« VorigeDoorgaan »
questions of his Zulu hearers; yet he has given us a book about them in which there is no tone or flavor of Orthodoxy. The Presbyterian Committee have done excellent service in allowing their types and their name to so charitable a statement, not only of these heathen, but of the work which the missionaries of many sects are doing among them. Mr. Grout, if not an elegant writer, is at any rate earnest and clear. He has given a very fair picture of the land, the scenery, the productions, the fauna and flora, the races of men the kings and the people, of that South-African shore, so tempting to Christian effort. We may question the accuracy of his historical sketch, which ascends beyond Herodotus to the story in the Pentateuch, — and may find inadequate what he says about the Zulu language. But we are glad to know, that what he saw in fifteen years' residence of the ways and the spirit of the people gave him full confidence that they can be civilized and Christianized. He did not become persuaded that polygamy was a necessity or a divine rule for these savages, or find it desirable to substitute the customs of Israel for the more decent Christian custom, in order to win their hearts. Mr. Grout's book about the Zulus is wise, entertaining, and very good in its spirit.
A VERY Valuable part of the lamented Speke's work, already noticed in this Review, was contributed by his fellow-traveller, Grant.* At the request of Capt. Speke, he wrote out, however, a full journal of the domestic scenes during their perilous two years' expedition. Many of the details are trifling; there is a sad monotony of suffering, and a little varied succession of petty impositions; every native chief seemed to have conspired to strip his distinguished visitors of every article of value; indeed, until they reached the boats upon the Nile in waiting to supply their wants, life itself hardly seemed safe. Capt. Grant's repeated sickness obliged his friend to leave him sometimes for months; his native guards were cowardly, grasping, superstitious, and ever ready to desert; there was little of that success in hunting which throws such interest into narratives like Du Chaillu's: but every statement one feels to be truthful; all the descriptions are entirely lifelike: though Grant obtained no view of the famous lake believed to be the true source of the Nile, all his accounts confirm faith in the more celebrated traveller to whose memory he has devoted his book. Some excuse for the insatiable rapacity of the African kings is given by the fact, that their people were regularly robbed, and their houses burned, by the Englishman's satellites, and gratuitous injuries inflicted which in other countries would have been retaliated by life-long imprisonment. While, in some cases, the natives were simple enough to return even the rags which the strangers had thrown away on their march, Grant has to confess, that, where his men had been generously fed, they sometimes left the hospitable village in ruins; paying nothing for the plundered goats, and not respecting the defenceless women around them. Capt. Grant's modest story proves remark
* A Walk across Africa. By Capt. J. A. GRANT. William Blackwood. Edinburgh and London. 1864.
able qualities of endurance, wonderful self-command, entire fearlessness, and a persistent purpose of making himself loved, rather than feared, by these inaccessible children of the desert. So that, though he speaks of several Christian missions as fruitless in the countries through which he passed, he cannot have failed to give a favorable impression of a religion illustrated in his daily life by so much that was beautiful and heroic.
"THE Nile Basin "* is a sad book. At the moment when Capt. Speke lost his life by the merest accident, he was about to defend his discovery of the source of the Nile in public debate with Capt. Burton, once a fellow-traveller, now a bitter opponent. Unmoved by this great calamity, acknowledging that the deceased discoverer had made known to the world three hundred and fifty geographical miles in Central Africa, Capt. Burton and his unscrupulous ally endeavor to show, that the grand problem of geography is as much unsolved as ever; that Capt. Speke saw too little of the pretended Lake Nyanza to form any positive conclusion; that his own sketch-maps were altered repeatedly after his return, contradict what Capt. Burton discovered, and violate such established principles as that no large river finds its source in a lake. His co-laborer, the author of a geographical survey of Africa, Mr. M'Queen, goes much farther; makes gross charges against Speke's morals; accuses him of cruel injustice to Consul Pethnick; ridicules many of his statements; proves that the vision of a profitable trade with such distant, degraded, treacherous savages must be dismissed at once, because the population everywhere are miserable, enslaved, and absorbed in murderous wars; because there are no easy means of communication; because the natives are indisposed to continuous labor; and because the cost of conveyance to the seashore far exceeds the value of any product like
As Capt. Speke no longer lives to verify his statements or vindicate his character, he may suffer for a while in popular favor, though by universal confession a person of rare energy, perseverance, and courage; but after careful reading of all that has been written on the subject, and with the admission that his single lake may prove to be two, or even a chain of lakes, as was believed three thousand years ago, we have no doubt that he saw exactly what he describes, a large body of water from which the White Nile flowed. With more time and less peril, he would have perfected his discovery so as not to need re-adjustment in England; but it was not possible for him to make thorough explorations: popular as he was among the natives, acquainted with their language, and fitted to their climate, even he often held his life at their mercy, and could not have advanced, sometimes, but with the certainty of throwing it away.
