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In connexion with the monstrous pictures of whales, I am
strongly tempted here to enter upon those still more monstrous
stories of them which are to be found in certain books, both
ancient and modern, especially in Pliny, Purchas, Hackluyt,
Harris, Cuvier, &c. But I pass that matter by.

I know of only four published outlines of the great Sperm
Whale; Colnett's, Huggins's, Frederick Cuvier's, and Beale's.
In the previous chapter Colnett and Cuvier have been referred
to. Huggins's is far better than theirs; but, by great odds, Beale's
is the best. All Beale's drawings of this whale are good, excepting
the middle figure in the picture of three whales in various attitudes,
capping his second chapter. His frontispiece, boats
attacking Sperm Whales, though no doubt calculated to excite the
civil scepticism of some parlor men, is admirably correct and
life-like in its general effect. Some of the Sperm Whale
drawings in J. Ross Browne are pretty correct in contour; but
they are wretchedly engraved. That is not his fault though.


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Of the Right Whale, the best outline pictures are in Scoresby;
but they are drawn on too small a scale to convey a desirable
impression. He has but one picture of whaling scenes, and this is
a sad deficiency, because it is by such pictures only, when at all
well done, that you can derive anything like a truthful idea of
the living whale as seen by his living hunters.

But, taken for all in all, by far the finest, though in some
details not the most correct, presentations of whales and
whaling scenes to be anywhere found, are two large French engravings,
well executed, and taken from paintings by one
Garnery. Respectively, they represent attacks on the Sperm
and Right Whale. In the first engraving a noble Sperm Whale
is depicted in full majesty of might, just risen beneath the boat
from the profundities of the ocean, and bearing high in the air
upon his back the terrific wreck of the stoven planks. The
prow of the boat is partially unbroken, and is drawn just balancing
upon the monster's spine; and standing in that prow, for
that one single incomputable flash of time, you behold an oarsman,
half shrouded by the incensed boiling spout of the whale,
and in the act of leaping, as if from a precipice. The action of
the whole thing is wonderfully good and true. The half-emptied
line-tub floats on the whitened sea; the wooden poles
of the spilled harpoons obliquely bob in it; the heads of the
swimming crew are scattered about the whale in contrasting expressions
of affright; while in the black stormy distance the ship
is bearing down upon the scene. Serious fault might be found
with the anatomical details of this whale, but let that pass;
since, for the life of me, I could not draw so good a one.

In the second engraving, the boat is in the act of drawing
alongside the barnacled flank of a large running Right Whale,
that rolls his black weedy bulk in the sea like some mossy rockslide
from the Patagonian cliffs. His jets are erect, full, and
black like soot; so that from so abounding a smoke in the
chimney, you would think there must be a brave supper cooking


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in the great bowels below. Sea fowls are pecking at the small
crabs, shell-fish, and other sea candies and maccaroni, which the
Right Whale sometimes carries on his pestilent back. And all
the while the thick-lipped leviathan is rushing through the
deep, leaving tons of tumultuous white curds in his wake, and
causing the slight boat to rock in the swells like a skiff caught
nigh the paddle-wheels of an ocean steamer. Thus, the foreground
is all raging commotion; but behind, in admirable
artistic contrast, is the glassy level of a sea becalmed, the drooping
unstarehed sails of the powerless ship, and the inert mass of
a dead whale, a conquered fortress, with the flag of capture
lazily hanging from the whale-pole inserted into his spout-hole.

Who Garnery the painter is, or was, I know not. But my
life for it he was either practically conversant with his subject,
or else marvellously tutored by some experienced whaleman.
The French are the lads for painting action. Go and gaze upon
all the paintings of Europe, and where will you find such a
gallery of living and breathing commotion on canvas, as in
that triumphal hall at Versailles; where the beholder fights his
way, pell-mell, through the consecutive great battles of France;
where every sword seems a flash of the Northern Lights, and
the successive armed kings and Emperors dash by, like a charge
of crowned centaurs? Not wholly unworthy of a place in that
gallery, are these sea battle-pieces of Garnery.

The natural aptitude of the French for seizing the picturesqueness
of things seems to be peculiarly evinced in what paintings
and engravings they have of their whaling scenes. With not
one tenth of England's experience in the fishery, and not the
thousandth part of that of the Americans, they have nevertheless
furnished both nations with the only finished sketches at all
capable of conveying the real spirit of the whale hunt. For
the most part, the English and American whale draughtsmen
seem entirely content with presenting the mechanical outline of
things, such as the vacant profile of the whale; which, so far as


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picturesqueness of effect is concerned, is about tantamount to
sketching the profile of a pyramid. Even Scoresby, the justly
renowned Right whaleman, after giving us a stiff full length of
the Greenland whale, and three or four delicate miniatures of
narwhales and porpoises, treats us to a series of classical engravings
of boat hooks, chopping knives, and grapnels; and with
the microscopic diligence of a Leuwenhoeck submits to the inspection
of a shivering world ninety-six fac-similes of magnified
Arctic snow crystals. I mean no disparagement to the excellent
voyager (I honor him for a veteran), but in so important
a matter it was certainly an oversight not to have procured for
every crystal a sworn affidavit taken before a Greenland Justice
of the Peace.

In addition to those fine engravings from Garnery, there are
two other French engravings worthy of note, by some one who
subscribes himself “H. Durand.” One of them, though not
precisely adapted to our present purpose, nevertheless deserves
mention on other accounts. It is a quiet noon-scene among
the isles of the Pacific; a French whaler anchored, inshore, in
a calm, and lazily taking water on board; the loosened sails of
the ship, and the long leaves of the palms in the background,
both drooping together in the breezeless air. The effect is very
fine, when considered with reference to its presenting the hardy
fishermen under one of their few aspects of oriental repose.
The other engraving is quite a different affair: the ship hove-to
upon the open sea, and in the very heart of the Leviathanic
life, with a Right Whale alongside; the vessel (in the act of
cutting-in) hove over to the monster as if to a quay; and a
boat, hurriedly pushing off from this scene of activity, is about
giving chase to whales in the distance. The harpoons and
lances lie levelled for use; three oarsmen are just setting the
mast in its hole; while from a sudden roll of the sea, the little
craft stands half-erect out of the water, like a rearing horse.
From the ship, the smoke of the torments of the boiling whale


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is going up like the smoke over a village of smithies; and to
windward, a black cloud, rising up with earnest of squalls and
rains, seems to quicken the activity of the excited seamen.