanently back, and he dies early of visceral or pulmonary affections,
gout, or paralysis. Better a life of a canvas-back shooter on the banks
of the Susquehanna.

After Reykjanes we bore north (magnetic) along a shore exceptionally
populous: farmsteads and chapels, each perched upon its own knoll, and
not unlike the clachans of Lewis, formed a straggling line, black and
gloomy, surrounded by walls of dry stone. We turned eastward off “Skagi
Point,”[355] a long thin lingula with a beacon at the tip, and with a
dwarf _enceinte_ of dry stone inland, probably a look-out in the old
Víkingr days. Steaming across the big back-bay towards the next
headland, Suðrnes, afforded us for some moments an agreeable surprise.
Right over the gulf called Faxa Fjörð, and distant some forty miles,
rose a long broken dorsum of snow-range, not unlike the Friuli section
of the Carnian Alps, the continuation of beautiful Cadore, as seen in
winter from the Rive of Trieste. Here, however, the projection, a sister
to that of Reykjanes, was terminated by the crescent-shaped head of
Snæfell, the western Jökull, whose two cusps at once denoted the extinct
crater-cup. The _névé_ towered in the lift, catching a golden gleam
which beautifully burnished the virgin silver, whilst above and below it
slaty clouds were based upon a darker sea now smooth and mirrory as oil.
The travelled few on board pronounced the spectacle grander than Mont
Blanc from the Hôtel de la Russie, Geneva, but the fair vision was
transient, and presently a _bonnet de nuit_ of chilly lowering mist
settling down made it a “Pileatus.” To the north-east, and far nearer,
stretched the long sea-arm Hvalfjörð, an inverted arch, with its two
giant steeples Akrafjall and Esja, whilst the scarps of Skarðsheiði
formed the bottom of the great _cul de sac_. Passing clouds of
pseudo-columnar shape, here a common feature, simulated volcanic smoke;
mountain head and shoulders were streaked with snow, whilst at their
feet brooded the sea-fog, a horizontal line of blue mists broken and
detached. Presently the rain came on again, and perforce we confined our
attention to the features close ahead.

The pilot now boarded us, leaving his cockleshell in charge of his mate,
an angry water-rat with otter-like features, the usual fishy eye, and
gold ear-rings, the general usage. We made straight for the little
archipelago, which in this weather appears part of the mainland. The
nearest item was Akrey: as craft in harbour can be seen to the
south-east, and that direction leads straight to shipwreck, “Cornfield
Isle,” a mere grass-grown bulge of rock, has an outlying buoy to the
north-east, warning us off its long projecting point. The next feature
left to port is Engey of the eider duck, a mound provided with the long,
curving and knobbed tail of a scorpion. Then came Öffirs-ey,[356] a bit
of turf-clad basalt, in places sub-columnar: a red buoy, “stone-men” and
a beacon, give warning that its spit is also dangerous. About Öffirs-ey
and Akrey are two islets, the Holmar: the larger and outer, _bombé_ and
slightly grassy, is the Sker (skerry), or Selsker (little-farm-skerry);
and the other, dignified by the name of Grand Holmr, connects, like
Öffirs-ey, with the shore at low water by a traversable natural
causeway. The other islets are Viðey (wood or withy eyot), which we
shall presently visit, and Lund-ey (puffin eyot), at the mouth of
Kollafjörð (ewe firth): there are also sundry shoals and banks scattered
about to the north and west, making the outer roads of Reykjavik safe
enough except when the storm-wind blows from the north-east or the

The amount of shipping surprised us when we remembered that the first
steamers appeared here in 1854-55. In the roads lay a French frigate,
“Le Cher,” Capitaine Alfred le Timbre, looking taunt and gay: her
consort, “Le Beaumanoir,” Capitaine Maylet, will soon come in from the
east. The Danish gun-boat “Fylla,” the waiting-maid of Frygga, had
lately been outside sounding in preparation for the telegraphic cable:
she is a sister ship of the “Diana,” which also flies a pennant, and
which to-morrow will land the governor of the island. The “Jón
Sigurðsson” had just left, and the “Yarrow” lay inside amongst eight
square-rigged ships bearing the flags of various nationalities, whilst,
drawn up ashore, was a Noah’s ark, in the shape of a Danish galliot,
almost circular, like the old Dutch dogger or the modern Russian
monitor. Five to six steamers in port argued well for progress within
the last twenty years, and presently we shall see the “Heimdall,” called
after the giant foe of Loki.[357] This school-ship for the Danish navy
is a frigate (Captain Skowstrŭp), freighted with thirty-six cadets--a
rather noisy lot. An English yacht which floats like a sea-bird will
also astonish the natives.

The aspect of Reykjavik from the sea is more unlike its description by
travellers than, perhaps, anything that I have yet seen--even Humboldt’s
Tenerife. One expects, after the Haurán-like profile of the coast, to
see a “Giant City of Bashan” rising from the waves. Old sketches suggest
the “negative features” of John Barrow, the miserable show of a few
tarred pent-roofs topping the black shingle, but free trade has changed
all that. Even on this dull day, when it looks its worst, we cannot call
its aspect “_triste, morne, désolé_.” Where, again, are the gaudy
colours noticed by Mr Bryson? We see nothing but dingy-white,
dull-gamboge, verging on rhubarb, slate-grey, and tar-black, a perfect
contrast with the Norwegian town--

    “Where tawdry yellow strives with dirty red.”

At both extremities, east and west, the ground is stony, and
rudely-formed basaltic pillars line the water, guarding ragged scatters
of fishermen’s huts. The right point (west) is called the Hliðar-hús
(lith-house), a classical name. On the left a grassy earthwork and a
flagstaff still remain to remind us of a quaint passage in local
history. Icelanders are much given to boasting that their island, which
contains the population of a third-rate English town, was never
conquered; that Thule is still _invicta_. Yet in 1809, Mr Sam. Phelps,
of London, a soap boiler, who considered himself aggrieved by the
authorities, landed a dozen jailbirds from Gravesend, and forcibly took
possession of the capital. He established an independent republic under
the wing of England; and his Cromwell was a Danish seaman, Hr Jörgen
Jörgensen, “Protector of Iceland, and Commander by sea and land.” This
Dictator, a bad Masaniello, seems to have acted with peculiar energy: he
threw up the redoubt; armed it with six small cannon, brought from
Bessastaðir; and hoisted over it the flag of independence, three slit
cods (stockfish) argent in an oval garland, on a champ azure. Better, at
any rate, than Yarmouth, with its three bloaters! The ridiculous affair
was squashed by an English frigate, the “Talbot” (Captain Jones): the
earthwork was disarmed, and the guns were thrown upon the beach; whilst
“Mercator Phelps,” as Bishop Pètursson calls him, Jörgensen, & Co., were
removed to England. It was the second time that the island, “bound in
with the triumphant sea,” nearly fell to the “Britishers’” lot.[358]
Christian II. was upon the point of pledging it, as the Orkneys and
Shetlands were temporarily transferred to the Scottish Crown, but he was
deposed before the bargain was struck.

Between the points lies the inner or boat harbour, clear water in which
floats a crop of “sea-ware,” especially the long, tufty hair of the Hoy
or Haar-teari (_Fucus aculeatus_): it is supposed by some to have named
the Færoe Islands. But, however clean the water, it is considered too
cold for _uso esterno_; and the English eye at once misses the machines
and sheds and other appurtenances of a bathing place. The ripple is
confined by unclean black sand, strewed with boards, nets, and offals of
all kinds, especially thorsk or cods’ heads. There are fair
landing-places, plank pierlets, kept steady by caissons full of stones,
and not removed in winter: the traveller may see the same style all
round the coast, and perhaps he will remember making Venice through the
“Murazzi.” The principal buildings, beginning from the right as you face
the town, are the Glasgow House, the Bridgehouse, the Post-office, the
Club, the merchant stores, and the coal-depots belonging to the
Government and to Mr Slimon. Behind rises the steepled Dóm-Kirkja
(cathedral), and we see with pleasure that the College, _alias_ the
Latin School, is larger and more important than Government House. The
tenements mostly face the beach; the roofs, pitched steep against the
snow, are slated or boarded; tiles are common, and turf is preserved
only by the poorest. They are built of planks like Valparaiso,
earthquakes being not unfrequent; but I could hear only of one fire--a
notable contrast to the “Vale of Paradise,” where the stone house is
impossible, and where being burnt out is purely a question of time.
Above the west point is the Catholic chapel and a windmill; the winds
can never be very violent, or this thing would soon be blown up like a
tent high in the air. The opposite rise is garnished with another
windmill, also lacking steerer; and with a double-storied tower of solid
masonry, called the Observatory. The surface of the upper country has
that dull, dark-green tint, so difficult to shoot against, and so
characteristic of the Emerald Isle in early autumn. The people complain
that the rains have been scant this year, that hay will be scarce and
dear, that the fishing season has been bad, and so forth. The inland
view is bounded by a long, unbroken range, which we shall see on the
first clear day.

All Reykjavik assembled to gape and chat upon the shore, whilst a
torrent of strangers poured on board. They were assailed with questions
by the tourists, and the answers were satisfactory as usual. The Hotel
had been abolished. The Club did not receive guests; never a room was to
be had for love or money. We must pitch tents upon the beach--pleasant
during this weather, a bad November in England! There was hardly a
riding-pony within fifteen miles, although some four hundred were
awaiting embarkment. Guides were unprocurable, all hands at Reykjavik
being thoroughly engaged, and the telegraph scheme making even the
idlest unwilling to take temporary service. No one would change
sovereigns for rixdollars. At the same time, if we would put ourselves
unreservedly in the hands of our kind and courteous informants, who were
of the horsiest, we might possibly find lodgings, ponies, guides,

Before landing, I discipline myself severely. From London and Edinburgh,
even from Leith, the fall to Reykjavik being heavy, the traveller’s eye
is apt to view everything through a jaundiced medium, and the
consequence is undue depreciation. Everywhere, and at all times, it is
difficult to find a standing point of comparison from which to prospect
persons and things, and which shall be fair to the subject, and
intelligible to the reader. One man sets out with “the City” in view,
and is called a “Cockney traveller;” another and a numerous class looks
at matters through the spectacles of civilised life in England, perhaps
the easiest way when writing for Englishmen; whilst those who have seen
much of the world make themselves unintelligible and unpleasant (myself,
alas!) by drawing parallels between scenes unknown or unfamiliar to
their Public, who resents the implied slight accordingly. Hence it is
generally said that works of exploration are mostly read only because
they must be read, and that the book which treats of the land best known
to us is that which gives the highest enjoyment. For here we have the
pleasure of comparing the impressions made by the same things upon the
writer’s mind and upon our own, a process far more personal and more
satisfactory than mastering mere discoveries or pursuing a tale of
extraordinary adventure, which we often only half believe. And when
reading travels in absolutely new lands, we feel that we are reading the
opinions of another man, without the concurrence which alone can check
them. But the veteran voyager is a practical “Pantisocrat,” and he must
especially adopt the advice of Juvenal:

    “Audeat ille palam qui vidit, dicere vidi.”

And nowhere is greater care required than in studying a mother-city, the
characteristic of its race, the living photograph; the manifest
expression of its manners and customs, and especially of its
short-comings. “Capitals represent doctrines.” Apply this to the old
drab-coloured utilitarian London, now happily passing away, with its
boxes of mean brick and of hideous “stone-colour,” where every man’s
house, reckless of order, regularity, and economy of space, was his
castle, small, dull, and dry as the educated mind; with its Belgravian
“palaces” and wretched porticos, which an hour with a crowbar would
demolish, expressing a rental more than sufficient for a “_hôtel entre
cour et jardin_” in Paris, Vienna, or Rome; with its utterly tasteless
and artless works of art which sadden the civilised eye, looking, a
foreigner observed, as if the foul fiend had scattered them flying; with
its slushy and greasy streets, the richest population in the world being
apparently too poor to keep them clean; and with its shops exposing,
even in Bond Street, corpses of poultry, sheep, pigs, and cattle for the
use of carnivorous denizens. We can hardly wonder when the “wild-cat
correspondent” of the Yankee paper describes it as “a vast wilderness of
dingy brick and stone, of huge half-empty palaces and roaring torrents
of humanity--a money-snatching metropolis where vice and poverty herd
and breed in filthy alleys behind the abodes of the great and wealthy.”

We bid adieu to the “Queen,”

    “That white-winged monastery moving still,
     Of rugged celibates against their will.”

She leaves for England on the sixth day, and thus five of our
fellow-passengers hardly find time for the shortest scamper across
country. Her captain and her crew have claims upon our gratitude; we are
unanimous in declaring that all are good men and true, and in
recommending them to the author of “Ship, ahoy!” The old traveller ever
prefers the English steamer, even at a sacrifice of comforts. He will
find fair-weather sailors all the world over, but in the day of danger
he will repent having added unnecessary risk to his travels. The French
decision upon the conduct of the “Ville de Havre”--a disgrace to a
civilised people--is another reason for carefully avoiding foreign
craft. Under English, of course, I include Scandinavian and American
(U.S.), and carefully exclude the average Latin race. Yet it is only
fair to say that the P. and O. boats in the Mediterranean have found it
an excellent plan to engage Italian sailors, officered, of course, by
Englishmen. The crews are quiet and trustworthy, thrifty, and
hard-working; a strong contrast with the turbulent, drunken,
ne’er-do-weel which in these days too often represents the old
man-o’-war’s man. In England, a sentimental regard for the name “Jack”
prevents our seeing the immense deterioration of the class owing to the
mixture of “tailors” and good-for-nothing landsmen: my colleagues of the
Consular Service will, however, I think, agree with me that foreign
port-towns would be benefited if many of the so-called “British sailors”
were never allowed to put foot ashore.



The latitude of Reykjavik--the residence of the governor and the Supreme
Court of Judicature, the episcopal see, and the chief mercantile
station--is N. 64° 8´ 26´´,[360] a little higher than Norwegian
Trondhjem (Thrándheimr),[361] which English books and maps will write
Drontheim, and about that of Archangel. In the map of Pontanus (1631) it
does not appear. About A.D. 1760 it became the chief port, although till
seventy years ago it was a mere scatter of fishermen’s huts sheltering
some 700 human beings. Travellers of the last generation, Hooker (1809)
and Mackenzie (1810), show the extent of improvement: in their day the
townlet had only two streets--much like the Cowgate and Canongate of the
last century. One line of buildings fronted the sea and another set off
from it at right angles. Now we have a fair north-of-Europe port. It has
lately risen from the 1000 or 1600 which travellers generally give it;
the stationary population, according to the census of 1870, was 2024
souls; at this season, when the fair is approaching, we may add as a
maximum 500. I need hardly say that the 50,000 of our hydrographic books
is a misprint.

The sacred pillars of Ingolf’s Hall (öndugis súlur[362]), unduly
translated “door-posts,” or “wooden door,” probably chose Reykjavik
because it is the largest anchorage-ground in this “Canaan of the
North,” and his thralls were justified in reproaching their lord for
preferring so rugged and barren a corner to the more fertile regions
farther east. The harbour is dangerous only when the wind blows off the
Esja _massif_, forcing ships to run out seawards, and the tides of late
years have not flooded the town. The picturesque background will be
described when we can see it. The site is on the northern side and near
the point of the Seltjarnanes (Seal-tarn-naze), a peninsula, whose
lowlands are digitated by the prevalent winds and driving seas.
Henderson very poorly describes the town as “situate between two
eminences that are partially covered with grass:” it is built on both
gently-sloping sides of a dwarf river-valley draining the Tjorn (tarn),
a lakelet to the south, about 800 yards long by 400 broad. The ditch
which has evidently been much larger, and which some propose to deepen
into a port, is crossed by some half-a-dozen bridges, one with iron
rails painted vermilion; it is in the foulest condition; but here
cleanliness is not next to godliness. Throughout Reykjavik a smell of
decayed fish prevails, making strangers wonder how it escapes pestilence
and plague; and the basaltic dust raised by the least breath of wind
causes hands and face to be grimy as at Manchester or Pittsburgh.

The mass of the settlement lies in the dwarf hollow of the streamlet,
somewhat protected from the blasts, and straggles up both slopes of the
rivulet-valley. But for this it would be unpleasantly windy; and, as is
said of Landudno, between two waters is nearly as bad as between two
fires. The neighbourhood is a lean neck of flat and barren ground, with
the sea to the north and south, whilst, in the former direction, the
great Hvalfjörð inlet sharply cutting the Esja and the Akranes blocks,
and backed by the snowy Skarðsheiði, acts as a wind-sail. The same
reason makes the rains exceptionally heavy. The shape is long-narrow for
sea-frontage rather than deep, and the orientation is puzzling as that
of Hebron.[363] I shall call the right flank of the valley east and the
left west, although the correspondence is by no means exact. Along the
shore runs Harbour Street (Hafnar Stræti), with the north side open to
the bay: here are the chief stores and shops, the warehouses and
coal-depots, the Club and the Post-office. At right angles, and to the
west, a High Street (Aðalstræti) stretches some four hundred yards to
the tarn: it begins from the head of the chief pierlet, passing under
the archway of the Bryggju-hús (bridge-or pier-house),[364] a place of
customs, whose occupation long gone is now returning to it. Broad enough
to dwarf the houses, macadamised and straight, like all the best
thoroughfares which cross one another at right angles, it sounds hollow
to the tread, as if walking upon a boiler--the “Rimbombo,”[365] as
Italians call it, not uncommon in newly made ground, which propagates
sound. It is traversed here and there by impure gutters, which are
unwisely covered with iron-cramped boardings: I rejoice to hear that
they were cleaned out for the royal visit. High Street abuts upon a
square and whitewashed wooden building, labelled Hospital in white
letters on a blue ground: here is the chief pump which works a well 12
feet deep, and revetted with dry stone. The first aspect of the gabled
_tout ensemble_ strongly suggests Aldershot.

Turning to the left we reach the Austurvöllr,[366] or Eastern Square, a
kind of Parsons Green, with three built sides, the fourth being still
open towards the tarn. It is the regular camping ground for inland
travellers who pitch their dwarf tents and peg their ponies where a
handful of grass can be nibbled. Here is the “Cathedral,” whose
adjoining cemetery has now disappeared. The houses are built with the
scant regularity of a Brazilian village; they face in every direction
towards the sea, or towards the rivulet-valley, and rarely southwards as
they should do for the benefit of sun. With rare exceptions, they are
all wooden frameworks of joists, filled as in Germany with basaltic
slabs, and mortar blue with dark sand; the walls are boarded over, as
without the stone they would be unsupportably cold and hot. They are
short-lived like the “skips,” requiring frequent repairs, and rarely
lasting beyond thirty or forty years: their endurance depends greatly
upon the quality of the wood; the maximum of age would be nearly a
century, but only when the timber is not mixed with turf and peat,
which, crumbling under sun and frost, causes early decay. Barents’ house
(built 1597), “in the wilde, desart, irkesome, fearfull, and cold
countrey” of Novaya Zemlja, was lately found (Captain Carlsen, 1871),
uninjured by the dry air. On the other hand, the excessive damp renders
danger of fire nugatory, compared with the wooden match-boxes called
houses at Constantinople. It is to be wished that the tenements could be
“telescoped” during the hot weather, as most families pass the whole
year in town. Many of them are revetted on the weather-side with
imported slates, and all are numbered, even as the thoroughfares are
provided with names. There is far more open ground than building, each
“plant-a-cruive” being girt with planks or rails, useful for drying
clothes, and showing no want of wood. The best plots are surrounded by
wire, often a single strand, which has extended to the country parts, or
by walls of dry stones; the latter shelter the sterile dock, with here
and there a stem of angelica, not unlike a wild artichoke. The land,
neatly hoed in straight lines drawn between two pegs, and raked by the
women, is planted with “Garden sass,” especially parsley and fennel,
kail and turnips; fine cauliflowers, cabbage and potatoes; the latter
will not ripen till the end of August, when snow has left the
mountain-tops. Radishes must be set in boxes guarded by wooden hurdles
or by nets to keep off the birds; they are fair-sized but hollow and
flavourless. The rare flowers are chiefly geraniums and fuchsias,
pansies and marigolds; but as in Norway and the North generally, flora
flourishes best in pots behind the little half-blinded windows; here the
oleander will be a whole foot high. Of fruits, we find chiefly the hardy
currant, and a few gooseberries and strawberries, with a southern
exposure, mostly protected by glass. In 1810, it will be remembered,
there was “not a single garden or vegetable of any kind growing in the

On the right side of the main drain, and higher than the “Pelouse,”
rises the Latin School, ridge-roofed, tiled, coloured rhubarb-yellow,
and provided with a shallow façade of three windows, as many being
pierced in both wings. To the south is the College Library, a plain
building of large basaltic blocks, partially whitewashed; the glass
panes look as if they carried the dust of ages. Farther down stream, and
a little above the right bank, is Government House, a substantial barn,
also of whitewashed stone, fronted by a well drained slope, and a bit of
meadowland, courteously called a garden; its dignity is denoted by a
tall flagstaff. It was originally an almshouse, and a tugthús (jail);
old travellers tell us that, as the poor preferred its comforts to their
wretched homes, it was not easy to keep certain citizens out of it.
Count Trampe, a governor whose hospitable name is well remembered,
especially by travellers, left it a one-storied building; the present
occupant added a second floor. The houses on a level with the open drain
below are to be avoided; the air during a sunny day is like that of a
hot-house without the perfume, and the nights are stifling to an extent
for which a stranger is not prepared. Here is the photographic
establishment of Hr Eymundsson, who saves his guests expense as well as

The houses of the “honoratiores,” the “upper ten,” are in the sole of
the valley, and the east is here the “West End,” boasting of the Palace,
the Library, and the High School. Lower down lie the Bishop Pètur
Pètursson; the Chief-Justice Hr Jonassen; the Land-Fógeti, or treasurer,
Hr Thorsteinssen, who is also Bæar-Fógeti (Danicè, By-foged) or mayor of
the city; the Land-læknir, or head physician of the island, Dr Jón
Jónsson Hjaltalín; the French Consul, M. Randrŭp; the editor of the
local paper, Hr Procurator Guðmundsson; the Postmaster, Hr Finsen; and
the college professors. The principal building on the west or left bank
of the river-valley is the old “Glasgow House,” which has passed through
various phases. It was originally built by Messrs Henderson & Anderson
for a dwelling-place and warehouse, as shown by the belvedere, the
crane, and the dwarf tramway. When that firm came to grief by trusting
to native agency, it became a hotel: hence the “Iceland Reader,” by Hr
Lund says:

    “Thar er gestgjafa hús” (here you will find a hotel);
    “Thað er ekki slæmt” (it is not a bad one).

But the hostelry followed the rule of all such civilised appliances in
these regions--failed, and was sold to a Norwegian house. It fetched
$6000 (rixdollars), and was a good bargain to the purchaser; various
debts were recovered, to the tune, they say, of nearly double the value.
It is too big, the ceilings are too high, and the windows admit far too
much air.

The most characteristic part of Reykjavik are the suburbs of the
Tómthúsmenn,[367] or empty-house men, mostly fishermen who have no
farms, and consequently no cattle. We will visit the west (not West)
end built between a swamp abutting upon the sea, and the normal knobbed
meadow-land, where a few cows fight against starvation. It is cut by a
bit of made road, and another runs east to the Laxá or Salmon
River--these are the only Macadams in the island. The by-streets of our
suburb become mere lanes, and the _impasse_ is far more common than the
thoroughfare. The few good houses of wood are raised upon foundations of
basalt or brick laid edgeways, which keep out the damp like the piles of
Fernando Po. They are entered by dwarf ladders, instead of the usual
sandstone flags imported from abroad. These “magalia” will float off to
sea unharmed, like Gulliver’s cage, and not break up for a long time.
The empty-house men, who far outnumber all the other classes, adhere to
what represents the Irish shanty, the cabin of the Far West, and the
Eskimo’s earth-covered hut. The primitive fashion, preserved even in the
capital, is an oblong parallelogram of basaltic blocks, alternating with
peats by way of mortar--_cespite pro cæmento adhibito_--where tons of
mussels and shell-fish[368] cumber the shore. The houses look as if
shoving shoulders together against the wind, rain, and snow. The walls
are sunk in the surface to the extent of a few feet, beyond which the
ground is never frozen;[369] they are raised three or four feet high,
with the same thickness as at the base, and battering a little inwards.
One of the short ends is left open for a doorway; sometimes additional
defence against wind is secured by a side-adit, a small, wooden,
pent-roofed sentinel, like the office of an East Indian tent. This shell
supports an acute-angled or equilateral triangle of wood: formerly birch
boughs were used, now pine planks are largely imported from Denmark, as
we see by the stacks scattered over the settlement. The steeply-pitched
slopes, revetted with peat sods a foot square, yield a superior crop of
grass--a hint of what may be done by “scalping” and draining. The gable
generally shows the wood well daubed with blistering tar, which soon
turns red and rusty; here are mostly two single-paned, white-framed
windows, the larger one lighting the gun deck or lower floor, and the
smaller the upper deck, loft or garret. The old chimney was a tub; now
there is an iron tube or a square pipe of bricks: a cowl like a
“fly-cray,” two bits of flat wood attached to a perpendicular, and
moving with the wind, cures smoking; and where there is a weather-cock,
it is the bird that warned Peter of his fall. Some of the larger
establishments will have four or five of these pointed gables; and the
smaller are often so small that we admire how human beings can get into


The characteristic building of the fishermen’s quarter is the
Hjallr,[370] or “wind-house,” acting like the Skeo of the
Scoto-Scandinavian islands; which, however, is a mere shed of dry
stones. Here it is mostly an open cage of wooden uprights and
stretchers, roofed over against the weather--a superior style of drying
fish, especially cod. The body is either hung upon a line (hengi-fiskr
or flattr-fiskr), or salted and stretched upon a rock
(harðr-fiskr).[371] When dry and ready for embarking, it is heaped up on
the beach and covered with stone-weighted boards. Even more unpleasant
features are the vats and pits in the ground, where sharks’ livers[372]
and cods’ sounds and bladders are left to form, with the addition of a
little iodine, cod-liver oil. After this we cannot complain of the
salting operation, done usually in some old ship’s tank.

The beach is the normal scene of a European fishing village, a chaos of
anchors, old masts and spars, nets and wooden floats, clothes and
waterproofs hung up to dry; blue petroleum barrels from Scotland; big
piles of wrack-thatched turf, and drawn-up boats, the sails being left,
whilst the rudders are taken home. We see some three carts in one place.
Travellers in the early nineteenth century tell us that not even a
wheelbarrow can be found at Reykjavik: now hand-carts stand in every
business street, and at times a carriage drawn by two ponies, and full
of people, attracts every head to the window. When the made road shall
be prolonged east and west, the settlement will become civilised, as our
Accra on the Gold Coast.

The rude succedaneum for the wheelbarrow, which still lingers even at
Trieste, is a straight stretcher carried by two men. But the race is
thoroughly unmechanical, as we might expect from its social state. A
local philanthrope gave one of the peasants a small sledge, to save him
from trudging under a heavy box over the deep snows; the consequence was
that the box was slung to the back, whilst the sledge depended down the
breast. This reminds me of S’a Leone, where a British negrophile sent
sundry wheelbarrows for the benefit of the “poor black” navvies: the
barrows were duly filled with earth, and hoisted upon the negro’s head,
where he wisely carries everything, even his toothpick. Many of these
fishermen have been sailors, and the chances are, that if the Cockney
traveller chaff them with, for instance, “How did you leave the old
‘ooman?” they will straightway reply, “A’ right, s’r!” They touch their
hats as strangers pass, but this patriarchal custom will soon disappear
before the presence of steamers. The children clamber about the boats,
and swing by cords from the masts even as Bedawin boys play upon camels’
backs; they toss up with fish tails; they chase the black cats like the
denizens of Lilliput-Land; they bully the dogs, and they harness a pig
on the rare occasions when one lands. “Gi’ me a skilling!” the “Gie me a
yap’ny” of Wales, is sometimes heard--in fact “bakhshish” is not utterly
unknown in these hyperborean lands. Yet it is only fair to confess that
not a single professional beggar is to be seen at Reykjavik.

Our hunt for lodgings ended in a short and sharp run in. A young
Englishman, who had spent some time here, led us ashore. After rejecting
the noisy tavern, and vainly seeking shelter at the Hospital,[373] whose
civil matron was once the handsomest woman in the island, we presently
found cover under the roof of Frú Jonassen, sister of Geir Zoega, the
guide, and married to a Dane, whose over-affection for Bacchus confines
him mostly to his couch. The house deserves description: it is the
normal bourgeois dwelling-place of the capital, very different from that
of the country. The little box is revetted with rhubarb-coloured
boarding, and covered by a black tarred board-roof. Its entrance
debouches upon a hall no bigger than a bird cage, with a door to the
right and the left; you must duck head as you enter them, and--never
forget this precaution in Iceland. The first _pièce_ is a bedroom some
15 feet long by 8 broad and 8 high; the single window has a half blind,
but neither curtains nor shutters. Strangers complain loudly of such an
unnatural thing as the broad glare of day at midnight, and indeed the
effect of a horizontal sun, impinging upon the ground, is not very
unlike the noon of an English November. At first, we envy those on
board ship who can darken their cabins. Sound sleep is difficult under
the stimulus of light which allows you to read the smallest print;
presently we secure it by hanging up one of the dame’s flannel
petticoats. The people, and especially the children, seem to take their
rest at and till any hour: the maternal admonition “Ten o’clock, go to
sleep” is here unknown; the “early to bed” of the proverb, and the
doctor’s dictum about the benefits of slumber before midnight, are clean
forgotten. I puzzle myself to divine how a Moslem would time his prayers
in Iceland.

The bedroom contains two apple-pie-shaped box-beds, some three feet
long, which startle the traveller till he sees them drawn out; they are
covered with the familiar eider-down coverlet of Germany, under which
you may perspire and freeze to your heart’s content: no wonder when,
next to hare’s fur, it offers the greatest obstacle to
heat-transmission, consequently you always kick it off. Presently we
shall exchange the vile eider-down pillows and coverlet for a clean
waterproof blanket, and dislodge our pests by means of the insecticide
powder invented in near Dauphiné, and consequently derived by commercial
humbug from distant Persia. The “B flat” at once put in an appearance,
and the people accounted for it by some German musicians having lately
been their lodgers: we afterwards found that the pest is not indigenous,
and similarly it has been imported into the Færoe Islands from
Copenhagen. The livelier animalcule is well--too well--known. The
sitting-room inside is also wainscotted, and of the four shutterless
windows, only half of one is made to open; they are never doubled, which
shows that the cold cannot be intense; yet at times the wind must
whistle through them as through a summer-house.

Each room has a stove, backed by a blackened wall, the best are the tall
German cylinders, and fire is the _côté faible_ of the capital. A little
heap of peat smoulders in the kitchen behind the bedroom, and thus hot
water, a prime necessary, is very scarce. The furniture consists of a
central drugget, a round dinner-table, a square writing ditto, a
work-table, a commode, a tall armoire, and sundry horsehair chairs, with
a sofa, which must often act bed. In the rear of the kitchen is a
microscopic pantry wherein it is not good to peer. Above us, a grenier
occupies the sharp angle under the roof; here the family lives, and
there is no sleep between 6.30 A.M. and 11 P.M.; they seem always to be
clearing the decks for action. At the back of the house a yard reeks
with impurities, and on both sides cages for drying fish give the
well-known ancient smell. That human beings can live and enjoy health in
the “stifled filth” of Damascus; of Mile-end, Old Town, or of Trieste
(Città Vecchia), argues, they say, peculiar excellence of climate, and
the deduction certainly applies to Reykjavik.

