Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

mourning, and peril of the plague. Still no Englishman 'seared his eye-balls,' though their traces were every where visible; and he took the favourable opportunity of speculating on the unaccountable duration of the Ottoman empire. At first, it struck him to be the title alone that supports the sultan on the most tottering throne of Europe;no, not that alone; a moment's reflection told him it was the influence of Russia,-no, that would not do neither :-he reflects for another moment; and the truth bursts upon him in full radiance-' it was England that protected this tottering empire, the weakness of which is favourable to the commercial tyranny of that country!'The 'commercial tyranny of England' is a cant phrase in the mouth of a Frenchman, which means-what he is always unwilling to express-superior skill, enterprize, punctuality, integrity, and ho

nour.

(

Having for our own purpose explained what is meant by commercial tyranny,' we will, for the individual benefit of Count Forbin, tell him what we consider as an act of commercial meanness. Is the Count acquainted with a certain person, who, when he was sent officially to negociate an exchange of casts of the metopes and other works of art with the British Museum, took advantage of the circumstance, and endeavoured to make it a condition that two hundred copies of his huge volume should be admitted into England duty-free, which, at £2: 8s. 6d. a volume, (the duty on each,) would have put into his own pocket about five hundred pounds! This act, of which he may be assured no English gentleman would or could be guilty, comes under that description-the Count, perhaps, may give it another name; but its nature will remain unchanged.

"

At Ephesus, where we left our traveller, he saw several Greek inscriptions on the gate of the Stadium, which he did not copy, and two on an arcade in the theatre which he would have copied but could not, parce qu'elles avaient été laissées rempli de plâtre par des Anglais, amis des sciences et toujours soigneux des jouissances des autres.' The sneer against the hated English could scarcely by any possibility have been so ill applied as in this place; but it shows the utter ignorance of the man of art' in matters intimately connected with his profession. Had he really been able to copy Greek, no method could have assisted him so effectually as that of filling up the letters with plaster: this was first ingeniously practised by Colonel Squire while serving in Egypt under the command of Lord Hutchinson; and by it he was enabled to decypher an inscription which had hitherto baffled the efforts of every traveller, (including the whole of Buonaparte's corps of savans,) and to shew that the column vulgarly named after Pompey was in fact erected under the reign of the Emperor Dioclesian. We fur

F 4

ther

"

ther infer the Count's ignorance of Greek from his taking no notice of the several inscriptions on the gates of the Stadium' in that language; but contenting himself with placing before the eyes of his readers, one in large Roman capitals, (and it is the only one in his book,)-ACCENSO RENSI ET ASIE, which he tells us is Latin. We will take his word for it: and as he modestly abstains from trauslating this precious morsel, lest, we suppose, he should appear to insult the understanding of his readers, we cannot do better than follow his example.

117

As the south-west wind had favoured the Count with a rapid passage through the Dardanelles, so a fresh breeze from the northwest now happily relieved him from the fatigue of landing on any of the islands usually visited by travellers, Scio, Nacri, Lipso, Patmos, Lero, Colminé, Stanco, or even Rhodes itself, and on the 6th November he was safely put on shore at St. Jean d'Acre. Many years have not elapsed since a French army sat down before this city, and put in practice all the means that a ferocious soldiery, headed by a blood-thirsty commander, could devise, to destroy the unoffending inhabitants, and reduce their dwellings to heaps of ashes; and European travellers, as might be expected, have heard only curses loud and deep against the unprovoked aggression. Not so, however, Count Forbin-his ear was soothed with the most enchanting panegyrics of his brave and humane countrymen Ils parlaient avec admiration des efforts de l'armée Française dans l'orient! This is almost too much for the politicians of the Palais Royal to digest.-What! on the very spot distinguished (according to his own avowal) by the most sanguinary transactions of his countrymen-are the inhabitants so lost to every sense of feeling, that, ere the tear is dry upon the widow's cheek, they celebrate the achievements of the French? We should just as soon believe that the people of Jaffa, whose plains are still white with the bones of massacred prisoners,' are lavish in their praise and admiration of the prowess and bland humanity of Buonaparte.

