صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the great river, we should naturally expect that incredulity itself, if it still should distrust the pretensions of Bruce, would do so with modesty and deference, neverin the tone of arrogant contempt, or in the language of scurrility. The character of Mr. Bruce, little as it can be affected, in the opinion of those knowing any thing of the parties, by the abuse of Pinkerton, &c. &c. may challenge from any quarter the most rigid scrutiny. Failings he undoubtedly had ; his self love was carried to a length, which even his merits could hardly excuse : but of deliberate fraud, or wilful imposture he was as incapable as are some of his libellers of the feelings and expressions of men of honour and gentlemen.

Were all the above facts and arguments to fall to the ground, still the claims of our countryman would not thereby be invalidated. The Nile is composed of three great st eams, the middle one of which, and indeed much of the last, he completely explored. This branch (the middle one) was in Europe for centuries almost universally considered to be the true Nile. To reach its fountains was the object of his journey, which he attained amidst difficulties and dangers almost unparalleled. Duly to appreciate his merits, we ought to contrast his, with the efforts of others. Numbers before, and all since have, after every exertion, been unable to trace his footsteps, even in the least inaccessible of the countries he traversed. Midst savage hordes, mortal enemies to the very name of Europeans, sanguinary, cruel, and atrociously perfidious, his courage, his sagacity, his circumspection procured him not only safety but respect. Among the bloodiest of fanatics and the most brutal of savages he prosecuted and advanced science with an ardour and success, which great minds can alone feel and accomplish : this, not as a wretched fugitive, in disguise sneaking into those countries, but with the state of a gentleman and the apparatus of a philosopher. Above 400 articles added to natural history; the revolutions and history of a most celebrated and ancient nation; geography enriched by most accurate charts of near 20 degrees of latitude of an unknown part of the globe. A collection the most superb ever formed of the remains of ancient art; the most accurate and interesting delineations of society, manners and customs of numerous nations but just known by name, which ever were presented to the public; such are the true claims of James

Bruce to public regard. In a word the travels of Bruce rank in the first class of those scientific undertakings which are almost the exclusive ornaments of the present reigi), whether we consider the boldoess and arduous nature of his attempts the importance of their object, or the felicity of their execution. Such was the man whose ashes hardly coid, must he raked up, his well earned fame tarnished, and his moral character degraded by, I am ashamed to say, a Scotsman. But to return

The opinion of all Europe for centuries respecting the situation of the sources of the Nile, was a sufficient motive to induce Mr. Bruce to seek it in Abyssinia. In this opinion every native of that country concurred. Froin the earliest times the inhabitants of Habbesh (Abyssinia) have understood the river of Egypt to its principal source in their country where it cannot be denied that by far the greatest part of the rain falls which inundates and fertilizes the territories near the Nile, as besides the Abay (Bahar el Azergue) the Maleg (a very large river which joins the Bahar el Abiad, and for which Mr. Bruce and others seem to have mistaken it) the Dender, the Tacazze, the Mareb, &c. all have their sources and supplies.

But if the right of the inhabitants of a country where a river rises, and through which it flows, to give to it the proper appellation be called in question, whose title are we to admit ? not only the Abyssinians but the natives of Senaar, themselves too originally from the western branch, concur in declaring the Abay or Blue River to be the true river of Egypt, but those Nubians and Arabs inhabiting its banks, both above and below its junction with the Bahar el Abiad, unite in expressing their firm conviction that it is the main branch of the Nile. What testimony can be decisive if this be insufficient? But besides this, the very name of the full stream from Egypt to Senaar, is that of Bahar el Azergue, by which it was denominated previous to its junction with the western branch, and this name, or one denoting the same idea as has already been shewn, it has continued to bear from the remotest antiquity. What can entitle any stream to be considered as the main one, if the preserving its name unchanged, even after its junction with others i e names of which are then lost, shall be set at nought ? Are the surmises or interpretations of bookworms founded upon

the supposed opinions of men dead above twenty centuries; these opinions always obscure or false, nay their very authors clearly ignorant of the truth or falsehood of what they assert ; are these to cut down testimony so clear, so pointed, so decisive in that event we must have a new nomenclature for all rivers, hills and mountains; no one must name the river on the banks of which he was born, as his ancestors, and all the world have done from time immemorial, because modern writers pretend to discover that two thousand years ago such a stream had a different appellation bestowed upon it by old writers who knew almost nothing about it.