The comely middle-aged dame, who speaks a few words of English, has no
children except those whom, after popular Icelandic fashion, she has
adopted. An aged Cinderella, a bundle of waste dry-goods, hardly human,
haunts the kitchen, whilst Christiana, an artificial daughter of the
house, is the Kellnerin. She is a good-looking lass with the fresh
complexion and the _blond cendré_ hair, one of Iceland’s charms, which
are here the rule; her dress is fine Wadmal of dark colour; and her
large feet, which terminate solid supporters, are encased in the island
slippers, giving a peculiarly lumping tread: a bright plaid apron and a
grey woollen shawl for visiting, complete her toilette. She never knocks
at the door and she slams it with a hideous noise--the neat-handed
Phyllis and the light fantastic toe have not yet come so far north. When
serving us she ejaculates mechanically “Værsgu,” the Danish “Vær saa
god”--be so kind--extensively used throughout Scandinavia, and now
imported into Iceland. Mightily dull of apprehension she appears,
especially after the sharp-witted Syrians, and the dialogue with us
Anglo-Indians is frequently as follows:

“Here you, Kitty, heitt vatn.... Why, you don’t know your own language!
Water hot!”

Answer passive and stolid: “Hvað?”

“Oh what a girl you are! Samajtá? You almost deserve to have a vote. I
say, ‘water hot!’”

“Hvað segið” (what say ye)?

“Will you have a drink, Kitty? Where’s mamma? HOT WATER, I tell you.”

“Hvað segið thèr” (what do you say)?

And so forth, _ad infinitum_. Yet in Iceland Jomfru (Icel. Jungfrú)
Christiana is the gem of a waiteress, and in her leisure moments she
will act _bacheliere ès lettres_--in fact, she readily adapts herself to
our little bachelor ways.

Frú Jonassen agrees to lodge and find us in “small breakfast” or early
coffee, and big breakfast at ten A.M., for $1, 3m. 0sk. (say 3s. 5d.)
per diem, and for an equally reasonable sum to house our spare goods
when travelling. “Washing is of course cheap where there are so many
feminine spare hands.[374] The tea is vile, having been drunk at least
once. Water is almost throughout Iceland excellent, cold, clear, and
slightly flavoured with iron, like the sparkling produce of the Haurán
and other basaltic lands. Coffee and brennivín (schnapps) may be called
the national drink, and the people pride themselves upon the former:
after our senna-like potions farther south it is admirable, but it must
not be compared with that of the nearer East. The bean is never good,
even England cannot afford the true Mocha monopolised by the United
States: still it is never stinted,[375] and it lacks the odious
_chicorée_ so popular across the Channel. It is burnt black instead of
brown as in Arabia; it is milled in lieu of being pounded, and the brew
is made in a venerable flannel strainer-bag placed where the kettle’s
lid should be. The consumption is even more extensive than in Germany:
large cups and sometimes bowls are served strong and hot several times a
day, and are always offered to the stranger guest. Some find fault with
the excess, but they forget that coffee prevents waste of tissue, and
that a heating drink is necessary in cold, damp climates where the diet
is poor. The sugar is white loaf, and the cream thick as curds, we never
see such luxury in England; sheep’s milk is kept for cheese, and
Reykjavik ignores the national Skýr.

At seven A.M. we have _café au lait_, rusks, white bread and brown, or
rye loaf, which we all prefer. Breakfast is substantial as in northern
Scotland. The staple is fish, notably cod, boiled or grilled, but all
poor, small, and watery: a “head and shoulders” equal in size or flavour
to those of our own country is rare as the _Spatium admirabile rhombi_
farther south. “Tout ce qui vous plait--mais pas de poisson” is the
frame of mind which soon follows pure ichthyophagy. Meat is always
mutton, the liver and kidneys being apparently preferred; “Carnero no es
carne,” says the Gaucho, and at last we sigh for the Murghí (fowl) at
which the Anglo-Indian turns up his sybaritical nose. Hens’ eggs are
equally uncommon; those of the eider-duck, boiled hard, are rarely
wanting at this season. They are about as large as turkeys’, with
dirty-green shells, and very white albumen; the stranger enjoys them at
first, but, like the Pallo fish of Sind and the “palm-oil chop” of
Guinea, they are too rich; they pall upon the palate, and they are
pronounced to be rancid and _gluants_; besides which they are rarely
quite fresh, the one virtue of an egg. Potatoes are not always to be
had; those grown in the island are waxy and taste like soap; the best
are imported from Denmark and even these cannot be praised.

It must be observed that the Reykjavik lodging-house has a great
advantage over that in England, which exists by petty overcharges and by
small robberies. Here also a strange tongue and foreign habits conceal
that fearful caricature of “society” ever prominent at home. The chief
bane of poverty is not so much that it renders man ridiculous, as that
it brings him into contact with a life-form of which only Mr _Punch_ can
make fun. I envy the _richard_ in civilisation only because the talk of
the Vestibule does not reach the Peristyle: his wealth removes him from
all knowledge of what is going on within a few yards of him, the mean
jealousies, the causeless hatreds, the utter malice and uncharitableness
which compose “high life below stairs.”

By way of simulating civilised existence we converted the tavern into a
club, and dined there daily. It is the usual little board-house in the
High Street, and the northern wall backs a couple of trees some five
feet high, the Sorbier, or service apple (_Sorbus aucuparia_). Another
may be seen in the governor’s “compound,” but apparently one-half of it
has lately paid the debt of nature. The dining-room is a stuffy little
box, and it is useless to open the windows as they will at once be shut.
Often some unwashed and burly traveller from the country precedes us for
a feed; a sewing-machine awaits our departure, and we are serenaded by
the monotonous croon of the nurse above. Sometimes she breaks out into
“Champagne Charley,” with the true British “rum-ti-tiddy” style of
performance. The capital has evidently forgotten the “beautiful
lullaby,” Ljúflingsmál, composed by a calf-father, and sung at the
window; but we have an abundance after this fashion:

[Illustration: Music score

_Et sic ad infinitum._]

On the other side of the hall is the drinking saloon, and beyond it the
billiard-table, a highly primitive affair in which the slower balls
describe graceful segments of circles: the Russian game is the
favourite, and “the price is a penny--it is no more.” The dingy little
room is mostly crowded in the evening, peasants and visitors in rags act
wall-flowers, whilst the _jeunesse dorée_ performs in the centre--yet
note that neither Kirkwall nor Lerwick owns a billiard-room. Groups
gather at the tavern door, and there is more life than usual in the High
Street. Women flock to the large pump and bear away their full pails
with a square fender of lath, like a falconer’s cage; the long bearded
and ragged water-carrier is a local _curio_, and the one carriage
sometimes passes. Young ladies, escorted as in France by the _bonne_,
troop by to shop or to pay visits; and now and then an “Amazone,” very
unlike her Dahoman sister, ambles by on her little “sheltie.”

The proprietor of our club was Hr Jörgensen, a Dane, formerly valet to
Count Trampe; he began by hotel-keeping at the Hospital, but when that
failed to keep him he wisely took the pot-house which paid well. He was
an independent landlord, disdaining to tout for new comers, and not even
advertising himself by means of a sign-board: in fact, he cared for
nothing as long as he could tap a barrel of beer per diem. At the end of
the season he sold the house and goodwill for $12,000 to Mr Askam, a
Yorkshireman, and returned to his native country a “warm man.”


You dine at Hr Jörgensen’s _café beuglant_ for the very moderate sum of
one rixdollar per diem, including even coffee and _petit verre_, but not
including the “cheap Gladstone” which would be distasteful to the
Oinomathic Society of Edinburgh. The hour is three P.M.; you fight for
five with the good-tempered mistress and often you lose the battle.
Appetite is never wanting near the North Pole, and Reykjavik is a
thirstier place, the result of evaporation, than even the banks of
Brazilian Sâo Francisco. High spirits, fine air, and free ozone--if such
a thing there be--are proof against the excessive greasiness of
Icelandic cookery where, however, it must be owned that melted butter
now takes the place of tallow. The people have learned the use of salt,
which formerly they ignored like the Guanchinets (Guanches) of Tenerife,
not to say islanders generally: it is hard to see the hygienic value of
the condiment amongst eaters of fish and meat, however necessary it may
be to a vegetarian race like Brahmans and Banyans. Icelanders still
prefer spices: the nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon which are mixed, in place
of pepper, with sorrel or scurvy-grass (_Rumex acetosa_); and the sugar
which is added, even to cabbage, gain for the cook anything but our
blessings. Rice pudding with a sauce of currant jelly and water by way
of molasses or the Syrian “dibs” (grape-syrup), often after the fashion
of Dotheboys’ Hall, precedes soup, and the latter is not rarely
milk-soup, or Sod Suppe, the sweet broth of Norway, a slab compound of
sago, dry cherries, raisins or plums, coloured with the juice of the
imported Tyttebær, _Vaccinium myrtillus_ and _vitis-idæa_; the Bláber of
the Færoes and our own bilberry or blaeberry, red whortleberry or

The salmon is excellent, firmer, finer, curdier, and leaner than with
us; unfortunately it is cut up into slices. We make ample acquaintance
with Australian and other preserved meats, and as might be expected, we
find baking in lieu of roasting which seems now almost confined to
England--the _rationale_ of the regrettable change is that it saves
fuel. The cheese is certainly not from Cheese-shire; it is about as good
as bad Gruyère: there is a dark sweet stuff called Mysust (_mysa_, whey,
and _ostr_, “yeast” cheese), made of pressed curds, which the traveller
will certainly not prefer to the Gammell ost, the “old” or common cheese
of Denmark.

There is a tolerable beer misnamed Baiersk (Baerisch), and imported from
the Continent--I do not know where Metcalfe learned that barley brew is
made at Reykjavik. The Schoppe costs threepence, whereas the Rödvin, or
Vin-de-pays, much like vinegar, and by courtesy called claret, fetches
five marks or nearly a rixdollar per bottle. The people avoid the
ancestral ale because it is supposed to give neuralgia, and prefer
“Brazilian wine;” here Brennivín, korn-schnapps, or rye brandy which is
always drunk raw. English travellers declare that they cannot enjoy it
on account of the harmless, or rather the beneficial, aniseed with which
it is flavoured: so Sir Charles Napier, the sailor, ordered casks of
Syrian Raki to be started overboard because it must be poisonous, as it
whitened the water--simply the effect of the condiment. The sensible
traveller will prefer this unadulterated spirit to the vile potato
brandy from Canada, coloured with burnt sugar and perhaps flavoured with
an infinitesimal quantity of mother-liquor, the impostor which now
passes itself off to the world as Cognac.

The tavern and _table d’hôte_ have now passed under the rule of Jón
Zoega, No. 7 High Street, and his pretty wife works hard to secure a
clean house and good cookery. The stranger on landing should at once ask
for the “head guide,” Geir Zoega, who can always find bed and board at
his brothers or his sisters. Other lodgings are by no means so
comfortable, especially those fronting the ditch, by courtesy called a

The day at Reykjavik is simple. Sleep is sound as appetite is hearty,
and assimilation of food expeditious. When the infantry overhead opens
its eyes, you proceed to the “chhotí házirí” (little breakfast), and you
pass the time in reading and writing till the real affair about noon
breaks the neck of the day’s work. A visit or two and a long walk land
you at the dinner hour--there is no better plan for the
student-traveller than to make himself thoroughly familiar with a single
section of the country which he is learning, so that during his
field-work he may confine himself to the observation of differences.
After dinner--at five or six P.M. if possible--another and a shorter
walk, weather permitting, prepares for a few hours’ reading before
bed-time. The monotony may be varied by picnics and excursions, gun or
fishing-rod in hand, more, however, for the sake of doing something than
in view of sport. Were I a Reykjaviker my rule would be to hybernate, to
be “bedded in,” during the eight months of cold season:

    “Me levant tard, me couchant tôt,
     Dormant fort bien;”

and to be “potted out” with late spring, so as to pass as much as
possible of the summer wide-awake and in the open air. Yet winter here
is the “season,” the gay time, when balls last from six P.M. to six
A.M.; and “society” at the capital apparently looks forward to the
“disease of the year.”



_Sunday, June 9._

The Iceland Sunday begins at six P.M. on Saturday, and ends at following
six P.M.; this precession is the case with the days in general; thus
Sunday night here is the Saturday night of Europe. Apparently
Scandinavia is the only part of the Western World which preserves a
chronometry directly imported from the East. We find it everywhere
amongst Jews and Moslems; and Genesis (i. 5) tells us that Arab or Gharb
(evening) and Bakar (morning) formed the first day or period before the
sun came into being. The old Germans and Gauls computed, we know, by
nights, and not by days; and the Teutons probably borrowed it from the
Celts: it survives amongst ourselves in such terms as sen’night and
fortnight. At Reykjavik we distinguish the “Sabbath” by the amount of
flying bunting; every store has its flagstaff, and the merchants as well
as the consuls claim a right, as in the Brazil and Zanzibar, to sport
their colours, which are, however, always Danish. The “church-going
bell” begins to ring, and the doors to open, about 11.15 A.M.: the
people much prefer the lively measure of their own summons to the
monotonous system of England, whilst the chimes of the Royal Exchange, a
national disgrace, provoke their contempt. Service does not commence
till near noon, the usual time in the island where many of the
congregation have long and rough rides.

The Dómkirkja (cathedral) in the Austurvöllr has often been described
externally and internally; the “Napoleon book” and others, however, make
it all of stone instead of being partly brick. The older basaltic
building may be seen in Mackenzie, and the last additions bear date A.D.
1847. Its outside is shabby as the People’s Palace at Sydenham; the
unclean yellow plaster has fallen from the distempered walls, the result
of mixing salt sea-sand with the mortar; and the same is the case with
the College and the College Library. “Rispettate la Casa di Dio” should
be writ large upon every corner of this nondescript. A clerestory, with
double windows, partly stained, those on the ground floor being single;
a low-tiled ridge for the chancel; a higher pent roof for the nave and
aisles; and a tall wooden tower, revetted with boiler-plate, compose
what the polite call Gothic, the uncivil “Bastard Nothing.” Utility is
consulted by a weather-cock and a clock, serviceable to regulate time
where no gun, even for saluting purposes, must be fired, lest H.H. the
eider-duck take fright. The front, which is turned west, with a highly
orthodox regard for orientation, shows the three windows of Roman
Catholic architecture; and the Lich-gate,[376] never wanting in Iceland,
is the normal house-hall: it is flanked to the right and left by flights
of steps leading aloft. And the roof is now water-tight.


The inside is better kept than the outside. The ambulatorium and wings
are all hard benches, with stiff, straight backs, but not divided into
pews. The upper galleries along the long walls are supported by square
and round wooden beams and pillars; the tint is characteristic
salmon-colour. Over the entrance is the succedaneum for the
Narthex-gallery, an organ loft, a cage like that used for women in the
Melchite churches of Syria. On the left side of the nave hangs the board
showing the lessons of the day; on the other and outside the chancel is
a pulpit, with gilt gingerbread work. The holy of holies is very
Lutheran, the usual blending of Catholicism with Protestantism, which
marks the first step when consubstantiation took the place of
transubstantiation. There is an altar--not a communion table--surmounted
by a full-length figure of the Saviour, with a sleeping disciple and a
Roman soldier as usual unusually alarmed; its frame supports a cross,
and the _tout ensemble_ is an evident derivation from the Iconastasis or
Rood-screen. Upon the altar, besides an open Bible and a chalice, with
pall but without bourse, two brass candlesticks of ecclesiastical aspect
bear lighted tapers, and eight medallions of the popular cherubim adorn
the boarded wall. The railing is of brass perpendiculars, with wooden
horizontals, and a cushioned step is knelt upon by communicants
receiving the wafer. The gem of the building is the font of Bertel
(Albert) Thorvaldsen, whose features, figure, and character prove him,
though not born in Iceland, to have been essentially an Icelander.[377]
The font has been described as a “low square obelisk of white marble:”
it is the ancient classical altar, with basso-relievos on all four
sides, subjects of course evangelical; on the top an alto-relievo of
symbolical flowers, roses, and passifloræ, is cut to support the normal
“Döbefad,” or baptismal basin. Some have blamed its un-Christian shape,
without taking notice of its use; others have reported that the
inscription has been erased; unhappily we still read such latinity as
“TERRÆ SIBI GENTILICIÆ ... DONAVIT.” The sacristy contains some handsome
priestly robes, especially the velvet vestment sent by Pope Julius II.
to the last Catholic bishop and martyr(?), Jón Arason, in the early
sixteenth century, and still worn by the chief Protestant dignitary at
ordinations. All have been carefully described: they reminded me much of
the splendid vestments displayed in the Armenian convent at Jerusalem
during Holy Week, and of the specimens of old embroidery, of rich
stuffs, rare and interesting, that are worn at certain parts of the
Protestant service by the officiating clergyman of Transylvanian
Kronstadt. “It is a strange contradiction,” says Bonar, “to the spirit
of Lutheranism; and the rich, almost royal, robe ill accords with the
studied plainness of the other parts of the dress, in which is not a
trace of colour, of flowing lines or beauty. But the dissonance to the
feelings is greater, for one could not but feel it as such, to see the
magnificent chasuble which the priest had worn at the altar--so highly
prized as only to be used on the most festive occasions--now employed
for some everyday purpose unconnected with any holy mystery.” Six
votive tablets of silver metal hang against the wall, in memoriam of
departed dignitaries.

Presently enters the Rector, Hallgrímr Sweinsson, attended by Síra
Guttormr, a candidate for ordination. He has walked to church in black
robes, with the broad and stiffly-crimped white ruff, the Fraise à la
Medicis, which is seen from Iceland to Trieste: the poorer clergy in the
island, as in Norway and Denmark, do not use it on account of the
expense. His close-cut hair and peaked beard give him the aspect of an
old family portrait dating from the days of the Stuarts. Presently,
assisted by a bustling clerk in a white surplice, he dons the purple
vestment with a yellow cross down the back--it will be remembered that
the cope and the vestment were long retained by the Reformed Church in
England. Síra[378] Hallgrímr thus attired stands up and intones with
rotund mouth and a good voice somewhat like a Russian papas: he has been
seven years in Denmark, yet he speaks no French, and very little
English. The congregation, which is certainly not crowded, first joins
in a long, a very long, hymn; after this come the prayers of the
Lutheran rite; and finally, a thirty-minutes sermon for the benefit of
the nodders and the noddees. The service lasts at least two hours,
therefore the people rarely sit through it: the men especially disappear
for a few minutes, and return when they please with a faint aroma of
tobacco, which no one remarks; whilst many strangers see it through by
instalments. The governor, who was visiting, did not attend, nor did the
bishop, who was unwell.

The first aspect of the congregation was a novelty, especially after
reading sentimental descriptions of man, whose “œil est pensif; son
attitude nonchalante et sa démarche engourdie,” and of woman, whose
“traits respirent la douceur et la resignation.” The latter are
naturally far more numerous than the former; firstly, the ceremony is in
their line, and secondly, they preponderate in the population. They
mostly affect the left aisle, whilst both sexes are mixed in the right.
Few of the men sport broadcloth and chimney-pot hats; and these latter,
when worn, are mostly of the category known as “shocking bad.” The usual
habit is a Wadmal paletot, the creases showing “store-clothes,” and a
billycock or wide-awake; the students carry caps, and the general look
is that of the Bursch, without his swagger and jollity. The
distinguishing article is the “Islandsk Skór,” Iceland shoon, of which I
have deposited a specimen at the rooms of the Anthropological Institute.
It is a square piece of leather--sheep, calf, seal, or horse--longer and
broader than the foot; the toes and heels are sewn up, the tread is
lined with a bit of coloured flannel, and the rim is provided with
thongs like our old sandals. It corresponds with the Irish “brogue,” as
shown in heraldry; the Shetland Rivlin, or Rullian; the Revlens or
Revelins of the Scoto-Scandinavian islands; the Red Indian Mocassin; the
Pyrenean Spartelle; the Zampette of Sicily; the Roman Cioccie; the
Opanke of the Slavs; and the Mizz, which Egypt and the nearer East,
however, are careful to guard with papooshes. It is one of the very
worst _chaussures_ known; it has no hold upon snow; it is at once torn
by stone; being soleless, it gives a heavy, lumping, tramping, waddling
gait; it readily admits water; and being worn over a number of
stockings, it makes the feet and ancles look Patagonian, even compared
with the heavy figure. There are a few specimens of “Lancashire clogs”
from Denmark and the Færoes; chumpers or sabots are unknown; and the
civilised bottine is not wanting.

The women at first sight appear tall compared with the men, but not so
notably as in the case of the little Welshman and his large wife. They
are, as they should be, better looking than their mates, whilst the
chubby and rosy children are better looking than their mothers. The
expression of countenance is hard and uncompromising. We involuntarily
think of “those chilly women of the north who live only by the head;”
and they gorgonise us into stony statues. Regularity of features is
hardly to be expected so near the Pole. Even amongst the


German races we look for complexion and piquancy to take the place of
that classical beauty which is exceptional beyond the lovely
Mediterranean shores. The congregation showed many a pretty girl, but
not a single face that would be remarked farther south. The hair is
admirable, and requires no chignon--the invention which conceals the
Englishwoman’s chief defect, her _capigliatura_. It is either
_blond-cendré_, dark red, or light chestnut-brown, as in older Denmark;
farther south, but not here, brown-black is by no means a rarity.
Plaited in two large queues, which hang down the back at home, it is
gathered up when abroad under


the Hufa or cap. This article is a caricature of the Fez, as the Skór
are of the Mizz, and it has every defect except that of ugliness. The
material is elastic black web woven by the women. The old style is to
wear it large, like the night-cap of former days: the juniors prefer a
mere apology for head-covering, much smaller than the thing now called a
hat in England. It is provided with a Tuskana, a long tassel of black
spun silk brought from Copenhagen; and the latter is ornamented at the
base by a short cylinder (Hólkr) of silver, gilt-silver, or brass made
in the country. This tassel serves for not a little by-play; usually it
depends upon the right or left shoulder indifferently, but when bending,
for instance, it may be held under the chin for coquettish contrast of
colours. The whole affair, which costs some six rixdollars, is kept in
position by hair-pins, and, as it gives no protection against cold, it
is covered out of doors with a shawl, mostly grey, striped white or
chocolate; in fact, women rarely leave the house, even in what we
consider warm weather, without being muffled to the ears; and the men
are not less effeminate. There is only one specimen of the old Falldr or
Skott Falldr (galeated cap), which seems to be growing obsolete; the day
is windy, and this curved and

    “High-peaked head-dress of snowy white,”

which corresponds with the “Roide Cornette” of ancient Holland, and of
which modifications may still be seen in Normandy, could hardly be worn.
I shall reserve a description of the crested and helmet-like affair
which strangers compare with a flattened cornucopia, with a cap of
liberty, or with a dragoon casque, ultra Amazonian: here let me merely
premise that it is a larger edition of the Lapp head-dress; that, within
the memory of man, it was worn in the Orkneys; and that the whole
costume somewhat resembles that of the Oberland Bernois. The few hats
and bonnets accompany more modern attire, and even the crinoline and the
Dolly Varden are not wholly unknown. In Iceland dress denotes the
station; in Europe it is only the most advanced society that escapes
from this outward show. The sensible Yankee travels in his “Sunday
best,” because it procures him respect and attention where he is
unknown; we reverse the rule, and notably so on “the Continent”--which
is uncivil and breeds incivility. Most of the elderly women are in black
Wadmal; the juniors prefer fine, dark bottle-green stuff, with plaid or
rainbow-coloured aprons. I at once remark the absence of the γυνή
πυγοστόλος, called “bussle-wearer” by our grandmothers. Those in the
island-costume wear a narrow band of gold embroidery round the skirt,
which resembles the costume of the Slav women about Trieste. The bosom
is no longer flattened as much as possible--was this the result of a
savage decency which, taught the sex to mask nature? On the contrary,
about the middle of the jacket a _soupçon_ of white chemisette is now
allowed to peep forth. But these coy dames have still to borrow a hint
from the young Irish person who wore

                    “every beauty free
    To sink or swell as heaven pleases.”

“Sabbath” in the “moral north” passed away as usual. The respectables,
masculine as well as feminine, sat at the windows opposite one another,
the former smoking vile Hamburg cigars, the latter devoting themselves
to the serious and exhaustive study of street scenery. The German mirror
placed to reflect the thoroughfare is still a rarity, and therefore the
prospector must display herself as _chez nous_. The commonalty leaned
against the walls and railings, much like the Irish peasantry of the
present day, whose poetry, wit, and humour, once so famous, appear, like
art in Italy, to have been crushed out of life by a generation-long
course of “patriotism,” politics, and polemics. There was a little more
apparent drunkenness than usual, men staggering about, peasants
supporting one another, and all jostling whatever they met in the
streets. This unpleasant process of “rubbing up” seems to be here the
rule, and we can hardly complain of it when we remember the lower
orders, and not only the lower orders, of the Lowland Scotch: as the
Yankee is the Englishman with the weight taken off him, so here the
people, like the scenery, are Caledonian intensified. In the evening,
thus to speak, when the dissolute sun, instead of keeping the regular
hours of the tropics, does not turn in before eleven P.M., the sexes
paired, and one gentleman accompanied his “lady” in carpet slippers. The
day ended without a brawl. On St Monday, however, there was a tavern
quarrel, when one of the strongest men in the town had his face cut open
by a stone. We were assured by all that such things are very rare. Yet
on the following Wednesday one of the couthless Calibans from the
country, whom tangle-leg had made “drunk as an auk,” thinking that he
was derided by a party of Englishmen, slipped up behind one of them and
hit him a rounder, in popular parlance a “regular slogdolager.” The
Briton, thus unexpectedly assaulted, soon recovered himself,

[Illustration: THE HEAD CONSTABLE.]

and, though the peasant bundled away, rolling like a bolting bear, Mr
A---- succeeded in lodging a couple of sound lashes with his horsewhip.
A small crowd gathered; of course it took part against the strangers,
and a free fight became imminent. This was prevented by the chief
constable, whose badge is the tallest hat I ever did see, and who
commands a body of three men, armed with the “Northern Star.” When
appealed to, however, the dignitary distinctly refused to take his
fellow-countryman into custody; hence, perhaps, the freedom of the jails
from jail-birds, a peculiarity strongly insisted upon by complimentary
writers, and quaintly corresponding with our “gratifying diminution of
crime.” This is not what we read about Iceland and the Icelanders. It
of course will be said that fair time is approaching, and that we are at
Reykjavik, a centre of dissipation, where men are eagerly looking
forward to the arrival of a grind-organ.

This appears to be the place for inserting a few remarks upon the
subject of drinking in Iceland compared with that of England and
Scotland. I had asserted in the _Standard_ that “more cases of open,
shameless drunkenness may be seen during a day at Reykjavik than during
a month in England and Scotland.” A gentleman interested in the matter
writes to me: “According to the only official returns of Icelandic
statistics (’Skýrslur um landshagi (resources of the country) á Íslandi,
gefnar út af hinu islenska Bókmenntäfélagi,’ Kaupmannahöfn, 8vo), from
1865 to 1869, the date of the last publication, the consumption of
intoxicating drinks has been steadily decreasing. Thus in--

1865 the amount of 2 gallons 6½ pints were drunk per head.
1866     ”         2    ”    1       ”         “
1867     ”         1    ”    6       ”         “
1868     ”         1    ”    4       ”         “
1869     ”         1    ”    3       ”         “

In 1869 the gross total used in the island was thus one gallon and three
pints per head. In Scotland the consumption of spirits alone for 1870
was a fraction of a gill less than two gallons a head (Parliamentary
return for 1870 relating to spirits, beer, and malt spirits), and in the
United Kingdom one gallon a head. I have not been able to ascertain the
quantity of wines consumed, nor the proportion contributed by the secret
stills of Scotland and Ireland; but of beer and spirits together, the
consumption in the United Kingdom was no less than thirty gallons per
head per annum. You must remember that the Icelanders have no spirits
equal in strength to whiskies and French brandies. You must also remark
in connection with the drunkenness observed by you at Reykjavik that you
were there during the trading season, when people flock to the capital.
They have not tasted, perhaps, a drop of intoxicating liquor during nine
or ten months, and they make up for their sobriety by a fortnight or so
of indulgence. I have known several peasants who bought a keg of Danish
brandy at the trading-place, and who made free use of it during their
homeward journey, and as long after as the supply lasted. Then they did
not taste a drop till the next season, for the very good reason that
they could not get it. It would therefore not be quite fair to state, as
a general condition of the Icelanders, what might be observed at
Reykjavik during the fair, from about the middle of June to the end of
July. It would be equally unjust to show up the condition of Londoners
on Boxing Night, or of the Scotch on New Year’s Day, not to speak of
every Saturday night.”

To this I reply. In 1834 the consumption was only 2 bottles of spirits
per head; on the whole, therefore, there is an increase. Between 1849-62
(Paijkull[379]) the imports had increased 79 per cent., and in the
latter year the consumption per head was of 6·7 Danish pots or quarts,
when Scotland uses 1½ gallons per head. Mr Consul Crowe (1870-71, p.
648) shows that the consumption is “about 24 quarts annually for every
adult male, without counting ale, wine, rum, punch extract, and other
spirituous drinks imported.” My stay in Iceland lasted not till the end
of July, but till September the first. I found drunkenness prevail not
only in the capital, but in the farm-houses; and, as the trading
stations and market-ships are now scattered all round the coast, there
is no difficulty in obtaining spirits throughout the year. Since 1869,
the practice has apparently increased with the growth of commerce. As
regards the figures, they are like facts perfectly capable of misleading
as well as leading. The statistics of a sparse and scattered population
can hardly be expected to be correct; for instance, the fleet of French
fishing vessels smuggles a quantity of cognac which does not appear in
the returns. The Consular Report (1870-71, p. 650) adds, “The
consumption of ardent spirits in the island is very great, being as
490,000 imperial quarts annually (or 490,000: 70,000), and of this large
quantities are landed by the foreign fishermen, who barter it with the
natives for their fish and other raw produce.” We all issued from the
“Queen” with more or less whisky, about which nothing was asked or said;
and this may counter-balance even the large produce of the “secret
stills” existing in Ireland,[380] but rare in England, Wales, and
Scotland. Also what is consumed in Iceland is almost entirely drunk by
the men--I never saw that disgrace of our great cities, a drunken woman.

The actual state of things is not what is shown by the figures. An
eminent Icelander openly asserted that he had dived into the gin-palaces
of London and Edinburgh, yet that he had seen more drunkenness in a day
at Reykjavik than during his whole visit to Great Britain. This
comparison with a nation which derives £13,000,000 of revenue from
spirits alone, and which has “drunk itself out of the Alabama
difficulty,” is telling. There have been repeated attempts to establish
teetotalism, but none have succeeded--perhaps a whisky war might lead to
victory. And here hard drinking is apparently a little reprobated
practice. A party of English travellers lodged at the house of an
educated man, who, fresh from a visit to Denmark, expressed the _dulce
domum_ and domesticity sentiment by loud and late striving in strong
liquors. The same tourists engaged a guide, who kept himself sober
during the march, but afterwards broke out in a way which prevented his
re-engagement, sleeping _unter freien himmel_, and so forth.

That our vices like our virtues are regulated by our “media,” no
traveller can doubt. Thus in England, out of an annual total of 150,000
souls “drunk and disorderly,”[381] the number proceeded against in the
south (not including London) was 3·2: 1000; in the Midland district,
4·0: 1000; whilst in the north it rose to the extreme ratio of 10·8:
1000. These figures show, if evidence be wanted, that “as we go north
drunkenness increases.” The classical Scandinavian and the Northmen
generally were deep topers, quarrelsome withal; their wives always
removed their weapons when they sat down to drink; and they looked
forward to a Houri-lacking and _pro tempore_ paradise, where the dead
rode forth daily to cut one another to pieces, and rode back to gorge
nasty boiled pork and swill vasty draughts of bilious mead. In the
south, take Europe for instance, men hold wine to be the ἰατρεῖον ψυχῆς,
and prefer to over-nourishment gambling, or what we call immorality, in
the confined sense of the word. Race, again, heredity and atavism, or
the habits bequeathed by forefathers, modify climate: the Slav, for
example, who occupies the same latitudes as the abstemious Turk and
Italian, is a hard eater and wine-bibber. And I have a conviction that
spirit-drinking is becoming common in countries where it was formerly
almost unknown. During a late ride to Ronda in Spain, two
drunken men were seen in one day, and three appeared at an Italian
country-fair--these are instances out of many which might be quoted.

