« PreviousContinue »
ART. I.-Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petræa, and the Holy Land. By an American. 2 Vols. With a Map and Engravings. New York: Harper and Brothers. London: O. Rich. 1837.
MUCH of the ground which our intelligent, well-educated, and cheerful American has traversed in these volumes is familiar to modern readers. Of Egypt and the Holy Land, we cannot say he has communicated anything of importance which has not frequently been described or noticed before. Arabia Petræa presents wilder and less known regions for travelling enterprise; still even here the author regrets that his opportunities afforded him so little to add to the stock of valuable facts therewith connected, already recorded by Burckhardt, Laborde, and others. But whatever may be thought concerning the amount of novelty in these "Incidents of Travel,' that is to say, in reference to geographical, antiquarian, or classical discoveries, it is impossible to deny them the merit of something not far short of originality of manner and style. It would at any time be a recommendation to a book of travels through the lands mentioned, to hear that it had been written by an American-by a citizen of the New World, who must naturally be expected to enter upon such a course with some peculiar associations respecting spots and events that have been consecrated by the most ancient testimonies that are in existence. The points, indeed, which chiefly attracted the author's attention, have manifestly not only been described by him faithfully and graphically, but he has eminently distinguished his narrative by impressing upon every such object the feelings which they excited within him, conferring upon them the vividness and freshness which enable the reader to accompany him with an ardour, if not equal, at least akin, to that which the writer partook of in his own person. We do not perceive any
striving after effect, or any sort of exaggeration. There is even not seldom the careless case of a lightsome-hearted talker in his paragraphs, which obliges the reader both to understand him just as he wished to be understood, and to like him as a companion. With these lighter and individual traits in the style, must be eulogized the useful sort of knowledge which he inclines to inculcate-such as VOL. III. (1837.) NO. 11.
the effects which different states of life have upon civilizationthe contrasts between semi-barbaric, primitive, and pastoral habits, and those which people, whose minds and morals have been cultivated, exhibit and cherish. His sketches of scenery are also exceedingly pleasant and spirited. In fact, as we are about to show by incontestable proofs, these volumes are amongst the most agreeable of travels that we have ever read; nor is it possible to arrive at their conclusion without desiring that another such pair by the same hand were within reach for instant consultation.
The work contains a journal of the author's tour within the years 1835 and 1836. The reader, on various occasions, is given to understand that the countries named in the title-page by no means circumscribed his travels. We should, indeed, from several allusions and descriptions, suppose that he is minutely acquainted with many of the objects most worthy of attention in the most celebrated portions of Europe. In making a selection from his journal, we have no doubt however that he acted judiciously in confining himself to the parts before us, although the success of the publication will, we hope, induce him afterwards to come forward in a similar capacity, and upon the stage of another theatre.
The journal before us takes up the reader at Alexandria in Egypt, and lands him at the end at the same place. Concerning the ruins of this city our American declares there can be no doubt that immense treasures are still buried under them, but "whether they will ever be discovered will depend on the Pacha's necessities, as he may need the ruins of ancient temples for building forts and bridges. New discoveries are constantly made; and between my first and second visit a beautiful vase had been discovered, pronounced to be the original of the celebrated Warwick vase found at Adrian's villa, near Tivoli." He adds,-" I have since seen the vase at Warwick castle; and if the one found at Alexandria is not the original, it is certainly remarkable that two sculptors, one in Egypt and the other in Italy, conceived and fashioned two separate works of art so exactly resembling each other."