But say these writers, the largest of two uniting streams should communicate its own name to the river thereby formed. But is this necessarily the case ? such an innovation would be attended with the slight inconvenience of having christened anew many of the greatest rivers, which under their present appellations are the boundaries of kingdoins, of provinces, and private properties. It is generally understood that of two or more branches forming a river that which has the slightest course, or deviates the least from the meridian, should confer the name upon the mutual river, unless its magnitude should be prodigiously disproportioned to the other. The Forth, before its junction with the Teath, is little more than a broad, deep, muddy, almost still ditch, not contributing the one fourth of the waters of the mutual stream of the greatest river of Scotland, and yet this insigniticant puddle (so to speak) retains its name from its source to its discharge in the ocean, notwithstanding the rights of the far greater river (Teath). The river Galla, before its junction with the Heriot, is hardly visible, yet it continues to give its name to the large stream almost entirely furnished by the latter. The name of the Ohio, though Infinitely of greater magnitude, is with its waters lost in the Mississippi. But it is needless to multiply examples; the same thing takes place in numberlegs instances within any ones recollection. Magnitude therefore is a criterion neither universal, nor even general. The course of the Bahar el Azergue, which deviates less from the meridian than that of the Bahar el Abiad, confers upon the former an unquestionable title to bestow its name upon the mutual branch, even admitting its inferiority in bulk.

Even this point, immaterial as we have shewn it to be, is not yet to be yielded by the Bahar el Azergue. It is VOL. II.


not enough, in determining the question of magnitude, thut one stream be bulkier to appearance than another for a few miles ; it ought to retain its superiority during the greater part of its course. The Maleg (which rises in Abyssinia) joins the "white" not far above its junction with the Blue river, and may, for ought we yet know, be the bulkier stream of the two: at all events, this, and I believe many other rivers, must add a very considerable proportion of its waters to the western branch, whereas the Blue river gains (with the exception of the Dender) but little from its issuing out of the Lake Dernbea, to its junction with the Bahar el Abiad.

Indeed I do not believe that the contributions of the 66 Blue river" to the common stream are exceeded by those of the “ White river." The latter is said to be very deep, but to run so slowly that its motion is imperceptible. Now a very small stream, rapid as the Blue river, may in a given time contribute inuch more water than the Bahar el Abiad, the bulky appearance of which, at one or two particular places, may be entirely fallacious. What convinces me of the inferiority of the western brauch is the fact, admitted I think by Browne, i. e. that the Bahar el Azergue is broader, and its current infiuitely more rapid than the Bahar el Abiad. Let it be remembered, too, that the latter (chiefly from the Maleg) has the advantage of some months longer rains than the former, by which means its current never fails. The deep interest which the Nile has always excited is owing to the inundation and fertilization of Egypt, and the countries in its vicinity. Now, from a comparison of Mr. Bruce's register of the weather, kept in Abyssinia, with the average increase of the inundations at Cairo, it appears clear to me that it is the Bahar el Azergue which contributes the most to the overflowing of Ægypt, &c. In fact the inundation subsides when the rains cease in Abys. sinia (i. e. early in September) though the western branch continues full (indeed should rise) considerably above a month afterwards. Even therefore upon the principle of magnitude, it would be rash to arrogate the superiority to the Bahar el Abiad, at least until we possess better information than what has yet reached Europe. So far as it affects the question at issue, the matter is but of trivial importance.

From these considerations, (and many others might be stated) I think it clearly appears, that the objections to Mr. Bruce's claim of having explored the sources of the true Nile, are equally groundless with those other calumnious reports which have so long assailed the character of that great Man, the falsehood of which, time and investigation have already demonstrated, and will continue more and more to demonstrate. It would be to the advantage of the reputation, and augment the utility of inodern travellers, were they, instead of eagerly seeking occasions or detracting from the inerits of the most illustrious of their predecessors, to imitate his excellencieshisintrepidity, his daring adventurous spirit, his independence of inind, his zeal and his knowledge.

I have already hinted that the above observations are collected from recollection, circumstances preventing for the present any reference to printed books in any language which treat of this subject. Should I find, upon such reference, sufficient cause to enlarge or alter these remarks in whole or in part, or reason to change my present opinion upon this subject, I shall have to entreat you for the insertion of another letter in your valuable Cabinet.

&c. Carronside, June, 1807.


I am,

A PANEGYRIC UPON IRIPUDENCE. ORATORS and men of wit have frequently amused themselves with maintaining paradoxes. Thus, Erasmus has written a panegyric upon folly: Montaigne has said fine things upon ignorance, which he some where calls “the softest pillow a man can lay his head upon :” and Cardan, in his Encomium Neronis, has, I suppose, defended every vice and every folly. It is astonishing to me, that no one has yet done justice to impudence ; which has so many advantages, and for which so much may be said. Did it never strike you, what simple, naked, uncompounded impudence will do? what strange and astonishing effects it will produce ? Aye, and withont birth, without property, without principle, without even artifice and address, without indeed any single quality, but the æs frontis triplex, “ the front of three-fold brass,”-Object not folly, vice, or villainy however black : these are puny things : from a visaye truly bronzed and seared, from features muscularly fixed and hardened, issues forth a broad


« السابقةمتابعة »