In England, on the other hand, drinking in society has been modified not
solely, as we flatter ourselves, by better taste or by a “higher tone,”
but also by the increased use of nicotine--an axiom which will be
grateful to the readers of _Cope’s Tobacco Plant_, and unpleasant to
gentlemen of the happily defunct Palmerstonian school. In the age of
Queen Anne apparently all Englishmen smoked. The Continental war made
the practice “un-English,” and an increase of snuff was the result. At
Oxford, shortly before I matriculated, some youth of heroic mould, who
deserves a statue if any one does, lit a cigar almost immediately after
the hall-dinner. He was called hard names, but he persevered, and he
found imitators: the consequence was a notable curtailing of the “wines”
which used to last from seven to eleven P.M. In 1852 I was objurgated,
and not unfrequently cut, for smoking a manilla in the streets of
London. Very shortly afterwards a ducal reformer spread his plaid under
a tree in Hyde Park, produced a briar-root, and expected his friends to
do likewise. I need hardly say that they did.

After this little experience of life, man will be careful how far he
allows local custom to modify his comfort and his convenience.



The Reykjavikers may be distributed into four classes: the official,
ecclesiastic, and civil; the merchants; the fishing-class; and the
paupers. The visiting hour begins with noon. You open the outer door of
the diminutive hall and rap at either side-entrance: but generally the
left, otherwise the gynæceum may be sorely disturbed. The rapping
possibly lasts for five minutes; the servant hears you or not, and if
she condescends to open she usually stares, backs, and leaves you on the
threshold. This class in Iceland appears to me the worst in the
world--practical communists with the rude equality of the negro, worse
even than the Irish help in the United States, or the servitor at
Trieste, where the men are either louts or rogues, and the women are
cheats, bacchanalians, or something worse. The domestic agrees to live
with his employer for a certain sum, finds little to do, will do nothing
but drink and be dissolute, refers frequently to the contract, tells the
master, with true northern candour, to serve himself, and finally
retires to the house of his brother’s wife’s third cousin. So the
Greenlander gives warning by “Kasuonga” (I am tired of you). Throughout
the country it appears a dishonour to do household work. Most of the
farms, even when in debt, have some article of the kind, but generally
it is an aged and feminine body, perhaps connected with the family and
liable to starve when turned off.

On the other hand, if after knocking you enter, there is probably a
startled rise and rustle of petticoats, like a flushed covey of
partridges, the home-toilette, as in the nearer “East,” being the one
all-sufficient cause. At this season well-to-do Reykjavikers rise at
eight A.M.; breakfast substantially at nine or ten, and sally forth
after noon to walk, ride, or call upon friends. The islanders dine at
two P.M.; the Danes at four, and sometimes, when parties are given, at
five--already an approach to civilised hours. A supper, mostly cold like
the breakfast, is taken at eight P.M.; and thus, as in the homely parts
of Austria and Italy, the evening visit is impossible. There is no
better contrivance for cutting up society.

As on the Continent of Europe, the stranger makes the first call, and of
course he begins with the governor. H. E. Hilmar Finsen, despite his
Danised name, Finsen for Finnsson, is an Icelander of old and well-known
stock, and he worthily keeps up the hospitalities of the late Count
Trampe, whom so many English travellers have cause to remember with the
liveliest gratitude. The family is a little hurt by the Napoleon book,
which gives (p. 160) the genealogy of Vilhjalmr Finsen, in 1857
“magistratus” (mayor) “Reykjavicæ,” through Adam, Noah, Saturn, Jupiter,
Priam, and “Odinn, rex Asarum.” The table was sent to the prince as a
specimen of an Icelandic tree, and French sense of humour could not let
pass the opportunity of taking it _au sérieux_ and printing it _in
extenso_. After all there is a fine Old World flavour in it: so a Greek
eupatrid found in his genealogy, either paternal or maternal, all his
country’s gods both of Olympus and of the other place. Governor Finsen’s
great-great-grandfather was the celebrated Bishop of Skálholt (1754) and
editor of the Landnámabók, Finn Jónsson, who loved to latinise himself
into Finnus Johannæus; his “Historia Ecclesiastica Islandiæ,” though
much decried by Catholics, continues to be a standard work. The portrait
of this worthy, in ruff and gown, is found everywhere; and the fine oval
face, straight features, and serene blue eyes have not left the
family.[382] His son Hannes Finsson was the last Bishop of Skálholt,
when shortly before 1800, Danes, for motives of economy, fused together
the two sees, in the person of Geir Vidalin, first primate of Iceland.
About this time the patronymic began to be exchanged for the family
name; the son of Bishop Finsson was called Ólafr (Olave) Finsson, and,
he being a Danish official, a judge in Jutland who never saw Iceland,
Finsson became Finsen.

The present governor’s title, Stiftamtmand (Icel. Stiptamtmaðr), has
been lately changed to Landshöfðingsi (Danish), a higher grade without
extra rank or salary; and the mayor (Bæarfógeti) has similarly been
advanced to Landsskrifari, or official secretary. Hr Finsen is a
civilian--admirals and naval officers are no longer the privileged
ruling caste, and Iceland has gained by the loss. He speaks French, but
prefers Danish; whilst his very young looking wife, whose six stalwart
boys and girls suggest brothers and sisters, knows only her native
tongue. We talked of the mysterious volcano in the depths of the
Vatnajökull, whose flames were first seen about the end of August 1867:
he advised me strongly to attempt the south-eastern corner of the island
viâ Berufjörð; Professor Gunnlaugsson did the same, and the only
dissentient voice was Hr Procurator Jón Guðmundsson. The governor was, I
shall show, right.

The second call should be paid to Bishop Pèter Pètursson, who is also
agent for the Bible Society.[383] This dignitary was most obliging in
giving me information, and he presented me with a copy of his work,
alluded to in the Introduction. He was then (1841) licentiate of
theology, “toparchiæ Snæfellensis et Hnappadalensis Præpositus” and
“Pastor Stadastadensis.” I asked him why he did not bring it up to the
present day, and he replied, with excellent sense, that to write
contemporary annals is a hard task; and that _De vivis nil nisi bonum_,
though a fine Christian precept, is a prescription for composing history
of very dubious value.

The approaching departure of “Le Cher,” and the presence of a Danish
cruiser, and the mail-steamer, officered by the Royal Navy, caused an
unusual outburst of hospitality. The first dinner where I “met the surly
Dane,” and found him an uncommonly good fellow, was at the house of the
good M. Randrŭp, Consul de France, a Continental, whose devotion to the
interests of his native country has considerably “exercised” the
political section of the islandry. I cannot refrain from expressing my
gratitude to this gentleman and his family; he was ever ready to assist
me and, indeed, all travellers; whilst madame and mademoiselle made
visits peculiarly pleasant. A Danish house is always known by pictures
and engravings of Copenhagen and other home scenes, in addition to
family photos and loyal portraits of King Christian IX. and his queen;
of King Frederick VII., who travelled in Iceland and left there the best
of names; of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Alexandra, who has
warmed every heart; and, perhaps, of the battle of “Schleswig-Holstein
meer-umschlungen.” One enjoys even the artificial presence of trees,
which look like the portentous growths of the Brazil or Central Africa,
after the stunted vegetation in and around Reykjavik. The Icelanders
sing or are supposed to sing:

    “From the midst of Copenhagen’s smoke,
     We all yearn for home;
     Long, dearest, again to behold thee.
     The noisy din irks us;
     Revelry tempts us in vain;
     And the fool grins contemptuously at us
     In the streets of Copenhagen.”

The Danes slily remark that a good appointment and the easy temptation
of rixdollars greatly modify all this athumia and nostalgia; and there
is much truth in what the Napoleon book says, “Chose étonnante! il n’y a
pas de patriote islandais, lorsqu’il est de retour dans son pays, ne
caresse l’idée de s’en aller vivre dans un pays à végétation sérieuse”
(p. 157). In a certain stage of civilisation, there is no place like
home; about the end of the last century we find Ireland, that “mild and
sedimentary Iceland,” styled the “kingdom of the zephyrs,” and
grandiloquently described as a “country particularly dignified by the
magnificent hand of Nature, whose liberality has denied it nothing that
is necessary to constitute a great and happy nation.” A fallacy lurks in
the well-worn quotation:

    “So the wild torrent and the whirlwind’s roar
     But bind him to his native mountains more.”

The Switzer readily leaves his _mère patrie_, but ever cherishes the
hope of returning, a wealthy man, to lay his bones in the place which
gave him birth. The Englishman, whose native mountains are mole-hills
and whose wild torrents are mere “cricks,” does exactly the same. The
Frenchman, also an inhabitant of the plains, tears out his heartstrings
whilst bidding adieu to “beautiful France,” but when comfortably settled
abroad seems to care little for seeing her charms again. Perhaps I
should speak in the past tense, for railways and steamers are levelling
these differences.

All the guests spoke English and French, and all were very charming.
They were curious concerning Bláland, the country of the blacks; and
they asked about Dr Livingstone, whose name is known in every farm-house
which owns a few books. They inquired if I belonged to the “Jökull
Klubb” (Alpine Club): apparently in a mountainous country an Englishman
must study mountains not mountaineers. The table is always _à la Russe_;
flowers and fruits have been to our “groaning boards” what the cigar and
the pipe were to the dessert and “wine;” only those who remember the
last generation can appreciate this relief from endless side dishes and
the barbarous hospitality which prided itself upon pressing an
indigestion upon the _conviva satur_. The flowers are mostly
artificial--I wonder why the tender and beautiful island heaths are not
more generally used. The salmon from the Laxá and the sea-trout are
undeniably better than ours. The venerable custom of drinking healths is
still preserved: it descends directly from the “full,” or tumbler,
quaffed in honour of Odin and Njord, Frey and Braga. Christianity
converted these toasts to the Father, the Son (Kristsminni), the Angels,
especially Michael, and the Saints; and modern conviviality has devoted
them to present and absent friends. The habit is to “cap out” after
bowing, and then to tilt the wine-glass slightly toward the compotator,
with a second bow. When you help your neighbour from a fresh bottle, you
first pour, as in the Brazil, a few drops into your own glass; and at a
certain stage of the proceedings you do not administer a bumper. The
sole toast was to Justisrað Bojesen, the governor’s venerable
father-in-law, who was on a visit to the island. After a dessert of the
_studentenfutter_, cold pudding, dates, prunes, and olives, all rise
and, whether introduced or not, bow or shake hands, especially with the
host and hostess, saying “Velkomme,” not “welcome” but “prosit,” a
hearty old Danish, or rather German, practice, not indigenous to this
part of Scandinavia. There is no sitting when the smallcoats leave the
table; and probably from the scantiness of accommodation only men dine

The next banquet, being at the governor’s, was more official, only four
black coats appeared, and even the mayor was dressed in uniform,
gold-embroidered cuffs and collar of green velvet. Toasts were numerous,
beginning with the French and Danish nations, which were duly
acknowledged: and the two strangers, a young Englishman and myself,
replied in French--not in Latin. After dinner we smoked and drank
coffee, whilst the juniors, despising the damp cold, repaired for
croquet to the “lawn.” At the bishop’s there was a strong muster of the
clergy from the out-stations, in honour of the Rev. Guttormr Vigfusson,
who had that day been ordained. Here, and here only, we saw snuff taken
at table, and a use of the knife in the matter of peas and gravy, which
still lingers amongst the best society in parts of Europe--it would be
insidious to specify--but which Beau Brummel and his cloth have
completely banished from England. It is only in the “Regimen Mensæ
honorabile,” that we still read:

“Sal cultello capia-     }
       *       *       *       *       *                     }tis.”
Modicum sed crebrò biba- }

The bishop’s wife dined with us, and went through the laborious process
of dispensing soup and meat to some two dozen guests; there was no room
for the two pleasing daughters, nor for the adopted child--certainly the
best looking of maidens at Reykjavik. We separated early, and after the
Homeric proportions of the banquet a long walk was judged advisable.

The evening’s conversation taught me how thin-skinned are Icelanders
upon all subjects connected with their country and themselves. I could
not but think of a canny people farther south, who hold praise to be an
impertinence, whilst dispraise, if it were not so truly contemptible,
would be the one offence never to be condoned. Madame Ida Pfeiffer’s
angry book was duly sat upon, all declared that she has misconstrued
almost everything she observed. The fact is, that the poor authoress,
when flitting through the country on her “weird visit,” was utterly
misunderstood by the people, and showed her resentment by the use of her
especial weapon. Even the genial and amiable owner of the yacht “Foam,”
who, so far from wishing to hurt the feelings of any reader, has passed
over in silence many things which ought to have been told, is not
forgiven for the Latin speech beginning with “Pergratum est”--“chaff” is
unknown in Iceland, and gives terrible offence to this painfully
sensitive race. Chambers is a _farceur_; Prince Napoleon is harsh-judged
for writing anything that might not please Icelandic readers; Forbes
never rounded Snæfell; the late Professor Paijkull is a prejudiced
foreigner, whose views about the sheep disease are simply ridiculous;
and even Baring-Gould is incorrect in his details. For science, we are
referred to Sir George Mackenzie; and for geography, manners, and
customs, to Dr Henderson. It is only fair, however, to state that
sensible Icelanders, who have lived out of this “living and antiquarian
museum, recalling, as far as material and practical progress is
concerned, the Europe of a century ago,” agree that Henderson praises
them beyond all measure, and recommend to all Englishmen Professor
Paijkull, as the fairest and the least exaggerated in general

I already felt the growling and the bursting of the storm upon my
devoted head. But the traveller who would do his duty to the Public must
think as little as possible of blame and praise. The reader, and also
the critic, enjoy high spirits, persistent optimism, and especially the
“burying of all animosities, and condoning of all offences”--in fact,
every tale of travel must be a Chinese picture, all lights and no
shades. The end of a journey, like the resignation of a ministry, should
cause a general whitewashing. If we tell the truth, we are sure to be
assured that our pictures are forbidding or “bilious in tone.” My only
reply is, that under certain circumstances they can be nothing else, if,
indeed, they are to be portraits, and not fancy sketches for a Book of
Beauty. I own to feeling a personal grievance against a writer who
spreads before me all the sweets, and who hides under the table all the
sours and bitters of his experience.

The next invitation was from Capitaine Alfred Le Timbre, of Saint-Malo,
a pleasant, gentlemanly man, who spends his summer in looking forward to
September, when the “Cher’s” head will turn south. To an Englishman the
most companionable of Frenchmen is generally a sailor, and a Breton is
all but a compatriot. Capitaine Le Timbre and his consul have no slight
task in controlling some 3000 French fishermen, distributed amongst 250
vessels: the foreigners are bound not to land, and, indeed, not to
approach the shore within the normal score of miles. This law is much
broken; the men are often obliged to be invalided, and are sometimes
wrecked with considerable loss of life: the underwriters after August
add 1 per cent., and 0·50 per cent. for every subsequent fortnight. I
afterwards travelled with nineteen of them on board the “Diana,” and
found them by no means a “rough lot.” The people buy smuggled goods low,
and sell provisions uncommonly high, and the results are frequent free
fights between the strangers and the islandry. The former complain that
they are always wrong in the eye of the law, and that their own
authorities are ever the most severe in the matter of fines and
imprisonment. As has been said, the Reformation made salt cod more
valuable to Catholic lands; still sundry of our fishermen, when they
fail at the Færoes, where the fish is better and more easily carried
home alive, try Iceland: the Grimsby men are said to be the worst, the
Hull men the best. An occasional cruiser is much wanted to keep the
ruffians in order: Forbes recommended the measure years before H.M.S.
“Valorous,” Captain Thrupp, appeared in August 1872. No English
man-of-war deigned to grace the millenary festival of 1874--the
successful effacement of Great Britain should be a matter of heartfelt
congratulation to us; but _gare_ the recoil of the spring. The evening
was pleasant, as usual on board a ship of war, and the belongings wore a
home look, a civilised aspect, which made it more than normally
agreeable--I felt again at home. The traveller cannot help remarking one
effect of railroads and steamers upon European society: in dress and
manners we all seem to be forming one great nation. One of the guests
was a Hr Grímr Thomsen, who is favourably mentioned by Messrs Dasent and
Newton: after being employed in sundry consulates, this gentleman of
“grim cognomen”[384] has taken a pension, and settled at the old college
of Bessastaðr, where he attends to agriculture, and looks after the
fishing. From him I heard how far superior to Arab blood are Iceland
ponies, and a curious local grievance--it must serve for a
better--namely, that strangers come to the island under the impression
that they cannot break their necks in it. He first showed me the popular
habit of making unpleasant and antipathetic, if not rude, remarks: this
mordant tone is still a mania in Iceland; it descends from the days of
the defamatory songs, which spared neither gods nor men. And now, having
dined out, we will turn elsewhere.

The Klafter (chat) Klubb is an institution even more primitive than that
of Madeira, which, greatly to feminine and connubial satisfaction, used
to close at six P.M. The many-windowed wooden building in Hafnarstræti
is the store kept by Hr Möller, who manages the club, and allows it
three small rooms somewhat higher in the ceiling than usual. It opens
only on Wednesday evenings, when the principal merchants congregate to
drink “toddy.” The yearly subscription is $12; and strangers, after
being presented, may visit it three times gratis--unless the usual sharp
practice rule otherwise. In such matters there is a conventional
honesty; even in London the secretary will sometimes do for the
institution what he would not think of doing for himself.

At the first opportunity I called upon M. l’Abbé Baudouin, now the only
Catholic missionary in the island, which formerly had two. The road
leads past the Hospital, and we can inspect the tarn whose southern bank
is the Paseo for “beauty and fashion”--I rarely met any there but
English. The little piece of water in former days was covered with wild
fowl; now it supports nothing but yellow-green weed, especially when it
shrinks in July and August. It drains large peat bogs at the southern
or inland end, and when swollen it passes to the sea by the foul ditch
before mentioned, fit only for stickle-backs. In winter it serves for
skating, but it is not always frozen over, another proof of unexpectedly
mild climate despite high latitudes. Of course it is very variable under
the influence of the volcano and the iceberg: in 1845, the last eruption
of Hekla covered the adjacent valleys with abundant vegetation; in 1869
and 1873, the greater part of the island was ice-bound for months.

On the western bank of the tarn are two targets for rifle practice, one
at 95, the other at 112 paces. I never saw shooting there; in fact the
only soldiering known to Reykjavik is when the Danish “Fylla” disembarks
her short, stout, dapper, little crew, averaging twenty-two years of
age, for drill under a tall quartermaster. On the other side of the road
is the cemetery, guarded by posts and rails; the mortuary chapel, with
its dwarf steeple, all wood, and lighter than those of the Sienna
country, faces east. Crosses are everywhere, from the deadhouse to the
_parva domus_: some of the tombs are not to be despised, and the
epitaphs beginning with “Hver Hvílir” (here lies) are not the comedies
of our country churchyards. It is a peculiar custom to keep the dead
unburied sometimes for three to six weeks; and the measure can hardly be
precautionary, as the bodies are screwed down in the coffins, and stored
at the solitary cemetery. A resident foreigner lately exposed himself to
prosecution because he interred his servant only six days after death.

Turning rightwards we pass a windmill to the south-west of the town. On
its eminence the people assembled in May 1860 to see the flames and
flashes proceeding from the “aqua-igneous” fissure of Kötlu-gjá, which,
distant some eighty miles, shot up, they say, a pillar of smoke, steam,
and scoriæ some 24,000 feet high (?). From this point also, we are
assured, the gleam of the Vatnajökull volcano could be detected in 1867.
The country beyond the mill is a barren stretch of stone, where dodgy
plovers lay their eggs, and where swarms of gnats put the promenader to
flight. A few steps lead us to the house of M. Baudouin, which is the
best in the island; it was built by Bishop Helgi Thordursson,
predecessor of the present dignitary, and the use to which it was
converted gave some scandal. The Abbé fenced himself in with a railing
and turnstile, levelled the warts, and manured the ground--the shells
and the sea-wrack offer excellent compost, but they are never used. This
was done seven years ago, yet double crops are still produced: the
inordinate price of labour, $2 a day being the wage of a field hand,
prevented further operations. Truly a few Trappist establishments
scattered over the island would do an immensity of good.

M. Baudouin then built to the west of his dwelling-place a cross-crowned
chapel, and preached to full congregations, who attended regularly--I
should mention that he is an excellent Icelandic scholar. This
proceeding aroused the wrath of the Reformed. Strange to say, in this
section of the nineteenth century, a country which boasts of “liberal
institutions” will not permit version; and, although the Althing has
been strongly in favour of extending everywhere freedom of faith,
propagandism is allowed only to commercial settlements. The house being
out of town, Monsieur l’Abbé was warned that he was not _en règle_: the
code of Denmark authorises a “subvention” to those who build places of
worship, but “subvention” was altered by Icelandic interpretation to
“permission,” and thus the good missionary was assured that he required
permission to do what the law permitted--which is absurd. His opponents
then tried to revive against him the obsolete tyrannical ordinances of
the old Protestant world: he is an outlaw, he may be flogged, and even
killed with impunity, whilst harbouring a Papist is punishable by a
heavy fine--six ounces of silver doubled every day.

The Abbé wanted nothing better than to be a martyr, but of course he
wanted in vain. Laws in Iceland are somewhat flexible things,
exceptionally applied at times, and liable to be broken with impunity:
so in England “law” contrasts pleasantly with the rigidity of “la loi”
of France. In this island, where people cannot afford paupers, families
are dispersed even more cruelly than in our inhuman workhouse system,
and each member is transferred to his or her Sýsla (county): the
country, however, can plead necessity for these severe conditions. M.
Baudouin chose to lodge and board an unhappy household subject to
forcible separation. Thereupon the mayor imposed upon the paupers a
fine, which they refused to pay, and lastly, he ordered their protector
to expel them. The Abbé stoutly refused, and asked what would result if
the affair came before Chief Justice Thorður Jonassen? The reply was,
“It will be as he sees it.” Presently, the authorities perhaps
remembered that when something of the same kind happened in the north,
the case was quashed by the Court of Cassation in Denmark--nothing more
was said. As Rome proposes to establish a Vicar Apostolic for
Scandinavia,[385] M. Baudouin bides his time. For two years he has been
in bad health, and wears a frostbitten look; he now proposes to sun
himself for a time in France, and after his return, to preach in
Icelandic when he pleases and where he pleases. The Protestant party
boldly hopes never to see him again.

I was pleased to hear from the Abbé a Catholic version of the Reformed
movement which followed the proclamation of Christian III. in 1540, and
more especially of the murder or just execution of that “illiterate and
turbulent prelate” who ended the “dismal ages of papal darkness,” Jón
Arason (Are’s son), whom foreigners call Aræson and Areseni, the last
occupant of the northern see, Hólar.[386] His enemies declare that at
eighty he had a concubine; that he unmercifully seized and otherwise
persecuted, his opponents; that he never went south without an armed
retinue of two hundred bravos; that he refused to go to Copenhagen, and
that he was a rebel against the Crown. His friends refute the charges
preferred against him; deny the hólmganga or duel which he is fabled to
have fought with Bishop Ögmund; assert that the “Historia Ecclesiastica”
contains no less than three contradictions, and persistently declare
that J. A. was simply a martyr to Catholicism. The Reformers, acting
under the Danish Government, were headed by Oddur Gottswálksson and
Gizurr Einarson. The former, a son of the Bishop of Hólar, when
studying at Wittenberg, had been strongly imbued by Luther and
Melancthon with the spirit of the new faith; he afterwards became the
first translator of the Bible, and lawyer for the northern division of
the island till he was drowned in 1556. The latter was in turn secretary
to Ögmund, Catholic Bishop of Skálholt, Lutheran priest, and, finally,
first Lutheran bishop of the southern see. They suborned against J. A.
one Daði, a peasant of Mýra Sýsla, in the Borgarfjörð; and Judas, as
usual, pretending to be his friend, betrayed him to his foes. The house
in which he was arrested is still shown a little south of the
Kvennabrekka chapel: he was carried to Skálholt, the southern see,
already Lutheran, and was incontinently beheaded.

Followed the usual scenes of persecution and destruction: we might be
reading a History of England. The Reformers became deformers. Cruel laws
were passed against the priests; the churches were plundered of their
wealth; the various religious houses,--four monasteries, two priories,
and two nunneries,--each of which, after the excellent fashion of El
Islam and its mosques, had a school attached, were suppressed, whilst
the lands were either sold, vested in the Crown, or made over to
Lutheranism. It was a case of “non licet esse vos,” and the proceeding
was exactly that of our Act of 1537.

Let me briefly remark that in treating of matters which happened three
centuries ago, both Catholic and Protestant writers are too apt to look
upon them from the stand-point of the present. Catholics see only the
use of their establishments; they will not accept the consequences of
defeat, and yet they know that by the rule “Væ victis” they would have
dealt, had they been conquerors, the same measure which was dealt to
them. Protestants note only the abuses which marked the age; they look
upon the old system with a jaundiced eye, and they misrepresent,
undoubtedly, often without knowing it, the state of the ancient Church.
Thus, we find it chronicled that many of the Icelandic bishops were
married, without being told that they might have been married before
they were ordained. And if there is anything in the present day which
draws English Protestants to Catholicism, it is the fact that honest
inquirers find they have been brought up in gross ignorance, to say
nothing more, of the rival creed.

The Abbé Baudouin is strong in the belief that by virtue of the jewel
Fair Play he would soon revive Catholicism in one of its old seats. And
looking at the lukewarm action of the Lutheran faith, the scanty hold it
has upon the affections and the passions of the people, the laical lives
of the clergy, the prevalence of the “squarson,” and the growth of “free
thinking,” I cannot but agree with him. Indeed the revival of
Catholicism is one of the phenomena of the later nineteenth century,
which time only can explain. Is it a steady flame or a fitful flicker
preceding the final darkness? Its statistics are wonderful. During the
last eighty-five years in the United States, it has risen from 25,000 to
9,600,000, a proportion of 1:4 of the population; whilst _the_ faith of
the nineteenth century, spiritualism (R. D. Owen), numbers only
7,500,000. In Holland, the very cradle of the Reformation, Catholics and
Protestants are now about equal; and, whilst the census of Victoria
gives 121 religions to less than three-quarters of a million,
Catholicism in England seems bent upon forcing men into the extremes so
distasteful to the English mind, upon dividing the country into two
great camps, Catholicism and its complement Methodism. In Iceland the
result of free propagandism would probably result in making all the
people Catholics or Rationalists.

It was generally regretted that Dr Hjaltalín the Archiater, who was
preparing for a trip in the “Diana” to Europe, did not take part in the
festivities. I need say nothing about the scientific acquirements of
this well-informed and most obliging Icelander, whose writings are known
throughout Europe. He has travelled extensively in his own country; and
I was the greatest loser by his departure, as otherwise he might have
led me to the unexplored regions in the south-east. He was especially
interested about coal, a subject which seems now to be undergoing
revival in the north: a fresh impetus has been given to its exploration
in Norway and Sweden: even in the Færoe Islands a Danish company
proposes to exploit the beds. An expedition, accompanied by Professor
Jonstrüp and a Silesian engineer, lately returned to Copenhagen, and
revived the views of Professor Krazenstein, who in 1778 examined the
Pröstefjeldt in the island of Suderoë. The report is that the people
have used their coal as fuel for a century; that although not so easily
fired as the English, it gives a stronger and more lasting flame, and
that it is free from sulphur and other minerals injurious to the
fabrication of steel and iron. But, after settling its calorific
properties, the grand question is, whether the veins are in the real
carboniferous formation, whose beds are thick enough to work profitably.
Seams which occur in the nummulite-hippurite Jurassic formation mostly
lead to loss, witness those which have been worked near Trieste, on the
Adriatic coast, and in parts of the Libanus.

Dr Hjaltalín was sanguine concerning the coal lately found in the
regions about Norðrá, a northern influent of the Western Hvítá River:
the exact position is between the little tarns Vikrafell and Herðavatn
in Norðrardal. He expects soon to settle a long-disputed question, “Has
coal been produced _in situ_?” and the sister formation of the Færoe
Islands, where a Danish officer, Captain Dahl, has bought a vein seven
feet thick for $50,000, ought to aid in solving the mystery. It is found
associated with the Surtar-brand,[387] a semi-mineralised lignite,
common on the western coast of the island. Uno Von Troil tells us that
cups and plates which take a fine polish are made of it at Copenhagen:
this reminds us of the bitumen “finjans” from the Tomb of Moses, near
the Dead Sea.

Uno Von Troil, Sartorius Von Waltershausen, and Professor Silliman
maintain this Devil’s or black fuel to be a local produce of forests
buried by ashes, and ripened by the superincumbent sand and humus. On
the other hand, Professor Steenstrüp and M. Gaimard declare this “brown
coal” to be flotsam and jetsam from the Gulf of Mexico. Professor
Paijkull found in it some thirty kinds of growth: the vine and platanus,
the tulip-tree and mahogany, associated with oak, elm, willow, alder,
birch, walnut, fir, and other resinous vegetation. These items, if grown
_in situ_, as they appear to be, suggest a change of temperature utterly
unknown to historic times, and belonging to the flora of the upper
Miocene, _e.g._, Madeira. Halley explained the intense cold of Behring’s
Straits, by placing the Pole there before the earth’s axis had altered
its direction. Others have attributed the change to the diminution of
ecliptical obliquity, the excentricity of the earth’s orbit, the
precession of the equinoxes, and the revolution of the apsides.
Similarly the Markgraf F. Marenzi (Fragmente über Geologie) cuts the
Gordian knot, by supposing an altered obliquity of the ecliptic, which
may have acted, he says, in past ages even as the present
ever-increasing excentricity of the orbit will in some 210,000 years
produce another Glacial Period, and render Northern Europe
uninhabitable. On the other hand, he remarks that however torrid may
have been the hyperborean climates, they must ever have lacked the
fructifying insects, peculiar to temperate, sub-equatorial, and
equatorial zones. Judging from Miocene Greenland, the reverse would
appear to be fact.

It is impossible to stay a week in Reykjavik without finding out that
the world is split into two divisions, strongly marked as were our Whig
and Tory of the last generation. The Danes are in the minority: they
represent the utilitarian, the cosmopolitan, and, perhaps, the
metropolitan side of politics; and they complain that whatever the
mother country does for her distant dependency, the latter is ever
clamorous for more. The majority is the Icelandic party, for whose
political aspirations I can find no better name than “Home
Rulers,”--warning readers, however, that the comparison must not be
strained and identified with that of Ireland. The main difference of the
movement, as far as I can see, appears simply this. Iceland is actually
1600 miles distant from Denmark, as far as London from Jamaica, and
practically, when the post goes only seven times a year, as far as
Australia from England. Again, the proportions of Iceland to Denmark
(1,800,000) are 1:35, and the population is 1:25·70. England certainly
would not refuse Home Rule to the Irish if they lived in New Zealand and
numbered about 750,000. No wonder then that Iceland objects to be
treated like a “Crown colony of a rather severe type.”

The islanders show a growing dissatisfaction with the Danish Government,
which they declare to be, though mild, meddling and unintelligent--in
fact, perpetuating the petty, “nagging,” and annoying policy which, lost
the duchies. They might respect whilst they hated a strong despotism;
but perpetual interference they despise as well as hate. They are urgent
as Mr Butt, for leave to stand on their own legs, to manage their own
affairs; the Danes have tried, they say, for centuries to govern them,
and progress could hardly be less were they left to themselves. The
worst that could happen to them would be to starve, in which case they
would deserve their fate, and could blame none but themselves. They
complain, and I think with justice, that individually the Dane is not
sympathetic to them; whilst Icelanders learn Danish, which, however,
they pronounce with their own accent, Danes disdain their language and
will not even attend their church. Residents of twenty years declare
that they never read the theogenic, cosmogenic, and mythic Eddas,[388]
because they are literally “grandams’ tales;” whilst the Sagas or
Sayings, moral and dogmatic, epic and historical, are a tissue of
inventions, monotonous, moreover, sanguinary, immoral, and barbarous.
The actual leader of the opposition, or Home Rule party, is Hr Jón
Sigurðsson (nat. 1811), now in Denmark, a far-famed Norsk scholar, and
an _employé_ of the Danish Government. “White John,” as the popular
nickname is, shows his clean shaven face everywhere, photographed for
the patriot party. He owns advanced opinions, but he rests within
constitutional limits; his followers, of course, go further afield, and
not a few of them may be called republican. He has the honour to appear
in the Millenary lithograph with the following notice: “President of the
Althing, President of the Icelandic Literary Society, President of the
Icelandic Thjóðvinafèlag; has distinguished himself as an uninterested
and faithful champion of the national and political rights of the
Icelanders; besides he has made himself conspicuous as a thorough
scholar in the history and legislation of Iceland.”