OF German theories touching ancient Egypt, and of French disqui
*The Nile Basin. A Memoir read before the Royal Geographical Society. By RICHARD F. BURTON. Part II. James M'Queen's Review of Capt. Speke's Discovery of the Source of the Nile. London: Tinsley Brothers. 1864.
sitions upon the school of Alexandria, we have had for the last thirty or forty years not too much, yet a good deal. But of modern Egypt, in its social transformation under Mohammed-Ali, from the barbarous oppression of the Mamelukes into the best ordered and most promising of the countries that own the religion of the Prophet, we have had, with one or two brilliant exceptions, nothing of scientific value or general interest. That part, indeed, of, the great work of the French Expedition, which is entitled "L'État Moderne," contains many important contributions to our knowledge of the later condition of the country, of which, indeed, it may be said to be the basis; while Lane's accurate pictures of the manners and customs of the modern Egyptians, though confined almost wholly to the Mohammedan society of Cairo, and the spirited descriptions of Perkesch-Osten and Parthey, together with the tedious details of Wilkinson, and the poetic narratives of Curtis and the St. Johns, present us with sufficient material to form an excellent notion of the external appearance of the country and the people. Russegger also has explored the geology, and Forskal and Delile the flora, of the Nile basin, with intelligible results. And Mengin and Hamont have related the political history of the country. But a thorough and comprehensive statement, embracing the latest investigations into the resources of Egypt, was still wanting. It is that want which the work under noted has done much to supply. The physical structure of the country, and the character of its people as moulded by centuries of various and often tumultuous history; its agriculture and political institutions; its social conditions and commerce and public works; and, lastly, its literature, what there is of it,- are treated with great clearness and brevity, though exhaustively: while the author's acquaintance with Arabic, and his long residence in the East, give a value to his work which we should never think of attributing to the jaunty speculations of the English tourists, who go up and down the Nile in such monotonously jolly ignorance of every thing but the necessities of their own comfort.
The little boys in tattered cotton shirts for their only garment, who belabor and direct the asses one rides in Cairo, will often utter among other things, as any one who has heard them will remember, the words "Je weled," meaning substantially, "Go it, young one." But an Italian tourist, taking them, from the sound or otherwise, to signify "Diavoletti," informs his countrymen, when writing to them of his Egyptian experience, that they alluded to the demoniacal intelligence which these little creatures evidently possessed. And that is the way the East is too often interpreted to us. It is all the more important, therefore, that a work like Kremer's, containing the results of his own personal observation and investigation, whether in his own special study of philosophy, or in the wider field of political administration and natural resources, should not be confounded with those ephemeral
* AEGYPTEN. Forschungen über Land und Volk während eines zehnjährigen Aufenthalts. Von ALFRED Von KremeR. Nebst eine Karte von Aegypten. [2 vols.] Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus. 1863.
books which are every year thrust upon the public by the numberless scribblers whom the easy facilities of travel now so readily enable to reach the Mohammedan shores of the Mediterranean. It is to be regretted, however, we may add, that the valuable statistical tables with which the work is crowded, do not come down later than the year 1861; since which time the cultivation of cotton has received such enormous stimulus in Egypt, from the failure of this country to supply the world's demand.
