DESCRIPTION of the ISLAND OF SAINT HELENA.

The Island of St. Helena was first discovered by John de Nova, a Portuguese Captain, on the 21st of May, 1501, (the anniversary of St. Helena, the Mother of Constantine, whence its name.) After changing its masters several times, it was colonized by the English in 1673, and has since remained in their possession.

This remarkable spot is situated in the southern Atlantic Ocean, in latitude 15. 55. south, longitude 5. 49. west ; one thousand two hundred miles from the coast of Africa, and one thousand eight hundred from Rio Janeiro, in Brazil. It consists of a huge mass of lava-like Rock, twenty-seven miles in circumference, elevated at some points near three thousand feet from the surface of the sea. Many of the hills bear evident marks of Volcanic action : indeed the whole island appears as if it had been propelled from the bottom of the Ocean by some convulsion of nature. The absence of all granitic or other primitive rock ; the irregular shape of the ridges, which traverse its surface, with numerous fragments of lava, in different stages of fusion scattered over it, bear testimony of an igneous, and comparatively recent origin.

There are about four thousand inhabitants on the Island, not more than a quarter of whom are English, and English colonists ; the remainder are Negroes and Mulattoes, mostly slaves, and nearly six hundred Chinese labourers and artificers. The language is English, but rather degenerated, particularly amongst the people of colour. James' Town, the only one in the Island, has a well sheltered bay or road, with good anchorage. It is situated in a deep ravine, between two steep and high ranges of hills, the sides of which are covered in enormous precipitous and projecting rocks, many resting on such slender foundations, that they seem to threaten destruction to all beneath : however, they were providentially too firmly fixed to be disturbed by a smart shock of an Earthquake, which took place in September, 1817.

The climate is variable, but the South-east trade wind generally prevents the heat from being oppressive. The temperature in the highlands of the Island, ranges from 56°, to 76°. Faht. in James' Town, and the vallies 8 or 10 degrees higher.

The appearance of St. Helena from the sea is most desolate and repulsive, but there are some pretty spots in the interior, and some scenes, particularly from Sandy Bay Ridge, that are extraordinary and romantic. The enclosures and plantations surrounding the white houses of the Colonists, with farms and gardens in the sheltered nooks and recesses, form a pleasing contrast with the rugged and tremendous rocks, which in some places overhang them, and in others retire, and form a fantastic and picturesque back ground ; besides which, many of the hills, especially the higher range, are covered with shrubs and vegetables. The furze and bramble are certainly the most prominent ; but even these, particularly when enlivened by the sheep and cattle, the principal wealth of the farmers, must ever give rise to associations interesting to English feelings.

This secluded Island became remarkable by the arrival of Napoleon Buonaparte, in October, 1815. His landing caused a great sensation, particularly as a prophecy of some old woman, predicting this event, had been several years in circulation. This although a singular, is a well authenticated fact. The restraints necessarily imposed upon the trade and fishing of the Islanders were soon counter-balanced by the advantages arising from the presence of the navy and additional troops ; new roads were made, and the old foot paths widened and made passable for carriages ; unproductive lands were brought into cultivation, and barren hills planted ; while the natives were improved by an amended system of education, and a diffusion of general information. A progressive abolition of slavery was effected by the Governor ; the residence of Buonaparte might therefore be considered as an epoch in the domestic, as well as political history of St. Helena.

From some time after the arrival of Napoleon, he was in the habit of taking much exercise on horseback, and making frequent visits to the farmers near his residence ; but this did not continue long, and latterly he confined himself almost entirely to the grounds at Longwood. He lived very retired, saw no strangers, and was principally occupied in reading, and superintending the improvements of a small garden adjoining his apartments. But he seemed rather to have acquiesced in the taste of his Chinese gardeners, than to have displayed much of his own. However the embankments resembling fortifications, facing the road, evidently thrown up to screen him from observation, were somewhat characteristic, and might be deemed exclusively his choice.

The following anecdote seems to prove that a proneness to irony, stated by Madame de Stael, as having formed a remarkable feature in Buonaparte's character in his prosperous days, showed itself occasionally in adversity. Its truth may be relied on. A young lady, the daughter of a resident near Longwood, at whose house Napoleon used to visit, on being married and about to quit the Island, called to take leave : after receiving her kindly, wishing a pleasant voyage, &c., he presented her with a large paper of sweetmeats, saying "you may gratify the good people in England, with Sugar Plums from the Emperor."