There is also a small and uninfluential Norwegian faction which seems
bent upon drawing the islanders to itself, chiefly, it appears to me,
because Naddodd and Ingólfr discovered and colonised Iceland, and
because she still speaks the Norræna-Túnga: a few distinguished names,
literary and political, belong to this political category.

In the Introduction I have offered a few remarks on the pros and cons of
Home Rule in Iceland. But the history of the world generally, and
especially that of Italy, teaches one great lesson--how easy it is to
divide and how hard to “unify” a country. The line between local and
imperial measures is difficult to draw and facile to be overstepped at
all times of popular excitement: a manner of dismemberment is proposed
at the time when the condition of Europe seems to demand centralisation.
Diets in Great Britain will only assimilate her with Austria, which
exists by a political necessity: statesmen say that if she were not she
would have to be invented. We can all distinguish the dim form which
stands behind Home Rule in Ireland, and I venture to predict that in
Iceland it will be the shortest path to separation from the mother
state, and to the re-establishment of the old Norwegian Republic.


_M‘Farlane, & Erskine, Printers, Edinburgh._


[1] “Mirum de Tyle, quæ inter occidentales ultima fertur insulas,
quod apud orientales tam nomine quam naturâ sit famosissima; cum
occidentalibus sit prorsus incognita,” says Giraldus Cambrensis, chap.
xvii., p. 98, ed. T. F. Dimock, M.A., Lond. 1867.

[2] The Iernis of Onomacritus (who is supposed to have written about
B.C. 535, in the days of Pisistratus). Its authenticity is defended
by Ruhnkenius (Epist. Crit. 2), and by Archbishop Usher (Ecclesiar.
Antiq., chap. 16), while Camden (Britan.) has claimed the island to be
England. Adrian Junius, a Dutch poet of the sixteenth century, quoted
by Moore (History, chap. 1), thus alluded to Ireland having been known
to the Argonauts:

    “Illa ego sum Graiis olim glacialis Ierne
     Dicta, et Jasoni puppis bene cognita navis.”

We shall afterwards find Sibbald identifying Ierne with Strathearn.

[3] Consult the paper “On the Stade as a Linear Measure” by W. Martin
Leake, Esq., Journal of the R.G.S., vol. ix. of 1839, pp. 1-25. The
word Stadium or Stade does not appear in the index of the first twenty
volumes; and this is only one instance of the carelessness with which
an essential addition to the Journal has been drawn up.

[4] We may ask in our turn what prevented him travelling with traders?

[5] Hipparchus ad Arat. (i. 5; confer Plut., iii. 17), also attests the
scientific worth of Pytheas, and mentions how he explained the tides by
lunar phases.

[6] See Rerum Script. Hiberniæ (Prolog., i., xii.), quoted at the end of
this section. Of Pytheas we know little, except that he was a Phocæan or
Massilian Greek, who is supposed to have made two voyages between B.C.
350 and B.C. 300. In the first, he sailed round Albion and reached
Thule. In the second, he set out from Gadira (Cadiz) to the Tanais,
which is popularly supposed to have been the Elbe. Both his works, “On
the Ocean,” and the “Periplus,” are lost. Even Strabo, who seems to have
had “that charlatan Pytheas on the brain,” does not deny his knowledge
of astronomy, mathematics, and navigation. G. G. Bredow (Untersuchungen,
etc., ii. 122-129, Altona, 1800), C. H. Tzschuckius (P. Melæ, lib. tres,
Lipsiæ, 1806, vol. iii., pp. 223-230), and J. I. Pontanus (Chorographica
Daniæ Descriptio, Amstelodami, 1631, folio, p. 741), give many
references to Pytheas. See also Histoire Littéraire de France, i. 71, et
seq.; Bougainville (Mémoires de Paris, xix. 146); D’Anville (Mém. de
Paris, xxxii. 436, and his objections to the traveller having visited
Iceland, 50, 441); Murray (Nov. Comm. Soc. Goetting, vi. 59-63, 82-86);
Fournier (Hydrographie, 322, et seq.); and Wagner (Ad Guthrie Allgem.
Welt. Gesch., xvi. 4). Forbiger (Handbuch der Alt. Geog., iii., Leip.
1848) also quotes a multitude of authors, including Mannert, Humboldt,
and Lelewel (Pytheas u. die Geo. Sein. Zeit., s. 30).

[7] These are the Acmodæ of Pliny (iv. 30), which can only be the
Shetlands. Salmasius identifies the Acmodæ, Hæmodæ, and Hebrides.
Camden makes them different, and refers the Acmodæ to the Baltic.
Parisot informs us that off the West Cape of Skye and the isle of
North Uist (the nearest of the Hebrides to the Shetlands) there is a
great gulf, which, being full of islands, is still called Mamaddy or
Maddy--hence, possibly, the Greek Άι Μαδδάι, and the Latin Memodæ.
According to Dr Charnock, the name in Keltic may be translated the
“black head or hill,” or the “hill of God.”

[8] Mela’s “Scandinovia” is one of six islands which are described
rather as parts of a great peninsula than as regular “insulæ.” Amongst
their Sarmatian population are the Oænæ (egg-eaters), the Hippopodæ
(horse-feet), and the Panoti (all-ears), whose existence is attested
by credible travellers (_Cf._ p. 165, Geografia di Pomponio Mela, by
Giovanni Francesco Muratori, Torino, Stamperia Reale, 1855).

[9] Camden suggests that “Belcarum” was a clerical error for
“Bergarum.” But Mela places Bergæ on the confines of Scythia and Asia,
and he joins the Caspian with the Northern Ocean (iii. 5).

[10] To understand the full significance of this sentence, we must
consult the context. The first “additional parallel,” whose longest
day was sixteen hours, ran through “the Daci and part of Germany, and
the Gallic provinces, as far as the shores of the ocean.” The second
traversed “the country of the Hyperborei and the island of Britannia,
the longest day being seventeen hours in length.” The third is far more
applicable to Iceland than to the Shetland or Færoe groups.

[11] C. Ptolemæi Geographia, edidit Carolus Fredericus Augustus Nobbe,
Lipsiæ, 1843. A correct text.

[12] C. Ptolemæi, etc., libri octo, ex Bilibaldi Pirckeymheri
translatione, Lugduni, 1535. When may geographical students hope
to see a portable English translation of Ptolemy, and be saved the
mortification of carrying about this uncomfortable folio? The work was
proposed many years ago to the Royal Geographical Society, and was
rejected, I believe, on the grounds of Ptolemy being a mathematical
writer. The paragraphs in the text refer to the Greek, the pages to the
Latin translation.

[13] Ptolemy assumes the southernmost part of the old world to be in S.
lat. 16° 20´ instead of S. lat. 34° 51´ 12´´ (Cape Agulhas). Already in
1800, G. G. Bredow (loc. cit.), recognising the imperfect graduation,
had reduced Ptolemy’s N. lat. 57° to N. lat. 51° 15´, and N. lat. 62°
to N. lat. 55° 15´.

[14] Lemprière and other popular books, contain the following curious
assertion: “Ptolemy places the middle of his Thule in 63° of latitude,
and says that at the time of the equinoxes, the days were _twenty-four
hours_, which could not have been true at the equinoxes, but must
have referred to the solstices, and therefore this island is supposed
to have been in 66° latitude, that is, under the Polar circle.” La
Martinière, of whom more presently (sub voce Thule), makes no such
blunder. Ptolemy gives N. lat. 63° and _twenty hours_, in which he is
followed by Agathemerus.

[15] It is suggested (Notes on Richard of Cirencester) that beginning
with the Novantum Chersonesis (Mull of Galloway?), in E. long. (Ferro?)
21°, the latitudes were mistaken for the longitudes, hence Cape Orcas
(Duncansby Head?) was thrown to the east, E. long. (Ferro?) 31° 20´.

[16] “On some old maps of Africa, etc.,” a valuable paper read before
the British Association, August 1863: Herr Kiepert is greatly indebted
to it.

[17] The error “S. Antonio,” for “Sâo Antâo,” is not the learned Mr
Hogg’s; it is common to Norie and other books on navigation.

[18] It is regretable that geographers lost the excellent opportunity
offered by the Vienna Weltausstellung of 1873, to determine in congress
a single _point de départ_ of longitude for the civilised world. Now
each nation has the pretension of making a first meridian of its own,
consequently whilst geographical readers have a fair conception of
latitude, that of longitude is especially hazy. I only hope we shall
not lose sight of the desideratum in the Geographical Congress of Paris

[19] “A Discourse concerning the Thule of the Ancients,” by Sir Robert
Sibbald, vol. iii., Gough’s Camden (Britannia, etc.) of 1787. See also
Gibson’s edition of Camden, Lond. 1695, and Frankfort edition, 1602.

[20] The full passage of Tacitus is, “Hanc oram novissimi maris (the
Deucaledonian Sea) tunc primum Romana classis circumvecta, insulam esse
Britanniam affirmavit, ac simul incognitas ad id tempus insulas, quas
Orcades vocant, invenit domuitque. Dispecta est et Thule” (alii “Thyle”
and “Tyle”) “quadam trans: nix et hiems appetebat; sed mare pigrum et
grave remigantibus: perhibent, ne ventis quidem perinde attolli; credo
quod rariores terræ montesque, causa ac materia tempestatum et profunda
moles continui maris tardius impellitur.” Plutarch, tells us (Life of
Cæsar) that the very existence of such a place as Britain had been
doubted. When Diodorus Siculus wrote (temp. J. Cæsar and Augustus), the
British Isles were amongst the regions least known to the world: “Ἤκιστα
πέπτωκεν ὑρὸ τὴν κοινὴν ἀνθρώπων ἐπίγνωσιν” (lib. iii.). Eusebius (nat.
circ. A.D. 264) tells us in his Chronicon, “Claudius de Britannis
triumphavit, et Orcades insulas Romano adjecit imperio.” Orosius (circ.
A.D. 415) adds (vii. 6, Hist. Adver. Pag., libri vii.), “Cognitæ insulæ
erant forte et ante Claudium et sub Claudio, non quidem armis Romanis,
sed mercatoribus, aut etiam eruditis, Mela teste.” And Mela, who wrote
in the days of Claudius, assures us (iii. 6), “Triginta sunt Orcades
angustis inter se diductæ spatiis.”

[21] The mention of fruits in this passage banishes the idea of Iceland.

[22] Diogenes of Apollonia flourished in the fifth century B.C., and
also wrote περί φύσεως--concerning nature--a treatise on physical
science. In the days when Hanno the Carthaginian, passing the
Mediterranean Straits, explored the western coast of Africa, an event
usually placed in the fifth century B.C., although Gosselin (Recherches
sur la Géographie des Anciens) goes back as far as the tenth, Himilco
(Pliny, N. H., ii. 67) was also sent to explore the remote parts of
Europe. Sailing along the shores of Gadir, Tartessus (Tarshish), and
Gallicia, he reached the Tin Isles. His Periplus, originally deposited
in a temple at Carthage, was used by Dionysius, and was versified by
Rufus Festus Avienus in the fourth century, in his iambic poem “De Oris
Maritimis.” He himself says:

    “Hæc nos ab imis Punicorum annalibus,
     Prolata longo tempore edidimus tibi.”

And Dodwell justly observes (Dissert. de Peripli Hannonis Ætati):
“Ea causa satis verisimilis esse potuit, cur tamdiu Græcos latuerit
Himilco, etiam cos qui collegæ meminerint Hannonis.”

[23] Τά ὑπερ θούλης ἀπιστα. An abridgment is preserved by the learned
Patriarch Photius in his Myriobiblion seu Bibliotheca.

[24] Juvenal here ironically describes the progress of Greek and Roman
letters towards the barbarous north. The Britons are learning eloquence
from the Gauls, and even Thule thinks of hiring a rhetorician.

[25] For “glacialis,” see Adrian Junius before quoted. The
high-sounding and convenient epithet seems to have been applied to
Ierne, as “ultima” to Thule. If the Romans did not hold Ireland, at
any rate they knew it well: “Melius aditus portusque, per commercia et
negotiatores cognita” (Tacit. Agricol., xxiv.).

[26] In Icelandic “Orkn” and “Orkn-selr” are applied to a seal.
(Compare Lat. _orca_, supposed to be the grampus: Cleasby.) Pliny makes
_orca_ a kind of dolphin (_D. orca_), and _orec_ or _orc_ is the Gaelic
form; hence Cape Orcas, which is popularly identified with Dunnet Head,
the extreme northern point of Scotland. We have no need to derive
“Orkneys” from εἴρκω (_coercio_), these isles breaking and restraining
the force of the raging waves; or from “Erick” or “Orkenwald,” or any
other “Pictish prince famous there at its first plantation.”

[27] The Crymogæa (Sive De Reb. Isl., Hamb. 1593) of this learned
Icelander will be found analysed in Purchas, vol. iii., and Hakluyt,
vol. i. His principal argument is very unsatisfactory: “If Iceland is
taken to have been the classical Thule, it must have been inhabited
in the days of Augustus, which is contrary to the chronicles of the
island.” This author’s chief objection is thus stated by himself: “Si
etenim Islandia idem esset cum Thule, rueret totum hujus narrationis
fundamentum de Islandia A.C. 874 habitari primum cæpta;” an objection
which will be considered elsewhere. Meanwhile I prefer the opinion of
the equally learned Pentanus, who says of Iceland: “Non heri aut hodie
quod dicitur fuit frequentata, sed habuit indigenas suos multa ante

[28] According to Dr Charnock, he speaks only of the Sacæ, the Persa,
and the Britannus.

[29] Dr Bosworth (Anglo-Saxon Dict.) quotes Boethius (29, 11): “Oth
thæt iland the we hatath Thyle, thæt is on tham northwest ende thisses
middaneardes thær ne bith nawther ne on sumera niht, ne on wintra dæg”
(To the island which we call Thule, that is on the north-west end of
this middle earth, where there is neither night in summer nor day in
winter). Cardale (1, 166) also: “Thonne be norðan Ibernia is thæt
ylemede land thæt man hæt Thila” (Thence to the north of Ibernia is
that island which men call Thila). See also Orosius, 1, 2.

[30] The author here settles offhand a point disputed _ad infinitum_.
Dr Charnock has shown that Scotland was at one time called Igbernia,
Hibernia (the classical name of Ireland, corrupted from _iar-in_, the
western isle), and from the end of the third to the beginning of the
eleventh century, _Scotia_ was used exclusively to indicate Ireland.

[31] برة التنك (_Barrat el Tanak_), “tanak” being the Arabic for
tin.--Dr Charnock in his various writings (Local Etymology, etc.),
after referring to the derivation of Britannia from the Punic ברת אנכ,
_barat-anac_, the land of tin or lead; and the Hebrew ברא, _bara_,
in Pihel, to create, produce; quoting Camden, Owen, Clarke, Borlase,
Bochart, Boerhave, Shaw, Bosworth, and Armstrong, gives the following
suggested derivations of the name from the Keltic, viz.: from its
inhabitants, the _Brython_; from _brit_, _brith_, of divers colours,
spotted (ברא, _brd_, pl. ברדים, _brdim_, spots, spotted with colours);
_bràith-tuinn_, (the land on) the top of the wave; from _Yuys Prydain_,
the fair island; from _Prydyn_, son of Aez the Great; from _bri_,
dignity, honour; from _Brutus_, a fabulous king of Britain; from
_bret_, high, _tain_, a river; but Dr Charnock inclines to derive the
name from _bret-inn_, the high island. It need hardly be said that
the Tin Islands (Cassiterides) contained no tin; like Zanzibar, they
were probably a mere depôt where the Phœnicians met the savages of the

[32] In the following verse of Catullus (Carm. 27):

    “Hunc Gallæ timent, hunc timent Britanniæ,”

we find “Britain” used to denote the whole of the British Isles.

[33] Kassiterides is Aryan not Semitic; the metal in Sanskrit being
_Kastīra_, which, like the Arabic _Khasdír_, may be from the Greek. The
Scilly islands were also called Æstrumnides, a name which occurs in R.
Festus Avienus (loc. cit.):

    “Ast hinc duobus in sacram, sic insulam
     Dixere prisci, solibus cursus rati est.
     Hæc inter undas multum cespitem jacit,
     Eam que latè gens Hibernorum colit.
     Propinqua rursus insula Albionum patet.
     Tartesiisque in terminos Æstrumnidum
     Negociandi mos erat Carthaginis
     Etiam colonis, et vulgus inter Herculis
     Agitans columnas hæc adibant æquora.”

All this, be it remembered, is borrowed from Punic sources. Therefore
Hibernia is explained by Bochart as “nihil aliud quam ultima
habitatio,” and Keltic Ierne is translated the “uttermost point.”

[34] The Greeks were in the habit of borrowing their geographical
terms from the indigenæ, not from the Phœnicians. Yet Dodwell is
hardly justified in rejecting Hanno’s Periplus because Greek names
occur instead of Phœnician. I have already derived their Erythræan
Sea from the Sea of Edom, and the Sea of Himyar (of which the root is
[illustration: symbol], redness); and the “Mountains of the Moon” from
Unyamwezi, still shortened on the coast to Mwezi, the general name for
the moon in the great south African family of languages. Dr Charnock
(Local Etymology) says, “Scotland is the land of the Scoti, who by some
have been considered as identical with the Σκύθαι, Scythæ, who may
have been named from their great skill in the use of the bow, their
principal weapon,” and he gives O. Teut. _scutten_, _scuthen_, archers;
Gael. _sciot_, an arrow, dart.

[35] Surely there is no reason why Macpherson should derive Hebrides
from Ey-brides, islands of St Bride or Brigida, the Vesta of the North.

[36] Compare “Fulham” (volucrum habitatio), the home of fowls.

[37] Celsius, indeed, arguing from the universal concensus of
the classical geographers, believes in the former insularity of
Scandinavia; the secular upheaval of the coast, which in parts still
continues, may account for its annexation to the continent. Thus
Skáni and Skáney (the-_ey_ answering to the Latinised-_avia_), the
modern term applied to Scania, the Scandinavia of Pliny and subsequent
geographers, is still given only to the southernmost point of the great
northern peninsula, the first district known to the Romans.

[38] M. Bruzen La Martinière (Grand Dictionnaire Géographique et
Critique, fol., La Hage, 1738, and Venice, 1741) runs this sentence
into the next, and makes the greater part of northern Thule barren.
The text is the reading adopted by the splendid edition of Claudius
Malvetus (Greek and Latin, Venetiis, 1729), and by the Latin
translation, Basiliæ ex officinâ Ioannis Hervagii (anno 1531, pp.
92-94, and not divided into chapters). As regards the Heruli, whom
Procopius calls Έρούλοι, we find in Stephanus Byzantinus (fifth
century) Έλούροι; in Sidonius Apollinaris (fifth century, Carm. 7):

    “Cursu Herulus, Hunnus jaculis, Francusque natatu;”

and in Zonaras (twelfth century) Άιρούλαι.

[39] La Martinière informs us that the Skithifini, Scritifini, or
Scrithifinni of Procopius were the Scritofinni of Paulus Diaconus
(sixth century), and the Crefennæ or Scretofennæ of Jornandes (sixth
century). This Scandinavian tribe, according to Hermanides (Descriptio
Norwegiæ, p. 46), held the country afterwards called Scredevinda or
Scriticivinda, extending along the coasts of the Boreal Ocean from the
confines of Finmark to the beginning of White Sea, and now included in
Russian Lapland. The account of Procopius also tallies with those of
the ancient Lapps.

[40] “Scana,” in Adam Bremensis; generally “Scandia,” and popularly
derived from “Schön” and “aue.” According to Cleasby, the Icel.
“Skáney” is said to mean “borderland,” and perhaps derived from “skán,”
a thin border, surface, etc.

[41] The whole account of Solinus is interesting enough for detailed
quotation: as regards Thyle being two days distant from Caledonia, and
five from the Orkneys; the numerals are supposed to be clerical errors:
“Multæ et aliæ Britanniam insulæ, e quibus Thyle ultima, in qua æstivo
solstitio sole de Cancri sidere faciente transitum nox pænè nulla:
brumali solstitio dies adès conductus, ut ortus junctus sit occasui.
A Caledoniæ promontorio Thylen petentibus bidui navagatione perfecta
excipiunt Hebridæ insulæ, quinque numero, quarum incolæ nesciunt
fruges, piscibus tantum et lacte vivunt. Rex unus est universis: nam
quotquot sunt, omnes augusta interluvie dividuntur. Rex nihil suum
habet, omnia universorum: ad æquitatem certis legibus stringitur;
ac ne avaritia divertat a vero, discit paupertate justitiam, utpote
cui nihil sit rei familiaris: verum alitur e publico. Nulla illi
datur femina propria, sed per vicissitudines, in quamcunque commotus
fuerit, usurarium sumit. Undo ei nec votum, nec spes conceditur
liberorum. Secundam a continenti stationem Orcades præbent: sed Orcades
ab Hebudibus porro sunt septem dierum, totidemque noctium cursu,
numero tres. Vacant homine; non habent silvas, tantum junceis herbis
inhorrescunt. Cetera earum undæ arenæ. Ab Orcadibus Thylen usque
quinque dierum ac noctium navigatio est. Sed Thyle larga et diutina
pomona copiosa est. Qui illic habitant, principio veris inter pecudes,
pabulis vivunt, deinde lacte. In hiemem compascunt arborum fructus.
Utuntur feminis vulgo; certum matrimonium nulli. Ultra Thylen pigrum et
concretum mare.”

[42] Both Ausonius (Idyl. 12) and Statius (loc. cit.) make Thule to be
“Hesperia,” _i.e._, west of Britain. On the other hand, the Geographer
of Ravenna (Pre Guido? v. 31) places his Thule east of Britain.

[43] Another authority was Ari Froði (Ara Multiscius), one of the
writers of the Landnámabók, who also tells us (c. 2, p. 10, in Schedis
de Islandiâ, Oxoniæ, 1716, 8vo) that these “hermits” chose not to live
with the heathen, and for that reason went away, leaving behind their
books, bells, and staves.

[44] M. Mallet’s Northern Antiquities (Bohn, 1859), p. 189, note by
the editor, Mr J. A. Blackwell. Mr G. W. Dasent (The Story of Burnt
Njal, Edin., Edmonstone & Douglas, vi., viii.) quotes Dicuili Liber de
Mensurâ Orbis Terræ, Ed. Valckenaer, Paris, 1807; and Maurer, Beiträge
zur Rechtsgeschichte des germanischen Nordens, i. 35.

[45] Or Columbanus (nat. circ. A.D. 559); he was born
about forty years later than St Columbkill.

[46] The word “Culdee” is used by Dasent. It was reserved for a
sub-learned and ultra-disputatious Icelander, Mr Eirikr Magnússon,
to assert at the Anthropological Institute (November 19, 1872), that
Culdee is a “general term for men of religious and monastic living, and
that the epithet is derived from ‘Cultores Dei.’ The singular is simply
the Erse ‘Ceile De,’ or ‘servant of God.’”

The following exhaustive note upon the Culdees was kindly forwarded to
me by Dr Richard S. Charnock:

    “The Culdees anciently had establishments not only in Scotland
    and Ireland, but also in England and Wales. They were numerous
    in Scotland, and continued there from the ninth century to the
    Reformation. Chalmers (Caledonia) says the Culdees of Scotland
    are not mentioned in history till about the beginning of the
    ninth century (circ. A.D. 800-815), and their
    first establishment was at Dunkeld, under the bishop of that see.
    They were afterwards (circ. A.D. 850) placed at
    St Andrews, where they had their chief establishment for many
    centuries; and it is stated by Buchanan that Constantine III., king
    of Scotland, who died in A.D. 943, spent the last
    five years of his life in religious retirement amongst the Culdees
    of that city. Chalmers states that before the introduction of the
    canons regular of St Andrews (twelfth century), the Culdees alone
    acted as secular canons in cathedrals, and as dean and chapter in
    the election of bishops; and that thenceforth both orders were
    joined in the right until A.D. 1272, when it was
    usurped by canons regular. He also says that the Culdees of Brechin
    continued for many ages to act as dean and chapter of that diocese,
    and according to Jamieson (History of the Culdees) the Culdees of
    St Andrews elected the bishop of that see down to the election of
    William Wishart (1270), when the power was abrogated; but in those
    early times it appears that the bishops in many sees in Scotland
    were of the order of Culdees. In G. Cambrensis mention is made
    of Culdees in the island of Bardsey, off the Welsh coast. The
    annotator of the Annals of the Four Masters (A.D.
    1479) says, ‘By the Latin writers they were called Colidæi,
    Culdei, Kelidei, and sometimes Deicolæ.’ The Colidei or Culdees
    are mentioned by various other ancient writers, and by several
    Scotch historians, as monks in Scotland as early as the fourth
    and fifth centuries. But the statements of John of Fordan, Hector
    Boethius, and others, are entirely contradicted by the learned
    Lanigan. Smith (Life of St Columbkill) and Jamieson (History)
    have maintained that they were Columbian monks, or members of
    that order instituted by St Columbkill at Iona, in the Hebrides,
    and also in various parts of Scotland; and they have represented
    these Culdees as a very strict and religious order in those early
    times, from the sixth to the twelfth century. But Lanigan shows
    that these statements are erroneous, and that the Culdees were not
    mentioned by the Venerable Bede or any other ancient ecclesiastical
    writer as Columbian monks, nor in the works of Usher or Ware,
    nor in the five lives of Columbkill published by Colgan. Lanigan
    considers that the Culdees were first instituted in Ireland in
    the eighth or ninth century; and Aongus, surnamed Ceile De, a
    celebrated ecclesiastical writer of the eighth century, author of
    Lives of Irish Saints, etc., is supposed to have been a Culdee.
    They are mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters and of Ulster
    (A.D. 920), in which it is recorded that Godfrey,
    king of the Danes of Dublin, plundered Armagh, but he spared the
    churches and Colidæi. It appears from Lanigan and other authorities
    that the Culdees were not, strictly speaking, monks, neither were
    they members of the parochial clergy, but were a description of
    secular priests called ‘secular canons,’ and attached to cathedrals
    or collegiate churches termed prebendaries; and although bound by
    rules peculiar to themselves, they belonged to the secular clergy,
    and are to be distinguished from the canons regular, or communities
    of monks, who sprang up at a much later period, and officiated in
    the chapters of cathedral churches. The Culdees also sang in the
    choir, lived in community, and had a superior called ‘Prior of the
    Culdees,’ who acted as precentor or chief chanter. The principal
    institution of the Culdees was at Armagh, and, according to Usher
    and others, there were Culdees in all the chief churches of Ulster;
    and some of them continued at Armagh down to the middle of the
    seventeenth century. The Culdees had priories and lands in various
    parts of Ireland, particularly at Devenish Island, in Fermanagh,
    and at Clones, in Monaghan, both in the diocese of Clogher; also
    at Ardbraccan in Meath: and G. Cambrensis gives an account of the
    Colidæi who lived on an island in a lake in North Munster, which
    island was called by the Irish _Inis na mbeo_, or the ‘Island of
    the Living’ (or of cattle?), from a tradition that no person ever
    died on it; it was afterwards called Mona Incha, and was situated
    about three miles from Roscrea, in the bog of Monela, in Tipperary.
    In the time of G. Cambrensis this island was a celebrated place of
    pilgrimage; and their residence was afterwards removed to Corbally,
    a place near the lake, where the Culdees became canons regular of
    St Augustíne. Though the Irish Culdees were generally clergymen,
    yet some pious unmarried laymen joined their communities. There
    were also Culdees in Britain, particularly in the North of England,
    in the city of York, where they had a great establishment called
    the Hospital of St Leonard, and were secular canons of St Peter’s
    Cathedral, as mentioned in Dugdale’s Monasticon; and got some
    grants of lands in A.D. 936, during the reign of
    Athelstan, and continued at York at least down to the time of Pope
    Adrian IV., who confirmed them in their possessions. We also read
    in the ‘Annals,’ under A.D. 1479, that Pearce, son
    of Nicholas O’Flanagan, who was a canon of the chapter of Clogher,
    a parson, and a prior of the Ceile De, a sacristan of Devenish,
    and an official of Loch Erne (vicar-general of Clogher), a man
    distinguished for his benevolence, piety, great hospitality, and
    humanity, died after having gained the victory over the world
    and the devil. It would appear by the Annals of the Four Masters
    that Culdees were found in Ireland in A.D. 1601:
    ‘O’Donnell having received intelligence that the English had come
    to that place (Boyle), was greatly grieved at the profanation of
    the monastery, and that the English should occupy and inhabit it in
    the place of the Mic Beathaidh (monks) and Culdees, whose rightful
    residence it was till then, and it was not becoming him not to
    go to relieve them if he possibly could.’ At the Reformation, a
    little later, out of 563 monasteries in Ireland mentioned by Ware,
    and also in Archdale’s Monasticon, it would appear that there
    was one belonging to the Culdees, viz., the Priory of Culdees at
    Armagh. See also Dr Jamieson’s History of the Culdees, 4to, Edin.;
    Maccatheus’s History of the Culdees, 12mo, Edin. 1855; and Keith’s
    Catalogue of Scottish Bishops, new edition.”

[47] Vol. i., chap. 8. This traveller did not visit the cave, but
quotes from Olafsson and Pállsson, p. 927.

[48] This interesting letter was brought to the author’s notice by Dr
Attilio Hortis, Director of the Bibliotheca Civica, Trieste. This young
and ardent scholar has published for the centenary festival of Petrarch
(June 1874), certain political documents hitherto unprinted; they prove
Petrarch to have been, like almost all the great Italian poets, a
far-seeing statesman in theory if not in practice.

[49] Bochart (in Chanaan, i. 40), quoting Diogenes and Dercyllides
of Tyre, whose tables, according to Photius (loc. cit.), were dug up
by order of Alexander the Great, explains Thule to mean in Phœnician
“tenebrarum insula.” But this etymology reminds us of the Semitic
origin applied to Britain.

[50] The Icel. is Thilir, men of Thela-mörk, mark of the Thilir, the
Norwegian country now called Thilemarken.

[51] Dr Charnock remarks that “Thule” is the name of a river in
Glamorganshire, of a place in Silesia, and a town in Westphalia; also
that “Southern Thule” was a title given to a part of Sandwich Island,
the southernmost region discovered by Captain Cook in January 1775. Lt.
Wilford’s Pandit invented a Pushkara Dwipa under the Arctic circle,
corresponding with modern Iceland. Camden (Britannia) warns us, not
unnecessarily, against confounding the “insula in ultimis et extremis
Borealis Oceani secessibus longè sub Arctico Polo,” with the Indian
“Tylis” or “Tylos” (Bahrayn?), of which St Augustine (lib. xxi. 5, De
Civit. Dei) says, “Tylen Indiæ insulam eo preferri cæteris terris,
quod omnis arbor quæ in eâ gignitur nunquam nudatur tegmine foliorum,”
doubtless alluding to the palm. Strabo, we believe, does not mention
“Tylos;” Pliny refers to it in three places (Nat. Hist., vi. 32, and
xii. 21 and 22).

[52] To which may be added, neglecting the “Automata” of classical and
mediæval times (Pliny, i. 89; Ruspe, de Novis Insulis, etc.), Arons
Island (1628); Sorea of the Moluccas (1693); the offsets of Santorin
(1707); Stromöe (1783); Graham Island, near Sicily, which, in 1831, was
thrown up to a height of 750 feet, and the three outliers of Santorin
(1866). These little worlds enable us to study Earth in the art of

[53] From Palagonia in Sicily, where it was first described (1838) by
that savant (see pp. 222-483, and 802, Dana’s System of Mineralogy,
Trübner, London, 1871). The specific gravity is 2·43, and the fracture
mostly conchoidal. The distinguished chemist, Professor Bunsen (Sect.
ix., § 1), who, succeeding in producing artificial Palagonite, gives
it iron, either magnetic or peroxide, and “some alkali,” a vague
term: Dr W. Lauder Lindsay adds minor constituents, felspar, augite
(hornblende), jasper, olivine, obsidian, hornstone, chalcedony, and
zeolite. Professor Tyndall (Royal Institution, June 3, 1853) offers the
following table:

Oxide of iron,      36·75
Alumina,            25·50
Lime,               20·25
Magnesia,           11·39 (not found by Dr Murray Thomson).
Soda,                3·44
Potash,              2·67

In 1872, only a single and a very poor specimen of this highly
interesting rock had found its way to the museum in Jermyn Street.

