The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76
Iceland and Its People
Iceland and Its People.
It is a far cry from the verdant islands and genial climate of the sunny Pacific to the stern, stormy, and ice-bound shores of Iceland, in the Arctic Ocean; where, however, in the summer months there is really no hardship in travelling. It is true there are no graceful palm trees, or even pines, to give shelter to the rude turf-covered homes of the country people; but at page 72 Reykiavik, the chief town, there are fairly good houses, mostly constructed of timber, and simple hotels for accommodation to travellers. I journeyed on horseback over a great part of the country as far as Mount Hecla and the famous geysers, meeting with kind hospitality from the good Lutheran pastors, who, like the doctors, have very wide districts to serve, and with very small remuneration; but they are intelligent and zealous for the welfare of the people under their care. There are some good elementary schools in the island, but most of the professional men are educated at Copenhagen. The Icelanders aie an industrious and sober people, chiefly engaged in fishing and rearing small-sized horses and fine-wooled sheep, fed on the natural grass, which is cut in summer and stacked for winter use. Unfortunately, the ashes thrown up by Mount Hecla and other great volcanoes in the island are gradually lessening the area of the grass-producing lands, so that many of the Icelanders emigrate every year to America. Iceland possesses a literature of Sagas, or historic poems, of a very high order, and believed to record with great accuracy the heroic deeds of the chiefs who came from Norway to escape from despotic government and to establish a Republic, which, after long years, came through many vicissitudes, and has now become a Liberal Constitution, given to it by the present King of Denmark, their lawful Sovereign. The Icelanders page 73 claim that their ancestors were the first discoverers of the North-East Coast of America, and there planted small colonies whose history became lost in obscurity.