We are not going to detain our readers with many antiquarian notices or references to ancient art, drawn from the present volumes, because there have been of late years dozens of descriptions that may be more enlightened. It is with the adventures and incidents -with the scenery visited and the manners of the different races inhabiting the countries traversed, that we must chiefly fill our pages. But having seen what is said about the use to which the temples of Alexandria may be turned at some future day, the following statement must not be passed over, in reference to the Pyramids. "Mr. Linant has been twenty years in Egypt, and is now a bey in the Pacha's service, and that very afternoon, after a long interview, had received orders from the great reformer to make
a survey of the Pyramids, for the purpose of deciding which of those gigantic monuments, after having been respected by all preceding tyrants for 3000 years, should now be demolished for the illustrious object of yielding material for a petty fortress, or scarcely more useful or important bridge." Future travellers owe much to the surveyor for having reported that it would be cheaper to get materials from the quarries than to seek for them in the tombs and monuments of the ancient monarchs of the land.
The author proceeded up the Nile to Cairo, where he had the honour to be presented to his Highness the Pacha of Egypt. We are not, however, going to accompany him closely in his voyage to the Cataracts; or in his various wanderings in the country of the Pharaohs, but only pitch on an adventure or a scene, much at random, here and there. He is, in what immediately follows, at Cairo:
"I had repeatedly been down to Boulac in search of a boat for my intended voyage up the Nile; and going one Sunday to dine on the Island of Rhoda, I again rode along the bank of the river for the same purpose. We were crossing over one more than half sunk in the water, which I remarked to Paul (his Maltese servant) was about the right size; and while we stopped a moment, without the least idea that it could be made fit for use, an Arab came up and whispered to Paul that he could pump out the water in two hours, and had only sunk the boat to save it from the officers of the pacha, who would otherwise take it for the use of government. Upon this information, I struck a bargain for the boat, eight men, a rais, and a pilot. The officers of the pacha were on the bank looking out for boats, and, notwithstanding my Arab's ingenious contrivance, just when I had closed my agreement, they came on board and claimed possession. I refused to give up my right, and sent to the agent of the consul for an American flag. He could not give me an American, but sent me an English flag, and I did not hesitate to put myself under its protection. I hoisted it with my own hands, but the rascally Turks paid no regard to its broad folds. The majesty of England did not suffer, however, in my hands, and Paul and I spent more than an hour in running from one officer to another, before we could procure the necessary order for the release of the boat."
This and many other passages in these volumes go to illustrate the manners and condition not only of the people with whom the author came in contact, but his never-failing resources of temper, resolution, and adroitness. We now quote a striking description of a storm on the "eternal river."
“The wind was blowing down with a fury I have never seen surpassed in a gale at sea, bringing with it the light sands of the desert, and at times covering the river with a thick cloud which prevented my seeing across it. A clearing up for a moment showed a boat of the largest class heavily laden, and coming down with astonishing velocity; it was like the flight of an enormous bird. She was under bare poles, but small
portions of the sail had got loose, and the Arabs were out on the very ends of the long spars getting them in. One of the boatmen, with a rope under his arm, had plunged into the river, and with strong swimming reached the bank, where a hundred men ran to his assistance. Their united strength turned her bows around, up stream, but nothing could stop her; stern foremost, she dragged the whole posse of Arabs to the bank, and broke away from them perfectly ungovernable; whirling around, her bows pitched into our fleet with a loud crash, tore away several of the boats, and carrying one off, fast locked as in a death-grasp, she resumed her headlong course down the river. They had gone but a few rods, when the stranger pitched her bows under and went down in a moment, bearing her helpless companion also to the bottom. It was the most exciting incident I had seen upon the river. The violence of the wind, the swift movement of the boat, the crash, the wild figures of the Arabs on shore and on board, one in a red dress almost on the top of the long spar, his turban loose and streaming in the wind, all formed a novel and most animating scene. I need scarcely say that no lives were lost, for an Arab on the bosom of his beloved river is as safe as in his mud cabin."
Having arrived, after great delay and much toil, at Minyeh, our American was most intent on having a bath, but as it was the season of the Ramadan, nothing in the shape of a fire could be obtained before a late hour. The moment however that limit to abstinence arrived, a motley group of Turks and Arabs filled the bath. The account which follows is in the writer's best manner, furnishing a spirited picture sufficient to tempt any man to undergo a rough handling and a liberal scalding.