[54] From Stuðill, anything that steadies, a stud, prop, stay. A
specific usage makes Stuðlar signify pentagonal basalt columns, and
Stuðla-berg is a basaltic dyke (Cleasby). It is popularly opposed to
Mó-berg, “a kind of tufa,” properly Palagonite, from Mór, a moor or

[55] About ninety species of mollusk shells and the hard parts of
echinoderms and crustaceæ have been found in the Palagonite of Sicilian
Aci Castello. Lime, for the use of the shell-builders, enters into
the composition of such tuffs generally, and the percentage depends
upon the percentage of shells. Silica is extracted from it by carbonic
acid and sulphuretted hydrogen; and this mineral again depends upon
the included quantity of infusorial skeletons. Professor Quekett, Dr
Gulliver, and other authorities, have examined specimens of Icelandic
Palagonite, in which they could not detect infusoria nor their
skeletons, even after boiling in nitric acid.

[56] The word “trap” will be used in these pages to denote the lavas
ejected by submarine volcanoes.

[57] Until late years the general opinion was that all basalts are
of igneous formation. The contrary has been supported by Mr H. P.
Malet (Geogr. Mag., August 1874), to mention no others: he finds in
that of Rossberg and the “Rowley Rag” vegetable, animal, and earthy
particles which, passed through the fire, would have vanished in
vapour. The distinction, therefore, between basalt and basaltic lava
becomes fundamental. Granite, again, is by the same writer taken from
Hutton and returned to Werner. The author could not but observe, when
travelling in the basaltic Haurán, in that Bashan which, according to
some, gave a name to the mineral, that the dried mud split under the
sun into lozenges and pentagonal flakes (Unexplored Syria, i. 215).
Upon this subject more will be said in Chapter XIV.

[58] Forchhammer considered this trachyte an unknown variety of
felspar, and called it Baulite.

[59] See Chapter XI.

[60] The date “revealed to Moses” has long delayed the progress of
science, and the 6000 years or so, still linger in the orthodox brains.
The Hindus and the Moslems were far wiser, or rather better informed;
the latter provide for the countless Æons of the past by the theory of
Pre-Adamite kings and races.

[61] The Jökull (_plur._ Jöklar) is explained _passim_. Suffice it
here to say, that it is a mass of eternal ice formed by the enormous
pressure of the superincumbent snow; it is not correct, but it is
decidedly convenient to render it by “glacier.” The Fell (our “fell,”
pronounced _Fedl_ or _Fetl_) is a single block or peak, and in the
plural, a range or sierra; it is mostly free from snow during the
summer heats. Fjall (_Fyadl_, and _plur_. Fjöll) is the generic term
“mons” and κατ’ ἐξοχὴν; it is applied in Icelandic literature to the

[62] Here is the culminating point of the island, usually assumed at
6500 English feet, more than one-third higher than Vesuvius (4000 feet).

[63] Usually assumed at 6000 English feet.

[64] Generally exaggerated to 5700 English feet.

[65] Popularly reckoned at 5900 English feet.

[66] This is about the forest limit of Scandinavia (2500 feet). The
spruce fir first disappears, the Scotch fir rises a few hundred feet
higher, and the highest is the birch, common and dwarf (_Betula alba_
and _nana_).

[67] Sprengisandur; from “sprengja,” to burst, to split (in an active
sense); “að sprengja hest,” to burst a horse, to ride it till it
bursts. This is the reason of the name: the Sprengisandur has so few
halting places, that there is a danger of working the horse to death
before coming to a station. It is generally and erroneously translated
“springing,” _i.e._, wind-blown, sands. The Ruba’ el Kháli (“empty
fourth,” or quarter) is the great Arabian Desert.

[68] Drangr, = a lonely, upstanding rock; in popular lore, rocks
thought to be giants turned into stones.

[69] The total number of recorded eruptions between A.D.
894 and 1862 is given by Baring-Gould, Introduction, xxi.-xxiii. There
have been eighty-six from twenty-seven (reckoned in round numbers to
be thirty) different spots, and the intervals of repose have varied in
Hekla from six to seventy-six years; in Kötlu-gjá from six to three
hundred and eleven. Such is the statement generally made. The fact
is, however, that the exact number of the eruptions is not known, as
the annals are more or less confused. The number of volcanic foci in
Iceland is popularly and roughly laid down at twenty, and of these
three are called active--Hekla, Katla or Kötlu-gjá, and the Vatnajökull
volcano. It is a large proportion out of the total assigned to the
world; the latter varies between the extremes of 167 and 300, showing
the uncertainty of our present knowledge. Popular books speak of 2000
eruptions per century, or an average of twenty per annum.

[70] Smoke also appeared in the sea off Reykjanes, and pumice was
thrown upon the shore during February 1834. This phenomenon was
followed by an earthquake at Reykjavik, August 15-20, 1835.

[71] The formation of these four items will be explained in a
subsequent page; they are very improperly massed together.

[72] The year after the author’s departure witnessed an eruption of
the Skaptárjökull, in the north-west corner of the Vatnajökull, but it
lasted only four to five days. The following account appeared in the
papers; nothing more has subsequently been learned about it. But how
can this outbreak “witness against Captain Burton’s assertion in the
_London Standard_”--the same assertion which is here repeated in the
text, and which was made in 1872?

“An Icelandic gentleman has kindly forwarded to us the following
account of the eruption of the Skaptárjökull (announced by telegraph
from Lerwick yesterday), as witnessed by him from Reykjavik, about 100
miles distant:

“‘REYKJAVIK, March 23, 1873.

“‘On Thursday, the 9th of January, about three o’clock A.M., we observed
from Reykjavik a grand fire in east-north-east direction, and all agreed
that it was “some neighbouring farm burning,” with haystacks. The fire
shot up like lightning, displaying beautiful evolutions in combination
with the electricity above. Indeed, it was exactly like a fine display
of rockets and wheels, and so bright was it, that during the dark
morning hours we all thought it must be very close to Reykjavik. But
when daylight dawned, and we could discern the mountains, we observed a
thick and heavy column of vapour or steam far in the background, beyond
all mountains visible, so it was clear that it was far off, and,
according to the direction, it seemed most likely to be in
Skaptárjökull, the west part of Vatnajökull--the great waste of glaciers
in the east and south of the island. Morning and night this grand
display was visible during the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th, and during the
day the column of steam and smoke stood high in the sky.

“‘When similar news came from east, north, and west, all came to the
same conclusion, that it must be in Skaptárjökull--witnessing against
Captain Burton’s assertion in the _London Standard_--and according to
the different points of observation, and the statement of our newspaper
at Reykjavik, the position of the crater ought to be between 64° 7´
and 64° 18´ north lat., and 30° 45´ and 30° 55´ west long. from the
meridian of Copenhagen.

“‘In the east, near Berufjörð, as stated in the northern paper, some
shocks were felt, and fire was seen from many farms. Ashes, too, had
fallen over the north-east coast, so that pasture fields were covered
so far that the farmers had to take their sheep into the huts and feed
them. But the paper says: “In the south no earthquakes were felt, or
noises heard in the earth, far or near, as far as Markarfljót (near
Eyjafjallajökull). Nowhere has been observed any fall of ashes or
dust, but all over a bad smell was felt, and also here in Reykjavik in
the forenoon of the 10th. The people of Landeyjar (opposite Westmann
Islands) assert the same to have been the case there on the first day
of the eruption, but here, at Reykjavik, it was not observed that day,
but we felt the air very close, particularly on the 9th, from three to
five o’clock in the afternoon, with some smell of sulphur and powder,
very like the smell from a lately discharged gunbarrel.”

“‘No change was observed in the sun, moon, etc. The sky was clear all
these days. The direction of the wind was from N.W.--W.S.W., and the
weather fine. At Laudeyjum the wind had been E.N.E. on the 10th, with a
strong breeze, and the column of steam got very high, and mist hid all
the eastern horizon, but no fall of ashes took place.

“‘This eruption lasted only four or five days, and is not likely to
have done any damage to inhabited parts or pasture grounds, except in
so far as the fall of ashes might hurt the sheep.

“‘The weather has been very changeable during the whole winter, but
very little snow has fallen in the southern part of the country. The
cod-fishing has been very favourable when the boats have been able to
go out. During the stormy weather some fishermen were lost. On the 1st
of March we had a very heavy fall of snow, but since then the weather
has been mild but rather stormy.’”

[73] It was reported that there were a hundred wrecks, the “Abydos”
alone being able to ride out the storm.

[74] I have given an account of this event in “Ocean Highways,”
February 1874.

[75] The late Professor Forbes was the first to show that Iceland,
the Færoes, the Hebrides, Ireland, and Iberia, are connected by a
“continuous tract of land, ranging from the Azores along the line of
that belt of gulf-weed which exists between N. lat. 15° and 45°.”

[76] This eruption is reported to have discharged a mass of lava
greater in bulk than Mount Etna. According to Henderson (_i._ 274-289,
who borrows from the account of Chief-Justice Stephensen), it destroyed
9336 human beings, 28,000 horses, 11,461 head of cattle, and 190,488
sheep. This mortality resulted either directly from the ejection of
molten lava and stone showers, débâcles and aqueous lavas; or from
pestilence, the effect of sulphureous and other noxious vapours; or
from famine, the fish leaving the coast, and the pasturage being
destroyed by erupted sand and ashes.

[77] Fjörðr, _plur._ Firðir.

[78] Út-ver in Icel. is an outlying place for fishing, etc.; hardly
corresponding with the continental “udver.”

[79] See Journal, chap. 5.

[80] Surtr, _i.e._, the Black, an Eddic name of a fire-giant.

[81] Englishmen would call them “old men.”

[82] Henderson (i. 127) translates “Höfdabrecka” by “Breakneck.”
Hálsavegr is from “háls,” Scotticè “halse.”

[83] Á (fem.) at the end of a word means a water, as Temsá = Thames
River: so the German Don-au is the Iceland Dóná, the Danube. The root
may be traced through the Sanskrit _Ap_, the Persian [Illustration:
Persian], and the Latin _Aqua_ to almost all families of European
speech. Uncomposed, the Icelandic “Vatn” means water or lake.

[84] In old vellums spelt invariably Vatz, Vaz, or Vazt, and Vass is
the modern pronunciation. Only in two instances not dating earlier than
the twelfth century, we find Vatr, with the _r_ common to all Teutonic
peoples, and showing its connection with Wasser and Water (Cleasby).

[85] Paijkull translates the word “to ascend violently.” It is derived
from _að gjósa_, to gush. Max Müller (Science of Language, Longmans,
1862) derives it from the root which gives ghost, geist, gust, yeast,
gas, etc.

[86] The dictionary gives only Náma or Námi, a mine or pit, for this
word of general use.

[87] Lyell’s Principles of Geology, vol. i., p. 241, 11th edition. A
fuller notice of this isotherm (32° F.) is given in Baring-Gould’s
Introduction, pp. xxx., xxxi.

[88] The question is of vast practical importance. Upon it hinges the
decision whether future Polar voyages, so necessary to the advanced
study of electrical phenomena, to mention no other, shall take the
route by Smith’s Sound or by Spitzbergen. For the battle of the Gulf
Stream and Polar current between the Færoes and Iceland, see the
Mittheilungen, xvi. (Nos. vi. and vii. of 1870), where the Gulf Stream
is made to show 36°·5 F. as far as Novaya Zemlja, and to enter the
Polar basin with diminution of temperature. The two distinct strata,
the warm (40°-80° F.), and the heavier and more saline cold (about 35°
F.) in the channel of the Færoes towards Scotland, have been described
by Drs Carpenter and Wyville Thomson, the last time at the British
Association, Sect. E, August 22, 1874.

[89] The author and his late friend F. F. Steinhaeuser, were never
satisfied with Admiral Maury’s “Ocean River,” even though this ῥοὴ
ὠκεανοῖο flowed more rapidly and was a thousand times larger than
the Mississippi--larger, indeed, than “all the rivers of the globe
put together.” Like the Pacific Kurosiwo or Black Stream, off Japan,
it always suggested the idea of being only the main artery, the most
important and noticeable part of a great whole.

[90] The most extensive are those of M. Victor Lottier (Physique,
etc.), printed in the Gaimard work, and containing three parts: I.
Observations of magnetism--declination, inclination, diurnal variation
and intensity. II. Meteorology--barometer and thermometer; force
of winds, Aurora Borealis, etc. III. Miscellaneous observations;
astronomical phenomena; tides; remarks on maps and stations of the
expedition. The Smithsonian Institute has published many studies of the
Icelandic climate: in Scotland, also, as will presently appear, much
has been done.

[91] The author has been unable to find at Trieste, the publications of
the “Smithsonian Institute.”

[92] Old writers declared that the mercury habitually rose higher in
Norway and Iceland than in England and France; moreover, that the air
particles being more compressed and heavier, diminished the weight of
objects. Thus, we are assured, 1000 lbs. of copper at Rouen = 1010 at

[93] The author did not see a thunderstorm during his stay in Iceland.
As regards reverberation, he remarked on the Camerones Mountain, when
above the electrical discharges, and when free from the echo of earth,
that the lightning was followed only by a short, sharp report, without
any “rolling.”

[94] Ozone is utterly absent during the Sharki or Scirocco of Syria,
and the trying effects of the east wind upon the constitution are well
known to every resident. This is the more curious as it exists in
the adjoining desert, when in the Nile valley and in the oases it is
comparatively deficient. It has lately been proved to be everywhere
more abundant in winter than in summer.

[95] It is there called Soel-far Vind (sun-faring wind); hence
Sól-gangs veðr means weather of the sun’s course. The normal
continental winds are (1.) the Land-south (south-east), warm, and
therefore called Korn-moen, or the mother of corn; (2.) the north-east,
termed Hambakka because it melts snow from the hill-tops; (3.) the
Haf-gul (sea cooler), the west wind or sea breeze of the tropics,
blowing from noon till midnight; and (4.) the Land-gul (land cooler),
the east or land breeze, lasting from 2 A.M. to 10 A.M.

[96] Mr J. A. Hjaltalín remarks, “Thoka is equivalent to the English
fog, and Sjólæða (sea creeper) is the mist which lies on the surface of
the water, leaving the hill-tops clear. These are the only Icelandic
names known to me.”

[97] The term is also applied to lightning, and to meteors generally.
Hooker corrupts it to “Laptelltur,” and he has been copied into many a
popular book.

[98] The word is written Nikuðr and Nikuðs, Hnikar and Nikarr:
originally a title of Odin, it has survived in the Icel. Nykr, a nick
or water-goblin in the shape of a grey sea-horse, with inverted hoofs;
and in the German Nix, a nymph or water-fairy.

[99] Or a “carrion lowe” (Cleasby).

[100] Even at Trieste, which is the heart of the temperates, with the
parallel of 45° passing near it, there is an autumn, but no spring, the
weather changing at once from cold to heat.

[101] Svasuðr, the name of a giant, the father of Summer. See the Edda.

[102] The way of counting amongst the old Scandinavians and Teutons was
complex and curious, as they had no indeclinable numeral adjectives
from twenty to a hundred (_i.e._, 120): the word “tigr,” a ten or
decade, was a noun like Hundrað and Thúsund. Thus 41 was called 4 tens
and 1, or “1 of the fifth decade;” 45 was “half the fifth tenth;” and
48 was “4 tens and 8;” or going back (like the Lat. un-de-viginti and
duo-de-triginta) “5 tens short of 2.” In the fourteenth century “tigr”
began to lose its character as a substantive (Cleasby).

[103] Mr Dasent says the Thursday between April 9 and 15 (O. S.).

[104] Modern, Góa.

[105] “Gaukmánuðr,” according to Guðbrandr Vigfusson, from the middle
of April to the middle of May. Gaukr is the Scotch gowk, the cuckoo.
Hrossa-gaukr, “horse cuckoo,” is the green sandpiper, from its peculiar
cry (Cleasby). In Sect. 7 the word will be found to have another

[106] According to the old Icelandic computation of time, as given in
the Almanak, Heyanuir was the first month, and began the 25th of July;
II. Tvímánuðr; III. Haustmánuðr; IV. Gormánuðr; V. Frermánuðr; VI.
Mörsugr; VII. Thorri; VIII. Gói; IX. Einmánuðr; X. Harpa; XI. Skerpla;
XII. Sólmánuðr, ending on the 20th of July. From July 21st to 24th
are called Aukanætur. The names of the months VII. to IX. are still
popularly known. For the rest, the Icelanders count by winter weeks
and summer weeks, when they do not use the common names of the months.
The terms given by Finnur Magnússon in Specimen Calendarii, _e.g._,
Miðvetrarmánuðr, Föstuinngangsmánuðr, are never used, and it cannot be
seen that they ever were known to the people.

[107] See the Icel. treatise called “Fingra-rím;” rím = computation,
calendar: A. S. rîm, and ge-rîm.

[108] Dagsmark, “day-mark,” means both the space of three hours
(_trihorium_) and the mark by which this period is fixed.

[109] Others derive it from vika, a week.

[110] Dillon reduces it at Reykjavik to three, and he found the
sunlight during Christmas little lighter than our twilights; but the
winter was worse than usual.


Synopsis of dates:
A.D. 860 (861, Uno Von Troil). Iceland touched at by Naddodd. About this
         time (862), the Scandinavians, according to Nestor, founded the
         Russian empire.
” 864. Garðar Svafarson built the first house in “Garðarshólm.”
” 874. First official colonisation of Iceland by Ingólfr Arnarson.
” 877. Gunnbjörn discovered the Gunnbjörnarsker and coast of Greenland.
” 929. Althing or Diet founded by Ulfljót.
” 930-1300. Augustan age of literature under the aristocratic Republic.
” 981-1000. Official discovery of the New World by the Northmen.
” 982. Greenland visited by Eirikr Rauði (Eric the Red), father of Leifr
         the Lucky.
” 986. First colony in Greenland established by the same. In 1124 the
         Bishop’s See was placed at Garðar.
” 1262-1264. Iceland incorporated with Norway.
” 1380.         ”        ”         ”  Denmark.
” 1477. Iceland visited by Columbus.
” 1540-1551. Lutheranism prevailed over Catholic Christianity.
” 1800. Althing abolished.
” 1843.    ”  re-established.
” 1845.    ”  first met at Reykjavik.
” 1874. First Constitution granted to the island on the date of its Millenary
         after Ingólf’s settlement.

[112] _i.e._, Land-nim-(Germ. nehmen, “Corporal Nym,” and modern slang,
“to nim”) book.

[113] Cointius Annal. Benedict, tom. viii., et Bollandus die 3 febr. in
Comment. prævio ad vitam S. Anscharii, § xvii., Copenhagen, 1857.

[114] “The Apostle of the North,” a monk from the monastery of New
Corvey, in Westphalia, who introduced Christianity to Denmark about
A.D. 827.

[115] The words in italics are those quoted with variants by Pontanus,
who, however, has added nothing to nor has he taken aught from the

[116] Data est hæc bulla post annum 834, quamvis ab aliquibus et
præsertim a Pontano in rebus Danicis eo anno adscribatur.

[117] Here, again, the question is simply, “Has the Bull been tampered
with or not?” It would evidently be desirable to consult the earliest
copies still extant, but unfortunately the author has no power of so
doing at present. The Bull of Pope Nicholas V. (A.D. 1448) should also
be carefully inspected. See p. 84.

[118] In p. 432 (loc. cit.) we are told that _Angrim Jonas_ is
“erroneously call’d _Arngrim_ by some”--it need hardly be said that the
real name is Arngrímr Jónsson.

[119] Popular history, it has been seen, attributes the exploration to
Eirikr Rauð (Eric the Red) in A.D. 982, some five centuries before the
days of Columbus. Captain Graah, of whom more presently, speaks of a
papal Bull by Nicholas V., who in A.D. 1448 declares Christianity in
Greenland to date from 600 years back, thus removing the colonisation to
A.D. 848. We have ample materials for determining the exact limits of
the Northmen’s explorations by their precising the length of the day.
For instance, at Vínland the sun at the winter solstice was above the
horizon from Dagmál (7.30 A.M.) to Eykt (4.30 P.M.), which gives nine
hours = N. lat. 41°.

[120] The Dictionary (iii. 780) gives forty-nine Keltic names in the
Landnámabók only, neglecting the Orkneyinga, or Iarla, Saga, and the

[121] Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín remarks: “The large number of Irish settlers
in Iceland after Ingólf do not prove anything concerning a previous
settlement. No one denies that Iceland was visited by the Irish
previous to the Norwegian discovery. No proofs, however, have been as
yet brought forward to show that a settlement was made more extensive
than that spoken of in Landnámabók, and by Ari Fródi. The great bulk
of the settlers were Norwegians; the rest were Danes, Swedes, and
Irishmen.” (See Landnámabók; Lambert, Ἀρχαιονομία, fol. 137, p. 2; and
Encyclopedie des Gens du Monde, vol. ii., p. 60.)

[122] Some foreigners erroneously write for Althingi, “Allthing,” which
would be pronounced Atl-or Adl-thing. _Al_-is from _allr_, all, the
highest possible degree, _e.g._, Al-máttigr, Almighty. _All_-is right
or very, _e.g._, All-vitr, right clever (Cleasby). The following is a
synopsis of the most important events in the history of this famous

A.D. 965. Reform (bill) carried by Thord Gellir, who organised the courts and
           settled the political divisions of Iceland.
” 1004. Institution of the Fifth Court (of Appeal).
” 1024. Repudiation of the King of Norway’s attempt to annex Iceland.
” 1096. Tíund or tithes introduced.
” 1117-18. The laws codified, written down, and adopted by the Althing. This
           code was afterwards called Grágás.
” 1262-64. Submission to the King of Norway.
” 1272. Second written code (Járn-siða) introduced.
” 1280 (?). Third written code (Jóns-bók) introduced.

[123] Traces of some two hundred Things remain in the “Standing Stones”
of Great Britain. Mr Dasent, from whose study of the Iceland republic
(Introduction, etc., Burnt Njal, pp. li.-lxvii.) these lines are
abridged, shows our _meeting_ to be “Mót-Thing,” a public gathering of
the district freeholders: as _Husting_ is “House-Thing,” an assembly of
householders. In Norway the Things were founded by Hákon, son of Harold
Fair-hair, and the conquest over the Jarls was at once followed by the

[124] Sir Thomas Hungerford in 1377 was the first Speaker, and Sir
John Busby in 1394 was the first Speaker formally presented for royal
approval. These officials were the mouth-piece of the House, and by no
means so called on the _lucus-a-non-lucendo_ principle.

[125] The word is liable to misapprehension. It is used of the place
as well as of the body sitting there; of the Sacred Circle (Vé-bönd)
as well as of the lawmen who occupied it. Moreover, under the
Commonwealth, it was the legislative session that met on the Lög-berg;
and after the union with Norway it was the public court of law at the
Althing considerably modified. The term is also variously derived from
Rètt, a fence, a sheep-fold; or from Að rètta lög, to right (or make
right) the law (Cleasby). Moreover, the Lög-berg (Hill of Laws) of the
Althing was called Thing-brekka (Parliament brink, or high place) at
the local assemblies.

[126] Lög (_i.e._, “laws,” used only in the plural; from “lag,” a lay,
layer, stratum) also signified the legal community or State.

[127] The Anglo-Saxon Leode, probably akin to June (ærra Liða) and July
(æftera Liða); the Irish Fo-leith, and our modern “leet,” properly the
law-court of the hundred. In the Saga times (tenth century) the Leið
was a kind of county assembly; during the rule of the Grágás (twelfth
and thirteenth centuries), the Leið was held where the Vár-Thing used
to sit, in common with all the three Goðar of the Quarter (Sam-leið).

[128] The Northlanders, by a provincial arrangement which the central
authority hardly recognised, claimed four instead of three judicial
circles (Thing-sóknir). The reason was, that the heads of houses east
of the Eyjafjörð and west of the Skagafjörð, whose Quadrant-Things lay
in the middle of the Tetrad, refused to ride so far.

[129] Nat. A.D. 930; converted to Christianity, 998, and
murdered, 1014. Cleasby derives “Fimtar” from “Fimt,” the heathen week,
a pentad or five days; whilst the Swedish “Femt,” a court before which
one has to appear a “fimt” from the citation, seems to have floated
before the minds of the founders.

[130] Fat and ferocious Ólafr Helgi (Olaf II., or the Saint), when
succeeding to the throne of Norway, doomed to death and slavery, to
exile and confiscation, all who opposed the new faith. The blood of
martyred pagans was not the seed of their Church; and persecution,
vigorously carried out, took, as usual, wide effect. After his death at
the battle of Stikklestad, he became the tutelar saint of Norway, the
“Lamb” of the calendar. His remains ranked as relics in the ancient
cathedral at Throndhjem, till Protestantism, or rather Lutheranism,
under Gustavus Vasa (A.D. 1527), and Christian II. (1536), replaced
Romanism in the Scandinavian peninsula. The Royal Order of Norway,
founded in 1847 by the late king, Oscar I., bears his name. London has
boasted of four “St Olaves;” and Tooley Street of the Tailors, according
to Mr Peter Cunningham, notes the site of the first church. To retain
due reverence for such a “Saint,” we must believe with Pliny (Epist.,
viii. 24): “Reverere gloriam veterem, et hanc ipsam senectutem, quæ in
homine venerabilis, in urbibus sacra. Sit apud te honor antiquitati, sit
ingentibus factis, _sit fabulis quoque_.”

[131] It was a classical dream which made Odin or Sigge (whence
Sigtuna), and his followers the Æsir (minor gods), fly from Pompey in
the days of Mithridates. It was a philological dream of Finn Magnússon’s
which identified Bragi with Bramhá, and the ferocious and sanguinary
Odin with the moral and holy Buddha, the prototype of the Christian
exemplar. The casual resemblance to the Etruscan Tina has not been more
fortunate. Some one well remarks that “a man born about A.D. 333, and
dying seventy-eight years old (A.D. 411), would, in respect to time,
perfectly represent the personage whom the Scandinavians and the
Anglo-Saxons call Odin and Woden, and who are the roots of their royal

[132] This fact was not unknown to Bishop Warburton and to Lord Herbert
of Cherbury. In the Egyptian hymn to Phthah we read: “Praised be thy
countenance, Ruler of the World!” Ausonius thus explains the multitude
of synonyms:

    “Ogygia ME Bacchum vocat;
     Osirin Ægyptus putat;
     Mystæ Phanacen nominant;
     Dionyson Indi existimant;
     Romana sacra Liberum;
     Arabica gens Adoneum;
     Lucianus Pantheum.”

Those who see in ancient myths the eternal contest of sunlight
and darkness; of summer and winter, and, in the moral world, of
intelligence and ignorance, will find strong confirmation in Eddaic
poetry and prose.

[133] Properly written Thórr, a congener of the Mæso-Gothic Thunrs,
the Thunder-god who named our Thursday. Whilst his golden-haired wife,
Sif, who represented mother earth, with her sheaves of ripe grain,
and the sanctity of wedlock and the family, is wholly forgotten, this
terrigenous deity still lives, as we shall see, in modern Icelandic
names. It is usually said that Iceland, following Norway, preferred
Thórr, whilst the Danes paid the highest honours to Odin, and the
Swedes to Freya (Venus), or rather to Freyr, her brother, the sun-god,
who presided over the seasons and bestowed peace, fertility, and riches.

[134] The reader may remember, in the late Rev. Frederick Robertson’s
Lectures to Working Men, a fine passage upon the same subject.

[135] Væringi (plur.-_jar_) _Warings_, or the name of the Scandinavian
and Anglo-Saxon warriors serving as bodyguards to the Emperors of

[136] Of the monks proper (Icel. Múnkr, = μονὸς, monachus), only
Benedictines were found in Iceland. They were accompanied by the
regular canons of St Augustine. There were no “brothers” (fratres)
or religious mendicants, as Dominicans and Franciscans; nor “regular
clerks,” as Jesuits, Theatines, etc., who date since the sixteenth
century; nor secular priests united in congregations like Oratorians
and Lazarists.

[137] As will be seen, modern law recognises, or rather compels, an
official arbitration before causes can be brought into court.

[138] The author would by no means make the invidious assertion
that the Danish treatment of colonies was worse than that of other
contemporary nations. On the contrary, in Africa, India, and the West
Indian Islands, it has been a favourable contrast to most of the rest.
But Europe in the fourteenth century, and in the ages which followed
it, presents a melancholy contrast with the refined and civilised usage
of her settlements by Republican and Imperial Rome.

[139] Of this process there were two forms, which began to be passed
(circa) A.D. 1180. Bann, or Meira Bann was E. Major; Minna Bann was E.
Minor, whilst the interdict was called For-boð, the German Verbot.

[140] This prudential reservation is the more necessary as most of our
information comes from the enemy. Bishop Jón Ögmundsson had two wives,
not at the same time, but one after another.

[141] “In the sixteenth century the Reformation was forced upon the
people by the united kingdoms of Denmark and Norway; its progress
was everywhere marked by blood, and even the Lutheran historian,
Finn Jónsson, is unable to veil completely the atrocities which were
committed. The venerable bishop of Hólar, Jón Arnason (_sic_, doubtless
a clerical error), the last Catholic prelate, received the crown of
martyrdom along with his two sons, uttering with his dying breath,
‘Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!’” Thus writes Baring-Gould
(Introduction, xl.). Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín hereupon observes: “I must
call attention to this quotation from Mr Baring-Gould regarding the
introduction of the Reformation into Iceland. I cannot protest too
strongly against it. _It is utterly false from beginning to end._ Every
one who has the slightest acquaintance with the history of Iceland
during the sixteenth century knows that Lutheranism was _not_ forced
upon the Icelanders. The Reformation movement was only encouraged by
the king of Denmark. Old men, Bishop Jón Arason among others, were
permitted to retain their former faith if they were willing to leave
others equally undisturbed in the exercises of their religion. This
fact is corroborated by the bishop’s immediate descendants, who in
everything glorified their ancestor as a martyr. Further, it cannot
be shown that a single person lost his life in Iceland in connection
with the introduction of the Reformation. The quarrel which led to the
death of the bishop and his two sons arose from a dispute about the
sale and occupation of a farm in the west. Bishop Jón Arason was an
exact counterpart of the chiefs of the Sturlunga times; he delighted
to ride about the island with hundreds of followers, and to engage
in fights and broils with every one who had any property to lose.
That it was not religious zeal that devoured him or his sons may be
seen from the fact, that in a letter to the chancellor of the king
of Denmark (dated 10th August 1550) they say that ‘their father the
bishop, as well as themselves, are ready to keep the holy Evangelium,
as His Majesty has ordered it to be preached everywhere in Iceland.’
There is all probability that they would have come to an untimely end
even if there had been no Reformation. The king had indeed ordered
their arrest as disturbers of the public peace. He did not, however,
order their execution. The responsibility for that act must rest upon
the Icelanders who seized them, and mistrusted their ability to keep
them in safe custody until they could be brought before the proper
tribunal. So far from anybody losing his life through the introduction
of the Reformation, no one was even deprived of his liberty for a
single hour except by Bishop Arason and his sons. I hope it was through
crass ignorance only that Mr Baring-Gould penned such an extraordinary
statement as the one quoted. Or is he able to name the people who
suffered during the introduction of the Reformation, and to show
trustworthy documents that they did thus suffer?”

[142] Charges of national ignorance are favourites with the ignorant,
and unhappily not only with them: the analphabetic state of Spain is
pressed into active service by the English home littérateur, especially
of the Evangelical or Low Church school. It sounds strange to one
who has often met upon the outer bridle-paths men mounted on their
mules, and diligently reading books and newspapers. And the superior
civilisation of the Latin race is hardly to be measured by the three
“R’s,” or by similar mechanical appliances.

[143] The document is quoted _in extenso_ by Henderson (ii. 164-166),
and by Baring-Gould (Introduction, pp. xlv., xlvi.).

