Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ The sides of the table are covered with piles of thin cakes, made of teff, reaching to the height of a foot, and two feet and a half in diameter ; in the middle a row of curry-dishes is placed. Near the Ras there are a number of fine wheaten rolls, for his own use and that of his favourites. The signal to begin the feast is given by his breaking and distributing them ; immediately female slaves, having washed their hands, dip the teff into the curry, and serve it to all the guests, except the Ras, who receives his portion from a male slave, and afterwards distributes it among the chiefs, who acknowledge the favour by standing up and bowing. Balls, composed of teff, greens, and curds, are next handed about. In the meantime, the cattle are killing in the adjoining yard. While the fibres are yet quivering, the flesh is cut into large pieces. These are of no regular size ; but generally a piece of bone is attached to the flesh, by which it is brought into the dining. room. The chiefs, with their crooked knives, cut off large steaks, which they divide into long stripes, half an inch in diameter. If they are not pleased with the piece they have got, they hand it to a dependant, who in his turn, if not pleased, hands it to another, till it comes to one whose taste or rank does not induce or authorise him to reject it. As soon as the first party is satisfied, they rise from the table, and give way to others. The last cakes are scrambled for with a great noise. It appears from Mr. Salt, that though the chiefs sometimes feed themselves at these feasts, yet more frequently, as Mr. Bruce relates, they feed one another *.”

This is given as Mr. Salt's account of a Brind Feast, taken we know uot from which of his works, but corresponding in every essential point with that published by Bruce, and attacked by all the wits of Europe. In fact, it cannot be a secret to those who read antient history with attention, that the eating of raw meat, was very generally indulged in ; and we may remark that, wherever the palate was consulted, the flesh would be used as warm as possible from the animal's body, the fibres becoming tough and less savvury, immediately after death. It is very obvious from the details given by Bruce, that it was to answer the purposes of luxury that the ox was stripped of its flesh before any mortal wound was inflicted upon it; and there can be little doubt, that it was the temptation thus presented to the luxurious “ to eat the flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof,” which multiplied the prohibitions against the practice, in the laws of Moser. - Being a direct violation of a divine statute, it is not surprising that Dofter (doctor) Esther, the learned Abyssinian, with whom Mr. Salt conversed, should have been shocked at the imputation, and expressed his belief

* See Article Abyssinia, Supplement Ency. Britannica.

that

that it was unfounded; but, be it observed, that Dofter had not been at Gondar for many years, and that when in his youth he did reside in the capital, it was as a retired student, employed in the pursuits of science.

This respectable scholar, who had a perfect recollection of Bruce, and repeatedly declared to Mr. Salt, that he had left “ a great name in Abyssinia," confirmed almost every thing which the traveller relates, except his appointment as governor of Rasel-til; and on this point authorities are at variance: An American merchant, whom Mr. Browne (the author of Travels in Africa) met at Suez, in 1793, and who had been at Gondar while Bruce was there, as well as a Bergoo merchant, whom he saw at Derfoor, and who had been in Bruce's party, form Gondar to Senaar, informed Mr. Browne that Bruce had been governor of Ras-el-fil. Now, when we reflect, that Mr. Salt, after having made particular enquiry as to the Brind Feast, Jeft Abyssinia the first time, with the conviction that there never was any such practice among them, we shall have less confi. dence in his hear-say evidence, than would be necessary to overthrow such proofs, as we are actually in possession of, in support of Bruce's statement. We have not the smallest intention to thrown any suspicion upon the veracity of our author; but in a case where the testimony of witnesses, who had equally good means of information, and who in all other respects, appear at least equally competent, give different accounts of the same matter, we are certainly justified in suspendmg our decision. Iudeed we might warrantably proceed farther than this, and assert that, as to the government of Ras-el-fil, the evidence of the two merchants, both of whom knew Bruce, and one of whom accompanied him from Gondar to Senaar, ought to be preferred to that of a recluse, who spoke of occurrences to which, perhaps, his attention had not been particularly directed at the time, and, that too, at the distance of forty years from the date at which they happened.

There are one or two other minute points at issue between these distinguished travellers, into which we have not time to enter, and of which the discussion, we fear, would prove tiresome. We have mentioned the principal objections, urged against the truth and accuracy of Bruce's narrative ; and certainly his book has undergone a more severe and even suspicious examination than any other work of the kind that ever was pub, lished. A few inaccuracies have, no doubt, been detected, but if we compare these with the vast mass of information, which not even the keenest, the most intelligent, and the best informed, of his critics have dared to question, we shall find that the unchallengeable additions which he has made to our knowledge,

are

are indeed great and valuable. The proofs of his general accuracy, however, are not merely of this negative description; there are others of a more direct and satisfactory nature, which we shall briefly notice. We begin with Mr. Salt, who, though he regarded it as a duty which he owed to the public, to point out the mistakes of his great rival, bears, in many parts of his volume, the most ample testimony to the correctvess of his descriptions and narrative, and mentions in particular, the astonishment which the Abyssinians expressed at his extensive know. ledge of their history and country. Mr. Brown and Mr. Antes, who had excellent opportunities of comparing Mr. Bruce's statements with accounts given by persons well acquainted with Abyssinia, bear testimony to the general accuracy of his details ; and Dr. Clark, while at Cairo, obtained from the Abyssinian Dean, of whom we have spoken before, direct and specific evidence in favour of the correctness of some parts of his narrative, which had till then been regarded with suspicion. The plates given ja Bruce's Travels, especially those of natural history, were early represented as inaccurate, and that they are so in some of the minutiæ is not improbable, as he laid no claim to a scientific knowledge of the subject: But when Dr. Clarke shewed the Abyssinian Dean these plates, though he knew not the sature of the book in which they were contained, and the name of Bruce was not mentioned to him, he instantly gave them the same · names, and assigned to them the same uses, as Bruce had done. He likewise bore testimony to the accuracy with which the quadrupeds were represented in the plates ; and what is of more importance, buth to Bruce's credit and to the natural historian, he confirmed the account of the Zimb fly, and asserted that he had heard of armies being destroyed by it. When Bruce's map was laid before him, although, of course, he could not read the names, he pointed out the locality of Gondar exactly where Bruce had placed it*,

