Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

tion of land which once joined Gibraltar to the coast of Africa. As a corollary from this hypothesis, he believed that all the islands which are now found in the Mediterranean were, préviously to this increase of the embryo lake, attached to the continent, At the instance of his friend, M. SONNINI sounded. the Streight between Sicily and Malta in a variety of places as he passed; and, in the shallowness of the water between those islands, he conceives that he found a corroboration of Buffon's hypothesis.

In his account of Malta, the author charges our countryman Brydone with misrepresentation or mistake:*

Brydone,' says he, has amused himself with telling tales, respecting the knights of Malta, somewhat similar to those of which poor Madame Montagne, at Palermo, is the subject. On my arrival I found the public mind violently exasperated against him, and there was but too much ground for it. The truth is, he describes the manner of life of the chevaliers, without having been in intimacy with a single one, during the whole time of his residence in the island: his picture, and this is not the only occasion on which the same reproach may be addressed to him, is far from being a likeness; and when he speaks of the mode of duelling between the knights, of the crosses painted on the wall opposite to the spot where one of them has been killed, of the punishments incurred by such as refuse a challenge +, they are so many errors escaped from his pen, deceived, undoubtedly, by lying reports, and too inconsiderately adopted. For my own part, I found the utmost politeness of behaviour, and the kindest attentions in the society of the members of the order with whom I had any connection, and I recollect with gratitude the warm reception and the cordial civilities which I met with from several of them, and particularly from citizen Dolomieux, whom the sciences have ranked in the number of their most respected and most illustrious partisans.

He is not more indulgent to M. Savary, whom he scruples not to charge with having written his letters on Upper Egypt without having set foot in the country. To those parts of that elegant work which relate to Lower Egypt, however, he pays the well-deserved tribute of applause.

From Malta, the writer passed to the isle of Candia, and thence to Alexandria. His observations on the former he reserves for his Travels through Greece, with which he promises shortly to oblige the public.

After having described the dangers of navigation on the coast of Egypt, and particularly in approaching Alexandria, the author gives an account of that city in its modern state. The

A translation of M. SONNINI's work, executed by Henry Hunter, D. D. in 3 Vols. 8vo. price rl. 7s. (sold by Stockdale) has just appeared. From this version, we shall copy our extracts. + Tour through Sicily and Malta, vol. i. p. 363, &c.

Rr 2


following extracts contain the most interesting of the particulars:

The new city, or rather the town of Alexandria, is built, the greatest part of it at least, on the brink of the sea. Its houses, like alt those of the Levant, have flat terrace roofs: they have no windows, and the apertures which supply their place are almost entirely obstructed by a wooden lattice projecting, of various forms, and so close, that the light can hardly force a passage. In those countries, more than any where else, such inventions, which transform a mansion into a prison, are real jalousies (jealousies, window-blinds). It is through this grate of iron or wood, sometimes of elegant construction, that beauty is permitted to see what is passing without, but eternally deprived of the privilege of being seen; it is in this state of hopeless seclusion that, far from receiving the homage which nature demands to be paid to it by every being possessed of sensibility, it meets only contempt and outrage; it is there, in a word, that one part of the hu 'man race, abusing the odious right of the more powerful, retains in degrading servitude the other part, whose charms alone ought to have had the power to soften both the ruggedness of the soil and the fero'city of their tyrants.

Narrow and aukwardly disposed streets are without pavement as without police; no public edifice, no private building arrests the 'eye of the traveller, and, on the supposition that the fragments of the old city had not attracted his attention, he would find no object in the present one that could supply matter for a moment's thought. Turks, Arabians, Barbaresques, Cophts, Christians of Syria, Jews, constituted a population which may be estimated at five thousand, as far as an estimation can be made in a country where there is no regis ter kept of any thing. Commerce attracts thither besides, from all the countries of the east, strangers whose residence is extremely transient. This motley assemblage of the men of different nations, jealous of, and almost always hostile to each other, would present to the eye of the observer a singular mixture of customs, manners, and dress, if a resort of thieves and robbers could repay the trouble of observation.'