[144] The Icelanders’ view of the connection between their country
and Denmark is simply this: They declare the union, dating from 1264,
and renewed in 1380, to be personal, not real, and limited to both
countries being under the same king. The Rigsdag cannot therefore
legislate for the Althing, and the constitutional law of Denmark
has never become that of Iceland. They consequently demand that the
Althing should have legislative and not mere counselling powers; that
it should sanction in the island the laws proposed by the Danes; and
that the minister who advises the Crown in Icelandic matters should
be responsible to this Diet. On the other hand, Denmark denies the
validity of mediæval treaties, the relations of the mother country and
her dependency having been completely altered by historical events;
consequently Iceland is now an integral and inseparable part of the
Danish kingdom, and the laws of Denmark must be valid in Iceland as
in the other colonies. Iceland, they say, cannot claim any self-rule
as a right; still, it may be desirable, on account of their peculiar
circumstances, to allow the Icelanders a voice in the management of
their own affairs, subject, however, to the supervision and consent of
the Rigsdag and the Home Government.

[145] It is popularly asserted that the Danish Government contributes
$30,000 per annum for the support of Iceland. Upon this subject, see
note at end of the present section.

[146] The author tried in vain to see the wording of the “little bill,”
and was assured that it had not been printed. It appeared in the
_Allgemeine Zeitung_, Nos. 66, 84, 85, 101, and 102, of the 7th, 25th,
and 26th March, and 11th and 12th April 1870. The article is entitled
“Island und Dänemark,” and is written by the historian Professor Konrad
Maurer of Munich. See note at end.

[147] _Cela va sans dire_; for many years the island has been too poor
to pay for the expenses of governing it. But see note at end of section.

[148] Hr Eirikr Magnússon in the _Standard_ of December 1, 1872, et seq.

[149] It can be proved that the different sums paid into the Danish
treasury by the various companies who rented the trade with Iceland
from time to time (from 1602 to 1722) amounted at least to $2,000,000,
and the revenue of Iceland has never been credited with this sum.


The degree of longitude in N. lat. 63° measures 2770·1 feet.
     ”            ”          ”     64°    ”     2674·9  “
     ”            ”          ”     65°    ”     2578·9  “
     ”            ”          ”     66°    ”     2432·1  “
     ”            ”          ”     67°    ”     2384·6  “
instead of 6082 at the Equator.

[151] Sir George S. Mackenzie makes the desert tracts of inner
Iceland to number 40,000 square miles, a figure which still deforms
Lyell’s admirable Principles of Geology, 11th edit., vol ii., p. 454.
Mr Vice-Consul Crowe reduces the total area to 29,440 square miles
(geog.), of which two-thirds are upwards of 1000 feet above sea-level,
and only 4288 square geographical miles are covered with perpetual
snow, whose line begins between 2000 and 3500 feet.

[152] The proportion of “boe,” where barley can be cultivated in the
Færoes, was, till very lately, 1:60 of outfield or pasture.

[153] The day is past when the “determinate lines of fracture,” which
resembled the empirical parallelism and the pentagonal networks of
mountains, connected Hekla with Etna--yet it was an improvement upon
the theory which made both of them mouths of the Inferno. Evidence to
the latter purport has been given in our law-courts. The earthquake
district of Iceland was popularly supposed to include Great Britain,
Northern France, Denmark, Scandinavia, and Greenland--regions of the
most diversified formation. The theory seemed to repose for base upon
isolated cases of simultaneity, possibly coincidents. But, as Dr Lauder
Lindsay remarks, contemporaneity would suggest a vast extension of
these limits. The (Lisbon) earthquake of 1755, for instance, extended
from Barbary to Iceland, from Persia to Santos in the Brazil. The
earthquake of 1783 was equally damaging to Calabria and to Iceland.
Even in 1872, there were, as has been shown, almost simultaneous
movements in Syria, Naples, and Iceland.

[154] Hooker tells us to pronounce Jökull “yuckull,” which involves
three distinct errors, especially in the double liquid, which becomes
everywhere, except before a vowel, _dl_ or _tl_, like Popocatape_tl_.
Iaki is a lump of ice, a congener of the Pers. [Illustration: Persian
symbol], like our “ice,” although Adelung derives the Germ. Eis-jöcher
from the Lat. Jugum, and translates “Excelsi Jökli” by “Montana
Glacies.” Jökull in Icel. primarily means “icicle,” a sense now
obsolete. The signification “glacier” was probably borrowed from the
Norse country Hardanger, the only Norwegian county in which “Jökull”
appears as a local name; and it was applied to the “Gletschers” of
the Iceland colonies in Greenland. “The Jökull” _par excellence_ is

[155] The Icel. Stipti (Dan. Stift, and old Low Germ. Stigt) means a
bishopric or ecclesiastical bailiwick. Hence Uno Von Troil translates
Stiftamtmand by “bailiff of episcopal diocese,” and it gradually came
to mean a civil governor. Cleasby informs us (sub voce) that both name
and office are quite modern in Iceland.

[156] Further details concerning the governor-general will be found in
the Journal.

[157] The Sýsla (_pl._ Sýslur, and in compounds Sýslu) is derived from
Sýsl, “business”--að sýsla, “to be busy.” As a law term, it signifies
any stewardship held from the king or bishop; in a geographical sense,
it means a district, bailiwick, or prefecture. At present it answers to
the Thing of the Icelandic Commonwealth (Cleasby).

[158] Not to be confounded with the Sókn, or parish proper. Cleasby is
disposed to date the Rapes from the eleventh century, and he remarks
that the district round the bishop’s seat at Skálholt is called
“Hreppar,” showing that the house was the nucleus of the division.

[159] From pp. 703-909, the Skýrslur um Landshagi á Íslandi, vol. 4,
Möller, Copenhagen, 1870, a portly octavo of 934 pages. Mr Longman’s
list of the Sýslas (p. 34, Suggestions for the Exploration of Iceland)
was quite correct, except in point of orthography, but it is no longer

[160] The Múla-Sýsla (“mull” county) was formerly divided into three
parts, the northern, the central, and the southern, each with its
Sýslumaðr. The present distribution dates from the year 1779.

[161] Hèrað (or Hierat) is the Scotch “heriot,” a tax paid to
feudal lord in lieu of military service. In Icelandic the Hèrað is
a geographical district generally, and is specially applied to the
river-basin of the Skagafjörð (Cleasby).

[162] The sheriff does _not_ attend parish meetings, he has no schools
to inspect, for there are none, in fact he has nothing to do with
education at all, that being the business of the parish priest under
the superintendence of the prófastr (dean) of the district.

[163] The name of this Icelandic code of laws, which must not be
confounded with the Grágás of Norway, is variously explained from the
grey binding or from being written with a grey goose-quill. It was
adopted in Iceland in A.D. 1118, and it contained a Lex de ejusmodi
mendicis (sturdy vagrants) impune castrandis. Some writers suppose that
the Icelandic Commonwealth had written laws but no code. After the union
with Norway the island received its first written code, the Iron-side,
Járn-Síða (A.D. 1262-1272), and this was exchanged in A.D. 1272 for the
Jónsbók, so termed from John the Lawyer who brought it from Norway. Uno
Von Troil (p. 73) removes the date of the latter to A.D. 1272.

[164] Mr Dasent, Introduction to Diet, (xlviii.), remarks that the jury
was never developed in Norway, and only struck faint root in the Danish
and Swedish laws. When asserting the jury to be purely Scandinavian,
the author speaks of Europe, neglecting the admirable Panchayat system
which arose in the village republics of Hindostan, and a multitude of
other similar institutions.

[165] Dillon notices forty-one women who had passed ninety: the
number has now greatly fallen off. There is a further decline from
the days of Olaus Magnus, who informs us that “the Icelanders, who,
instead of bread, have fish bruised with a stone, live three hundred
years.” The general longevity of Norway proves that the climates of
the north, the _vagina gentium_ of Jornandes, have nothing adverse to
human life. In Scotland the census of 1870 gave a total of twenty-six
centagenarians--nine men and seventeen women.

[166] Innuit (Eskimo), like Illinois (from Illeni), means simply “a
man”--a frequent tribal designation amongst savages. So Teuton and
Deutsch, with the numberless derivations, are derived from Goth. Thiud,
a people; Alemanni from “All-men,” and “German perhaps from Guerre-man”
(Farrar, Families of Speech).

[167] The discovery of Uriconium and of Roman remains throughout
England, and even in London, during the last few years, strongly
suggests that the beauty of the English race is derived from a far
greater intermixture of southern blood than was formerly suspected;
and the racial baptism, repeated by the invasion of the Normans,
must also have brought with it Gallo-Romans in considerable numbers.
We can hardly doubt that the handsome peasantry of south-western
Ireland is the produce of Spanish or Mediterranean innervation; and a
comparison with the country people of Orotava in Tenerife, where the
Irish have again mixed with the mingled Hispano-Guanche race, shows
certain remarkable points of family likeness. On the other hand,
except in certain parts of Great Britain, especially the Danelagh or
Scandinavianised coasts and the counties occupied by the Angli and
other Teutonic peoples, the English race remarkably differs from both
its purer congeners, the homely Scandinavians and Germans. The general
verdict of foreigners confirms its superior beauty, which, indeed, is
evident to the most superficial observer.

[168] It appears probable that the reverence paid to women by the
ancient Germans and Gauls arose from what Tacitus calls “some divine
and prophetic quality resident in their women;” from the superstitious
belief that the weaker sex was more subject to inspiration,
divination, second sight, and other abnormal favours of the gods. The
_Frauen-cultus_ of the present age, which in the United States has
become an absurdity, would be the relic and survival of this pagan

[169] The author cannot say whether due care was taken when making
these observations. Amongst Englishmen, when the thermometer held in
the mouth exceeds 98°·5, there is suspicion of fever.

[170] Marquis Massimo d’Azeglio observed this fact among the paviours
and the wine-carters, who form almost a separate caste of the
Trans-Tiber population.

[171] Not always, as the common river-name Thvátt-á (wash or dip-water)

[172] These satirical songs are known to the Greenlanders, who thus
satisfy their malice, “preferring to revenge even than to prevent an
injury.” Yet, the Icelanders have a proverb, “Let him beware, lest his
tongue wind round his head.”

[173] Usually but erroneously translated “headlands,” instead of “head
of men.”

[174] The popular assertion, “nothing can be more natural than that
female chastity should be more prevalent in a northern than in a
southern climate,” is simply a false deduction from insufficient facts.
It is a subject far too extensive for a footnote; we may simply observe
that the Scandinavians have never been distinguished for continence,
nor are the northern more moral than the southern Slavs. In fact, the
principal factor of feminine “virtue” seems to be race not climate.

[175] “To go by the way of the rock” was the old pagan euphuism for
self-destruction; and the modern Hindú, as the Girnár Cliff shows,
preserves the practice of “Altestupor” and “Odin’s Hall.” Suicide is
now, like the duello, extinct, and the few cases recorded in late
history are looked upon as phenomena. We remark the same rarity of
self-destruction both in Scotland and Ireland, a wonderful contrast to
England, which, again, despite its ill-fame, shows favourably in this
matter by the side of France.

[176] The reader has only to remember how much of Britain was Danish
to understand the Snorra-Edda’s express statement about Icelanders
and Englishmen speaking the same tongue, “Vèr erum einnar tungu;”
and Bartolin (Antiquitates Danicæ), “Eademque lingua (Norwegica seu
Septentrionalis) usurpabatur per Saxonicum, Daniam, Sueciam, Norvegiam,
et partem Angliæ aliquam.”

[177] Their extensive travels gave them peculiar names for peoples and
places, which are often somewhat puzzling. “Thýskr,” a German, and
Gerzkr, a Russian, are easy; but Samverskt (a Samaritan) is not so
plain. Thus, also, we have “Enea” for Europe; “Hvítármannaland,” or
white man’s land, and “Irland et mikla,” Ireland the Great (the Irlanda
el Kabíreh of Edrisi in the twelfth century), for South America;
“Suðurálfa” (_i.e._, southern half), for Africa; “Great Sweden” for
Eastern Russia; “Svalbarði” (discovered 1194), for Scoresby’s Liverpool
Coast (?); “Bjarmaland” for Permia, the land beyond the North Cape;
“Sætt” for Sidon; “Njörfa-fjörð “for the Straits of “Gib;” Há-sterun
for Hastings; and “Katanes” (boat naze), for Caithness. Some names
are of ethnological value; for instance, “Bretland” for Wales; while
Vendill or Vandill, the northern part of Jutland, preserves the
name of the Vandals and the origin of Andalusia; and Garða-riki or
Garða-veldi, the empire of the Garðar or Castella, tells us how the
Russian empire was founded. So Suðr-menn (Germans) opposed to Northmen
(Norðmenn), preserves the tradition of original consanguinity. Others
are useless complications, as Engils-nes, the Morea, and Ægisif (Ἁγία
Σοφία). The travestied names of persons are sometimes interesting,
_e.g._, Elli-Sif (Scot. Elspeth) is Elizabeth, probably confounded
like Ægisif, with Sif, the golden-haired wife of Thor, who lives
in our gos-_sip_. Icelanders are not answerable for the mistake so
general amongst foreigners which makes Níðar-óss (Oyce or ostium of
the Nið River) an _alias_ of Throndhjem, of old Thrándheimr, when it
is the name of the ancient city occupying the position of the present
town. The “Antiquités de l’Orient” (par C. C. Rafn, Copenhagen, 1856)
well shows how Icelandic names were applied to the Byzantine empire,
_e.g._, Ἐσσουπῆ (_ei sofa_, not to sleep), given to the first bar of
the Dnieper; Οὐλξορσὶ (Hólm-fors or islet-force) to the second, and so

[178] “This assertion of travellers never had any foundation in fact,”
says Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín, yet it is quoted by Henderson, the least
imaginative, and, in such matters, the most trustworthy of men; and the
Icelandic proverb says, “One’s own home is the best home.”

[179] As every traveller, from Uno Von Troil downwards, has given a
plan and sketch of the Bær, the reader need not be troubled with them.
The group of buildings composing the actual homestead is invariably
built in a row: the front (Hús-bust) faces south, towards the sea or
the river, if in a valley, and the back is turned to the sheltering
mountain. The strip of flagged pavement along the front is called
“Stétt;” the open space before it, “Hlað;” the buildings are parted by
a lane (Sund); the approach is termed “Geilar” or “Tröð,” and the whole
is surrounded by the Húsa-garðr, a dry-stone dyke.

The Norse Skáli, or Hall of classical days, whose rude and barbarous
magnificence was the result of successful piracy tempered by traffic,
has clean vanished--there is not a trace of one upon the island. A
ground-plan, section, and elevation, are given in Mr Dasent’s “Burnt
Njal,” but it is hard to say how much of it came from the fertile
brain of the artist, Mr Sigurðr Guðmundsson. It was probably about
as “desirable” a “residence” as the old Welsh manor-house, with its
stagnant moat and its banks or walls of earth.

[180] The author well remembers that at Hyderabad, in Sind, only one
palace had the luxury of glass, when we first occupied the city.

[181] Sótt is applied to physical, Sút to mental, sickness.

[182] More will be said concerning the several varieties of oxalis,
which the people now seem to despise. Both wood-sorrel and meadow-sweet
(_Spiræa_) were used by the poor of Ireland to heal ulcers (Beddoes,
p. 47, on the Medical Use and Production of Factitious Airs), Uno Von
Troil (p. 108) gives a long list of the popular anti-scorbutics.

[183] Of course the first sibilant, the sign of possession, is not used
when the noun is otherwise declined. For instance, Jón Arason, often
written by foreigners Aræson, is the son of Are, whose oblique case
is Ara; yet there are popular exceptions, _e.g._, Bjarnarson (pron.
Bjatnarsonj, son of Björn, is vulgarly pronounced, and even written,

[184] Thus the islanders preserve the memory of a “beautiful
fiend,” one amongst many, who, after a very human fashion, began
life as a coquette, and ended it as a _dévote_, being the first to
learn psalm-singing, and to take the veil in the new convent. This
hyperborean Ninon de L’Enclos deserves forgiveness for one of the
cleverest sayings uttered by woman--a revelation of its kind. When
asked which of her half-a-dozen lovers and husbands she preferred,
her wise and witty answer was, “Theim var ek verst, er ek unnti
mest”--“Whom I treated worst, him I loved most;” alluding to Kjartan
Olafsson, murdered by her behest. In old days, Gudrún and John answered
to the “M. or N.” of our Catechism, and to “those famous fictions of
English law, John Doe and Richard Roe.”

[185] This is probably a relic of early ages, when “Maria” was a name
too much revered for general use.

[186] Yet the Polygamia Triumphatrix (Liseri) of Lund,
A.D. 1682, was publicly burned at Stockholm.

[187] We may add, Paris, 23; Berlin, 25; Panama, 26; Bombay, 27; New
York, 28; Glasgow, 34; Madras, 35; Vienna, 36; and Rome the same, if
not more.

[188] Thus Skyr is a congener of the Persian “Shír” and of the Slav
Sir (cheese). The first stage is the “run-milk,” the second is the
“hung-milk” (because suspended in a bag) of the Shetland Islands.
Everywhere it is differently turned; by sour whey in Iceland,
by buttermilk in Scotland, and by rennet and various plants in
Asia and Africa. No milk-drinking nation drinks, as a rule, fresh
milk. The Icelanders want the manifold preparations known to the
Scoto-Scandinavian islands.

[189] Dr (afterwards Sir Henry) Holland introduced, or rather first
brought, the vaccine virus.

[190] From Lík, Germ. Leiche, Eng. Lych, as in lych-gate, and Thrá, a
throe or pang. Hold is flesh.

[191] This, like other forms of gout, certainly depends much upon the
popular beverage. In England we find it amongst the beer-drinking
poorer classes: Padua, the author was informed by the celebrated Dr
Pinalli, does not produce a single case even to lecture upon.

[192] Thýðverjaland, or Thjóðverjaland, is Teuton-land, Germany, the
adjectival forms being Thýðverskr, Thýzkr, and Thýeskr. Icelandic here
has evidently borrowed from the Gothic Thjuth, the German Diutisc
(Diutisch or Tiusch), the low Latin Theotiscus, and the modern Teutsch
or Deutsch, through traders in the eleventh or twelfth century
(Cleasby). But Rafn (Antiquités de l’Orient, p. xlix.) quotes the Roman
de Rou of Robert Wace:

    “Cosne sont en thioiz et en normant parler,”

to show that the two terms were applied to a single tongue. From the
old root come the Italian Tedesco and the English “Dutch,” which the
vulgar in the United States still persistently apply to Germans.
Schöning (p. 310, Copenhagen, 1777) and Laing (Heimskringla, iii. 349)
confused Thýzkr with “Turkish!”

[193] For a full account of the ancient dietary as prescribed by law in
1789, see Baring-Gould, p. 29. The items are meat and peas; sausages
cold and warm; meat, broth, and soup; haddock and flounder; stock
fish and butter (“the staff of life”); skyr (not curd) and cold milk;
meal-grout, buckwheat-porridge, and barley-water grout with milk and

[194] Ölmusa or Almusa is the Greek Ἐλεημοσύνη, the German Almosen, and
the English Alms (Cleasby).

[195] He died November 2, 1872.

[196] The author is aware that a student who reads Greek and Latin,
Italian, Spanish, Portugese, French, German, and English, will find
almost all the Talmud, certainly all the valuable parts, in translation
at the library of the British Museum. But, unhappily, British Museums
do not exist everywhere. Till the constitutional days of Italy the five
Jewish Synagogues at Rome were not allowed to own copies of this vast
repertory of Hebrew lore.

[197] If English, as appears likely, is to become the cosmopolitan
language of commerce, it will have to borrow from Chinese as much
monosyllable and as little inflection as possible. The Japanese have
already commenced the systematic process of “pidgeoning,” which for
centuries has been used on the West African Coast, in Jamaica, and, in
fact, throughout tropical England, Hindostan alone excepted.

[198] The dialects vary so much that we can hardly speak of modern
Greek. The only approach to it is the bastard, half-classical jargon,
almost confined to the professors and the λογιώτατοι of the capital and
chief towns. Worse still, all the Romaic grammars and dictionaries are
devoted to teaching a tongue which no illiterate person speaks, ever
spoke, or ever, it is to be hoped, will speak. Except by actual travel
it is hardly possible to learn the charmingly _naïve_ dialects of the

[199] The two cathedrals of Catholic days were burnt: their successors
were humble buildings; that of Skálholt was a wooden barn; the building
at Hólar was, like the Viðey church, of stone, a rare thing outside

[200] Bishop Pètursson (299-305) supplies a “Specification” of all the
priesthoods and their revenues in the island.

[201] Gullbringu is the Sýsla which contains Reykjavik; but the
cathedral town is, of course, under a separate jurisdiction.

[202] Bóndi (of old, Búandi and Bóandi), _plur._ Buéndr or Bóendr
(Germ. Bauer, Eng. Hus-band) included all the owners of landed property
and householders (Bú), from the petty freeholder to the franklin,
especially the class represented by our yeomen and the “statesmen”
of Cumberland and Westmoreland. It is still opposed in Iceland to
the “klerkar” (clergy), to the knights, to the barons (Hersir-or
Lendir-menn), and to the royal officers (hirð). In more despotic Norway
and Denmark, “bóndi” became a word of contempt for the lower classes;
and in modern Danish, Bönder means plebs, a boor. Bú, from að búa, to
build, to inhabit, is the household and stores, opposed to Bær, the
house (Cleasby).

[203] In 1873, no less than 4385 “livings” in the Church of England
were under £200 per annum: of these, 1211 were under £100; 1596 ranged
between £100 and £150; and 1578 from £150 to £200. Measures have lately
been taken to abate this scandal, which pays less for the “cure of
souls” than for the care of stables.

[204] The traveller cannot but think that our scientific political
economists are apt, in outlying countries, to neglect the first rule
of taxation, namely, to avoid imposing novelties, and to levy imposts
with which the people are accustomed. Thus India willingly contributes
salt and capitation taxes, and especially Nazaránah, or legacy duties,
whilst she hates the name of income-tax. No one will deny that the two
former are objectionable for a host of reasons, but the question is,
whether they are less injurious than those which lead to the many evils
engendered by chronic discontent.

[205] The system of hundreds will be discussed when treating of
taxation. Suffice it here to say that in modern Iceland, as in England
of former times, the value of land tenure was estimated not by extent,
but by produce. Indeed, superficial land-measures, such as the “mark”
of the Færoes (=32,500 square English feet), are unknown to the island.

[206] It should be remembered that “Heimili” (households, families)
are quite different from “Jarðir” (farms); and the two must not be
confounded. The number of the former is 9306, of the latter 4357.

[207] In 1872 contested elections were almost unknown; at least only
one was quoted, and the candidate had learned the practice in England.
The position of Al-thíngis-maðr was also an object of scanty ambition
except to those who required the small salary, or who had a political
theory to work out. The assertion in the text is denied by Icelanders;
but the author repeatedly heard it made by Danes and other foreigners
settled in the island--at any rate, we may expect to see it realised
by the new constitution. Knowledge is power in Iceland as elsewhere,
and the numbers of the priesthood secure their influence, whilst the
physicians and lawyers are too few to be of much account.

[208] The English Midwife means “with-wife,” from the Icel. “Með,” the
German Mit.

[209] So Styria and Istria boast of a “Kohl-fuchs,” so termed from his
coal-black waistcoat.

[210] May not the idea have arisen from a confusion of “Tó,” a
grass-tuft, with “Tóa,” or “Tófa,” a tod? The older name, Mel-rakki, is
derived from burrowing in the sand.

[211] Uno Von Troil (p. 140) also mentions wild cats (Urðar-kettir,
cats-o’-stone-heap) and rats.

[212] The Irish “town-land,” _i.e._, yard and meadow; Scotch “toun;”
Cornish “town;” Dutch. “tuyn,” a garden; and Germ. “tzaun.”

[213] This bird (_Charadrius pluvialis_, Icel. Hey-ló and Hey-lóa, the
fem. Hey-láa commonly used, the hay-sandpiper), “quite the commonest
in Iceland” (Baring-Gould, p. 411)--the snow-bunting being perhaps the
commonest of the small birds--is black breasted in the breeding season,
and afterwards becomes “golden.”

[214] Gaukr (mod. gickr) is a congener of the A. Sax. Gaec; the Irish
Cuach (hence Mo-chuachin, “my little cuckoo!”); the Scotch Gowk; the
German Gauch; the Danish Gick, and the Slav. Keuk or Kukavitsa: the
Serbian legend makes it a sister calling upon a lost brother. The Index
Vocum, etc. (Landnámabók, p. 486), explains it Cuculus.

[215] This is a lineal descendant from the ancient and venerable root
which named the Aryan race, Ἄριοι, _i.e._, ploughers not pastors, and
which produced Ar-atron, Ar-atrum; Bohemian, Or-adlo; Lithuanian,
Ar-klas; Cornish, Ar-adar, and Welsh, Ar-ad, and which survives in our
word to “ear.” The Arðr of the Sagas was probably heavier and bulkier
than the Plógr, a late word of foreign stamp, which “our American
cousins” will degrade to “plow.”

[216] This word, Melr (_plur._ Melar), wild oats or bent, also
Mel-gras (whence Mel-rakki, the fox), must be distinguished from
what the Dictionary, erroneously I think, makes its secondary sense,
a sand-hill, dune, dene or link, overgrown with such grass, and a
sandbank generally, even when bare. The question is, was the oat called
from its sand-bed or _vice versâ_? For a description of this feature,
see Chapter IX.

[217] Etymologically, Reynir is applied to a cousin, the rowan tree,
or mountain ash (_Pyrus aucuparia_), especially sacred to Thor. Hence
the Vikings were called ash-men, because they sat under the sacred ash,
which defended them from the evil eye.

[218] Hooker (ii. 325) found a true rose, the _Rosa hibernica_, growing
in the Seljaland, but only there. Thus it is not wholly wanting, as in
the southern hemisphere.

[219] Further notices will occur in the Journal (Chap. V.) about this
Surtar-brand (not “Surtur-brand”). Etymologically, it is from Surtr
(a congener of “swarthy”) “the Black,” a fire-giant, who, coming from
the south, will destroy the Odin-world, and Brandr, a firebrand. After
the change of faith, this northern Ahriman or Set (Typhon) was ready
to hand, and at once became the Semitico-Scandinavian “Devil.” Upon
the same principle, the latter is known in Scotland as “Auld Sootie,”
since the classical gamins gave horns and tail to Pluto, and the face
of the great god Pan was blackened by the monks. The Surtshellir tunnel
in western Iceland, famed for the atrocious “Cave-men” (outlaws), is
also derived from the Surtr of Scandinavian mythology. The author did
not visit it, but the descriptions and illustrations suggested the Umm
Nírán in the lava formations of the Safá, near Damascus, noticed in
“Unexplored Syria.”

[220] In Switzerland, also, the minimum of snow coincides with the last
of July and early August.

[221] The indigenous Poas number twelve, and the Festucæ three

[222] Óðal is a congener of the German Edel and Adel, noble, as
the “chiefs” of Scandinavian and Teutonic communities were the
land-holders. Hence the mid. Lat. Allodium; and (Cleasby) “feudal” is
fee-odal, odal held as a fee (Germ. _vieh_; Dutch, _vee_; pecunia,
capitale) from the king: Dr Sullivan prefers _Feodum_, from Fuidhir,
fugitives. Popularly, Udal, Allodium, prædium hereditarium, is opposed
to feudal.

[223] The Icelandic Umboð are our Umboth-lands, formerly belonging to
the bishop, and afterwards transferred to the Crown. Etymologically,
the word means a charge or stewardship.

[224] See Section VI.

[225] The author’s statement made in the _Standard_ found objectors.
Hr E. Magnússon impudently contradicted what he termed a _contradictio
in adjecto_, apparently ignorant of the simple truth that neither
logic nor Latin can affect facts and figures. It is amply confirmed by
the Consular Report of 1870-71: “The stocks of domestic animals have
shown a steady tendency to decrease, especially as regards the sheep
flocks, which at times have been cruelly decimated by scab epidemics;
the occasional failure of the grass crops exercises also a destructive
influence on their herds and flocks generally, as they have no means
at hand of substituting other fodder for the excellent wild pastures
with which in ordinary years Nature supplies them so bounteously. These
occasional epidemics and grass failures are bewailed by the Icelander
as national calamities; but it is a question whether they may not prove
to be the reverse, by opening his eyes to the necessity of devoting his
energies and small capital to the better and more regular prosecution
of the fisheries, which are boundless in extent, and less dependent on
vicissitudes and seasons.”

[226] “Perhaps,” says Peirce (p. 29), “this is why the official
statistics, with a sort of grim humour, number the ‘horned cattle’
at 23,713, while other authorities say there are 40,000 ‘cattle.’”
He also quotes Dillon (p. 291) about four-horned and six-horned
sheep--“quadricorns” are exceptional in Iceland as in most countries.

[227] More exactly the average yield of a one-year old is 1¼ lb.; of a
two-year, 2½ lbs.; and of a three-year old, 3 lbs.

[228] Valued at a total of £2468, or about £5, 5s. a head. The prices
will be considered in the course of the Journal.

[229] The steamer “Queen” in 1872 embarked 1030 head and the “Yarrow”
1414; these figures are given from the _Scotsman_. In 1873 the price
had risen to £10 to £14, and the hire was a Danish dollar a day; thus
the peasant was deprived of transport for himself and his goods.

[230] This is not the case with Norway, situated in the latitude of
Iceland and Greenland, as the old rhyme shows:

    “Sidst i Torri og först i Gio,
     Skal Sild og Hval være i Sio.”

    “At the last of Torri (first moon after Christmas) and first of Gio
        (the second moon),
     The sillock (herring, _Clupea harengus_) and whale in the sea will show.”

Yet in Coxe’s time (late eighteenth century) the herring had
disappeared from the shore, being found only in deep water; and Fortia
(Travels in Sweden) tells us, that firing of guns was not allowed for
fear of frightening the fickle fish.

[231] Concerning the fresh-water fishes, details will be found in the

[232] R. J. Walker, quoted by Peirce. Dr Carpenter and Professor
Wyville Thomson, in the “Lightning,” made the remarkable discovery that
sea-water at different depths, is of different temperatures--the older
theory being that the sea was of a uniform temperature of 39° (F.).

[233] In intertropical and temperate latitudes _Phocæ_ and _Manatis_
devour the fetid marine vegetation which collects on river bars, chokes
the mouths, and causes “Yellow Jack” to prevail from Florida to Rio de

[234] Of course the “finny brood” is not without its folk-lore. There
is a variety of “troll-fish” which, being ominous and unlucky, are
thrown overboard by their captors. The same takes place farther south,
as we learn from Lucas Dobes (Færoe Reseratar, Copenhagen, 1673).

[235] “Gullbringusýsla (literally, Goldbreast county) derives its name
from some hills called Gullbringur (Goldbreasts), about twelve English
miles distant from Reykjavik. They were so called because tradition
says that the old Viking Egill Skallagrímsson there buried the treasure
given him by King Athelstan for his assistance at the battle of
Brunenburgh” (Jón A. Hjaltalín). This derivation is far more probable
than the popular version given in the text: for a third interpretation
see the Journal, chap. ii.

[236] The three species on the west coast of Scotland are:

    1. The Rawn, or Common Seal (_Phoca vitulina_), from five to six
    feet long; coat, tawny-white, spotted brownish-black on back and
    sides, with darker haslets and dusky-grey belly. The skin is of
    short bristly hair, but no fur.

    2. The Tapraist, or Grey Seal (_Halichærus griseus_), somewhat
    larger than the former; the muzzle is black, and the coat dirty
    brown, looking silver-grey only when the sun strikes the recurved

    3. The Bodach, or Old Man (Halket, _Halichcærus_?), somewhat
    smaller than No. 1, and very easily tamed.

[237] Forelle is German and Danish; the general Icelandic name of trout
is Silungr, but, as might be expected, the nomenclature is rich. Hooker
notices this char (i. 97). The “suburtingur” of Baring-Gould (Appendix,
423), a fresh-water fish with pink-coloured flesh and sometimes
weighing twenty pounds, does not appear in the Dictionary.