An account of the funeral of Buonaparte, and a reference to his death, appear in the description of the plates. The grave will form an attractive object to the numerous passengers who land on returning from India, &c. ; the scenery round Longwood, and the Tomb of Napoleon will render St. Helena interesting to future ages.


View of the New House at Longwood, intended for the late Napoleon Buonaparte.

Plate I.

A.—The wing and centre, containing the Library, Drawing, Dining, Breakfast,
        Billiard Rooms, and the Sleeping Apartments intended for Napoleon
        Buonaparte.
B.—The wing, to have been occupied by Count Montholon.
C.—The house in which Count Bertrand and family resided, during their stay at
        Longwood. The Old House where Buonaparte resided, is about two
        hundred yards in the rear of this.
D.—Apartments of the orderly Officer, adjoning the new house.
        The building is erected in the most substantial manner, of the best stone
        found on the Island, covered with slate, and finished in an elegant style ; the
        furniture was appropriate, and very handsome, and every thing was ready
        for Buonaparte's reception before the time of his death.


View of the Funeral Procession, of Napoleon Buonaparte, on the 9th of May, 1821.

Plate II.

A.—The Coffin, carried by Grenadiers of the 20th and 66th Regiments, a
        proportion of the Royal Artillery and Marines, and the St. Helena Corps,
        preceeded by the Roman Catholic Priest, and one of Count Bertrand's Sons
        carrying the incense ; Counts Bertrand and Montholon as pall bearers ; the
        Countess Bertrand and family following as chief mourners.
B.—The servants and attendants at Longwood.
C.—Naval Officers, and those of the Military, who held staff situations ; the
        remainder being with their respective regiments.
D.—The French Commissioner ; the Admiral, H. E. Sir Hudson, and Lady Lowe,
        &c.
E.—The Royal Artillery ; the 20th, Royal Marines, and the 66th Regiments ; and
        the St. Helena Corps of Artillery, Infantry, and Volunteers ; on the road
        from the Alarm House to Hut's Gate.
F.—The Willows over the Grave.
G.—The Grave, and part of the Machinery for lowering the Coffin.
H.—The commencement of the Path, descending to the Grave.
I.—The Alarm House.
 

    Napoleon Buonaparte died at the Old House, at Longwood, on the 5th of May, 1821, about Seven O'Clock in the evening. The disease which caused his death, as certified by the chief Medical Officers in the Island, after opening the body, was a cancer in the Stomach.
    The deceased was laid out in State, dressed in the Uniform of the French Royal Guards ; his countenance exhibited a picture of the most perfect serenity, not a feature being indicative of the many turbulent scenes which marked his life : every one was of course anxious to view the interesting exhibition, the arrangements were so made as to avoid crowding and confusion, and all had a full opportunity of gratifying their curiosity. He was much reduced by his illness, and next to the placid appearance of the countenance, his hands were universally remarked for their particular smallness and delicacy. The Body was afterwards enclosed in three Coffins, the middle one lead, and the other two of wood.
    The Funeral took place on the 9th ; the Troops on the Island were drawn up on the heights, fronting the road between Longwood and Mr Ibbetsons house, at Hut's gate, a distance of about a mile and a half ; the distance from the latter place round the road to the grave being about a mile farther.
    The Coffin containing the Body, was drawn on a Car, framed for the occasion. The Ladies followed in carriages, and the greater part of the Gentlemen on horse back. As the procession proceeded the military rested with reversed arms, and the several bands played a solemn dirge, when it arrived at Hut's Gate, the troops faced to the left ; following and arranging themselves, so as to line the entire road above the Grave, E. E. E. ; as the procession advanced towards the spot where the road leads down the valley to the Grave, H. the whole then dismounted and a proportion of the Grenadiers, &c. from each regiment, took the body from the Car, and bore it to the burial place, as represented in the Plate.
    The Ground was consecrated by an English Clergyman, and French Priest, the funeral service being performed by the latter : the vault was substantially built and a complete stone coffin constructed at the bottom, into which those containing the body were lowered ; while this was performing, the Royal Artillery from the road, exactly above the spot, fired three rounds, from eleven pieces of cannon : the reverberating echoes of the last guns that will probably ever resound for him who hurled so many thousand thunder-bolts of destruction on the world ; faintly died away in the dreary and romantic vallies of St. Helena ; and the heavy lid of the outer coffin, composed of one stone, was closed by machinery, prepared for the occasion, which concluded the interesting ceremony.