In the primeval ages, it is affirmed by the Vienna botanist, Unger, that Egypt was covered with forests and shrubs; but, since the period of authentic history, it has been known only as a rich agricultural land, a present from the Nile, indeed, as Herodotus said, the home of a strange civilization so well preserved as to present the earliest monumental history, and to exhibit, as Bunsen claims, the middle age of mankind; in later times, at once the safest and most congenial refuge for the scholars of Greece, and the most abundant granary for the rabble of Rome. But since Amr-Ibn-el 'As'i with his desert Arab hordes, swept down upon it in the seventh century, a long night of darkness and misery settled down upon Egypt, and shut it out almost from the sight of Europe, till, early in the present century, the genius of Mohammed-Ali, the peasant-boy of Roumelia, scattered the darkness that had engulfed it, and, with an originality which he only can understand who understands the Moslem character, lifted it again into the light of the modern world. For the regeneration of Egypt dates from the massacre of the Mamelukes in the Citadel at Cairo, a cruel and sanguinary measure indeed, but not more cruel or sanguinary, and a good deal more necessary, than the extermination of the Canaanites.
Although still nominally tributary to the Porte, Egypt is in reality an independent country; and of all Oriental countries - for it must at present come under that designation the most interesting as presenting the best illustration of what may be accomplished by European enlightenment in face of the stolidity and fanaticism of Islam; and as proving in the end, we cannot but think, in spite of the efforts of English diplomacy to bolster up the decaying organization of the Ottoman Empire, the utter inconsistency of the religion of Mohammed with that intellectual and moral progress which is the distinct and conscious aim of Europe. More than that, however, Egypt attracts us now by another consideration. That great canal, which, from the days of Sesostris, or at least of Necho, to the invasion of the Arabs, mingled the waters of the Red Sea with those of the Mediterranean and the Nile, is presently to be opened again; and the commerce which now finds its way round the Cape of Good Hope to the ports of Europe is to be restored to its primitive channel up the Red Sea and across the Isthmus of Suez. And, though our author is kind enough to spare us the usual political speculations as to the result of this great change upon the relations of the countries it most directly affects, it is obvious, that through it Egypt will once more assume a commanding position by thus becoming the gateway of the East; while its extraordinary fertility, also, under the application of European
skill and capital, must make in itself, so near the producing centres of Europe, a country of great importance. In ancient times, Alexandria was the commercial centre of three continents, and second only to Rome in size. It would be a curious repetition of the parallels of history, if it were now to emulate its former greatness.
WE have, at length, in the three volumes recently issued by the Harpers, the beginning of an elegant edition of an author whose works have received hitherto but shabby treatment at the hands of American publishers, though their circulation has perhaps been wider in this country than in Great Britain. The volumes before us are certainly very beautiful; and the reader into whose hands they may fall, however familiar he may already be with the course of the famous history, will hardly resist the allurement of the fair pages and the tasteful binding so far as not to go through with it once more, even from beginning to end.
And, indeed, few more fascinating novels were ever written. All Thackeray is in it, - all the acrid, remorseless sarcasm, all the rollicking fun, all the easy banter, all the wonderful flow of slang, of which no gentleman was ever perhaps a more thorough master. This was his first great work; written while yet he had his reputation to make, and which at once made his reputation. There is no carelessness in it every scene is elaborated to the last degree of minuteness; and the result is an effect of perfect ease, such as none but a master can hope to attain. And the strangest feature of the whole book is the keen relish which the writer evidently has for his work. Never was such an odious company gathered together; never such a coil of swindling, hypocrisy, intrigue, and unmitigated folly unrelieved except by the tireless devotion of poor Dobbin to the flattest of Amelias: and yet Thackeray not only revels himself among this tas d'hommes perdus de dettes et de crimes, but makes us enjoy it almost as much as he. What other writer could, out of such materials, make any but the most disagreeable of books? To us, no one mark of Thackeray's genius is more striking than this, that, in "Vanity Fair" as in his other novels, but more in this than in the others, we read from end to end this most dismal of histories, surrounded by scamps of every description, by schemers, rakes, misers, cowards, and fools; annoyed, protesting, provoked, but fascinated. Only Dobbin's foolish fidelity redeems the wretched story, as Colonel Newcome's foolish fondness redeems another, hardly less wretched. Had Thackeray then never seen a good man who was not a fool, or a bright woman who was disreputable? we ask ourselves in disgust; and then we shut up the book, and go away with tears in our eyes for the devotion of Dobbin and the Colonel, and not without a considerable liking for Mrs. Rawdon Crowley née Sharp.
In our praise of the beauty of this edition, we ought to make a
Vanity Fair. By WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY. New York: Harper & Brothers. 3 vols.