If there be altars dedicated to the demon of Revenge, in Egypt undoubtedly are the temples which contain them: there she is the goddess, or rather the tyrant of the human heart. Not only the generality of the men, whose combination constituted the mass of the inhabitants, never forgive, but, however signal the reparation made, they never rest satisfied till they have themselves dipped their hands in the blood of the person whom they have declared to be their enemy. Though they smother resentment long, and dissemble till they find a favourable opportunity to glut it, the effects are not the less terrible: they are not for that more conformable to the principles of reason. If a European, or, to use their term, a Franc, has provoked their animosity, they let it fall without discrimination on the head of a European, without troubling themselves to enquire whether the party were the relation, the friend, or even the compatriot of the person from whom they received the offence: thus they purge their resentment of the only pretext which could plead its excuse, and their vengeance is downright atrocity.'


• The

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

The Arabic is the language generally spoken at Alexandria, as well as all over Egypt. But most of the Alexandrians, those in particular whom commercial intercourse brings into contact with the merchants of Europe, speak likewise the Italian, adopted in the ports of the Levant. The moresco or lingua franca is likewise spoken there; it is a compound of bad Italian, Spanish, and Arabic. A stranger could, more easily there than any where else, provide himself with domestics, who, if they were not of approved fidelity, had at least the facility of making themselves understood by persons not well versed in the Arabic. A Serdar, an officer of no great consideration, had the command there, and his power did not always extend so far as to overawe an ungovernable populace.

A wide extent of sand and dust, an accumulation of rubbish, was an abode worthy of the colony of Alexandria, and every day they were labouring hard to increase the horror of it. Columns subverted and scattered about; a few other still upright, but isolated; mutilated statues, capitals, entablatures, fragments of every species overspread the ground with which it is surrounded. It is impossible to advance a step, without kicking, if I may use the expression, against some of those wrecks. It is the hideous theatre of destruction the most horrible. The soul is saddened, on contemplating those remains of grandeur and magnificence, and is roused into indignation against the barbarians who dared to apply a sacrilegious hand to monuments which time, the most pitiless of devourers, would have respected.'

Of the antiquities of the neighbourhood of this city, the Needles of Cleopatra, Pompey's Pillar, &c. the reader will here find a description; and he will perhaps be diverted with the sanguine hope of the Frenchman, that Pompey's Pillar, since distinguished by having been the head-quarters of Bonaparte, and by having the French who fell in the attack on Alexandria buried round its base, will be called by posterity THE COLUMN OF THE FRENCH! He even suggests the practicabi lity of transporting the pillar itself to the Place de la Revolution in Paris, where, with a colossal statue of liberty on its capital, it could not fail to produce a most majestic effect".

The vaulted cisterns of Alexandria, so immense as to have supported the whole extent of the antient town, and which are acknowleged to have been among the proudest monuments of former greatness, our author was not so fortunate as to see. We find, however, a description of the canal which receives the waters of the Nile at Fouah, and conveys them about forty miles to Alexandria ;-and which the indolence of the Alexandrines is suffering daily to fall to ruin, though the existence of their city depends on its preservation. The Catacombs fur nish another interesting topic; as do also the Cameleon, and

* Dr. Hunter, in a note in his translation, properly censures the injustice of this appropriating, self-aggrandizing principle.



the Jackall, which ventures to seeks its prey even in the streets of Alexandria.

From Alexandria to Rosetta, the traveller passes, if not a desert, at least a tract which differs from a desert only by a few houses built at great distances, and a small village seen from the road. Near Rosetta, the scene changes as if by enchantment; and almost instantly, instead of miserable ruins, and plains of hideous sterility, the delighted passenger is charmed by a view of nature cloathed in her richest dress, and wantoning in gay profusion. Rosetta itself, compared with Alexandria, is as delightful as its charming environs. In depicting this scene, the author seems to have deeply felt its beauty; and his description will be read with pleasure: but we conceive that our readers will be still more gratified by the account which he gives of the customs and manners of the inhabitants of Rosetta."