The Tomb of Napoleon Buonaparte, as Completed in June 1821.

Plate III.

A.—The Tomb is about 8 feet by 51/2, and 1 foot in height, plain stone, and no
        inscription ; a few violets are growing near the head, planted by some of the
        French attendants.
B.—The spring that supplied the water which Buonaparte always drank ; it was
        daily taken to Longwood, by a Chinese, in two silver ewers.
C.—The entrance to the enclosure round the tomb : a proper pass or leave from
        the officer or guard, being necessary to obtain admittance.
D.—Flag Staff Hill, beyond Deadwood, and about two miles from Longwood.
E.—Mr. Talbot's garden ; the burial ground is also his property. The spot where
        the Grave is situated, is about four miles from James Town, the road being
        almost entirely on the ascent.


View from the First Range of Hills, below Sandy Bay Ridge.

Plate IV.

A.—The residence of Sir W. Doveton. The last time Buonaparte went any
        distance from his own residence, was to breakfast in the lawn before this
        house, which is about four miles from Longwood : the viands, champaigne,
        &c., were carried by the French servants.
B.—A curious steep rock called Lot.
C.—Another surnamed Lot's wife.
D.—The hill leading down to Sandy Bay.
E.—Rock, called the Asses Ears. The view of Sandy Bay, is considered the first
        prospect on the Island.


A View taken from the Road near Major Harrisons, leading towards
Plantation House.

Plate V.

A.—The valley where Buonaparte is buried.
B.—The residence of D. Ibbetson, Esq. Deputy Commissary General, under
        whose direction the supplies, &c., were furnished to the Longwood
        establishment. On the first arrival of the French on the Island, this house was
        occupied by M. Bertrand's family, and it was when breakfasting with the
        Countess, under the trees, where his remains now lie, that Buonaparte first
        chose that spot for his burial place, provided his remains were ever to be
        deposited in St. Helena.
C.—The road from James Town to Deadwood.
D.—The same continued.
E.—The deadwood side of the Barren Valley, called the Devil's Punch Bowl.
F.—Barracks at Deadwood.
G.—A barren rock, called the barn, between this and the Barracks there is an
        extent of plain, on which is the St. Helena race course.
H.—Flag Staff Hill : this and the barn form prominent objects, in the view from
        the front of the new house at Longwood.
I.—The Alarm Hill over Prosperous Bay.


A View of Plantation House, the Residence of His Excellency the Governor,
taken from the opening near Rock Cottage.

Plate VI.

A.—The House, which is large and very handsomely fitted-up and furnished.
B.—The extensive and beautiful lawn, the view over it from the front of the house
        is delightful, and partly bounded by the ocean.
C.—The shubbery and pleasure grounds, abounding with rare trees and flowers ;
        the hardy English oak is contrasted with the tenderest plants from India, the
        whole forming a most pleasing variety ; and after traversing the rocky barren
        space between James Town, and the entrance to the grounds of plantation ;
        the scene appears like enchantment.
D.—Plantation Church.
E.—Garden producing European vegetables.
F.—Part of a Chinese village.
G.—The Stables.


PRINTED BY G. HAVELL, TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD.


Notes about this version of Kerr:

Images of the text and plates kindly provided by the Yale Center for British Art [Call number T 316 (Folio A)].
[Note that the dark bands (shadows) across the tops of Plates I through IV are a consequence of the photography.]

Details of the original:
Kerr, J. Series of Views in the Island of St. Helena. Colnaghi, London, 1822.
Size: Folio.
Text: Title (verso blank); Description (one leaf); Illustrated numbered key and corresponding description facing each plate.
Plates: Six coloured aquatint plates; the plates have no signature or imprint.

British Library shelfmark: Not in the catalogue.
Library of Congress call number: Not in the catalogue.

Number 315 in Abbey.
Abbey, J.R. Travel in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770-1860, from the Library of J.R. Abbey: Vol. I, World, Europe, Africa. Curwen Press, London, 1956.


Last updated: 24 May, 2013


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