In estimating the credit due to Bruce and Salt respectively, let it be kept in mind that while the fornier passed two years in Gondar, the capital of Abyssipja, a favourite of the king, and in the constant society of the leading people of all descriptions, the laiter was never wilbin inany days journey of Gondar, never saw the sovereign, never entered the province where the royal power and court customs chiefly predominate, but, on the contrary, during his short visit, (from March till May,) in the Abyssinian territory, he was compelled to spend his time at Chelicut or Antalo, the principal towns of Tigré, and to contine bis studies

He likewds were ved Bru

* See Article Abyssinia as before.

to the characters ef the very secondary persons, who composed the train of the governor, or Ras. The circumstances of the two travellers, irere completely dissimilar. Mr. Salt, a British envoy, with letters and presents to the Emperor, announces to the proper authorities his arrival in the Red Sea, and craves an escort from the nearest military commander, to conduct hiin into the interior. Soldiers, mules, and carriages are accordingly sent, and a young prince comes down to meet him, to be his guide, and to secure him attention. He reaches Chelicut; but being informed it was dangerous to penetrate farther, he delivers the royal letters and gifts to the Ras of Tigré, amuses himself a few weeks in hearing stories, and in making a pleasurable exe cursion, and then returns to his friends on the Arabian gulph. Those who have read Bruce's Travels need not be told how different were his undertaking and achievements; and to those who have not read them, we despair of giving, by any description in our power, the faintest conception of either. Mr. Salt, as it were, sailed to a known shore, in a large ship, well-ınanned, and well-appointed ; Bruce made a voyage of discovery in an open boat, himself guiding both helm and canvas. From Massowa to Chelicut, ihe extent of Mr. Salt's journey, is now comparatively a beaten tract, and will soon be the favourite tour of boys from college, and of adventurous lordlings who go in quest of topics for poetry; but from Gondar to the sources of the Nile, and from the former to Syene, across the Great Desert, is a path not to be trod once in a thousand years by the foot of an European.

Considering the shortness of Mr. Salt's stay in Abyssinia, he has made several important additions to natural history. His birds and plants have, we understand, been much admired; but of mineralogy he seems to know very little. We recoilect only two notices on this subject, both of which are rather uniscientia. cally expressed. At Weal he travelled over a “rugged ridge of low sills, the basis of which appeared to be composed almost intirely of granitic rocks, rising over a bed of micareous earth;" and again, speaking of the inountainous district of Tgré, he observes, that the rocks rise in perpendicular strata, “ consisting of slate over schistus and granite." As to the first we have only to remark, that we know not precisely what is meant by granite rise isg over micaceous earth, the order of nature being in general the reverse, as granite usually supports mica, in stratified series at least : and with respect to the second observation, it strikes us that as slate and schistus commonly signify the same thing, the terms are used by Mr. Salt without any very clear views of the subject on which he is writing. This, however, is a charge which can rarely be brought against him. He aims at nothing beyond his powers, and seldom makes himself the hero of his

i story, story. We read Bruce's book with greater pleasure than Mr Sali's; but if we were to travel into distant countries, we should preser as a companion, a man as like the latter, and as unlike the former, as possible.

entially alamity and helmedentPo

Art. III. A Charge delivered to the Clergy of the Archdea.

conry of Huntingdon, at the Primary Visitation in 1815. With an Appendix and Notes. By the Rev. James Hook, D.D. F.R.S. Archdeacon of Huntingdon. 4to. pp. 99. 38.

Rivingtons. 1816. THAT the period in which we live, is distinguished by very peculiar characters, is sufficiently evident. Perverse opinions and frantic passions, have overwhelmed mankind with a more than usual portion of calamity and destruction. Though au juterval has providentially arisen, in which the storm ceases to rage, the elements of disorder still remain. Experience, that surest guide of human life, seems to have lost its influence over many, even among the highest and most enlightened of our countrymen; and principles are cherished and promulgated, which, if any analogy exists between the past and the future, threaten the stability of all that is conducive to social order, to political security, and to national Christianity. Fanatical cant, and sceptical indifference, things apparently the most opposite in their nature, have joined their forces, and are become subsidiary to the same end; while true and genuine Christianity, the only foundation of moral and social happiness, is equally the scorn of the infidel and of the enthusiast. The strange mixture of these errors has produced an accumulation of destructive errors, which are received as incontrovertible truths, and, in the emphatical language of one of the greatest masters of reason and eloquence,

Audiuntur, leguntur, inhærescunt prorsus in mentibus. It is not without much satisfaction that we have read this Charge, to which we now call the attention of our readers. It certainly contains much important matter, and presents enlarged views of the present state of opinions, and their consequences. In addition to this, the manly and firm tone in which it is written, canyot but recommend it to the attention of the public. --

From the immediate successor of the Bishop of Calcutta, we expected much, as we were assured, that the discriminating prelate, who presides over the diocese of Lincoln, would not have filled the station, vacated by such a divme and such a scholar, with an inferior man; and from this specimen of the abilities

and

« PreviousContinue »