[ocr errors]

--

It would be useless to follow the Count over various parts of Palestine, or to extract any of his reveries' in the Holy city; where, as in Athens, he enjoys a sort of second-sight, different however from that of our northern neighbours, and more safe, as it shews him the past instead of the future,-thus the most terrible scenes are presented to his view-the flames of the temple mount into the highest regions of the air, which they kindle into a blaze

-the celestial hosts behold them with a holy terror, &c.' (p. 40.) If he enters into any particular remarks, they are generally trite, very often childish, and almost always calculated to give false impressions: they are the less likely to mislead, however, as he generally takes care to refute them himself.

'Dans

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'Dans toute la Judée, quelques pluies seulement indiquent l'hiver; l'automne n'apporte point de fruits, le printemps ne fait pas éclore une fleur, et cependant les ardeurs de l'été consument Haceldama, et tarissent la source de Siloé; on croiroit qu'il n'y a plus de saisons pour cette contrée malheureuse.'-p. 32.

6

"

'In all Judæa a few showers only indicate winter,' says Count Forbin. (p. 44.) The climate of Jerusalem is frequently rigorous during winter; snow sometimes falls; and the cold was somewhat intense when we prepared to leave it,' says the Director General of Museums. (p. 45.) There are no longer any seasons for this unhappy country,' says the Count; it was winter at Jerusalem, and spring at Jaffa,' says the Director. (p. 45.) There are no fruits in autumn, and no flowers in the spring in all Judæa,' Yet he found great plenty of fruit-trees, and ate also of their fruits! Had he condescended to open Hasselquist, or to look into the pages of any of the more recent travellers before he wrote, he might have learned that no country in the world possesses a greater profusion of wild flowers than the land of Judah ;-that it is peculiarly adapted for flocks and herds, and bees, and eminently entitled to be called, in the language of Scripture, 'a land flowing with milk and honey,' But it is needless to dwell longer on the Director General's perplexing description of this unhappy country,-which has no seasons-no flowers in the spring, and no fruits in the autumn'—when it appears, from his own account, that he never saw it either in spring, summer, or autumn, but only galloped through it at a prodigious rate in the month of November.

(

6

The Count left Jerusalem on the 2d December, and returned by Jaffa, where, he says, the Aga frequently spoke of the French armies; but he prudently suppresses the nature of the conversation. He makes amends, however, for his silence on this subject by the following paragraph, which is in the very best style of sentimental gallimaufry. How often in this fine climate have I regretted the fogs and cloudy sky of France! How often have my eyes been turned sorrowfully towards the west!-A young swallow was the companion of my chamber; it settled every evening on a peg in the wall, and every morning at sun-rise I gave my little friend his liberty. It is not improbable that he came from France; and he may have quitted a roof which sheltered the object of my tender solicitude.' (p. 47.) How rural! as Peter Pastoral says.

From Jaffa he proceeded by Ashdad, Gaza, and El Arish, across the desert, to Egypt. To shorten the tedious uniformity of the way, he listened to a melting tale of love and murder told by an Arab, which he has printed, as an interesting episode'; and embellished with a lithographic print, for the edification of the Parisian antiquaries.

6

The

[ocr errors]

6

The unhappy Count seems doomed, wherever he turns his steps, to meet with nothing but grievances. To say nothing of the English; blind men and buffaloes, processions of marriages, executious and burials, fish-dealers and fellahs, perpetually impeded his way among the infectious canals and ruined houses of Damietta': nor was the passage over the plain of Masso ssoura calculated to raise his spirits for here, says he, the reflection crossed me that I was on the field where fortune proved treacherous to French valour.' He soon rallies his spirits, however, and magnanimously declares that, after all, when he recollected the trophies of Buonaparte, and traced the career of the French armies in Egypt, under the shade of the palms which embellished the heritage of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, he should have thought himself happy to have been one of the lowest ranks in the rear-guard.' It is not for us to dispute this point, nor to deny that our chivalrous traveller is better fitted for the situation of a corporal in Buonaparte's army than to preside over the arts and antiquities of the Royal Museum of Paris; but we cannot help thinking that he takes rather an ungracious manner of repaying the patronage of Louis XVIII. by such a declara

C

tion.