[238] A description and plate are found in Ólafsson.

[239] The word Vaðmál (pron. _Vathmowl_) is derived from Váð, Vóð,
or Voð, stuff, cloth, weeds (_e.g._, widows’ “weeds”); and Mál, a
measure--“stuff-measure,” because it was the standard of all value and
payment before a coinage came into use (Cleasby). The form “Wadmal”
will here be preserved, although England prefers “Wadmill,” _e.g._, in
“Wadmill-till” for waggons.

[240] The following is the translation of the “Advertisement to
mariners who enter the harbour of Reykjavik:”

“In pursuance of the laws, and under the punishment fixed by law, the
following rules are to be attended to by the masters and crews of
vessels that touch at the port of Reykjavik.

“1. As suspected, with regard to health, are considered all vessels
(_a_) coming from countries or places where pestilential or epidemic
diseases are found; (_b_) having merchandises on board, which are
brought from such countries or places, or there packed up; (_c_) having
had during the voyage, or having at the arrival, any sick person on
board, whose disease can be considered as ill-natured or contagious;
(_d_) having had, on the sea or near the land, communication with any
vessel from suspected or infected places. Such vessels are bound, at
the arrival to the harbour, to hoist a green flag, or, in default of
such a one, their national flag on the main-top, with which they remain
lying, until further order is given.

“As to other vessels, against whom there is no reason for suspicion
of this kind, the masters thereof are peremptorily enjoined to land
first at the bridge of Quarantine (distinguished by a green flag), to
be submitted to the legal examination of the state of health of their
crew, and to produce their bill of health, if they have any. Before
this is done, nobody from the vessel is permitted to go on shore. The
landing can take place from 8 o’clock A.M. to 8 o’clock

“2. It is the duty of the master, when arrived on shore, instantly
to present himself in the Police Office for showing there his ship’s
documents and clearances. Loading or unloading is not permitted before
this is performed, and Icelandic maritime pass redeemed. Commerce on
board with the inhabitants (‘speculant-trade’) is not permitted, except
after a previous information thereof to the Policemaster.

“3. When any of the crew commits disorders on shore, it will be
examined how far the master himself can be considered as responsible
for such offences committed by his crew, especially when he has
permitted them to remain on shore till late in the evening or night.

“4. In order that the breeding of the Eider ducks in the islands in
the neighbourhood of the harbour (Viðey, Engey, etc.) shall not be
disturbed, no firing of cannons, except in cases of distress, or as to
men-of-war, in what the service exacts, is permitted within half-a-mile
Danish (about two and a half miles English), or of guns within a
quarter of a mile Danish (one and a quarter English) from the said
islands. Nor is it permitted to go on shore on the uninhabited islands
surrounding of near the harbour (Effersey, Akurey), without a special
permission from the owner; hunting or disturbances of the breeding
of the birds in these places are, accordingly to the laws concerned,
punished with peculiar severity.

“5. It is prohibited to take ballast on the ground or beach belonging
to the town, except in places pointed out by the Policemaster. Throwing
overboard of the ballast may not at all take place on the harbour, and
not in other places than such as will be pointed out by the police.

“6. Water to the use of mariners may only be taken in places pointed
out by the police. As water money every vessel of the burthen of above
forty tons pays for each voyage one rixdollar Danish; of less burthen,
half a rixdollar.

“Given in the Police Office of Reykjavik, July 4, 1870,

“N.B.--This advertisement, which is delivered by the pilot, and from
the Police Office, is made for the use of sailors. Wanting notion of it
does not exempt from liability to punishment for offences, mentioned or
not mentioned here, that are committed by mariners.”

[241] The “Napoleon book” (p. 364), gives a sketch of a “mine de
criolithe:” one of the veins embedded in granite is eighty feet
thick. Mr Walker (Peirce’s Report, p. 3) is mistaken in asserting
that cryolite is found only in Greenland, but doubtless the largest
known supplies are there, the development being due in great part to
American (U.S.) enterprise. The natives used it only in the pulverised
state--like quartz--to “lengthen out” their snuff; and similarly the
“Red Indians” of the Brazil utilised their diamonds as counters. This
double fluoride of sodium and aluminium, popularly called natural
soda, is a mineral of ever increasing value; it is employed in the
manufacture of soda and soda-salts, hydrofluoric acid, fine glass, and
earthenware almost infrangible; the residue makes a flux (“Steven’s
flux,” etc.) capital for the treatment of difficult metallic ores.
Perhaps the chief use is in the manufacture of aluminium and its
alloys, a noble metal which can be carried to white heat before it
oxidises, and whose brilliancy is unaltered by sulphuretted hydrogen,
water, acids, salts, and organic matter. The price till lately was
about one-third that of silver, but increased cheapness has extended
the use, especially in coinage and jewellery. Tenacious as silver,
sonorous, easily melted and moulded, about as hard as soft iron, and
one-third the weight of zinc; it is valuable for watch-cases, mirrors,
spectacle-frames, opera and field glasses, hand-bells, pendulum-rods,
small weights and balances, chemical apparatus, instruments of
precision, and articles where lightness is required. It has also been
converted into dinner services and cooking apparatus, in which, unlike
tin and copper, it is absolutely harmless. The common form is _bronze
d’aluminium_, with one of that metal to ten parts of copper; the
tenacity of the alloy is about that of steel.

[242] This again is the popular assertion which has been strongly
opposed by Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín (see note at end of Section III.). The
reader, however, will observe that the patriotic Icelander confesses to
the figures in the text, as matters now stand.

[243] The political sense of 120 franklins, several of which composed
the English shire, is unknown to Iceland.

[244] The “Sharker,” moreover, pays a variable sum (say 24 skillings)
per barrel of oil as an hospital tax, and this is now appropriated to
the district physician.

[245] Compare the German Schatze and our Scot in Scot-free, Scot and
Shot; Róma-skattr would be Peter’s Pence.

[246] The Icelandic word is Fógeti (low Lat. Vocatus, Germ. Vogtie, a
bailiwick, hence “Landvogt” Gessler), which dates from the fourteenth
century (Cleasby). It corresponds with the Fowd and Grand Fowd, chief
magistrate of the Scoto-Scandinavian islands.

[247] In these pages “$” always refers to the rixdollar, which, like
the Brazilian milreis, is half the milreis of Portugal or the dollar of
the United States.

[248] In the plur. Aurar is supposed to be corrupted from Aurum, as the
coins first known to Scandinavia were Roman and Byzantine, Saxon and
English. It was applied to coinage opposed to baugr, gold or silver
rings. Hence the phrase “Aurar ok óðal,” money and land. Ær or Ör was
probably the name of a small coin; so the modern Swedish Öre is a coin
worth less than a farthing, and the Norsk Ort (contracted from Örttog,
Örtug, Ærtog, or Ertog) is the fifth part of a specie dollar (Cleasby).
Upon the ancient money of Iceland the reader will consult Dr Dasent’s
Burnt Njal, ii. 397.

[249] In 1872 it was not a legal tender.

[250] The German Loth and the corrupted Italian Lotto.

[251] Uno Von Troil (1770) makes the Lispund = 20 lbs. English, and
adds the Vaett = 5 Lispunds, and the Kapal 12 to 15 Lispunds. Both
Lispund and Bismer are now falling out of use in Iceland, where only
the Danish pound is preserved. She should follow the example of
Austria, and introduce the metrical system.

[252] The Danish mile is the long league; 15 being = 1° of latitude.

[253] Formerly there were only four--viz., Nos. 1, 3, 5, and
6--established by law of April 15, 1854, regulating the trade and
navigation with Iceland.

[254] The following Danised names of the thirty-one privileged
factories and trading places are given by Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (Report,


1. Reykjavik (capital).
2. Havnefjord.
3. Keflavik.
4. Örebakke.
5. Vestmanns Islands.
6. Papö.
7. Landhussund.


8. Oefjord (called “a town”).
9. Skagerstrand.
10. Hofsós.
11. Seydafjord.
12. Husavik.
13. Ramforhavn.
14. Thorshavn.
15. Sandarok.


16. Vapnafjord.
17. Seydisfjord.
18. Eskifjord.
19. Berufjord.


20. Isafjord (called “a town”).
21. Stykkisholm.
22. Olafsvik.
23. Bûdenstad.
24. Bildal.
25. Dyrefjord.
26. Patriksfjord.
27. Flatey (island).
28. Reykjafjord.
29. Bordöre.
30. Straûmfjord.
31. Skeljavik.

[255] This gentleman is most obliging in giving all information about
the steamer. No passport is required for Iceland.

[256] Upon these remarks Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín observes, “The case
referred to is as follows: The Scotchman’s claim may have been good in
point of Scotch law, but it was not in point of Icelandic law. That is
the reason why the Procurators would not undertake it. He has therefore
to blame the law, not the men. I know, as a fact, that both the
Procurators of Reykjavik have conducted cases for foreigners, _e.g._,
Messrs Henderson & Anderson against Icelanders. It would have been more
questionable practice, although perhaps more lawyer-like, if they had
induced the plaintiff to go on with the case, although they were sure
that he would lose it. Foreigners often think they are wronged if a
case, which is clear according to their own laws, breaks down according
to foreign laws: Icelanders have gone through that experience in

[257] 1: Naturalisation is wisely made easy in Iceland. The foreigner
swears allegiance, pays $2, and straightway becomes a citizen.

[258] In the secluded parts of the island fish and butter still form a
currency of exceedingly variable value.

[259] No Cayenne is procurable, and those who ask for it will probably
be served with curry powder in bottles, that do not suffice for a
single dish, but cost one shilling.

[260] Coffee did not come into general use before the end of the
eighteenth century; tea and tobacco are mentioned in the satirical
poem, “Thagnarmál,” 1728, by Eggert Ólafsson, who died in 1768

[261] The Consular Report says, “1 lb. per annum for every man, woman,
and child.”

[262] The Report has it that the duty of eight skillings per pot or
quart has been laid upon ale, wine, and spirituous liquors, when
imported in casks or hogsheads, and a duty of equal amount per one and
a half pint, when imported in bottles, jars, or kegs.

[263] Iceland home-made butter is poor, white, full of hairs, and made
in a way peculiarly unclean. It is mostly of ewes’ milk, that of the
cow not sufficing. Travellers of course prefer the imported, but it is
not always to be had at the shops. The favourite native form is “sour
butter,” which, like the Ghi of Hindostan, lasts twenty years, though
if salted it becomes rancid: it takes the place of salt and seasoning;
it is considered to assist digestion, and it “diffuses an agreeable
warmth over the stomach.” The climate demands such carbon-producing
food, and “Fat have I never refused!” is a saying with the islanders.

[264] Flat fish, not being flat, is a misnomer for the sun-dried
preparation which is unknown abroad, and unfit for European markets.

[265] This salt fish on the eastern coast is chiefly for home use, the
catch being too late for curing, and dry weather being mostly wanting
at that season.

[266] Only two pelts were sent in 1872.

[267] The merchant weighs the carcase when cold, melts the tallow, and
pays a price varying according to the market, from fourteen skillings
to a mark. The people have a strange idea that sheep falling into snow
crevasses, and found a year or two afterwards, are naturally salted--a
curious appendage to the “freezing upwards” theory.

[268] The other imports not accounted for are alum, drugs, ashes, ink,
brushmakers’ work, cocoa, chocolate, ale in bottle and in cask (the
latter, 11,776 lbs. in 1865), wine in bottle and cask (the latter,
23,137 lbs.), vinegar, essences, catechu and galls, indigo, dyestuffs
and varnish, playing-cards, “galanterie wares,” glass ware, resin and
gums, caps, stone china, pork and hams (2,480 lbs.), meat (2,279 lbs.),
cork, buckwheat meal (880 lbs.), oatmeal (319 lbs.), spices (1,016
lbs.), coals (157 tons), cotton goods (62,484 lbs.), silk (11 lbs.),
woollen goods (686 lbs.), block metal (786 lbs.), bar and hoop iron
(63,486 lbs.), nails (23,441 lbs.), iron chain (404 lbs.), iron wares
(33,770 lbs.), zinc in plates, hardware sundries (6,981 lbs.), cheese
(1,736 lbs.), paper (6,210 lbs.), soap (12,225 lbs.), sago, etc. (811
lbs.), saltpetre (297 lbs.), prepared hides, and skins (4,508 lbs.),
acids (309 lbs.), tea (918 lbs.), ropemakers’ work (22,770 lbs.), wood
goods (14,294 cubic feet), worked woods (42,993 lbs.), vitriol (4,519
lbs.), and bar steel (1,441 lbs.).

[269] Here and there an eagle skin may be bought; and in country parts
the quills of the royal bird are used as pens. The only species is the
white-tailed Haliaetus (_H. albicilla_ or _F. leucocephalus_).

[270] Mr Jón A. Hjaltalín observes: “If by ‘home’ is meant the place
where the songs were first made, this is undoubtedly correct, according
to accepted theories; but then Norway would not then be their home any
more than Iceland. On the other hand, it is indisputable that their
last and only home was in Iceland, when they were nowhere else to be
found. The allusions in the songs give no clue to their birthplace.
You may find an Icelander of the present day singing of lions and
elephants. And if they can do so now, why not in former times also?”
The author would remark that the Elder Edda has evidently been
preserved by memory from earlier ages, and that its origin must have
been in Continental Scandinavia. It is rather the spirit of the poetry
than the scattered allusions which suggests that much of it was not
addressed to islanders. A comparison of the Völuspá with any Icelandic
composition will explain what is here meant; and Mr Benjamin Thorpe
seems to have been struck by the same idea.

[271] We find an Ulf’s-vatn in Iceland, but probably the name was given
in memory of the old home, or as Úlfr was a proper name like Vuk in
Slav, the first settler may have so christened it.

[272] Skáldr (Germ. Schalte) means a pole; and inasmuch as the
Scald-pole (Skáld-stöng or Níð-stöng) was scored with charms and
imprecations--as Martin Capella (fifth century) writes:

“Barbara fraxineis sculpatur runa tabellis;”--

so “pole” came to signify a libel. Hence Skáld may be akin to the
Germ. Schelten, and the familiar English “Scold.” Afterwards it took
the meaning of poetry in a good sense, and Skáldskapr (Skaldship) was
applied to the form of verse, metre, flow, and diction (Cleasby). It
is hardly necessary to observe that the word is of disputed origin,
the five general derivations being Skalla (depilare), Skiael (wisdom =
our “skill”), Skjall (narratic), Skal (sources), and Gala (to sing).
“Hirðskáld” corresponds with our poet-laureate.

[273] Von Hammer counts 5744 Arabic terms for a camel.

[274] The total is 3060, but this would include the classics who have
treated of Istria.

[275] Mr Lidderdale of the British Museum has lately catalogued its
Icelandic books, and by another list of all those printed, shows what
is wanted to perfect the national collection. The latter possesses some
rare volumes which are not in the National Library of Copenhagen.

[276] The most noted of the old writers are the following: Arngrímr
Jónsson published a variety of books on local subjects, Brevis
Commentarius (1592), Anatome Blefkeniana (1612), Epistola Defensoria
(1618), Apotribe Calumniæ (1622), Chrymogæa (1609-1630), Specimen
Islandiæ (1643). In 1607 appeared the “Islandia, etc.” of Difmar
Blefkens (Blefkenius). The author lived a year at “Haffnefiordt,” and
then passed on to Greenland. He greatly scandalised the islanders by
making them purify their skins and strengthen their gums like the
Celtiberi of Strabo and Catullus, and the coquettes of rural France.
In 1608, Ionr Boty printed his “Treatise of the Course from Iceland to
Greenland” (Purchas, iii. 520). In 1644, La Peyrère wrote an “Account
of Iceland” (Churchill, ii. 432), from which an extract has been made.
In 1746, John Andersson, afterwards Burgomaster of Hamburgh, there
published his “Nachrichten von Island,” which was translated into
Danish and French. His statements were contradicted in 1750 by the Dane
Niels Horrebow, “Tilforladeliga Efterretningar om Island med ett nytt
Landkort, og 2 Aars Meteorologiska Observationer,” also translated into
German and English.

The marking book of the last century was the “Introduction à l’Histoire
de Dannemark,” par M. Mallet, à Copenh. 1755, 2 vols. 4to. It was
reproduced in English and German. This pioneer of northern literature
was born at Geneva, became French Professor at Copenhagen (1752),
travelled in Norway and Sweden (1755), returned home and died (1762).
The work is obsolete, but Mallet’s “Northern Antiquities,” edited by
Bishop Percy, and supplemented by Mr I. A. Blackwell, would form a
valuable item of Bohn’s Library (London, 1859), were it provided with
a decent index, and purged of the blemishes which now dishonour it.
Imagine the effect of such a note as this (p. 42): “The Himalaya, or
Heavenly mountains; the Sanskrit, himala, corresponding to the M.
Gothic himins; Alem. himil.... Engl., heaven.”

In 1766-67, M. de Kerguelen Tremarec voyaged over the North Sea, and
published in 1772 his “Relation d’un Voyage dans la Mer du Nord.” In
1772, Uno Von Troil accompanied Sir J. Banks to Iceland, and wrote a
most valuable series of twenty-five letters. They have been reproduced
in many collections: the edition always referred to in these pages
is the 4to of Robson, London, 1780, kindly given to the author by Mr
Bernhard Quaritch. Another important book is that of Eggert Olafsson
and Biarní Pállsson (usually Danised to Olafsen and Povelsen), “Reise
igienem Island, with Zoega’s Botanical Observations,” 2 vols., Soroe,
1772, 4to; it was translated into German and into French, and a
compendium of it, given in English, was largely quoted by Henderson.
In 1772, Bishop Finn Jónsson (Finnus Johannæus), the learned author
of the “Historia Ecclesiastica Islandiæ (vols. 3, Hafn., now very
rare), treated of the “depopulation of Iceland by cold, volcanic
eruptions, and famine.” Guðbrandus Thorlacius, Bishop of Hólar, also
wrote a “Letter concerning the Ancient State of the Island.” In 1789,
Mr (afterwards Sir) John Stanley addressed two “Letters” to Dr Black,
which were printed in the “Transactions of the Koyal Society of

The various collections of “Voyages and Travels” contain many
interesting notices of Iceland. The “Scoprimento dell’ Isole Frislanda,
Eslanda, Engroenlanda, Estotilanda, and Icarea, fatto per due fratelli,
M. Nicolò il Caualiere et M. Antonio, Libro Vno, col disegno di dette
Isole,” appears in Ramusio, vol. ii.; in Purchas, iii.; and in Hakluyt,
iii. Hakluyt, i., gives “King Arthur’s Voyage to Iceland” (A.D. 517),
and King Malgo’s conquest (A.D. 580), by “Galfridus Monumentensis.” Also
“A Briefe Commentary of the True State of Island” (or Iseland, both used
indiscriminately), by Jonas Arngrim. Volume iii. reprints “A Voyage of
the ships ‘Sunshine’ and ‘North Starre’ (of the fleet of Mr John Davis),
to discover a Passage between Groenland and Iseland” (A.D. 1586). J.
Harris (Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca; or, a Compleat
Collection of Voyages and Travels, 1705 and 1748), in book ii., chap.
ii., sec. 30, p. 489, et seq. (edition 1748), offers “A Voyage to the
North, containing an Account of the Sea Coasts and Rivers of Norway ...
and Iceland, etc.” (circa 1605), “extracted from the Journal of a
Gentleman employed by the North Sea Company at Copenhagen.” “A
Collection of Modern and Contemporary Voyages and Travels,” published by
Sir R. Phillips (London, 1805), reprints (vol. ii.) “Travels in Iceland,
performed by order of His Danish Majesty, etc., by Messrs Olafsen and
Povelsen” (the Olafsson and Pállsson before alluded to), translated from
the Danish, map and four plates. Kerr (“A General History and Collection
of Voyages and Travels, etc.,” 1811-24) has a chapter (vol. i., sec. I,
p. 4, et seq.) on the Discovery of Iceland by the Norwegians in the
ninth century about A.D. 861. J. Laharpe (vol. xvi.) quotes Horrebow
(1750), Anderson (1746), Jonas Arngrim, and “Flocco, a Norwegian
pirate.” The “Allgemeine Historie der Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande,”
etc., Leipzig, 1769 (pp. 1-63, map and plate), contains “Besondere
Geschichte von Island.”

[277] In 1837 appeared the first southern attempt at a novel upon
hyperborean subjects--“Han d’Islande,” which Jules Janin (Les
Catacombes, i. 102) described as “Cette vive, passionée et grossière
ébauche d’un homme qui avait Notre Dame de Paris dans la tête et les
Orientales dans le cœur.” The great author’s mind must have been very
young when he wrote it. This silly and childish farrago bears the same
relation to “Notre Dame” as “Titus Andronicus” to the “Tempest” or
to “Othello.” Han is an impossible savage, ever with a _tempête sous
un crâne_. Ordener is a ridiculous Timon, and the sudden conversion
of Schuhmacher to absurd benevolence is worthy of caricature-loving
Dickens. With the exception of a few striking remarks, it shows more of
fury and frenzy than of fine wit. It forcibly calls to mind the late
Prosper Merimée’s harsh judgment of M. Victor Hugo as a poet: “He is
all imagery. There is neither matter, nor solidity, nor common sense
in his verse; he is a man who gets drunk on his own words, and who no
longer takes the trouble of thinking.” And Han d’Islande explains how
the austere old littérateur detected a vein of insanity in the greatest
poet of the French Revival, the Romantic School which dates from 1830.

Nor amongst travellers can we reckon M. Jules Verne’s “Voyage au Centre
de la Terre,” the least meritorious of the “terribly thrilling” and
marvellously impossible series; its scene is chiefly below “Sneffles”
(Snæfelljökull), a sniffling disguise, which seems to have been, but is
not, invented in jest.

[278] M. Robert was the mineralogist, geologist, and botanist of the
expedition; he received special directions from M. Adolphe Brogniart
(Professor of Botany in the Museum of Natural History, Paris); he
traversed the greater part of the island in 1835-36, and at his request
Hr Vahl, a Danish botanist, who had lived long in Greenland, revised
the published lists, especially Hooker’s, and drew up a fresh list,
corrected to 1840. Since that time, Iceland has been visited by Mr
Babington of Cambridge (1846), who also made collections. For others,
see Section VII.

[279] The writer could have learned this only from Iceland information,
and he should have been more cautious in listening to the islanders,
especially when they were criticising what they consider a hostile
book. On the other hand, Madame Pfeiffer has left an impression upon
the reader that the clergy take money from travellers--which is
certainly not the case now, and probably never was general.

[280] Amongst Icelandic travels we cannot include the valuable
commercial papers, often alluded to in these pages--(1.) by Mr
Vice-Consul Crowe, “Report on the Fisheries, Trade, and General
Features of Iceland, for the years 1865-66;” and (2.) by Mr Consul
Crowe, “On the Trade and Fisheries of Iceland, for the years 1870-71.”
It is evident that the able author has not been in Iceland or he
would not say “the _schools_ are excellent and well attended,” when
there are absolutely no schools. It is to be regretted that the
Foreign Office does not enable writers to correct their proof-sheets;
we should then not have in a single page such blemishes as Skrid
Sökler (Jöklar); Oræfa Tokull (Jökull); Odadahrann (Ódáða Hraun); and
Kekjavik-cum-Keykjavik (for Reykjavik) repeated throughout the paper.

[281] Dr Hjaltalín has written many articles on sanitary matters
and the natural history of Iceland, which have appeared in various
periodicals, Icelandic, Danish, and English. He has also published for
several years the “Heilbrigðistíðindi” (Sanitary News).

[282] Near the end of the paper we read, “Iceland was now (after union
with Norway) governed as a colony;” this assertion, it is said, belongs
not to the author but to the editor.

[283] Laing’s “Heimskringla” is a work of a very different kind, not
translated from the original.

[284] The author can practically answer for its value. When travelling
in 1872 he had only the first volume, and thus whilst tolerably
acquainted with the words between A and the first half of H, he found
it impossible, within given limits, to master the rest. In the “Days
of Ignorance” it was necessary to learn Danish in order to use the
Icelandic Dictionary. It is only to be hoped that the English-Icelandic
half of the work will follow in due season, and doubtless some
enterprising publisher, like Mr Trübner, will presently give us
portable editions of both.

[285] Possibly a confusion with the pied crow (_C. Leucophæus_) of the
Færoes. In Scandinavian mythology the raven was white, but, like the
Hajar el Aswad of Mecca, it turned black in consequence of babbling and

[286] He made an expedition to East Greenland in 1828-29; and his
volume was translated by the late E. Gordon Macdougall, and published
(London, Parker, 1837) by the Royal Geographical Society of Great
Britain--a most sensible step. His determination that the East Bygð was
on the west coast has of late been successfully questioned by Mr R. H.
Major (Ocean Highways) through the 1507 edition of Ptolemy, the map of
Van Keulen (circ. A.D. 1700), and the “Chorography” of
the old Greenland colony, with sailing directions for reaching it from
Iceland by Ivar Bardsen, steward of the colonial bishop. Captain Graah
had denied the existence of Gunnbjörn’s Skerries, and so forfeited the
guidance of Ivar Bardsen. His book, however, is a valuable study of
hyperborean regions generally, and especially useful as a standard of
comparison between Iceland and Greenland. In the latter we find the hot
springs of Onnartok depositing silicious sinter, like the Geysir and
Strokkr, whilst the unfinished church of Kakortok reminds us of Færoese

[287] The fact is, it has become a party question. Hence strangers
who, like Dr W. Lander Lindsay (p. 7, “On the Eruption, in May 1860,
of the Kötlu-gjá Volcano, Iceland”), are otherwise employed than in
making general inquiries, ignore the basis. When this great _opus_ was
printed (1844), few countries in Europe had charts on such a scale,
so accurately detailed, and so well engraved. Even at present it
wants only the names of places being made more legible; it is still
the standard work, for which seamen and landsmen have reason to be
grateful, and it forms a solid foundation for future addition to all
time. Mr Thorne (Ramsdale, Thorne, & Co.) kindly lent his copy to the
author, who ungratefully kept it nearly three years.

[288] Every serious Icelandic traveller of the nineteenth century has
alluded more or less to the career of the Rev. Jón Thorláksson, parish
priest of Backa, who lived as best becomes a poet, in poverty, and who
died in poverty, æt. seventy-five, in 1819. He thus laments his hard

    “Yes; Penury hath been my bride
       Since e’er I saw the world of men;
     And clasped me to her rugged breast
       These seventy winters all but twain:
     And if we separate here below,
     He only knows who made it so.”

His “living,” besides glebe and parish gifts, was £6 per annum, of
which half was paid to an assistant (Henderson and Barrow); and he
did not live to receive the £20 collected for him in England. He
translated Pope’s Essay on Man, Klopstock’s Messiah, and Paradise
Lost. The three first books of the latter were printed by the Islenzka
Lærdómslista-fèlag (Icel. Lit. Society) before it was dissolved in
1796. The original MS. is deposited in the rooms of the Literary Fund,

[289] Forn-yrði, an old word, an archaism; hence Eddaic verse. We may
illustrate its alliteration by Peirce Plowman:

    “I _looked_ on my left half
      As the _Lady_ me taught,
     And was _ware_ of a _woman_
      _Worthlyith_ clothed.”

Finn Magnússon and Rask thus converted Virgil into narrative verse:

    “Arma virumque
     Cano, Trojæ
     Qui primus ab oris
     Fato profugus,
     Lavinaque venit
     Littora,” etc.

[290] As will appear in the Journal, all the principal streams have
ferries or some _succedanea_, and no Iceland guide is in the habit of
exposing himself recklessly.

[291] Hunter & M’Donald of Leith sell sou’-westers for 2s.; outer and
inner hose, at 3s. 6d. and 2s. 6d.; sailors’ trousers, for 10s.; stout
oil coats, at 18s. 6d.; and fishermen’s mitts, at 1s. 3d. Foreman, also
of Leith, supplies excellent boots for £2, 10s.

[292] A very young traveller, Mr John Milne, F.G.S., has thus taken
the author to task: “Fancy yourself with forty horses, riding over
snow bridges by the dozen.” Is it then necessary to explain that the
ponies are intended for the Ódáða Hraun, a tract about the size of
Devonshire? When Mr Watts started on his second expedition, he declared
it was “essential that the party should not be less than six,” and he
preferred eight, calculating that the expenses would not exceed £50 per

[293] “Ropeing” is not a new thing, as many Alpine travellers seem to
think. Pállson, when ascending Öræfa Jökull (1794), used “a rope about
ten fathoms in length,” and “left a distance of two fathoms” between
himself and his two companions. The latter is the modern average, the
extremes being nine and fifteen. The author never heard of Icelanders
objecting to this precaution, but “G. H. C.,” who in August 1, 1874,
inspected the Kötlu-gjá (_Field_, October 10, 1874), says that his two
guides “apparently regarded such proceeding in the light of a capital
joke, and, connecting the idea with that of horses (_í taumi_) at a
sale, declared ‘they had never heard of a horse-fair on a Yokull.’”

[294] Every kind of snow requires its own shoe. Thus the Norwegian
“skies” are very different from the Iceland skí, which resembles the
Finn “öndrar,” or “andrar.” These articles are six, seven, and even
twelve feet long, by five inches wide, in fact like large cask-staves.
The front ends are a little bent up, and the sides are garnished
with iron (saddlers’) D’s, through which leather thongs, or bands of
willow-withes, are passed to secure the feet. Sometimes for facility
of turning, one is made longer than the other, and the Lapps sole the
right foot with hairy skin, so as to hold the snow in the back stroke.
The alpenstock in Iceland is a bone handled staff, with a stout spike:
the author never saw the stick shod with a wheel three inches broad,
and safe against sinking, which is used on the Continent.

[295] One of the thermometers was broken on the way to Edinburgh, and,
curious to say, it could not be repaired in the capital of Scotland.
Professor C. Vogt prefers to the Alpine Sympiesometer, the _Barometre
Compensée Metallique_ of M. Richard, Rue Fontaine du Roi, Paris: he
used it in Iceland, and found it answer admirably.

[296] The _Saturday Review_ (December 14, 1872) informs its readers
that the Danish mail packet runs from Leith--which it does not.

[297] From most parts of the world, too, even from Hungary and Fiume,
the casks are sent back to the United States, not broken up, but in
bulk, because the heavy freight pays well where labour cannot be bought.

[298] I need hardly remark that this was written before the glorious
days of February 1874, when the English nation, centuries ahead of
Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, by one of the noblest constitutional
revolutions known to its history, buried that _felo-de-se_, the Radical
Cabinet, and pulled down its programme Disestablishment, Retrenchment,
and Non-intervention, the latest modification of Liberté, Égalité,
Fraternité, and--Death.

[299] We have seen that in Iceland the Lögberg, or Hill of Laws, was
confined to the Althing.

[300] After many years of the “_quousque tandem?_” state of mind, my
astonishment at the amount of legal murder authorised and sanctioned
by authority in England, and my wonder that abuses so hideous did not
become a public scandal, have been explained away by the sacrifices
which the patriotic Mr Plimsoll found necessary before he could
obtain a hearing. The manner in which his small inaccuracies of
detail have been made to obscure the whole “palpitant question,” the
counter-charges of sensationalism and ultra-philanthropy which have
been brought to refute the main charge, and the notable worship of
Mammon and vested abuses, are hardly encouraging to the optimist’s
view of “progress.” But the day is now done, let us hope, when crews
of “murdered men” can be sent to sea in floating coffins insured at
thrice their value. The simplest preventive would be an order that
every consul should report all flagrant cases, with the express
understanding, however, that he should not be punished nor be made to
suffer for doing his “unpleasant duty.”

[301] Found in St. Helier, and written “Helyer” in the
Scoto-Scandinavian islands. Evidently the Icelandic Hellir (_plur._
Hellar), a cave, common in local words, _e.g._, Hellis-menn, the
cave-men; it is akin to Hallr, a slope, a boulder, much used for proper
names of men and women, as Hall-dór (Hall thor) and Hall-dóra (Cleasby).

[302] John Brand (A Brief Description of Orkney, etc., Edinburgh, 1701,
Pinkerton, iii. 731) writes Dungisbie Head, and Duncan’s Bay. The
Scandinavian form of Duncansbay Head is Dungalsnýpa.