"As I was a Frank, and as such expected to pay ten times as much as any one else, I had the best place in the bath, at the head of the great reservoir of hot water. My white skin made me a marked object among the swarthy figures lying around me; and half a dozen of the operatives, lank, bony fellows, and perfectly naked, came up and claimed me. They settled it among themselves, however, and gave the preference to a driedup old man, more than sixty, a perfect living skeleton, who had been more than forty years a scrubber in the bath. He took me through the first process of rubbing with the glove and brush; and having thrown over me a copious ablution of warm water, left me to recover at leisure. I lay on the marble that formed the border of the reservoir, only two or three inches above the surface of the water, into which I put my hand, and found it excessively hot; but the old man, satisfied with his exertion in rubbing me, sat on the edge of the reservoir, with his feet and legs hanging in the water, with every appearance of satisfaction. Presently he slid off into the water, and sinking up to his chin, remained so a moment, drew a long breath, and seemed to look around him with a feeling of comfort. I had hardly raised myself on my elbow to look at this phenomenon, before a fine brawny fellow, who had been lying for some time torpid by my side, rose slowly, slid off like a turtle, and continued sinking until he too had immersed himself up to his chin. I expressed to him my astonishment at his ability to endure such heat, but
he told me that he was a boatman, had been ten days coming up from Cairo, and was almost frozen, and his only regret was that the water was not much hotter. He had hardly answered me before another and another followed, till all the dark naked figures around me had vanished. By the fitful glimmering of the little lamps, all that I could see was a parcel of shaved heads on the surface of the water, at rest or turning slowly and quietly as on pivots. Most of them seemed to be enjoying it with an air of quiet, dreamy satisfaction; but the man with whom I had spoken first, seemed to be carried beyond the bounds of Mussulman gravity. It ope rated upon him like a good dinner; it made him loquacious, and he urged me to come in, nay, he even became frolicsome; and, making a heavy surge, threw a large body of the water over the marble on which I was lying. I almost screamed, and started up as if melted lead had been poured upon me; even while standing up it seemed to blister the soles of my feet, and I was obliged to keep up a dancing movement, changing as fast as I could, to the astonishment of the dozing bathers, and the utter consternation of my would-be friend. Roused too much to relapse into the quiet luxury of perspiration, I went into another apartment, of a cooler temperature, where, after remaining in a bath of moderately warm water, I was wrapped up in hot cloths and towels, and conducted into the great chamber. Here I selected a couch, and throwing myself upon it, gave myself up to the operators, who now took charge of me, and well did they sustain the high reputation of a Turkish bath my arms were gently laid upon my breast, where the knee of a powerful man pressed upon them; my joints were cracked and pulled-back, arms, the palms of the hand, the soles of the feet all visited in succession. I had been shampooed at Smyrna, Constantinople, and Cairo; but who would have thought of being carried to the seventh heaven at the little town of Minyeh? The men who had me in hand were perfect amateurs, enthusiasts, worthy of rubbing the hide of the sultan himself; and the pipe and coffee that followed were worthy too of that same mighty seigneur. The large room was dimly lighted, and turn which way I would, there was a naked body, apparently without a soul, lying torpid, and turned and tumbled at will by a couple of workmen, I had some fears of the plague; and Paul, though he felt his fears gradually dispelled by the soothing process which he underwent also, to the last continued to keep particularly clear of touching any of them; but I left the bath a different man; all my moral as well as physical strength was roused. I no longer drooped or looked back; and though the wind was still blowing a hurricane in my teeth, I was bent upon Thebes and the Cataracts."
Frequent mention is made of Paul, who is the author's familiar, as may have been, from the above kindly method of introducing his name, presumed.
Most of our readers must be aware that no good Mussulman eats, drinks, or smokes, from the rising to the setting of the sun, during the Ramadan. Then what a luxury in such a land as Egypt must either of these processes be when the sacred hours have passed! Our author's boatmen faithfully observed the religious law, although