avec Notes, Piéces justificatives et Tableaux statistiques, par E. DE VALBEZEN. Paris. 1857.
THIS is no narrative of travel, though evidently written by one who has been for a considerable time an eyewitness of Indian affairs, and by a man of acute mind and quick and comprehensive perception, thoroughly versed in the history and condition of India. It is a treatise on all those topics bearing upon the present political, social, and commercial state of things there, beginning with the exposition of the English governmental institutions there existing, describing the country, its productions and resources, its various populations, its social relations, its agriculture, commerce, and wealth, and concluding with statistical and other documents in support of the author’s statements. It gives a nearly systematical and complete picture of Indian affairs, enabling the reader to understand the present situation of the country and its foreign rulers, and to form a judgment on all corresponding topics. The style is classical, though somewhat concise and epigrammatic, giving proof everywhere of a mind that forms its own conclusions and takes independent, statesmanlike views. The author refrains from obtruding his own opinions on the reader, leaving things to speak for themselves. He is not ostensibly antagonistic to the English, as we should expect from a true Frenchman,—is no cordial hater of “ perfide Albion.” You cannot, from his book, with any show of reason, infer that he is a Jesuit, a French missionary, a merchant, a governmental employé, or a simple traveller ; but you feel instinctively that he is wide-awake, shrewd, and reserved, and that you may trust his reports in the main. He refers, for proof of his statements, mostly to English documents, and does not try to preoccupy your mind. Particularly noteworthy is what he says of the political economy of India; he controverts effectively the prevailing opinion that it is the richest country in the world, —showing its real poverty, in spite of its great natural resources, and the almost hopeless task of improving these resources. For the American merchant this is a very readable book, warning him to refrain from too hastily investing his capital and enterprise in Indian commerce,—India being the most insecure of all countries for foreign commercial undertakings; and in general, there are so many entirely new and startling revelations in it, that, to any one interested in Indian matters, it well repays reading.