[303] Pettlands Fjörð in Icelandic from Pight-land or Pict-land.

[304] For other interesting details see the Gróttasöngr, or Lay of

[305] The old Cape Orcas, derived, as has been said, from Latin
Orca, Gaelic Orcc or Orc, and Icelandic Orkn--“_Delphinus orca_,” a
dog-seal--the addition of-_ey_, an isle, makes Orkney. This point is
the Ptolemeian Tarbetum or “Taruedum, quod et Orcas promontorium,
finis Scotiæ dicitur,” and unduly placed in N. lat. 60° 15´, and long.
31° 20´ (lib. i., cap. 3). The word derives from the Gaelic Tarbet, a
drag, a portage, a haul-over, common names in Scoto-Scandinavia, and
equivalent to the Icelandic Eið (aith). It lies only six miles from
the nearest of the archipelago, which Pomponius Mela called Orcades,
evidently a Roman corruption of the indigenous “Orkneyjar,” the Irish
Innsi Orcc, and the Inis Torc of Ossian. Fordun’s “Scotichronicon” (ii.
2) calls the Orkneys “Insulæ Pomoniæ;” and Buchanan says, “Orcadum
maxima multis veterum Pomona vocatur.” As _poma_ are not abundant
there, the name has caused considerable argumentation. In the “Société
Royale des Antiquaires du Nord” (1845-49), and in the “Proceedings
of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland” (Edinburgh, Neill, 1852),
Professor A. Munch, of Christiania, contributes an able paper, “Why is
the Mainland of Orkney called Pomona?” Before his time Dr (D.D.) George
Barry, in an excellent book, “History of the Orkney Islands” (London,
Longmans, 1805) had derived Pomona from “pou,” small (query, “Bú,” a
settlement, or “bol,” corrupted to “bull,” a house?), and Mon, Patria;
also from the Norsk terms signifying “Great-land.” Professor Munch
quotes Torfæus (Orcad., p. 5), “Pomona ... a Julio polyhistore Diutina
appellatur.” Solinus Polyhistor, facetiously known as Plinii Simius,
says of Thule (chap. xxv.), “Ab Orcadibus Thyle usque quinque dierum
et noctium navigatio. Sed Thule larga et diutina pomona copiosa est”
(Thule is a fertile country, and plentifully productive of long-lasting
corn). He would read the evidently mutilated text, “Sed Thule larga et
Diutina pomona copiosa est,” or “Sed Thule larga et diutina, Pomona
copiosa est,” and he finds that “Diutina _ergò_ Pomona--ab esse ad
posse valet consequentia.” But it is over ingenious to account by the
error of a text for a popular term four hundred years old, _e.g._,

    “Our rare Pomonia, which the natives style
     The Mainland.”

[306] To quote the Dean’s English, “it is part of a (Radical?) movement
to help forward the obliteration of all trace of the derivation and
history of words:” as such it may be highly recommended to the “Japs.”
The Icelandic or pure Scandinavian form, simple and compound, is _ey_
(gen. and plur. _eyjar_); each vowel being pronounced distinct, and not
confounded, as some foreigners do, with the German _ö_ or the French
_eu_. _Ey_ is the Keltic “hy,” as found in the classical Hy Brazile,
the mysterious island west of Galway, and so called during centuries
before the real Brazil was discovered. Again the form appears in
“Ireland’s Eye,” which Cockneys pronounce Ireland’s H’eye; the pure
Irish form is _I_ (O’Brien’s Irish-English Dictionary, sub voce), or
_aoi_, an island or region, which that learned writer derives (?) from
the Hebrew “ai,” insula, regio, provincia. “The Norwegian _öy_, the
Danish _öe_, the Swedish _ö_, the Anglo-Saxon _êg_ (-land), and the
German _aue_, are found in ey-ot and Leas-ow, Chels-ea and Batters-ea;
and whilst the Orkneys corrupt it wofully, we retain it pure in
Cherts-ey, Aldern-ey, and Orkn-ey” (Cleasby). Munch (Ant. du Nord) has
corrected the error of Webster, who derives “island” from _ea_ or _ey_,
water (!), and _land_. It is simply _ey-land_, “terra insularis.”

[307] Properly Sand-eið, or Sand-aith, a sand-isthmus connecting two

[308] “Links,” from Lykkur, locked or closed fields.

[309] “Bismari” in Icelandic is a steelyard, and “bismara-pund” a
kind of lb. The Norwegian Bismerpund is = 12 Skaalpunds (100:110 Eng.
avoird.), and the Lispund is = 16 Skaalpunds. The Icelandic word is
Lífspund, from Lifl, and = 18 lbs. Scots (Cleasby).

[310] Varangian, Icel. Væringi, from Várar, a pledge (al. Wehr, Vær,
ware or active defence): the Væringjar of the Sagas, the Russian
Varæger, the Βαράγγοι of Byzantine historians, and our Warings,
popularly known through Gibbon and “Count Robert of Paris,” formed the
Scandinavian bodyguard of the Eastern empire. These battle-axe men
were at first Northmen from Kiew in A.D. 902, under the
Emperor Alexis, and successively Danes, Norwegians, and Icelanders
(Cleasby and Mallet: Mr Blackwall, note ‡, p. 193, attempts and fails
to correct Gibbon). What possessed Mr A. Mounsey (Journal through the
Caucasus and Persia) to derive “Feringi” (Frank) from Varangian?

[311] Popularly but erroneously derived from Kolbeinsey or Kaupmannsey,
“Chapman’s Isle.”

[312] Mr Blackwall (p. 257) more modestly says the “first European.”

[313] “Peerie-folk” means the fairies, both words evidently congeners
of the Persian Pari or Peri. Grimm, an excellent authority, derives
the French Fée, the Provençal Fada, the Spanish Hada, and the Italian
Fata, from the Latin Fatum--remarking that Fata and Fée have the same
analogy as _nata_ and _née_, _amata_ and _aimée_. In connection with
“Simmer” or “Sea,” “Peerie,” meaning little, is by some deduced from
the French “petit;” in the Shetlands it is further emphasised to
Peerie-weerie-winkie (of a foal, etc.).

[314] The ordinary runes, I need hardly say, have been shown by Rafn
to be derived from archaic Greek; and probably from coins which found
their way north during the first centuries of our era.

[315] Gen. Lim-rúnar (lim or limr being the limb of a tree opposed to
the bole), which Cleasby explains as “a kind of magical runes.”

[316] “Hubby” is a loose robe, erroneously derived, like the Scotch
Joop, the German Giup, the Italian Giubba and Giubbone, the French Jupe
and Jupon, and the Slav Japungia, from the Norsk Hwipu. All these are
simply corruptions of the Arabic “Jubbeh.”

[317] These Northmen left their handiwork even on the “Stones of
Venice.” Readers may not be unwilling to see the legend upon the
maneless and melancholy lion, the statue of Pentelic marble, ten
feet high, once at the harbour mouth of the Piræus (Porto Leone),
where the pedestal still stands, now fronting the arsenal, Venice,
where, after the retreat from Greece, the Doge Morosini carried it in
1687. The hardly legible inscription on the right side of the animal
is supposed to be, “Asmundr graved these runes united with Asgeir,
Thorlief, Thórd, and Ívar, at the request of Haraldr Háfi (the Tall);
although the Greeks, taking thought, forbade it.” It is supposed that
this Harold was the same who had the promise of seven feet in English
ground. The left flank and shoulder are less uncertain, and the legend
reads as follows: “Hakun, united with Ulfr (Wolf) and Asmundr and Aurn
(Örn), conquered this port. These men and Haraldr Háfi, on account of
the uprising of the Greek people, imposed considerable fines. Dálkr
remained (prisoner?) in remote regions. Egill fared with Ragnar to
Rumania ... and Armenia.”

The inscriptions were first published in 1800 by Åkerblad, a Swedish
savant; they have been frequently revised, and the last study is the
“Inscription Runique du Pirée, interpretée par C. C. Rafn; et publiée
par la Société Royale des Antiquaires du Nord,” Copenhagen, 1856.

[318] The old Norsk Megin-land, land of might, or mainland, is
evidently, like the Scotch Mickle, connected with the Persian Mih
or Mihin, great, powerful, but not, as Mr Blackwall conceives, with
“miracle.” The classical name of the Orkney group, then numbering only
seven, is Acmodæ in Pliny, iv. 16, and Hæmodæ in Mela, iii. 6. The
Icelandic term is Hjaltland (pronounced _Zhatland_), hence Zetland,
Hetland, and Shetland. Thus it still preserves the fame of old Hjalti,
the Viking of the ninth century, who also survives in the modern
“Sholto.” Munch suggests that Hjaltland, hilt-land, may have been
given from a weapon dropped in it; so trivial were the names of olden
Scandinavia: he also mentions the legend of Swordland, a great country
now submerged, between Norway and Hjaltland, its hilt.

[319] In Scandinavian, Dynröst, “thundering roost,” from “að dynja,” to
din; hence the Tyne and Dvina Rivers. The Icelandic Röst, or current,
is the French Raz; that of “Petlandsfjörð” is especially celebrated.
In the Orkneys “Roust” is a stormy sea caused by the meeting of
tides; “Skail” (Icel. Skellr) is the dashing of surf upon the shore;
“Skelder,” the washing of waves, is a common name for farm-houses near
the beach; and “Swelchie,” which explains its own meaning, is the
Icelandic Svelgr.

[320] Fit Fiall, _i.e._, “planities pinguis,” or, better still,
Fitfulglahöfði, sea-fowl cape.

[321] An abstract printed in “Illustrations of Northern Antiquities,”
one vol. 4to, Edinburgh, 1814; reprinted verbatim in “Northern
Antiquities,” edited by Mr J. A. Blackwall, London, Bohn, 1859. In
it we may note the origin of Norna the sibyl’s “improvisatory and
enigmatical poetry.”

[322] Originally Brúsey, from Brúsi, a proper name.

[323] Skála-vegr, the way of the court-house.

[324] Also written Brough, meaning a round tower. The word is
usually derived from the Gothic “berga,” to defend, but it has a far
nobler origin. It is the Chaldee “burgadh,” the Arabic “burj,” the
Armenian “pourc,” the Greek “πύργος,” and the Latin “burgus;” the
Gothic “baurg,” the Mæso-Gothic “bairg,” and “borg,” a mountain;
the Scandinavian “borg,” a fortress; the Armoric, Irish, and Welsh
“burg,” also found in Teutonic and Saxon; the Anglo-Saxon “beorh”
and “beorg,” a rampart, and “burh” or “bureg,” a castle; the Belgian
“burg,” the Gaelic “burg,” the French “bourg,” the Italian “borgo,” the
North British “burgh” and “burg,” as Edinburgh and Corrensburg; the
Scoto-Scandinavian “brogh” or “broch,” with the guttural uncompounded,
and even “borve,” as in Sianborve, and “burr,” as in Burraness; and,
finally, the English “burg” and “burgh,” “borough” and “burrow.” Such
are a few of its titles to antiquity and extent of domain.

[325] I am well aware of the difficulties, and especially of the
expense, objected to condensing peat. But peat _au naturel_ can
be burnt as the _mottes_ in France and Holland have been used for
generations. And I am also aware of the immense interests wielded by
the Coal League--surely these must sooner or later succumb to the
public good. Lands without coal leagues find no difficulty in the
operation. The two companies lately established at Oldenburg use a
large flat-bottomed steamer, which opens a canal 20 feet broad and 6
deep at the rate of 10 to 12 feet per hour: the soil is heaped up on
the banks, and is cut into brick-shape, after which mere drying makes
it fit for fuel.

[326] After Australian diggers had asserted for years that gold would
be found in Bute, a specimen was lately (1874) extracted from a vein of
quartz which runs out into the sea below the Skeoch plantation.

[327] Jerome Cardan, travelling in Scotland (1552), remarked the
popular fondness for the _Platanus_, and explains it thus: “I think
they take a special delight in that tree, because its foliage is so
like vine leaves.... ‘Tis like lovers, who delight in portraits when
they can’t have the original.” Colonel Yule (Geograph. Mag., Sept. 1,
1874) asks whether these trees were the real plane (_P. Orientalis_) or
the maple (_Acer pseudo-platanus_), commonly but erroneously so called
in Scotland, and still more erroneously in England, “Sycamore.” Hence
also, he observes, by propagation of error Eastern travellers translate
the Persian “Chínár” (_Platanus_) by Sycamore.

[328] Especially “Shetland,” etc., by Robert Cowie, M. A., M. D.
Edinburgh: Menzies, 1871. Will the author allow me to suggest that in
his next edition of this valuable work--an exceptional guide-book,
amusing as well as instructing--the medical part from page 56 to page
88, and especially Chapter XIV., should be placed in an appendix? At
present it reminds me of a volume which I read with the liveliest
interest, “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” regretting only that the order
of the tales had not been systematically reversed. Dr Cowie has been
kind enough, at my request, to draw up an account of the pre-historic
collection at Lerwick, which will be found in the note at the end of
this chapter.

Since these lines were written, the papers have informed me that Dr
Cowie, after printing a second edition of his admirable guide-book, has
passed from this world when in the prime of manhood.

[329] The number of these places of refuge shows the Shetlands in
proto-historical times to have been densely peopled. I have made the
same remark about the Istrian Castellieri.

[330] Etymological Glossary of the Shetland and Orkney Dialects, by
Thomas Edmonston. Edinburgh, 1866.

[331] Hence the name of Malestrom or Moskoestrom.

[332] “Lappmark’s land-plague,” says Mr Shairp, author of “Up in North”
(London: Chapman & Hall, 1872), is of three kinds:

1. Mygg, or long nose (_Culex pipiens_), the wretch of stinging bite
and blasphemous song.

2. Knott (_C. reptans_), a villain that keeps close to the ground, and
avoids horses.

3. Hya or Gnadd (_C. pulicaris_), the smallest of the family, but when
it “sticks,” as the Swedes say, violent itching is the result.

[333] The fowl rope contained sixteen ox hides, and the seven pieces
each measured eighty fathoms. Early in the present century it cost only

[334] One of those in the Lerwick Museum was taken out of the peat-moss
six feet beneath the surface.

[335] On some Remarkable Discoveries of Rude Stone Implements in
Shetland, by Arthur Mitchell, F.S.A., from Proceedings of the Society
of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. vii, 1866-67.

[336] Dr Mitchell, paper supra cit.

[337] At Ephesus blue formed the background of enrichments and
sculpture in relief, whilst brilliant reds and yellows were applied to
the parts requiring greater prominence. The idea that red, green, and
blue, are primitives, with yellow, sea-green, and pink for complements,
is very modern and rather startling.

[338] He attributes (p. 49) the fire to crushed driftwood, but Adam of
Bremen declares the ice to be so dry that it can burn.

[339] The Icelandic “fugl” is especially applied to the gull.
“Fowl-isle” amongst the Scandinavians meant an isolated rock lying far
out to sea, and supposed to represent a bird swimming.

[340] Raven--old German, Hraban; modern, Rabe; Icel. Hrafn (_pron._
Hrabn); Anglo-Saxon, Hræfn; Dan. Ravn; and Slav. Vran--is derived (says
Max Müller, “Science of Languages,” Longmans, 1862) from the Sanskrit
Rn or Krn, “to cry,” whence “raucus,” and other kindred words. Like the
pigeon, the genus Corvus (Corax and Cornix) crops up in all mythology,
even where least expected; witness the Hierocorax of Mithras and the
marvellous changes by which Apollo and Athene became crows.

[341] The very word is Norsk, “leiðar-(Anglo-Saxon, lâd) steinn,”
not “lapis viæ,” but leading stone (að leiða), or lode-stone; like
lode-star and lodesman, “a pilot.” It is also called Sólar-steinn, or

[342] Cleasby derives it from Kúði or Kóð, the fry of trout and salmon.

[343] Several Icelanders (see Dr W. Lauder Lindsay) have visited the
rift which engulphed Katla, the murderess and suicide; a name well
known by the translation of Powell and Magnússon. “G. H. C.,” before
quoted, who explored it in August 1874, after being misled by the map,
found on the southern face “a deep circular indentation where black
volcanic sand could be seen uncovered by snow and ice.” We can now
explain by the usual method the glacier which, according to Professor
Steenstrŭp, was torn from its moorings in 1721 by water within or
below: evidently the heated ground melted the whole of the upper
_calotte_ and caused the catastrophe. Other traces were concealed
by the snow-fall which, consolidating into glacier-ice, accumulates
annually twenty feet, and fourteen years have elapsed since the last
eruption. The guides were surprised that “their natural foe should
present phenomena of a character no more startling and tremendous. What
had they expected to find? Perhaps a vast yawning gulf, over whose edge
might be watched the spirit of Katla, whirling like a second Francesca
di Rimini in the sulphurous depths below.” Yet Henderson could
descry from Skaptafell “the aqua-igneous volcano _Kötlu-giá_, whose
tremendously yawning crater was distinctly visible” (i. 264).

[344] In Iceland the reflection of field-ice is brightest, but yellow;
new ice is grey, and drift-ice is purest white. The use of “blink” is
not happy: Ross employs it in “ice-blink” to denote a cliff or barrier;
others talk of land-blink, _i.e._, the reflection of the sky upon the

[345] The English “tern” is from the Icel. Therna (_Sterna hirundo_).

[346] Hence “Lundy” in the Bristol Channel.

[347] Baring-Gould (pp. 418, 419) gives four kinds of
skuas--_Catarrhactes_ (great skua), _Pomatorhinus_, _Parasiticus_
(Arctic skua), and _Buffoni_. He makes “Kjór” the Icel. name for No. 3:
I heard it so applied, but the Dictionary gives “a sea-bird of the tern
kind; Hill’s Sterna.” We find the family mentioned by Pigafetta, the
circumnavigator (A.D. 1519-22), under the libellous name
“Cagassela” or “Caca uccello,” and he himself oftentimes witnessed the
practice which survives in the term Stercorarius. It is an Antarctic as
well as an Arctic “pirate of the seas.”

[348] A term of daily use, derived from “að hrynja,” to flow, to stream
down; its pronunciation (_Hroyn_) induces the facetious traveller to
call it the “road to ruin,” and Henderson wrote as he spoke, Hroyn.
“Gullbringu” is usually translated gold-bringing; but Cleasby, sub
voc. “bringa,” derives the word differently, and makes “Gull-bringur”
signify the Golden Slopes. In Sect. VII. of Introduction a third
signification has been given.

[349] Hence the country word “Kaarl Cat,” for tom cat, still preserved
in heraldry. The Icel. Karl is pronounced _Katl_ or _Kadl_.

[350] Farther south the Fulmar is called the Mollie-moke; hence the
“mollie,” or mild orgie on broad northern whalers.

[351] The following is the whole text of the letter upon the “Expected
Eruption of Mount Hecla” (which did not take place):

“MANSE OF ARBUTHNOTT, _July 2, 1872._

“SIR,--Will you permit me to add the following to your paragraph with
the above heading in the _Scotsman_ of to-day? While doubling Cape
Reikianess, the south-west promontory of Iceland, on the morning of
Saturday, June 8, we saw a remarkable Geyser a few miles inland,
shooting up water at regular intervals of about five minutes to a
height of at least 100 feet. All on board who had ever heard of the
Great Geyser, so graphically described by Madame Ida Pfeiffer and
others, but which is sometimes so unpolite as to keep sightseers
waiting two days before it favours them with an exhibition, were amazed
at a spectacle so remarkable, and yet so unremarked by any who before
us had visited Iceland.

“After attending service at the church of Reikiavik on Sunday, I did
myself the honour to call upon the Bishop of Iceland, an excellent,
courteous old gentleman, who, if he does not dwell, like the Psalmist,
in a ‘house of cedar,’ dwells, like his flock, in a house of Norwegian
fir. He could not speak English, but he spoke French well. To him I
mentioned the phenomenon we had seen, believing that he was as likely
as any one to know whether or not it was new. He told me that he knew
the district well, but that there was no Geyser there at his last
visit; that what we had seen, therefore, was quite new. In answer to
my inquiry whether there had been any recent volcanic disturbance in
the island, he informed me that there had been a violent earthquake
in the northern region about the middle of April. This outburst of a
new Geyser (which we observed in full play on our homeward voyage on
Tuesday, June 11) and the earthquake in the north, seem premonitory
of an eruption either of Hecla, or of some other of the other seven
mountains which Keith Johnston, in his Physical Atlas, marks as
active volcanoes. I hope we shall shortly have a description of any
such occurrence, if it do take place, from the graphic pen of Captain
Burton, whose society made our outward voyage a rare treat.--I am, etc.

“(Signed) R. M. SPENCE.”

[352] Reyk = reek (Kelt. Ruagh, Reâc, and Ruah, the German Rauch),
seems to be a word common to the Aryan and Semitic families. Old
philologists derive it from the Hebrew Ruach, Arab. Rúh or Ríh, wind,
breath, mind, spirit. Spinoza, the Hebraist, translates, apparently
with reason, “Ruach Elohim” (the Spirit of Elohim or Gods, Gen. i. 2)
by “a strong wind.”

[353] “Eyjar” is often used of the Western Isles, Orkneys, Shetlands,
and Soder or Suder (Suðr-ey, south isle, whence the diocese of Soder
and Man). In south Iceland it is also applied to the Vestmannaeyjar.

[354] One of the earliest forms of armour-plating, the old defence
still survives in the nettings of our bulwarks.

[355] English tautology. Skagi (in Shetland Scaw or Skaw, _e.g._, the
Skaw of Unst) is a low cape opposed to Höfði, a high headland (Cleasby).

[356] Originally Örfiris-eye, which has been explained under Orfir of
the Orkneys.

[357] Heimdall was the doorkeeper of the gods, who kills and is killed
by Loki.

[358] I dismiss the “Iceland Revolution” in a few lines, for
Baring-Gould (Introd. xlii.) has given a very complete account,
borrowed from Hooker and Mackenzie.

[359] Reykjavíkr in the nominative sing, is an abstract linguistic
fiction, from Vík (feminine), a bay, a wich (_e.g._, Greenwich).
Travellers neglect the Icelandic termination, and even English literati
omit the-_r_ or-_ur_ as superfluous and strictly correct only in the
nominative, _e.g._, Leif for Leifr. From Vík, a bay, comes Víking,
a baying-voyage, or seeking the shelter of bays, and Víkingr, a
baying-voyager, or a voyager from the fjords. This word, sometimes
written Vi-king in English, suggests a wrong etymology. Cleasby warns
us that the termination-_wick_ or-_wich_ is Norsk only for maritime
places, the inland “wicks” derive from the Latin _vicus_. Local names
beginning with _Reyk_ are unknown to Scandinavians, and peculiar to
Iceland where the pillars of steam must have struck the colonist’s eye.

[360] Taken at the cathedral. The longitude (G.) given by Norie is W.
21° 51´ 3´´, by Raper 21° 55´ 2´´; Norie gives the lat. 64° 9´ O”,
Raper 64° 8´ 4´´. The variation of the compass is roughly 36° off
Berufjörð; 35° 15´ off the eastern Jökull; and 45° off Reykjavik:
it was in 1814 (Henderson, i. 250) “two points towards the west;”
in 1840 (French charts) it was W. 43° 21´. M. Lottier (1838) made
it 43° 14´; and in 1871 (Admiralty chart, by Captain Evans) it was
44°, still increasing at the rate of 5´ per annum. Consequently the
people have two norths--north by compass and true north, the latter at
Reykjavik fronting the mountain-block Akrafjall. The inclination (dip)
of the magnetic needle (French chart of 1840) is 76° 45´. The vulgar
_Etablissement du port_ (Hafenzeit, high water at full and change),
French chart, is at 5h. Om.; and the maximum height of the tides 5m. 35
cent. The Admiralty tables give spring-tides a rise of 17½ feet and the
neaps 13¼.

[361] The Dictionary translates it “home of the Thronds” (Thrændir).

[362] From “And,” opposite, and “Vegr,” an “opposite seat,” a “high
seat.” In the old timbered hall the benches (bekkr) were ranged along
the walls with the two seats of honour in the middle facing one
another. The northern, fronting the sun, was called Öndvegi æðra,
first or higher high-seat, reserved for the master, and the other was
Úæðra, the lower or second, kept for the chief guest. In England the
master and the mistress sitting opposite each other at table, may be
a remnant of the old Scandinavian custom. The sides of the high seat
were ornamented with uprights (öndugis súlur) carved with figures, such
as a head of Thor: these posts were regarded with religious honour and
were thrown into the sea as guides. When a man of rank died, the son,
after all rites performed, solemnly sat in his father’s seat, as a sign
of succession, but this was not done if the paternal murder remained
unavenged (Cleasby).

[363] There is a plan of Reykjavik, but the size of the scale keeps
it in MS. Baring-Gould and others give ground sketches, which are now

[364] In Icel. Brú is a bridge in our sense of the word; Bryggja is a
landing-place as well as a bridge.

[365] This hollow sound may be remarked even in the new town of
Trieste, where a passing omnibus shakes the substantially-built
stone houses. Such soil must be always the most dangerous in case
of earthquakes, which are comparatively harmless on the adjacent

[366] The word Völlr (plur. Vellir, and gen. pl. Valla) means a field,
and is akin to the German Wald. It often occurs in the plural, _e.g._,
Reyni-vellir (Rowan plains); and “Thing-valla,” the foreign way of
writing, is properly Thingvellir.

[367] Tómr, empty, is the Scotch “toom.”

[368] I particularly remarked the beautiful shell, striped white and
brick-red, the Hörpu-diskr, _Pecten Islandicus_, or Iceland clam. The
krákuskel, or _Mytilus edulis_, is eaten by foxes.

[369] Native authorities differ as to the depth where frost extends. I
heard a maximum of eight feet, even in the lowlands.

[370] The word Hjallr, the Færoese Kiadlur, is akin to Hjalli and Hilla
(English hill), a shelf or ledge in the mountain-side, and hence a
scaffold; the full term for the fish-shed is Fisk-hjallr (Cleasby).

[371] Henderson confounds the “Klip-fish” (Danish, Klippe, a rock),
which is cleaned, salted, and stacked, with the stock-fish or dry-fish,
simply split, washed, sunned, and turned by the women. The latter forms
the national staff of life, and is not exported. “Fiskr” in Icelandic
is especially applied to cod, trout, and salmon.

[372] The Maskat Arabs eat shark-meat, but they never apply the oil to
the skin, considering it a caustic; rubbed into ship bottoms, it is
supposed to defend the wood from worms.

[373] There was one corpse at the Hospital; the death had been caused
by delirium tremens.


The “boiled shirt” costs 12 skillings = 3d.
Flannel  ”             ”    8    ”      = 2d.
Socks and collars      ”    3  ”        = 1½d.
Kerchiefs and white ties    2  ”        = 1d.

You must be pretty careful, however, unless you wish your linen to go
the way of all washing in all lands.

[375] I was once asked at an English country-house to show how coffee
is made in Arabia; the housekeeper’s only remark was, “It is easy to
make coffee like Captain Burton if one may use so much!” But the Arab
system, though simple as it is scientific, cannot be learnt without
long practice.

[376] The lich-gate proper in the cemetery is, or rather was, called
Sálu-hlið, or souls’ gate.

[377] According to Professor J. M. Thiele (Copenhagen, 1832), he was
descended on the spindle side--where, by-the-by, almost any descent can
be established--from the royal blood of Scandinavia. The family, once
settled at Óslandshlíð in Skagafjörð, sank, and his father Gottskálk
emigrated to Copenhagen, where he lived by carving figureheads for
shipwrights. His mother was a clergyman’s daughter, and he was born
November 19, 1770. Finn Magnússon (Antiquitates Americanæ) has also
drawn up his pedigree.

His first order from his northern home was, according to Thiele, a font
which Countess Schimmelmann and her brother Baron Schubarth wished to
present to the church of Brahe-Trolleberg in “Funen,” as we write Fyen.
It was adorned with four bas-reliefs--the Baptism, the Holy Family,
Christ blessing the children, and three angels. After being exhibited
and admired at Copenhagen, it was sent to its destination, and a copy,
we are told, was offered by the artist to the deserted land of his
forefathers, to be _placed in Myklabye church_. A note informs us that
this font was bought by a northern merchant, whereupon the artist
immediately began another in Carrara marble. It is not said whether the
third edition actually reached Myklabye church or is the one bought by
Lord Caledon--evidently we have found it in the cathedral.

The “Patriarch of Bas-reliefs,” as the Italians entitled him (ob.
1844), has been called a “handsome young Dane,” when he was peculiarly
Icelandic in body and mind. It was his misfortune to belong to the day
of manufacturing sculptors, amongst whom he was the first and no more.
But what can the artist expect from such inspiration as Jason, Anacreon
and Cupid, Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, can give? The Icelander was pure and
simple, free from the Gallicisms of Canova, an improvement upon Sergell
the Swede, but cold, lacking life and interest; in fact, an imitator.
I would rather in these days settle as an artist amongst the Kru-boys
of the west coast of Africa, and attempt negro subjects, than copy the

Richard Cleasby, who, by the by, killed himself with Cures, or rather
Kurs, had a wide experience of men and manners in Europe, and his
criticisms are sometimes sharp, but he left Thorvaldsen “with the
impression of having been in the company of a great man.” The peculiar
Icelandic traits in his character were an ultra-Yankee ‘cuteness in
making a bargain, and a love of money, which led him into that ugly
business of Madame d’Uhden. Still he amply deserves the statue for
which the Municipal Council of Copenhagen has voted $6000, in honour of
the Iceland Millenary.

[378] Síra is more commonly, but not so correctly, written Séra, and
by foreigners Sjera; and I have heard it pronounced _Shera_. It is
a Romance word, originally Senior, hence Seigneur, Signore, Senhor,
Señor, Sir, Sir-r (Richardson), Sirrah, and “Sir-ree.” Icelanders still
keep up our fashion of Shakespeare’s day, and apply it to clerks with
the Christian name only, as Sir Hugh. _Magister_ was the university
title of the M.A. in our fifteenth century: _Dominus_ (the Dan of
Chaucer and his contemporaries, and the Don of modern Italian priests)
was, and still is, the B.A., entered as Sir This or Sir That (the
surname) in some of the college registers down to the time of Queen
Anne, and, I believe, even in our day. Hence, possibly, the origin of
the French Sir Brown and Sir Jones.

[379] This author also tells us that Sweden annually produces
38,000,000 of pots of Korn-schnapps, of which 6,000,000 are used for
technological purposes.

[380] In 1872 no less than 1100 cases of illicit distillation were
detected in Ireland, against 21 in England, and 8 in Scotland.

[381] The irrepressible statistician of the _Figaro_ assigns annually
to England 50,000 deaths by drunkenness, of which 12,000 are women;
40,000 to Germany; 38,000 to the United States; 10,000 to Russia (??);
4000 to Belgium; and 1500 to virtuous France.

[382] Bishop Pètursson has a section (No. 3, p. 448, et seq.), “De
regiis Islandiæ Satrapis,” amongst whom was a Count Ehrenreich C. L.
Moltke. Chap. II. (p. 474) treats “de Finno Johannæo;” and Chap. III.
(p. 479) “de Johanne Finnæo.”

[383] I made the mistake before leaving England of buying the Biblia
published in the German character at Copenhagen in 1747, and found the
language old-fashioned. The Oxford edition of the Bible Society, which
sells for four marks, is certainly an improvement.

[384] Grímr and Grímnir are names of Odin, from his travelling in
disguise: grímumaðr is a cowled man, “Mutalassam,” or “face-veiled,” as
the Bedawin say.

[385] I see by the papers that Father Stub, the Barnabite, on his
return to Berghen in Norway, opened a Catholic church, to the great
satisfaction of the people.

[386] This common name of places in Iceland means Holts, hills; it
is the plural of Hóll, but most writers put it in the dative plural,
Hólum, as it would stand in composition “í Hólum” at Hólar. Possibly
the intention is, despite grammar, to apply Hólum to the bishopric and
Hólar to the other sites.

[387] The name has been discussed in the Introduction (Section VII.).

[388] Moðir is mother; Ammá (evidently a Sanskritic form), grandmother;
and Edda is Proavia, or great-grandmother. Of course the derivation is

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