"

At Cairo, as might have been anticipated, our adventurer observed Turks, Arabs, Copts, Armenians, Jews, asses, mules, camels, pilgrims returning from Mecca, and hungry dogs howling after them, and all jostling and crowding together. To escape from the press, I entered,' he says, 'almost all the mosques of the city with bended knees; and protected by my Mussulman costume, mumbled over the formula of the faith, with my beard in close contact with the sacred stone.' (p. 72.) There are so many little oversights in the Count's narrative, so many petty sacrifices of accuracy to effect, that he will, we are quite sure, excuse us for doubting, whether, at his devotions, or on any other occasion, he adopted the Mussulman costume.' At Cairo, as in London, nobody cares much about the costume of a stranger: in travelling up the Nile, indeed, a Turkish dress is extremely convenient to prevent troublesome curiosity; yet at Thebes we know that the Count wore no such dress; while his flowing beard, instead of being long enough to touchla pierre sacrée,' had moulted; and

' his chin new reaped, Shewed like a stubble land at harvest home.'

But his beard was not the only thing that did not follow him to Thebes; he appears to have left his recollection also somewhere on the road. La chaleur (he says) était déjà insupportable à Thèbes dans les premiers jours de Mars. Now we must remind him that he arrived at Luxor, a village on the site of ancient Thebes, on the 28th of January, and left it the first week in February; and conse

quently

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

"

quently could not have suffered from the insupportable heat there in the first days of March.' We do not know that the Count will thank us; but some of his fair countrywomen who have trembled at his desperate hardihood,' may perhaps feel relieved at being informed that at Thebes, (situated in about 26° of northern latitude,) where' he found the very pebbles burning hot,' the heat is moderate, and the weather perfectly delightful both in February and March. Again

'On éprouve souvent pendant le jour, dès qu'on s'éloigne du Nil, une fièvre presque inconnue en Europe, celle de la soif. Cette souffrance cruelle est au-dessus de toute expression; elle a son sommeil, son délire; on rève douloureusement le souvenir des vallées les plus fraîches, des boissons glacées; et la mémoire devient le tourment le plus terrible de cette maladie Africaine.' (p. 94.)

'

This African malady, in which on rève douloureusement,' is not, we suspect, confined to the banks of the Nile. Surely the Count cannot suppose that, after all the journies which have been made through every corner of Egypt, it is not perfectly well known, that from Cairo to Assouan, about six hundred miles, the habitable part of the valley of the Nile extends not farther from the river on either side than its waters can be conveyed for the purposes of irrigation; that it is so conveyed in canals; that there is scarcely a mile without a village; and that for these reasons the last solicitude that any traveller need to feel, is about a supply of water.

It was not, however, the dread of a want of water which finally arrested the progress of the Count, and prevented him from treading the soil of Meroe, and of fifty other places, which he would have visited, and was the more desirous of visiting because unpolluted by the feet of any English traveller :--such an obstacle would have been nobly surmounted by that spirit of enterprize which had already carried him through so many other difficulties. No-it was a Gorgon, a chimæra more formidable than-but let him tell the dreadful tale in his own words:

'I had intended to visit Elephantine, Syene, Philæ, Ipsambul, and to penetrate as far as the island of Meroe, but there enters always more or less a spirit of adventure in these distant excursions; the desire of seeing places that are little known has a powerful tendency to support the fatigues and privations of a long voyage. If every body has been able to see that which we are in search of, disgust threatens us, and discouragement follows it very soon.''I no longer experienced a wish to ascend the Nile from the moment I observed an English family arrive at Thebes on their return from the Cataracts. Lord and Lady Belmour had visited a part of Nubia; they had travelled in the most splendid style; three or four large boats followed the one in which they sailed. Husbands, wives, children, chaplains, surgeons, nurses, cooks,—all babbling of Elphantine. From this moment the illusion vanished for me

there

« ZurückWeiter »