The most ordinary pastime here, as well as all over Turkey, is to smoke, and drink coffee. The pipe is never from the mouth from morning to night at home, in the houses of others, in the streets, on horseback, the lighted pipe is still in hand, and the tobacco-pouch hangs always at the girdle. These constitute two great objects of luxury; the purses which serve to contain the provision, are of silken stuffs richly embroidered, and the tubes of the pipes, of an excessive length, are of the rarest, and, for the most part, of the sweetest scented wood. I brought home one made of the jasmine-tree, which is more than six feet long: it may convey an idea of the beauty of the jasinines of those countries, seeing they push out branches of that length, straight, and sufficiently large to admit of being bored. The pipes of more common wood are covered with a robe of silk tied with threads of gold. The poor, with whom the smoke of tobacco is a necessary of first rate importance, make use of simple tubes of reed, The top of the pipe is garnished with a species of mock alabaster, and white as milk: it is frequently enriched with precious stones. Among persons less opulent, the place of this is supplied by faucets. What goes into the mouth is a morsel of yellow amber, the mild and sweet savour of which, when it is heated or lightly pressed, contributes toward correcting the pungent flavour of the tobacco. To the other extremity of those tubes are adapted very handsome cups of baked clay, and which are commonly denominated the nuts of the pipes. Some of them are marbled with various colours, and plated over with gold-leaf. You find them of various sizes: those in most general use through Egypt are more capacious; they are, at the same time, of greater distention. Almost all of them are imported from Turkey, and the reddish clay of which they are formed is found in the environs of Constantinople.

It is difficult for Frenchmen, especially for those who are not in the habit of seorching their mouth with our short pipes and strong tobacco, to conceive the possibility of smoking all day long. First, the Turkish tobacco is the best and the mildest in the world; it has nothing of that sharpness which, in European countries, provokes a


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

Continual disposition to spit; next, the length of the tube into which the smoke ascends, the odoriferous quality of the wood of which it is made, the amber tip which goes into the mouth, the wood of aloes with which the tobacco is perfumed, contribute more towards its. mildness, and to render the smoke of it totally inoffensive in their apartments. The beautiful women, accordingly, take pleasure in amusing their vacant time, by pressing the amber with their rosy lips, and in gently respiring the fumes of the tobacco of Syria, embalmed with those of aloes. It is not necessary, besides, to draw up the smoke with a strong suction; it ascends almost spontaneously. They put the pipe aside, they chat, they look about, from time to time they apply it to the lips, and gently inhale the smoke, which immediately makes its escape from the half-opened mouth. Sometimes they amuse themselves by sending it through the nose: at other times they take a full mouthful, and artfully blow it out on the extended palm, where it forms a spiral column, which it takes a few instants to evaporate. The glands are not pricked, and the throat and breast are not parched by an incessant discharge of saliva, with which the floors of our smokers are inundated. They feel no inclination to spit, and that affection, so customary with us, is, in the East, considered as a piece of indecency in the presence of persons entitled to superior respect it is, in like manner, looked upon as highly unpolite to wipe the nose while they are by.

The Orientalists, who are not under the necessity of labouring, remain almost always in a sitting posture, with their legs crossed under them; they never walk, unless they are obliged to do so; and do not stir from one place to another, without a particular object to put them in motion. If they have an inclination to enjoy the coolness of an orchard, or the purling of a stream, the moment they reach their mark they sit down. They have no idea of taking a walk, except on horseback, for they are very fond of this exercise. It is a great curiosity to observe their looks, as they contemplate an European walking backward and forward, in his chamber, or in the open air, re-treading continually the self-same steps which he had trodden before. It is impossible for them to comprehend the meaning of thatgoing and coming, without any apparent object, and which they con-sider as an act of folly. The more sensible among them conceive it to be a prescription of our physicians that sets us a-walking about in this manner, in order to take an exercise necessary to the cure of some disorder. The negroes, in Africa, have a similar idea of this practice, and I have seen the savages of South America laugh at it heartily among themselves. It is peculiar to thinking men; and this agitation of the body participates of that of the mind, as a kind of relief to its extreme tension. Hence it comes to pass that all those nations, whose head is empty, whose ideas are contracted, whose mind is neither employed, nor susceptible of meditation, have no need of such a relaxation, of such a diversion of thought; with them, immobility of body is a symptom of the inert state of the brain*.

*Being ourselves fond of an easy chair and an indolent posture, we cannot subscribe to this observation: but we admit that it comes with a sufficiently good grace from an indefatigable traveller.


Rr 4

« PreviousContinue »